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Design Job: Jump Into the Brooklyn Start-up Scene as a Summer Intern for Quip 

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-02-15 20:26

ou will be operating on a team of 5 designers and engineers to make real an aggressive product roadmap that impacts hundreds of thousands of quip subscribers. You’ll work with multiple disciplines and contribute concepts, thinking, research, and high fidelity form development to the design of our newest products.

View the full design job here

How Snowboard Halfpipes are Made

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-02-15 20:26

Last night Olympic snowboarding fans were treated to a thrilling spectacle: America's 17-year-old phenom, Chloe Kim, crushing her final run with a 98.25 and gaining the gold medal.

But before I get to that yes, we're a design blog, so let's go over how halfpipes are designed and constructed.


The 2018 Olympic standards call for a 600-foot-long run, an 18-degree pitch and elliptically-curved walls that are 22 feet high and spaced 64 feet apart from lip to lip.

As interest in the sport has grown, so too have the halfpipes. [Image credit: The Globe & Mail]


The walls should not rise to dead verticality. The halfpipe at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi was constructed in that manner, and considered dreadful by the riders; the U.S. team's Danny Davis referred to it as "garbage," while Australian competitor Torah Bright called it "brutal."


The problem at Sochi. [Image credit: The Globe & Mail] Materials

Obviously snow, but not just any snow: It has to be a consistent blend with "No lumps, dry spots, heavy wet spots," Snow Park Tech president and expert halfpipe builder Chris Gunnarson told NBC. The material consistency is crucial for reasons of safety, and it's another area where Sochi screwed up: On her final practice run there the U.S.A.'s Arielle Gold, then the defending world champion, wedged her board into a bump on the surface that shouldn't have been there and crashed. She separated her shoulder and was robbed, by shoddy workmanship, of her chance to compete.

Construction and Equipment

The initial step can be done in either of two ways: The first option is to build an earthen structure that is then topped with roughly half a million cubic feet of snow. The second option is to use Snowcats to plow existing snow into two massive snowbanks.

No matter which option is selected, both require the same final step: The crucial shaping and shaving of the walls into a smooth arc that is consistent down the length of the run. 

First a line is marked on the deck using a rope line and a chainsaw. Then a Snowcat that has been fitted with a massive, elliptical-arc-profile arm containing an articulated augur is used to shave the walls.

Interestingly, the first machine of this sort was invented by an organic vegetable farmer, Doug Waugh, in the late '80s. An ex-engineer, Waugh's familiarity with both agricultural machines and snowboarding led him to create the Pipe Dragon out of sheer boredom; he was based in Colorado and had plenty of farming to do in the summer and nothing to do in the winter. The Pipe Dragon was a success, sold well and Waugh was hired to create the halfpipe for Nagano in 1998, when snowboarding was first introduced to the Olympics.

In the '90s Zaugg, a Swiss manufacturer of agricultural and snow removal machinery, designed a competing product called the Pipe Monster that cuts a more elliptical curve. Waugh passed away in 2000 and the Pipe Monster is now the standard.

Alternate Snow-Gathering Method

If you've got access to Red Bull money, as two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White does, you can have guys in a helicopter drop 25-pound explosive charges onto the side of a mountain. This induces an avalanche that delivers the desired amount of snow down to your pipe site. I have no idea what the ecological consequences are but I'm hoping they looked into it and deemed it harmless.

So that's how you build an Olympic halfpipe. How do you get to ride one? Well, now that the design stuff's out of the way, I'm glad you asked…

How to Get a Chance to Ride an Olympic Halfpipe

It's really pretty simple. First, ensure you're born to a father who takes up snowboarding and brings you along when you're four. Then, start snowboarding and be mistaken for a boy. Train for 13 years.

What to Do on an Olympic Halfpipe

Chloe Kim qualified for the 2014 Olympics in competition, but at 13 years old she didn't meet the age requirement.

Now 17, on her first run at Pyeongchang she scored a stunning 93.75. No one else came close; China's Liu Jiayu was in second with 85.50.

On Run 2, Kim attempted to do two 1080s back-to-back, but blew the landing and scored a dismal 41.50. Liu improved to an 89.75.

On Run 3, Kim was slated last. As each competitor made their runs, none of them exceeded 93.75 or even broke 90, meaning Kim was now guaranteed gold, and Run 3 would be a mere formality.

But, as she later told the cameras, "I knew that if I went home with a gold medal knowing I could do better, I wasn't going to be very satisfied. I wanted to do the back-to-back 10s. I wanted to go bigger. That third run was for me to prove to myself that I did it, so I could go home and be happy with myself." So this was her Run 3:

Congratulations to Ms. Kim!

Nissan's Video About Objects and Furniture That Moves Makes Us Think About the Intersection of Magic and Science

Core 77 - Thu, 2018-02-15 20:26

There's a line in the first Thor movie where the titular character suggests that what humans call "magic," Asgardians call "science." The notion being that both are unseen forces, and bridging the two requires advancing and applying knowledge.

We have a lot of technology today that would have seemed like magic to people from 100 years ago. Imagine driving around in a primitive automobile from 1918 and wanting to hear a particular song; you must wait until you get home, take your coat off, pull a vinyl record out of a sleeve, place it on a phonograph and guide the needle to its surface. Show those people footage of you driving around in 2018, calling out to Siri to play a particular song and it fills the car within a second.

But even as wondrous as instant music is, or wireless backups, or Bluetooth speakers, none of those things feel like magic to me. This does:

Sure it's a little silly, and we've seen Nissan's Intelligent Mobility initiative before with their self-organizing office chairs, but there is something magical about seeing inanimate objects tidy themselves. 

I suspect that the reason this elicits a different response than Siri pulling music out of thin air is because this is more visual, physical and kinetic. I think that the combination of those three things will always yield more amazement than a voice-equipped refrigerator that announces you're out of milk.

Engineering Jobs and Salaries Are Growing

Design News - Thu, 2018-02-15 05:00




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.

First Open-Source RISC-V SoC for Linux Released

Design News - Thu, 2018-02-15 02:33

Only months after debuting the Freedom U540, the world's first Linux-compatible processor based on the open-source RISC-V chip architecture, RISC-V chipmaker SiFive has surprised the open-source community again by unveiling a full development board built around the ISA.

Called the HiFive Unleashed, the new development board is built around SiFive's Freedom U540, which is based on the company's U54-MC Coreplex. The chip is a 64-bit, 4+1 multicore processor that fully supports Linux, as well as other operating systems such as FreeBSD and Unix. The development board itself features a 8GB of DDR4 with ECC, a gigabit ethernet port, 32 MB of quad SPI flash memory, a MicroSD card slot, and an FPGA mezzanine card (FMC) connector for allowing peripherals and other expansion devices to be attached to the board. 

The HIFive Unleashed features: a SiFive Freedom U540 SoC; 8GB DDR4 with ECC; a gigabit ethernet port; 32MB quad SPI flash from ISSI; a MicroSD card for removable storage; and an FMC Connector for future expansion with add-in cards.
(image source: SiFive)

“This is a really major milestone that I think is going to take away the doubts that naysayers have,”  Jack Kang, VP of Product and Business Development at SiFive told Design News. "Before, people could point to [RISC-V] and say, 'It's just a project; it's only for low-performance stuff; it's just for microcontrollers ... .' The big promise of RISC-V as a free and open ISA is we have a chance to have an ISA that can be a standard that is used in all levels of computing.”

With the HiFive Unleashed, SiFive is looking to prove that open-source hardware can handle any emerging technology task. from smart IoT devices to networking and even machine learning and artificial intelligence. across a variety of commercial industries. “Commercially. it opens up the market and the number of places that RISC-V can serve and removes a lot of questions as to whether can scale up,” Kang said.

Kang said SiFive hopes that having a development board available will rally the open source engineering community. “We're having it available to help the open-source software community develop not just for Linux but other distributions of Linux, other operating systems, drivers, kernels, what have you for the RISC-V ecosystem. Because now there's a chip that's available, and nothing beats actual hardware for software development.”

But how does SiFive expect an open-source board to stand out in an ever-crowding market? And why should a company, particularly in a space like IoT, choose open source over any of the other solutions available? “ I certainly believe IoT will be solved by having lots of customization,” Kang said. “I believe IoT inherently is not a one-size-fits-all type of market. What that means is you're not going to be able to have one killer chip that does everything. What you're going to need is to be able to customize or get your partners to customize the silicon to meet the specific problems that will come up. And I will argue that RISC-V is great for customization.”

He also stressed the value of having a community of open-source developers available around the HiFive, something other, locked-in development boards don't have. “Because RISC-V is the base ISA and the base standard it means you get the benefit of the entire software ecosystem that's going to be developed,” Kang said. “You're going to have a base Linux port, for example, and a lot of base software that's all going to run on RISC-V. So everybody has that starting point and common base, but because RISC-V is expandable, because it's open and people can see inside, there's going to be lots of room and it'll be much easier to customize at the CPU level, at the instruction level, at the SoC level, and so on. I think the ability to do those customizations quickly and cheaply is what's going to enable a market like IoT.”

Having this community available also affords RISC-V other advantages – like security, according to Kang . No chipmaker today, especially a young company, can talk about processors without addressing the 400-pound gorilla in the room – the widespread Meltdown and Spectre hardware bugs. SiFive said all of its current products and intellectual property are not affected by either bug and credits this to the open nature of the chip hardware.

“What's important about RISC-V being open is that it means we get the world's experts on security all looking at the ISA specification,” Kang said. “Security is a very, very difficult area so we have an opportunity with RISC-V in that it's being designed from the ground up at a time when security is an absolute must.”


A block diagram of the HiFive Unleashed board. (image source: SiFive) 


Going forward, Kang said the RISC-V community is going to be challenged to bring out the best of its engineering talent to design the most secure systems possible. “Because [RISC-V is] fundamentally open, there's also room for a lot more inspection and for people to see inside and ensure security. Security by obscurity is a fool's security. You need to be secure and open,” Kang said.

And what about the maker community? SiFive previously release an Arduino-compatible board, the HiFive1, with a RISC-V core, but Kang is optimistic that SiFive can put something as powerful as the HiFive Unleashed in the hands of DIY developers and hobbyists in the very near future.

"The reason boards like the Raspberry Pi are great for the community is they are low cost. And they are low cost because they have a lot of commercial product behind them,” he said. “As RISC-V's commercial success takes off it will help drive costs down. I think if you look at the track record of RISC-V I think maybe we're a year to a year-and-a-half away from getting it to the maker and hacker level.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, SiFive believes RISC-V will soon be ready to stake its claim in the world of emerging technologies that require high-powered processing as well. With companies like Nvidia and Google releasing processors aimed directly at AI and machine learning applications such as autonomous driving, will we be seeing an open-source option enter the battle over AI processors?

“There are certainly companies looking at RISC-V in vectors in the [AI] space,” Kang said. “One of the things that's happening with RISC-V is there is a vector extension that's coming that will be announced in May 2018. It's a form of customization being developed for RISC-V because it's going to be exceedingly useful for AI , machine learning and neural network processing.”

SiFive will be releasing a limited batch of HiFive Unleashed boards in March 2018 as part of a early access program, with a wider release planned for June. The company will also be hosting a series of hackathons beginning in March that will allow developers to get hands-on experience with the board.

For Kang all that's left for the HiFive Unleashed is really as simple as getting the boards into developers hands and seeing what they can create. “To those companies that are looking at it right now, we're at the stage where we've hit critical mass and things are happening. The next phase is about how do we branch out and commercialize into these products.”

