What, No Deathball? – Sports

Let’s get one thing straight: I barely know a football from a hand-egg. The most extreme sport I’ve ever played involved shouting ‘mahjongg’ at the top of my lungs. So why am I doing a list of ten sports? Well, why not? Sure, I wouldn’t be able to play any of the new, surely enduring, pastimes that I’ve taken the time to invent. But you know, some of these sound like they might be fun to at least watch. If not watch, deride mercilessly as derivative and boring. Bring on the ‘sports’!

  1. Teams of 10 pass a ball around in a circle as fast as they can. Fastest team to pass the ball around the circle ten times wins! This is a really simple game. It’s equal parts pass-the-parcel and peasant railgun. I think the main appeal is the low entry requirement: Anyone with a pair of hands and a little bit of coordination can play! Unfortunately, the latter condition excludes me from my own invention.
  2. Teams of N travel the game field on large balls, try and knock the opposing team off their balls. It’s like dodgeball, except you’re riding the ball, the ball is huge, and you don’t throw things at people. I think only tumblers and circus clowns can play this, but I think that only adds to spectator enjoyment.
  3. Bola-based sport (?). I think I wanted some sort of.. Tangling game. For those not in the know, bolas are thrown snares, two balls connected by a piece of string that you swing about and chunk at people to tie ’em up. I think this game would be like dodgeball, but with.. tying people up, rather than giving them concussion. Combine it with the previous idea for some serious amazingness.
  4. Field-based sport with two teams, where each team has to re-unite two halves of their sphere.. Where one half is at the back of the opponent’s side of the field. This sounded great when I wrote it down, really. It’ll be like rugby, except rather than there being one ball, there’s two balls, each split in half. And rather than trying to get your half of the ball past the posts, you’re trying to get it to the other half of your ball. Either you have a guy holding your half on the opponent’s side of the field, or maybe one of the opposing team is carrying your other half.. I didn’t work out the kinks, but there’s potential for strategy here.
  5. Netball, but the ball gets hotter the longer you hold on to it. Because netball is too slow-paced, and this idea wouldn’t work for basketball at all. I’m probably going to catch some heat for calling netball slow-paced, and that’s because I have no idea about pacing in sports. I think chess is a fast sport.
  6. Car on a rail, brick wall at end of rail. Have to solve Rubik’s Cube while in car, cube can only be moved while the accelerator is floored. It’s a combination of the best elements of chicken and the best elements of.. Rubik’s Cubes. The idea was to make Rubik’s Cubes extreme somehow. And I think I might have just done that, at the expense of human lives.
  7. Another cube idea: Rubik’s Cube.. On Fire. Because why not? You’d need bright colours on the cube that show through the flames, and solving faster actually gives the flames more oxygen. You’d have to balance speed, accuracy and how well done you want your fingers to be. Okay, I have no idea how fire works, but you know.. Fire is cool.
  8. Two two-man teams trying to throw balls in to their basketball hoop. One man on each team throws larger balls, but only to knock the opponent team’s balls out of the way. It’s a mix of those basketball hoop games you see at arcades, and Quidditch. The difference between this game and the standard hoops game is that you get to play in a team and there’s two hoops! It’s fast-paced, and involves awesome mid-air collisions of balls which would make you feel like a king for actually managing to deflect an opponent’s ball. It’s simple, and could ruin friendships. That’s the sign of a good sport.
  9. Shout-offs. What else is there to say? Get a sound level meter, take a deep breath, and scream! Loudest person wins. I’d be good at this one.
  10. King of the Hill-style game where the Kings have to play a complete tune on a church bell. Opponents force hill vacation by causing N bum notes, somehow. So you start off with both teams outside the bell area. Once the game starts, the teams race to reach the bell. First team to reach the bell becomes the Kings of the Hill. They then have to play a tune on the church bell while the opponents attempt to ruin the tune somehow. It’s probably very, very clear at this point that I have no idea how church bells work, or indeed, how King of the Hill works. But you know, we’re not here to think up good ideas.

Let’s say you actually want to make one of these wonderfully bizarre sports a reality. How could you go about doing that? We won’t even entertain the Chicken-Rubik’s Cube hybrid. Warning: Don’t try that one guys okay?

