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The New Materialism of the Home 

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

Modernist Studio focuses on strategy and design work for big brands. In working with these companies, we've seen a theme around "owning the consumer." Each company is fighting to become front and center in people's lives, with a particular focus on the home. Big companies speak about locking in customers to a technological future focused on their brand; startups in the valley identify the same goal, but couch that goal increased convenience, comfort, pleasure, or experience in the home.

We've also seen a trend towards a disposability of culture, one where things are delivered, used, and discarded. Coffee delivery from Keurig, ingredients delivered from Blue Apron, smoothie packs from the now defunct Juicero; our home is the centerpiece for all things garbage to show up, be used once or twice, and then disappear. We've arrived at a convenience economy.

And, we see a theme of fear. In the privacy of our corporate-entrenched homes, comforted by our delivery services, we lock our doors entrench, creating a sense of timidness towards interacting with the world. Our security becomes paramount, as if our way of life could be stolen from under our very noses.

The New Materialism of The Home is a discursive exploration into that future. We've highlighted a future that seems plausible, but unfortunate in its believability: it's a future of technology run amok, but hiding in plain sight.

A' Furniture, Decorative Items and Homeware Design Award Winners

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

A' Design Award & Competition, one of the most well-known international annual juried competitions for design, is currently accepting submissions for its next cycle. The prestigious awards program covers a wide range of creative fields to highlight the very best designers from all countries in all disciplines. Entries to the competition are peer-reviewed and judged by a jury panel of experienced academics, prominent press members and established professionals.

The A' Design Award is an opportunity for distinction, prestige, publicity and international recognition through the A' Design Prize, which is given to celebrate all awarded designs. While the A' Design Awards accepts entries 100 main categories, including lighting, toy, car design and more, we've chosen to highlight a list of our favorite winners in the Furniture, Decorative Items and Homeware Design category. We hope this list raises awareness of the talented winning designers while inspiring you to submit your own work for recognition. This particular category is open to both concept stage and realized designs, so really anything goes. 

Sagano Bamboo Furniture Chair and lamps by Alice Minkina (Image: Alice Minkina)Heart Bike hanger by Martin Foret (Image: Martin Foret, 2016)Corona Cabinet by Jo Zhu - Suyab Design (Image: Wang Zao-Hui)ANGLE Bookshelf by Selami Gündüzeri (Image: Selami Gündüzeri, 2016)VacuumGlow Clock by Vadim Garnaev (Image: Photographer Vadim Garnaev, VacuumGlow Brown Coal, 2016)DROP MARBLE COFFEE TABLE Coffee Table by Buket Hoscan Bazman (Image: Buket Hoscan Bazman, 2016)Multifunctional Sideboard by CreateSpace Multifunctional Sideboard by Peter Fritsch (Image: Miroslava Kašubová & Jarolím Žácek) laundrybag Laundry Hamper by Katja Horst (Image: Photographer Johann Cohrs, 2016, variations)
Stocker Chair Chair - Stool by FREUDWERK, Matthias Scherzinger (Image: FREUDWERK, Matthias Scherzinger)Chieut Table Table by JAY DESIGN (Image: JAY DESIGN, 2016)a chairs Multi functional chair by Yi-An Hung, Yestudio (Image: Clivelan) Wave Table by Attila Stromajer (Image: Photographer Marcell Mizik, Norbert Szilas, Wave, 2016)

Binhi Multifunctional Bench by Ito Kish (Image: Photographer Paulo Antonio Valenzuela, Binhi collection shot at the Peninsula Manila)Coq Chilled cheese trolley by Patrick Sarran (Image: Patrick Sarran)View more A' Design Award winners from all categories here, and follow this link to enter your work for consideration. 

Instead of Just Teaching Kids to Code, These Tiny Robots Aim to Naturally Build Passion for STEM Experiences

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

The robotics buzz may be endless, but it’s rare to see cutting-edge technologies come to market in a meaningful way. While startup bots_alive is driven by robotics, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and augmented reality, the simplicity and fun of the product is what makes the biggest impression. Many robotics products try to teach children to code, but bots_alive strives to inspire them.

