Look up at the sky on even the clearest, most perfect summer night here in New York City and you might realize that something is missing. Sure, the moon hovers brightly above the skyline, but the stars are getting harder and harder to find. Just check out this Yahoo Answers thread from a girl growing up in Queens: The stars are gone and it's all your fault.
Maybe it's not entirely your fault, but the folks at Slow Factory want you to take a minute and take note of the light pollution taking place in some of the world's largest cities. With their latest series, "From Above," the silk scarf company aims to draw attention to the light pollution caused by manmade luminescence, the electric twinkle from dusk until dawn outshining the distant cosmological beacons of yore. The scarves feature satellite images of the U.S.A., New York, Paris and London at night, printed on silk to show the illuminated urban sprawl in all its glory.
Founded by Celine Semaan Vernon, Slow Factory is a company based in Brooklyn that prints satellite images taken by NASA onto silk scarves. After her family left their home in Beirut, Lebanon, Vernon was always on the move and found the stars to be a source of guidance and comfort. "Another reason why I began Slow Factory is because as I have grown up, I can see fewer and fewer stars in the sky," shares Vernon. "Considering that we traveled a lot and that I never really felt grounded or connected to a home, I felt the need to look at telescope and satellite images of the stars."
When you think about wearables, clunky watches might come to mind first—not how many steps your dog takes each day or how your neighbor's horse's blood pressure. I did a brief stint at an agriculture/country living publication and if there's one thing I learned, it's that animal wearables are turning farming upside down—in a good, "we're making/saving lots of money" kind of way. (I picked up plenty of trivia tidbits on fertility monitoring for cows and how corn mazes are surprisingly tech-savvy, but that's another story.) Upon recently coming across a statistic that brought me back to the days of crop yield discussions and grazing data, I couldn't help but share. According to a study from IDTechEx, the animal wearable market is set to hit $2.6 billion by 2025 (the jury is still out for human wearables, as estimates vary wildly at this point).
We're not just talking simple GPS chips and other pet-tracking strategies. The tech on the market for our furry companions is just as high-tech as the activity tracking accessories we wear ourselves—you might recall the thought-translating No More Woof headset we covered a while back. So, in the spirit of inter-species comparisons, here's a sampling of the presumed-to-explode animal wearables market and their human counterparts.
FitBark / FitBit
I'd think it's safe to assume that we all know how the FitBit works—you work out, the bracelet/armband/whatever-you-want-to-call-it calculates your activity into calories burned/steps/however-you-want-to-measure-it and the data is stored to motivate you to beat personal goals (read: make you feel bad on lazy days to come). FitBark does about the same. The collar collects data like activity levels, sleep schedules and behavior patterns—it even has a built-in comparison guide so you can compare your pooch to breed-specific guidelines to see how he/she marks up. Even more, you can link up your human activity tracker—like your FitBit, woah—to compare your activity levels to your pets.
Blood pressure enthusiasts, you can count yourself among the lucky masses now served by wearable tech and Bluetoothed everything. If you're in need of regular pulse checks, or just really really like medical devices, you might want to check out the at home blood pressure monitor from Withings. This monitor is wireless, powered by AAA batteries, and operates using a small air pump contained in the attached cylinder. Its networked nature is a big selling point, immediately uploading and charting your data via an app for iOS 5, or Android 4 and higher, via Bluetooth or Bluetooth 4.0. The armband is permanently semi-curled (reducing some of the one handed wrapping on traditional models) and the read itself takes about 40 seconds.
For first time use, you download the app, put the thing on, power it up, and allow your tech widgets to discover each other. After that the heart rate monitor will default to the last used device, or you can use a separate app-equipped device—just disable Bluetooth for the one previously used or isolate it out of range so it won't notice it's been replaced.
As we reported earlier this year, there is no shortage of smartwatches approaching the market. And while some are finally perfecting the fashion style of these clunky screens on our wrists, the functionality remains a challenge. Have you tried swiping a one-inch square screen? Even ballerina fingers can't be elegant or useful on such devices. Unlike other electronics or wearables, the challenges are not about battery life or overheating or speed, but rather that we can't get data in or out of it easily.