First Steps

We’ll look at the first idea in a bit more depth (passing a ball around in a circle quickly). Why? Well, the rules are almost obvious immediately. In fact, the first step to creating any new game (after picking a name, like.. Pass Ball), whether it’s a sport or traditional game, is most likely to figure out some solid rules. That’s what we’ll do now!

  1. Team size: 10 people numbered from 1 to 10. One referee per group.
  2. Number of teams: N (it doesn’t matter, as long as you have enough referees)
  3. Set-up: The ten players of each team seat themselves in a chair circle of a certain radius, such that for each player numbered N the player numbered N+1 is sat on his left. For the player numbered 10, the player numbered 1 should be on his left.
  4. Gameplay: Give the first player of each team a regulation-sized Passing Ball ™. The team’s referee will count down from five. Once the referee’s count reaches zero, the referee starts his timer. The first player may now pass the ball to the player on his left. Players will then continue passing the ball to the player on their left. Once the ball is in the hands of the first player again, the ball is said to have completed one rotation. The first player then begins the next rotation by passing to the player on his left. Once ten rotations have been completed, the referee stops the timer. Once all teams have finished their rotations, the referees compare times. The team with the lowest time wins!

We choose to ignore all the finicky things like how to deal with cheating, or what happens if a player drops the ball. So you’ve done the rules, now what?  I won’t go into detail, but I imagine the next few steps go like this:

The basic rules are in place, so the next step is play-testing. Get some friends together (maybe reduce the number of players required if necessary), give the game a go. Your friends are likely to find loopholes in the rules that they’ll abuse, and you’ll be able to close them before they reach the public at large. For instance, there’s no rule saying that the players can’t move around. Under the above rules, player 1 could pass to player 2, then swap seats with player 3.. The ball would be passed to player 1 from player 2, and the rules say that counts as a rotation. Whoops! Better make that clear in the rules.

After a few iterations of play-testing and rules re-writing, you’ll have figured out whether or not the game is actually fun. That’s the important part! And even if it’s fun to play, is it fun to watch? Again, there’s only one way to find out. Get even more friends together to both watch and play your new game. Post videos of the play-testing on YouTube, make a homepage for the new sport, encourage other people to try it out. You’ll know you’re on to a winner when everyone’s having fun and spreading the word themselves. Congratulations, you’ve created a new sport! Just please don’t create the Rubik’s Cube ones. Okay? Remember me when you’re the Commissioner of Pass Ball raking in the big advertising bucks.

Some Assembly Required – 3D Printed Gizmos

The future is now. Replicators are a reality, kind of. Okay, not Star Trek replicators, but rather MakerBot Replicators, as well as a host of dozens of other 3D printing solutions. 

This thing is so future. It kind of looks like an empty PC case.

This thing is so future. It kind of looks like an empty PC case.

They’re so cool, and I have no idea how they work. I think plastic is involved. And layers. Simply put, 3D printers make plastic onions. They can also make other plastic vegetables, and even some plastic fruit! In fact, if it’s plastic, it can probably make it, or at least parts of it. Some 3D printers make things that aren’t even made of plastic! Check out this 3D chocolate printer:

At the request of a friend of mine, here’s ten less-than-Earth-shattering ideas for things that you could design with a (plastic) 3D printer, possibly! With some assembly required, of course.

    1. Can-holder you attach to edge of your desk, makes knocking cans and cups over impossible. Or at least, very difficult. I’ve had several near-disasters involving my computer case and a mug of water sat on the wrong side of the table.
    2. Plastic cage for putting all your un-rinsed washing up in so you can rinse it all at once. My water heater is a very strange and stingy heater. If you leave it running for an hour, you get maybe six or seven minutes of hot water. As such, I have to use my water sparingly. I can’t afford to rinse my cutlery one item at a time, and it takes forever. Just jam it all in a plastic cage and rinse it all at once!
    3. Folding, portable, multiple coffee cup holding device. Like those scary cardboard things you can get from Costa, but adjustable for cup size. It’s basically a handle attached to some cup holders that makes it so you don’t have to actually touch the cups. Brilliant for when you need to carry four double-shot venti Americanos back to work to help you get through that five hour meeting.
    4. Small rolling pin device that you can attach to toothpaste tubes to squeeze them to the max. I have a feeling someone already did this, but you know what? I don’t care. All I care about is getting the most out of my toothpaste. It is the one thing I live for.
    5. Writing desk (folding, of course) that you can attach to the back of bus seats by the handle thing. All buses in London have a handle.. Thing. I can’t describe it, so here’s a photo:
      Photo Credit: markhillary via Compfight cc

