Posted by Sam Dunne
| 28 Nov 2014
To Brits, the frenzied shop-fest of Black Friday (a phenomenon slowly spreading to our shore) seems like an odd tradition to follow on from a day of giving thanks—a sentiment shared by counter movements such as Buy Nothing Day and, I dare say, by a number of our American readers. The absurdity of the custom is illustrated eloquently by British comedian turned political activist Russell Brand in a video lampooning Fox News coverage of the "pilgrimage of capitalism that has found its way to the forefront of American cultural life" in the light of planned Black Friday strike action of Walmart staff for the third year in a row.
If scenes of consumers and striking shop assistants staking out retail centers in the early hours of a winter morning wasn't distressing enough, a Brazilian clothing brand has taken it upon themselves to envisage a future where Black Friday deals are inescapable. The video campaign by Brazilian creative director Antonio Correa for Colombo expounds the problem of high flying executives simply too busy to step out of the office to take advantage of Black Friday savings (ah, Capitalism eh?). The solution to this troubling situation? Fill the skies of Sao Paola's Business District with the apocalyptic sight of headless, poorly articulating human figures hanging limp from whirring drones, of course—completing the picture with price tags on their clothing for our deprived protagonists to glimpse through the windows of their corporate prisons.
Last week I upgraded my cracked-screen iPhone 4S... with a 5S. I think the iPhone 6 is pretty, but it's simply too big for me. I tried one out in the store and decided I don't want to double-tap the home button every time I need to reach the top of the screen.
But I am clearly in the minority, as everyone else in the world seems to want a bigger phone. People are willing to put up with the wider, less-convenient-to-carry form factor for the improved UX. So here's my question: Do you think folks would put up with not only a wider, but a thicker form factor—if it meant they could fully charge their phone in less than one minute?
That sub-one-minute mark is what Israeli tech company StoreDot is working on. If you're wondering about the company's strange name, their technology is based on using biorganic nanocrystals that they call "Nanodots" that can store charges. These dots can also do other fancy tricks like serve as flash memory and even compreise display elements, due to their "inherent luminescence in red, green and blue visible spectral regions."
But it's the battery application that's currently generating a wave of buzz. "While the prototype is currently far too bulky for a mobile phone," Reuters reports, "the company believes it will be ready by 2016 to market a slim battery that can absorb and deliver a day's power for a smartphone in just 30 seconds."
It looks unlikely that this Wonderbattery will show up in the iPhone 7; the company has reportedly received financial backing from "a leading mobile phone maker [in Asia]." So it sounds like either Samsung or HTC will have a competitive edge, at least where juice is concerned.
Posted by Ray
| 14 Nov 2014
L: The Fluidigm Juno, designed by fuseproject; R: Quirky+GE's "Tripper" sensor
As an editor at Core77, I often find myself attempting to explain what industrial design is, and I'm sure those of you who are actually practicing designers often find yourselves in find yourselves in the same position. It's regrettable that ID is a widely unsung (if not outright overlooked) force in the world, to the effect that it falls on a precious few star designers such as Karim Rashid and Jony Ive to speak for the profession. The latter made a rare public appearance at the Design Museum this week in a conversation with museum director Deyan Sudjic, making a strong case for design-led business model (perhaps RE: suggestions to the contrary), hands-on education, and maintained that failure is part of the design process.
If Apple represents the paragon of industrial design in the post-industrial age—hardware that is as much a vessel/vehicle for digital UX (i.e. a screen) as it is a beautiful artifact—so too are we always curious to see new developments in other the frontiers of design. A colleague mentioned offhand that insofar as space exploration is constrained by the logistics of astrophysics itself, there isn't exactly a 'design angle' to the Philae lander that, um, rocketed into headlines this week. (That said, we have reported on design at NASA, where problem-solving is paramount... whether you call it design thinking or not.)
Which brings us to fuseproject's recent work for fellow SFers Fluidigm, a B2B life sciences company that called on Yves Béhar—a star designer in his own right—for a complete design overhaul in a traditionally un-(or at least under-)designed category. From the now-dynamic logo to the genre-busting form factor, the entrepreneurial design firm has risen to the challenge of expressing the genuine technological innovation behind the Juno "single-cell genomic testing machine" with equally revolutionary design.
