Robot population boom

Getting wired in Zambia

Automatic butt-kicker

There’s a profile in the current issue of Scientific American of Joe Armstrong, a 70-year-old who decided to build a device you could use for kicking yourself in the butt. And hey — this being the Age of Copyright, Joe wasn’t content merely to build one o’ these babies. Nope: He also patented it. Thus we have the magnificent spectacle of the drones at the US Patent and Trademarks Office officially stamping and approving patent number 6,293,874, which is for a “User-operated amusement apparatus for kicking the user’s buttocks”. I urge all good citizens to drop whatever they’re doing and immediately check out this patent, which reads something like a co-operative project between Leonardo da Vinci and the Marx Brothers:

An amusement apparatus including a user-operated and controlled apparatus for self-infliction of repetitive blows to the user’s buttocks by a plurality of elongated arms bearing flexible extensions that rotate under the user’s control.

The machines are already in production, as Scientific American notes:

Smokey the hound dog, the mascot of the University of Tennessee, has deployed the butt kicker to taunt fans of rival Vanderbilt at a basketball game, beckoning them to descend from the stands for posterior stimulation. “It was lucky we won that game; otherwise we really would have been embarrassed,” Armstrong says. He has sold several machines for $600 to $800, including one to an amusement park in Blackpool, England, and another to a Christian fun park in North Carolina. The latter requested that labels on the machine that used the word “butt” be changed to “rear.”

It’s ingenuity like this that keeps America strong, son.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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