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Design News - 6 hours 31 min ago



Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper. 

Pacific Design & Manufacturing , North America’s premier conference that connects you with thousands of professionals across the advanced design & manufacturing spectrum, will be back at the Anaheim Convention Center February 5-7, 2019! Don’t miss your chance to connect and share your expertise with industry peers during this can't-miss event.  Click here to pre-register for the event today!


How Shared Mobility Will Change EV and Battery Design

Design News - 7 hours 31 min ago

Automotive engineers and battery makers will need to consider how use-cases will drive the design of their products in the age of shared mobility, an expert will tell attendees at the upcoming Battery Show.

“People are going to do what’s easiest and most convenient for them,” Don Tappan, vice president of the venture capital firm, Braemer Energy Ventures, told Design News. “For a long time, that meant having their own car and driving it. But what’s easiest and most convenient now is to have options. And carmakers need to be thoughtful about that.”

Don Tappan of Braemer Energy Ventures: “If you want to have a big battery that can solve 99.9% of your use cases, it can get very expensive and your battery capacity can be under-utilized.” (Image source: Braemer Energy Ventures)

The dawn of ridesharing companies, such as Lyft, Uber, Maven, and others, will change the way consumers in the future think about their vehicles, Tappan said. And if manufacturers are prepared for that change, it could affect the size, capacity, and chemistry of future electric vehicle batteries as well as hybridization, intelligence, and even the crashworthiness of those vehicles.

In the future, there will be a wide spectrum of use-cases, ranging from those who drive 50 miles into the city to work every day using their own car to those who live in the city and walk to their offices, using ridesharing services to fill the occasional need for a car. And within that spectrum lies a range of powertrain and ownership models that will serve the needs of consumers, Tappan said. As a result, automakers will need to be aware that some use-cases may require EVs with big batteries, while others call for medium-size batteries and still others need small batteries combined with internal combustion engines.

Shared mobility will play a big role in the future because it will serve to fill in the gaps between different types of vehicles. For example, owners who have a short daily commute and a charge station at the office may need an EV with only a small- or medium-sized battery. If they take longer trips on weekends, they could use ridesharing or rental cars, he added. “So instead of the electric vehicle having to be everything to everyone, it can be one thing to one person on one day, and one thing to another person on another day,” Tappan said.

Battery capacity could also be closely linked with charging infrastructure. For example, Uber drivers who use their cars 14 hours a day could need bigger batteries if charging opportunities are unavailable or smaller batteries if fast-charge stations are abundant in their area, Tappan said.

Consumers, too, will need to think about their most cost-effective options. “The point is, big batteries are expensive,” Tappan told us. "If you want to have a big battery that will solve 99.9% of your use-cases, it can get very expensive and your battery capacity can be under-utilized. Whereas, if you only need to solve 75% of your use cases, you may be able to get by with a smaller, less-expensive battery.”

Shared mobility may be a key to that 75% scenario, Tappan said. “If the sharing is done properly and with the right infrastructure, then sharing may be easier than owning,” he added.


As ridesharing grows, it will profoundly affect the design choices that are now facing engineers. And those choices will become clearer with time—especially as shared mobility data becomes more available. “When you have millions of vehicles, it changes the world,” Tappan said. “So you need to take that real-world feedback and apply it to next-generation vehicles. That way, you can keep the designs moving in parallel with consumer demands.”

Don Tappan will discuss shared mobility and how it affects design in a session called EVs and Hybrids in a New Mobility Future on September 11 in Novi, MI.  

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.


North America's Premier Battery Conference.
Join our in-depth conference program with over 100 technical discussions covering topics from new battery technologies and chemistries to BMS and thermal management. 
The Battery Show. Sept. 11-13, 2018, in Novi, MI. Register for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company UBM.

Novel, Light-Based Data Storage Eyed for Future Data Warehousing

Design News - 8 hours 31 min ago

Researchers in Australia are paving the way to considerably extending the amount of data storage that future devices can hold. This development stems from a novel and energy-efficient approach to storing data using light.

Specifically, researchers from the University of South Australia and University of Adelaide—collaborating with researchers at the University of New South Wales—have developed tiny, nano-sized crystals of salt encoded with data using light from a laser. Scientists are eying the new storage technique for next-generation storage for unprecedented amounts of data, such as those currently stored in data warehouses, said Nick Riesen, a research fellow at the University of South Australia.

Exceeding Limits

“We have been looking at a novel optical-data-storage technique with the potential to greatly extend beyond the limits of traditional data storage,” he told Design News. “The technology allows for multiple bits to be stored at a single point, and the technique has the potential to be extended to 3D platforms for potentially tera- to petabyte storage.”

With the explosion of technologies like social media and cloud computing, much more data exists in digital form than even five years ago. While data these days can be stored in the cloud, data-storage devices like hard-drive disks and solid-state storage, which are current options for hardware-based storage, are reaching their limits, Riesen said.

Enter the new method developed by Riesen and University of Adelaide PhD student Xuanzhao Pan. It is based on nanocrystals with light-emitting properties, which can be efficiently switched on and off in patterns that represent digital information. Researchers used lasers to alter the electronic states, and therefore the fluorescence properties, of the crystals, they said.

University of Adelaide PhD student Xuanzhao Pan (left) and University of South Australia research fellow Nic Riesen have developed a data-storage technology that could replace current magnetic-disk and solid-state technologies to provide unprecedented levels of storage capacity. (Image source: University of South Australia)

The team’s work demonstrates rewritable data storage in crystals that are hundreds of times smaller than that visible with the human eye. Researchers showed that these fluorescent nanocrystals could represent a promising alternative to traditional magnetic and solid-state data storage, as well as Blu-ray discs, Riesen said.

“The demonstration has shown optical data-storage approaching the single nanocrystal level,” he explained. “It’s unique in that it allows for energy-efficient, multilevel optical-data encoding that is rewritable and also at the nanoscale. This demonstration serves as a building block for 3D memory platforms with the potential for very high storage capacities.”

Key to the material used in the crystals is samarium, the ion of which can be switched with UV light, he explained. “It is this switching that is the basis of the data storage, as it alters the fluorescence properties of the material,” he said. “The host material BaFCl (an alkaline-earth fluorohalide) is critical in ensuring the switching is efficient.” The team published a paper on its work in the journal Optics Express.


Riesen said that the main commercial market for the technology would be archival data storage for big data sets either in the form of 2D or 3D memory. “The technology would be ideal for long-term archival data storage in warehouses, due to the low potential cost of such a medium compared to, for instance, solid state drive technologies,” he said. There also is potential for use in the broader consumer market, Riesen added.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.


Pacific Design & Manufacturing, North America’s premier conference that connects you with thousands of professionals across the advanced design & manufacturing spectrum, will be back at the Anaheim Convention Center February 5-7, 2019! Don’t miss your chance to connect and share your expertise with industry peers during this can't-miss event. Click here to pre-register for the event today!


Angelpoise Releases "Mini Mini" Version of Their Iconic Task Lamp

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

By now you've surely absorbed our must-read series on the Angelpoise, the classic task lamp invented by a 1920s freelance car designer. The iconic design has been put into service by everyone from architects to Pixar, and now the company's producing a half-size version that can be toted around--and plugged into your laptop, as it's powered by USB.

Offspring of the ever-popular 1970's Model 90, the 90 Mini Mini has all the versatility and personality of a classic Anglepoise® lamp wrapped up in its tiny form. At half the size of a standard desk lamp it's designed to fit just about anywhere - perfect if you're working on the go or in a low-lit coffee shop. The 90 Mini Mini is powered by USB for enhanced portability and has a dimmable integrated LED for focused light for up to 20,000 hours.

At press time the lamp was only showing up on Angelpoise's UK website, and appeared absent on the American site. Are we Yanks being punished for our "bigger is better" mentality?

Adding a Simple Design Improvement to Chopsticks

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

After you get the hang of 'em, chopsticks are pretty darned handy; and once you've eaten a salad with them, particularly a messy one, you'll never go back to using a fork and knife.

Because the design is so simple and thousands of years old, you'd figure there's nothing you could do to improve upon them. But dining goods company AltGalley is trying. Their Hover Chopsticks are made out of carbon fiber, which is admittedly overkill; they claim the materials choice offers better grip for both your hands and the food you're picking up with the business end.

But the one smart thing they have added is angled tips, meaning when you set them down on a table, you don't have to make that little paper chopstick rest to keep the tips off of the tabletop.

Volkswagen's Spektrum Program Offers a Whopping 40 Different Color Options

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

This is my car. There are many others like it but this one is mine.

Following my "A Designer Buying a Car" saga, yes, I purchased a 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. I've logged 2,500 miles and am super happy with it--except the color; I wanted it in silver, but VW doesn't offer it, so I went with this dark grey.

The Alltrack is only offered in seven fairly boring colors, because us station wagon buyers are a bunch of squares. But folks who purchase VW's sporty hot hatch, the Golf R, are a lot more image-conscious…

…so Volkswagen has made the seemingly crazy decision to offer the 2019 Golf R in 40 different colors:

Their color initiative is called the Spektrum Program, and some of the colors are classics: The "Viper Green Metallic" is from the third-generation Europe-market Scirocco; the "Mars Red" graced the first-generation GTI; and the "Ginster Yellow" last draped the 1997 Driver's Edition GTI.

A builder tool will soon be added to www.vw.com, where customers can test out all 40 different colors, manipulating the vehicle with a 360-degree colorizer. Also on its way to all dealership showrooms is a color sample kit, which will allow customers to view each of the 40 colors duplicated on paint shop-quality color cards. To order, customers should visit their local dealer. After submitting an order, the build and delivery time is approximately two to four months.

Price tag: $2,500. Which makes me wonder: Is that cheaper or more expensive than taking it to a custom paint shop?

This Mobile Interface Aims to End Your Phone Addiction Through Simple Design

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

"Trap OS" won a Notable award in the Interaction category of this year's Core77 Design Awards.