But a new way to interact with smartwatches is on the table, coming from researchers in the human-computer interaction labs at Carnegie Mellon University. Their new prototype allows us to physically manipulate the watch's bezel by tilting, clicking and turning it. And apparently this makes it a lot easier to interact with the function of the watch—which is to say that they function as tiny smartphones. This design can work seamlessly with any touchscreen. Their paper outlining the prototype is here [PDF].
There's no substitute for seeing the watch in action, so it's worth reading on and checking out the video below. Navigating a map, for instance, by clicking and tilting makes me honestly wonder why this kind of functionality hadn't been developed yet. Browsing and selecting your music on this prototype is reminiscent of the first time you experienced an iPod. (Well, that might be a bit of a stretch, but this is just a prototype after all.) Gaming ability is also vastly improved with this design, where you can actually imagine playing a simple video shooting game with your watch.
If there's one thing I quickly realized about rainy days when your own two feet are your main source of transportation, it's that you don't want to be listening to music on your iPhone in a torrential downpour. Take a minute to lower your eyes to switch the song or check Google Maps and risk being drenched by an unobservant taxi driver speeding through a profound puddle—you can kiss your music (and other phone functionalities) goodbye. But there's something about walking outside on a rainy day that calls for a soundtrack. Maybe it's the desire to be mentally removed from the situation or the necessity for some adrenaline-pumping jams to get through the mess. Either way, the Radio Poncho concept from Carnegie Mellon University student Liana Kong is a welcome alternative.
Designed for an Experimental Form class, Kong incorporates music listening into the traditional poncho form (much to the satisfaction of our waterlogged technology budgets). Not only is it aesthetically bright solution to keeping our tech safe and sound—another thing we don't get enough of on gloomy days—it also keeps us attached to the environment some of us are looking to escape. "The key point in my concept was to stay connected to one's surroundings while listening to and enjoying music in harmony with the rain, sans earbuds or headphones which create walls to the outside," Kong says on her website.
The way the wearer interacts with the music is the best part of this design. Once the hood is pulled up onto the head, the tunes start. Adjusting the length of the drawstrings affects the volume of the music. All of the buttons are assigned radio "channels" and can be changed by buttoning and unbuttoning the poncho. Here's a video of the raincoat in action:
NASA is in on the concept vehicle game (as long as space suits count as body vehicles) and they want your input on which they should bring to life. One of three Z Series finalists on offer will really be built, put through rigorous pressure and fit tests and used to inform the future of suit development. Though the designs are a bit whimsical, the program exists to spur creative designs and learn where advancement is feasible in the heavily constrained field.
The previous Z-1 competition was started as an exercise in innovative suit design, with an emphasis on increased mobility and Extra-Vehicular Activity. The winner was a flexible-bodied suit above whose colors riff on a certain beloved character. This year's finalists are less famous but no less fun. Let's meet the contestants!
I have not had the pleasure of watching a movie in 4DX, but the thought of confining myself to a convulsing seat for three hours of scents, liquids and sounds in a pair of uncomfortable glasses doesn't quite sound like my idea of a good time. Thankfully, the whiz kids at MIT Media Lab have come up with a more refined '4D' pastime, at least for those of you who are bibliophiles. Developed for a class called "Science Fiction to Science Fabrication," "Sensory Fiction" is a digitally-augmented book that puts the reader in the protagonist's shoes through a wearable device, adding a touch of excitement to otherwise inert print media.
"Sensory Fiction's" cover consists of small LEDs that light up in different patterns of ambient illumination representing to the "book's mood." Meanwhile, the wearable device offers vibrations, pressures and temperatures, tracking the plot as it turns, page by page. According to the description, "Changes in the protagonist's emotional or physical state triggers discrete feedback in the wearable, whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localized temperature fluctuations."
Google's new diabetes-regulating contact lens has been making the rounds online, but somehow we're not surprised—its futuristic functionality is a hallmark of the Google X team. While the technology itself is intriguing and ground-breaking—let's face it, anything has got to be better than stabbing yourself with a needle multiples time a day—we'd like to take the opportunity to trace a brief (and by no means comprehensive) history of 'overlooked' eyewear options for addressing medical issues.