      [Cropped from source] Photo Credit: markhillary via Compfight cc

      If there’s something crying out to have a desk attached to it, it has gotta be this thing. It would make writing down these ideas in the morning so much easier.
    6. Sunglasses with lens that you can slide into position. Like those Deus Ex glasses, but more manual. You think it’s a bad idea? I never asked for this [inability to come up with good ideas]. This is also assuming you can print clear plastic lens. I don’t know guys, I’m not a maker person.
    7. Hand-held playing card thrower for people who can’t throw cards. It’s all in the wrist, you see. I bet you could make a pulley-based gun  thing.. Basically, a horizontal hand-held trebuchet for launching playing cards. Just don’t aim it at people, okay? I nearly blinded a friend when he let me throw cards at him. I was so totally Gambit, but I didn’t want to accidentally make him Nick Fury, you know?
    8. Pint-pourer: Two pivoting brackets for holding cups and bottles, one higher than the other. Allows you to pour from a can at an easily adjustable speed into a perfectly 45 degree glass. Bliss. Again, awful description, so here’s a special blueprint just for you people!

      Pint Pourer

      It pours pints and it took all of thirty seconds to knock up in Inkscape. What do you want from me?!

    9. Claw device for eating finger foods. Okay, fine, for eating chicken wings. This also might exist, you can already imagine people who just flat-out refuse to touch food for fear of making it dirty, but still want to eat delicious ribs. I guess a more elegant solution would be disposable gloves.. But hey, we’re dreaming big here!
    10. Beard stencils. Little bits of beard-shaped plastic you stick to your face and shave around to get the perfect beard. I wish I could grow a beard, but alas. I’m doomed to live the life of someone who can only grow a soul patch and a pathetic excuse for a moustache.

There’s an awful lot of cup holder-related stuff on this list because I have no imagination and I love the fact that liquids can be stored in such convenient vessels. If we didn’t have cups, we’d have to hold our coffee with our hands, and that would be awful. So why not make them even more amazing with a bit of cheap plastic and some ingenuity?

First Steps

In a stunning display of benevolence, I have deemed you all worthy of receiving the same wisdom I just received from Google twenty seconds ago. How do you even get into 3D printing? I guess the first step is the most obvious: You have to acquire a 3D printer. There’s an awful lot of them out there though.. How do you pick which one to splash out on? And after you get one, you actually have to design your wonderful new gizmo. Let’s look at these really briefly (for reference, these ‘First Steps’ are meant to be just that: What’s the very first thing you might think of doing to move forward with a particular idea? Sometimes, they’ll also be about what I learn while figuring out the first step, or maybe even some info about the first step itself!):

Which Printer?

This is not an easy question to answer. It’s so hard, and I’m so unqualified, I’m not going to answer it. Instead, here’s some things you should keep in mind when picking your printer:

  1. Price! These things get expensive, my friends. You’re looking at up to £2,000 for a high end piece of kit, maybe as little as £200 or so if you’re okay with putting it together yourself. Some are even cheaper, but that old adage still holds true: You get what you pay for.
  2. Size! The size of the printer itself limits the size of the objects it makes. They are not TARDIS (which is the plural of TARDIS, FYI), so if you want to make some seriously big things (or big parts), you’ll need a larger printer. I believe the technical term for the maximum build size is the build envelope.
  3. Quality! Some printers are naff and make naff quality objects. Some aren’t so naff, and make great gizmos! This ties in with getting what you pay for, really.

Here’s a big ol’ list of printers and prices courtesy of the people at 3ders.org! Knock yourself out.

How do I design my wonderful creation?

You thought picking (and maybe building) a printer was hard? Well, now comes the fun part. Look forward to spending a ton of time learning a piece of 3D design software and making sure the final blueprint is 3D printer compatible. I’ve heard something about ‘non-manifold surfaces’ being a no-no.. So yeah, that’s the sort of terminology you’ll be hearing regularly. Hope you brushed up on maths before you started!

I’m a little more ‘qualified’ to talk about 3D design software, because I did a tutorial in Blender once and it turned out so well I stopped using Blender. For real though, Blender is cool! I’m just not cool enough myself to use it. Here’s a few bits of software (free and commercial) you might use to do your designing:

  • Blender – Free and open source, Blender is so amazing you can make whole films in it.
  • AutoDesk software – These guys make 3ds Max, AutoCAD.. Real hardcore solutions. There’s also the hobbyist, super-cut down product AutoDesk 123D, which is free and I understand, pretty okay!
  • SketchUp – In a similar vein to AutoDesk, SketchUp is a company that makes 3D design software. And similarly, they offer a free version of their product called SketchUp Make.

Once again team, I can’t vouch for any of these. If this is your first time reading about 3D printing, you now know exactly as much as I do about the whole process. But maybe you’re interested enough to actually give it a go? If so, you’re a braver (and probably richer) person than I. Good luck, and remember me when you’re selling toothpaste tube-emptiers by the truck load.

Story Time #1

I took a long walk out of town and treated myself to a large cup of coffee at Costa while thinking these up. I was the only person drinking coffee, but that might have been because it was three in the afternoon on a Sunday and it was hot enough to hard boil an egg by holding it up to the sun. Regardless, the cup saved the day, and I managed to develop ten whole story hooks. Why stories? Because I’m definitely not going to spend all my time on business (I’m thinking maybe once a week?), and I’ve always fancied writing. I’m not very good at it, but this whole project kind of helps with that! Without further ado..

  1. Pianist born with twelve fingers cuts off two to make a point. I envisaged this as a ‘rise and fall’ story of someone with a mutation whom is always causing his actual ability to be second-guessed. In the end, he would cut off his extra fingers and.. Well, who knows. Maybe he’d still be awesome! Or maybe he’d be bloody awful. Either way, instant depth!
  2. [Redacted for highly personal reasons]. Brilliant, Matt. Can’t share that on a family blog. Okay, this isn’t a family blog, but I’m not going to share this one because it’s horrible and personal and you can’t make me tell you it. Imagine it’s about Edward Snowden or something.
  3. Girl forgets she saved the world, hilarity when she’s needed once again. I think I stole this from Doctor Who. Yeah, pretty sure this partially happens to one of the characters. I saw this idea being more like an adventure story where the protagonist learns more about her incredible past while feeling increasingly insecure about her current lack of ability. Does she become a world-saving bad-ass once again? Or is she doomed to never live up to her previous life’s legacy?
  4. Renowned duellists and friends end up on opposite sides of a war. You know, this sounds pretty typical. Duellists also don’t tend to fight like duellists on the actual battlefield, so that whole subtlety thing is lost. Maybe in the end they decide to solve the whole war with a final duel, and they both die to illustrate the futility of war and how it ruins lives, etc, etc.
  5. Warlock summons younger version of himself by accident, can’t remember being summoned but receives memories on time delay. This is probably when the coffee started to kick in. It’s actually kind of the reverse plot twist of a show whose name I can’t mention now, because it’s the primary plot twist. Anyway, in our reversal.. A warlock does some warlocky stuff, and summons his younger self. If you do that, you should remember being summoned, right? The summoner doesn’t. But instead, he starts to vaguely ‘remember’ things that his younger self does when he’s not around the summoner.. Like one-way telepathy.
  6. Time traveller attempts to engineer the singularity. The singularity is one of those hot topics that keeps getting hotter whenever AI makes another advance. There’s a popular belief going around right now that the singularity is pretty close! Let’s imagine it’s not so close after all. In fact, it’s so far away that backwards-only time travel gets invented first. Why waste time waiting for the singularity? Just keep carrying technology slightly further backwards in time, pulling the singularity closer and closer forward in human history. Surely there’s no side-effects to that sort of meddling. Can I hear a butterfly?
  7. Man surrounds himself with people to get himself out of a writing slump a la Proust.. But they’re all boring people. I don’t know if you heard, but Marcel Proust apparently got most of his inspiration for ‘In Search of Lost Time’ from his days wallowing around France’s social scenes, eventually converting all of that snobbery and decadence into a huge novel. It’s not unreasonable to think someone might take away the wrong message from such an experience and start bumming around themselves..
  8. Woman flees society, lives on isolated moon planet, now has to deal with previously undiscovered natives. ‘Castaway’ with aliens. What? Aren’t I allowed to have pulpy ideas?
  9. Human error/Mother Nature shuts down the Internet and telecommunications forever. Who will survive, and what will be left of them? There’s a fair bit of literature out there concerning the knock-on effects on nuclear war. One common theme is that communication gets shunted back to the dark ages. I want that, but without the nuclear war. Save my data from that, cloud!
  10. Intergalactic rest stop comes under threat of closure, employees travel across the galaxy to try and save it. Equal parts Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Clerks and Lord of the Rings. Resteroid 24601 is under threat of closure, and only a rag-tag crew of the night shift manager (night? In space?), his staff, and a very confused singularity-seeking time traveller can save it.

“Matt, you only wrote 9 ideas because you’re holding one back, you selfish git!” Yes, I know. Here’s a bonus: Edward Snowden steals blogger’s secret idea, threatens to tell the world unless blogger breaks into the NSA mainframe. Come on guys, that one was a freebie. You can’t expect them to all be amazing.

A New Venture – Business Ideas

Hey everyone! I figured it was time for a new project, so here it is. Darbenghast Ideas, a collection of ideas from Darbenghast’s inner most secret libraries. For the full story, ask yourself what the big idea is, and then read on for the first list of the new project!

Today, we’re focusing on business ideas. As the first day of the project, we can hardly expect any of these ideas to be original, let alone good. Ah well, let’s see what we’ve got:

  1. An app that sends pre-defined scary tweets if you don’t wake up on time to disable it. Well. Talk about inauspicious beginnings. This isn’t even a business, this is an idea for a mobile app that can’t really be developed any further.
  2. Twitter poll service. Basically, slapping a pretty GUI over basic Twitter functionality for quickly posting polls to your feed and receiving votes in the form of retweets. Again, not much of a business, but at least this has potential to somehow grow into a marketing tool.
  3. Anti-procrastination app. This also has ‘app’ in the description, which suggests more of a one-shot-that-can’t-be-further-developed thing. The general idea is to prevent the user from accessing websites or other applications that would otherwise prevent them from doing productive things. This idea naturally followed from the fact that I couldn’t stay on task long enough to actually get on with writing this list.
  4. Using shopping APIs to fill baskets according to recipes. I’m sure someone has done this before, but the idea is pretty okay: Either using your own recipe database or an external one, automatically populate a basket at <online grocery service> and place an order for you.
  5. Coaching human interaction. This is a real business! I’m terrible at it myself, but I’d like to become a more people-person. What better way than to tell other people how to do it?
  6. University textbook sharing/lending/selling service. I think people get sued over this sort of thing, but it would be immensely useful. Let old students trade their old core text books for hard cash while giving the new generation a chance to get through university life with a little bit of money in their wallets.
  7. ‘Gamified’ Note Sharing for students. Back when I was a at university, there was an attempt by other students to create a hub where everyone could share the notes they created with everyone. Of course, this was a wonderful idea. Except no one actually did it for longer than a couple of weeks (it also didn’t help that it was started towards the end of that year’s courses). How about ‘gamifying’ the concept with achievements and other such meaninglessness stuff to encourage writing up your precious notes?
  8. Play-date group calendar for parents. Meetup/EventBrite for play-dates! You publish an event with properties like child age range, gender, number of kids.. You get the picture. Like other meetup-based applications, but geared towards parents.
  9. Strava for Golf. If you’re not aware of Strava, you’re probably not a cyclist. It’s an application that lets users measure their cycling statistics over time, as well as race on user-defined courses for the fastest time. Transplanting that idea into golf makes a lot of sense: You’d measure your strokes over each hole of the course, as well as having dedicated leader-boards for each course. It turns out someone already did this, but that just goes to show how good an idea it is!
  10. Vine-like stream for music fans looking for a new sound. This one is kind of cool, but probably hard to implement licensing-wise: Users tune in to a personalised radio station that plays a never-ending stream of ten second clips, and can click a button at any time to hear the full version of the current/previous track. There’d be more complete controls for navigating the stream for paid users, and there’s obvious incentives for musicians to upload their music to the service.

So there you have it! Ten business ideas, and it only took me two hours and a huge cup of Costa coffee to get them out. In a future post, I’ll be covering one of these ideas in a bit more depth, including the first steps to getting it off the ground. That might be a while, because I have a few more ‘idea list’ posts back-logged from when I started this project. Until next time!