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

Boston Dynamics Teaches Robot Dog to Open Doors in a Very Unexpected Way

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-02-14 20:10

I feel that every Boston Dynamics robot demonstration prompts the same sequence of reactions in the viewer:

1. Hey, look at this thing!
2. It's kinda nifty, even cute.
3. WHOA.
4. That was supremely creepy.

The video has also demonstrated that the SpotMini robot has better manners than most New Yorkers.

Olympian Susan Dunklee Breaks Down the Design of Biathlon Rifles

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-02-14 20:10

So I'm eating lunch at the bar and watching the Olympics when these two Startup Bros walk in. Though the bar's empty they sit down right next to me (of course) and start running their yaps, going off on speed-skating: "God, that looks like it doesn't take any effort at all. Boring."

I wanted to say "Of course it looks effortless--these are highly trained athletes that have achieved perfect economy of motion through thousands of hours of practice, you dope."

Then they started debating which was "dumber," speed skating or the biathlon. And I wished for the millionth time that NYC passed a law that lets you break a beer bottle over any bro's head, once a month, no legal repercussions and no questions asked. It would be called the Bro Bottle Law and I would avail myself of my rights.

The biathlon requires athletes to ski cross-country for kilometers with an 8-pound rifle on their backs, then slow their heart rates and breathing down enough to hold a rifle steady and hit a target 50 meters away. If I asked these two out-of-shape jerks to run ten feet into the next room and throw their iPhones into the garbage I bet they'd miss.

Susan Dunklee

Anyways, the biathlon is rather unique because each of the competitors carries a bespoke piece of mechanically-complicated kit: Their customized rifles. The stocks in particular are works of art, traditionally made from wood and precisely sized to the user's specifications.

Image and work by BearImage and work by Craft Collective Image and work by Craft Collective Image and work by Bear Image and work by Bear Image and work by Bear

Watch this video (sorry, NBC has made it unembeddable) where Olympian and World Championship medalist Susan Dunklee breaks down the design of her rifle.

For an idea of the work that goes into making one of these stocks, here's a video by Slovakian manufacturer Bear:

Lastly, if you're a New York City politician interested in sponsoring the Bro Bottle Law, please contact me and I'll organize a grassroots support campaign.

How Team USA's Self-Heating Olympic Jackets Work, and a List of the Design Firms That Helped to Create Them

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-02-14 20:10

It's so cold in PyeongChang that Italy reportedly advised their Olympic team "to skip the entertainment portion of the ceremony" due to the subzero temperatures. It would not be like the Italians to take their fashion cues from us Americans, but perhaps in this case they ought have; Team USA is being kept toasty courtesy of the self-heating battery-powered parkas they've been provided with.

The water-repellent, fully washable, down-filled jackets feature an American flag printed on the back--the inside of the back, that is. This flag is not meant as conspicuous badging, but is printed using conductive ink. A removable, rechargeable battery can be stored in a pocket and plugs into the jacket, and the resultant juice heats up the flag. There are three different power settings, and on the lowest the flag with stay warm for up to 11 hours.

Although the jacket is branded Polo Ralph Lauren, the company makes it very clear that it was created via collaboration between multiple design firms and manufacturers.

Delaware-based DuPont noted that "Other heated garments are available, but they are heavy and full of stiff wires;" to avoid this they developed the conductive ink. They then worked with Pittsburgh-based precision printing company Butler Technologies to apply said ink.

Massachusetts-based apparel manufacturer 99Degrees, which specializes in both sewn and bonded sportswear, was contracted to attach the heating system to the jacket's lining.

The battery pack--which features buttons that can be operated while wearing thick gloves, naturally--was designed by Maryland-based design and engineering firm Key Tech, which focused on "user interface design, material selection and finish, power management, electrical safety and design for manufacturability."

For the all-important connection point between the battery and the jacket, NYC-based consultancy Principled Design's ConnexI/O e-textile connector interface was used. As with Key Tech's contribution, design for manufacturability was a key concern here: "Key to ConnexI/O is our 'snap-and-latch' technology," Principled writes, "which allows our connector to be integrated on the apparel factory floor, requiring no soldering, opening up new opportunities for the seamless integration of electronics into a variety of e-textile substrates."

And finally, the jacket itself is manufactured by New-Jersey-based garment manufacturer Better Team USA.

Alas, all of this American design, engineering and manufacturing prowess have been offset by another American quality: Greed. The jacket was offered for sale to the general public and sold out immediately; originally costing $2,495, they are now being flipped on eBay for up to six grand.

To counter this, PRL will not offer future production runs for sale online. Anyone who wants to be put on a waiting list has to call their store in SoHo.

When Brain-Computer Interfaces Go Mainstream, Will Dystopian Sci-Fi Be Our Only Guidance?

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-02-14 20:10

"I enter the subway. It's crowded as usual around this time, but I manage to find a vacant seat next to a Talker—a man carrying on a conversation on his phone in public space. Only grandpas do that these days. I take out my ThoughtReader. I just got a new one last month, much more discreet than my old one, it fits right behind my ear. I hold up my smartwatch and open the ThoughtNotes app. I press the tiny switch behind my ear and feel a little tingle, a sign that it's connected. A small light blinks through my ear to indicate to others that I am focussed. I start jotting down some ideas. It can be a little messy sometimes especially when you are just forming the thoughts, but it's fast and I can easily clean it up on my computer at home. When I'm done, I press save and open the QuietChat app. I call my husband and we thought-chat about work and dinner a bit. I can sense he's tired. It's funny, I think afterwards to myself, I can't believe we used to have these conversations out loud…"

GIF by Zaza Zuilhof

This scenario may sound like your average sci-fi story, but there is an important difference—this scenario, like some of the better sci-fi, is grounded in real research and current technological development. More importantly, this scenario is an initial sketch for a future vision that I wouldn't mind inhabiting.

When I set out to write an article about the near future of brain-computer interfaces (BCI), I was met with a lot of shivers and 'hm, good luck'-s and 'oh, scary!'-s. The public image of BCI is heavily shaped by dystopian scenarios as depicted in movies and series like Black Mirror. Whenever a new technological breakthrough in this field is presented, you can bet that all the doom scenarios are listed in the endless comment threats below. I understand the strong reactions to such an intimate and socially impacting piece of technology, but what about the promises?

Most BCIs were initially developed for medical applications. Some 220,000 hearing impaired already benefit from cochlear implants, which translate audio signals into electrical pulses sent directly to their brains. Recently Elon Musk entered the industry, announcing a $27 million investment in Neuralink, a venture with the mission to develop a BCI that improves human communication in light of AI. And Regina Dugan presented Facebook's plans for a game changing BCI technology that would allow for more efficient digital communication.

Whether you're ready for it or not, these are all signals that brain-computer interfaces won't just stay in the realm of neuroprostheses and entertainment, but could actually go mainstream. If we accept for a moment that people will continue to work on this technology and its capabilities will continue to improve, and if we assume that no-one is interested in living the doom scenario, then we can try to consider the real implications and possibilities of this technology and imagine a viable alternative. What does it mean for interactions with our devices, and more importantly, with each other? Could this be the ultimate interface—one that is invisible, seamlessly integrated into our minds?

First of all, what are these so called brain-computer interfaces currently out there actually capable of? The answer depends who you ask and whether or not you are willing to undergo surgery. For the purpose of this thought-experiment, let's assume that healthy people will only use non-invasive BCIs, which don't require surgery. In that case, there are currently two main technologies, fMRI and EEG. The first requires a massive machine, but the second, with consumer headsets like Emotiv and Neurosky, has actually become available to a more general audience.

Emotiv's EEG Headset (Image via Emotiv)

In an impressive demonstration of the potential of so-called active BCI (where you substitute physical or voice control with 'thought-commands'), Rodrigo Hübner Mendes used EMOTIV's EEG headset to drive a Formula 1 car with his mind. Erica Warp, VP of Product at EMOTIV, believes there is even more potential in the use of passive BCI. "We currently interface with machines in very discreet moments, which is quite limited. Our constantly changing cognitive states, which we can access via brain computer interfaces, opens up a wealth of untapped information." Giving computers awareness of our cognitive state may allow them to adapt accordingly. Think of parameters such as focus, engagement, interest and stress. Assuming we figure out the privacy issues, I am excited by the idea of contextually-aware digital companions that respond more in sync with our state of mind. Like a good co-worker, they would not disturb me with notifications if they sense I'm deeply focused. Or like a good friend, they communicate in a more soothing, relaxed tone if they notice I'm tired or stressed. And like a good teacher, they could adjust an educational approach dynamically according to my level of engagement. And there are companies out there, like QNeuro, already actively exploring this direction.

Although valid in specific situations, I don't feel that use cases like these would make us walk around with a headset all day. In order to imagine that scenario, we have to travel further into the future. Back to Facebook's presentation. If Facebook can pull off what it presented, to develop a non-invasive BCI that reads the speech centre of our brain at 100 words per minute, 5 times faster than typing on a smartphone, things get a little more uncomfortable. Most of that discomfort comes from the sensation that this might actually be the kind of form in which BCI gets adopted more broadly.

These further out future scenarios are impossible to predict, but therefore even more important to imagine. This is where the average dystopian sci-fi image lives, and we should take some of the valid concerns exposed in those images and provide a more humane, preferable alternative.

For example, what are the terms and conditions? I rationally know that typing something on my phone might not be that different from thought-writing something to my phone, but the privacy bells start ringing in my head. What does it mean to wear a device that can read my brain? In my ideal scenario, the device is entirely and fully mine. I pay for the device, rather than exchange personal data for the device. I go through a period of training with the device, it learns how my brain communicates certain words, we get the difference between angry excitement and happy excitement. And after a week we are good to go. It is an amazing input device, like a keyboard, a very personal keyboard, my own brain-keyboard that I can plug into any computer I find. The keyboard only connects locally, it's like Bluetooth, or whatever its future equivalent may be, and I only connect it when I use it.

GIF by Zaza Zuilhof

Initially, the social impact may not even be that big. It is, after all, just an input device. Say I have a coffee with a friend and I want to send a message to my colleague. I would need to activate my thought-reader and pull out a screen of some sort (a phone, watch or AR headset) and then, while doing most of the writing by thought, I would still closely watch the screen to avoid typos. And this whole ritual would most likely be considered just as rude as using my smartphone in the same scenario today. So while we think of BCIs as being highly invisible, I expect that the initial usage would still be reasonably transparent and visible to those around us.

The big social disruption likely lies even further out, but will be directly influenced by the way the first mainstream BCIs are designed. Imagine a future in which we can not only read signals from the brain but also write signals back to it. In this future, imagine Augmented Reality is pervasive—digital information can be overlaid on your visual perception at will. We can have very private conversations in public space. It might be hard to tell the difference between someone daydreaming or thought-writing. However, like the little light behind the ear of the protagonist in my scenario, designers might end up creating purposeful signs to show when someone is using a BCI and manage to avoid rude or otherwise uncomfortable social situations. Those are exactly the kind of mundane details that could define the difference between a dystopian and utopian future.

Although it is hard to tell where exactly these technologies will take us, people right now are working hard to make them a reality. Whether they will become mainstream is more a question of when than if, but when they do, my biggest concern will be how. Currently the biggest push comes from the medical, neuroscience and technology industries, and only few designers have shared visions for the possibilities of BCIs outside of assistive or diagnostic medical tech. In their unique position to represent the final user and consider downstream social implications, they could add meaningfully to the creation of a positive future vision. I believe it's important that designers help shape the future of our brain-computer interactions sooner rather than later and guide the way past dystopian visions to the promise of these technologies without their negative consequences.