View the full content here

Up Your Halloween Decorating Game With Downloadable Holograms

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

Let's face it: Last year your neighbor did a way better job with their Halloween decorations, making your lame cobwebs and un-scary zombie statue look inferior. But this year you can put the Joneses in their place by upping your game with some scary-ass holograms.

A company called AtmosFearFX is selling downloadable "digital decorations" that you can project onto walls, screens or even a sheet hung over your window. The effects are suitably spooky:

You'll be the talk of the next block party while the Joneses skulk around in the background, muttering under their breath.

Improvised Survival Solution: Trapped by Santa Rosa Fire, Elderly Couple Submerges Themselves in Neighbor's Pool for Six Hours

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

The devastation of the fire that tore through Santa Rosa this month is hard to comprehend; entire neighborhoods have simply vanished. As you can see in these aerial shots, the results look consistent with a thorough aerial bombing campaign:

Image by Marcus Yam / L.A. Times

The view from on the ground is equally chilling:

All told nearly 3,000 buildings were destroyed and 34 people were killed.

One elderly couple, 70-year-old John Pascoe and 65-year-old wife Jan, found themselves trapped as the fire swept in. Unable to escape, they survived by spending six hours in a neighbor's pool, as reported by the L.A. Times:

[The Pascoes] submerged themselves in the blackened, debris-filled water. They had grabbed T-shirts to hold over their faces to protect themselves from embers when they surfaced for air.

They moved to the part of the pool farthest from the house. John was worried about having to tread water, or hanging on to the side, which could be dangerous with all the burning objects flying around. Blessedly, the pool had no deep end. It was about 4 feet deep all the way across.

… [Jan] waited for the house to burn to the ground, for the fire to pass so they could warm themselves on the concrete steps. The wind howled and the sound of explosions filled the air. Propane tanks? Ammunition? They had no idea.

"I just kept going under," she said. It was the only way to survive. "And I kept saying, 'How long does it take for a house to burn down?' We were freezing."

She had tucked her phone into her shoe at the pool's edge. When she saw it next, it had melted.

You can read the entire incredible story here.

Do You See These Sneakers as Teal and Grey, or Pink and White?

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

Take a look at this photo: What color are these shoes?

I see teal and grey, and while many others do as well, apparently another chunk of the population sees these shoes as pink and white. Yep, it echoes that blue/black or white/gold dress photo that was making the rounds in 2015.

Here's what the shoes look like on Vans' website:

you can literally go on the vans website and find this exact shoe ?????? a teal & gray vans doesnt exist pic.twitter.com/loprfcNGBK

— Apparently Obi-Wan? (@TheLEGOCantina) October 11, 2017">

As with the dress, the reason each of us see the sneakers as one set of colors or the other is "a perception issue. It's the way the brain processes information that comes in," eye surgeon Paul Dougherty told TODAY in 2015. "Everyone's brain is different, so even though it's the same stimulus coming in, which it is, everyone processes the information differently."

Is there any more fitting metaphor for our society today, where we all look at the same issues—political, social, economic, religious—and cannot agree on what we see?

Design Job: Design Lift Trucks & Material Handling Equipment as an ID'er at The Raymond Corporation in Greene, NY

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

The Raymond Corporation, a part of Toyota Industries Corporation, has been a proud innovator of material handling solutions for more than 90 years—designing and building the best lift trucks and material handling equipment in the business. We employ a team of skilled and talented people who have made us a world-recognized leader in our industry. We're a company with the strong values of innovation, quality and service and a steady commitment to the place where we live and work.

View the full design job here

Linda Jiang on Designing the Essential Smartphone at Just 27 Years Old

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

Having the opportunity to design a smartphone that will go straight to market in under two years sounds like a daydream you'd have during an endless design school critique. For 27-year-old Linda Jiang, it's just reality. 

As the Lead Industrial Designer at Essential Products, Jiang has been hard at work designing the borderless Essential Phone, along with a slew of accessories to accompany it. The phone's accessory list most notably includes an itty-bitty 360-degree camera that attaches to the top of the phone's body, something no other company—not even competitors Samsung or Apple—has attempted thus far.

During a visit to our NYC office, Jiang slowly poured a slew of prototypes for both the Essential Phone and 360-degree camera onto our coffee table.

We were like kids in a candy shop as she explained step by step how her team was able to bring a combination of unexpected materials selection, game-changing technology and boundary-pushing form factor to the table within such a short timeframe. 

It turns out, a lot of Essentials' speedy success has to do with size. For being founded by Android co-founder Andy Rubin, Essential is an unexpectedly small company. The team, which Linda excitedly described as scrappy and ambitious, is made up of around 100 people. Their small size allows for easier communication between designers and engineers, making faster deadlines more realistic than larger competitors. 

On the overall design process

The Essential team's main focus over the past couple of years was designing a functional, borderless phone, meaning they needed to challenge the look of all smartphones currently on the market. Because Essential was working to develop a completely new design, the initial concept phase was key."We did a lot of concepting in the beginning for a device that had glass that went all the way to the edge so you could see a little bit of refraction. We did concepts where it's super bubbly so it feels like a meniscus, where the glass flows over the edge and is actually part of the camera corner," she explained. 

After initial concepts were received so excitedly by companies including Foxconn, the team started to reign in the creativity in order to refine and add in more functional details. "We locked ourselves in a room for a whole week and thought about the things that needed to go into the phone in terms of technology and function," she noted, referencing the grueling details that came with refining her team's designs. Simultaneously, the Essential team filed around 10 to 15 patents solely based on improving said details. 

On materials

When holding your iPhone or Android phone, their purposefully sleek designs feel as if nothing went into designing them at all—even though we know that's not the case. Designing a sleek form factor can only come after experimentation, and with Essential, a good amount of that experimentation was with materials. 

Various Essential Phone prototypes

After beginning with an all-titanium prototype featuring spring hinges as side keys, Jiang and her team decided to regroup and move on. "It was a good starting point, but we realized it was becoming too technical, and it was looking very, very masculine—you know, that Robocop kind of feel," said Jiang as she showed us some of the initial titanium prototypes. 

Titanium had other complications besides the obvious aesthetic ones. "On the back of the device we have so many components, and we realized that with titanium you need windows for all those components because they can't work through metal," Jiang explained. "So then we thought about how we could design those windows nicely. We went through a phase where we got super expressive imagining those windows to make them look purposeful, but throughout the whole exercise, it just felt wrong—our goal was to be premium, sophisticated and refined, and none of that felt refined to me." 

Ceramic backing prototypes

This decision to abandon titanium lead them to begin working with a material we never expected to hear within this context—ceramic. Ceramic is a bold material choice, but it served the purpose of hiding all of the components, including antenna breaks. According to Jiang, the Essential team has a tendency to embrace challenges, so working with ceramics encouraged instead of deterring them.

Specifically, the ceramic material forced the back of the phone to be flat because the more linear the ceramic part is, the stronger it will be. "At the time, we were doing this exercise where the back of the phone actually had a curvature to it, and that was because we wanted it to feel thinner around the edges. But we quickly realized that the whole accessories line would have to have a similar curvature to match, so that means future-proofing would be out of the question." Basically, the second generation of the Essential phone wouldn't be compatible with the original accessories—something we're glad at least one phone company is concerned with. 

Another challenge the team faced was camera positioning. The team decided the camera had to go on the top for user convenience, but as Jiang accurately phrased the challenge, "how were we going to put it on the top if it's borderless up there?" The result needed to be cutting into the display, which the manufacturer came around to after some persuading. "We cut into the display, and the top is the front-facing camera," she said. "The actual barrel goes into the display a little bit, so we had to find the right camera for that as well. On top of the camera, we were able to fit the proximity, the ALS sensor and even a speaker—so everything is pretty much up in that corner."

On the Essential phone's 360 degree camera capabilities

The main design element that sets the Essential Phone apart from other smartphones on the market is its ability to directly connect with a line of accessories—the most hyped being a playful 360-degree camera the team originally referred to as "the lollipop." "We realized that with the phone we were staying so muted and clean that over time it could get kind of boring to people", Jiang explains. We had a great story with the accessories because they come out on a more regular basis, so we can be a little bit more expressive with it."