TrapOS is a productivity and performance driven mobile operating system designed for simplicity and ease of use across cultural and physical boundaries. It is intended to be a truly universal global interface where users of all abilities and locales can have the same high-quality experience.


TrapOS is a productivity and performance driven mobile operating system designed for simplicity and ease of use across cultural and physical boundaries. It is intended to be a universal global interface where users of all abilities and locales share the same high-quality experience.


When phones have an extremely low battery level, they can go into what is called Battery Trap Mode. This auxiliary mode can only support rudimentary operations with very low processing and power needs.

The goal was to create a complete operating system that could run entirely in Battery Trap Mode; hence the name TrapOS.

Though we may never achieve a fully functional OS in such extreme conditions, the pursuit is noble. There is always a premium on performance and battery life.

Gains in performance and battery life can improve existing devices as well as resurrecting devices that were once obsolete. Product life cycles are extended and older devices are relevant again – potentially having a positive environmental impact.

This could also lower the entry price point for smartphone ownership, putting technology in economies where it was once out of reach.


We realized very early that creating a universal operating system would require us to remove any branding and other potential biases.

Luckily, most branding was removed in our text-only system –omitting any branding via app icon artwork.

Roboto Monospace was our chosen. Roboto because it is readily available on most Android devices Monospace was critical because all characters are equally spaced. This removes any spatial bias between characters – ensuring that any offenses or misinterpretations are merely coincidental.


Many people don't consider text as technology but there are many benefits to using a text only system. Here are a few to consider:

1. Text on a black background has far fewer illuminated pixels and much lower power consumption.

2. Rendering text takes less processing power than graphics. As a result, TrapOS has better performance and increased stability.

3. White text on black has the highest contrast ratio possible. This maximizes legibility for all users.

4. Apps are ordered alphabetically. This method of organization is used by many cultures and has withstood the test of time.

5. Text scales uniformly with no customization to base Android. Its supports users of all visual needs.

6. Localization is standard on all text in Android, making translation effortless.


By switching to a text-only system, we realized that we had an opportunity to simplify the architecture of the apps as well. Currently, smartphones use an arbitrary system or a most-frequently-used model. We felt like a single alphabetized list was the most simple, intuitive, and democratic strategy.


As a prototype, we explored removing all graphic elements including system navigation and status bar iconography. This proved to be problematic because controls, percentages, and fractions do not translate into text elegantly. We realized that if we retreated a bit from this hardline text-only stance that it would actually be more intuitive and reduce cognitive load.


The use of a single alphabetized list for apps with system iconography for status and navigation proved to be the most elegant compromise for text and graphic delineation.


An unexpected result of TrapOS is that users are required to be more deliberate in their actions – freeing them of visual traps and improving digital health. This is a delightful revelation in the face of cognitive hijacking and unwanted digital addiction.


People who prefer simplicity - Kids who are addicted to their phones - Adults who worry about digital health - Software engineers who like text UIs - People who are productivity driven - Anyone who need increased legibility - People who use many languages - People who are not tech savvy - Work devices, not social devices - Low cost devices


Visit the Core77 Design Awards website to view the 2018 Interaction Honorees

Design Job: Sick of This Heat Wave? Help Timeship Design Cryogenic Human Pods for Future Reanimation

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

A vertical cryogenic storage vessel design has been developed to produce a variable temperature environment using a pool of boiling liquid nitrogen as the refrigerant. The successful candidate will be responsible for the further design and implementation of TCV cooling system components

View the full design job here

Sketching Up a Tesla Tank

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

This week industrial designer Eric Strebel's got a sketching video up. "I recently visited Norfolk, Virginia and was inspired by all the military hardware on display in the area," he writes. "You can see some of the amazing ships in the beginning of the video. This got me to thinking about why today's military hardware is not electric or even hybrid.

"I decided to sketch up a light infantry concept vehicle for the brave men and women of the Armed Forces. It's a sketching tutorial as well. I rough in the form of the vehicle with a 10% grey marker to work out the proportions, then switch to a Hi-Tec C pen to flesh out the details of the tank. Finally I use a series of darker values to add more form to the craft."


Women's Pockets Really Suck

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

Last month at the DMV, I was switching my driver's license over to my new state of residence. The clerk showed me a screen where I could double-check my data, and I saw that she had accidentally listed my gender as female. "Can you backspace over that," I asked, "or do I have to get the operation?"

Aside from said operation, I think the biggest hassle of switching from male to female would be adjusting to women's clothes. Especially the lack of carrying space. The notion that females should be bereft of usable pocket space and forced to carry a dedicated, expensive storage object--whose fashionableness is meant to invite judgment from others--seems crazy to me.

"There are few things more frustrating than collecting your belongings only to realize that the pockets in your pants are too small to hold them," writes designer Jan Diehm and journalist-engineer Amber Thomas. "Or worse, the fabric designed to look like a pocket is merely for decoration and doesn't open at all." The pair decided to get to the bottom of shallow women's pockets using data: "[We found] complaints and anecdotes galore but little data illustrating just how inferior women's pockets really are to men's. So, we went there."

