Surprising, Unintended Ways People Are Using Common Technology

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by Jordan Breeding

Typically, there's a right and wrong way to use certain technologies. For example, vacuum cleaners are for cleaning floors but not for cleaning your dog. It has a single purpose, and technological misuse leads to malfunctions and vet visits. But sometimes, using technology in a way that wasn't originally intended brings about entirely unexpected, efficient results.


GTA V Helped Make Better Driverless Cars

So far, driverless cars have been sort of hit or miss. Sometimes they drive all the way across America without issue, other times they straight up run somebody over like a Grand Theft Auto player drunkenly spilling nachos in their lap mid-car chase. And speaking of Grand Theft Auto, wouldn't it seem weird if companies made their autonomous cars play something like GTA V to learn how to drive safely? Maybe they saw their nephew launch a pickup truck into 27 pedestrians and thought, "That’s the kind of devil-may-care attitude we need in our minivans!" That would be crazy, right? Right ... guys?

Apparently not, since driverless car research was absolutely propelled forward by GTA V. See, one of the biggest problems for these types of vehicles is simply a lack of data. It's difficult to simulate every possible road scenario, and the only way to get that information would be to either send a bunch of driverless cars out onto the road and hope for the best, or to test their software in a highly-sophisticated simulation. It just so happens that GTA V had the "richest virtual environment" around.


Obviously, they didn't need to test which algorithm best handles receiving five stars and evading the cops while chucking hand grenades out the window. GTA V simply includes so many pedestrians, vehicle types, and variable weather conditions that it better simulates real-life than anything the researchers could come up with. By modifying the game somewhat, companies were able to plunk their software into Los Santos and gather information on how their cars would ultimately react in an uncontrolled environment. Apparently, it was incredibly valuable data and a lot safer than manually crashing into things in the real world.

Which is why it's kind of a bummer that the practice has pretty much been shut down. As it turns out, companies aren't too keen on their technology being used to further another company's goals without permission or compensation.

Twitter Helps Us Find People Who Might Die Soon

These days, logging onto Twitter is kind of like intentionally airdropping into WWII-era Normandy. Except instead of Nazis firing bullets, it's people spewing furious rage tweets about how much they hated The Last Jedi. And also Nazis. It's not always the most fun place to hang out, but hey, you do run across the occasional solid joke, so that's nice.

What's really weird, though, is that while Twitter is ostensibly a place to scream into the void and hope that somebody clicks "Like," it's also becoming a place for researchers to guess who will die first. No, they're not analyzing your tweets to determine how many "yo momma" jokes aimed at The Rock ultimately result in your brutal (albeit charismatic) death; they've actually found a consistent correlation between rage tweets and crappy hearts. We don't mean they're Grinch-like, but rather that people who vent on Twitter are apparently most at risk for arterial plaque buildup leading to possible heart attacks and stroke.




Researchers at University of Pennsylvania analyzed some 148 million tweets, assigned them a positive or negative score and then compared the negative tweets against heart disease mortality rates in America. As it turns out, the two things lined up pretty damn closely. In fact, this sort of thing was a slightly better indicator of whether somebody would die of heart disease than simply looking at their demographics or socioeconomic status.

So remember, if somebody's being mean to you on Twitter, maybe suggest they go visit their doctor for a checkup soon.

Xbox Controllers Are Used To Fly Drones, Disarm Bombs, And Display Medical Information

Being a hardcore gamer means always having bookmarked at least three dozen studies to win the argument that, no, video games do not turn you into a murderous psychopath -- we've pretty much always been kind of terrible as a species. But just because a couple of rounds of Mario Kart doesn't automatically lead to ripping your shirt off and devouring your friend's legs doesn't mean video games can't help with killing. Not by using the games themselves, but by using the controllers, for things like plugging it into the other end of a literal laser cannon. Seriously.

Xbox controllers in particular have become so perfectly designed for comfort and functionality that several industries are forgoing mouse-and-keyboard setups entirely. What was once merely a tool to beat back the Covenant onslaught is now used to fly military drones, pilot bomb-defusing robots, and even train medical students on things like CAT scans and MRI displays. And we can't state this enough: Boeing built a fancy, new laser cannon for the military that's explicitly designed to work with an Xbox controller.



