February 10, 2010

Idea: The Russian Roulette Chair

You go through your mundane workday without anything exciting happening. But what if you had a chair that was constructed in such a way that every time you sat in it, there was a 1 in 3,000 chance it would break apart, sending you falling to the floor? You’d have a little bit of nervous excitement every time you sat.

How often do you sit in your chair? Four or five times a day? More? With a 1 in 3,000 chance of falling, you might fall once in a year or two. That’s not too bad. But you’ll be on edge the whole time. Will today be the day? Could be!

How does it work? I haven’t gotten that far. I imagine some combination of engineering and programming. But once that’s figured out, you can go through every workday with the same nervous excitement as a secret agent wondering if today’s the day his nemesis will finally catch up to him. But with far more mundane consequences.

For maximum effect, get one for everyone in your office. Now you’ve got 50 people each with a 1 in 3,000 chance of falling every time they sit. If everyone sits 5 times a day, the odds are that someone will fall once every few weeks. That’s just often enough to give everyone else in the office a hearty laugh, and remind them that they could be next.


How does it work? I haven’t gotten that far. I imagine some combination of engineering and programming.

The idea is pretty great, but this design and manufacturing concept is completely genius.

Awesome idea! Here’s a basic summary of a possible concept of execution: The four legs could be attached to the seat with removable steel joining pins, attached to electromagnetic actuators. The pressure-sensitive switch on the seat activates an electronic chip with a random number generator, which could be connected to a relay which sends a current to the actuators when a certain number comes up, causing the pins to be pulled out, and thus the chair falls apart.

Since falling from a chair can be dangerous, you could take the same idea but instead of a breakaway chair, it could be a whoopee cushion effect instead. Same trepidation - no physical pain.

You could call it the “Lawsuit Chair”. Sell it at The Sharper Image next to a toothbrush that occasionally releases a neurotoxin and a back massager that might short out and kill you.

You’d have to rig it with a random delay of a few seconds before the chair actually gave way. Otherwise people would develop a new sitting process - possibly involving resting their upper body weight on a desk or other nearby stable surface - to avoid falling.

You could also program the chair to function for a certain weight or weight range so that the fall would not occur if a child or frail elderly person sat in it.

When I was a teenager, a neighbourhood boy who was a chemistry genius rigged his teacher’s chair with a small amount of explosives on each leg and a trigger on the seat.
I wish I’d been there…

The budget version of this: an office of 50 people all have identical chairs, with an additional chair which looks identical, but collapses as soon as you sit on it.

Each night the cleaner can decide whether to deploy the chair, and if so, at which desk.

Might get the cleaner a bit more respect too…

I actually had one of these. Well, it was really just a very old desk chair that I got when I started working at the Uni.

One Friday afternoon at about 230pm I sat down in my chair after taking a break from my desk, and BAM! The chair just gave way under me and I was sitting on the ground.

I took the top half of the chair into my boss’s office and said, “I think this is a sign that I need to go home. And that Monday I need to order a new chair.”

Fortunately, he agreed. And I got an early day out of the office and a new chair in a few weeks.

I used to attend regular meetings in a Board Room of a distinguished institution dating back to 1871. It had/has beautifully crafted oak table and ‘identical’ chairs but they had not been maintained - at all. One by one, due to neglect they started to collapse in the manner suggested. Those of us who attended meetings regularly tried to recognise the ‘dodgy’ ones but it did at a touch of spice to many boring meetings. Would a chair give way? Would it be me this time? Eventually health and safety required that the chairs were refurbished which is a victory for common sense and personal safety but I think the meetings there lost a little something!

If you’re ever out this way, I’ll take you to a coffee shop/dessert place which has 3 trick tables. One rotates ever so slowly, one ascends and descends also at an imperceptible pace, and the other makes a sudden tapping noise at irregular intervals. Not exactly the same thing, but one idea leads to another.

I would buy one.

Nice idea. I’m there will be a time, someone makes really money with this idea.

alternatively, just buy your furniture from ikea, it has much the same effect