Will Dean's Ideas Factory: Braille burgers lead the way for blind foodies


Even stranger than the news that South Africa has 462 branches of Wimpy (the SA chain, in fact, owns the UK's Wimpys), is a recent video released by the firm showing its bakers preparing buns with a difference – written on the top of the bun in Braille are messages to blind Wimpy fans.

A good gimmick, but the video did have a purpose – to help to inform South Africa's sight-impaired population that the burger chain now has braille menus in all of its restaurants.

Wimpy's video has earned plaudits from marketing experts as well as braille advocates for reaching a huge audience of South African blind people.

You can colour us cynical about the video itself – "viral" clip made by brand A makes brand A look good shock – but the fact that the chain is producing braille menus is something worth celebrating. It made me wonder, as a sighted person, how we compare in the UK. A call to McDonald's confirmed that Ronald McDonald offers braille menu in all of his outlets. As does Pizza Express. But what of the smaller, non-corporate restaurants?

The RNIB couldn't confirm figures but a quick ring-round some of the UK's top restaurants suggested more could be done. Heston Blumenthal's Dinner don't have Braille menus, nor do St John (the menu changes daily, but they offered to read it out on the phone). Pleasingly, a staff member at The Wolseley told me that she'd tell the restaurant's MD that they should get one. So there you go, where Wimpy leads, the Wolseley follows...

Is there a case for a phone that repairs its own scratches?

A couple of months of wear and tear in a pocket is often enough to damage an unsheathed smartphone, particularly the glassy shell of the iPhone. So here's to a good idea (and, conveniently, good PR) from (and for) carmaker Nissan.

Three years ago the firm introduced paint that fixes scratches by itself (watch it in "action" here: ind.pn/scratch fix), and is now testing (or says it is) a new iPhone case using Scratch Shield paint, with a view to going on sale later in the year.

The firm had previously licensed the technology to a Japanese phone company, NTT DoCoMo, for one its phones, but this could be a product it sells itself – though quite why the Ministry of Sound logo on the prototype is there remains unexplained.

The case's success will probably depend on how much it will cost and whether it's more use than a normal case (my 14-month-old iPhone remains unscratched thanks to a basic case). What would be really handy, guys, is smashproof glass for the screen.

Building controls at the end of your wrist

In an office, the constantly fluctuating number of people in the room means that it can be very difficult for building technicians to try to get a heat that suits both the number of people in the room and individual temperatures.

Which makes the news, as reported on TechCrunch.com, that two MIT researchers have developed a concept wristband that links to connected "smart" buildings and gives users the chance to change the room's temperature at the touch of a button, a good one.

A New Scientist report also revealed that the 3D-printed device, the WristQue, could also monitor lighting and humidity levels and register where you are in the building. Quite literally handy...

Read the story at ind.pn/wristcont

A multimillion dollar New York townhouse in disguise

This isn't a new idea –in fact in London, there was a similar thing for years – but that doesn't make it less cool.

The brilliant architecture and built environment site BLDGBLOG posted an excellent write-up of a townhouse in Brooklyn, New York City that isn't actually a townhouse at all, it's an air vent for the New York subway 4/5 line, that passes directly underneath.

As Geoff Manaugh, who writes BLDGBLOG, points out, the "house" is clearly visible on Google Maps. It actually looks quite nice, and with listings for the street it's on marking townhouses at $2.5m-plus, the idea that No 58 Joralemon Street is home to nothing but vents and shafts must be like a dagger through the heart of local estate agents.

The site also managed to get a peek of the insides of the vent/ building.

Manaugh's piece goes on to point out that London, famously, has its own fake subway house at Leinster Gardens, just north of Hyde Park.

Again, closer inspection on Google Maps (and this website (ind.pn/23leinster) shows how a clever facade of a house is used to disguise the overground tracks of the District and Circle lines.

Read BLDGBLOG's story here: ind.pn/tubevent

Send us your factory fuel

Seen a good idea? Email w.dean@independent.co.uk or tweet @willydean