Now, if we lose a war, we can blame it on lag.

Besides the inherent usability of these controllers, the idea to use them in several fields stems from how familiar many new recruits already are. Young people have literally already been training for years on them, and by making Xbox controllers that standard, massive swaths of training can be almost immediately bypassed. They can skip right to the part where they learn the nuances of performing competent surgery or how to best shoot a freaking laser cannon.

You hear that, Mom? All those years of Halo was so we could become proficient doctors and destroyers of worlds.

People Are Using QR Codes On Their Tombstones

When QR codes were first invented in Japan back in 1994, their intended purpose was to help automotive workers track vehicle progress and presumably protect them from straining their delicate wrists. Because scanning barcodes can be a real workout, we guess?

QR codes are two-dimensional, as opposed to a single line, and work based on vision detection. They can be read from any angle and much more quickly than barcodes, which can only be read by doing a handstand and holding the scanner between your knees. Additionally, they contain approximately 100 times the storage capacity of a barcode. So, in short, they're just better.

But what started as a way to quickly scan automotive parts has blossomed into an insane attempt to connect every random thing to the internet at all times. Obviously, QR codes are used in commercial transactions and marketing, but we're now starting to see them put in the weirdest possible place: tombstones.

"If this leads to a Rick Astley video, I'm gonna be so pissed."

Many of the recently-deceased have their burial sites marked with a solid-granite tombstone with a chiseled QR code, right above their epitaph about being a loving father and having a 2.3 kill-to-death ratio in Overwatch. The idea is to help the memory live on, indefinitely, online. Visitors can follow the codes to websites that house important information about the individual: photographs, obituaries, articles, genealogical information, and probably a reel of their most badass gaming moments. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing option, but it theoretically allows visitors to learn more about them than trying to chisel an entire Xbox Achievements list on a 24"x12" slab.

Of course, the real issue with the advanced tombstone tech is whether it'll even be viable 20 years from now. If the goal is to create a lasting memorial for future generations, it feels a little goofy to base it on a technology that may not survive whatever the next round of innovations is. Additionally, by storing stuff online, you're banking on those companies and websites continuing to exist for hundreds of years, and even the internet not changing so drastically that the information is erased entirely.

Then Grandpa's ugly tombstone that helps us connect to his memory via smartphone becomes just an ugly one with freaky robot dots all over it. Which, now that I write it, still sounds kind of awesome.

SnapChat And Tinder Are The New Way To Buy Drugs

Thousands of articles have been written about all the things millennials are "killing," from brunch, to soap, to, oh god, Applebee's? Pretty soon, we're going to be blaming millennials for killing drugs. Not because they're not using drugs, mind you, but because they're using new technologies that'll put honest, hard-working baby boomer drug dealers out of business. Purchasing crack from "Sketchy" Dave behind the abandoned Applebee's will be a thing of the past, when the savvy drug user of the 2000s instead meets up with their pot mongers on ... Tinder? And Snapchat?

As kids these days become less and less likely to leave the house to seek out new dealers at their local strip club or whatever, they increasingly turn to social media applications. People will use Tinder to swipe through profiles until they find somebody whose bio clearly says they deal drugs. Then they'll swipe right and hopefully match with their new, exciting, special someone. Other dealers will just link up with people on Snapchat. On Instagram, it's as simple as creating a hashtag like #weed4sale and just waiting for the marijuana-enthusiast accounts to slide into your DMs.

"Will trade LSD for boob pics."

The internet is just a much more difficult place to police than, say, the millennial-ruined Applebee's parking lot. Many dealers aren't even noticed until one of their customers ends up in the hospital. At the risk of sounding like an out-of-touch parent, it's a little terrifying to think that kids could be in direct contact with drug sellers on their personal smart phones. Hopefully, somebody will eventually make a Yelp for dealers, so that at least our kids can choose the nicest ones with the fairest prices and the best customer service.

Holy crap, I think I just inadvertently stumbled across a new business idea. Dibs!

Like this article? Check out "The Bizarre Origins Of 5 Totally Ordinary Things" and "5 Awesome Ways Video Games Are Saving The Real World".

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