Once wielded by everyone from impatient partygoers to crime scene detectives to insurance inspectors, Polaroid used to be synonymous with instant image capture. With that advantage long since evaporated, the company is seeking to move into a new market—one that's already dominated by GoPro.
The newly-released Polaroid Cube is the company's answer to action-seeking shooters, specifically those looking for bargain-basement prices. At just $100 the Cube is an entry-level product, though it's capable of shooting 1080p HD video; it will either help Polaroid get their foot into the action-cam door, or serve as a stopgap measure for kids saving up for a GoPro.
The Cube was designed by Ammunition and was reportedly not an exercise in "form follows function;" instead Brunner and co. dreamt up the cubic shape, and it was up to the engineers to make the guts fit. According to Businessweek,
Cramming all the camera's guts into a package that's less than 1.5 inches around presented some challenges. When the designers handed the plans over to the development team, they were told the battery wouldn't fit. The problem temporarily threatened the designers' vision of a cube until they came up with a solution of using two rechargeable batteries, one on each side. The configuration had the added benefit of creating a balanced block. After a few nips and tucks, each side of the gadget ended up measuring 35 millimeters—a serendipitous homage to old-school film stock.
So it's the 1980s and you're running a company that makes typewriters. Sure, some of your customers are switching over to these new things called computers, but overall business is pretty good, and sales are growing each year.
Then the '90s hits, more people start using these stupid computers, and business starts to decline. What do you do? Where's the growth market, or at least the steady market? For New-Jersey-based typewriter manufacturer Swintec, their answer was locked up in U.S. prisons.
At some point in the late '90s, Swintec realized that a subset of the incarcerated need or want typewriters, to type up their own legal briefs, write correspondance or pass the time doing something productive. Swintec was also presumably aware of the Sony SRF-39FP portable radio, a.k.a. "The iPod of Prison"—the "FP" in the product name stands for Federal Prison, which is why the housing is transparent. Guards can easily inspect it to see if there's contraband hidden inside.
Dude STOP BENDING IT!
When it comes to smartphones, thin is in. But it should be of interest to product designers that as ubiquitous as these skinny devices are becoming—Apple sold 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Pluses over the weekend, for chrissakes—there really are some basic design problems with smartphones that haven't been totally covered.
Here's what's been in the news: Responding to reports that the iPhone 6 Plus can be bent out of shape when carried in a pants pocket—even a front pocket—while sitting, Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy posted a video of his iPhone 6 Plus Bend Test. The results weren't pretty, as the image atop this entry attests, and his video quickly racked up millions of hits.
Cult of Mac, however, was quick to point out that this structural flaw is not new to the iPhone 6 Plus, nor Apple in particular. In CoM's "The Shocking History of Bent Smartphones," they round up examples across manufacturers and models:
So here's the issue: We either want thin phones with large screens, or designers are pushing them on us, yet the slimness combined with broadness (i.e. increased leverage) has a major drawback for a subset of users. In your opinion, where does the fix lie—on the design side, or the user side?
In 2011, British tabloid The Daily Mail reported that "The last company left in the world that was still manufacturing typewriters...has shut down its production plant in Mumbai, India with just a few hundred machines left in stock." The tone of the article suggested that typewriters were no longer being made anywhere in the world, but this was an error; in fact Brother was manufacturing typewriters in the UK as late as 2012 before shutting it down.
Today a German company called Triumph-Adler is still making typewriters, but what's initially surprising—then not surprising after thinking about it—is who's buying them. An article last year from this Russian news website reported that after taking note of Wikileaks, Edward Snowden and allegations of even friendly governments spying on each other, the FSB (Russia's successor to the KGB) was placing an order for 486,000 Rubles (USD $12,500) for Triumph-Adler typewriters and ribbons. And the FSB isn't alone—the article claims multiple Russian agencies use typewriters.
The thinking here is twofold: Obviously you can't hack what's not on the internet, but the second benefit to using typewriters is that using forensics, documents can be traced back to specific machines, similar to how bullets can be matched to the guns that fired them.
What's fascinating is that, according to Germany's Der Spiegel, the wait time between placing an order and having the Chinese factory crank out the product is some five months. Kinda puts that iPhone 6 shipping delay in perspective.
This logic is not limited to Russia, of course. Germany's The Local reports that Diehl, a German defense manufacturer, has also switched over to keys and ribbons, and that the German market for typewriters is actually growing. Bandermann, the German company that distributes Triumph-Adler's machines, says they move 10,000 units a year, with business up one-third from the previous year; meanwhile competitor Olympia "expects to sell more typewriters this year than at any time in the last 20 years, with sales set to double in 2014."
The next trend that we're hoping for: People start limiting their naked selfies to Polaroids.
Tom Hanks is a noted vintage typewriter fanatic who often bangs out thank-you notes on one of the machines in his collection. When he released the Hanx Writer—an iPad app that simulates old-school typing with sound and visuals, includes one free "model" and allows the user to purchase additional virtual models and ribbon colors—last month, many probably scoffed... but in four days it had shot to the top of the App Store with effusive reviews.
"Hanx Writer is beautiful, aesthetically pleasing app that fulfills its mission of bringing a certain level of pleasure back to the writing experience," wrote one reviewer. "I've been sitting here typing in the new Hanx app wondering why I find this so delightful," wrote another. "I can't help it, I just do."
It may sound silly, until you see it in action and understand the allure:
As Louis C.K. sits in a coffee shop, a millennial staring into a smartphone bumps into him. Instead of looking up or apologizing, the kid keeps his eyes glued to the phone and bumps into him repeatedly, like a fly at a window. In the background we see the place is filled with young phone-gazers bouncing off of each other like billiard balls.
While the scene was just a gag for C.K.'s show Louie, a stroll down any New York sidewalk shows you it isn't much of an exaggeration. And it's not just New Yorkers and Americans, of course; as the UK designer Kenneth Grange told Dezeen, "I see people in the street walking around like zombies unaware that there's a person two feet from them, all glued to this bloody screen." And in China, if this Xinhua News Agency report is to be believed, the city of Chongqing has rolled out a bike-lane-like "phone sidewalk."
The topmost photo of this entry seems Photoshopped—something about the intensity of the arrows and the lack of shadows around the people—but it's possible that it's real, or at the very least not difficult to imagine.
So, file this one under Unintended Consequences of Technology. Who could have foreseen that creating tools that improved long-range communication would cause pedestrians to completely ignore their immediate environments?
Also, etiquette question: Do you guys walk around staring into your phones? As a New Yorker who well remembers the high-crime days of yore, if there are other people near me on the sidewalk I get out of the way and put my back to a wall, facing outwards, before checking something on my phone. It is inconceivable to me that a person would walk the length of a crowded block with their head down, completely oblivious to their surroundings. NYC's rash of phone-snatchings—some quite violent—is, I think, something like nature's cycle of predators and easy prey. Staring into your phone and forcing others to walk around you isn't just rude—it can get expensive, and dangerous.
Editor's note: Sadly this has been debunked as of this afternoon, but the implications are still valid.
Ants like to move things, presumably to carry them back to their nests. Which doesn't make much sense when ant hill entrances are tiny and you see them hauling back things like this relatively huge Dorito chip:
But who knows, maybe it's just about the accomplishment of dragging it back to the nest. And maybe they build dioramas and put the objects on display. Because there's also footage of these herpetology-minded ants transporting a lizard skull (and a second crew bringing back the spine):
So far nothing special, these guys move items the same way you, me and a few buddies would move a couch, by getting individual bodies around it. But someone in Southeast Asia recently posted this video, where a species of Leptogenys ants have apparently learned to form a daisy chain in order to haul this big-ass millipede:
Posted by Sam Dunne
| 11 Sep 2014
This past weekend, Reddit users have been delighting in pictures of prepackaged grape juice (alas, not wine) and bread (or is that gum?) communion reportedly handed out to one church-going user's 7,000-strong congregation. The Reddit faithful were quick to dub the curiosities 'Christables' after a certain packaged lunchtray product and offered up a number of other amusing puns and slogan suggestions—from mildly disrespectful to brazen copyright infringement—including gems such as "I Can't Believe It's Not Salvation" to "# Bad dap bap bap baaa...I'm loving Him #."
As comments on the thread point towards, the incongruity that we (even non-believers) feel at the sight of this object has to do with the design language: disposable plastic + aluminum-foiled symbols of the fast and packaged food industries that is unavoidably synonymous with cheapness, convenience and transience—a culmination that no amount of script typography, biblical quotes and cross symbols can outweigh.
I want an Apple Watch for four main reasons: Because of the nature of my work, the fact that I own two dogs, the fact that I live in a noisy city and because I hate Bluetooth earpieces. Now I realize that there's no way Jony Ive and Apple's design group has a profile fitting that description in their design briefs, there is no picture of me on their corkboard with a red circle around my face...
...but what they excel at is figuring out universal needs and designing solutions to those. Which is why it feels like the Apple Watch was designed precisely for me and for what I need to do on a daily basis.
I'll start with the two dogs. They require a lot of exercise, which I'm happy to give them to counterbalance the effect of IPAs on my waistline, and I am outside with them a lot—up to two hours per day, every day, rain or shine. This is possible because my work enables me to set my own schedule and work from home.
Which brings me to the nature of that work. In addition to my Core77 duties, I run a rental photography studio in a highly competitive market, and if I miss a single phone call or text message, which may come in at any hour, there are hundreds or potentially thousands of dollars at stake for each message I miss. Clients want answers right away, and if you don't pick up, they go down their list and contact the next studio.
Which raises the problem of me living in a noisy city. When outside with the dogs, my phone lives in a pants pocket. Thus if I'm walking or running I cannot always feel the vibration of an incoming message, nor hear the ring over jackhammers and bypassing ambulances. I've lost a three-day booking before because I couldn't hear the phone and called back five minutes too late.
Watching yesterday's Apple Live event, I oohed and aahed over the shots of the iPhone 6 with the rest of you, and when my screen turned black at the end of the Apple Watch teaser, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the monitor and saw my mouth was hanging open. But to this design lover, it wasn't any of the beauty shots, but the pull-quote below that I thought was the most significant takeaway from the entire presentation.
CEO Tim Cook was pacing the stage, rattling off facts: The credit card is fifty years old, it's no longer convenient nor secure, people have been attempting to replace them with digital wallets...
...But they've all failed. Why is this?
It's because most people that've worked on this have started by focusing on creating a business model that was centered around their self interest, instead of focusing on the user experience.
We love this kind of problem. This is exactly what Apple does best.
Cook proceeded to unveil Apple Pay, the NFC-based one-touch payment process that the new iPhones and the Apple Watch will all be able to perform.
I say that quote is significant because Cook essentially laid out Apple's key competitive advantage, the business secret that does not need to be secret because none of their competitors seem to be able to get those five words right.
Posted by Sam Dunne
| 8 Sep 2014
Only in Japan could the worlds of novelty plastic consumer goods, fast-food fanaticism and brand worship collide in such awe-inspiring, object-cultural absurdity.
The Japanese arm of fast food giant KFC recently released a suite of computing accessories in the likeness of their deep fried product. Whilst the Colonel hasn't yet taken to directly battering computing equipment (though that may not surprise some given recent accusations of some of their stores unsavoury contents), winners of a promotional giveaway could find themselves the lucky owners of a curious red and white keyboard, the keys of which replacing standard symbols with cryptic castings of miniature fried chicken pieces, giving users only the K, F and C to anchor to (presumedly touch-typing is second nature to Japanese technophile whiz kids). To make this branded computing experience complete, KFC also offers consumers the chance to wrap their hands around a disconcertingly realistic USB mouse and equally disturbing, as well as impractically large, USB flash drive—both novelties employing a rather questionable amount of plastic.
Collectors and fried chicken fanatics from Harajuku to Akihabara are surely to delight in these wild creations. Looking beyond the shimmering golden brown surface however, critics of the fast-food chain may well come to point out that such questionable objects only operate to abstract KFC's fried products further from the suspect reality of their production (current estimates for chickens put through the KFC machine at around 1 billion per year!).
As designers, we find it amusing that there are Apple lovers that hate Samsung and vice versa. What the layperson doesn't seem to grasp is that the rivalry is good for the advancement of UI design. While Apple typically marches to their own drum, and reportedly had no interest in producing a smartphone with a larger screen, Samsung's dominance in that area has driven Cupertino to increase the size of the new iPhones they'll be announcing tomorrow; and in desperate anticipation of that event, Samsung has attempted to steal the march by announcing their new Galaxy Note Edge last week.
At first glance the unusual, asymmetrical, curved-glass design of the Galaxy Note Edge just seems plain weird. But look at this video by Marques Brownlee demonstrating the intended functionality:
Late yesterday Vanity Fair broke the news: Marc Newson is joining Apple's design team!
Apple's design veep Jonathan Ive is not only close friends with Newson, but the two have collaborated before, on the 43-object (Red) Auction project, and according to VF have been working together on an unspecified Apple project during the past year. Given Apple's typical development timelines, it's unlikely (if possible) that we'll see what the Newson collaboration has yielded at Apple's September 9 press event—mApple's mum on whether he was involved with their forthcoming smartwatch—but in any case, Newson is in fact getting an Apple ID card.
"Marc is without question one of the most influential designers of this generation," Ive said in a statement provided to VF Daily. "He is extraordinarily talented. We are particularly excited to formalize our collaboration as we enjoy working together so much and have found our partnership so effective."
"I'm full of admiration and respect for the extraordinary design work that has been produced by Jony and the team at Apple," Newson said. "My close friendship with Jony has not only given me a unique insight into that process, but the opportunity to work together with him and the people that have been responsible. I am enormously proud to join them."
One thing Newson won't be doing is picking up stakes; the London-based designer will remain in the UK to collaborate from afar.
With a press release this morning, Dyson tidily answered some questions that have been in the back of our minds. Questions like:
1. What are they going to use those tiny, powerful digital motors they developed for?
2. What weren't they showing us in that Dyson Proving Grounds video from last year?
3. What does a company that spends £3 million on research every week put that money towards?
4. Why on earth does a company with just three product categories employ 2,000 engineers?
5. Why hasn't Dyson, with its expertise in vacuums, yet moved into the robot vacuum space?
With this morning's announcement of the Dyson 360 Eye, all of the answers have fallen into place. Their forthcoming robot vacuum has been in development for a staggering 16 years, and a close look at the thing explains what all of those R&D eggheads have been working on.
First off, the "most powerful suction of any robot vacuum" claim is what you'd expect with Dyson, particularly if you've used any of their products. (Look for our upcoming "Living With..." product review on the Dyson DC59.) As you'll see in the demo video below, the 360 Eye with that digital motor was designed to suck up way more dust than the competing robot vacs, including from the crevices between floorboards, in a single pass. This comes as no surprise.
What is surprising is the wayfinding technology they've come up with. Existing robot vacuums have sensors and algorithms that they use to bounce around rooms seemingly randomly, relying on multiple passes and path redundancy to get a room clean. Dismissing this method as primitive and inadequate, Dyson opted to go with vision.
They developed a 360-degree camera that shoots 30 frames per second and actually sees the room, and selects high-contrast points—the edge of a picture frame, the corner of a bookshelf, for instance—to triangulate its location in space.
Yesterday I had to retire one of my well-used, much-appreciated, everyday objects and figured I'd give it a postmortem, covering what I liked and didn't like about this product design. It's the Jambox, the portable wireless Bluetooth speaker famously designed by Yves Béhar.
I used my Jambox virtually every single day from Dec. 22nd, 2012 to August 31st, 2014. That's over 20 months of daily use. It finally gave up the ghost on August 31st after sustaining damage in a fall (more details further down).
Because I used this object so frequently, I consider it as having improved the quality of my life. I've used it in every single room in my house and workplace to play music or podcasts while I go about the tedium of life and work: Doing dishes, folding laundry, sewing, working in the shop, sorting parts, fixing sewing machines, cleaning the house, cleaning the studio. I also place it in the bathroom every night when I shower so I can catch up on podcasts. To me the Jambox has been invaluable for breaking up tedium and allowing me to listen to podcasts anywhere, without the bother of headphones.
I travel with it too. On regular trips to a rental house in the country, I connect it to a projector and my laptop to play movies for the group of friends I go up there with.
I've only used it twice for its speakerphone capabilities and don't have any useful input there, beyond that it worked fine.
Australia-based machinist Ed Jones runs Ed Systems, a "Strange and somewhat crazy hobby shop that specializes in anything electrical, industrial, automotive, and anything in-between." A metal shop engineer by training, Jones' stock-in-trade is production machining, welding, injection molding, electrical work, you name it. As part of his work he needs to disassemble machinery for recycling, so when it came time to break down a Whirlpool, Jones opted for an easier method than de-wrenching it:
To be clear, Jones isn't do this (purely) for fun. "[The] machine was donated by one of Dad's friends, who happens to be a fan of [my YouTube] channel and wanted to see it die again. It was a power surge victim with a leaky drum unit, so its not a waste to scrap it. New ones are about $400, so it's not [a] big deal."
Another thing he can't do
For small parts storage, I use the cheapie Stack-On containers we covered here. They're useful and inexpensive, but their design also dates back at least several decades. For a more modern-day solution, check out industrial design and manufacturing engineer Jeffrey Bean's Twist Tubes.
Bean's background comes with heavy tooling experience, yielding a specialty in "the rapid design and build of plastic injection molds." He's used his skillset to create a series of storage tubes that open from the side, via rotation, and feature both colored and clear polycarbonate in the same package (for color-coded organization and visibility, respectively). And his Twist Tubes are designed to avoid the one thing that's happened to all of us at some point: Dropping the container and spilling its contents everywhere. Although cylindrical, the toothed design of the cap means the Tubes will lie flat on their sides, preventing them from rolling off of a table; the sealed design (unlike a Stack-On drawer) means the Tubes won't spill their contents even if dropped; and the polycarb ought to withstand the impact of an accidental bench dive.
Posted by core jr
| 1 Sep 2014
Photography by Brit Leissler for Core77
Designer Martino Gamper guest curated an exhibition presenting a collection of objects from the personal archives of his friends and colleagues at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London. His collection, Design is a State of Mind, features a "landscape of shelving options" aimed at sharing the story of the design objects we interact with and how they impact their users and admirers.
The exhibited pieces include finds from the 1930s mixed with modern-day designs. You'll see well-known silhouettes nestled next to one-offs and styles ranging from contemporary to utilitarian. Some of the designers include Ettore Sottsass, Charlotte Perriand, IKEA, Dexion and Giò Ponti. The juxtaposition of styles brings to light a history of how we've housed our belongings and showed them off through the years as various styles and trends have come, gone and reappeared. The items displayed on the shelves are a collection of archives from Gamper's friends and colleagues.
Gamper also designed two exhibits in the Gallery's powder rooms—one being a tribute to Italian designer Enzo Mari and the other a space encouraging visitors to interact with Gamper's furniture designs. The Mari room displays a compilation of the designer's drawings, notes and designs, all held down by a different paperweight of Mari's own collection. Gamper's room invites visitors to sit on the designer's chair and explore a international library of contemporary furniture manufacturing catalogues while watching either Tati's Mon Oncle or Alain Resnais' Le Chant du Styrene—two films that feature the designs of the 1950s and how furniture design has changed in the years leading up to present day.
» View gallery
My favorite carry-all for tools and materials is Festool's Open Top SYS-Toolbox. It's just a classic example of nuts-and-bolts ID: Simple, strong, reliable, and a perfect use of materials. The thick-walled ABS has a channel molded into the bottom, which forms the divider inside the box, and this channel allows the handle of a second box to perfectly nest within the first. Two latches at the side enable you to connect them quickly and securely. And they're compatible with Festool's full line of Systainers (manufactured by Tanos, as we looked at here), making them easy to roll around the shop or carry on-the-go in one piece.
Outdoor goods company Snow Peak was started in Japan's Sanjo City, a place "known locally as a hardware town." So it's no surprise that their Stacking Shelf Container 50 has got that "tooled" look. What is surprising is how it can be locked in two different configurations and stacked in either one.
