Can You Just Drop It?

No time for shopping? Let James Steinberg drop a hat from a high-rise building onto your head as you walk past on the sidewalk below.

Nick Bild
25 days agoMachine Learning & AI
Watch out below! (📷: DropofaHat.zone)

We live in a world where people have come to expect convenience and speed. Next day delivery? Might as well be next year — I need it now! The digital age has conditioned us to expect immediate responses, streamlined services, and effortless access to goods of all sorts. As technology advances — and our patience diminishes — industries are being driven to innovate to meet the ever-rising bar of consumer expectations. While this has led to remarkable efficiencies, it also poses challenges, pushing businesses to balance speed with quality and sustainability in an increasingly competitive market.

Creative technologist James Steinberg has perhaps misunderstood the meaning of the word “dropshipping” while working to develop a faster and more convenient means to deliver goods to customers. Steinberg’s tongue-in-cheek solution focuses on delivering hats to people — by dropping them on their heads from a high-rise building as they walk past on the sidewalk below. Strange? Somewhat. Dangerous? Likely. Fast? Definitely.

Based in New York City, Steinberg may have the perfect marketing strategy. New Yorkers are known for being extremely busy and always in a hurry, so products raining from the sky may just have some appeal. And hats are only the beginning. Steinberg envisions a world where everything you need is falling out of windows onto you. I hope he has a great insurance policy.

It is only fitting that the first thing to fall out of the sky onto consumers’ heads would be propeller hats, so that is where this journey is starting. The delivery process is automated by using an image sensor to capture pictures of the people walking by on the sidewalk below. A machine learning object detection algorithm was trained to recognize the appearance of the tops of peoples' heads.

When the top of a head is detected in just the right spot, and maintains that position for a full three seconds, a hat is dropped. This is achieved with a stepper motor that is under the control of a Raspberry Pi single board computer. The stepper simply unwinds a bit of yarn that holds the hat, and off it goes.

You might think that such a system would have a very precise dropping mechanism that would repeatedly release the hat in exactly the same way. You might also expect that factors like the wind would be accounted for, and that the hat itself would be designed to maintain a steady downward motion without rolling out of control. In reality, none of these things were implemented. Once released, the hat flops its way to the ground in the general area of the customer so that they can go pick it up (assuming it did not land on someone else’s head accidentally).

Personally, I hope Steinberg expands his business to include food delivery. It’s about time that it really did start raining tacos. Although it might be better to aim for the hands or mouth in that case. It will also be important for Steinberg to keep in mind that “street tacos” are not meant to be literally served on the street.

Nick Bild
R&D, creativity, and building the next big thing you never knew you wanted are my specialties.
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