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Telepresent Wastesorting Facility
Date: 2005-04-06
Category: Technology
Price: Free
Target Audience: Waste Management, Inc., telepresence/telesurgery companies
Description: Waste management companies spend millions of dollars shipping first-world garbage to third-world labor markets for hand-sorting-- then sometimes ship the recyclables back home for processing. What a waste! The Telepresent Wastesorting Facility eliminates shipping and reduces labor costs by allowing trashpickers to work remotely, from anywhere in the world. A satellite cross-link connects workers, who wear virtual-reality goggles and force-feedback data gloves, with their telepresent robotic proxies sorting garbage far away. And because the labor providers work virtually, you can pack them into a tight grid pattern, saving space. What's more, you can deploy the labor facility inland, where wages are even lower, rather than having to locate near a port. Best of all, if economic conditions change, or if the local workforce starts causing trouble, the Telepresent Wastesorting Facility's modular physical infrastructure can be easily dismantled, palletized, transported, and redeployed elsewhere, onto any flat concrete foundation, where the job opportunities you're providing will be more appreciated.

Secret Seed
Date: 2005-03-06
Category: Technology / Biomedical
Price: Free
Target Audience: Sperm bank, IVF, and cryogenics companies.
Description: Has a generation of Political Correctness eroded fundraising income for your college secret society? Thankfully, you have other endowments to draw upon. Secret Seed is a private consultancy dedicated to helping elite secret societies (Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, etc.) realize their economic and genetic potential by establishing ancillary operations as exclusive sperm banks. You'll "do well by doing good" -- gaining a significant new source of revenue, for wild, lavish parties and other expenses, while benefiting future generations with greater expression of your society's superior genes.

Getting started is easy! Many aspects of secret society life and architecture migrate naturally to the sperm bank industry: The all-important screening process, the secret entranceways and private chambers, the special sense of masculine comraderie and destiny. Members-only occult rituals may be sexualized with impunity, to exploit their donation value. Meanwhile, Secret Seed will take care of all the technical details, from constructing a small, state-of-the-art cryogenics lab in your headquarters building or "tomb," to administering the business and scientific sides of the operation. College-age men are in the biological prime of their life as potential sperm donors, so don't waste this opportunity-- it's a moral imperative upon which the fate of humanity may rest! And who knows what the brave new future of genetic/eugenic commerce will bring? Perhaps our species will be guided by powerful, multinational gene banks, and the fact that they started out as college secret societies will simply be a bit of interesting historical trivia.

Word for Creatives
Date: 2005-02-08
Category: Technology / Software
Price: 100
Target Audience: Software companies, Roger von Oech (or other famous-name creativity gurus)
Description: You're on deadline and you have to produce some ideas, but honestly, how creative can you be with dull, grey Microsoft Word staring you in the face? Word for Creatives extends the familiar Word interface to include the tools you need to get your juices flowing-- not just Thesaurus, but an entire Creativity Toolbar loaded with brainstorming tips, triggers, exercises, and other "Whacks on the Side of the Head" from bestselling corporate creativity guru Roger von Oech. It's guaranteed to keep you on your toes! Naturally, you can also "skin" the application window with dazzling custom patterns, for further inspiration. Using Word for Creatives feels very different from using plain-vanilla Word, and it promises to make you think differently as well!

SheepTool - Remote Group Decision Interface
Date: 2004-12-20
Category: Technology
Price: 200
Target Audience: Web portals, especially business-oriented.
Description: Coming to a decision as a group is like moving together as a flock of sheep, a sophisticated dance of body language; repeatedly-vocalized concerns; small, tentative steps; and an eventual, shared understanding about where the group has decided to go. The collective mind takes time to come to its decision as each sheep weighs its own preference, preference-strength, and standing against those of each other sheep in the group. Through the process, each individual sheep also monitors the dynamic of the discussion as it unfolds, and gauges its accuracy against evidence it sees from the outside world, drawing upon its personal model of the way the world works: "I swear, I saw a wolf in that direction and Betsy saw it too-- right, Betsy? Since wolves tend to come from one direction, I feel very strongly that we should move the other way."

