Ghost Traffic Controller

The recent google goggles video, while showing the awesome potential of ubiquitous virtual / augmented reality, focused on social aspects. In our last meeting, we came to appreciate the more introspective potential of VR, in particular following the idea of seeing one’s past selves in everyday life. VR has the potential to externalize introspective processes, allowing people to (privately) examine themselves in the outside world. The idea came partly from racing games; many have the option of ‘ghost racing’, where you race against a ghostly image of your previous best (the better to identify potential improvements), or in the case of the video below, nine-hundred and ninety-nine other racers.

Ghost Traffic Controller
Imagine if, every day, you saw silhouettes of yourself in the places you’d been last week at this time, and every week before that. If this ghost traffic were opaque enough, could they crowd hallways, convincing you to seek alternate routes until those too became crowded with routine?

MIThenge ghosts stalk the infinite.

Used in this way the VR system enables a observation of unthinking routine, particularly useful for the kind of unthinking path-choosing one does walking every day. When slightly late you could see the phase-shift of your schedule, catching glimpses of your on-time past at the ends of hallways, a progression of less-late selfghosts between you. The video below, a cover of Reich’s Clapping Music made by Ned, shows some of the strange visual effects of such phase shifts (and how differently phase-shifts are perceived in sound).

Ghost Traffic Controller is only one use of this idea: with the addition of 3d-cameras, dancers could observe themselves, or even do a group performance with one live performer and many of their selfghosts (in the style of Reich’s Counterpoints). Drivers could avoid the wrong turns that have become habit. Race car drivers could convert this back towards its racing game roots by following themselves around the track, racing against themselves. Other athletes, too, could use self-images to examine their performance. Airplane-ghosts could provide sights for passengers, as well as a kind of VR black box recorder in case of disaster (raising the question of how an object can image itself as if from the outside). Slightly tangentially, furniture assembly could come with a VR demonstration, like lego directions made holograms: a ghostly red block here – real red block placed – a ghostly blue block here.

Materially showing temperature

The meeting today was more about concept exploration than product design, so this week’s brief will reflect that.

Looking at the ideas we’d selected for exploration last week, the weather box and glanceable oven overlapped in the representation of temperature. Heat-sensitive paint (see video below) seemed like a really exciting way to show this for the oven; what if alll you needed was a new coat of paint for the oven to show its internal temperature?

But since the oven is supposed to catch your peripheral vision, maybe an animated display would be more effective; Peltier devices were mentioned as an interesting way to both make energy from the oven’s heat and to cool/heat a surface. By using a thermoelectric device to store heat as electricity, and then using that stored energy to cool the surface, one could animate a thermochromic display.

We found peltier junctions for ~$800 per sq.ft., or with a heat sink of 16 times the area ~$50, which is competitive with granite countertops. That doesn’t include the cost of the sinks, paint or backing, which, let’s say, drives it up to $100 p.sq.ft, still in granite range. However, each tile would be ~6 inches on a side. If the tiles would be that large anyway, it might be better to have them smaller and distribute them over the surface, allowing for weird looking patterns at the expense of reigions we can’t directly control.

Passive thermochromatic materials could be used to show the evolution of human use of a room, if the sensitivity of the paint was just right. You could see footprints lagging behind a person for a set period of time, or the ambient temperature of the room (based on the number of people or their activity level) could be reflected in the color of the room. Below you can see what this sort of environmental awareness looks like in a sink.

Additionally, we noted a cheap (thermal camerathat uses a one-pixel sensor to slowly build an image.

Egg Sprouts

Imagine a kitchen full of small plantings: little flowers and mini herb sprigs are growing in the 12 bottom sections of a egg carton which have been separated and spread around the kitchen.

For home cooks who care where their food comes from, organic egg farmers can add an extra surprise – egg cartons with seeds waiting to be planted in the paper matrix.

"Plant Me" icon printed at the bottom of each egg's cup
 Icon printed on the bottom of each egg’s cup

Mary — an eco-conscious consumer — is buying some eggs to make a crème brûlée tonight, when she discovers the Egg Sprouts carton. Embedded in the carton’s paper are herb and flower seeds, and it can be easily separated into miniature planter boxes.  Thinking how her kitchen could be cheered up by a dozen small plants, Mary figures she’ll give these eggs a try. She’s always wanted more green in her home, and this seems like a easy and fun gardening project, so she picks up a carton to take home and plant.

Herb and Flower icons on the underside of each carton
Herb and Flower icons on the underside of each carton

The dual feature egg planter carton is an easy, ecofriendly way to introduce plants into the home while reusing egg cartons and shells. Growing the plants is a fun process — the user gets to tear up the carton, crush egg shells, and scoop dirt into the egg holder. While the plants can be used as herbs to spice future dinners, their presence also increases the tranquility and invitation in the home. Finally, the Egg Garden is a no-waste buy at the grocery store — eggs, egg shells, and egg carton are completely used.

Prior Art

Icons from the noun project

Bumper Ink

You’ve shared a lot with your car.  Now share it with everyone else.
Bumper Ink is an e-ink display on your rear bumper that gives your car a particular personality, designed by you and powered by your smartphone.
Your car could proudly brag about its miles per gallon, total miles driven, or where it’s been; maybe you want it to make fun of your driving habits, your 9-5 daily schedule, or how long it’s been since its last oil change.
You don’t have to leave all the talking to your car, though; you can type in messages to the car behind you, whether apologetic (“The car in front of me keeps slowing down”) or apoplectic (“Back off!”).
For all these messages, it’s clear if it’s you or the car speaking, so if you’re stuck in traffic, why not have it automatically display some ads? (It’s not like the people behind you have anywhere better to look.)
technical feasibility
  – Bluetooth connection to smartphone
      – class 3 bluetooth range is 5 meters, draws 1mW
          – solar powered?
      – more than enough bandwidth for this application
  – phone provides internet connection, processing power, user control over messages
      – pulls data from needed services (foursquare, twitter, etc)
      – has gps signal, can get speed
      – creates the “personality”
  – getting mpg could be difficult
      – most cars don’t have an api for that sort of data
      – could install something on the fuelline to directly measure consumption
      – could figure out mpg by tracking # of gallons put into the car and miles driven between refueling.

Poster version (PDF)