The shape is sculptural and practical; a delicate balance between a futuristic piece of machinery and something more familiar. The aluminum enclosure is machined at high speed and the rough cuts visible and used as finished surfaces, which is a cost saving. The resultant ridges run along the exterior in a fluid, yet pronounced way, and resemble the miniature functional traces on the cell sample cartridge that enable single cell manipulations.
Like these envelope-pushing urban downhill cyclists, we American motorists are also stretching boundaries—unfortunately, of our waistlines. And while we Yanks have been getting fatter for years, it took until now for someone to notice that crash-test dummies still look like they're in shape.
That's a problem, because having crash-test data from an average-sized dummy isn't much good when we are no longer "average-sized." And since we can't seem to get our fitness and diets together, leading dummy manufacturer Humanetics is going to start making, well, fat crash test dummies.
"Obese people are 78% more likely to die in a crash," Humanetics CEO Chris O' Connor told CNN. "The reason is the way we get fat. We get fat in our middle range. And we get out of position in a typical seat." This skews the data between in-shape, in-proper-position dummy and out-of-shape, out-of-position accident victim, so Humanetics' obese prototype weighs north of 270 pounds and has a Body Mass Index of 35. (A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered healthy/fit.)
"[Our] obese crash test dummy... is capable of measuring belt and airbag loads generated from heavier occupants during crash events," O'Connor reported in Crash Test Technology International. "The initial prototype dummy was made available in August 2014 for sled evaluations. Collaborating unversitites and companies will continue evaluations in the later part of 2014."
What we expect to see next: A celebrity or politican fat-shaming one of these dummies, then being forced to apologize on Twitter.
You probably remember Richard Branson's April Fool's joke about Virgin producing glass-bottomed planes. I figured this next bit of news might be a gag too, but apparently this proposal for a virtually invisible passenger airplane is sincere.
Put forth by the UK's Centre for Process Innovation, a science/engineering/technology incubator, this "Windowless Fuselage" concept is intended to save fuel and reduce emissions. The CPI's thinking is that commercial airplanes have windows for the passengers' comfort, but that if the windows could be jettisoned from the design, airplanes could be made lighter and thus save on fuel. To offset the feeling of sitting inside a tin can, airplanes would then be lined with ultrathin, flexible plastic screens covering the interior surfaces and even the seatbacks.
These screens, the concept goes, could serve as mere lighting, or the entertainment systems, or be linked to external cameras to provide the impression of flying al fresco. The screens could even "allow the colour changes associated with sunrise and sunset to be controlled on long haul journeys, helping passengers to adjust to time zone differences."
Posted by Ray
| 27 Oct 2014
In Casey Neistat's review of Google Glass, the filmmaker likens the wearable device to another much-lampooned gadget of a previous generation. Indeed, the Segway endures in pop culture, if only as a cautionary tale. Dean Kamen's much-hyped invention effectively poisoned the well for the personal mobility industry as a whole; short of the comfort and convenience of, say, the hoverchairs in Wall-E, this category will likely remain stigmatized as solutions looking for a problem. (Although a recent Kickstarter project may portend Disney/Pixar's rotund prognostication for the human race, task-oriented assistive devices may be the growth area for the time being.)
The use case that we didn't foresee: the ever-popular music video. Today sees the debut of yet another carefully choreographed performance from none other than OK Go, who have long since made the transition from run-of-the-(tread)mill rock band to viral video soundtrackers, writing generically catchy power-pop earworms as vehicles for their increasingly over-the-top cinematic efforts. More impressive than OK Go's songcraft is their clever use of props and optical illusions; for their latest effort, "I Won't Let You Down"—the second single from their new full-length, Hungry Ghosts, following the forced-perspective trompe l'oeils of "The Writing's On the Wall"—the foursome saddle up on Honda UNI-CUBs, a stool-sized monowheel vehicle (more on that below).
I won't reveal the grand finale, but quasi-spoiler alert: At about 1:03, it becomes apparent that the entire video—a continuously shot long take as in their previous vids—was filmed with a UAV, which is also pretty impressive in itself ('props' to Multi-Copter Pilot Kenji Yasuda). It also appears to be slightly sped up, perhaps in service of the umbrella-as-pixel visual effect [Update: here is a real-time version at 50% speed—trippy]. Let's just say they've come a long way from the treadmills...