Let's hope that Google contact lenses may be the future for diabetes, but let's take a look at all of the other slightly sci-fi eyewear evolutions out there that get the job done:
Keeping eyes dry and tan lines awkward since the ice age
These Star Trek-esque frames were—and still are—worn by the Inuit people to prevent snow blindness (which is pretty much major sunburn to the cornea) in dangerous conditions. Traditionally, the eyewear was made from a piece of bone or ivory with slits for a small field of vision; modern versions are made of wood. While it's a little extreme for anywhere that isn't the Arctic, those of you in the Polar Vortexed Midwest—or soon-to-be whitewashed Eastern Seaboard—might've benefitted from the design a couple weeks back. Hey, instead of complaining, they should've just checked Etsy.
There's no shortage of rad watch designs—just have a look see at our features on Eone Time, Minus 8, Analog Watch Co., Mr Jones Watches and Ziiro (to name just a few). In the name of simplicity, watches have one job: to tell time. But what about when they don't do that? This is where Durr comes in.
Created by Theo Tveterås and Lars Marcus Vedeler—collectively named Skrekkøgle—the duo have come up with a concept watch manner that reminds us a bit of the Solar Light we covered from Jon Liow. By giving a quick shiver every five minutes, Durr is more about reminding the wearer to make the most of their daylight than being a timepiece. Check out this video to get a better idea of how it works:
For those visuals out there, Mr Jones Watches has a timepiece that not-so-subtly reminds you to make those most of your day. Every hour when the minute and second hands line up on the brand's Ambassador watch, the face's background image lines up to form a multi-colored skull. The idea in whole is a little eerie, but on the bright side it only takes a quick glance to get a general idea of what time it is.
Click the jump for a look at the painting that inspired the skull design and a video showing the watch in action:
Pocket watches are a timeless and come packed with tons of old man style cred (the good kind) to anyone who can pull it off. ZIIIRO is making "pulling it off" easier with their new stylized timeteller. The ZIIIRO Titan is a nod to the classic shape we know and love with all of the bells and whistles of modern times. Not only is it ultralight (and coincidentally can be worn around the neck, if you're into that look) thanks to an aluminum casting, it comes in five different colors—azure, chrome, purple, black and cherry.
It might look like a space-age tool, but reading it is surprisingly easy. There is an outer ring made up of 12 segments and an inner ring of 60 seconds. Watch time tick by as the borders darken as it gets later in the day.
The natural inclination to escape from the fast pace and constant visual stimulus that is city life is a pretty common response for any human (and particularly any New Yorker). When the skyscrapers and constant car horns get to be too much, why not steal away to a personal oasis? Better yet, carry that oasis with you at all times... in your own jacket. If you do happen to be seeking escape on a moment's notice, the recent design projects of Justin Gargasz will jettison you out into the wild—or at least the nearest park.
It appears we are destined to be a generation of new-age nomads as a result of technology, constant career changes and unprecedented mobility. Is a constant search for how best to return to nature an inevitable side effect of modern life? Maybe, maybe not... but enough people cringe at the idea of life in the big city that need to escape is a viable design problem.
When we first encountered Gargasz's wearable tent structures in 2009, it was an interesting concept placed somewhere between the blurred realms of fashion, furniture and architecture. At the time, he was fresh out of design school and we were impressed with the Boston-based designer's first 'modern cocoon,' named Vessel. Four years later, Gargasz has spun the project into a full-fledged line of nomadic structures that can just easily be warn on a chilly day in the city as a hiking trip out west. His designs are created not only to shelter the wearer physically but as a play on the need to escape psychologically from a world filled with distractions.
Fashion and music have always had a close ties when it comes to mutual influence (and often consumer), so it comes as no surprise that many of the smaller independent labels—which sign musical acts outside of what would be considered the typical consumer tastes—also operate merchandise stores that err on the design-y side.
Taking a leap from the sweaty house show merch tables in college, many of these online stores are pushing beyond promotional and branding and into the realm of artistic collaborations aided by the same technology that so influences the production of its musical artists. Most obvious Music meets Design collaboration is the label Ghostly International promoting designers such as Matthew Shlian and collaborating with to experiment in digital music delivery.
More recently, indie label Electric Deluxe out of the Rotterdam, commissioned designers behind Studio Hands in Arnhem to create merchandise as experimental as the music.