This tried-and-true decision-making formula works brilliantly across many species, with or without language, allowing the group to think more carefully and deeply than any one individual would alone. Humans often do it in conference rooms, where everyone can see each other, physically place where they are relative to everyone else, and discern how people are reacting to one another. But what if the workgroup is all in different places? Videoconferencing may be a nice idea, but it removes the biologically-hardwired metaphor of shared space and group direction that underlies all successful consensus-building. Simply seeing faces onscreen is no help when you're missing the subtle, direction-based adjustments in people's posture, attention, and breathing that follow along with trajectory of the discourse, clueing everyone in to which direction people are leaning, whose arguments are holding sway, and who is losing ground.

SheepTool offers a better, more natural alternative to videoconferencing. At meeting time, everyone logs onto a shared virtual workspace and opens up a communal audio connection, the Bleatspace. At the same time, a round field is shown onscreen, and clustered in the middle are icons that represent each participant, consisting of nothing more than a circle with a name label, and two dots representing a pair of eyes. The matter currently under consideration is listed at the top, and different possible outcome decisions, defined in advance, are arrayed around the edges of the field, whether it's something as simple as Yes on the left and No on the right, or a longer list of possibilities-- industries, companies, individuals, budgets, calendar slots, proposals, etc. Initially, the simplified Sheepicons are arranged in org-chart order, with higher-ranking participants in the middle of the DecisionFlock cluster, and more junior members occupying the outskirts.

At the sound of the starting bell, participants begin the gradual process of bringing the DecisionFlock group to the edge of the virtual field, where the flock's position will correspond to one of the possible decision outcomes. In doing this, each participant has two tools at their disposal: their voices, carried and heard by everyone over the Bleatspace, and their pointing devices, which can nudge their associated Sheepicon bodies and eyes in any chosen direction. The Sheepicons are programmed to stick together, which automatically lessens the influence of any one participant's strong movements. Meanwhile, each Sheepicon's body movement exerts a force that nudges and draws neighboring Sheepicons along in their direction, with more power logically held by the icons located in the center of the flock.

Throughout the process, low-level random noise is generated in order to make the Sheepicon bodies wiggle slightly in all directions. The purpose of this is to loosen the connection somewhat between a users input and their icon's movement, thereby providing a certain level of anonymity and deniability regarding being swayed by the arguments and movements of others.

Lifeship One
Date: 2004-11-03
Category: Technology / Biomedical
Price: Free
Target Audience: Private satellite/rocketry companies, in conjunction with fertility clinics
Description: In today's career-first world, people of all faiths are using fertility clinics to help them be fruitful and multiply, and countless loving couples have been blessed with beautiful children as a result. But what about the forgotten, "extra" embryos that in-vitro fertilization procedures inevitably create? According to a recent article in Politics and the Life Sciences, (paraphrased), some of these unborn innocents are murdered immediately, some are banished indefinitely to freezers, and some are sacrificed for clinical training and scientific research. Lifeship One offers a more heavenly alternative. The foundation systematically rescues "extra" embryos from IVF clinics, places them in a protective capsule, and then shoots them into space via rocketship. Freed from the unsure world of freezers and power grids, these microscopic refugees can travel in a perfectly frozen state forever. And then, if there is any love in the universe, some compassionate, nurturing force will intercept this spaceship of hope and its precious cargo, and raise each angelic soul to its full, God-given potential. Believe it will happen! Because the alternative would be impossible to bear.

RoveMail
Date: 2004-11-03
Category: Technology / Software
Price: 50
Target Audience: Email software companies and providers
Description: Insiders know the art of timing their emails and composing Cc: and Bcc: lists, but this simple set of choices is woefully incomplete. RoveMail solves the general problem by making email delivery scriptable and smart, with a detailed personal contacts database. Attach a "RoveScript" to any email message, and the mailer will selectively disclose any rumors or other insider information over time, "roving" about the complex terrain of knowledge, affiliation, and hierarchy.