Posted by Teshia Treuhaft
| 27 Oct 2014
Berlin has rapidly made a name for itself as one of the foremost cities for tech startups to ahem, start up. In addition, to the budding companies that call the German capital home, we also have heavy hitters such as Soundcloud, Eyeem, plus satellite offices of Twitter and Etsy for good measure. With such an array of software and online products I've been asking around—dewy-eyed as a newly minted Berliner—where are all of the hardware tech companies?
One answer is that they do in fact exist, the tech hardware scene is growing tremendously particularly as wave after wave of creative and technologically inclined young people flock to the city. I first came across LUUV, a promising group of Germans building a camera stabilizer for your trek through the Bavarian Alps or skateboarding in Alexanderplatz during the international betapitch global event in Berlin.
The design philosophy of LUUV reads almost as a Design 101 case study on the importance of fast prototyping and direct user research. Fresh from a long series of pitch competitions and as new alumnus of the tech accelerator HARDWARE.co, co-founder Tim Kirchner shared his thoughts on 3D printing and skateboarding culture in Germany. In the interview below, Kirchner elaborates on LUUV's success and the hardships of bringing a product to market, setting your sights on international distribution, and building a community from the ground up.
Core77: How did you guys started with LUUV?
Tim Kirchner: The idea of LUUV goes back to one of our co-founder Felix, who was filming with cameras like the GoPro. From the beginning, he was having this problem from the beginning that when filming with it either in the hand or attached to your head, you always end up with shaky, crappy footage you don't want to show your friends. In December 2012, Felix was on a snowboarding trip to Austria, and built a little DIY stabilizer, basically a stick with a weight on it to film for fun around the cabin and in the evening. He was traveling with a friend of his who works a big media studio in Germany, when the friend was looking at the footage, he started saying, "Wow, it's really impressive and stable." That's really where the idea of LUUV was born.
HP making magic?
Earlier this month it was reported that Hewlett-Packard was breaking up into two companies. While one half, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, will focus on boring stuff like corporate computing, the other half, HP Inc., sounds a little sexier with its emphasis on 3D printing and "new computing experiences."
Since that announcement, it didn't take long for HP Inc. to arrange an event to show what that new experience might be. The new organization plans to hold a press event next week, where they'll pull the sheets off of a new type of computer called Sprout. The all-in-one PC will reportedly feature not only a flatscreen, but a touch-sensitive flat horizontal area over which will be mounted both a projector and a 3D scanner.
No one knows what the thing looks like (in case our visual atop this entry didn't tip you off) or how the interaction will work, but it seems likely that it's similar to the Fujitsu FingerLink Interaction System we showed you last year, which features components similar to what the Sprout is described as having:
With a lot of folks buying the Back to the Future 2 hoverboard prank earlier this year, it's no surprise that a purportedly real hoverboard just got funded on Kickstarter. (Or so we assume—at press time it was at $234,708 of a $250,000 goal, with 53 days left to pledge.) "We aim to get this technology into everyone's hands (and under everyone's feet)!" writes Hendo Hover, the California-based company behind the Hoverboard.
Yes, you can really stand on the thing and yes, it really floats, but there is a bit of a catch:
Our patented technology transmits electromagnetic energy more efficiently than previously possible, enabling platforms to hover over non-ferrous metals with payloads. It is scalable to any size and any weight.
The limitation of needing a non-ferromagnetic metal surface to float over aside, the technology still looks pretty cool.
Amazingly, only a handful of the actual backers will receive a working hoverboard; the ten units have all been snapped up at a buy-in of ten large. The sub-$10,000 tier of funding is for developer kits and short hoverboard rides at Hendo's facility.
Posted by Ray
| 20 Oct 2014
At top: Designed by Snøhetta, the reverse sides of all five denominations of Norwegian kroners form a continuous pattern; above: A proposed redesign of the U.S. Dollar
[Update (11/19): A fellow named Travis Purrington is reportedly the designer behind the new-look U.S. Dollar, pictured above and below; we also have more on Rønsen's kid-sourced design.