Thanks to some creative coding by Martijn Mellema, Studio Hands created an installation that would transmit sound between two computers in order to generate a unique T-shirt design. Mellema's application takes the respective designs (including the wire framed face of Speedy J), sonifies theml and plays the result through a speaker. The series of beats act as a Morse code that is reconstituted after being picked up by a secondary microphone and translated back into a 3D model. The resulting image appears with unpredictable glitches occurring in the unconventional transfer method.
As an individual with the good fortune of being born and raised in the United States of America, I can't say that I've ever witnessed a bombing or any other kind of terror-related attack, much less lived with the potential threat of such as a facet of day-to-day existence. Politics aside, many major conurbations in Israel are hotbeds of guerilla activity, and civilians are trained to heed air raid sirens with Pavlovian efficacy. Yet simply taking cover doesn't guarantee one's safety, an issue that designer Hila Raam tackled with her recent graduation project, the Rhinoskin.
Raam won the Best Final Project award for the backpack, which incorporates kevlar panels—discreetly integrated into an otherwise unassuming bag design—to protect one's head and torso in dangerous situations. Thus, it is an unobtrusive solution for residents of "countries or areas that are under daily attacks, protecting against debris and impact created from missile and rocket attacks."
For her Master's thesis in the Design Products program at the Royal College of Art, Jule Waibel cleverly employed the multiple meanings of her native language, German: Entfaltung may be translated as "unfold," "expand" or "develop," all of which describe the collection of three items that comprise the project. "Collapsible structures reflect how our world is constantly changing," she writes. "My response is to use folding as part of my design process."
A particular folding technique can transform simple sheet materials into three-dimensional objects, with the additional capability that they can expand and contract. [The] dress [that] changes its shape according to the movement of the body, an expandable bag and an umbrella are all made of Tyvek®, a lightweight water- and tear-proof synthetic paper.
And although the results express the simple metaphor with geometric elegance, Waibel cited a surprising—albeit equally fantastical—source of inspiration: Mary Poppins and her magical bag. Captivated by the way "everything seems to fit inside—a mirror, a hatstand, a plant..." she set out to design a bag that shows "the minimum and maximum possibilities." The umbrella embodies "the beauty and aesthetics of folding," while the dress illustrates transformation, motion and flexibility "in a playful way."
Far be it for us to conjecture what you did this past weekend, but if it's anywhere along the lines of rappelling down mountain faces, biking across the country or putting out forest fires, the newly released Jet sunglasses from Recon instruments might be for you. Erring on the side of extreme, Recon's answer to the Google Glass is a souped-up high-performance wearable computer masquerading as sunglasses. The Recon Jet heads-up display (HUD) is a flexible computing platform catering to endurance athletes. As a hybrid of microcomputer and polarized eyewear, the Jet is packed with more sensors and gadgets that you could ever really need... but hey, we know you're weary of skydiving in your Google Glass, so Recon is here to offer an alternative.
With a dual-core processer and serious firepower on the functionality front, we are interested to see how Jet stands up to its sleeker and more mass-market competitors. With a number of obvious similarities both Google glass and the Recon Jet, one major issue seems to be with safety in terms of populating your field of vision with displays and marketing the glasses as usable in extreme sports—generally a time to try and have as few visual distractions as possible. Both products opted for a right side HUD, however Recon dropped the display to the bottom of your field of vision stating:
First and foremost, we wanted to ensure the user's safety by making the display completely unobtrusive. When looking straight ahead, you will not even know it's there. To take in information, you simply glance down, like looking at a dashboard on a car.
Research has shown that looking down is an easier eye movement than looking up. Jet is also designed for outdoor use, where looking up could result in looking directly at the sun, something we want to avoid.
Although "design thinking" might be a term that has just about reached saturation point for most students and professionals, the recent influx of literal interest in brainwave and thought related design projects is undeniable. A few weeks ago we profiled the Melon Headband and app for tracking brain activity and focus and now we flip over to the other end of the spectrum with the Knitic NeuroKnitting machine.
Knitic is the collaborative project of artistic duo Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet, a pair who have existed in the fine line between art and tech since 2009. Their Arduino-hacked knitting machine records brain states via an EEG headset to be converted into a knitting pattern for a scarf. The wearer's activity measurements of level of relaxation, excitement and cognitive load while listening to Bach's "Goldberg Variations." The resulting data yields a stiching pattern, which—in addition to being a great garment for chillier climates—also captures visually the unique act of listening. The team chose to bypass the electronic control of the Brother brand 930 knitting machine models opting for real-time control and modification of patterns by putting in their own arduino control system.