At first this had me scratching my head, but I realized that when you need access to stuff on different levels, the "butterfly" configuration makes sense. And it's kind of neat that the rubber feet at the corners remain the lowest point of contact no matter which configuration it's in.
Last year we posted about 4Moms, a Pittsburgh-based company that makes unique baby products. The cake-taker is probably their power-folding Origami stroller. Look at the following video they produced for it, which is slick and professional:
So here's the thing: That video was first posted in January of 2012, and at press time it had just under 1.4 million views. Not bad. But last weekend, a New-Zealand-based magazine called OHbaby! posted a low-res ten-second clip of the product in action, shot at a baby products show:
Posted by core jr
| 27 Aug 2014
Photography by Mark LeBeau for Core77
The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Tradeshow in Salt Lake City, Utah, is known for featuring the latest and greatest in outdoor sports gear and apparel. To put it shortly, it's very much an industry show. We sent photographer Mark LeBeau to check it out and take some shots of the gadgets we should keep an eye out for. He noted the proliferation of electronics, chargers and smart devices, as well as the throwback to the much-loved "mom and pop" general-store aesthetic. A practicing designer himself, LeBeau also shot the event for us in 2013.
LeBeau's favorite design? A magnetized climber's grip by Garret Finny.
» View Gallery
I've solved the wallet thing for myself, I've got the perfect wallet for me. So whenever someone comes out with a new ultraslim wallet, I'm unmoved. But I just gave the Silo Mesh Card wallet a gander and am impressed at the thinking that went into it:
When most folks think of improving the design of a flashlight, they think of making it brighter or smaller. It's easy to overlook the average flashlight's central flaw: They emit a limited, circular patch of light that doesn't really jive with human peripheral vision.
On a trip upstate last year, I was looking for my runaway dog in the woods at night. While my LED flashlight was powerful enough to cast a far beam, having to trace that small circle of light over a wide swath of trees felt like painting a battleship with a toothbrush.
I'd have done better with a Morphalite flashlight, created by product developers Frank and Gary Wall. They've figured out how to create a lens that effectively refracts light into a 180-degree arc, enabling the user to scan a large patch of horizontal darkness in one go. Alternately one can rotate it 90 degrees and send the spread vertical, to better illuminate a trail one's walking down, for instance.
The Walls' DIY video below is, well, DIY quality, but that doesn't detract from the cleverness of the product's design, and their logic is unassailable:
Interestingly enough, engineer Frank discovered how to create the lens purely by accident. You can read the tale here.
It rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest, which sucks if you're outside and are trying to write something on paper, as loggers once needed to. So in the 1920s, well before ruggedized tablets were invented, a guy named Jerry Darling created waterproof paper and sold it in notebook form to the logging industry.
Today the company Darling started has evolved into Rite in the Rain, which manufactures all-weather writing paper. Here's how it stacks up versus regular paper:
We gave you a brief look at this awesome Lego Calendar project earlier in the year, but this is worth a closer look. The UK-based design studio formerly known as Vitamins (now called Special Projects) devised a physical calendar for their studio made out of Legos. Sounds simple, right? Been done before, yes? But here's the thing—this one can be synced to your iCal, Google Calendar or what have you. Check it out:
Since the syncing is one way—which is to say, moving a physical brick will eventually result in the online calendar being updated, but not vice versa—you might think that's a detriment. But Special Projects points out that it actually has an organizational benefit:
We're... working on what happens when someone remotely wants to change a date, perhaps they're abroad and need to modify something. Well the next time somebody in the studio uploads a photo of the calendar, they will get an email back immediately, asking them to actually move the bricks that have been modified. It sounds crazy, but this way you actually notice when something has changed, and you need to physically find a place to put the bricks you have removed—rather than a digital square quietly vanishing in the background on your computer screen.
The team—Adrian Westaway, Clara Gaggero, and Duncan Fitzsimons with the assistance of Simon Emberton and Julia Eichler—invented the clever system in 2012, and were hoping to be able to release the software earlier this year. "This is taking a little longer than expected," they write, but Adrian and Clara are still chugging away on the project. If you'd like to get updates, you can sign up here.