360 degree camera prototypes

The camera attaches directly to the phone via magnet, which posed a whole new set of criteria Jiang and her team had to meet. The camera needed to be,"secure enough to where you can be at a concert waving it around and you don't feel like it's going to pop off, but at the same time easy to put on," Jiang explained. After looking into various mount systems and phone cases the camera could attach to, the team settled on specific magnets that are strong enough to keep the camera in place but still easy enough to take off. Magnets are also complicated because of credit cards, so figuring out how to shield the magnet so it only works with Essential accessories was, well, essential. 

4K 360 video can sound intimidating to people that don't feel connected to technology so the main goal when designing the camera was to make it, "super friendly so that anybody can use it." Interestingly enough, Jiang and her team achieved this though omitting buttons and an actual physical interface from the design. To avoid the camera feeling like a toy, they then added in more technical details to the body to make it look as high-tech as it actually is. 

On standing your ground as a woman in the tech world

When asked about the gender gap in Silicon Valley, Linda immediately spoke on the learning lessons she's had to experience in order to get where she is at such a young age, beginning with her time at Motorola straight out of school. 

"It's hard fighting in a meeting room with 20 guys," she recalls. "At first you start shadowing designers, but once and awhile they can't make it to a meeting, and it's just you and like three engineers that have been at Moto for fifteen years and a marketing guy who's telling you your design isn't sellable. I was 20 trying to say, 'Um don't you guys think this looks better?' Everyone kind of disregards you like you don't have a voice." She continued to explain that by learning how to voice her opinions in a confident way early on, she slowly earned respect and started gaining more decision-making power.

This dose of confidence also caught the eyes of industry leaders. When Jiang made the move to Playground, a startup incubator founded by Rubin, she was quickly recruited to join the Essential team early on—as one of the first three members including Rubin himself. 

The Essential Phone may not be as far-reaching as the Apple and Samsung smartphones we've become accustomed to quite yet, but all that does is motivate Jiang more. "Sometimes I'm so sick of this industry, I just want to go do something else like design toilets or something. Something completely unrelated to consumer electronics," she notes. "But then I remind myself that I'm not even 30 yet! There's way more to learn, so I just shut up and keep on grinding."

Looking towards the future, it's too early to predict how the Essential Phone will perform, but eventually, Jiang envisions it as the acting nucleus in an integrated system of accessories. The Essential Phone and its 360-degree camera are just the beginning for the young designer, and we can't wait to see what she comes up with next.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Essential Phone retails for $699 USD and is available to order here.

Reader Submitted: Gantri 3D Prints Table Lights Designed by Independent Designers Across the Globe

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

Gantri fuses 3D printing with design to create inspired table lights created by independent designers from all around the world.

View the full project here

Casio Designs Dastardly Line of "Perfect Selfie Cameras" That Are Selling Like Hotcakes

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

While the French government has decreed that retouched photos must be labeled as such, in hopes of reducing eating disorders, Casio is going in the opposite direction.

Now that every phone has a camera, compact cameras should be dead, right? Not to Casio they're not. The company has cleverly capitalized on human vanity, specifically the kind that has created a worldwide scourge of selfies, and designed the perfect standalone selfie camera:

The Casio Elixim EX-TR80 has reportedly been selling like hotcakes in Asia for $900 each. (It's not available in the 'States; instead we've got the EX-TR70, which runs about $530.)

What makes the camera so desirable to its target market is a combination of physical and digital features. On the physical side, it's got two flashes, one on either side of the lens, to make your face look more evenly-lit. There's also a kickstand so you can, I dunno, set the thing down and have it take photos of you while you eat salad with no dressing. On the digital side, the camera features myriad lighting options the consumer can dial in to feed their narcissism and distort their self-view.

Some examples:

You probably don't want people to see what your real skin looks like, but with the help of software you can make it look like nice, smooth polypropylene:

Want to appear darker or lighter than you actually are? No problem:

Got bags under your eyes, or do you feel your face is too fat? We all know that neither you nor society can accept that, so let's take care of that:

Following up on the success of the EX-TR80, Casio has now designed the TR Mini, which has the form factor of a makeup compact:

It also features the adjustable settings, but the innovation here is providing eight LEDs arrayed in a circle around the lens, providing ring-flash-like lighting:

It even has a freaking Mole Remover setting. I'm not kidding:

Hell in a handbasket, folks.