Design Job: Use Your Passion for Design and Photography as a Graphic Designer at Jimmy Jazz

Core 77 - Wed, 2018-02-14 20:10

This is a “hands-on” position that requires solid design skills and expertise in adobe suite for designers. he designer will be required to design in-store signage, web, email and social media assets using Photoshop, In-Design and Illustrator.

View the full design job here

9 Simple Inventions That Make Us Ask, 'Why Didn’t I Think of That?'

Design News - Wed, 2018-02-14 10:00


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.


Attend America’s largest embedded systems conference, Embedded Systems Conference Boston 2018 (April 18-19). ESC Boston delivers two days of expert-led education you can’t find anywhere else in the nation. With industry-leading speakers and a range of engaging formats, its unmatched educational programs will give engineers a deep-dive technical education that will inspire breakthroughs. Register to attend the event here!


Driving Smart Manufacturing with Provable ROI

Design News - Wed, 2018-02-14 03:25

The move toward advanced manufacturing is predicated on the belief it will deliver continuous improvement and will ultimately result in both cost savings and productivity improvements. Manufacturers are hesitant to invest in these smart capabilities unless the return on investment (ROI) is clear and quick. The initial investment in smart manufacturing can seem overwhelming, and the required IT and OT hours can be difficult to predict.

Tom Craven at the Pacific Design and Manufactruing Show. Photo courtesy of Design News.

These factors make it difficult to make a compelling case for the ROI in all instances. Some manufacturers are hedging their smart-manufacturing bets by using outside, hosted systems such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This approach can help companies reduce the risk of investment in new software, hardware, and the corresponding staff to run the new tools. The service model can often deliver measurable and predictable ROI soon after deployment.

During the session, Smart Manufacturing Models with Sustainable ROI, at the Pacific Design and Manufacturing Show last week, Tom Craven, VP of product strategy at RRAMAC explained the importance of finding a clear ROI before investing in advanced, connected manufacturing.

Return on Investment Is the Primary Goal

The essential purpose of intelligent manufacturing systems is to improve efficiency, quality, and the overall optimization of plant processes. This in turn leads to the ultimate goal: ROI.

“IIoT, smart manufacturing, industry 4.0, whatever you call it, it’s mostly the same thing. If you put anything on the internet that is industrial, it’s IIoT,” said Craven.

Yet the connection to the internet is not necessarily the criteria for advanced systems. Predictive maintenance is a major step toward an intelligent system even without web-based connectivity. “Smart manufacturing does not always include the internet,” said Craven. “There can be islands of data there are still smart manufacturing. Industry 4.0 includes both internet and smart manufacturing – but what we really want is ROI.”

As well as ROI, competitiveness is a factor in adopting new technology. Companies can’t afford to be left behind by their competitors. “What happens to your company if you don’t develop smart manufacturing? Do you want to be Uber or Yellow Cab?” said Craven. “Yet while competitiveness is a major concern, there still has to be ROI in order for manufacturers to justify the shift to smart manufacturing,”

Taking the ROI from Improved Maintenance and OEE

Part of the move to intelligent processes is creating a feedback loop that tells control personnel what is happening on the manufacturing line. “Sometimes smart manufacturing is a matter of collecting a handful of alarms,” said Craven. “Your car will now tell you when to change your oil. Industrial machinery is beginning to do this. As you get intelligence into your maintenance operation, you’ll find you don’t have to do maintenance as often. Asset monitoring is the low-hanging fruit of IIoT.”

Eliminating failure is a huge step forward, but intelligent systems offer deeper levels of efficiency. “Machine learning is more than just failure prediction, it’s optimizing the process while moving into continuous improvement,” said Craven. “Increasing output on the same production line is the goal of continuous improvement. Look at Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which is the gold standard for continuous improvement. Hosted OEE can get you to ROI quickly.”




Measuring OEE is a major step toward potential improvement. “Most OEE that isn’t measured reaches about 40% of potential effectiveness,” said Craven. “If it’s measured, it usually moves up to 60%. But with work, you can get it up to 90%.” Craven notes that manufacturers can obtain continuous improvement by using a hosted system that doesn’t require investment in equipment and the personnel to run the equipment.


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.

Watch The Olympics Opening Ceremony Drone Video Before It Gets Taken Down (Again)

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-02-13 19:22

On Saturday I was lucky enough to watch footage of the amazing drone display aired during the Olympics opening ceremony. Coordinated by Intel, 1,218 drones performed a lightshow--pre-recorded rather than conducted live, due to logistical issues--and it was posted to Vimeo for those who missed the live broadcast.

Sadly, the International Olympics Committee ordered the video removed due to copyright infringement. Fair enough--but then why not post the video themselves, so those who missed it could enjoy it? Neither they nor NBC has made the video available. NBC only has this snippet of it up on Twitter:

A swarm of drones brings us one of the most incredible sights of the #OpeningCeremony. #WinterOlympics https://t.co/Ay5QOzAHZD pic.twitter.com/I5jOikUU0Y

— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 10, 2018 ">

So I poked around and found a pirated copy on YouTube. It's also a truncated version and is somewhat spoiled by commentary provided by Korean news broadcasters, but at least gives you a taste. Watch it here (it's unembeddable) before the IOC orders it removed.

It really is a shame they pulled the video, because the team behind it busted their asses to pull this off. You can see some snippets of the footage in the behind-the-scenes video below:

I'm hoping the IOC comes to their senses and re-posts the full version. If they do I'll come back to this post and insert it.

Today's Urban Design Observation: Parks & Rec Workers Police Barricade Hack

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-02-13 19:22

Remember those police barricades I wrote about earlier? The Parks & Recreation employees who maintain this park on the Lower East Side's Chrystie Street have snagged a few. Someone has removed the gates that seal off this fenced-in soccer field, which are usually locked at night. With the gates gone, people have been bringing their dogs to run around on the field. So the P&R folks have been blocking off all four entrances with the barricades, which fit perfectly.

