In the series "A Modest Proposal," my colleagues and I will propose inventions and projects that I think are eminently doable and would love made real.
Imagine hurling a smartphone off the roof of a building and recording its fall all the way down. That's exactly the kind of thing FreefallHighScore is asking you to do. The project is developing a smartphone app to record such videos as part of a competition to see who can put their phone into freefall for the longest time. It was one of the winners of the recent Art Hack Weekend sponsored by the Eyebeam Art & Technology Center and The Creators Project. (The idea is to have a way to safely catch the phone so you don't break it.)
I think it's a bad idea and I think it's a great idea. It's a bad idea because there's a chance people will destroy their phones and accidentally inflict some collateral damage along the way. I think it's a great idea because it helps us realize a new way we can all use a ubiquitous technology — to record events that humans would never be able to survive, to see things that would normally destroy us.
So inspired by this, my proposal is to create transparent balls for smartphones to help them record any number of crazy stunts — see-through hamster balls or volleyballs or bowling balls that one could hit with a bat or launch with a catapult or shoot out a cannon or roll downhill through an obstacle course like this scene from Jackie Chan's "Police Story."
This isn't just about having fun with mayhem for me, although I confess there's a bit of that. As James George of Flightphase who helped develop FreefallHighScore described, it's in part about better understanding how we can be more physical with mobile devices — after all, they are supposed to help us get around. We should always try and brainstorm ways our tools can help us do more than we are otherwise capable of.
There is also another message that FreefallHighScore is trying to convey — the project asks you to take risks with things you value. Really, are there better ends for technology — to help us better understand ourselves and to push the boundaries of what we can do?
You can email me regarding A Modest Proposal at email@example.com and follow the series on Twitter at #modestproposal.