How Can North Korea Possibly Build Nukes? Because They Have 15,000 CNC Machines

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

Constructing a nuclear missile requires access to precision manufacturing techniques. Isolated North Korea, saddled as it is with poverty, starvation and maniacal leadership, is not known as a manufacturing powerhouse. But as it turns out, they started building their own CNC machines in the early '90s, according to Reuters. The working theory is that they got their hands on some Russian machines, reverse-engineered them and started building their own.

The article doesn't say what kind of CNC machines, but they're reportedly being used to build everything from missile parts to aluminum tubes that "could be used for nuclear centrifuges."

"It's cool if I smoke near this thing, right?" Kim Jong-Un's reaction after being told that his fifth steak of the day is ready and waiting. "My forearms looked like ham hocks in that last photo, so now I'm going to keep them behind my back." "By around 2010, it seemed they were capable of manufacturing various types of CNC machines," said Kim Heung-gwang, a North Korean defector who taught at Pyongyang's Hamhung Computer Technology University before defecting to South Korea.…Now, Kim Heung-gwang estimates, North Korea has about 15,000 CNC machines. He bases this on North Korean state media reports and photos as well as interviews with more than a dozen defectors who were scientists, professors or factory workers.

The article also reports that, despite trade sanctions, North Korea has managed to smuggle additional Chinese- and Swiss-made CNC machines into the country.

I find the story interesting because it mirrors something going on here in the 'States: The ongoing debate about 3D-printed firearms. In both instances, you have one group of people that want to be able to create their own weapons, and another group of people that don't want them to.

I'm referring to Defense Distributed, a Texas-based outfit whose mission is to enable folks to produce their own firearm parts using digital fabrication. They've got quite the following; when they publicly shared the 3D print files for printing their single-shot "Liberator" handgun, the files were downloaded 100,000 times in two days.

In any case, we're now seeing the true power of digital fabrication technology, perhaps not in a way that its creators intended.

Here's a Trick Old-School Photographers Used to Figure Out Other Photographers' Lighting Set-Ups

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

Here's a fascinating trick a professional, old-school film photographer once told me:

In the days before digital retouching, he said, a photographer's personal repertoire of lighting techniques were closely guarded secrets. The types of lighting modifiers they used, and where they placed them, was each photographer's secret sauce.

Pro photographers would often study the eyeballs of models in competitors' photographs, because occasionally they could see elements of their competitors' lighting set-ups reflected in the eyes, and could then reverse-engineer them.

Here are some examples of this by photographer Robert Hare:

Image by Robert Hare via Creative Live 1. Silver Umbrella
2. Umbrella Softbox
3. 24×32 Softbox
4. Octabox
5. Silver Parabolic Umbrella
6. 36×48 Softbox
7. Speedatron Beauty DishImage by Robert Hare Image by Robert Hare Image by Robert Hare Image by Robert Hare Image by Robert Hare Image by Robert Hare

You can deduce not only the shape of the modifier, but also the placement relative to the model's face, since we human beings happen to have these telltale reflectors shaped like perfect spheres in our eye sockets.

After Photoshop came out, the old-school shooter told me, some photographers started using it to retouch their lighting set-ups out of the models' eyeballs, to maintain their secrecy.

Nowadays, however, it seems to me that most shooters don't bother. Next time you see some artfully-lit photograph of a model, look closely at his or her eyes, and chances are you'll see some part of their set-up.

Idea For a Super-Compact Laptop Design: Use Spinning LED "Fans" As the Screen

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

The thing that dictates the precise size of every laptop is the screen. Pixels are relayed to us through a static piece of glass, and we carry this rectangle around with us.

But I had a thought after seeing the following on Instagram: What if the screen wasn't a rectangle at all, but a thin rod and a hub? This type of display technology already exists:

The boys brought back some cool toys from their last China trip! This is one strip of LEDs working like a fan. Keep watching towards the end for the full 3D graphics ??????