By now, you've probably caught a glimpse of what were widely hailed as "the most beautiful banknotes ever." Somewhat less widely reported, at least in the first wave of press, is the fact that the Snøhetta-designed reverse side of the new Norwegian kroner is based on the Beaufort Scale for windspeed, or the fact that the jury actually selected Enzo Finger as the winner but that Norges Bank overruled their judgment and, um, split the bill between runner-up Metric System—who, in fairness, received credit for the obverse—and the architecture firm's PR-friendly abstraction. (A curiously contrarian interview with Snøhetta's Matthias Frodlund in Creators Project is perhaps the most interesting window into the process behind the pieces: "[Since] this might be the last [paper] money to be produced in Norway, [it's like] giving the digital world a little sneer—look we can be like you, digital and pixelated, just much more beautiful.")
The front and back of the 100kr note, designed by the Metric System and Snøhetta
In fact, all of the entries are available for viewing in the exegetical catalogue [PDF] (published with the October 7 press release), which elaborates on requirements such as standardized dimensions and colors of the notes—these properties remain consistent with extant currency for easy identification by both blind and sighted users—and judging criteria. Taking the theme of "The Sea," each denomination was required to express a subtheme, i.e. "Sea that brings us into the world" (100kr); "Sea that brings us further" (1,000kr). Other considerations include acceptance by the general public, aesthetic longevity, and, interestingly, the fact that it will represent the national idenitity as "a businesss card for Norway."
The front and back of the 1000kr note, designed by the Metric System and Snøhetta
That much I gleaned from some de rigueur Google translating; the 64-page document (only about 15 of the pages have text) is a fairly straightforward outline of the competition, but I won't deny you the surprise of seeing Aslak Gurholt Rønsen's entry (pp. 16–21)...
Posted by Ray
| 17 Oct 2014
L: ABC Dataset Samples; R: Photo credit: NOAA, Vancouver Aquarium.
We've long been enamored with the Eames' Powers of Ten short film, which is as much an introduction to aerial photography as it is to the math behind astronomy and biology. Just as everyone now takes beautiful images (and the retina displays to view them on) for granted, there is also a sense in which we are collectively GPS-enabled: After all, digital cartography is perhaps the most practical application of constant connectivity, and we can thank one company for the ability to zoom out to god's-(or satellites'-)eye view with a pinch of the fingers.
Benedikt Groß & Joey Lee take it even further with Aerial Bold, the "first map and typeface of the earth."
The project is literally about "reading" the earth for letterforms, or alphabet shapes, "written" into the topology of buildings, roads, rivers, trees, and lakes. To do this, we will traverse the entire planet's worth of satellite imagery and develop the tools and methods necessary to map these features hiding in plain sight.
The entire letterform database will be made available as a "usable" dataset for any of your art/design/science/textual projects and selected letterforms will be made into a truetype/opentype font format that can be imported to your favorite word processor.
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:
They are the first to market, but they certainly won't be the last: Power tool manufacturer Bosch has rolled out wireless charging for 18-volt cordless tools before any of their competitors. An inductive charger transmits electricity to the battery placed atop it, meaning for the first time one doesn't have to disconnect the battery to juice it up.
The productivity gains spread across the entire body of users should be enormous. I can't tell you how many times I've been using my drill and impact driver in concert, and invariably one or the other will run out of juice, meaning I've got to go back and forth with one battery on both units while I charge the other battery up. Arguably this wouldn't happen if I had the discipline to disconnect both batteries after every job and pop them back on the charger, but I just don't. With a charger frame like Bosch's, I could simply dock the entire tool after each gig and come back to 100% battery life, checking the little LED indicator on the base to be sure.
Check it out:
The company reports that the new 18V batteries are backwards-compatible, so legacy Bosch users won't be left in the wired-up cold.
Bruno Francois is a clever man. Back in 2012 he figured out how to game the vibrating function in an iPhone 5, combined with data from the gyro and compass, in order to cause the iPhone to precisely rotate in place when stood up on its edge. The resultant app he created, Cycloramic, could then shoot hands-free panoramic photos and video:
This was good enough to garner Francois some 600,000-plus downloads, and with a $0.99 retail price, he presumably recouped whatever investment of time and money he put into developing the app. But earlier this year he appeared on the competitive "Shark Tank" TV show, where entrepreneurs compete to gain financial backing from Mark-Cuban-level big dogs, to see if he could go next-level. The clip was riveting:
This is a fascinating idea that was developed by a research group at Japan's Keio University. By applying optical camouflage technology and using recursive reflectors, which "[reflect] light back in the direction of incidence," the researchers were essentially able to render the back of a Toyota Prius invisible, at least from the driver's point of view. Take a look:
What we found fascinating is their proposal that this could be applied to all 360 degrees. And aside from average motorists trying to back passenger cars into parking spaces, imagine what a boon this would be to folks driving delivery trucks, tractor-trailers, construction machinery and other bulky, blind-spot-laden vehicles.
Unfortunately, the technology may never come to pass. The concept was put forth in 2011, and there's been no word on an update since the video above was released in 2012. But tell me this thing wouldn't get Kickstarted in a heartbeat.
Via DigInfo TV
I'm not looking forward to winter, because the ex-manufacturing space I moved into last year is brutally cold and drafty. I spent last winter making futile attempts to caulk this and shrink-wrap that, only to achieve zero perceptible gains in thermal efficiency; the space is simply too deteriorated on all six sides for me to determine where I can best make a dent.
What I need is a focused plan, a way of determining where the largest heat leaks are so I can tackle those first. And I think I've found my solution in this awesome-looking Seek Thermal Smartphone Infrared Camera.
The tiny, three-inch, half-ounce, $199 device brings something close to military- or industrial-grade thermal imaging to the common man with the common paycheck. (A commercial infrared camera would run you four figures.) You plug it into the bottom of your smartphone and bang, you've got an image on your screen that can accurately display a range of temperatures from -40° Celsius (-40° Fahrenheit) up to 330° C (626° F).
Here's a demo of it in action from Android Police's David Ruddock, and you can skip the first 30 seconds of pitch-blackness:
We've seen drones used or proposed for package delivery, elaborate selfies, action sports capture, movie promotion, and even weather control. But a recent creative collaboration points to the possibility of a more domestic usage that we think could be the killer drone app of the future: How about floating lamps? Which is to say, just the lampshade and a light source, no stem, no cable, hovering in mid-air, able to follow you around the room if need be.
In the video below you'll see what it would look like, but before it becomes domesticated, there are just a few (completely solveable) technological hurdles to clear:
Noise. To cancel out the incessant whining of a hovering drone, a small on-board speaker could project a noise cancellation frequency.
Power. During the daytime, the drone could dock itself, perhaps to something attached to the ceiling, where it would recharge the batteries required for both the light and its own sustained flight. (Ideally the power would come from solar, so you're not wasting a bunch of coal-fired juice on an admittedly frivolous technology.)
User Interaction. Remote control, gesture control or voice activation could turn it on and off, adjust the brightness and hue, and ask the lamp to follow you around or focus light on a particular area.
At any rate, a floating lamp would give you one less thing to vacuum around, if replacing a floor lamp, and free up some table space if replacing a desk lamp.
Maybe it sounds silly but it looks beautiful in practice. Check out this sweet video created in a collaboration between performance group Cirque du Soleil, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and drone developer Verity Studios:
When modern warplanes have missiles fired at them, they deploy flares or chaff to lead those missiles off-target. The magnesium-containing flares are designed to burn hotter than the airplane's exhaust, drawing heat-seeking missiles to the flare rather than the plane. Meanwhile the reflectiveness of chaff—typically small pieces of aluminum or reflective plastic—are meant to dazzle and confuse radar-guided missiles. This overly dramatic video of a Eurofighter Typhoon shows you how it's supposed to work (at least with flares):
If you've ever passed a park in Chinatown and seen the older folks playing Mahjong, you've undoubtedly seen them manually "shuffle" the tiles between games before rearranging them into fresh rows. This is how they've done it for thousands of years, but in the past few decades, Mahjong tile shuffling and dealing has received a rather awesome upgrade:
Posted by Sam Dunne
| 9 Sep 2014
Earlier today, connected device guru Matt Webb announced the closure of cloud service developer Berg Cloud in a blogpost, citing difficulties in finding a sustainable business model for the innovative venture since moving away from the agency model back in 2013. Conceived after experiencing the difficulties of making connected products first hand, the vision of the ambitious Berg Cloud had been to create cloud services that would make life easier for hardware innovators—effectively serving as the missing link between the wireless chip in a new connected device and a user-facing website or smartphone app.
The Little Printer—perhaps the most iconic of Berg's creations—also looks to be implicated in the sad news. Closure of the service behind the product, the release reports, could come as soon as March 2015 unless a suitable buyer can be found. Fortunately for fans and owners of the diminutive device and the wider technologist community, the announcement also suggests that the code for the Little Printer could be opened up—no doubt to the delight of legions of hackers and tinkerers.
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.
Posted by Ray
| 3 Sep 2014
Cupertino seems to have sprung a few leaks lately, from the iCloud celeb photo hack to a drone-eye view of the spaceship construction site Of course, insofar as Apple is known for its secrecy as much as its industry leadership, the company has long been a target for another reason: speculation about new products.
Hot on the heels of Feld & Volk's hands-on teaser, above, Russian tech reviewer Rozetked brings us a fully assembled iPhone 6 a week prior to its official unveiling next week. Reportedly sourced from various factories that are supplying parts for the sixth generation iPhone, the product walkthrough imparts a strong sense of the larger, thinner smartphone's features, most notably its rounded edges and protruding camera. Other notable details include unibody construction with the signature plastic bands for the antenna, while the 4.7” screen is reportedly not made of solid sapphire (which we'd previously seen and was introduced for the home button of the iPhone 5S).
Check out the video:
Posted by Ray
| 28 Aug 2014
"I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real."
–LCD Soundsystem, 'Losing My Edge'
Well this is weird and fun: The data wizards at IBM have partnered with the U.S. Open and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem / DFA Records fame to create real-time musical interpretations of tennis matches throughout the tournament. The premise of the U.S. Open Sessions is simple: IBM processes millions of data points via cloud-based algorithms to generate synth tones that represent the gameplay, complemented by Platonic shapes in the browser window. Developer Patrick Gunderson of digital production companyTool does the heavy lifting while Murphy transposes the progress of the match from groundstrokes to keystrokes; from playing the baseline to, um, playing the bassline.
Posted by Kat Bauman
| 26 Aug 2014
This is the second half of a two-part conversation with Geoff Baldwin, head of the new-ish Industrial Design department at Code and Theory. Read the first part here.
Core77: Outernet is technically involved, it's mechanically involved, and it's got a big dream behind it. How did C+T come to the project?
Geoff Baldwin: This whole industry, everywhere I've been, it's all about good people. Sayed [Karim], the founder of Outernet, I used to work with him at IDEO, where he was our tech guy, which is the best story ever: The IT guy at IDEO is trying to win a Nobel Peace prize! He was the best IT guy, he'd fix your computer super fast and was so responsive, because he just wanted to get done being an IT guy so he could go back to the shop and build shit.
I kept in touch with him, he went from IDEO to NPR to an investment firm that invested in news and information startups in developing countries. He was living all over the world and saw this problem: Yes, people need the Internet, but maybe they just need information. Back in March or February, I got an email asking if I knew anyone who could help him out with hardware. What he needed was a concept car and a vision. He was starting to get funding, but needed something tangible that people could hold onto and believe in. That's where it started.
Did C+T do the entire physical development of the Outernet?
Yes, and I think it should be understood that the project is still at a very gestational stage. [Sayed] is trying to do something incredibly ambitious that requires tons of capital and people being interested, so what we were doing here was creating that concept car and vision—if people can't get it in two minutes, they're not going to get it. But in order to create that concept car, we had to do some intense nuts and bolts engineering. We did this incredibly rapidly, as a six week project. Instead of staging it as the product, then the story and then... it was all at the same time. We brought Sayed in for a week, he was basically living with us. Sometimes we'd kick him out and he'd sit in the hallway and do... whatever he did.
He had collected so much knowledge about satellites and how they work, a ton of work on that back end, so we got him in and got his input on the technical basics and problems to solve and constraints. But in addition to getting a lot of hard information we also got the basis for the story. In a way the story, the fluffy-message fun part started to drive the really hard, critical engineering.
Posted by Kat Bauman
| 25 Aug 2014
If you care about the power of free information, you may have heard of Outernet, an ambitious new project aimed at ending information inequality, eliminating censorship, and bringing data to distant places. The world may be well into the Information Age, but less than 40% of the global population has Internet access! That's bad for democracy, bad for innovation, and bad for business worldwide. What Outernet proposes is to take the heart of the Internet—free information—offline, and deliver it to anyone with a satellite dish using small cheap satellites, the existing geostationary satellite network, and simple hardware. It's a lot like a radio-transmitted library. As they put it, they offer "information for all from outer space. Unrestricted, globally accessible, broadcast data. Quality content from all over the Internet. Available to all of humanity. For free." For more details, check out LA Times' excellent infographics.
To get out of technical start-up talk and into people's hands, Outernet reached out to Code and Theory to help them level up. Why would an international humanitarian tech project work with a digital agency on prototyping? It's a good question, with an I.D. twist. To learn about building the Outernet satellite receiver and how Code and Theory helped, I spoke with Geoff Baldwin who heads their new but busy Industrial Design group.
Core77: Tell me about what you do at Code and Theory
Geoff Baldwin: I'm the director of Industrial Design. Code and Theory is known for its long history of doing digital design and interactive experiences. In the last 5 or 6 years we've become more known for digital agency of record for major brands, for doing social campaigns, and different digital advertising-ish things, so the idea was to build an Industrial Design team inside of this existing digital creative culture to do everything at once. To be able to design the thing, the interactions around it, and the story about it all from the same point of inspiration.
Posted by Moa Dickmark
| 25 Aug 2014
A few months ago, I was contacted by an organization called Women Engineers Pakistan, which introduces girls to the field of engineering and technology. Just reading the name made me curious. For those of you who don't know, I'm an architect, and I come from a family full of engineers and tech-heads. In other words, my choice of becoming an architect has never, at any point of my life, ever been questioned. I went to a technical high school in Uppsala, Sweden, always with the support of mom and dad, brothers and sister, my grandmother, aunts, uncle and most of all my wonderful grandfather. With 26 boys and 5 girls in my class, the male-to-female ratio was rather high, but my knowledge and competence was never questioned by anyone of the male gender. Not by teachers, nor by fellow students.
Hearing about an organization like this and its origins was inspiring, and it takes more then a bit of willpower and skin on the nose (Swedish expression) to start something as groundbreaking and controversial in a country where female students are told that they should reconsider their choice to study engineering and start studying something more suitable for women...
In this interview, I've had the great pleasure of talking directly with Ramla Quershi, the co-founder of Women Engineers Pakistan. She recently moved to the U.S. to study engineering on a full Fullbright scholarship. So even though she's busy with the big move and getting her bearings, she set aside some time for this interview. I hope you get as inspired by reading this as I did from writing it.
Core77: Tell us a bit about the organization and the thoughts behind it.
Ramla Quershi: The organization is a budding startup, which looks to increase participation from Pakistani women in Pakistan in engineering. Women have always been by and large in domestic and agricultural jobs in Pakistan, and their participation in science and technology has been minimal. We realize that women make over half the Pakistani population and we're working to prevent that potential talent for technical prowess from going to waste. We're working with young girls at high schools to encourage them towards science and math
When did you start working on getting Women Engineers Pakistan up and running?
It started with a Facebook page last August. But it's wasn't until six months ago that we started working as an organization.
Why did you decide on starting WEP?
Throughout my engineering degree, I felt a nagging lack of women in this field. We were often discouraged by our professors that engineering is a 'big boy' area. It was disheartening to realize that there weren't many role models set out for us. So I created this organization to give women engineers a platform to represent themselves.
When the professors talked about it being a "big boy" profession, how did your fellow male students react to those sort of comments?
My fellow males knew that I was good at my studies, so they would often turn up for a group study option and ask me to explain things to them. So they had found out that the women in their class were just as good (some even better) engineers. Barring a few, many were courteous and encouraging. However, there were some 'go make a sandwich' sort of comments—but not many.
There must have been many ideas/incentives to make it go from an concept into reality, what were they?
Oh yes, there were. Initially it was just a Facebook page, but then it started getting attention, and I realized that I had hit a niche. We were contacted by the U.S. Embassy through the Facebook page for meeting with a NASA engineer coming to Pakistan. And i thought, 'Oh wow, not much representation for the women in engineering crowd.'