Uber Toys

One of the problems for people who like toys is paying for them.  Uber suggests a way of doing that, by sharing the use of your toys.

For instance, if you have a snowmobile or All-Terrain Vehicle, you might decide to rent it out to a reliable person, or at least one who provided a deposit large enough for any necessary insurance.

Currently, there is no means of connecting owners of toys with people who would like to use them, to experience the thrills of a new experience.  Uber and AirBnb are mechanisms to handle the payment, deposit and insurance and take a cut of the proceeds.

That seems like a business with a good future, as entertainment in its many forms is the fastest-growing part of 1st world economies.  Rentals of bicycles, boats, kayaks, … in tourist areas is a good example of the potential.

The biggest limit to the growth of that version of the tourist economy is the necessity of the seeker of the experience traveling to the owner of the toy.  Many people would settle for a vicarious, over-the-net experience.  For example, shut-ins, older people who can no longer withstand the rigors of snowmobiling on a mountain, disabled, poor inner city people who would otherwise never be able to experience the thrill of driving an ATV through the forest., … A very humanitarian aspect to the business, I think.

But most users would be people who need an escape from their current environment and don’t have the time and money to travel for the authentic experience.

It would, for such toys, be a typical first-person driver game, the kind my son plays in many of his spare moments.  The scene from the drivers pov is the browser window, arrow keys handle turning, acceleration and braking.

The software and equipment is not difficult : web businesses, webcams + radio links to a network connection are easy enough. The remote control of turning steering wheels or handle-bars is standard tech, steering, acceleration and breaking control is just stepper motors with mechanical linkages. Any shop tinkerer and embedded systems guy could have that working in a week, and an on-line game programmer the rest in not much longer.  Many web sites make it relatively easy to set up online reservations, payments, and handle problems between clients and toy providers.

As the business grows, we could expect small businesses to provide products customized to classes of toys to make it easy to add remote control to toys you would like to rent over the net.

If this became successful, we could expect people to make a business of buying toys and putting them in good areas for use.  An ATV or snowmobile, for example, could be positioned at the beginning of a nice trail, ready to roll.  Instant gratification for the renter.  The owner of that toy, or others, could also provide webcams that allowed the renter to know the weather in the area, or other information, before renting.  Those would be interesting in themselves for people who want to view the scene and could also require a fee from the viewer.

The idea generalizes to other toys, of course, although new problems arise, ones of trust.  There are many thrills that can be had from toys, not all safe or legal.  The owner of the toy, of course, would have no liability for such, as the links to the remoted toy would need to be encrypted to prevent it from being taken over by hackers via man-in-the-middle attacks, thus preventing any oversight by the owner of actual usage of the toy.  We could depend, however, on the intermediate company to be able to identify the client so that blame could be assigned in the case of misuse.

One problem with the technology is, it could be mis-used to extents only limited by the imaginations of the smartest, most knowledgeable and most imaginative people.

I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.


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