Bar Betters

"Babe Ruth did not steal home 10 times."

"Yes he did."

"No he didn't."

"Wanna bet?"

"Next round?"

"You're on."

Unfortunately, in most bars, this is where the conversation ends due to the lack of verification methods. Of course, as a bar, you want to encourage these bets to end in fruition. Why not install an internet terminal? There is one club in San Francisco that has internet terminals, but the blaring house music is makes it difficult for any bar betting.

There are several ways of implementing this:

1. Have a pay terminal in the bar, like the ones at the airport. Unfortunately, the chances that the patrons have correct change or are willing to type in their credit card (if not kept hostage for a bar tab) information are minimal.

2. Add it as a feature to those gaming machines at the corner of the bar. While this plan requires less set up cost than option 1, it still faces the same problems from option 1. Further more, those machines are usually occupied by one person for hours, giving ample time for bar betters to move onto something better.

3. Have a cheap computer with just a browser. Simple solution, but it might get abused by people thinking it would be fun to put up nasty images from bizarre European fetish sites.

4. Put it behind the counter, and make it a feature of the bar. Name the bar “Bar Betters” and encourage people to make bar bets amongst each other. Make sure the bar tender is a Google ninja (or a Google retiree) so that he/she can quickly settle the bar bets and deliver the prize. Of course this wouldn’t work at every bar, but it would be a nifty little feature to some of the more worn down dive bars.

Sooner or later, mobile internet will become ubiquitous to the point where drunkards can whip out their cell phones and uncover the solution.

Side note: There is a bar in San Francisco called the Buddha Bar where the immigrant bartender will accept any challenges at liar’s dice. You lose, you buy a drink, you win, the drinks on the house.

Bonus link: Slightly off mark, but 5 ways to hustle free drinks.

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Database your automotive repair and maintenance record

Recent issues to my car have caused me to rummage through my glove box (who puts gloves there anyway?) and pull out all the repair work orders and invoices to see what has been done to the car. Struck with a strong sense of deja vu, I realized that every time I have issues with my car, I pull out the stash of mismatched papers to see when the last time xxx was tinkered with. At that point, I decided to make an excel sheet of all the repair and maintenance record I had on hand, so that in one clear location, I can witness what has been done to my car.

While I don’t intend to sell my car any time soon, an itemized list of all the repairs done on the car should scream responsible owner. This is a good way of distinguishing yourself from the thousands of craigslist posters who declare themselves to be responsible owners and their cars to be in perfect condition (which I would never declare about my car). Of course do keep your original record for proof.

Interesting things I noticed from my data aggregation:
  • Contrary to my belief that my car is a lemon, I didn’t have any problems in 2006. While that counteracts the disastrous 2005, it makes me feel somewhat OKer about my current troubles.

  • The previous owner (my good friend from college) had serious problems during the three months before he sold me the car. No wonder he seemed so glad.

  • There are myriads of things that hasn’t been changed in a while that I should look into.



Harmonizing Mobilization

“The best ideas are always next to the crazy ones” but that doesn’t mean the crazy ideas are good or feasible.

This idea comes from someone (Julie? Tiffany?) I met at a seedy bar in Mountain View called the Cocktail Lounge:

Car and train companies should work together to tune their products so that traffic noise will instead be music. This way the sound of mass mobilization will not be the cacophonous white noise as we know it but something more soothing and entertaining.

Where I think this will break down: What's more annoying than traffic noise? Listening to the same song over and over again! I once played Rocky Raccoon on repeat for three days in order to drive people out of my dorm room. It worked. What song would you pick anyway? Is there a song in this world that we can all be happy about? Elevator music? Ride of the Valkyries?

I think I would rather have a quieter car and pick my own music, but this does bring up an interesting point about designing for artifacts. If your product creates a undesirable or unavoidable artifact, why not make it something positive?

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The Art of Art Lebedev

I’m quickly falling into love with the Russian Art Lebedev Studio. While best known in the US for the ever delayed Optimus OLED keyboard, it’s one of their less interesting products.

Optimus Keyboard Concept Design

After all, this is just an introduction of new technology (that’s not quite ready) to accomplish what people have been doing with paper and sticker overlays for years. Primarily an industrial and graphic design firm, they do design sleek and beautiful form factor for existing products:

Globus Kettle

Sonicum Speaker System

However, what distinguishes them are the iconic forms they give to products

Teresumus Eraser

Mus2 Mouse

Locus Antenna (is the word antenna the same on a TV and an insect in Russian too?)

or the art of function:

Superbitus Money Box

Maybe the only time when dropping the bomb is a good thing

Rozetkus Power Strip

While most of these products lean towards art than functionality, it’s a welcome change from the myriads of generic shaped products in the world:


When function requires no specific form, why not play around a little bit?

