Vehicle: Elevator: Entertainment
“Terminal” velocity elevator   (+8, -1)  [vote for, against]
Vertical wind tunnels take the place of elevators

Basically, replace elevators with wind tunnels in buildings. Each floor has an air-lock style door that you step through to access the tube (an interlock prevents multiple people using the tube at once). A powerful fan at the bottom (or top) of the tube starts up and gets the air moving through the tube very fast. You step out into the tuber, and by varying your cross-section to the air in the tube, you go up or down. Basically a smaller (cross-section), but longer version of those skydiving-training fans you see – but where you decide whether to go up, or down, to your destination.

I see this as being a fairly small diameter (maybe 1 metre diameter tube, possibly somewhat less). Probably sensors in the tube detect your initial velocity and vary the fan speed so you’re in a safe range – ie if you’re a tall, solid guy in non-flappy clothes, you’re going to have a higher terminal velocity than a little guy in a loose tracksuit. Maybe you put on a coat or something to help out, but I imagine in the confines of the tube, compressibility effects ( a lot like “ground effect” for aircraft) – will make up-force simpler to control. A business coat would probably be enough to give you plenty of lift.
-- Custardguts, Aug 17 2010

MM on the first floor
[ldischler, Aug 17 2010]

Take the Tube Take_20the_20Tube
[ldischler, Aug 17 2010]

//1 meter diameter tube, possibly somewhat less//

Yes, yes, good; but the people who won't fit in there are the exact same people who couldn't use the stairs instead.
-- DrWorm, Aug 17 2010

The next guy in line will be ticked while I play in this thing for an hour or so before finding my floor.
You might want to make sure there's a time limit.
-- 2 fries shy of a happy meal, Aug 17 2010

For the time being, elevators are more ideal for the handicapped.
-- daseva, Aug 17 2010

This is maybe something you'd see in the google building, for instance.

[21Q] - in answer : 1) how many bags do you hold in a shopping centre? 1m dia is actually quite big. 2) just use a brieface. 3) the failsafe could be as simple as an inflatable ball that's ~90cm diameter or so, to be a close fit in the tube. When the fan stops, you pull the cord and drift down. 4) dropped items are like a tax on the stupid. The basement troll collects your personal items and you don't want to know what he does with them.
-- Custardguts, Aug 17 2010

//1m dia is actually quite big// ahh yes, but you gotta still account for the user's lean, Hmm?
-- daseva, Aug 17 2010

Of course, the expensive hair styling salon will be on the top floor. [+]

...also, you don't need the fan on all the time when someone's in the tube. If you want to go down 30 floors, you could freefall for 25 floors and then have the fan turn on at maximum power to slow you down over the last 5 floors.
-- hippo, Aug 17 2010

//dropped items are like a tax on the stupid//

Dropped items become attacks on later passengers. All the pens, coins, purses, shoes, etc., fall when the fans slows, then get sucked up again when it next spins up and hurtle upwards in the wind.

That basement troll needs to be very thorough to collect every dropped item.
-- Tulaine, Aug 17 2010

[Tulaine] No problem: hire a troll with OCD and you're all set.
-- mouseposture, Aug 18 2010

I see this as a possible amusement, not the preferred vertical transportation method.

Are you an harried, overworked executive in an high-rise? Rent some time in here!
-- Wily Peyote, Aug 18 2010

That ball thing gives me another idea, based upon and derived from this, so does it count as a separate proposition?...

Install a number of 1m diameter smooth walled tubes running vertically in your hi-rise, with openings at strategic points - let's call them fire escapes. At the opening you collect an inflatable ball with a diameter slightly smaller than the tube.

To escape some peril in an emergency, just pull the quick-inflate-cord on the ball and jump on. Your weight causes the ball to fall down the tube, but the restriction in air flow around it governs the rate of descent so you don't get a nose bleed.

There's a pull handle on the upper surface of the ball. Pull the handle and the shape changes from sphere to ovoid, allowing more air to pass more quickly, so you can adjust the rate of descent by pulling more or releasing the tension.

At the bottom all the tubes open into a huge ball pool, already half filled with balls to make your landing safe as well as fun.

Those in the mood for some extreme escapism can forego the ball. Those needing to escape after the supply of balls is used up can still do so, but with added excitement.
-- Tulaine, Aug 18 2010

You will then be top-heavy on the ball and it will roll squishing you to the side of the shaft, or completely invert leaving you hanging from the handle for dear life.
Chute is better.
-- 2 fries shy of a happy meal, Aug 18 2010

21Q, won't those dropped personal possessions will end up at the *top* of the chute, not the bottom?

2fries, to prevent people from playing in it as you describe, the user would be required to select their destination while in the airlock, before they enter the tube.

Furthermore, rather than requiring the user to control his vertical velocity (which requires skydiving training), the fan speed could be varied automatically, so that he moves to and stops at the target floor as quickly and safely as possible.

Custard, instead of just one ball in the case of power failures, how about automatically inflating a whole bunch, thoroughly filling the chute below the user. Each ball would have a pull cord, that causes the ball to deflate when activated. To move downward, the user deflates as many balls as necessary to reach the next level down. If any one ball fails to inflate, it's only a minor failure.

Tulaine, instead of riding down on the ball, provide a harness tethered to the ball, and have the user jump first. If the ball's diameter is close enough to the tube's diameter, it will act as a parachute. Except that it will be better than a parachute, since it will stay centered in the chute.
-- goldbb, Aug 18 2010

//the ball's diameter is close enough to the tube's diameter, it will act as a parachute. Except that it will be better than a parachute, since it will stay centered in the chute.//

That's exactly what I was thinking - it never occored to me to try to "ride" the ball down - it would immediately try to roll and you'd get wedged. I also think a ball would be more intrinsically safe than a parachute when confined in a tube. I think a cone shaped chute may work, but a regular dome type would be susceptible at the edges. I could be wrong.

As to the intent of the idea - I think the ball-tube fire escape method is pretty good and probably rates as a separate idea if you like. That, and I'd pay for a few goes of it as well. The elevator idea wasn't really meant for public places, hospitals, etc.
-- Custardguts, Aug 19 2010

Yep. All easily solved by sieve-bend type devices at both ends of the tube. The basement troll makes daily rounds of these areas, beady eyes gleaming at all of the new treasure.
-- Custardguts, Aug 19 2010

random, halfbakery