Well, maybe not perfectly. As I was snapping these photos…

…a woman and her dog wriggled through the gap around the barricade on the other side to get onto the field.

Math Teacher Dad Designs and Builds Epic Elevated Reading Space for His Family's Home, All By His Damn Self

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-02-13 19:22

I'm typically not a fan of when people take someone else's videos and make a supercut from the clips, but at least they credited the guy here and are showing off his excellent work.

Samuel Mamias is a math teacher in France. And I don't know how he's done this on a teacher's salary--I think I need to move to France--but he seemingly owns every hand tool, power tool, Festool product and large stationary shop tool you can think of.

He's also got design and fabrication skills. So when he wanted to create a reading space for his family's home and utilize some wasted overhead space, he designed and built it himself. Regarde:

If you want to see more detail, Mamias documented the entire thing on his YouTube channel over the course of ten videos. You can start on the first one here, but be aware that the explanations are in French only.

Reader Submitted: L3: Light Controlled by Playing with a Magnetic Sphere

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-02-13 19:22

L 3 is a light object that is controlled by playing with a metal sphere and magnetic fields.

View the full project here

Ti Chang On Destigmatizing Sex Through Design & How a Product's Form Should Respect Its User

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-02-13 19:22

For this year's Core77 Design Awards, we're conducting in-depth interviews with each of our jury captains to get in a glimpse into their creative minds and to hear more about what they'll be looking for in this year's awards submissions. 

This year's Consumer Product Jury Captain, Ti Chang, is Co-founder & VP of Design at Crave, a sex toy company with a mission to provide products with an elevated aesthetic. We spoke with her about her own design journey that led her to a job that she is truly passionate about, helping women and couples feel empowered and in control of their own pleasure. 

I want to start off by asking you, why sex toys? And how did you decide to found Crave?

I've been a designer for pretty much all my career, and I've worked on various products from hairbrushes to bicycles, to furniture, and being a consultant. I never really found anything that I felt I was genuinely passionate about. What I mean is, I wanted to work for a company with a mission, that either helped people or changed lives.

I thought about the time when I worked at Goody Products designing hairbrushes. I know it's very mundane, but I led the design research for a line of hairbrushes. I received an email from a mother, who said every morning she would have to brush her 6-year-old daughter's hair, and it was just always a nightmare, it was always a fight. Because of the brush we designed, it made her morning just a little bit more peaceful.

That has always kind of stuck with me. That was kind of the sentiment that carried with me when I was between jobs, trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. It wasn't until I went to a sex toy shop in downtown Boston, where I was living at the time, that really struck me that vibrators, sex toys—this category of products for women—just completely lacked design consideration. The majority of the products in the landscape are very male-centric. It's all about the penis. Which, I mean, is fine but it's not always about the penis, you know?

One of Chang's most well-known designs: the Vesper vibrator necklace

Those were really the main types of products I saw out there on the market. As a matter of fact, 80% of women require clitoral stimulation to orgasm. So when I saw the lack of kind of quality and even just sensible products, I kinda decided, "look, this is really important. This is pleasure, this is part of how someone feels about themselves and how they get in touch with their body." That's what prompted me to start my first company, which was Incoqnito, that kind of brought together sex toys and jewelry. I basically bootstrapped this on my own with just a few thousand dollars, and off I went and I launched it.

A few years into that, I met my now co-founder, Michael. We bumped into each other at a trade show. I had already launched, I was already selling my products on the market. He just started Crave, and he was looking for a female industrial designer because he too felt that there were too many male voices already. I was the perfect person for the role. So basically, they bought my company to bring me onboard as co-founder. I've been co-founder and designing for Crave ever since.

And what's the thing that you treasure most about your job?

That every morning I'm working towards something I feel can help people in a positive way—it can support them in a way that other products can't. I'm part of a mission to help remove that stigma from pleasure, from sex toys, so that if you wanted to buy a vibrator, you shouldn't just be limited to poorly designed, overly priced, and bad products.

Part of my mission is really just to help provide different options. To me, from the early data points and from what I hear from people, it really makes a difference in their sex lives. This one gentleman wrote to us, saying that sex toys have always been part of their relationship, but when it comes to actually purchasing sex toys [his wife] would never want to have anything to do with it. One day she saw an article and she forwarded the link to her husband because it completely changed her idea of what sex toys could look like. Now, he says that she's leading the conversation. She now knows that sex toys don't have to look a certain traditional way.

That has done a lot for them. That is what excites me when I wake up every morning, that I am helping to move the cultural needle in some way when it comes to female pleasure and empowerment.

"If you see a sex toy that is, like this raggedy thing with weird gears...it's almost as if it's taking sexuality as a joke. It's treating women's pleasure as a non-serious topic. That to me is just not acceptable. You should approach it in a way, just like anything else, because it's about giving respect to the user."I feel like that speaks perfectly to the idea that some people think, "oh, design is just about making something pretty." But, actually, in a way, that has a functional purpose.

Yeah, just like every product has its own design language, it says something about the maker and the ethos of the company that makes it. If you see something that is, like this raggedy thing with weird gears, and you have to put a C battery in...it's almost as if it's taking sexuality as a joke. It's treating your pleasure as a novelty, and that's what [sex toys] are, they've been categorized as a novelty. It's treating women's pleasure as a non-serious topic. The design, the form says that. That to me is just not acceptable. You should approach it in a way, just like anything else, because it's about giving respect to the user and providing a higher aesthetic for these types of products. It makes someone not be embarrassed about it.

Crave's take on the classic bullet vibrator (once highlighted in our "In the Details" series!) 

