Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

Time-Limited Small Arms for Revolutions

The “civil” war in Libya has me thinking about what’s going to happen to all those weapons that have been provided to the rebels by NATO.  Here’s an advertisement from the near future…

We’ve all been there:  You smuggle a few thousand guns to rebel fighters in a country where you’d like to topple a dictator.  Next thing you know, the dictator’s gone but now you have all those guns floating around.  Most of them end up in the hands of insurgents (who were your buddies a couple of weeks ago but are now definitely anti-you), and some of them make their way to the black market and end up getting used against your drug enforcement agents and/or the drug cartels that are propping up your government.

Not anymore!  With our exclusive line of DisposArms™ time-limited weaponry, not only do you minimize the risk of your own weapons being used against you but you can also prevent flooding the lucrative secondary arms markets with spare weapons.

Design and Features

  • Critical components of the weapons are built to fail due to corrosion or use after a predetermined time period or a given number of rounds have been fired.  Special composite materials cause the components to fuse together upon failure, rendering the weapon inoperable.  The components fuse in such a way as to make re-manufacturing/cannibalization of the weapon highly impractical.
  • Non-critical components, such as grips, stocks and other furniture, are made from biodegradable plastics with a predetermined lifespan.
  • The usable lifespan of the weapons can be custom-tailored to your specific revolutionary or counter-revolutionary timetable.
  • Failsafe explosive devices can be implanted in the weapons and remotely detonated should the need arise.  The size, composition and lethality of the explosive can be customized according to your needs.
  • GPS tracking devices are also available to ensure that your guns stay on-task and in-country.
  • We also offer an extra-special feature that ties the self-destruct system into the GPS locator.  If a weapon leaves a boundary area that you have defined, the weapon automatically detonates.  You can even modify the boundary from our convenient phone app!
  • DisposArms™ can be crafted to use a variety of locally-available calibers or you can choose from our line of proprietary, time-sensitive ammunition for even better control of your arsenal.
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Putting Kids to Work: Thoughts on Making Schooldays Productive

About a hundred years ago, various regions of the United States began banning or limiting child labor.  It was a hard-fought battle.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we turn back the clock to those horrible times.  Before child labor laws, kids would operate dangerous, dirty equipment for 12 hours at a time for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of twelve cents a day and an inflation-adjusted three kicks in the ass.  But hear me out, and I’m not saying this in a satirical Modest Proposal kind of way:  I think children would benefit by performing simple, real-world computer-related tasks during school time and that they should be paid for their efforts.

Apparently the business world needs a lot of menial tasks to be performed, and a lot of it can be done via the Internet.   Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk” is an example of a service that will pay you to do stuff that’s really dull but wouldn’t be cost-efficient to make a computer do it.  I say we should have kids, from say 4th grade on up, get paid to get this work done.  We could give them an allowance for personal expenses, but the majority of the profit would be stashed away in the child’s college fund.

A small percentage of the profits could go to the school.  You talk of “No Child Left Behind” –  how about “No Child Gets A Free Ride”?  But all kidding aside, think about it for a minute:  what better way to make schools more self-sufficient than to have the kids earn as they learn?  You can tell the plan is brilliant because it rhymes.

As a child gains more experience and knowledge, they could perform more complicated – and thus higher-paying – tasks.  Not only would they earn money, but also valuable real-world experience as well as mental exercise.  Imagine if you’d been given the chance to actually apply learned knowledge for a couple of hours per day while you were in school?

In addition to the money and experience, kids would gain perspective, motivation and self-discipline.  “Man, if I nail that algebra test I can step up to Level 6 math tasks…which means more money and experience points.”  Yes, experience points!  Achievements!  Tangible, braggable, look-what-I-did measurements of a child’s progress that would mean a lot more to them than a report card that comes out of nowhere every six weeks.

As the kids enter high school, they could choose from a more varied set of vocational interests.  Imagine trying out a few different jobs before you even get to college?  It might give you more perspective when it comes time to choose a major.

Of course, there would have to be protections put in place to ensure that kids don’t end up working overtime, or letting work get in the way of learning.

You could argue that rich kids wouldn’t have any motivation to participate, or that schools would just become sweatshops, or that any kind of child labor is just exploitation.  I disagree with that last point, naturally, and the other two points are issues that would need to be addressed.  And since there are no other conceivable arguments against my proposal idea, I urge that it be implemented with all speed!  Good day.

Covert and Overt Systems for Networked Uprisings

The recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have shown how important Internet access is to protesters, especially if their goal is overthrowing a government.    Even though the governments of those countries seem to lack the expertise necessary to completely cut off Internet access, they have nonetheless severely hindered it for most of their citizens.