In an article in The Pudding, Diehm and Thomas created visualizations based on studying pockets from men and women's pants from 20 popular-in-America brands. By overlaying the pocket shapes of 80 pairs of jeans, they revealed the following:

Image credit: Jan Diehm/Amber Thomas/The Pudding Image credit: Jan Diehm/Amber Thomas/The Pudding

They also created an interactive to show how some commonly-carried items do (or don't) fit into each gender's pocket:

Image credit: Jan Diehm/Amber Thomas/The Pudding

We don't want to steal all of The Pudding's images, and there are plenty more that we recommend you read on their site: Skinny jeans vs. straight, front pockets and rear pockets, a breakdown by brand and more.

"Pockets, unlike purses, are hidden, private spaces," the pair concluded. "By restricting the space in which women can keep things safe and retain mobility of both hands, we are also restricting their ability to 'navigate public spaces, to carry seditious (or merely amorous) writing, or to travel unaccompanied.' If you think this idea is outdated, think about the last time a woman asked her boyfriend/male friend/anyone in men's pants to carry her phone/wallet/keys on an outing.

Read the full article here.

The Digit, a Retro Mechanical-Keyed Calculator

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

Hong-Kong-based Design firm Lofree came out of nowhere last year, quickly racking up three six-figure crowdfunding successes: $744,199 for their Dot Keyboard, $183,618 for their Four Seasons Keyboard and $185,499 for their Poison Speaker. In this age of hard-looking glass rectangles, the company's tactile, geometric, soft-radii-sporting retro-styled objects seem to have struck a chord with consumers.

Their new crowdfunding campaign is for the Lofree Digit, a "Retro Mechanical Calculator:"

Though there's still 29 days left in the campaign, the Digit has already reached critical mass, garnering $17,764 in pledges on a $1,273 goal. Buy-in starts at $29, and the device is expected to retail for $49 when it comes out later this year.

A Portable, Convenient, Swappable Renewable Energy Source: Honda's Mobile Power Packs

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

With their Mobile Power Pack, Honda's got a brilliant plan to make renewable, zero-emissions energy super-convenient. To see if their plan will work, the company is beginning trials this year in heavily-populated, heavily-polluted Indonesia, the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Indonesia is the world's third largest market for motorcycles, most of which run on gasoline. So this December Honda will be trialing electric motorcycles there, powered by their Mobile Power Packs, which resemble electric jerrycans.

The idea is that rather than having to plug in and wait while their bikes top off, end users can simply stop at a Honda charging facility, pull a nearly-empty battery out of their bike and swap it for a freshly-charged one.

These Mobile Battery Packs would be charged from four different renewable energy sources: Solar, wind, water power or biomass.

Should the trials show promise, it's not difficult to imagine these battery packs replacing gasoline generators as emergency domestic power backup sources, in addition to powering small vehicles. Everyone from motorcyclists to disaster preppers to campers could benefit from these.

Michael DiTullo on Why Designers Shouldn't Limit Themselves to a Single Product Category

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

This interview is part of a series featuring the presenters participating in this year's Core77 Conference, "Now What? Launching & Growing Your Creative Business" , a one-day event aimed to equip attendees with tangible skills and toolkits to help produce and promote their products or services.

Throughout his professional career, seasoned industrial designer Michael DiTullo has put an emphasis on designing everything instead of pigeonholing himself into a single category. This mentality has not only led him to work for companies like Nike, Frog and Sound United, but it has also exposed him to exciting side projects, like designing custom cars with ICON Motors. Michael has also been a key member of the Core77 community since the very beginning, moderating our discussion boards, contributing articles and even producing sketching tutorials to help our audience learn and grow as designers. In 2017, Michael took a leap he's been waiting to take for years by opening his own design studio, Micheal DiTullo LLC, where he is already hard at work on a variety of exciting opportunities.

We sat down with Michael, who will be leading a workshop at the 2018 Core77 Conference called "The 20 Year Plan", to learn more about how to set goals and stick with them and when to deviate from your career plan:

How did your interest in design begin?

When I was a kid, we used to get this thing called the Sears Catalog that was like Amazon as a book. It came once a year and was just this massive catalog. I was probably 10 or 11 years old, and pretty much every day when I would come home from school, I'd get out the Sears catalog and open it to a random page. Whatever was on that page, I would try to imagine what the future of that object would be and draw it. I think what I do is really connected to who I am because that's just something I was innately doing. 

I didn't come from a family that really knew anything about art or design per se—we're pretty middle class. When my parents asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said I wanted to draw stuff from the future. I still think that's probably one of the most digestible descriptions of what I do.  

Sketching at the 2017 SQ1 conference

I've always fought against being pigeonholed. I think working on everything helps inform you and make you better. I remember when I interviewed at Nike, one of the people that interviewed me said the hardest thing about Nike's environment for me would be that there are so many designers. He could tell that it wasn't enough for me to design the shoe. I wanted to work on the branding, the ad campaign, the retail installation and everything. I just tried to never lose that, and I really do think it's fun to work across all those categories. I've tried to do that over my whole career.

That falls in line with your advice to make a 20 year plan versus a five year plan. Was planning your career so thoroughly something that happened naturally, or was it a very deliberate move?