 Shame can be such a huge part of sex that's brought on by culture, by religion, by society. Having a product that looks like it's laughing at you is not really the best thing. Having a dignified, well designed, beautiful product, that treats you with respect makes less likely to feel bad about your pleasure.

Beautifully said. So in terms of product research, in your experience, what do you think is the most effective way to conduct research so that you're making something you know your user will love?

I think the most effective way is to not go in with a bias. Even though, yes you've put in all this work into it, ultimately your tests need to suss out whether or not people actually enjoy using it, if they actually like it, or they're just being nice and just because you're their friend, they're using this thing and they have to tell you nice things. You need to devise the questionnaires in such a way that is not about validation. It is genuinely about, will they actually use this, is there a real need? That oftentimes is really hard, because you have to put your ego aside.

So how do you ensure that happens within your questionnaires? Is it about asking the right questions?

Yeah, it's about asking the right questions. Instead of giving them only multiple choice questions, give them more open-ended questions, that's very helpful. Give them a range, like how to feel, 1 to 10. Give them some that were 1 to 5, give them a range of how they feel about certain things, ask multiple times. Just the tone in which you devise and ask the question shouldn't be leading. That's like basic consumer research, but still, I think when designers are sometimes involved with their own research, they can kind of want it to go a certain way because you spend so much time on this.

I'm at a point where, before we go too far into anything, we always have a checkpoint with users so that it's never too far [into the production process]. We do little checkpoints every now and then several times with every product before it goes to launch, that way we're sure it is satisfying a real need.

That's, I think, one of the problems with a lot of products, is that somebody had a great idea like, "Oh, I think people should have a USB rechargeable vibrator mug."—I don't know, I'm just throwing it out there, it's a horrible idea. But they just go and make it, and then put it in front of people and make them use it. It's just silly. Back that up a little bit, you know? I think oftentimes people just get too carried away with just coming up with ideas and they don't check their egos.

Bringing this conversation to consumer products in general, in what ways should consumer products evolve to fit into our modern age? What do designers need to be thinking about right now, and changing their perspective about in order to succeed?

I think it starts with the user because that's the difference between designers and artists. When you're manufacturing something on a large scale, you have a responsibility of making sure that the things that you make aren't just stuff for landfills. In order to make sure that happens, you need to make sure that there is an actual need and desire for your product. By being in tune with what actual users want and need, as our landscape technology, AI, all these things change. That is what's gonna keep whatever new product you create relevant.

And how did you start pinpointing Crave's specific user? I imagine it's a particular type of person, you know?

Actually no, it's quite the opposite. Every company when you have a new product, marketing wants to know—who are your users? Are they a 23 to 27-year-old who uses Instagram and drives a car? That kind of thing. But for us, for our specific industry, that doesn't apply. Because, what we found is that sex, and pleasure, masturbation, all this, it's not a demographics thing.

It's more about psychographic than it is about demographic. It's about the attitude that you have towards sex. So if someone is curious and want to learn, or eager to explore, or someone who just wants more, that's the type of people that would be drawn to our brand.

Let's zoom out even further—as the Core77 Design Awards Consumer Products jury captain, you're going to evaluating a diverse group of designed products. What are some of the common inherent values and traits of products that you would consider a great design?

I like the notion of form follows function and emotion, and it evokes an emotion. Which means that it has to do what it's supposed to do. However, the form should be in such a way that it's not disruptive to the user's life in a bad way. It's not aesthetically displeasing, you know?

"I think the best products are the ones that you don't know you're in love with. It's just something that you've always gone to because it's always worked."

Then also, the emotion comes from enjoying using this product over and over again. Sometimes, I think the best products are the ones that you don't know you're in love with. It's just something that you've always gone to because it's always there, it's always worked. There's just this familiarity that we kind of take for granted, but it becomes almost like a classic, an icon. It's just something that stays with you, that is very enduring. I think that's really the kind of products I look for, is that they have to have a very good purpose. You kind of fall in love with it a little bit more, through use and just continuing to own this product.

Do you have any advice, maybe for students, or people who are trying to put together a presentation about their product? How do you present something that's impressive and will leave a mark on someone when they see it?

The number one mistake I always see kids do is that they just kind of throw everything in—all the sketches, studies, photos, observations—because the tutor or the professor always says to show your process. "Show your process" does not mean throw everything in including the kitchen sink. "Show your process" means, where are the pivotal points that helped you to make certain decisions that lead to the final product?

Show the sketches that gave you a little bit of like, "Ah-ha, this is interesting. I really enjoyed this curve, or this kind of made sense to solve this problem." Show that. From that, you made this prototype. "This prototype was interesting because I learned that this didn't actually fit this way, so then I changed my mind and I designed it this way, which lead to this." Show those pivotal points, that's your process. If you can walk them through that, and articulate and speak to that in an interview, that's fantastic. But you don't have to do this for every product. Just show one and then I know that you understand the process, that's good.

Secondly, remember you're an industrial designer. You have to realize something that's also beautiful, that the idea is sound and there's a real need. Most of your portfolios should show some really great renderings of final products and have a blurb about what it does. If your form and your idea are good, I can just read that blurb and see what you're trying to do. But, if you create a rendering and take 6 or 8 more drawings, and I'm still like, "What does it do and why?" that's probably not a good thing.

Having some of these beautiful glamour shots—those things are super important. Also, the last thing is only put in things that you really love and you're really proud of. Some things you may not be super proud of, but it shows a specific skill set that can't be seen in other projects show elsewhere, like technical drawings, or doing certain types of renderings, or certain kinds of research. Put that in there, because it highlights a skill set.

And don't show the sketches from your high school, nobody wants to see that.

Yeah, good tip.

It's about the edit. Editing is the hardest but most important.