A post shared by Big Screen Video (@bigscreenvideo_au) on Sep 28, 2017 at 5:30pm PDT

Sure, the resolution is primitive, but conventional monitors once had the same problem. (Also note that in person you would not see the rotating bands of darkness; that's an aftereffect from the shutter of the camera recording the video.) It would be interesting to see a "laptop" design that consisted of a spinning LED bar for a screen, and some equally compact form of input device, like one of those laser-based virtual keyboards.

Admittedly a circular screen might take some getting used to, but I'd be very curious to see what talented UI/UX designers might come up with to make a round screen advantageous to use.

Reader Submitted: BeamCNC Works with Common Materials to Help Produce Grid Beam Projects 

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

BeamCNC is a CNC mill originally developed for making a construction system called Grid Beam, but it can also perform custom tasks via gcode files. BeamCNC is the easiest way to produce Grid Beam—the eco friendly modular construction system that you can use to build many things. BeamCNC can make Grid Beam of different sizes from 20x20mm to 50x50mm of any length, parts can be reused and projects are highly customizable.

View the full project here

Hand Tool School #48: How to Get Consistent Roundovers With a Block Plane

Core 77 - 1 hour 45 min ago

Today's tip is a simple, often overlooked block plane technique. Just because its a straight blade doesn't mean you can't cut a roundover:


This "Hand Tool School" series is provided courtesy of Shannon Rogers, a/k/a The Renaissance Woodworker. Rogers is founder of The Hand Tool School, which provides members with an online apprenticeship that teaches them how to use hand tools and to build furniture with traditional methods.

How Oculus and Facebook Are Attempting to Make VR Social

Design News - 16 hours 25 min ago

Anyone who follows the VR (virtual reality) space knew it was only a matter of time. Facebook-owned Oculus VR has officially gone untethered. At its recent Oculus Connect conference the maker of the popular Rift VR headset announced two new developments on its path to fully untethered virtual reality. But behind it all is a strategy to take social media off of your 2D screen and into the virtual world.

During a conference keynote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the audience that Facebook has a goal to bring one billion people into VR, and key to achieving that is to hit what he called the sweet spot between the affordability of mobile VR devices like Samsung's Gear VR and the power of PC-based VR, but without the tethering.

Oculus Go is a standalone mobile VR headset that will be fully compatible with apps developed for the Samsung Gear VR. (Image source: Facebook / Oculus)

In early 2018 the company will be releasing Oculus Go, a mobile VR headset aimed at delivering the same mobile VR experience as the Gear VR and its ilk, only without the need for a high-end mobile phone to act as the screen and brains of the whole thing. While it doesn't offer any positional tracking, the fully self-contained headset does feature three degrees of freedom (3DOF) head tracking and the same 110-degree field of view as the Rift headset, as well as built-in spatial audio. At a $199 price point the Oculus Go is slightly more expensive than the Gear VR, but perhaps Oculus is betting consumers will pay a little bit more for a standalone experience and factor in that they won't need a $600+ phone to make it all work.

The big selling point for developers is that the Go is binary compatible with the Gear VR so any developers already creating apps for Samsung's device will find they already work on the Oculus Go with the same SDK, even with Unity or Unreal Engine integration.

Inside-Out Tracking Is On the Way

Mobile VR is nice for some experiences, but what enthusiasts have really been waiting for is a true untethered VR experience, one that allows positional tracking without the need for an array of external sensors. Microsoft has already taken the lead on this with this series of mixed reality (MR) headsets from the likes of Acer, Dell,HP, and even Samsung that are set to begin releasing as soon as later this year. Microsoft has said that a staple of its MR hardware will be inside-out tracking, wherein internal sensors in the headsets will track users' position and movement, removing the need for external sensors and cumbersome external wiring.


Facebook VP of VR Hugo Barra told the Oculus Connect audience that Santa Cruz uses IR sensors embedded into the controllers themselves as well as the headset to give users a full range of motion. (Image source: Facebook / Oculus Connect)


Though the Oculus Rift is the headset that brought VR back into the collective consciousness, the company has been relatively mum on its plans for a headset with inside-out tracking. Last year at Oculus Connect the company gave scant details and revealed an early prototype of a headset codenamed Project Santa Cruz. But this year Hugo Barra, the VP of VR at Facebook, unveiled a lot more about Project Santa Cruz, including a new, sleeker working prototype as well as new hand-tracked controllers.