I've always been really fascinated by designers like Raymond Loewy and Eliot Noyes, the first corporate design VP at IBM, because of their broad range in careers. I wanted to chart a course for myself where I could eventually make this studio happen. I thought, "What are the things that I need to do before I start the studio so I can have confidence in myself and feel like I could walk into a room and add value?" 

I started my career at a really small five-person firm. It was really similar to what I'm doing now. I loved it. Then, going to Nike at the time, there were 300 designers. It was really easy to feel lost there. You get this sense of, "if I don't come in this week, does it even matter?" Scott Patt, who is now the VP of Design at Cole Haan, sat next to me at the time and told me that I should create a career map for myself and pitch it to John Hoke, the VP of Design at Nike, to see what he says. I had been thinking about a lot of these things, but I had never really put pen to paper—or clicks to illustrator in this case—and really mapped it out. 

Leucadia Custom Knives Layer Knife "The way I look at it, people don't pay you for what you want to do. People pay you for what they know you can do."

I shared it with John, and he told me he had never seen anybody do this before. He said, "The weird thing is that you have it as this converging reality and in actuality, it will be the opposite. It will be diverging. The more things you do, the more things you can do, so the more discerning you'll need to be to figure out the things that really align with who you are." I've been adjusting that map over the last 15 years. I've been adjusting that mental vision for myself and making sure to control my own definition of myself because it's really easy to accept other definitions that people put on you.

Olympic torch proposals So this is an ongoing process for you—it's never totally over?

No. No. The window keeps moving. Reality keeps happening. Different things come along the way. When I left Frog, I was considering starting my own studio, but the opportunity came up to go to Sound United and it was an opportunity to, in effect, create my own studio within an already existing company. I thought this would be an amazing additional experience. That was an example of an adjustment—I gave myself a five year window in which to extend what I wanted to do. 

While you were at larger corporations like Nike, how did you balance those projects with diversifying your portfolio? 

In that effort to never be pigeonholed, I've always been running my own projects on the side. I also just get bored easily. When I went from consulting to working at Nike, once in a while a project would come my way that wasn't competitive in any way, shape, or form. 

One time ICON Motors approached me about doing a project, so I checked in with the leadership at Nike to ask them if they would mind if I worked on the project. Their response was, "Well, technically you can't do it, but in actuality, we know you're just going to do it anyway, so just keep letting us know about these side projects so we are aware." I ended up working on probably 15 or 16 different ICON vehicles. In fact, the first one that ever went to production, Nike asked if they could have it shipped to the campus so that it could be on display there.

With an ICON Dog CJ3b Michael helped design "I think for creativity to flourish, you need that trust—you need that little bit of room to be able to go off on your own a little bit to explore."

The way I look at it, people don't pay you for what you want to do. People pay you for what they know you can do. While I was at Nike, I didn't want to be pigeonholed as a footwear designer. Instead, I was trying to do everything I could within the Nike system—collaborating with guys that were working on watches and eyewear, working on branding, etc. 

By working for ICON, I was trying to get experience outside of the Nike, where I could build my portfolio as well as become practiced in getting contracts drawn up and getting payment terms in place. All of that really accelerated when I went to Frog because I had the chance to experience what that's like on a big scale, a 500 person firm. Then going to Sound United and bringing a lot of similar tracks to production. That gives me confidence to walk into a room and be able say, "Well, I've worked on something like that—let me tell you what worked and what didn't work." 

Do you think it's important for everyone to have experience working at different types and sizes of firms before going out on your own? The Ride Radiant E-Bike

It works for me. That's what I needed, but I think everybody is different. If you look at Hartmut Esslinger who founded Frog in the late '60s, he did that right out of college. There are different paths for different people. For me, that diverse experience has been tremendously helpful. I think that working in the field for 20 years has helped me not only in terms of experience, but I've also had a lot of time to improve myself. I've made a good amount of connections over the years, and that really helps because people trust you. I think for creativity to flourish, you need that trust—you need that little bit of room to be able to go off on your own a little bit to explore. 

Since starting your own firm, what have been some of the most exciting projects you've worked on?

We've only been in business for about 19 months, so unfortunately I can't talk about a lot of the projects we've worked on. I think one of the most exciting projects that I can talk about was a new Transformer we worked on that was released at Comic-con. It was a childhood dream project. I had the 80s version of that toy, and then we were given the chance to define what that character looks like for this generation. It was incredibly exciting.

The very first project we signed isn't built yet, but it's an architectural project—a redesigned, down to the studs, rebuild of a mixed use building that's actually going to be a couple of blocks down the street from our studio. To work on an architectural project right out of the gate was really fun. 

Sideswipe Transformer unveiled at Comic Con

We've also been doing a lot of what we call 'future of' work, for example working with some Chinese car companies on what the future of the automobile is. The work that really excites me is complex or forward-looking. I think we excel at helping companies figure out why are they making something, what the future of that something is, and figuring out how to make something that will help their industry produce something memorable.

What the main misconceptions people have about starting your own studio?

I think one of the interesting things about starting your own studio is that it forces you to work on yourself and really think about not only what kind of work do you want to do, but what kind of person you want to be. What kind of boss do you want to be? How do you want to run your team? What kinds of people do you want on your team? You also have to decide how you want to run your business. Is your business just about paying billable hours or selling widgets, or is it about something bigger? What is that something bigger, and how are you going to build it?

"If you want to be successful, the first thing you have to do is define what success means to you."Reviewing student work at CIA

Those things for me, have been fun to think about and work on. When you're working somewhere, you can easily assign blame to everyone else if you're not having a good time. When it's your company, whether it's your own studio or your own brand, it's all you. If you're not having fun, you have to sit down and think about, what what you're doing and what you need to change.

For me, it's important to stay small. We turn down probably 50% of the projects that come to us, and of that 50% that we don't turn down, we don't get all of the projects. I would rather stay below five people and only work on the right projects for us than just say yes to everything so that we can staff up and get bigger. I want this to be meaningful. So the most unexpected thing is that if you want to be successful, the first thing you have to do is define what success means to you.


You want to start a creative business. Now What? Come to our 2018 Core77 Conference to learn more about launching & growing a product line or design studio of your own, October 25th, in Brooklyn!

Buy "Now What? Launching & Growing Your Creative Business" Tickets here.

If you'd like to learn even more about Michael's design career, head over to this recent interview.

Tools & Craft #103: How Drawbore Pins Work

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

Since we introduced Ray Iles's draw borepins last fall, we've gotten a ton of questions about why real ones such as these work better than concentric tapered pins - that is, pins that are sometimes misconstrued as drawbore pins but really are just tapered drift pins. Drift pins are just tapered rods, which from any angle look like cones.

Traditional drawbore pins, on the other hand, look like drift pins in one dimension, but if you rotated the pin 90 degrees, one side would becomes straight and the other more tapered. A section of the drawbore pin at any point is a circle, but geometrically the shape is what's known as an "oblique cone."

Now, why is this shape better? When you put a drawbore pin into a partially assembled mortise, it will contact the joint at some point shown in the first drawing. Where the point of contact would be exactly would depend on the taper, the thickness of the joint, etc., but the pin will engage somewhere. If it engages with the joint with the vertical side of the cone touching the left side of the joint (as the joint is drawn in Fig 1) and isn't symmetrical, turning the drawbore pin and letting it sink down will make it go deeper into the joint. At some point it will be engaged, and then when you turn it, the oblique part of the taper forces the joint tighter. You can actually see this in use. 

Now you may say, "Well, doesn't a regular pin do this, except you have to pull it towards the joint to push it out?" That's a good question. And the answer is yes - but not so much. Since you don't know the actual geometry of engagement, it's hard to make sure to tilt to the right degree, neither too much nor too little. The real issue is leverage. There is some mechanical advantage of the fulcrum between where a tapered pin will hit the top of the mortise and the inside of the tenon against the length of the entire drift pin. But with a real drawbore pin, the leverage you get by tuning an oblique cone is significantly greater. So when you use real drawbore pins, you can actually sometimes see joints being pulled together, squishing bits of detritus of the joint out of the way.

Drawbore pins are also hardened so they don't bend and have welded bolsters for added strength.

In the old days, their common use was in doors, although they make pulling any mortise and tenon joint together easier. It's also easy to use them for test-fitting joints. A critical use for them was on wooden buildings,to align beams and pull wooden joints together. To this day, a modern version of a drawbore pin with even more offset is used on steel structures to pull steel beams into alignment. (Our product description of the drawbore pins shows an example of this). They work better on hardwood; with very soft woods, there is so much force in turning the pin you can distort the hole in the tenon.


This "Tools & Craft" section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.

Great Features in Klein Tools' Tradesman Pro Tool Master Backpack

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

I'm a big fan of Klein Tools for their clever Katapult Wire Stripper, and I'm happy to see the company has applied their design talents to tool bags as well. Their Tradesman Pro Tool Master Backpack has a host of great features that show the designers have studied how tools are hauled and used in the field.

It's got a beefy handle supported by aircraft cable; a molded plastic compartment up top to protect breakable items like safety glasses and smartphones; a molded plastic base so that the bag remains upright when placed down, and keeps it up off of standing water; an integrated hook so the bag can be hung in place and used like a locker; a removable tool caddy that can also be hung; and tons more features.

- Backpack with 48 total pockets to easily keep everything organized
- Orange interior helps find tools easily and a large interior space for larger hand tools
- Removable tool caddy with carrying handles and a D-ring for hanging
- Aircraft cable heavily reinforces the handle as well as a heavy-duty zipper with lockable pulls (lock not included)
- Made of durable 1680d ballistic weave material and a molded bottom to help protect from the elements
- Hang the bag from the heavy-duty metal hook for easy access into the bag
- Well-padded shoulder straps have a buckled chest strap along with lower straps that adjust for a perfect fit
- Tool caddy has a zipper pocket and closed pouches for small tools and parts as well as open pockets and straps ideal for long drivers
- Adjustable front pouch for quick tool retrieval, a mid-sized front zipper pocket fits tablets in protective covers, and a front zipper pocket for smaller items
- Molded front pocket helps protect items like phones and safety glasses

So how does it stack up in the real world? Our friends over at Pro Tool Reviews had a working commercial electrician give the bag a thorough review that you can check out here.