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Dude, where’s my car?

Ok, bad title, I apologize.

I’m sure everyone’s had one of those days/nights where you park your car in a gargantuan parking lot and end up spending twenty minutes finding your car. While the problem has been partially solved by remote key fobs that allow one to roam around the parking lot aimlessly trying to unlock the car, car companies have been limiting the range as a security issue (it’s a lot easier now for anyone who steals your keys to steal your car too). With many manufactures adopting some form of On-star-like services, here’s an idea:

If you really can’t find your car, call up On-star, give your password or some way to distinguish yourself, and ask them to momentarily turn on the car alarm. If you aren’t close enough to the car to hear the car alarm, maybe you shouldn’t be driving.

This would be the easiest idea to implement as it requires no extra hardware or software besides On-star’s ability to remotely activate the car alarm (not sure if they have this capability right now). The one issue would be if the car is parked underground and cannot receive the activation signal. Higher tech solutions could involve the car’s navigation system and a cell phone interface that displays your cars location on a map, but this becomes a problem in multilevel parking lots. Of course you could just be responsible and remember where you parked your car.

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What’s wrong with steroids for cars?

Warning: Uninformed opinion ahead.

Although I work for an automotive company, I know very little about racing and care very little about Nascar. However, when Michael Waltrip’s current scandals appeared in several of my RSS feeds, I decided to look further into it. Apparently, Waltrip and several other drivers were penalized for having a “foreign” substance in their engines, most likely some variant of jet fuel to increase their cars’ power output.

Why is this a problem?

I can see how athletes using body-destroying steroids can set a bad example for aspiring kids, but why must one prevent cars from juicing? One can go down to the neighborhood hardware store and do what these people are getting busted for. As a member of the audience, I would want to see cars running at their peak performance pushing the limits of science and engineering.

My guess as to why they limit the cars are:
1. Safety - If baseball players are willing to inject performance enhancing drugs into their body, I’m sure drivers will use fuels that are dangerously too powerful.
2. Money - If there aren’t any restrictions on the vehicles, people will spend as much money as possible to design the fastest cars. Of course you could just limit the money teams can spend like Basketball and Football. Salary Caps for NASCAR: not a bad idea.



Convergence Watch I

MP3 players on cell phones make sense. Calculators on watches? Nerdy, but sure. Swiss army knife on sun glasses? What?

The torturous part about this is that the only thing the Swiss-army-shades can’t fix is itself (especially those annoying loose screws common on glasses).

(via SciFi Tech via Boing Boing)

Toto Apricot F5A (toilet seat named after a fruit…)

You could really spend the $1650 setting up a kick ass audio system in your bathroom rather than buying this mp3 playing toilet seat… but if you really need a conversation piece in the WC…

(via Newlaunches via Gizmodo)

Music for those rainy days

I’m singing playing “Back in Black” in the rain…

(via MocoLoco via Gizmodo)



Quicker quick search

99% of my searches are on Google, and that’s the default on my quick search as expected. However, that last 1% of my searches are on Wikipedia or IMDb (and sometimes Gmail or The Face Book), requiring me to select those search engines from the pull down menu instead of hitting the Enter key which takes .01 seconds.

Here’s my idea: Instead of traversing the menu to look for the correct search engine, hold down enter, push the first letter of the search engine, then let go of both triggering the correct search engine. Currently, the search is activated on the down stroke of the Enter key, but changing that to the up stroke could add a whole new level of interaction (similar to how mouse clicks are typically registered when you release the button). While this would probably cumulatively save me four minutes through out my entire life time (which I’ve spent writing this), it would be nice to see.

I’m sure there is an obscure Firefox plug-in that allows me to accomplish this, but I’m too lazy to look for it. Heck, I’m too lazy to even use Firefox. Blasphemy, I know.

PS Apparently you can add info to your google search term and it'll bring up the Wikipedia entry to the top of the results.

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Marketing to your own customers

Dear Cell Phone companies. Here's an idea: market to your own customers.

It's commonly accepted knowledge that customer retention cost is cheaper than customer acquisition cost. Getting a new customer requires commercials, rebates, discounts, and time which are all very costly. So why not spend some of the money and advertise to your own customer?

I got this idea from VW when they started pushing the Jetta Report where they compared Jetta drivers to everyone else. While the commercial wasn't entirely targeted at current owners, many owners are probably happy knowing that they are in a group of people that do cool things.
The cell phone industry is starting to resemble the automotive industry with its extremely high market penetration rate (who doesn't own a cell phone? car?) resulting in companies trying to steal customers away from each other rather than developing a new customer base. This sucks for the consumer because the companies are playing a cat-and-mouse game with your money (going to advertisement) which in the end is a zero-sum game.

Sprint might have had a slight chance of retaining me as a customer if they automatically upgraded my account to include the fair-and-flexible which they are marketing heavily. Instead, they only allow me to add the feature with another 2 year contract, which I’m not signing. If Sprint introduced fair-and-flexible and announced that they are applying it to all existing accounts, they would have a much higher retention rate, not to mention the respect from current and potential customers. But no, they'd rather destroy me with their unfair-and-inflexible $.40/min overage.

Keep your customers happy. Drug dealers do it, you can too.

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Notify Me!

You have bands/sport teams/comedians/dance troupes/orchestras that you sort of like, but don’t care enough to keep track of their tour schedules and venues. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a website where you could enter your zip code and the performers that you want to see, and it notifies you when they are coming to your area of town? This would make a great addition to Ticket Master, though there needs to be some mechanism to keep track of the lesser known performers (let them upload their schedule).

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When you live alone

Apologies for the total disappearance over the last few days, been under the weather and hugging my pillow. The last few days, what I wanted most was some cough drops, medicine, and soup, but without really the energy or the will power to leave the apartment, I was stuck with warm water and orange juice. Delivery, however, is almost entirely limited to pizza and oily Chinese food, not the most enticing while sick.

So what’s the best solution? Besides asking your roommate and friends to pick up this down time necessities: online grocery delivery. Of course I didn’t realize this until I started writing this (toughed it out until I could comfortably drive), so I didn’t utilize it this time around, but I’m sure I will in the future. The delivery charges are hefty, but you could consider it a don’t-really-want-to-bug-a-friend-fee.

On the other hand, there really needs to be another alternative to the pizza Chinese food delivery monopoly. Burrito anyone?

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Product Red?

If you don’t know about Product Red, I suggest you check out the website, but in short:

(RED) was created by Bono and Bobby Shriver, Chairman of DATA, to raise awareness and money for The Global Fund by teaming up with the world's mosticonic brands to produce (PRODUCT) RED-branded products. A percentage of each (PRODUCT) RED product sold is given to The Global Fund. The money helps women and children with HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Currently, (RED) products are available from Motorola, American Express, GAP, Emporio Armani, Converse, and Apple making one think that only metrosexual yuppie can help cure AIDS in Africa. What can you do if you want to subscribe to the Product Red manifesto but not necessarily buy those products? Sure you could just donate money, but where is the fun in that?

While I would never actually do this, one could spray paint existing products red and sell it on eBay while donating a certain percentage of the sales to Product Red. It’s been proven that people are willing to pay a premium for some elegantly modified one-of-a-kind products out there (probably not an anodized hammer), and the added social cause may increase the going price. Of course some people will doubt if you are actually donating part of the sales. It’s also likely that Bono and Bobby may send you a cease and desist letter for hijacking their brand even if you are cutting them checks every month. Anyone want to try this?



Glowing Keyhole

Trying to start a car or unlock a door at night can be an annoying task that involves taking a metallic stick and shoving it in a matching hole. Sure, some new and posh cars have a nifty glowing ring around the keyhole that greatly aids in the mechanical mating, but why not have a glowing keyhole instead? The automotive implementation would be simple, but the incremental benefits probably aren’t as great as putting a light source in apartment locks. The trickiest part in realizing this would be trying to get electricity to the door knob, which happens to be on a moving part attached to a hinge. However, with low power consumption LEDs, one could actually charge enough power from the turning of the knob to light the LED next time. Then the only question would be, how do you trigger the LED to turn on at the appropriate time? Any ideas?




ZA is a blog about ideas: cool ideas, existent ideas, pointless ideas, crazy ideas, my ideas, your ideas, interesting ideas, funny ideas, product ideas, meaningless ideas, great ideas, shrimp ideas, etc. It’s here for people to rant, rave, share, and satisfy. Any idea here (if original) is free for you to use (I take no responsibility) as long as you credit the originator of the idea (be honest). Feel free to send me any ideas, but a blog is considered to be public disclosure so you will lose all rights to patent it. Enjoy.


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