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Nissan's "Invisible to Visible" AR Driving Safety System

Core 77 - Wed, 2019-01-16 01:14

I love having an all-wheel-drive turbo stickshift, but due to a recent close call, I've completely changed the way I drive.

To explain, the roads where I live are all twisty country two-lanes. There's never any traffic nor kids in the road. I rarely even see other cars. So I've been driving like I'm in a car commercial, accelerating madly through curves, pushing the grip coefficient while the engine sings. But two months ago I came around a corner and spotted a tan flash of fur moving perpendicular to my direction of travel.

There wasn't time to do anything but slam on the brakes. I got my money's worth out of the ABS, the car nosedived and the doe appeared directly in front of my hood, bounding from right to left. I missed her by inches, maybe millimeters. She was so close that I still can't believe I didn't hit her.

On a subsequent trip to the feed store, my wife was riding shotgun and pointed out no less than five car-killed deer at various points along the side of the road. I never notice these because my eyes are always on the asphalt. But I realized that if I hit anything here, it's going to be a deer, and with my low-nosed car the impact would be bad. So I have slowed way the F down and now drive like an old man.

What I want is a drone that lives on my car's roof when parked, then flies ahead when I'm driving and provides data projected in AR across my windshield. I want to see infrared outlines of all deer in a 100-foot radius, particularly around corners. Such a system of course does not exist, but I just learned that Nissan has been working on an "Invisible-to-Visible," or I2V, safety system that could solve my problem:

Says Nissan:

I2V will support drivers by merging information from sensors outside and inside the vehicle with data from the cloud. This enables the system not only to track the vehicle's immediate surroundings but also to anticipate what's ahead – even showing what's behind a building or around the corner. To make driving more enjoyable, guidance is given in an interactive, human-like way, such as through avatars that appear inside the car.

I'm pro-sensor, but not sold on the "avatars that appear inside the car" bit. Nissan being based in Japan, I wonder how kooky they'd get with it; I imagine I'd see a projection of a man with a deer's head sitting in my passenger seat going "Slow down--dude DUDE DUDE" and stomping on an imaginary brake pedal.


Design Job: Tuft and Needle, the Original Online Mattress Brand, Is Seeking a Senior Designer

Core 77 - Wed, 2019-01-16 01:14

THE COMPANY Tuft & Needle (“T&N”) is the original disrupter in the mattress space. Founded in 2012 by Daehee Park and JT Marino, T&N has grown to one of the top players in the e-commerce bedding space. While most competitors raised significant amounts of investor funding and are loss-making,

View the full design job here

EmuVR Lets You Play '80s/'90s Videogames--in '80s/'90s Virtual Reality Settings

Core 77 - Wed, 2019-01-16 01:14

As current tech stands, this is probably the closest we can get to an actual time machine. EmuVR is a retro emulation that lets you pop on the goggles to play an Atari 2600, a Commodore 64, an NES, a Sega Genesis and other consoles of yore--inside of an '80s/'90s bedroom setting. Period-authentic snack packages, movie posters and décor are featured, as is your choice of crappy CRT television.

"You can even stream videos to the TVs and watch your favourite Saturday morning cartoons," reviewer John Judge points out on Indieverse. The only thing that's missing are your parents nagging you to "turn that fool thing off" and join them at the kitchen table.


Sign of the Times: Harley Davidson Unveils Electric…Scooters and Bicycles

Core 77 - Wed, 2019-01-16 01:14

The press has been abuzz for a while with news of Harley-Davidson's forthcoming Livewire (above), the company's first foray into electric motorcycles. But what no one saw coming was the other two concepts they unveiled this week: An as-yet-unnamed electric bike…

…and this electric scooter-looking thingy:

ENGINEERED FOR THE CITYThese lightweight electric concepts are designed for an urban future by being generally easy to ride - no clutch, no shifting, lightweight, and with the goal of no motorcycle license required to operate. Both feature removable, single-hand-carry battery packs and a style grounded in H-D design philosophies.

I like the open architecture of the scooter, or at least would be curious enough to try one to see if the negative space actually provides practical storage space. It's subjective, but there's nothing I find objectionable about either of these forms; I'm just shocked that they're coming from Harley-Davidson, who just a few years ago was riding high on the Sons of Anarchy image.

