17th: A comics about a cat adventurer

I was watching secret life of pets 2 with my kid in the movie theater, and then I suddenly had this idea: I want to draw a comics about a cat adventurer.

I always want to draw a comics, but I never have a good topic. Now I find it!

No, this is not a normal cat story. I came back home and wrote down the script of the pilot plot.

Unfortunately, I can’t share it here. But I really did write it down.

I also did some research online, there are tons of comics using cats as characters:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_cats_in_comics

http://www.catmuseumsf.org/comics.html

Good that I haven’t found anything similar.

My idea is not like this one either:

Nor is this one:

But I need to be careful about the story. At least I did some research about similar story.

Now I need to learn how to draw cats, many different cats.


I know, but no one says I have to know how to do a thing before deciding to do it.

It’s more important if I want to do it, and then is how much I want to learn to finish it.

13th: Hunter’s Feeder for cats and dogs

I have a Siberian cat. She is beautiful, but like most other cats, she is a pain sometimes. For example, she refuses to eat wet food, unless I hold the wet food in my hands. I also have to try many types of dry food to finally settle down one brand.

I use this auto feeder. It dispenses specific amount of food at a specific time. The timer is defective, always moves slower. Other than that, it works well. In terms of dispensing,  it basically drops the food in a bowl.

PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Pet Feeder

Unfortunately, my cat is not really into this feeding style. As I mentioned, she loves to eat when the food is in my hand. But I am not really a big fan of that. She will still eat from the bowl, but usually she will meow a while, see I am not going to feed her with my hand, and then finally she will go eat them. She seems to be more happy when she can eat in her favorite style.

There is, however, another way she loves to eat her food. It’s easier to show what it is than describing it:

Food hunting

Basically, I glide a dry food on the floor, and she would chase it and stop the food, then eat it. It may be difficult to see the food in the GIF.

My cat loves it.

I think deep inside, she still has the hunting instinct. Siberian cats are said to be dog-like and love chasing small animals.

I hate to let her go outside, because of her long fur, which attracts a lot of mud and leaves, very difficult to clean. I guess that is the main reason of me feeling guilty and letting her to eat from my hands so many times.

But you see, I have to stop doing that. Then I have to do something with the other option. Chasing food down reminds me of this:

iFetch Interactive Ball Launchers for Dogs
iFetch Interactive Ball Launchers for Dogs

This is a little machine that launches a ball for dogs to chase.

Yes, we need a similar machine to let cats or dogs to chase food.

This machine, I name it:

Hunter’s Feeder

I am going to learn how to build something like this, but here is a list of features I am thinking:

  • shooting food in at least 2 different ranges, i.e. short distance and long distance.
  • alarm mode: rings to prepare dispensing food so the pet can learn the time is ready.
  • user setting: user can select when and the amount of food to launch.
  • rotating shooting head: the launch angle can be 360 degree.
  • visual detect: the machine will detect if there is any obstacle ahead before launching and automatically select a direction to launch.
  • self-learning: it can learn how to train a pet to start chasing the food further or to a different direction, always keeps the pet interested. Say if a smart cat realizes the machine always just launch food to one direction, she just stays there and waits, instead of coming closer to the machine and then chasing. The machine needs to have algorithm to avoid this behavior.
I don’t have to do it again

OMG, I love this idea.

Now I really need to learn some mechanical engineering.

12th: Another way to buy used cars and more

Here is this week’s idea: why are all websites sells used cars the same?

They all have something like this:

from https://www.autotrader.com

They all have this kind of control for the users to filter what they want. It is a reasonable assumption. This kind of control is used by the potential buyers. However, has anyone thought of: this kind of website is actually initialized for the sellers.

By that, I mean: a seller will have to first go to that website, enter the selling vehicle’s information, as detailed as possible. Of course, it is also possible that a web crawler can do this job. It pulls the information from all sorts of website and extract those data from the description.

Therefore, a website that sells used cars must first have used cars to sell, and then when potential buyers come, they will be able to search.


E-commerce Websites are the Same

In fact, not only used car websites, all other E-commerce websites are the same. They first have things to sell, and then they attract buyers to find them. They all start from the seller’s perspective.


Another Perspective

What if a website starts from buyers’ perspective?

Let’s use cars as an example again. Here is a potential user flow:

  • A user enters some basic criteria on what used car he/she wants to buy: the type of car, mileage, budget, etc.
  • Sellers who think they have the possible used cars this particular user likes will submit an application, almost like submitting a job application, including what his or her car is and why the buyer should pick his/hers.

You may say, isn’t it the “WANT” option on craigslist?

True.

But there are more.

  • The website then uses algorithm to pick a few most likely to be sold cars (the number is user configurable) and then presents to the buyer.
  • The buyer can choose to pick one from the list and contact the seller directly. They are free to complete the transaction with each other offline.

You may ask: hey, where is the revenue stream?

Here it is.

  • The buyer can opt in a service that assists you to complete the transaction. The assistance could include
    • legal assistance: help finish all the paper work
    • mechanic check assistance: help inspect the car and provide accurate estimate and negotiation
  • The seller can also opt in a service that pre-inspect the selling car, which will show a proof that the car has been inspected (on what date). This can increase the likelihood that the car gets picked by a potential buyer.

I think it will work.

Unlike the bidding from eBay, which must have the sellers first. This idea serves the buyers first. The sellers must “sell”. Every seller is like a salesman on this website.


Extend Further

Let’s go further from here.

What if every E-commerce is like that?

Here is a use case.

I want to buy a book case. Traditionally, I will go to Google to find what website sells book cases. I examine all different websites for all the book cases, and read the reviews of the book case, and then read the review of the website (unless it’s a big trust-able seller).

