If you live in a rural area with four seasons, you know that maintaining your property is a lot of work requiring a lot of tools. And when it comes to powered items, at a minimum you need a lawnmower for the summer, a leaf blower for the fall, a snowblower for the winter and maybe a pressure washer when it comes time to clean the house in spring. That's four contraptions taking up space in your garage, each with their own motor.
Which is why Troy-Bilt's forthcoming FLEX line of products is brilliant, at least in theory. The idea behind the FLEX line is that you buy a single motor (a decent size, too, at 208cc's), then buy lawn mower, leaf blower, snowblower and pressure washer "attachments" as needed, and you can swap each of them in and out, so you've only got one motor to maintain.
As of yet there's no details on the FLEX's "Lock & Latch" connection system, but since the devil is in the design details, we imagine the ease or difficulty of swapping attachments is something that will boost or kill sales after customer reviews hit the web. Which will be next year; the FLEX line is slated to roll out in Spring of 2015, exclusively through Lowes.
Via Consumer Reports
This young student's name, country of origin, and the specific design school she attended are not important. But in this video she explains why she was motivated to study industrial design. At nearly ten minutes long the video is a bit rambling (cut the kid some slack), but one of the relevant stories is from 1:45 to 3:30 in the video; around 6:28 she discusses how she sees ID as the perfect blend of art and science, although it was actually her second choice as a major; and starting at 8:20 she reveals her perception of ID programs as being more cooperative than competitive. (Was not the case for me, but I guess your mileage may vary.)
So why are we showing you that video? Because later on she decided to quit ID, and explained why in this next video. At just over four minutes this one's a bit tighter, and while some of her points obviously have to do with her specific personal traits, other points she makes might hit home for some of you, depending on your program:
The invention of a man named William Louden is a great example of industrial design in the era before the term "industrial design" was invented.
One of the first issues dealt with by the earliest farmers was where to keep their livestock. So they designed and built barns. They also needed a place to store the hay to feed those livestock, so the hay went into the barn too. The amount of livestock a farmer could keep, and feed, was thus limited to the size of the barn's footprint.
One early design solution to this limitation was to add a hayloft, or "mow," so you could keep the hay up above and maximize your floorspace below to house more livestock. But getting all that hay up to the mow was a lot of work, even after you rolled the hay wagon into the barn and stood on it to get a little extra elevation.
Enter William Louden, one of nine children born on a farm in Iowa in the 1800s. Louden was sickly and suffered from rheumatism, meaning he couldn't engage in the farm labor that his siblings did. But by observing their work, specifically the way that they had to pitch hay up onto the mow from the wagon, he designed a clever way to cut the workload down drastically.
This being 1867, ropes, pulleys, wheels and beams had all long existed. But Louden put all these things together in a novel way, starting with the beam, which he suspended from the ceiling and used as an overhead track—an early monorail. His resultant monorail-based design for a hay carrier allowed men to get bales of hay up into the mow with a fraction of the effort required when done manually. Here's a modern-day demonstration of the Louden Barn Hay Carrier:
Recreational furniture is one of the more unusual subsets of furniture design, but it's apparently one that people will pay good money for, judging by the plethora of flip-top gaming tables on the market. Up above you see Hammacher Schlemmer's Rotating Air Hockey to Billiards Table, a 350-pound behemoth with a built-in blower for the air hockey side. Flip the surface over and you're set up for pocket billiards (though at seven feet in length, you're not exactly in Minnesota Fats' playground).
This competing table at Hayneedle has HS beat by one game, as they've got table tennis (again, truncated at seven feet) on top of the first two games. Literally on top of them; what a difference a piece of MDF makes, huh?
That lousy giraffe that runs Toys R Us also sells a 3-in-1 gaming table, albeit a tiny one at just four feet in length.
We assume that gesture control will be the wave of the future, if you'll pardon the pun. And we also assumed it would be perfected by developers tweaking camera-based information. But now Elliptic Labs, a spinoff company from a research outfit at Norway's University of Oslo, has developed the technology to read gestures via sound. Specifically, ultrasound.
In a weird way this is somewhat tied to Norway's oil boom. In addition to the medical applications of ultrasound, Norwegian companies have been using ultrasound for seismic applications, like scouring the coastline for oil deposits. Elliptic Labs emerged from the Norwegian "ultrasonics cluster" that popped up to support industrial needs, and the eggheads at Elliptical subsequently figured out how to use echolocation on a micro scale to read your hand's position in space.
With Elliptic Labs' gesture recognition technology the entire zone above and around a mobile device becomes interactive and responsive to the smallest gesture. The active area is 180 degrees around the device, and up to 50 cm with precise distance measurements made possible by ultrasound... The interaction space can also be customized by device manufacturers or software developers according to user requirements.
Using a small ultrasound speaker, a trio of microphones and clever software, a smartphone (or anything larger) can be programmed to detect your hand's location in 3D space with a higher "resolution" (read: accuracy) than cameras, while using only a miniscule amount of power. And "Most manufacturers only need to install the ultrasound speaker and the software in their smartphones," reckons the company, "since most devices already have at least 3 microphones."
The demo of the technology, which they're calling Multi Layer Interaction, looks pretty darn cool: