Week 1 Entry 6: Concept Development - Having Lots of Bad Ideas to Have One Good One

Amraj Singh Sukhdev Singh - Sun 1 March 2020, 11:56 pm
Modified: Mon 2 March 2020, 2:54 am

By now I've doodled out some of my ideas a few different ways, and I want to... put it in ink so that I start narrowing them down.

Among the five ideas highlighted in my week reflection post, were the following ones that I've since invested more effort in. The idea being, each of these would be written in such a way that I could easily tweak them to be their own concept for presentation, but only one survives to later.


The intent behind having all these different ideas on one page, is that Im weighing them against each other and evaluating them somewhat often while comparing them. The downside, as indicated by the size dedicated to each individual idea... I have a bit of a clear preference. In hindsight, equally sized panels for all the ideas would have been a preferable choice.

Besides that... well, I've excessively focused on my area of interest... social robots. Even if I wasn't interested in other ideas, I should have had themes that made sure that not all of them had common ground.

1. Angry Kitchen Tools

You walk into your kitchen, prepare some ingredients, and pick up a knife to dice some vegetables. Then, it starts talking to you. You've grabbed it too loosely, so it chastises you, because slipping while holding it could lead to a nasty cut. Next time, you'll know to be more mindful of that grip.

We see smart tools everywhere these days, but none of them are ones you're handling directly. How well do these smart devices fit in your life? Do they actually serve you and act as net goods? This idea seeks to introduce a smart device to a person that accompanies, rather than replaces them to complete a task. Essentially, a kitchen tool to teach using grip, angle, and speed to

Plus, I liked the image of a knife speaking directly to you, which sounds like an idea from a slasher film. The novelty here comes from the tools reactions to you as you cut things.

2. A Cog for the Machine

Plenty of people practice for interviews. But what if your interview was a confrontation with an actual, humanoid machine? Would you have the courage to face down against it? Have we as a society become too accepting of software replacing roles people handle?

There's a rise in automation and how it's replacing people in numerous jobs... Even recruiters themselves are being replaced merely by automated scanners that read over resumes and automatically reject people.

What if you could put a face to the name of the machine that rejects you? How devious would such a machine be? One way I thought this would be possible was if youre in an escape room scenario with your interviewer, a robot, where youre locked inside with it. You answer a series of questions until its satisfied, then arm wrestle it, to win your job. Of course, the manufactured outcome for this idea is that no matter what you do, youll always have the wrong answer for all questions, and lose the arm wrestling match...

I could imagine a situation where corporations either make the machine have no identity, so that people project onto the machine to justify their inability to satisfy it - or crafting a very specific image that's 'brand safe'.

For this concept, the idea is that you can't escape, you're locked in a room and have to "fight" this machine, or else you've lost the chance at the job. The twist being, your loss is the intended outcome. The people in charge of the machine are nowhere near you, you face a thoughtless, uncaring opponent whose only goal is to pin you against a vague standard.

3. Reflecting Fountain

You head to a water fountain to refresh yourself, but it forces you to go through hoops to use it. Gaze into your reflection screen as it tells you what to do.

Granted, the thing it wants you to do... adjusting your posture -isn't a big deal, but the fact that one has to modify their actions to satisfy an arbitrary condition, is it enough to make people decide not to use it? Do they try to find some meaning or justification for satisfying the machine?

Inspired by the ridiculousness of how some fountains and sinks have eye-tracking to make sure that you're paying attention to an ad being displayed on a screen that has to be watched to use them.

4. Panopticon Go-Karts

Surveillance in some ways is accepted as a norm, but what if the surveillance was much more easily apparent? A lot of surveillance involves either your personal device, or

What if acknowledging surveillance, even if only by eye contact, immediately caused you to be more directly tracked?

This idea revolved more around monolithic, opaque screened vehicles of sorts, that would track you around a specific area. The exteriors are opaque glass, and each vehicle has cameras inside it detecting specifically the gaze of onlookers, pursuing the first onlooker that sustains attention on it long enough to trigger a software switch.

The panopticon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon) is the idea of a tower that allows for the observation of prisoners which pushes them to behave a certain way, because they cannot see into the tower that watches over them. Somewhat similar to this idea. However, instead of people in the tower that might possibly be observing them, when someone is noticed by these machines, there's clear feedback theyre being watched as they pursue and accelerate towards the targets.

Further, these monoliths are aggressive and target people indiscriminately, but are much less imposing than a giant, impenetrable facade of a building that the original panopticon is. Because they're not in a central location, it's harder to know where they are, and why they follow you, than a tower that stays in place, so people in the area are left more on edge as the machines follow them.

5. Life Switchboard

Meeting new people without needing to look at them. A concept done so often, that there's dozens of apps that do it at the tap of a button. But what if it wasnt the tap of the button? What if you needed timing and a reasonable amount of dexterity to speak to someone, and furher, had no information about them?

Facebook and Twitter allow people with profiles to put their thoughts out to anyone who can listen, but anyone, means theyre speaking to the world at large. What if you instead were directly speaking to people?

Much jest is made about how in the "old days", communication was easier when you spoke to people in person. It felt like it would be hillarious if we could use redundant technology to do what you can already do on twitter like Lorna mentioned regarding the rotaryphone used for Facebook.

Inspired by the idea of switchboard operators (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switchboard_operator), people responsible for connecting calls through in the early days of telecommunication - that incidentally could listen over the line and hear private conversations.

Instead, here you're connecting to people, its a public conversation to someone in the same general location as you, that other people can join. There's a possible novelty here being having no idea about what kind of conversation you might find yourself in, and also, a conversation going continously across several hours, with different participants dropping out and in to the line.

Closing thoughts

I've ended up spending... a little too much time on these ideas, and not enough rejecting them, breaking them down, then transforming them into something new and usable... and documenting the thoughts that went behind them wasnt too helpful either/

Finding ways to articulate thes ideas didn't vastly accelerate my progress in arriving at something for the poster... Next up, I need to edit these down to be more coherent, and make sure that one of them fits the criteria of the brief more closely.