That is totally waste of my time.

What if I enter briefly what I want in the book case, say, I want 4 levels, wood, with a stair. It should be A meter wide and B meter tall.

Now, all the sellers to submit an application of their book cases. Sure, you can argue this will only work if the sellers (human) are actively monitoring the request. But think about the possibility that we can build a robots pulling the information from all sorts of website and then intelligently select the most possible items I will be interested.

I will be given, say 10 different book cases. I am free to click the item and go to that website to complete the purchase. However, I can opt in a service that uses machine learning to tell me if those items are priced accurately. This will be useful, especially if some of those items are second-handed.


Conclusion

The idea is, a website serves from a buyer’s perspective, reduces the noise the buyer could receive from traditional E-commerce approach, and offer intelligent service to facilitate the buyers to find the things they most likely fall in love with.

I seriously think it might work.

 

7th: Can kids write a book?

I want to say the answer is definitely yes.

Totally biased opinion: I can’t describe how creative my little one can be. She is truly remarkable.

The other day, I told her I will be working in a different company. BTW, today is my last day of working at Starbucks. Enjoyed my years there, but ready to move on the next chapter.

I told her, the cafeteria in my new company serves unlimited pickles. I can bring you a pickle when I pick you up. (context: I am usually the one picks her up from school and she always wants a small piece of snack after school).

Next, she started talking non-stop with pickles. She always talks too much, which is annoying. People always say it’s better than a kid does not like to talk to people. I guess it’s right. She started talking pickles, making up conversation between two pickles. Yes, you read it right. She was using two different voices talking,

“hello, I am a pickle, my favorite food is pickle”;

“I have a sister and she is a pickle too”;

“you are a pickle, can I have a bite?”

Pretty much like that, non-stop. I was driving at that time, it’s hilarious and I told her, “you should write a book about it”.

I almost immediately regretted it, because she started making up background of the story and more pickles coming up.

It was annoying, but still hilarious; OK, I admit it, it was pretty awesome.


The Pickle Family cover

Once we got back home, she started her project. First, the book cover. It was very impressive, I particularly love the black dots she used, over the green color she chose. It is very pickle-ry.

The Pickle Family – first page

She tried to introduce the background of the main characters, i.e. the pickle family, who live inside a pickle house. Hmm, I don’t know how that will work, but it’s kind of interesting.

Then she made additional 4 pages, so basically it’s a book with 5 pages. The story is about the two little pickles go to school and then get a detention, after home, their parents are mad… but overall, the plot is completely not making sense. Every time we go to a trip and live in a hotel, she loves watching Disney channel (we don’t have cable at home), some of those shows on Disney channel are very off the chart. We just came back from a trip, it must be influenced by one of those shows she watched.


Anyway, now it’s the core of this week’s idea.

I love what my little one has done. It is very rough, strange, and the story is boring; however, I love it. I want to make it a real book.

There are apparently many companies doing it, of course

Interesting stuff. But I notice something: all of those providers are designed for adults. They all just offer the users to upload a picture, and then select materials, finally pay. These are all adult activities.

Of course, there are some other tools seem to design for kids:

But after I gave them a little try, ugh… not sure any child will really fall into it.

When I look at my kid’s book, I can see she put the most effort in her cover page, and then the first page. Later pages became more and more scribbled. It’s easy to understand: kids can be easily distracted, become inpatient, and lose focus and interest. I want to say most kids are like that, except some gifted ones.

The question then is: how do we keep the kids feeling intrigued during their work?


I  am a big admirer of Bret Victor. He is super smart and chill.

His this talk was my favorite:

Two take-away from this talk:

  1. We should have a principle for ourselves, believe in what we are doing and keep doing it.
  2. Seeing what we are working on is very important, because it provides instant feedback.

Both points have made a big impact in how I work.


When my kid was “writing” the book,

  • she was not receiving the instant feedback;
  • she had to do too much: thinking, writing, drawing and coloring;
  • she became tried (aka, bored) quickly after just couple pages;

That is it, we need an application for kids, which will provide instant feedback and keep the kids feeling interested!

I am calling it: I can draw a book

You can tell I am not very creative.


Application: I can draw a book

Settings

  • tablet;
  • stylus;
  • physical keyboard (very important, so kids can learn how to type);

Target Users

At least older than 6 years, who can spell some simple words and use stylus to draw.

Design

The application is designed to allow anyone to create a drawing story book with computer assistance. By computer assistance, I mean using artificial intelligence to help create characters when typing or drawing.

If you haven’t seen it, try something like this first:

https://www.autodraw.com/ 

https://quickdraw.withgoogle.com/

https://magenta.tensorflow.org/assets/sketch_rnn_demo/index.html

Basically, we almost have a certain level of intelligence to understand what the user tries to draw, or predict what the user wants to draw based on text.

Now imagine my daughter is writing a story about pickle family. She is typing (yes, her school is teaching them typing, she seems to like it):

“There is a town called pickle town…”

Computer will try to generate a small model of town, which matches the concept of pickle town, say having a flag with a pickle in it, or the town is all green, and so on.

When my daughter is writing down:

“Papa pickle….”

Computer will generate possible model of a pickle that looks like a man.

If the user likes the computer generated model, they just drag to use it in the book. Or the user can draw a shape of something, computer will generate what this shape might be. The prediction can change if the user keeps adding details to it.

Every model the user has used in the book can be saved to be reused later in another page. In the case the user wants the model to have a different gesture, the user can drag the existing model, starting draw shapes around it, the computer can try to predict a drawing with the existing model.

A quick mock-up may look like this:

If this application is initially designed to be used by kids, it needs to be very simple. It seems to be an interesting idea to run a user study with it.