For example, let's say you have a memo on the subject of "Chalabi" which you wish to reveal in the following way:

  1. Immediately email it to Dick and Karen, allowing them to see the message's RoveScript.
  2. Deliver it early tomorrow to all 100%-trustworthy senior staff at Halliburton and OSP, but not to Paul or anyone who has ties to the University of Chicago.
  3. Finally, deliver it in one week's time to journalists who write for top-tier publications and cannot think for themselves, and Bcc: everyone at the Trilateral Commission.
This easily translates into the following RoveScript excerpt:
(Send (Subject "Chalabi")
  (Date (NOW (To Dick Karen) :show-script YES)
    (02Apr2004 07:30EST (To (Recipients R where
      (AND (= :trust-level 1.0) (= :level "senior") (= :affiliation (OR "Halliburton" "OSP"))
        (NOT (OR Paul (includes :ties "U of C")))))))
    ((+ NOW 7d) (To (Recipients R where
      (AND (= :job "journalist") (= (status :affiliation) 1) (> :sheep-level 0.8)))
      (Bcc (Recipients R where (= :affiliation "Trilateral Commission"))))))

The recursive nature of the RoveScript language allows you to attach counterfeit headers and RoveScripts, when necessary. You may also include formulas, for example to send a message to recipients one-by-one, spaced apart at intervals and ordered based on quantifiable personal characteristics such as age or income.

Future releases of RoveMail will support voicemail and text messaging in addition to email. Later, a GUI will eliminate the need to write most scripts, and RoveScripts will be applicable to incoming messages as well as outgoing -- for example, "If I get a message from Paul over the next two hours, forward it immediately to my Blackberry; after that, route it to my Recent-Assassinations folder."

IceWriter
Date: 2004-02-19
Category: Technology / Heavy Equipment
Price: 100
Target Audience: Zamboni
Description: New from the Zamboni Company, IceWriter is an ice-resurfacing vehicle that "prints" semi-permanent color images of any size as it traverses the ice. The robotic vehicle sweeps over the image area line-by-line, while a hot metal print-head underneath melts holes in the ice, one for each pixel. The vehicle then sucks up the water, mixes it with vivid, biodegradable dyes, and re-deposits it into the hole, where it soon re-freezes. The resulting long-lasting color pictures turn rinks or frozen lakes into colorful billboards visible from far away-- even from airplanes!

FreewayWriter
Date: 2004-02-19
Category: Technology / Heavy Equipment
Price: 100
Target Audience: Road-building equipment mfr's.
Description: A highway's wet-weather traction is improved by grooves in the concrete, now standard in road construction. These channels produce a hum that's audible in any vehicle that travels over them, and varying the grooves' direction, spacing, and depth changes the resulting sound's volume and frequency (see S. Meiarashi et al.). FreewayWriter takes advantage of this effect to make highways sing-- literally. The computer-controlled tining machine etches complex patterns into the pavement that not only improve highway safety, but also play music to motorists-- even in stereo, when the left and right sides of the lane are etched differently. It's a great way to reduce deadly "highway hypnosis" on long, remote stretches of road, or even to deliver commercial messages. You're exhausted, you're still hours from your destination, and suddenly the road sounds like Rhapsody in Blue; that's when you think, "next time, I'm taking United Airlines."

IBM Linux for Desktops
Date: 2004-02-02
Category: Technology / Software
Price: Free
Target Audience: IBM (duh)
Description: Red Hat, SuSE, and Mandrake might be fine for risk-takers and weirdoes, but everyone trusts the name IBM -- which is why IBM Linux for Desktops has inspired a spate of Windows-jumping by computer users and investors alike. IBM's somewhat cryptic 2003-2004 television ad campaign, which featured Muhammad Ali, hinted that Linux might indeed be useful for more than just enterprise, government, and education markets. Then the company delivered its knockout punch: a low-priced Linux distribution for the rest of us. No one ever got fired for buying IBM, the saying goes. Now no one will ever get teased for buying Linux.

Skratchbod
Date: 2003-12-08
Category: Technology / Music Hardware
Price: 100
Target Audience: Tactex, Mercurial Innovations Group, DJ and other performance equipment manufacturers
Description: DJs have great hands, which is part of their allure, and products like the Mercurial STC-1000 let them show off their tactile virtuosity more vividly than ever. But while the original STC-1000 Single Touch Controller is based on an uninspiringly geeky flat rectangular input pad, Skratchbod wraps the same touch-sensitive synthetic skin over a life-sized model of a human torso. Two versions are available, Skratchbod-F and Skratchbod-M, which are shaped like the midsections of a shapely woman and hunky man, respectively. The fully-programmable Skratchbod lets you map its sonic responses any way you want, from simple x- and y-axis approaches to more complex, erogenous zone-oriented configurations. But whatever you choose, you'll be teasing and stroking the club floor into a dance frenzy! Physical objectification never sounded so good!

Speakers' Jokes for PalmOS
Date: 2003-10-31
Category: Technology / Software
Price: 100
Target Audience: Publishers and rights-holders of any of the many "jokes for speakers" and "jokes for all occasions" books, handheld software vendors.
Description: Experienced public speakers know that the best opener is often a relevant joke. But if you're preparing your talk on the plane over or speaking off-the-cuff, you probably can't access those humor sources that normally assist the joke-memory-challenged majority. Speakers' Jokes for PalmOS solves the problem with a searchable bank of over 3,000 one-liners, aphorisms, and witty quotations, indexed by topic and occasion keywords, that runs on your Palm-based PDA. You can edit entries to match your personal voice, attach performance notes, and add new jokes to the database. Subscribe to the inexpensive update service, and you can download fresh, topical material from with-it sources such as Tonight with Jay Leno and The Onion. For Pocket PC users, a sister product is available: Joke Explorer for Windows CE Mobile Edition. This product uses the same great database as Speakers' Jokes, minus eleven software-related entries which were deemed incompatible with the platform.

iGuitar
Date: 2003-09-27
Category: Technology / Music Hardware
Price: 200 + 1% of net
Target Audience: Electric/electronic music equipment manufacturers
Description: Just plug (in) and play! The iGuitar is a self-tuning electric guitar that lets you focus on the music. A pickup-microprocessor-servo loop keeps the �beraxe continuously in tune, and can be instantly REset to a alternate tuning or capo setting. Internal memory and Ethernet support allow you to easily download MIDI songs and guitar tablatures, and when you play them back in "learn" mode, LED's under the translucent neck indicate the chord fingerings -- a powerful teaching tool. The uniquely versatile iGuitar also has REtractable frets and comes with a cello bow, for the free-form musician. Finally, for that show-defining, climactic power chord, a switch on the back of the neck immediately REleases the E string so that it pops loudly, just as if you'd broken it.

SupportWatch
Date: 2003-08-19
Category: Technology / Software
Price: 100
Target Audience:
Description: Leafing through tonight's program, you see that you're listed as a small-print "Friend" of the local opera company, while the Joneses next door are in the "Founder's Circle." Ouch! SupportWatch can help. This simple software package lets arts organizations, charities, and other donation-supported enterprises publish up-to-the-minute hierarchies of benefactors online, while also collecting additional contributions. This allows donors to instantly raise their position in the publicly-posted list simply by contributing more money, pitting them against each another in a healthy, Ebay-like frenzy of competitive generosity. Optional enhancements allow site visitors to view donation data by date (to see who's been slipping lately -- always great gossip fodder) and age (to see if they're at least one of the top donors in their age bracket). Future versions promise .NET compatibility, allowing for cross-charity determinations of who's the most generous overall.

Segway B (Bulletproof) with ERS
Date: 2003-07-01
Category: Technology / Transportation
Price: 200
Target Audience: Segway LLC, Jerry Bruckheimer
Description: The Segway HT might rival the automobile as a local transportation device, but it does nothing to address the car's no-less-important function as urban armor. The Segway B fills this gap. Based on the HT's chassis, the Plexiglas-enclosed, bulletproof vehicle lets you navigate the mean streets (and sidewalks) quickly and safely, while a double-door compartment in front allows cash and small parcels to be passed freely in and out. Whether you're taking a face-to-face meeting with a rival crime boss, traversing a tough neighborhood to score some heroin, or even simply touring an unstable capital to monitor an election, the Segway B offers protection and peace of mind. And for even more safety, Segway B owners can subcribe to the Emergency Rescue Service. With ERS, if you run into trouble in any of 50 major U.S. cities, all you need to do is find some open ground and hit the Rescue button. An extra layer of Kevlar shielding immediately deploys behind the Plexiglas, while a helicopter gunship from Segway ERS's private fleet is dispatched to your current location to swoop down, connect to the ERS dock on the vehicle's roof, and airlift you away to safety. What could be more convenient?

Caff-Stix
Date: 2003-06-12
Category: Technology / Biomedical
Price: Make offer
Target Audience: Pharmaceutical companies
Description: Is your decaf really decaf? Unwrap a Caff-Stix and find out. Each disposable plastic stirrer has a nontoxic receptor-test panel, which changes color depending on your brew's caffeine concentration. Match the shade below to the printed colors above, and you'll see how many milligrams of the stimulant you're ingesting per 8-ounce cup. Caff-Stix works for tea, yerba mat�, and sodas as well-- but remember that if you're assaying a Big Gulp, you'll need to multiply by four.

Truth-O-Mat
Date: 2003-05-23
Category: Technology / Video
Price: 100.00
Target Audience:
Description: Want someone to give you the real story? Take 'em to the nearest Truth-O-Mat. Built like a high-tech confessional booth, the Truth-O-Mat takes continuous video of the subject sitting in the "hot seat" and feeds it through a Microexpression Analysis Engine (MAE). This yields a real-time readout of their apparent honesty-level, which is visible to the person sitting on the other side. Under the hood, the state-of-the-art MAE technology combines the precision of Paul Ekman's Facial Action Coding System (developed at UCSF) with the automation of Zuhair Bandar's "Silent Talker" system (Manchester Metropolitan University). Unlike traditional (and largely-discredited) polygraph tests, the MAE requires no complicated setup and no human interpretation-- and it gives far more consistent and accurate results. Just swipe your credit card and the booth is ready to use, for just a few dollars per 15-minute increment. Modular design and a single-pallet shipping configuration allow Truth-O-Mat to be installed almost anywhere-- in malls, airports, or even bars!

Eyes-Only Bold Extended
Date: 2003-03-14
Category: Technology / Typography
Price: 100.00
Target Audience: Adobe, Emigre, Hoefler, with-it type foundries
Description: Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is constantly improving, but let's face it: sometimes you don't want a document you've printed to be scanned, OCR'd, and spread around online. The Eyes Only font solves the problem: people can read it, but a computer can't. It's a pointillist, fuzzy, soft-edged rendering of old German Fraktur-style script - most letters consist of thick vertical lines, with small differences in connecting strokes and serifs. Shading is governed by a randomized "seed," making each letter slightly different. The human eye hardly notices, but it fools software every time.

Talk-Show Guest Genetic Library
Date: 2003-03-14
Category: Technology / Biomedical
Price: Free
Target Audience: Television studio hair stylists
Description: Hair stylists for talk shows have a goldmine on their hands. At the root of each strand of hair they touch, live skin cells hold complete genetic information for the celebrity they're coiffing. The technology to extract and read this information doesn't exist yet, but it probably will within ten years. The Talk-Show Guest Genetic Library looks forward to this time. In its low-temperature vault are contained individually-labelled strands of hair plucked by stylists from guests on the major talk shows -- the genes of the stars. We might not know yet how people will be able and legally permitted to use this information, but it's a good bet that it will be valuable.

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