Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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Hello everyone. You may call me DocG. I'm a media artist, writer, composer -- and inventor, of sorts. I've come up with several neat ideas in the past and have some neat ideas for the future. But I'm not really an inventor because I've never had the ambition to follow through on any of my "bright ideas." However, I've shared most of them with friends, relatives, even strangers -- and often I've gotten this look from people, as if to say "What makes you think your idea is so great? I can't imagine it would ever work or anyone would ever find it useful or even interesting."

I've proven them wrong, however. Time after time. In fact some of my favorite ideas from way back in the 20th century have been adopted in the 21st -- by others, of course, not me. For example:

  • I came up with an idea very similar to what is now called "virtual reality" a long time ago. As a filmmaker, I fell in love with 3D, but got discouraged because of the need for those tacky glasses. It occurred to me that you could design a headset along the lines of a Viewmaster viewer. Instead of the two stereo views being filtered by different colors or polarizations, each could be presented to each eye directly through a separate lens. I visualized a kind of helmet you could place over your head, in which a stereo movie would be "projected" directly into the viewer's eyes while a stereo soundtrack played through earphones embedded in each side. Of course, the technology to display a film in that manner didn't yet exist, so there was no point in even attempting to pursue it. You can imagine how delighted I was when I learned, a few years ago, that thanks to the new technology we now take so much for granted, something very similar can be done with a cardboard "helmet" and a "smart" phone. Of course the virtual reality of today is much more sophisticated than my old idea, since not only can you view images in stereo, you can move your eyes and even your head to get a wraparound view -- and even interact with the display to play games.
  • Inspired by my many years of Star Trek addiction, I became fascinated with that mainstay of Enterprise life, the "Replicator." The good Captain would only need to walk up to the device, order any item he pleased, from a model of the Enterprise to a 25th century monkey wrench, and it would magically appear. It occurred to me that such a device was far less advanced than it might seem, and could, at least in principle, be achieved even with 20th century technology. Since all matter consists of atoms and molecules, all that would be needed would be some sort of "blank" object such as a plastic slab, to serve as a molecular source, which could then be molded into any shape by the Enterprise's powerful on board computer. I visualized something similar, housed in a device more or less like a microwave oven, as accessible as a printer or scanner, controlled not by a mysterious futuristic supercomputer, but anyone's home computer. You'd place your "blank" into it, and a computer program emanating either from your own computer or downloaded from anywhere in the world, via the Internet, would mold it into any shape you might desire, limited of course by the technical limitations of the device, which, in principle, might be capable of crafting just about anything. For years I would bug my friends with this idea, continually stressing how easily it could be designed using technology available at the time. Some of them got it. Most just smiled, raised their eyebrows, and changed the subject. Well, sure enough, as we all know, devices of this sort are now commonplace. I must object, however, to the terminology. These are not "3D printers" (what a clunky name). They are REPLICATORS. Precisely as in Star Trek, though maybe not quite as advanced (they can't brew a cup of tea -- not yet). Just the other day I read about an entire house being constructed via materials crafted by such a device. What next?
  • A few other "inventions" of mine are not quite so spectacular. The only one that ever got a rise out of my friend Sam was my humblest idea: a purr meter. Yes you read that right: a purr meter. What you could use to measure the degree of satisfaction of your cat. You hold it in your hand, place it against your cat's stomach and it will register the loudness of the animal's purr. Since Sam came from a long line of successful businessmen, he understood the commercial potential of such a deceptively simple idea. Easy and inexpensive to manufacture (basically just a decibel counter), wide potential appeal (millions of cat owners), the possibility of going viral (e.g., you could sponsor contests for the most satisfied cat). For a while I thought Sam might want to invest in this as an actual product. I, of course, was content with just coming up with the idea. I guess this sort of thing, for me, is a kind of art form, a creative outlet, rather than a business. In any case, lo and behold, a few months ago I happened upon this website, which blew me away. The Purr Meter is now a reality!
Of course, I can't and won't ever claim I was the first to come up with any new idea. No matter how far back you might want to go with such a claim, there will always be someone who allegedly thought of it before you. So no, I'm not going to claim that any of these are my own original "inventions," or that someone else "stole" them from me or was somehow influenced by me. That could be the case, but I doubt it and besides it doesn't matter. What I really pride myself on is not (necessarily) my originality, but my ability to see sufficiently far ahead to predict certain things about certain future developments that few, if any, others anticipated. So if I was very likely not the first one to actually come up with the idea for the virtual reality headset or the 3D Printer, I was far enough ahead of my time to envision those possibilities -- and predict their realization at some future date. 

Which is what this blog is all about. These three examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Many other ideas have been rattling around in my brain for some time and at this point I feel the need to share them publicly. I have neither the means nor the desire to realize any of the ideas I'll be presenting here, but I do feel confident in my ability to predict that, at some future date, at least some of them will emerge from the fog of possibility into the clear light of day. 

I'm hoping my readers will want to join in by discussing the issues raised herein, asking questions, and contributing "cool ideas" of their own. 

My next post will be on the topic of self-driving cars. Here's a preview:
I have an idea for an automotive design that can take advantage of self-driving technology today, with no need for further testing and refinement. As we all know, totally autonomous vehicles still face daunting obstacles when it comes to issues such as bad weather, GPS dead zones, unexpected pedestrian activities, unmarked road lanes, etc. The car I have in mind would not have such issues, yet would be able to profit from all the benefits of the new technology, with no need for continued long-term development of ever more refined (and complicated) AI algorithms.
Please stay tuned. 

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