So how did grandma's favorite pastime and a bunch of arduino geeks get together in the first place?
This past spring semester, Western Washington University's Industrial Design department teamed up with Anvil Studios, who were proud to sponsor a Senior I.D. studio, led by professor Dell King, focused on the intersection of health and mobile technology. We're pleased to present the results, courtesy of WWU ID and Anvil Studios.
Design Brief Overview for Medical/Biometric Device and/or System:
Personal health monitoring and tracking with body worn sensors is becoming a big business. Several companies are addressing a variety of focused health monitoring systems from simple pedometers and calorie counters to fatigue sensors and full biometric activity tracking.
There seem to two paths to creating smart (and thusly non-cringe-worthy) life-tracking device: either design something so seamless that you barely think about it, or design hardware with enough applications that the possibilities are worth the inconvenience. Enter Melon, a headband tricked out with three metal electrodes that run across the forehead monitoring your brain activity in the pre-frontal cortex. Essentially, the headband measures the electrical activity of constantly firing neurons in your brain and puts it into a sleek mobile app so you can track your level of focus and learn about your own behavior (a little something for the Nick Feltron in all of us.)
First thoughts are inevitably in the realm of "Nike Fuel Band for your head" or "what would implanted Cube Sensors be like?"—but hang on for a second. The idea that you can track focus if pretty appealing, and not for a single activity, but for whatever you actually happen to do in your daily routine. Likewise, because Melon acts as a tiny EEG monitors the possibilities for software that stretches even beyond the focus data. Shifting the conversation from 'quantified self' to 'understood self' is a good lesson for UX and product designers alike as there does exist a thin line between waking up in the morning, feeling like a bar graph and actually gaining insight into the way you live your life.
The 'clever material swap' gets to be a bit trendy in the industrial design game after awhile. We usually have trouble to finding projects that both employ a new material intelligently (and with good intent) but don't immediately fall into 'can't-believe-its-a-cement-lamp' category. Likewise, as far as bandwagons go, 3D printing doesn't seem to be slowing down in the slightest with projects like the 3Doodle pen and 3D photo booths. But while we all wait for either 3D printed houses or organs, we have to ask: when are all the innovative 3D printed consumer products going to catch up?
Upon perusing our sister portfolio site Coroflot, we came across the portfolio of Marc Levinson, the chief executive officer of Protos Eyewear. Protos boasts that their line of 3D printed eyewear is both consumer grade and yields "striking designs that are impossible to make through standard manufacturing methods."
Levinson deals with some pretty solid applications for 3D printing market-ready products. Originally considered to be a technique primarily for prototyping, many companies are looking to 3D print directly to market. Levinson's 3D printed frames for San Francisco-based Protos Eyewear are a great example of manufacturing process informing aesthetics. We're particularly fond of the Hal Pixel frames, perhaps a not-so-subtle nod to the digital age.
The hybrid fashion label/experimental design lab, Continuum Fashion, was first on our radar for their 3D printed bikini manufactured with Shapeways in 2011. Since the initial buzz, the design duo Jenna Fizel and Mary Huang have expanded into software, giving design power directly to the user to create their own garment.
With projects like the Diatom's SketchChair floating around, made-to-order furniture and fashion seem to be carving out their own unique—and maybe even affordable—place in the design world. Continuum's CONSTRVCT and D.dress software gives pretty much anyone a creative platform and foolproof software to act as their own fashion designer with no assembly (or drawing skills) required.
The fashion industry, like ID, is no stranger to digital fabrication—particularly with the rising fame of Iris van Herpen, the 3D printing hype is flowing directly onto the runway. With the D.Dress software, the guesswork is taken out of the avant-garde dress making completely. The CAD-savvy might recognize the D.dress's triangulated surface structure as a consideration more for ease of outputting quick .stl files than either aesthetics or sewing. To Continuum's credit,however, they make a good case that "the triangulation also ensures that almost any drawing will produce an interesting form, and in fact produces good meshes from mere scribbles."
Dana Ramler is a Vancouver-based designer with a knack for unconventional design combinations. Speaking the language of industrial, fashion, interactive and media design simultaneously; her projects and collaborations hit that sweet spot between thought-provoking conceptual design and the intelligent products for market.
Bio Circuit is a vest that provides a form of bio feedback using data from the wearer's heart rate to determine what "sounds" they hear through the speaker embedded in the collar of the garment. The wearer places the heart rate monitor around the ribcage, resting against the skin and close to the heart. An MP3 audio player embedded in the vest plays the audio track related to that specific heart rate. The audio tracks are soundscapes mixed from a range of ambient sounds.
Bio Circuit was created at Emily Carr University by Industrial Design student Dana Ramler, and MAA student Holly Schmidt.
While the Biocircuit probably won't be hitting the market anytime soon, Ramler's work in technical running accessories for lulumon athletica definitely deserves a look as well. They almost make running in sub-zero temperatures sound appealing... almost.
Well folks, looks like 2013 is shaping up to be the year gesture control finally becomes available to the masses.
First up, the Leap motion controller that caused such a blog stir (we covered it here and here) will start shipping on May 13th, just about a year after they began taking pre-orders.
Hot on their heels—or forearms, I should say—is the Myo controller pictured above, an arm bracelet that you wear well above your wrist but below the elbow. Why the weird position? The Myo actually reads the electrical activity in your muscles, rather than relying on a camera.
This seems like a pretty smart approach, as the Myo can decipher complex finger gestures, flicks and rotations without requiring line-of-sight. That suddenly opens up a new world of interactivity that doesn't require the user be sitting in front of a camera-equipped computer, or dancing around in front of a Kinect. Peep this:
Looks amazing, no? If it works as advertised, it will have a much broader range of applications than the stationary Leap, and the Myo's price reflects that: The Leap's going for $80, while the Myo will run you $150. It's up for pre-order now and they're claiming it will ship later this year.
Sputnik Zurich isn't your average a mobile repurposed apparel and accessories outfit: much as Joshua Zisson did with his retroreflective bicycle, they've developed a stylish visibility solution for urban environments; however, Sputnik Zurich has a decidedly more DIY, scalable approach to elevating safety into an aesthetic. From simply sewing vests into totes to actually retailoring the source materials into articles of clothing, founders Stefanie Sixt and Chelsea Rose Morrissey "[draw] from the city's urban development for its inspiration, material and production."
I was curious to learn that the "design and production of the products take place in containers at construction sites throughout the city, [which are] open to the public for new ideas." In other words, the designs are implemented and "produced at the building sites where they originated." Thus, the small-scale operation has 'exported' the concept from their headquarters in Zurich to satellite sites throughout the Europe and the States, with workshops as far-flung as Buenos Aires and Tokyo.
I loves me some patent artwork, and so does a company called PatentWear. The California-based company, which has quietly been around for nearly 20 years but has just started selling online, takes some of history's more interesting product design patent drawings—bike derailleurs, climbing gear, firearms, tools, toys, musical instruments, you name it—and prints them up on T-shirts.
Each of our designs takes as many as forty hours to produce, from initial research through the design and art production phases, and finally, to printing. We use an eco-friendly water-based ink process that is long-wearing and, with a with a slightly muted tone, it perfectly captures the essence of our vintage patent art designs—some of which are based on patents that date as far back as the early 1800s.
As you can see the linework has been gussied up with color to give it some pop, and the results are pretty catchy. Funny to think that at one point in the products' development process these drawings were jealously guarded secrets, and now you can parade around with them plastered all over your torso for 22 bucks.
Woke up this morning and this video had a million more hits than it did yesterday, so I had to find out more. Just a few days ago, a gent from Brisbane named Ray Liehm posted this:
Liehm was a bystander at Australia's Supanova Pop Culture Expo, and the brilliant costume above delighted YouTube viewers and used car salesmen alike, to the tune of three million plus at press time.
So what's the story behind it? Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tubeman, as he's officially known, is actually one half of a couple; together with his blue companion, they are the official mascots of the Gold Coast Roller Derby League, a bunch of bad-ass broads with names like Nikki Nitro who "hit hard, skate harder, turn left & do it again" at tracks in the Queensland area.