I’m not going to get deep into the politics of these two examples.  As naiive as it may sound,  I think Egypt could benefit from some democracy.  Hell, I think the whole region would benefit .

The Israelis, however, are understandably wary of a power shift that would see a reliably peaceful Egyptian regime tossed into exile – especially if its replacement took a turn toward fundamentalism.  And you can see why the US government is being very non-committal with regard to this push for democracy.  In case Egypt’s dictatorship fails to crumble, we need to appear fully supportive of our Cold War leftovers.  (Remember, we support democracy all over the world, unless somebody we don’t like gets elected.)

So, for the sake of argument, let’s say in the somewhat-near future there’s a regime somewhere in the world that you wanted to get rid of.  The people are ready to revolt.  They need Internet access to communicate their plight to the outside world, and to coordinate and plan their protest activities.  But the government has clamped down on all forms of electronic communication. It’s time to send in the drones.

The first step is to get Internet access in-country.  Unmanned aerial vehicles take position throughout the country, establishing satellite links with fat bandwidth.  Some cut their engines and quietly parachute onto rooftops, disguised as common objects such as smokestacks or HVAC equipment. Some latch onto radio towers or telephone poles.

To extend the reach of these nodes, thousands of tiny, solar-powered routers are deployed by air almost like cluster munitions.  Some are disguised as rocks or other natural objects, while others are enclosed in high-visibility orange or green static-proof bags with instructions on how to activate them, where to distribute them, and how to conceal them.

Since the standard mobile phone service is out of commission, thousands of ruggedized smartphones are airdropped as well.  Though they are rudimentary, each phone has the ability to capture and stream full-motion video.  The phones come pre-loaded with popular social networking apps in the country’s predominant language, as well as instructions on effective protest methods (much like these leaflets in Cairo).  These phones are encased in sturdy foam packaging with instructions for activating them.  About one in ten phones come with a hand-crank charger.

It will be important to ensure that implementers of these overthrow networks don’t scope-creep these toys.  The organic nature of social networks in an uprising must be preserved, lest the participants catch on that they’re just pawns.  Ooops, did I blog that out loud?  How cynical of me.

Anywho, let’s hope that one day we won’t need a UN commission for finding and destroying landmines, but instead a commission dedicated to cleaning up and recycling all the e-trash leftover from popular revolts.

Game Ideas, Volume One

Fourth in my “Stuff From My Index Card Boxes” series, here’s a list of games that will never get made.  Well, they won’t be made by me, anyway.  If you can take one of these ideas and do something with it, be my guest.

  • Corporate Idiots
    • Like the classic Lemmings, your corporate idiots have different “skills” that you can exploit to guide them to safety (or into the shredder, whatever).
    • I’m thinking it could be similar to Lemmings in gameplay, but in a 3D environment.
    • Could have Bosses that show up (“managers”) and you have to distract/divert them from the rest of the group.
  • Wordsnake
    • A “snake” made of letters winds its way down the screen, and the player has to click on the letters to form words before it gets away.
    • It’s like TextTwist, etc. but it involves hand/eye coordination along with the cerebral word building.
    • The snake could have many different patterns for winding around the screen.
  • Squirrels of Borecraft
    • A very self-aware parody of the RPG genre.
    • All characters are anthro woodland creatures.  Squirrels, beavers, whatever.
    • Completely break down the genre into its common components…the grinding quests, the NPCs that could do stuff themselves but choose not to, the fact that you’re supposed to be a hero but can’t ride a horse until level 20, etc.
  • Crowd-sourced Dungeon Crawler
    • Users can create and upload dungeons.
    • The dungeons share a common fomat that can be used in many versions of the client – mobile, web, etc.
  • Word Fighting Game, wherein letters have different powers
    • Each player is given a random word or even a sentence.
    • Each letter has its own power.
      • Damage
      • Shield
      • Heal
      • Buff another letter’s abilities
      • Steal a player’s letter
      • Stuff like that!
    • Letter cominations can have interesting powers, too.
    • I’m thinking it’s a turn-based strategy game, where you choose which letter to attack, and which letter to attack it with.  No, I haven’t thought out all the mechanics.
  • Mini-Games based on random word combinations
    • Each mini game is dynamically generated from trying to interpret a random phrase into something you can play.
    • For example, “tenacious blue duck” would try to make some game where you’re a duck trying to get around an obstacle of some kind.
    • Think along the lines of Mario Party games, but SUPER-WEIRD because they’re cobbled together on the fly from random phrases.
    • The important thing is assigning games styles to adjectives…try to get some kind of semantic meaning between words and game mechanics.
  • Platformer + Tower Defense game = ???
    • Imagine taking a tower defense game and turning it on its side…
    • Baddies enter from the top and try to reach the bottom.
    • Use physics and gravity tricks to defeat them, as well as weapons.
    • Build platforms, traps, etc. to slow them down.
  • RPG Click Simulator (parody)
    • A single web page that tracks how many times you click the button.
    • After X number of clicks, you level up and your stats increase.
    • You also get a variety of stupid achievements.
    • You can choose two professions and level those up, too.  Those are separate buttons with their own counts.  They also provide stupid achievements.
  • Web Pages as Game Stages (that rhymes!)
    • This has been done in the form of a really kick-ass Asteroids-type game where you can destroy the page, but I was thinking of something different…
    • You could use a randomly loaded page to “mine” for letters, and do, um…stuff…with them.  No idea what.  Or treat the page like a maze.
  • Durr
    • Durr is a cute little character who gets dumber the better you play.
    • The general idea is to do the exact opposite of an educational game…don’t pick the right answer, pick the most wrong answer!  Of course, that means the player needs to figure out the right answer.  It’s reverse psychology, I guess.
    • You could have a math problem, and answers are falling from the sky.  Durr needs to eat the WORST answer he can.  The worse the answer, the more points you get and the dumber Durr gets.  This would be a fun visual indicator for kids to work with.
  • Combatris
    • A Tetris-like game with little army men trapped inside some of the blocks.
    • Your troops are freed when you make a whole line of 5 blocks (or match colors/shapes, or whatever your chosen mechanic).
    • The freed troops then start attacking the blocks as they’re being dropped.  They can sometimes blow them up completely.
    • They sometimes get squished by falling blocks.
  • Morse Code games
    • There need to be more games out there to help you work on Morse code skills!
    • Fill-in-the-blanks for common phrases by tapping the missing letters.
    • A Missle Command style game, where you have to launch intercept missiles by entering the codes that appear below your missile batteries.  You could use special words like BLAST or TURBO to wipe out several enemy missiles at once.
  • Robot Chucker
    • A physics game like Ragdoll Blaster, but you assemble your own robot to toss around.
    • You’d need to have some kind of goal to reach.
    • You can get jetpacks, bounce shielding, whatever.
    • The way you construct your robot will determine how it handles through the obstacles.
  • Ye Olde Catapult Commande
    • Another Missle Command style game, but medieval themed, and physics based.
    • The primary skill required would be to aim and fire the catapult at attackers such as demons, evil giant bats, hot air balloons, airships, wizards on flying carpets.

More to come!

Second Life business tool ideas, Volume One

Some more ideas for SL, this time focused on business or more “serious” pursuits.

  • Second Life Gender Database
    • One of the things that’s a pain in SL is when you’re trying to have a script interact with an avatar and use the correct grammar based on the avatar’s gender.  There’s just no way to tell!
    • I propose that either SL could implement a simple radio button in your profile so that you could state what sex your avatar is (and you should be able to change it whenever you like)
    • …Or a gender database could be built independently.
      • It would not be difficult to make an object that pops open a dialog box whenever it detects an avatar close by and just ask them, point blank “boy, girl or decline to answer?”
      • The results could be shot to a web server, which would provide retailers/script builders with a convenient source for gender identification.
      • Once an avatar has responded to the question, you’d have to make sure they would never be bothered with it again.  The object would check the web database to see if they had answered yet.  Also, the object would keep a small local list of avatars that had recently been asked.  A lot of this logic would be similar to a greeter’s logic.
      • It would take a coordinated effort to get this database going.  You’d need to get cooperation from land owners so you could distribute the survey objects, and then get some interest from developers so they could then use the database.
  • Presentation Systems
    • Think “PowerPoint” but utilizing all the advantages of a 3D environment.
    • A good system would make it easy for a user to put together an immersive presentation without getting too technical, much like PowerPoint allows people to slap together 2D presentations by using templates, etc.
    • A wizard based, step-by-step approach would probably be the best way to to it.
    • You could use a web-hosted wizard to plan out the presentation for the most part (since web pages are the only way to get a form UI into SL).
    • Provide lots of props, sounds, templates for the presenter to string together.
    • Provide 3D charts, graphs and other common presentation components.
    • Ability to script avatar movement/animations/poses, so you could move across the stage to a different place in the presentation.
  • Flowcharts and Diagrams
    • This is a topic that I really need to expand on.  I could use something like this.
    • Imagine a flowchart in 3D that allows you to connect processes, decisions like Visio, etc. , but you can “fly” into a process and see the sub-components…see the sub-processes and then you could dive into those, in infinite recursion.
    • As for the interface, Skidz Tweak’s Skidz Primz have a good system worked out.  You have a palate of shapes to choose from on your HUD, and when you click one it rezzes in-world.  So just replace the prims with flowchart prims and add the ability to hook prims together by particles.
    • The shape browser would probably need to be HTML on the HUD.  There are just too many shapes than could be displayed at one time.
    • You would need a way to easily label the processes.  I’m thinking that each one could just display a simple HTML form for you to enter the text.
    • What if you could describe your process as a city, or as a world?  Zoom all the way out, and you have a Country, which is a series of connected Cities, which then has Streets, and Buildings on those streets.  Some of those Buildings are Factories, while others contain Offices.  Keep drilling down in your process to the atomic level if you need to.  You could also put vehicles on those streets to visualize different processes or communication.
  • Machinima Tools
    • Ability to easily position and script avatars, cameras, lighting, props.
    • Like an animation program, you could define Keyframes that record all the positions of the actors and objects in the scene.
  • Data Visualization – Charts, Graphs, etc.
    • Mentioned earlier – could be used in presentations, etc.
    • Also useful for sim statistics.
    • Already built a 3D pie chart…other charts would be pretty easy.  Bar charts, etc.  The tough part is always the interface.
    • 3D line charts, gauges, lots of possibilities.
  • Web-based particle system catalog
    • An organized database of particle systems, searchable by keyword, category, tags.
    • Should be free to use, free to contribute.
    • Should use a common format for sending the particle system to an object.
    • Can output a script for the user to copy/paste into their object.
    • Ability to upload/display multiple screenshots/thumbnails.
    • Make a rating system of some kind?
  • HTML Form-based Particle Maker
    • Create a form that has all of the parameters of a particle system.  Put that form on a prim that can control a particle system.
    • User can tweak the form and click “Update” to commit the settings.
    • Profit.
  • Web-based SL Texture Library
    • Organized, searchable database of free textures.
    • Should be completely free.
    • Helps people find what they need, save some $L and also saves server space and bandwidth for Linden Lab.
    • People can upload textures, vote, comment
    • …make texture packs for others to download.
  • Medical/Emergency Training Simulations
    • Some work has been done in this field already, but it’s all very esoteric.  It would be great to standardize this kind of stuff.
      • Needs a training scenario scripting engine.
        For example, a teacher could setup a scenario with a gunshot victim and set all of the patient’s vitals and what organs were hit, etc.  The trainee(s) would need to take the appropriate steps to stabilize the patient.
      • The script would need to cover the animations/sounds/behaviors of the patient.
      • Should have the ability to record trainee responses and rewind the scenario.
      • Should be able to branch the scenario based on choices made by the trainee.
    • This will require props to be made for medical equipment, injuries, etc.
  • Sticky Notes for SL
    • Pretty simple idea, and now it would be easy to do since there’s HTML on a prim.
    • Could hook into one or more reminder websites to make this all fancy.
  • Web-Based Dialog Menu Generator
    • Because making menus in SL is a PITA.  A simple tool could be built that would let you define multiple-level menus without the headaches.
    • Cut n Paste the LSL when you’re done.
    • Could it be done in LSL instead?  Sure, but the presentation would suck.  Better to do in HTML.
  • Prim Clock
    • I’m actually working on this one.  Should be ready pretty quick.  Uses prims to display the time.  Most of the code is based on the SculpTitle.
  • Ultimate Color Tool
    • Convert to/from RGB, HSV, RGB Hex, whatever.  Good for matching in-world objects to your web site color scheme, etc.
  • Avatar Automation System
    • I know that these already exist, but I’m not sure of their capabilities.  I think most of them are used as models and greeters.  I’d like to see a scripting system to make them walk around, say stuff.  Not necessarily AI, but have them do more than just sit there.
    • Useful as enemies or squad members in FPS games, victims in disaster simulations, NPCs in quest games.  Would be cool to right-click on an actual avatar as a vendor, huh?  Or as a quest-giver?
    • Good for extras in machinima.
    • Would need a waypoint system, dialog/animation script system, etc.
    • Ability to respond to user questions, commands.
    • Ability to teleport back to starting point if it got stuck or got too far away from base.

Whew!