Kikkerland's Compact Suit Folder

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

While Core77's bosses typically spend their evenings wearing tuxedos, us lowly folk in editorial have the luxury of wearing whatever we want. Which is a good thing; when acquaintances of mine inconsiderately die or get married, forcing me to attend their funerals or weddings, I've found transporting a suit in a garment bag to be a big pain in the neck.

Kikkerland's effort to solve the unwieldiness of a garment bag is to do away with it altogether. Their Compact Suit Folder lets you minimize that monkey suit into a manageable rectangle of fabric.

So the next time one of my friends kicks the bucket or ties the knot, I'll fold the suit.

The Cero One, a Modular, Electric Cargo Bike Based on Japanese Utility Bicycles

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-08-19 23:44

Take a trip to virtually any region of Japan and you'll see plenty of mamachari; translated as "mom's bike," mamachari are no-frills utility bicycles with a handy basket used as grocery getters, kiddie haulers and commuter vehicles.

The Cero One is a cargo bike that takes its inspiration from the mamachari. It doesn't look like a cargo bike; the only giveaway is the extra-large rear wheel. But kitted out with a series of modular baskets and rackets, the Cero One offers a 12-way modular cargo system--and an electric motor, giving you up to 93 miles of range.

"Our goal was to design and build a modern version of the Japanese 'Mamachari,' a practical utility bike that could be used by almost anyone as a replacement for a car in their daily lives," said Kiyoshi Iwai, founder of CERO. "The CERO One allows urban dwellers to do almost anything they'd do in a car, but more quickly and efficiently. A powerful electric motor and wide range of accessories make the bike perfect for getting around town as well as carrying almost anything, whether that's groceries, pizza for delivery or precious cargo. I even take my surfboard to the beach near our office in Santa Monica with CERO One."

Check it out here.

Hands-On: VRgineers' XTAL Headset – Enhancing VR for Engineers

Design News - Fri, 2018-08-17 05:00
The XTAL headset has similar specs to the VRHero 5K, but with new embedded sensor technologies to improve control and image quality. (Image source: VRgineers)

VRgineers—the VR hardware startup focused on creating headsets targeted specifically at engineers and designers in enterprise applications—is now shipping the latest version of its flagship headset. Dubbed the XTAL, the new headset boasts enhanced performance, newly embedded sensor technology, and improved image quality.

Company CEO Marek Polcak had always stressed that the company has placed image quality and fidelity as paramount, to the extent that VRgineers has created its own proprietary lenses with the help of a third-party manufacturer. Polcak remains mostly secretive on this working relationship, but the name of the new headset, XTAL, is short for “crystal.” The name refers to Polcak's obsession with crystal-clear imagery as well as to the lenses featured in the headset, which flaunt a new, crystal-like polygonal structure. The lenses' country of origin is known for the ancient craft of making Bohemian crystal glass, according to Polcak.


Design News had an opportunity to get a hands-on demonstration of the XTAL headset at the company's offices in Los Angeles and found it to be a significant improvement over the previous model, the VRHero 5K—particularly in terms of resolution, image quality, and weight. (Specs would indicate that the XTAL weighs more than the VR Hero, so this is likely due to improved counterbalancing.) The 5K resolution (about 2.5K per eye), 150 to 170-degree field of view, and 70Hz refresh rate of the VRHero 5K are still there. But in the XTAL, all of this is assisted by a new, proprietary feature called AutoEye. Using internal infrared sensors to track the wearer's eyes, XTAL automatically adjusts its lenses to the wearer's interpupillary distance. This, combined with new focus adjustment knobs, creates a sharp viewing experience that even allows users with corrective lenses to forgo their glasses to enjoy the headset. (I've personally found wearing glasses to be a particular annoyance with many VR headsets.)

According to VRgineers, the AutoEye functionality is also open to developers who want to utilize it for functions such as retina detection or eye movement tracking. Doing this allows for eye-tracking-based control schemes as well as graphic features like foveated rendering (i.e., rendering images most clearly at the center of the eye to more closely mimic real-world human vision). This is especially important in enterprise applications such as medical diagnostics and training.

The XTAL's Autoeye feature adjusts the headset's proprietary lenses to the wearer's interpupillary distance to improve image quality. (Image source: VRgineers) 

When we demoed the VRHero 5K earlier this year, it featured the Leap Motion hand-tracking sensor as an external peripheral. With the XTAL, the Leap Motion sensor has now been fully integrated into the headset and offers improved tracking over the previous version of the sensor. Although the software has some issues with tracking the interlocking or inter-positioning of your hands and fingers, the sensor is still highly accurate. It can track individual finger movements with ultra-low latency. Other controllers options—keyboard, mouse, joystick, HTC Vive controller, etc.—are compatible with the XTAL. But Polcak stressed that the hands-only Leap Motion controller, combined with new voice command recognition, provides the preferred methods for giving engineers a natural virtual experience with a low learning curve.

No next-generation VR headset has any business on the market without inside-out tracking to eliminate the need for external sensors. While our demo didn't include the inside-out tracking features, VRgineers said the XTAL is tracking agnostic and is capable of six degrees-of-freedom (6 DoF) inside-out tracking. For complex industrial use cases, the company said the XTAL can currently be combined with third-party, enterprise-grade tracking hardware including AR Tracking, Optitrack, the SteamVR Lighthouse 2.0, Mo-Sys, and Vicon. Those options can be attached as external clip ons to the XTAL to enable 6 DoF tracking. VRgineers is also planning a future software upgrade that will allow for full 6 DoF, inside-out tracking in the headset itself.

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VRgineers has currently partnered with several companies that are using its headsets for design evaluation, virtual prototyping, product development, and other pilot programs. The company currently cites Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen among the automakers that have implemented its headsets into their design engineering workflow. The headset is compatible with several enterprise-grade design software suites including SteamVR (OpenVR), Autodesk VRED, ESI IC.IDO, and design software solutions from Dassault Systèmes.

Going forward, Polcak said the company has its eyes on applying the XTAL beyond VR and into extended reality (XR) as well. No official release date has been announced, but the company plans to introduce a front-facing camera module attachment to the XTAL that will allow for XR and mixed reality (MR) functionality. The XTAL will then be able to detect its external environment to overlay interactive, virtual objects onto the real world and to manipulate real-world objects virtually.

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

Graphene's Conductivity Boosted for Better Solar-Energy Generating Technology

Design News - Fri, 2018-08-17 04:00

Researchers from the University of Kansas have found yet another use for the versatile material graphene—this time, to help bolster the development of ultra-thin and flexible, highly efficient solar cells. A team from the university’s Department of Physics & Astronomy has paired graphene—a single layer of carbon atoms with high electrical conductivity—with two other atomic layers: molybdenum diselenide (MoSe2) and tungsten disulfide (WS2).

This marriage extends the lifetime of excited electrons in graphene by several hundred times, thus extending the energy possibilities for graphene as a material for electricity generation, Professor Hui Zhao, who led the research, said in a University of Kansas release. “These excited electrons are like students who stand up from their seats—after an energy drink, for example, which activates students like sunlight activates electrons,” he explained. “The energized students move freely in the classroom—like human electric current,” he added.

Graphene already has an excellent charge-transport property, with electrons moving in graphene at a speed of 1/30 of the speed of light. This is much faster than other materials, researchers said, which opens the possibility for graphene to be used in solar cells.

Researchers from the University of Kansas have connected a graphene layer with two other atomic layers (molybdenum diselenide and tungsten disulfide), thereby extending the lifetime of excited electrons in graphene by several hundred times. (Image source: Matthew Bellus)

Short Life

However, a hindrance to the application of graphene in photovoltaic or photo-sensing devices is the ultra-short lifetime of excited electrons in graphene (referring to the time the electrons stay mobile). In graphene, this time is only one picosecond or one-millionth of one-millionth of a second.

“The number of electrons, or students from our example, who can contribute to the current is determined by the average time they can stay mobile after they are liberated by light,” Zhao said. “In graphene, an electron stays free for only one picosecond. This is too short for accumulating a large number of mobile electrons.”

In other words, he said, though light excitation can move electrons in graphene—and move them quickly—they stay mobile for too short a time to contribute to the generation of electricity. Zhao—working with graduate student Samuel Lane—has solved this problem, basically taking “the chairs away from the standing students so that they have nowhere to sit,” he explained. “This forces the electrons to stay mobile for a time that is several hundred times longer than before.” 

Essentially, the researchers designed a tri-layer material by putting single layers of MoSe2, WS2, and graphene on top of each other. Keeping with the student analogy, the MoSe2 and graphene layers act as two classrooms full of students all sitting, while the middle WS2 layer acts as a hallway separating the two rooms, Zhao explained. When light strikes the sample, it liberates some of the electrons in MoSe2.

“They are allowed to go across the WS2-layer hallway to enter the other room, which is graphene,” he said. “However, the hallway is carefully designed so that the electrons have to leave their seats in MoSe2. Once in graphene, they have no choice but to stay mobile and hence contribute to electric currents, because their seats are no longer available to them.”


Researchers demonstrated their idea by using an ultra-short laser pulse of 0.1 picoseconds to liberate some of the electrons in MoSe2. They then used another ultra-short laser pulse to monitor these electrons as they move to graphene. What they discovered is that the electrons move through the “hallway” in about 0.5 picoseconds (on average) and then stay mobile for about 400 picoseconds. This represents a 400-fold improvement over a single layer of graphene, which researchers also measured in their study.

Their experiments also confirmed that “seats” left in MoSe2 stay unoccupied for the same amount of time. This means that scientists applying their method can control this time, depending on their application, by choosing different “hallway” layers, Zhao said. The work—which researchers plan to continue—paves the way for the use of graphene in novel photovoltaics, potentially adding solar-energy generation to the growing list of applications for graphene, researchers said.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.


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