Posted by Jeri Dansky
| 21 Aug 2014
Being an organized traveller involves packing just the right stuff—and for most end users, that involves electronics. After deciding which devices to take (laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) the end-user also needs to decide how to keep them charged.
If the travel is international, that often means packing one or more adapters. For those who are traveling to multiple countries and want an all-in-one adapter rather than individual ones, there's this universal travel adapter from Kikkerland, which works in more than 150 countries. At 8 × 5 × 0.6 inches, it's flatter than any other such converter. And at 2.4 ounces, it's very lightweight. The two downsides: The two parts both have projections that could snag something else in the luggage. And while the converter comes with instructions showing you how to make it work in each country, they may be too complex for some end-users. But some end users have noted with delight that using this adapter felt like playing with a Transformer toy.
The 4-in-1 adapter from Flight 001 is notable for its use of color-coding; the colors of the adapters match to a list of 150+ countries, and to a map. This will be less attractive to colorblind end users—but the parts are also labeled (EU, UK, etc.), and the color-coded list also allows for matching by shape. The adapter is small, measuring just 2.25 x 2 x 1.5 inches, and it weighs just 4 ounces.
When we first wrote about Twelve South's PlugBug back in 2011, a commenter said, "Great product but does me no good when I travel to Europe." Well, that's been fixed with the new PlugBug World. As with the older version, the PlugBug World attaches to a MacBook power adapter, converting it to a dual-charger for both the MacBook and an iPad or iPhone—and it will charge that iPad faster than the factory-supplied charger. But the PlugBug World also has five attachments which allow it to work around the world. It measures 2.44 x 2.57 x 1.14 inches, and weighs 3.5 ounces. One minor quibble: An end user noted that the U.S. adapter plug isn't retractable like the Apple adapter plug is.
Posted by Ray
| 21 Aug 2014
When it comes bicycles, we're often inclined to say nay. Call us snobs/cranks/grouches or what have you, but we are generally of the opinion that you don't go reinventing the proverbial human-powered two-wheel conveyance. Here's a new one that (if nothing else) offers a new approach to an integrated locking mechanism.
Starting with the notion that any lock can be broken, Juan José Monsalve, andrés Roi and Cristóbal Cabello have designed the "Yerka," a bicycle frame that features an integrated lock—i.e. the bike cannot be ridden if the lock is severed. Where many of the past Oregon Manifest bicycle concepts explored locks that were integrated into the main triangle of the frame—Tony Pereira's version was deemed worthy of first place in 2009 and 2011—the Chilean engineering students have opted to build the shackle into a main tube. I don't condone locking to trees, but kudos to the team for developing a working prototype:
Last week, we published a piece on the Bottlass packaging design in which I was critical of the concept. We were since contacted by Kyung Kook, the Vice President of Bellevue-based Innovative Design Service Inc., the company that produced the design. In his response, Kyung rebutts several of the points made in the original entry, and has included photographs showing that the Bottlass is, in fact, in production. Kyung's response is printed below.
Frankly, I was very excited to see the [Core77] post about our design, "Bottlass" and am pleased that someone was interested enough to share his take on our design. I believe this is a valuable opportunity to look at our design from a different perspective.
First and foremost, the design phase I of Bottlass is actually being manufactured and sold in South Korea at this moment.
The product based on our design was made available to the public in Korea since April of this year. The material used is called eco-zen, a type of enhanced plastic.
Secondly, I am aware that opening the container may cause a bit of hassle. But this can be easily fixed. If we print instructions on the container, informing the drinker to set up the container before holding it in place and pulling off the seal, this should bypass the inconvenience. It may take a bit more steps than the conventional bottles or cans, but the excitement and satisfaction gained from Bottlass's unique design will do more than justice.
So your kid draws all over your expensive carpet with a handful of Sharpies. You're so infuriated that after giving him a time-out, you need to go outside to carve some sand patterns in your Zen garden just to cool off. Well, if only you had access to the designs of Yuta Sugiura, a professor at Keio University's Graduate School of Media Design, you could cleanly ameliorate both situations.
Sugiura headed up the research team that produced "Graffiti Fur: Turning Your Carpet Into a Computer Display." Three clever devices can put images that you've either drawn or captured onto a plain ol' carpet, Sharpie-free and completely reversible:
Sugiura's team—which was comprised of researchers not only from Keio, but from the Nagoya Institute of Technology and The University of Tokyo—presented "Graffiti Fur" at this month's SIGGRAPH in the Emerging Technologies & Studio Collaboration category.
In a previous life, I rendered bottles for a living, and as I was doing it without rendering software, I was always happy when the assignment called for glass and bummed when it called for PET. PET bottles always had crazier shapes, and the amount of reflectivity required to get the material to read was a PITA.
I thought of this while watching illustrator Marcello Barenghi's YouTube channel, specifically this illustration of a Heinz ketchup bottle, which clearly reads as PET:
Obviously a hyperreal illustration and an ID rendering are two different things, as the latter's more concerned with form, gesture and emotion than cold accuracy, but Barenghi's understanding of light, texture and surfaces is unparalleled. So much so that while his channel is called "How to Draw," it might as well be called "Things Most of Us Wouldn't Want to Render by Hand." Like this ruby:
We think of factories producing iPhones, IKEA flatpacks and Infinitis, and as ID'ers we have an idea of what those production lines look like. But chances are you've never been inside a factory that makes cakes and desserts. Unifiller Systems, Inc. is a company that creates cake-decorating machines and food processing equipment, and their "sizzle reel" is pretty fascinating:
Once you've seen those machines above in action, it makes sense that circular cakes would be filled and iced on a turntable. But how do they get the filling into rectangular cakes, which don't have rotational symmetry? Surprisingly, for sheet cakes they use a "split and fill" technology that slices the cake horizontally while simultaneously injecting the filling (see it in action around 0:28):
Posted by erika rae
| 20 Aug 2014
When it comes to shared spaces, amenities such as public charging stations aren't necessarily a priority when there's tax money to be spent. So, like any designer looking to contribute to the greater good, Paris-based industrial designers Sylvain Chasseriaux, Léa Bardin and Raphaël Pluvinage chose to solve the problem an innovative way. Their solution: Taking on these moments of inconvenience with a guerrilla campaign of boldly painted, machine-made items aimed at providing life-hacks that are quite literally hidden in plain sight.
Their series, Fabrique-Hacktion, ranges from tiny tabletops for folding chairs, hand-crank phone chargers, discarded newspaper stations and a tool for easier change-grabbing from vending machines, among other tools.
Aside from providing an unexpected convenience for passersby, Chasseriaux hopes to create "an involvement of people in their public and collective space through installing 'grafts'—complementary objects—which support a usage and practice while improving or questioning current urban systems and furnitures." Check out the video below to get a glimpse into the entire series of gadgets:
Each one of the items comes with instructions for making your own. (You can check out the how-tos on the project's website.) The team also put together a map, tracking where the objects are placed.
A couple of the apparatuses caught my eye in particular. Check out the making/function of these fantastic four:
One of the stranger (and little known) facts of nature is that our living cells are electric, or can carry electricity. Every thought, feeling and movement we have comes from an electric spark. And we find this in complicated beings like us, as well as in the most basic forms of bacteria. But there is something that bacteria can do that no other living thing on Earth can: Consume pure electricity for their own energy. Sounds Frankensteinian but it's real.
Scientists have been luring all sorts of bacteria deep in rocks and mud with electric juice. And they've found that these creatures are eating and then excreting electrons. Now this isn't all that crazy, considering that, as I mentioned, we are made of electric pulses. And this process is fueled by food (specifically ATP, the molecule that provides storage for energy.) Electrons can and are taken from every food we eat, and they are carried by molecules throughout our bodies—this is a necessary process for life.
The difference and extraordinary thing about bacteria is that they don't need the "food" middleman. They consume pure electricity! Just like our (non-living) laptop plugged into the wall. (Think of this next time we consider how far removed we think we are from robotic devices.)
But what are the practical implications for innovative designers? Scientists have been able to grow all kinds of what they are calling "electricity breathers" in areas where you might not find other life forms. Researchers are saying this opens up a previously unknown biosphere. A biosphere of very useful, self-powered helpers.
A bunch of industrial designers sitting around a table and poring over research can come up with some awesome stuff, but I also love seeing that breed of object designed by insightful end-users. Those items that a person is subconsciously designing in their head, out in the field, while performing a task over and over again with its predecessor and thinking: Wouldn't it be cool if this object had X right here, wouldn't this work better if this part was shaped like Y, et cetera.
Enter Andy Tran, a cinematographer who makes his living shooting outdoor and sports footage. When he's not on the clock, Tran is out in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, shooting educational wilderness videos for his InnerBark YouTube channel. Informative and (naturally) well-shot, Tran's videos aim to teach you how to get by "If hiking, camping, hunting and fishing were a day job," and among the product reviews and tutorials, his latest videos feature a well-thought-out knife of his own design.
As an avid outdoorsman who was taught outdoor living skills by his father, Tran has had a knife strapped to his hip since the age of 7, so the design of his Tahoma Field Knife must've been brewing a long time indeed. Check out the features and functionality of the design, produced by Rocky-Mountains-based TOPS Knives:
Posted by core jr
| 20 Aug 2014
Yesterday, our friends at PSFK released a report on a movement that is within our purview much as it is in theirs: The first edition of the "Maker's Manual" "provides insights into how people can learn, program, prototype and even sell their projects." Available for free download, it goes beyond your average trend report to offer "a wealth of tools, support and services available for every project size—from the hobbyist's tinkering to the entrepreneur's hack."
The "Maker's Manual" a fluent top-level survey of the technologies, services and communities that are out there today, online and off, and while the the report is not by any means comprehensive, it's certainly an excellent place to start if you're looking for, say, a Maker Shop or Collaboration Hub. There are nods to the usual suspects—Inventables, Makerbot, IFTTT, Techshop, etc.—but also more obscure or otherwise emerging projects and companies such as GaussBricks and Craftsman Ave. Sure, there's a good chance that some of these resources may be too experimental or as-yet-inchoate to have a long-term impact, but this is precisely why the "Maker's Manual" serves as a kind of State of the Union. Indeed, the introduction includes a pithy Obama quote, from the recent White House Maker Faire: "Today's D.I.Y. is tomorrow's 'Made in America.'"
And although some of the headings and copy might read as hype, the "Maker's Manual" does well to addresses pragmatic issues such as fundraising and IP. All told, the 33 pages are chock full of solid information, presented in an appropriately skimmable format, one that invites readers to further investigate the companies and services that strike their fancy.
Unfortunately, the PDF is encoded in a way such that the text isn't searchable; not only does this mean that there's no quick way to find a keyword but also none of the links are clickable—not even the one for Intel, which underwrote the whole thing—which, considering the inclusion of bit.ly links, seems like an egregious oversight. After all, the availability of new tools and resources is a cardinal tenet of its subject matter, and the utility of the "Maker's Manual" as a reference guide is rather diminished by the lack of search- and clickability.