How long until we see Photoshop weisenheimers putting Jax Teller and crew on a set of those?


5 IoT Deployment Flaws to Avoid

Design News - Tue, 2019-01-15 05:00
(Image source: Pixabay)

For the third time in as many weeks, the IoT alarm system deployed in my home decided to go on the fritz.

The first time, sensors started to chirp annoyingly right after I had gotten the kids to bed. A simple battery change seemed to resolve the problem. The second time it happened, I was boarding a red eye flight from the west around 2 a.m. PDT, which left my wife scrambling to find, lift, and use my extension ladder to silence the devices before the noise woke the kids. Finally, tonight (does 3 a.m. count as tonight or this morning?) the devices again went off—this time, allowing me to realize that it was the same two culprits causing the problem. These three late-night shenanigans led me to unveil five flaws that undoubtedly plague many consumer IoT devices, which we should be avoiding as we are designing.

Flaw #1 – Not Automatically Setting Device Time and Using It Wisely

An Internet-connected system should be able to go out onto the Internet and retrieve the current time. That time can easily then be sent to each sensor node in the network, so that time is synchronized throughout the system. Time information can be useful to determine whether it is an appropriate time to signal the user that there is a problem with the system. For example, notifying a user with an annoying, loud chirp that the battery is low probably is not something that should be done at 2 a.m. A few lines of code could easily defer sounding the alarm until 6:30 a.m. or, heaven forbid, some user configurable time.

Flaw #2 – Audible Alarms that Are Confusing

As part of my alarm system, I have at least a dozen smoke and CO2 detectors that are located throughout the house. In my late-night grogginess, I had narrowed the culprits down to two CO2 detectors—one of which was located about 20 feet off the ground in the living room, and the other which was thankfully within arm’s reach. When these sensors went on the fritz, they started to chirp like a smoke detector that needed to have its battery changed. The first time this happened, the solution was to change the battery. The second time, since it was a different troubleshooter, the solution was also to change the battery. The third time, when both troubleshooters were there, we looked at each other and said, “But I just changed those batteries!”

So what, then, is the deal with that low-battery chirping noise? Enter Google. A quick late-night search reveals that these detectors, when tripped, make the same noise as a smoke detector that has a low battery. This makes me wonder: Two sensors both tripped; is there a CO2 leak? Changing the battery cleared the alarms and they have consistently gone off seven days apart within a few hours. Could it be something else? Did I mention that these detectors are located right next to a smoke detector? 

As designers, we need to make sure that the audible alarms our devices produce are distinct and easily recognizable. Having a CO2 sensor that trips with a sound that is recognized as a low battery indicator has some very serious potential safety consequences.

Flaw #3 – Not Tracking When Assets Need to Be Replaced

The CO2 detectors were definitely the issue. After having to scale 20 feet in the air while half asleep, I had the common sense to bring the sensor into the light and carefully examine it. Swapping out batteries had cleared the alarm and one would hope that if CO2 was really present, the devices would trip again. Since this didn’t seem to be the case, and no one was more confused or loony than normal, a good bet was that there was something wrong with this connected device.

Upon careful examination, I discovered that there was a sticker inside the device located near the battery that stated: “Replace by Feb 2018.” It’s currently October 23, 2018 at around 4 a.m. Yes, I have sensors that are supposed to be monitoring and protecting my home that are past their usable shelf life! The problem is that the company that is supposed to be managing these devices has no clue that their asset has expired and instead is waiting for system failures to occur before they come out to replace them.

As designers and companies, if there is a usable shelf life for our products or even for batteries that need to be replaced, we need to track:

  • When the device was manufactured
  • When it was installed
  • When it needs to be replaced

This allows service technicians to be proactive in maintaining these devices in the field. If you know that you are servicing client A, and client B needs to have their system maintained in a month but you’ll be in the area, scheduling the two together can dramatically save travel time and costs. This not only maximizes the number of clients serviced, income, etc., but also keeps customers happy and, more importantly, safe.

Flaw #4 – Not Assigning Understandable Location and Device Information

What is interesting about the system I have is that, despite a really cool application that I can use to check the status of the system, the location and device information is sorely lacking. For example, the sensors did report to the server that there was a problem. Checking the application, though, revealed that sensor #18 in the living room was having a problem. There are six sensors in the living room. While our systems may be designed to be generic, for system users, we need to make sure that we can assign human readable and accessible information, such as “Sensor #18, Living Room CO2, Get the ladder.”

Flaw #5 – Reactive, not Proactive, Customer Service

As engineers, we probably don’t give the customer experience much thought. That’s something that the marketing and sales team should be worried about and can relay to us developers. The fact, though, is that at the end of the day, the customer experience is what will determine whether our company is successful. For that reason, I believe customer service should be proactive. Despite my home system being actively monitored, I did not hear a single peep. The alarms were actually tamper alarms; shouldn’t that signal to someone that something isn’t right?

At the end of the day, it turned out that the CO2 detectors had actually expired and were triggering a tamper detection signal. As I mentioned earlier, this was no different than the CO2 detected alarm, which also matches a smoke detector's low-battery alarm. When we design our connected world, we need to pull ourselves away from the cool technology that we are building and look at the system through our customers' eyes. How will they feel being woken up in the middle of the night? Will they realize instinctively what that alarm means?

Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost, and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer, and holds three degrees, which include a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at jacob@beningo.com, at his website www.beningo.com/, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter.

Submit Your Proposals for ESC Boston and ESC Silicon Valley!
ESC returns to Boston May 15-16, and to Silcon Valley August 27-29, with a fresh, in-depth, educational program designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals, and the Call for Speakers ends this Friday!                   Click here to submit your proposal today!

5 IoT Deployment Flaws to Avoid

Design News - Tue, 2019-01-15 05:00

For the third time in as many weeks, the IoT alarm system deployed in my home decided to go on the fritz.

The first time, sensors started to chirp annoyingly right after I had gotten the kids to bed. A simple battery change seemed to resolve the problem. The second time it happened, I was boarding a red eye flight from the west around 2 a.m. PDT, which left my wife scrambling to find, lift, and use my extension ladder to silence the devices before the noise woke the kids. Finally, tonight (does 3 a.m. count as tonight or this morning?) the devices again went off—this time, allowing me to realize that it was the same two culprits causing the problem. These three late-night shenanigans led me to unveil five flaws that undoubtedly plague many consumer IoT devices, which we should be avoiding as we are designing.

Flaw #1 – Not Automatically Setting Device Time and Using It Wisely

An Internet-connected system should be able to go out onto the Internet and retrieve the current time. That time can easily then be sent to each sensor node in the network, so that time is synchronized throughout the system. Time information can be useful to determine whether it is an appropriate time to signal the user that there is a problem with the system. For example, notifying a user with an annoying, loud chirp that the battery is low probably is not something that should be done at 2 a.m. A few lines of code could easily defer sounding the alarm until 6:30 a.m. or, heaven forbid, some user configurable time.

Flaw #2 – Audible Alarms that Are Confusing

As part of my alarm system, I have at least a dozen smoke and CO2 detectors that are located throughout the house. In my late-night grogginess, I had narrowed the culprits down to two CO2 detectors—one of which was located about 20 feet off the ground in the living room, and the other which was thankfully within arm’s reach. When these sensors went on the fritz, they started to chirp like a smoke detector that needed to have its battery changed. The first time this happened, the solution was to change the battery. The second time, since it was a different troubleshooter, the solution was also to change the battery. The third time, when both troubleshooters were there, we looked at each other and said, “But I just changed those batteries!”

So what, then, is the deal with that low-battery chirping noise? Enter Google. A quick late-night search reveals that these detectors, when tripped, make the same noise as a smoke detector that has a low battery. This makes me wonder: Two sensors both tripped; is there a CO2 leak? Changing the battery cleared the alarms and they have consistently gone off seven days apart within a few hours. Could it be something else? Did I mention that these detectors are located right next to a smoke detector? 

As designers, we need to make sure that the audible alarms our devices produce are distinct and easily recognizable. Having a CO2 sensor that trips with a sound that is recognized as a low battery indicator has some very serious potential safety consequences.

Flaw #3 – Not Tracking When Assets Need to Be Replaced

The CO2 detectors were definitely the issue. After having to scale 20 feet in the air while half asleep, I had the common sense to bring the sensor into the light and carefully examine it. Swapping out batteries had cleared the alarm and one would hope that if CO2 was really present, the devices would trip again. Since this didn’t seem to be the case, and no one was more confused or loony than normal, a good bet was that there was something wrong with this connected device.

Upon careful examination, I discovered that there was a sticker inside the device located near the battery that stated: “Replace by Feb 2018.” It’s currently October 23, 2018 at around 4 a.m. Yes, I have sensors that are supposed to be monitoring and protecting my home that are past their usable shelf life! The problem is that the company that is supposed to be managing these devices has no clue that their asset has expired and instead is waiting for system failures to occur before they come out to replace them.

As designers and companies, if there is a usable shelf life for our products or even for batteries that need to be replaced, we need to track:

  • When the device was manufactured
  • When it was installed
  • When it needs to be replaced

This allows service technicians to be proactive in maintaining these devices in the field. If you know that you are servicing client A, and client B needs to have their system maintained in a month but you’ll be in the area, scheduling the two together can dramatically save travel time and costs. This not only maximizes the number of clients serviced, income, etc., but also keeps customers happy and, more importantly, safe.

Flaw #4 – Not Assigning Understandable Location and Device Information

What is interesting about the system I have is that, despite a really cool application that I can use to check the status of the system, the location and device information is sorely lacking. For example, the sensors did report to the server that there was a problem. Checking the application, though, revealed that sensor #18 in the living room was having a problem. There are six sensors in the living room. While our systems may be designed to be generic, for system users, we need to make sure that we can assign human readable and accessible information, such as “Sensor #18, Living Room CO2, Get the ladder.”

Flaw #5 – Reactive, not Proactive, Customer Service

As engineers, we probably don’t give the customer experience much thought. That’s something that the marketing and sales team should be worried about and can relay to us developers. The fact, though, is that at the end of the day, the customer experience is what will determine whether our company is successful. For that reason, I believe customer service should be proactive. Despite my home system being actively monitored, I did not hear a single peep. The alarms were actually tamper alarms; shouldn’t that signal to someone that something isn’t right?

At the end of the day, it turned out that the CO2 detectors had actually expired and were triggering a tamper detection signal. As I mentioned earlier, this was no different than the CO2 detected alarm, which also matches a smoke detector's low-battery alarm. When we design our connected world, we need to pull ourselves away from the cool technology that we are building and look at the system through our customers' eyes. How will they feel being woken up in the middle of the night? Will they realize instinctively what that alarm means?

Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost, and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer, and holds three degrees, which include a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at jacob@beningo.com, at his website www.beningo.com/, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter.

Submit Your Proposals for ESC Boston and ESC Silicon Valley!
ESC returns to Boston May 15-16, and to Silcon Valley August 27-29, with a fresh, in-depth, educational program designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals, and the Call for Speakers ends this Friday!                   Click here to submit your proposal today!

'Big Arse Toilet' Concept Turns Waste to Electricity, Combats Open Defecation

Design News - Tue, 2019-01-15 04:00

The “Big Arse Toilet” could provide toilet facilities and electricity for up to eight dwellings. (Image source: Spark Architects)

One of the many things the developed world takes for granted is the toilet. It doesn't matter if it’s indoor or outdoor; shared or private; chemical, water-flushing, portable, or just a deep pit in the ground; or simple or glamorous. It’s a critical piece of equipment for public health and sanitation, as it disposes of human waste properly and reduces the risk of bacterial illness that increases mortality.

Globally, about 892 million people, or 12 percent of the Earth’s population, engage in open defecation (using ditches, fields, woods, rivers, or even streets)—often because they lack access to toilets. Open defecation rates are highest in India, where it’s estimated that 40 percent of the population either lacks access to toilets or does not use them because of cultural practices.

Ending the practice of open defecation is one of the world’s top sustainable development goals for reducing poverty and mortality. Various projects have been attempted, with mixed levels of success. In some cases, toilet facilities have been installed in communities in Asia and Africa, but a lack of planning for cleaning and care of the facilities has led to them becoming unusable or even a security risk.

Now, Singapore-based Spark Architects has a new idea: functional toilets that use human waste to generate electricity. The concept, called the “Big Arse Toilet,” is a 13-meter, partially 3D-printed structure that converts human and animal waste into biogas. (The company’s slogan for the project is, “SPARK gives a sh*t.”) In theory, the completed toilet system could be flown into remote locations using a six-rotor drone.

The idea of converting human waste into electricity isn’t a new one, but doing it on-site in a rural village is compelling. According to SPARK, each Big Arse Toilet could generate enough electricity for eight rural dwellings in a small village.

It works like this: Human waste goes directly into the anaerobic digester. Food scraps, animal waste, and other organic waste are fed manually into the digester. Eventually, decomposition of the organic material produces methane, which is stored under a relative amount of pressure in an underground bio-gas chamber. The bio-gas is fed to the unit’s micro combined heat and power (CHP) plant to create electricity or provide gas for cooking and lighting.

The original design created by the company involved bamboo fibers, which are plentiful in India, mixed with bio-polymer resin to create the bio-gas dome. The company has now resolved to find another way, as 3D printing bamboo fibers is proving to be challenging with current additive manufacturing equipment.

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“We have not used this material and are encountering resistance from large-scale printers not wanting to use anything but the standard printing plastics and nylons. This is a little disappointing,” Stephen Pimbley, director of Spark Architects, told Design News. “We chose the material given India’s natural bamboo resource and the Indian government’s desire to find new, inventive ways of using the bamboo raw material.”

Ultimately, the goal is to be able to customize the toilet systems based on their surroundings by taking advantage of local flora and using lightweight materials, compared to heavy and difficult-to-transport materials such as concrete.

“The printed shell forms a lath onto which different types of materials can be applied, such as mud, timber, or a green growing surface,” Pimbley said. “The intent is to provide the toilet with a level of ‘contextualism’ either via fabrication using local materials or as an organic substrate for plant/vegetable growth.”

In the future, the concept may move forward without the use of 3D printing—instead, finding a way of using existing materials that are plentiful in India. “Having talked to many printers, we have come to the conclusion that perhaps [3D] printing is not the way forward,” said Pimbley. “We are investigating injection molding or pressed panels using either bamboo pulp or recycled Tetra packs, since billions of Tetra packs are discarded into landfills in India every year.”

While a micro CHP plant is ideal for producing electricity in a rural setting using the bio-gas, Pimbley told Design News that it makes the system more expensive and complicated and requires maintenance. Spark is currently looking at alternatives to CHP generation to make the toilet system more self-sustaining and cost-effective to produce.

“We are value-engineering the design currently—determining printing costs versus a molded, pressed, or injection-molded system,” Pimbley said. “The more that are produced, the lower the unit cost. The high up-front costs are in tooling and mold fabrication.”

SPARK is currently seeking funding to further its design for the Big Arse Toilet. Previous sustainable development research projects led by the company have included beach huts made from recycled ocean plastic and a home farm that combines market gardening with aged care living. Both of these projects were recognized with innovation awards by the World Architecture Festival.

Tracey Schelmetic graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. and began her long career as a technology and science writer and editor at Appleton & Lange. Later, as the editorial director of telecom trade journal Customer Interaction Solutions (today Customer magazine), she became a well-recognized voice in the contact center industry. Today, she is a freelance writer specializing in manufacturing and technology, telecommunications, and enterprise software.

Bio-inspired Material Can Follow the Sun

Design News - Tue, 2019-01-15 03:00

Researchers have developed new, bio-inspired materials that can move in response to different stimuli. The materials—called liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs)—could be used to develop solar panels that can automatically rotate to follow the sun, as well as be applied to robotics, adhesives, and other next-generation applications.

Key to the research of scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are magnetic fields, which they used to control the molecular structure of LCEs. In this way, they created microscopic, three-dimensional polymer shapes that can be programmed to move in any direction in response to multiple types of stimuli, according to a Wyss news release.

“What’s critical about this project is that we are able to control the molecular structure by aligning liquid crystals in an arbitrary direction in 3D space, allowing us to program nearly any shape into the geometry of the material itself,” said Yuxing Yao, a graduate student who worked on the research in the lab of Wyss professor Joanna Aizenberg.

Liquid crystal elastomers deform in response to heat. The shape they take depends on the alignment of their internal crystalline elements, which can be determined by exposing them to different magnetic fields during formation. (Image source: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

Rubbery Polymer Materials

LCEs are rubbery polymers that contain liquid crystalline compounds; these control the directions in which the materials can move and stretch. They are bio-inspired by natural examples, such as the pads of gecko feet. Gecko footpads are sticky and covered with setae—microscopic, hairlike structures that—because of their high flexibility as well as their chemical and physical composition—are the reason why the lizards can scale and grip walls and ceilings so easily.

Researchers ultimately aim to develop LCEs that are this flexible and nimble. However, to date, researchers have managed to develop synthetic LCEs that can deform in only one or two dimensions, which limits their ability to move throughout space and take on different shapes.

The Harvard team has now overcome this challenge with microstructures comprised of LCEs cast into shapes that can deform in response to heat, light, and humidity. Moreover, their specific reconfiguration is controlled by their own chemical and material properties, researchers said.

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Controlling the Shape

They achieved their result by exposing the LCE to a magnetic field while they were being synthesized. This made all of the liquid-crystalline elements inside the LCEs line up along that magnetic field, keeping this structure even after the polymer solidified.

By varying the direction of the magnetic field during this process, the scientists could control how the resulting LCE shapes would deform when heated to a temperature that disrupted the orientation of their structures, researchers said. Moreover, when the shapes returned to ambient temperature, they resumed their initial, inherent shape.

The team also programmed their LCE shapes to reconfigure themselves in response to light by integrating light-sensitive, cross-linking molecules into the structure during polymerization.

This resulted in a structure that—once illuminated from a certain direction—would contract on its side that faced the light, causing the entire shape to bend toward the light. This ultimately allowed the LCEs to respond to their environment by continuously re-orienting themselves to autonomously follow the light. 

Programming the described shape changes in LCEs can be used for a number of applications, researchers said. Perhaps most interestingly, these materials can be used to design solar panels that turn to follow the sun—like a sunflower does naturally—for improved energy capture.

Other uses include the creation of encrypted messages that are only revealed when heated to a specific temperature, actuators for tiny soft robots, or adhesive materials—the stickiness of which can be switched on and off, Yao said. The technology could also form the basis of autonomous source-following radios, multilevel encryption, sensors, and smart buildings.

Researchers published a paper on their work in the journal PNAS.

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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Students Invent Machine to Harvest Microplastic from Beaches

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-01-15 00:39

Here's a sobering fact pointed out by a team of students in Canada: Every piece of plastic that has ever been manufactured is still somewhere on Earth. (Actually that's not entirely true; we've probably managed to launch some of it into space on now-derelict satellites.)

Rather than biodegrading, plastic simply breaks down into smaller and smaller particles over time, and that's when real trouble starts. It's relatively easy for a plogger to pick up a plastic bottle on a beach; it's not so easy to sift through sand to recover plastic chips, shards and particles.

Enter aforementioned team of students from the University of Sherbrooke. Here's the problem they observed:

For several years, the plastic waste that ends on [Hawaii's] Kamilo Beach has been breaking down into increasingly fine particles. Thus, the more time passes, the harder it gets to collect the plastic on the beach. That's why the larger particles are collected first. However, it's the small particles, that remain on the beach, that are the most damaging to our environment.In fact, animals confuse plastic particles with insects or other living organisms and ingest them. Plastic therefore enters the food chain and poisons it. In addition to eating plastic, animals are exposed to additives contained in the plastics. These toxic products accumulate and concentrate in organisms up the food chain. This is why we must act and remove microplastics from the environment of the beach.

To tackle the tricky problem of extracting plastic particles that have washed up on beaches, they invented a vacuuming and sorting machine called the Hoola One:

Next the team hopes to transport the machine to Hawaii to test it out. You can follow their progress on their Facebook page.

A Japanese Desk Lamp Designed for Sketching, Based on No-Glare Surgeon's Lamps

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-01-15 00:39

I prefer sketching on paper, but one undeniable benefit to sketching on a tablet is that you don't have to worry about the light source. Back when I worked in a design office, the position of my desk lamp was a constant, if minor, irritation. I had a swing-arm with a heavy base, and would cantilever the head out over my sketchpad to avoid casting shadows. This inevitably blocked the monitor and/or got in the way of my head if I wanted to hunch and focus, and moving the lamp base to the side would get in the way of other stuff on my desk.

I'm not sure if this is the solution, but at least they're trying something new. Japanese manufacturer Balmuda's The Light is a dimmable LED desk lamp that borrows a trick from medical lamps used in surgery, casting the light outwards at an angle to illuminate the desktop without glaring into your eyes.

You can store markers, pens, pencils etc. right in the base, meaning the lamp's footprint does double duty and allows you to keep one less item on your desktop, reducing clutter.

Alas, the well-designed lamp sure ain't cheap; these babies run $540 a pop.

Polar Bear Paws Have Non-Slip Grips, and Other Natural Solutions You Can Integrate Into Your Designs

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-01-15 00:39
Turns out that polar bear paws naturally have an excellent non-slip grip.

Most of us know that nature has already come up with an endless supply of brilliant design solutions, just waiting to be integrated into your designs. The problem is that you have to be exposed to nature in the first place in order to learn about them. The inventor of Velcro famously got the idea for it after walking his dog through a field full of burrs. This biomechanical researcher discovered that cat's tongues can actually shred meat. Geckel adhesive was invented by studying the feet of geckos and mussels.

When was the last time you studied mussels, examined a dead snow leopard's tongue or even walked through a field? Wouldn't it be great if you had a catalog of nature-based design solutions, and could even search it with abstract terms like "how to protect from heat," "how to move" or "how to prevent structural failure?"

Well, that's exactly what the Biomimicry Institute has put together--and made freely available online. AskNature.org, a searchable database of natural solutions so broad that it contains lots of things you've never heard of, allows you to "explore biological intelligence organized by design and engineering functions."

Need to design a sealed cylinder? Check out how a butterfly's proboscis works. Designing a support truss? Look at how the branches of Russian thistles provide support. Designing a non-slip grip for ice? Check out how polar bear paws work. Want to create a more efficient soil aeration tool for gardening or farming? Learn how the short-beaked echidna (a kind of anteater) can actually breathe underground by creating air pockets in the soil.

There's a video below on how the site works, but it's really pretty self-explanatory. Try it out by browsing the collection or entering specific search queries here.

Apply for Free Design Education: Cranbrook Launches Full-Tuition Fellowship Program

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-01-15 00:39

Cash-strapped creatives who already have a Bachelors: Wouldn't it be fantastic to pursue a graduate design education without having to stress out about the tuition? Well, good news, as today the Cranbrook Academy of Art announced they've launched a new fellowship program with full tuition coverage. Their Director's Fellowship Program has five slots available for the 2019-20 academic year, with potential for renewal for a second year.

"We created this program to recognize creative excellence in art, design, and architecture," said Susan R. Ewing, Director of Cranbrook Academy of Art. "Cranbrook is built upon a foundation of pioneering artists, designers, and architects, and it is the intention of this program to continue to fill our spaces with top talent that reflects the diverse nature of these fields."

Those of you who are ID-focused will have to have a little patience; for this first run, fellowships will be awarded only to students in the Architecture, Fiber, Metalsmithing, Photography and Print Media departments. But for the 2020-21 academic year, fellowships will be awarded to students in the 2D Design, 3D Design, 4D Design, Ceramics, Painting, and Sculpture departments.

They're only taking applications for the next 20 days. Be sure to beat their February 1, 2019 deadline by applying here.


Tools & Craft #123: The Future of Furniture, Part 5 - Forming Sheet Goods

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-01-15 00:39

I think it is fair to say that most furniture is made of solid wood or sheet goods - the latter being plywood, melamine, or MDF, depending on budget and design considerations. As discussed in the last blog, cutting sheets goods accurately and with a clean, ready-to-glue edge isn't trivial, and it's a real roadblock for a lot of beginners who are just trying to build their first pieces of useful furniture.

The obvious solution is to use a table saw, panel saw, or a portable saw and rail system like the Festool TS55. The first method requires a large amount of free floor space - eight feet on each side of the saw. The second method requires eight or nine running feet along a wall. The last method requires saw horses, and at least ten or so clear feet to set up the saw and have a little room to work on a full sized (8') panel. All of these methods require an initial capital expense of $600 and up and some training (not much).

I don't think any hand tool can cut a clean edge in plywood, so I don't think that's practical for any except very rough work.

Professional cabinetmakers in New York City have similar problems. Space is at a premium, and while having a table saw is pretty important for some of the work, breaking down panels to exact size can be slow, and errors are expensive. Noah Grossman, a cabinetmaker located in Brooklyn, applies a solution to the problem that is becoming more and more popular among professional woodworkers.

The walnut plywood panels above are part of a sideboard Noah designed and built, but instead of cutting all the material in his own shop (which he certainly has the capacity to do), Noah found it was easier and cheaper to outsource the cutting up of the panels to a CNC shop.

All across the country, CNC shops offer exact dimension cutting of sheet goods usually for a fixed cost over material cost. CNC shops can cut, rebate, drill, form splines for joinery, drill for hinges, and perform many other operations. Unlike a small shop with a basic CNC router, the best of these shops have sophisticated materials-handling equipment and automatic tool changers for flexibility. Modern CNC shops are set up to handle sheet after sheet of goods far more efficiently than any single person feeding a table saw could. Another bonus: as long as the CNC receives a correct data file, it's their responsibility for tear-out, damage, and any other screw-ups. Other parts of cabinets can also be outsourced very economically. There are many companies that will be happy to make dovetailed drawers for you in any size and quality for your cabinet. Noah did point out that outsourcing the sheet goods was only part of the project. The base of this sideboard was made from solid, using regular methods, in his shop.

Currently I am not aware of any CNC shops that cater to weekend warriors. Pro shops just don't want to deal with the learning curve and hand holding amateurs need. But I think in the future, after some brave entrepreneurs decide to specialize in the non-professional market, outsourcing the cutting of sheet goods will be a major facilitator for sheet good projects of all kinds. If you want to build a kitchen as a part-timer, having everything correctly cut for you makes a very large project manageable. Outsourcing precise material cutting will also encourage the creation of all sorts of free-form furniture that an amateur can design but can't really make in a regular shop. Most importantly, the parts of a project, as in Noah's case, that are made of solid wood, can be made by hand in a small shop.

I don't see much advantage in owning your own CNC machine if you are only doing a few projects a year.

Noah called this approach "Custom Ikea," and he's not far wrong. But big deal! Much of modern furniture design look like Ikea design, only better made, out of better materials. Ikea specializes in modern furniture; just because something in an Ikea store looks at a distance like your modern project is no reason not to build modern stuff, if that's what you want.

The last picture, another project by Noah Grossman and Alec Gessner, is a fairly straightforward run of white cabinets. Here CNC was used to cut up a large amount of similar panels. This is a real win for the small shop because handling that many sheets of lightweight MDF is a physical and logistics challenge in a small shop. Getting the dozen or so cabinets correctly cut and ready for assembly makes for a better, quicker job.

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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.p

Combining Industrial Design with Game Design to Improve Physical Therapy

Core 77 - Tue, 2019-01-15 00:39

Physical therapy can be a dull and repetitive process. Playing videogames, on the other hand, requires repetitive manipulations of the controller, but is mentally engaging. Technology company Neofect is exploiting the latter phenomenon to improve the UX of PT, specifically for stroke victims, with their Rapael Smart Glove.

What they should do next: Team up with Rockstar Games to create a Red Dead Rapael Redemption edition. For those recovering from a stroke and who have a tolerance for both violence and moral flexibility, that combination ought to provide hours of diverting PT.

Seriously, though, I've heard that RDR2 is so immersive that you have to spend game time petting your horse in order to build a bond with it.