Inspiration looked as though it would fail me at column time this week but I went out into cyberspace to see what, if anything, was going on.
There was the usual coporatey-type stuff including profits, losses, mergers and acquisitions; none of which, you’ll be relieved to know, I’m even going mention here. At the bottom of one boring page I caught sight of a reference to a robot called HyperActive Bob who works in fast food restaurants.
I had an instant and pleasing vision of a fleet of CThreepio-like figures slicing and dicing and assembling hamburgers quicker than the winking of an eye. And probably taking care of the cooking with some sort of death ray, I thought.
I couldn’t resist nipping over to Bob’s creator’s website at www.hyperactivetechnologies.com to find out more. Turns out that Bob, disappointingly, is not at all humanoid in form, but is really just a PC with heat and grease resistant touch-screens and a few other bits and, ahem, bobs.
His goal is to improve service and quality by ensuring that enough food is cooked to minimise waiting times, but that it is cooked just before it’s needed, so that it’s fresh when customers get it.
Bob will instruct a worker, for example, to cook three eggs and the worker will acknowledge the order and then tell Bob when the eggs are ready, so that he can add them to the list of cooked food which is ready to be served.
HyperActive Bob bases his cooking orders on historical trends, but the really intriguing thing, to me, is that he keeps an eye on number of cars coming into restaurant car park and adjusts the orders he issues accordingly. Whatever will they think of next?
The answer, of course, is that imagination is infinite and there is literally no end to thinking. A good example is www.instructables.com where you will a treasure trove of do-it-yourself projects, complete with full instructions, which have been contributed by site visitors.
I now know the secret of making my own shuriken throwing stars out of CDs, wood, paper, and super sharp metal. There are all sorts other projects including building a USB flash drive into a Lego brick and how to hunt the common snapping turtle.
One project I really would like to try is the USB spy shirt, which you can make by replacing a shirt button with a small USB camera. The author lists possible uses for the device including private investigation, blackmail and research, although he doesn’t mention which kind.
Talking of cool USB devices, the last time I was in CNA I saw a USB hamster which runs around on its little wheel as long as you keep typing on your computer’s keyboard. There was also a launcher which allows you to fire foam rubber missiles at anyone in the office who’s annoying you.
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