Barra told the keynote audience that Project Santa Cruz's new controllers use the same sensor technology that allows for inside-out tracking in the Santa Cruz headset in conjunction with a constellation of tiny infrared LEDs embedded into the devices. The headset tracks the controllers with four ultra-wide angle IR sensors embedded into its front. Barra said the placement of sensors allows a greater range of motion for users, even allowing the controllers to be held over the users' head. He said Oculus initially tried to use only two sensors but found that “tracking controllers with just your visual field of view in VR really restrict your experience and what you can do with your hands.”

Oculus is expecting to release developer version of Santa Cruz sometime in early 2018.


Social Will Come First

Clearly Oculus wants to maintain its position as a pack leader in the VR headset market, and it has unique incentive to do so as a subsidiary of Facebook. One must remember, while Facebook has been dipping its toes in everything from AI to drones and autonomous cars, the company is still the house that social media built.

“Nothing is ever going to replace being with someone in person or doing something physically but when we can't experience those things, when we run up against the limits of reality, VR is going to make our reality that much better,” Zuckerberg said.

Earlier this year Zuckerberg announced Facebook Spaces, a VR environment where users can essentially do all the things they do on Facebook – talk, share photos, watch videos, play games, ect – but now in a 3D virtual world. This year Zuckerberg demoed Facebook Spaces at Oculus Connect by taking a rather ill-advised virtual trip to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico that drew immediate criticism.

There's also the matter of graphics. Right now the look of Facebook Spaces is more akin to Second Life or the Nintendo Wii than Ready Player One or a William Gibson novel. However, Facebook has been the first company to lay claim to VR as a social experience independent of being a space for multiplayer video games or collaborative work.

If Facebook wants the public to embrace social media in 3D environments over 2D screens its going to have to make the experience as graceful and comfortable as possible. And untethered, inside-out tracked VR that offers a full range of movement and motion is going to be a big part of that.

There is also a question of how Oculus will fit into the larger VR/AR/MR landscape. Santa Cruz will be a PC peripheral, which would put it in direction competition with Microsoft's MR headsets. While it is unclear how Santa Cruz may implement into the Windows ecosystem, it could present a major monkey wrench to Microsoft's vision for a world in which VR headsets are as ubiquitous and easy to use as computer mice and keyboards.

Zuckerberg's bold goal of a billion VR users won't happen with just gamers, the core audience for VR right now, and it won't even come when you add in enterprise users. The billion Zuckerberg is talking about are those billions of Facebook users who aren't necessarily gamers, designers, or engineers, but who log into Facebook daily. But if it's going to get its core user base to embrace a headset over a computer or smartphone screen Facebook knows the price is going to have to be right, and the technology is definitely going to have to be the very best it can be.


ESC Silicon Valley is Back! 
The Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) is back in Silicon Valley and it’s bigger than ever. Over three days, Dec. 5-7, 2017, receive in-depth education geared to drive a year’s worth of work. Uncover software design innovation, hardware breakthroughs, fresh IoT trends, product demos, and more that will change how you spend time and money on your next project. Click here to register today


Chris Wiltz is a senior editor at Design News covering emerging technologies, including VR/AR, AI, and robotics.

New Interconnect IP Supports Machine Learning in Autonomous Cars

Design News - 17 hours 47 min ago

A new chip interconnect technology offers promise for autonomous car manufacturers who want to employ machine learning in their vehicles.

Ncore 3 Cache Coherent Interconnect IP enables chip designers to create system-on-chip (SoC) devices that mix central processors (CPUs), graphics processors (GPUs), digital signal processors (DSPs), and hardware accelerators, all of which are being increasingly employed in self-driving vehicles. “This allows you to build the supercomputer-on-a-chip technology that’s needed to implement real-time machine learning,” said Kurt Shuler, vice president of marketing for ArterisIP, an intellectual property (IP) vendor and developer of the Ncore 3 interconnect IP. ArterisIP will have experts on hand at the upcoming ARM TechCon 2017 to discuss the technology.