The Core77 Design Awards Consumer Product Jury

2018 Consumer Products Jury Captain Ti Chang will be joined by these designers for the awards selection process:

Ivy Ross, VP of Design for Hardware, GoogleRaja Schaar, Assistant Professor of Product Design, Drexel UniversityJörg Student, Executive Design Director, IDEOThinking of submitting to the Consumer Products category in the 2018 Core77 Design Awards? Submit today—Regular Deadline ends March 8th!

Unusual Illustration Jobs: What Does It Take to Be a Police Sketch Artist, and How Much Does it Pay?

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-02-13 19:22

When I was still in art school, I met a grad student making big bucks as a medical illustrator. I saw some of her work and it was insanely detailed and precise. In that pre-widespread-CG era, someone with her skills could make a lot of money drawing cutaways of organs.

Another unusual sketch-skill-based job is police sketch artist. And it's almost the opposite of medical illustrator in that you needn't get every detail right, just a few telltale elements. Because of the way that we process faces, sometimes very little in the way of rendered detail is required for a witness to say "That's the guy."

Here's a case in point. The BBC reports that in Pennsylvania, an anonymous witness to a theft drew an unbelievably crude sketch of a suspect--and the police actually recognized who it was:

"While the sketch provided by the witness may have appeared amateurish and cartoonish, it, along with the distinctive physical descriptors, jogged the memory of at least one investigator to provide a potential suspect name," Lancaster Police wrote in their report.

They then showed a mugshot to the witness, who confirmed that was the man s/he had seen.

While that sketch was drawn by a witness working from memory, consider how difficult it must be, as a police sketch artist, to draw a face based on someone's verbal description. 

Here's an example of how that process goes, where they must use photos of other people to prompt the witness:

The greatest challenge is that it's difficult to describe someone's face using language, even if that face is burned into your memory. Here's an amusing experiment where couples are asked to describe their partners' faces to a police sketch artist, then they see the results:

Better graphics software is probably going to wipe the profession out in the future. But for the time being, if you're looking for a short-term gig you can reportedly make $41k a year. If you're curious, you can learn how to become a police sketch artist here.

Live from the Awwwards Conference: UX Insights, Plus News from Adobe XD!

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-02-13 19:22

The Awwwards Conference are humming along this morning, on the second of two days of talks, and we're excited to share some of the UX insights and news from Berlin — but before we get into it, we'd kindly like to remind you that you can watch the livestream at Adobe Live.

If you happened to tune in (or be there), you already know that Day One was jam-packed with inspiration, with too many highlights to mention in a short recap — but we'll try anyway! Erich Nagler kicked things off by defining Art Director as a hybrid role in which one must wear the proverbial hats of a Conductor, Curator, Journalist, Director, and Ethicist, sharing a behind-the-scenes look at Google Doodles (where he works) along the way. (Among the fun facts: for Doodles that depict a historic writer, poet, or painter holding a writing instrument or brush, the team double-checks if he or she was right- or left-handed.)

The two subsequent talks showed the breadth of the programming: Jeany Ngo offered a deeply personal narrative while Harry Roberts offered a highly technical Vim showcase. The balance of the talks were crowd-pleasing showreels, edifying case studies, and words of wisdom, though it's also worth mentioning the sheer diversity of speakers and projects. Irina Spicaka elaborated on enabling artists and musicians to create interactive works through better UX, while Julia Kloiber advocated for empowering disenfranchised citizens through better UX, in keeping with her work as the founder of Code for Germany.

Irina Spicaka (left) with her collaborator Holzhey. Photo by Artistsweb

MC Mr. Bingo lightened the mood throughout the show, which finished strong with the two final talks: following a team of Wix designers who literally told a story through UX, Michael Flarup wrapped things up with a feel-good tale of his own path to becoming a successful maker of digital things — his favorite being app icons.

And speaking of icons, it so happens that Adobe XD has just unveiled a brand new series of icon kits designed by renowned studios, all available to download for free. To mark its commitment to top-notch UX, Adobe has partnered with Lance Wyman, Anton & Irene, and Büro Destruct to create icons that embody #GoodDesign principles. Learn more about them here, or download them directly here.

But wait, there's more! In addition to the release of the free icon kits, Adobe XD also offered a sneak peek of a forthcoming feature: vector graphics support in Creative Cloud libraries, allowing for seamless workflows between vector graphics and XD projects. Check out the teaser video:

There's still more than half of Day Two to go, so be sure to tune in between now and 5:00PM CET (11:00AM ET) for the home stretch of the Awwwards Conference in Berlin, including the closing keynote from Adobe's own Khoi Vinh at 16:10PM. Head over to Adobe Live for the livestream!

Nike's Mercurial Superfly and Vapor 360 Wrap the Entire Foot in Flyknit Thanks to New Material Combination

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-02-13 19:22

Unveiled last night, here's a look at Nike's latest additions to their Mercurial line—the Mercurial Superfly and the Mercurial Vapor 360.

There are two main design details to note here, the first being the Flyknit innovation that allows the full boot to be wrapped in the material. Nike explains this best:

"Previously, All Conditions Control (ACC) was applied on top of the finished Flyknit product, creating a thin layer. Now, ACC is embedded into the yarns prior to knitting, eliminating the additional skin without compromising the performance benefit. The result is a matte finish on a texturized upper that is softer to the touch but can still battle the elements."

In other words, Nike merged their all weather conditions technology with Flyknit yarn, creating a super-knit that can withstand the elements. The treatment also allows for elimination of the soleplate altogether.

The second design detail is more obvious: the forefoot and heel stud structures look ridiculously cool and remind me of a futuristic Galaga enemy.

Here you can see where the ACC-embedded Flyknit meets the regular Flyknit.

At this point, it's unclear whether the ACC-embedded Flyknit will hold up overtime. Let's just hope Nike doesn't have another NBA jersey-like incident in the near future.

If you're interested in learning more, Nike Football Senior Design Director Jeongwoo Le, speaks a little bit about the Mercurial 360's design process in this brief video: