I was thinking about how pictures have become such a commodity. We take them without really thinking about them anymore then they sit on our phones. Every so often I will go through the pictures I’ve got stored on there and probably 2% are worth keeping. There will be the 3 sloppy shots before the good one, the picture of the location of my car at the airport garage, and an odd picture of a half naked American Girl doll that my daughter took while playing with my phone. When you took pictures with film, you thought long and hard about each photo you were about to take. Took time for composition. Walked over the the Fotomat and patiently waited a few days for them to be developed. Looking at the pictures was an event that produced a shot of adrenaline. Then they sat around on tables for a while to be re-looked at several times before finally making it to a box, and then a few of them found an honored place in a photo album.
We should bring that experience back. A high end camera manufacturer like Leica should create Craft Photography stores. Here you can buy film cameras (and the film to go in them…that stuff is impossible to find now), get your pictures developed, or maybe even use a self-service lab to develop them yourself. They could offer gallery space for amateur photographers as well as classes. They could sell accessories to promote the display and curation of physical pictures in your home…frames, albums, storage boxes. People are itching to do things with their hands again to experience the real world. Home brewing is huge, and we even have a place in my city where you can learn to make books. I think we have all become lazy but interested photographers so the bug is festering within more people then ever before. Let’s give them a new, physical outlet for their new skills that gets them back in touch with the more tactile experience of a photograph.
Just to have a little more fun with this idea, I’ve decided to dedicate Thursday ideas to being absurd. Thursday ideas need no basis and reality and need not be for any good reason. We’ll start tame…
If you work in a downtown area near other skyscrapers, you’ve no doubt had this experience at some point. Some person who offices directly across the street from you 30 floors above the ground becomes a sort of defacto office mate. You recognize each other. Maybe have waved to each other. Maybe even written a little note on the wall. When I worked in Boston, this turned into a full blown dialogue with the offices in another building on a daily basis. We looked forward to it…even met up for coffee at one point. Why? Well these people are sort invading our personal space, right? Better to be friendly and familiar with them then to just have them there staring.
So why isn’t there some way to facilitate this inter-office communication. Posting your cell phone? No way, I don’t know these people that well. What if you could build a temporary, adhoc pneumatic tube that stretched from your office to theres. The tube could be shot out a window leaving only a clean hole to facilitate transfer of cryptic messages to your colleague across the way. Then once the connection is established, you wait for the satisfying vacuum sound, then the thump that tells you your missive has arrived. You like the color of my shirt today fair colleague? Well thank you! I noticed you’re on your second cup of coffee…late night last night? Stick that note in the tube and let it rip.
Hey, the world needs more real life relationships.
File this one under ideas that use technology for things that should just be common sense, but with all the focus on sensors and ever presence of smart phones, ubiquitous Internet access and advances in speech recognition and natural language processing, I gotta ask…
Why is there no app that monitors what I say then violently vibrates, or better yet, emits a loud piercing noise whenever I’m about to stick my foot in my mouth?
This could also be useful for people who use the line, “If I had a dime for every time I said that…”
I know I’ve been stuck on car ideas lately, but Google recently announced an initiative to put Android in the car. Apple has already been pursuing the same idea for iOS. I’m excited about this for a couple of reasons. One, it could help assist emergency vehicles stuck in heavy traffic on the highway, but in addition, I’m hoping that this can mean a whole new way to approach traffic management. Already, Google’s Waze app monitors many drivers locations and speed and can offer alternative routes based on how others’ drives are going.
But what if there was an open communication protocol for traffic that was informed not only by Waze, but by any cell phone signal, and by other GPS apps and devices. The data could be captured by local traffic management authorities and electronic signage and stop lights could then be coordinated to better direct traffic flow. People could be directed to empty local streets or secondary highways. Snow plows could work faster by diverting traffic off the roads they were working on.
While the associated privacy concerns are nothing to scoff at, I’d be more than willing to trade a beacon indicating my location for the chance to shave 15-20 minutes off my 1 hour commute.
It’s damn cold here in Minnesota where I live. However, to me, it’s inconsequential. I parked in a heated garage at home. Today, I chose to park in a skyway connected garage downtown. The only reason I had to go outside was to pump the gas I forgot to get yesterday. I was chilly, but was I really cold today? Absolutely not.
But there were so many people today who were. Who didn’t have the benefits I did of a warm car, warm garages, and warm office. Who didn’t have a fancy Eddie Bauer jacket and warm boots. For them, today was hell. If they even made it through. At -45 degrees, 5 minutes outside is enough to do some seriously damage to the body. There are so many homeless people who didn’t find a place inside, and I spent all day worrying about them.
But what if we could redeploy those electronic signs that are used for traffic all around town? What if we could re-think the amber alert/emergency response system that is not only a broadcast tool but is now integrated into every smart phone. What if today, the city of Minneapolis blasted out instructions on how to help our homeless citizens on a day when the weather was intolerable. Instructions could be provided to text donations to homeless shelters, potentially to rent extra space. Buildings that are being built but are unfinished could be temporarily repurposed to house homeless people for the day (There are several buildings in my fair city that have walls, a ceiling, and heat, but no tenants yet!), Maybe the donations could be used to pay taxi drivers to pick up homeless people to give them a warm ride to these locations in and around the city.
I have a hard time believing that there isn’t warm space for these people somewhere and by deploying our emergency response and electronic traffic signage, we could not only find these spots but pay for them through the kindness of our citizens.
So my son, who I will tell you is a wonderful and thoughtful young man, is finally learning to drive at 18. A little bit of a late bloomer but not uncommon of these Gen Y kids who aren’t necessarily in a rush out to the real world. Since he’s 18 and no longer in high school, I am his drivers ed. I knew this would mean something on my car would be damaged. I was guessing a side view mirror. And I guessed right. Cracked it against a cement post while backing out of my parking spot.
So now it’s almost two months later and I still haven’t fixed it. Why? Because doing anything beyond a simple tune-up or oil change at an auto shop is pure hell. I don’t have extra cars lying around my house. I don’t live on the main transit lines to downtown. When I give up my car to a shop, I’m giving up my mobility. Possibly for days.
Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t auto body places focus on giving you what you crave with your car: control. I think they should rethink their whole approach. They should focus on trying to keep your car for as short an amount of time as possible. A courtesy car should be the norm for any repair that will take more than a day. A shuttle service that will not only drop you off at work, but pick you up at the end of the day seems like a no-brainer. They should text you when they start working on your car, when they figure out what’s wrong, and when they’ve fixed it. You could text back your authorization of the estimate.
Now I know most auto repair shops are small mom and pops on shoe string budgets, so why can’t someone like Salesforce.com get on this and scale it to make it palatable for these small companies?
I feel like there are a lot of car dependent people like me who would love to see car repair go the route of some serious customer relationship management.
Maybe services like Onstar already do this, but I’m surprised that no one has come up with a way for the cars computer system to talk to a smart phone. One of the simplest ways would be through the increasingly common USB interface many cars have to connect smart phones to the radio. Couldn’t the car’s computer send a service alert to the radio that could then be sent to an app on the smart phone to make the driver aware of the need of an oil change? Or an improperly inflated tire? Further, if it’s an issue that needs a mechanic, the app could be set up to automatically call the shop and set up an appointment, then put it on your calendar.
Maybe through this idea I am confessing my inability to remember these things from the moment I close my car door to the next moment I pull out my phone. Somehow, in those 15 seconds, I forget everything that happened during my drive. But I bet I’m not alone.
I realized that most of the ideas I was thinking up involved new digital technology. While the possibilities that technology affords are almost boundless, sometimes its more fun - and practical - to set some bounds. So I decided for Fridays during my 365 idea quest, I’ll go acoustic and try to come up with an idea that does not involve digital magic.
This was tough, and as I thought about non-digital ideas, I kept going back to music. It’s power to transform moods, minds. To fill souls. And I worried about the lack of music education in public schools today. So my idea involves getting more music education to kids. Who better to do that than local radio stations? WIth the access they have to artists, it would be great if instead of just doing radio IDs or in-studio performances, they had those artists spend an hour with a select group of kids. These kids could spend a year as artists-in-residence, learning from all the musicians that came through town, being inspired by them, and maybe getting a little airplay from their sponsoring station and an end-of-session gig.
Somehow, we need to get kids interested, excited, and motivated to play and explore music.
Idea #2: Minneapolis Skyway Wayfinding Help
With smartphones and GPS ever present, it’s amazing how many lost people I see in the Minneapolis skyways. I realized, when trying to give a hapless soul some assistance just how hard it is to give someone directions through that maze. Couldn’t we make this simple? Could we add some type of QR code type image to each skyway sign? It could simply say, “Lost? Snap Here”. You download an app from there that then provides an augmented reality image of where you are with a clear arrow pointing you to the next stop through each building. Spotty wifi? Maybe you could just text where you are and where you want to go and the City of Minneapolis could reply with a series of images of the inside and outside of each image you will cross with a clear arrow pointing to which way you should go to get to your destination. Or…what if an interactive projection was provided inside each skyway….right on an opaque window installed on the wall (that would look beautiful from the outside also) and people could…whenever necessary, stop and check where they are at by navigating the map through hand gestures. This could be paid for with ads that are displayed during idle time and would require very little installation and infrastructure money.
I think that would be a little more Minnesota Nice.
This year, I am resolving to just do, more. Less thinking about doing things, more production. More activity. More action. As a result, I have developed the 365/12 initiative. This year, I’m going to try to develop one idea a day and 1 profile of a person a month. They don’t have to be good, they just have to be done.
Simple, straight forward, done.
So here’s the first idea.
My phone is aware of where I am most of the time and has apps on it that provide me with information relevant to where I am (like Waze, Google, Around Me). Why can’t the jukebox at my local bar recognize that I’m there the same way? It could recognize my phone, perhaps via bluetooth or by logging into its wifi, and know that I was there. I could give it permission to mine my Pandora profile or my iTunes playlist and it could start playing songs that it knows I would probably like. My friends could log in as well and the jukebox could find music we both enjoy.
This seems so do-able, How has this not happened yet?!
Happy New Year!