Ncore 3 Cache Coherent Interconnect IP allows simulatenous use of the AMBA CHI and ACE IP protocols. It also integrates with other chips using a CCIX controller to create multi-die coherent systems. (Source: ArterisIP)


The new interconnect technology, introduced at the recent 2017 Linley Processor Conference, is especially important now, given the growing trend toward the use of machine learning in vehicles. To endow a vehicle’s computers with the ability to learn, engineers increasingly need more powerful processors, and they need those processors out near the sensors, as well as at the vehicle’s central computer.

“In each one of those processing nodes, whether it’s out by the camera or in by the executive (computing) function, you need chips with multiple processing elements – essentially supercomputers-on-a-chip,” Shuler said. Often, those chips may incorporate up to a half-dozen different types of programmable hardware, Shuler added.

Indeed, some high-end chips may now have five to ten CPUs and as many as 20 hardware accelerators, Shuler said. The chip’s interconnects tie those disparate elements together.

The key to unifying the performance of those elements is the use of so-called “cache coherence,” Shuler said. By bringing cache coherence to an interconnect, Ncore 3 provides a simpler way for the various elements within that supercomputer-on-a-chip to share data. “If you don’t have cache coherence, it becomes more difficult to program,” Shuler said. “Cache coherence gives you one common view of the memory for the whole system.”

At the same time, Shuler said, Ncore 3 enables chip designers to mix two different types of communication bus protocols. ARM Ltd.'s ACE IP, a legacy cache coherent communication protocol, can be used alongside AMBA CHI, a newer protocol from ARM. “Our customers want to be able to use them together, and up to now it’s been difficult to do that,” Shuler said. “Ncore makes it easy for them to use both.”

Ncore 3 also integrates a controller based on the CCIX standard, which permits cache coherent connection of multiple dies with differing instruction sets, be they FPGAs, GPUs, ASICs, or other elements.

The emphasis on cache coherence will be critical going forward, not only in machine learning for autonomous cars, but also for network processing and 5G wireless technology, experts say. All of those applications will need the computing power provided by a mixture of different processing technologies. “If you’re doing 20 processing elements on a chip, and you want to be able to write software for it, you can’t do it without cache coherence,” Shuler told us.

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.


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Furniture Designers: Here's a Very Cool Feature to Add to a Desk

Core 77 - Sun, 2017-10-15 18:58

As someone with a messy desk, I so want this feature added to it:

This desk was designed and built by Rob Day and Jeremy Kehoe, whose firm was called Carroll Street Woodworkers. They also designed this nifty bureau with push-button functionality (and I have zero idea how the mechanism works):

It's really the first feature that I want though, as I'm always casting about searching for my favorite pen.

By the bye, I say their firm "was called" because, sadly, after making a splash at the 2011 Interior Design Show in Toronto, they appear to have fallen off the face of the earth. Their website no longer exists and it appears the company has shut down. If Day and Kehoe are still designing furniture, either together or independently, I can't find them.

So…would it be stealing an idea if the firm that came up with it no longer exists?

I So Desperately Want This Automatic Clothes Ironing Machine

Core 77 - Sun, 2017-10-15 18:58

Is there any domestic chore worse than ironing? It takes forever, the design of most irons suck and there seems to be little correlation between the shape of my clothes and the shape of the board.

I so desperately need this automatic clothes ironing machine, called the Effie:

They'll be taking preorders for it in early 2018.

Only problem is, the darn thing rings in at £699 (USD $926).

Check Out This Mechanism That Enables an Armless Man to Drive a Car

Core 77 - Sun, 2017-10-15 18:58

Imagine if you had to design a driving interface for an end user with no arms. How would they steer? Obviously the mechanism must either be mouth- or foot-operated, but what would the physical action be?

Check out how Richie Parker, who was born with no arms, solved the problem with his sweet '64 Impala Super Sport:

Parker is an engineer for Hendricks Motorsports, an automotive engineering company that fields no less than four NASCAR teams and has five championships to their credit. In the video below, you'll see how Parker is able to do CAD work. Also, check out the ingenious contrivance that he's rigged up that allows him to eat with silverware: