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Design Job: Design (Not Decorate!) Your Dream Job as a Restoration Hardware Interior Designer in Philadelphia, PA

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-12-06 21:40

We are designers, not decorators. That distinction means that we look at a project in the context of the entire space, or the whole, rather than as parts or components. RH designers understand the art and science of lifestyle, environment and taste to create a functional, beautiful and personal space. We provide luxury design services for the reimagining of one room or an entire home, anywhere in the world. Our designers embody the RH lifestyle and a sense of personal style, polished appearance,

View the full design job here

Today's Urban Design Observation: Anti-Craftsmanship

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-12-06 21:40

Manhattan's Chinatown is filled with shops, and many of them have outdoor displays. During the day you can't see the actual display unit, just the goods covering them. But early in the morning the displays are visible.

They are functional, and only that. Visually they are horrific-looking. I call it anti-craftsmanship. They are built with no thought to aesthetics, longevity nor pride. The materials used are always construction-grade plywood and dimensional lumber joined with sheetrock screws, and the absolute minimum amount of materials and labor are used. For instance here you can see they did not have enough wood to extend this shelf all the way to the back of the unit, so they've straddled the gap with three small pieces.

This piece has been designed to straddle the sidewalk hatch and allows it to be accessed without displacing the unit. The unit lives outside 24-7, and you can see the plywood has not weathered the elements well. The neighborhood kids have tagged it up for good measure.

This unit is in front of a florist, and each morning they cover it with plants and it essentially disappears.

From Transformers to Real-Life Robots: Harald Belker on the Evolution of Design

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-12-06 21:40

Thirty years ago, German-born Harald Belker never imagined he would get the chance to work in the US. Today, we chatted to him from his home in Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles, about his illustrious career in industrial design.

Harald's career is show stopping. From designing cars for high-end automotive brands, to creating iconic vehicles for some of Hollywood's biggest movies, his portfolio is the envy of designers around the world. Having spent the first four years of his career in automotive design working for the likes of Porsche and Mercedes Benz, it wasn't long before the big screen beckoned, and California looked like it could become a permanent home.

Harald's career in film design took off with a flying start, working on Joel Schumacher's 1997 film Batman and Robin. Over the next eighteen years, Harald added more impressive strings to his bow, designing iconic vehicles for a roster of blockbusters including Armageddon, Transformers and Iron Man.

These days, Harald's design work has become more physical. He now focuses most of his work on product design. One of his most recent successes is Cozmo: a gifted little robot created in his current role as Head Vehicle Designer at artificial intelligence start-up, Anki.

We spoke to Harald about his views on the transformation of an industry, from sketching the Batmobile, to 3D modeling real-life robots using cutting-edge tools like Modo:

You've had an incredible career story so far; do you have any particular highlights?

I enjoy the futuristic element of design, so a highlight for me was designing the cars in Minority Report, and later the work I did for Tron: Legacy and Total Recall. I was often just designing things that destroy other things, but those particular films really stretched the envelope of what you could do, and let you design with the future in mind.

And, of course, I got to design the Batmobile. It doesn't get much better than that!

You've worked across a breadth of sectors; how do they differ when it comes to design?

I've always been involved in product design. I've designed furniture and also worked for a sunglass company for twelve years. Product and automotive typically go hand in hand, but they have their differences.

When designing a product, things work relatively quickly. Designing cars, for instance, takes much longer. With film, what you're creating just has to look good, whereas with product, everything has to be functional. You work closely with engineers to make it work.

How have 3D modeling tools like Modo helped your line of work?

Modo has helped massively with the communication of my work. As a designer, I know in my head how a design should look, but communicating that to another person is hard. You think you've been clear, but the final product still comes back different sometimes. Modo reduces the risk of this kind of miscommunication.

With Modo, you can literally make adjustments in five minutes. Someone can request edits over Skype and in no time at all you're able to send back revised designs. It's ridiculous how easy it is.

Before Modo I worked with CAD design tools. With CAD, you had to have a firm idea of what you were doing before moving to 3D. With Modo, things develop more naturally. These days, for everything beyond sketches, I use Modo.

Do you have a favorite tool within Modo?

The Edge Weight tool is my favourite. I use it on almost everything!

Can you tell us more about Cozmo, your AI robot?

Cozmo was three years in the making. He was thought up by Anki's Co-founder Hanns Tappeiner, and partially inspired by Disney's WALL-E. He's built to interact beautifully with humans; the programming is amazing. First and foremost it's a toy, but it's also a device that will help those who use it to learn how to code, which is a wonderful thing.

What was the process for designing such a unique product?

Together, Hanns and I explored what we thought this robot would look like. It had to have arms, eyes and wheels, but the face was the most important thing. I was inspired by the way Disney magically make inanimate objects look human. I wanted to create a robot that people could relate to on an emotional level. 

Overall, I think Cozmo went through about 20 changes in design. Technically speaking, Cozmo was relatively small compared to other products I had worked on. The reason he took so long to create was due to the number improvements that kept coming through. It had to be perfect.

How did Modo help you design Cozmo?

The beautiful thing about Modo is that it's as much a sketch tool as it is a renderer, or 3D modeling tool. You can generate basic surfaces and designs unbelievably quickly. The guys at Anki saw how quickly you can get things done in Modo, and how realistic the end result is. Cozmo ended up looking exactly the way we imagined he would. We were all very happy with him.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome?

From a design perspective, Cozmo was relatively complex. Overall it came together very naturally. I'd say the main challenge was dealing with alterations to the dimensions and restrictions put in place by the engineers. The robot needed to be functional as well as visually impressive, which meant we needed to make modifications to the design as we went along. Thankfully, in Modo, you can just move things around until they match what is required, which makes the process relatively painless.

How has 3D design changed in your lifetime?

It's changed a huge amount. In the old days, we'd spend a lot of time working up sketches and control drawings for basic scenes and shapes before moving into CAD. I still remember the day a friend told me about Modo, and it completely changed my outlook on design. Suddenly it was possible to manage the entire 3D process with one tool. It made the job so much easier, faster and more enjoyable.

Then there's the technology. I started my career in automotive design, and now I'm building AI robots for kids!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to improve their design skills?

My advice to those looking to improve their design capabilities would be to keep challenging yourself to try different methods and tools. I've always learned new techniques throughout my career, and I'm still learning today. For example, in Modo, I'm spending a lot of time getting to grips with the MeshFusion tools. I love challenging myself with new concepts and I'm always looking to improve, whatever stage I'm at in my career.


Modo is an award-winning 3D modeling, texturing and rendering tool from visual effects software developer Foundry. Leading artists choose Modo for creating real-time content in product design, games and VR, iterating on concepts and bringing bold ideas to life.

Visit https://www.foundry.com/products/modo to see how designers from all industries are using Modo to take their creative ideas to the next level.

Ford Will Offer 15 New Electrified Vehicles in China

Design News - Wed, 2017-12-06 05:32

Ford Motor Co. said yesterday it is making a big bet on electric vehicles in China, promising to roll out at least 15 new electrified cars in that market by 2025.

The rollout will include plug-in hybrids from Ford and Lincoln, as well as a contingent of battery-electric vehicles through a joint venture with Chinese automaker Zotye International Automobile Trading Co., Ltd. It is part of a larger plan to introduce a total of 50 new vehicles of various types to the Chinese market over the next eight years.

The company said its emphasis on electrification is a response to the rapid changes in the Chinese auto market. “China is not only the largest car market in the world, it’s also at the heart of electric vehicle and SUV growth and the mobility movement,” executive chairman Bill Ford said in a statement.

Industry experts said the announcement is significant because it establishes Ford as a presence in the fast-growing Chinese EV market. “Clearly, this is Ford saying, ‘We’re in the game,’” Brett Smith, an assistant director at the Center for Automotive Research, told Design News. “Ford realizes that to be in the game in China, they’ll have to develop and build these vehicles.”

Ford’s announcement builds atop a joint venture agreement that it made in November, in which it said it would establish Zotye Ford Automobile Co. Ltd to build and sell electric passenger cars in China. The new company is leveraging a combined investment of $756 million. It has not offered any detail on the technology or the vehicles it plans to produce, however.


In November, Ford signed a joint venture agreement with Zotye Auto to build and sell electric passenger cars in China. (Source: Ford Motor Co.)


The Chinese market has recently become important to automakers because it sells more EVs than any other market in the world. China is expected to be responsible for nearly half of all worldwide plug-in vehicle sales in 2017, according to EV-volumes.com. Topping out at more than 500,000, its sales are now more than twice those of the US EV market.

The key to the growth of the Chinese market has been a major government push to sell more EVs. Local and central governments have reportedly allotted subsidies worth up about $15,000 per vehicle, according to a recent article in the Financial Times. In large population centers, Chinese consumers also have little chance of obtaining license plates for new gas-burning cars, creating a mandate of sorts for EVs.

For reasons such as those, and because there is a requirement for manufacturers to have Chinese partners in certain industries, automakers outside China have begun to form joint EV ventures. Earlier this year, Renault-Nissan signed an agreement to partner with state-owned Dongfeng Motor Corp., while Volkswagen said it would team up with state-owned JAC Motors. Ford, Renault-Nissan and Volkswagen are just three of the 200-plus companies that have announced intentions to build and sell EVs in China.

For automakers, the question is whether China will remain committed to its policies long enough to build a foundation for its EV market. Earlier this year, when the country temporarily put constraints on its subsidy programs, sales dropped. After the constraints were subsequently removed, sales resumed. “There were almost no sales in January and February, so everyone thought it was going to be a down year,” noted Christopher Robinson, an industry analyst for Lux Research Inc.. “But here they were in Q3, selling twice as many EVs as any other country.”

Most observers believe, however, that China will remain committed to its policies, at least for the foreseeable future. “There’s not a lot of indication that China will change course,” Smith told us. “They’ve been pretty strong on this.”

Read More Articles on Automotive Technology:

Tesla Debuts Electric Beast Semi Truck

The Ten Least Reliable Automotive Brands

10 of History's Greatest American Pickup Trucks

12 Vehicle Infotainment Systems That Distract Drivers

The EV Trend Is Now Irreversible

GM to Produce 20 New Electric Cars by 2023


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



Pacific Design & Manufacturing, North America’s premier conference that connects you with thousands of professionals across the advanced design & manufacturing spectrum, is back at the Anaheim Convention Center February 6-8, 2018! Over three days, uncover software innovation, hardware breakthroughs, fresh IoT trends, product demos and more that will change how you spend time and money on your next project. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TODAY!



Ultra-Thin Micro-Fiber Sensed Eyed for Medical Monitoring, Diagnostic Apps

Design News - Wed, 2017-12-06 02:51

Researchers in Singapore have developed one of the smallest and most versatile sensors yet for healthcare applications with the design of a stretchable microfiber sensor with the diameter of a strand of human hair.

A team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) developed the sensor, which can be woven into textiles—such as a glove—to monitor the vital signs of patients, such as heart rates and blood pressure.

The sensor solves a key challenge to the development of wearable technology—the lack of comfort in the design of the sensors necessary to provide the data-collection technology such devices use, said Professor Lim Chwee Teck of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering.

“Wearable and flexible technology has gained significant interest in recent years, leading to tremendous progress in soft and wearable sensors,” he told Design News. “However, current devices have various limitations, such as not being able to fit well on the skin, or are uncomfortable to wear.”


Professor Lim Chwee Teck (standing) of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering works with team members to test a microfiber sensor woven into a glove that they developed. The tiny sensor has the diameter of a human hair and can be used to monitor the vital signs of patients, such as heart rates and blood pressure. (Source: Lim Chwee Teck, NUS)


The sensor developed by Lim and the team, on the other hand, conforms well to curvatures of the skin as it bends, and provides no discomfort for the person wearing it, who barely knows it’s there, he said.

“The sensor is as tiny as a thread, which is imperceptible and hardly visible when woven into gloves and bandages,” he said

Moreover, despite its tiny size, the sensor is highly sensitive and also has excellent electrical conductivity and mechanical deformability, Lim said.

“It functions like a conductive thread, and is designed to be highly durable and to withstand washing,” he said. “It can provide real-time monitoring with high precision. The sensor is cost effective to produce and easy to maintain, and the process for electronics integration is simple.”

The structure of the sensor itself team is comprised of a liquid metallic alloy—gallium indium—which serves as the sensing element and is encapsulated within a soft silicone microtube, Lim said. “The two inlets are sealed with copper wires and connected to a multi-meter to measure electrical resistance,” he explained.

The sensor can be used to monitor a person’s pulse waveform in real time, information that can be used to determine one’s heart rate, blood pressure, and stiffness in blood vessels, as well as bandage-pressure sensing, Lim said.

“The detection of pulse waveform is achieved by weaving the sensor into a glove, which can then be worn to monitor these key vital signs,” he said. “Similarly, the sensor is also woven into bandages for pressure monitoring.”

Due to its versatility, the sensor also could be used for a wide range of other applications as well, such as healthcare monitoring, smart medical prosthetic devices, and artificial skin, Lim added.

Researchers have already published papers about their work in the journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Advanced Materials Technologies.

The team has filed a patent for the sensor, and they currently are working with Singapore General Hospital to test its application for bandage-pressure monitoring, Lim said.

The team also is exploring new applications for the technology, including smart socks for feet-pressure monitoring to help patients with diabetic foot ulcers, as well as smart mouth guards to assist patients who have problems with grinding their teeth, he added.

“We are also refining the sensor design and reducing the size of its accessories to improve the user-friendliness of the device, and are keen to work with commercial partners to bring the novel sensor to market,” Lim said.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years.



GM Launches In-Car eCommerce Capability. Yea or Nay?

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

General Motors has begun rolling out Marketplace, a software update to their 2017 models that enables drivers to shop from their cars. And I think this is one of those things that might've made some sense on paper, at least from a business standpoint, but that the real world is going to provide some significant obstacles.

The idea behind Marketplace is that drivers can use their car's dashboard to find nearby gas stations, coffee or chow, and pre-order and pay for services there. That all sounds good enough, and we do it with our phones already. But take a look at how it's implemented:

First off this system should be completely disabled while the car is in motion. Each operation displayed in that video required far too many button pushes for my tastes, and I don't want to be sharing the road--or stuck behind an unmoving driver at a green light--by someone futzing with those buttons.

Secondly, distracted driving concerns aside, is it really that much faster? With the Dunkin' Donuts example, I get that you don't have to pay for the coffee through the window, but how much time are you really saving versus ordering a coffee through the microphone? And the TGI Friday's reservation thing seemed particularly time-consuming; wouldn't it be faster and, more importantly allow you to keep your eyes on the road, to just say to your phone "Call TGI Friday's" and then make the reservation by voice?

As an urban dweller, it's been some years since I commuted by car, so it's possible I'm just out-of-touch with the needs of the modern driver. For those of you who drive daily: What say you to Marketplace?

UK Company Thor Makes Every Type of Mallet, Hammer and Maul You'll Ever Need

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

You can use mallets for everything from the gentle persuasion of parts to tuning up your neighbor's Chrysler because he parked too close to your driveway again. Different applications require different types of heads and shafts, and I've just found a company that makes all of them, the mallet motherlode.

UK-based manufacturer Thor Hammer Company Limited--named way back in 1920 for the Norse god of thunder, not the more recent Marvel comic character--produces every kind of mallet, maul and hammer you can think of in a wide variety of materials: Aluminum, brass, copper, hardwood, water buffalo hide, lead, nylon, rubber and plastic. And in a variety of lengths and weights, too.

I know what you're thinking: Water buffalo hide? Apparently these are prized in the jewelry and sheet metal working trades, as they can transmit the required force without marring the material.

Here's a glimpse of their production process where you can see how they work the buffalo hide:

To chop dovetail waste, I'm currently using a perfectly serviceable English carpenter's mallet made from beech. Eventually it's going to wear out, as hardwood mallets do, and when it does I've got my eye on Thor's copper- or brass-headed mallets. They sell replacement handles too, and I like the idea of a forever tool.

Thomas the Tank Engine Doing Stunts

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

Planning on buying your kid a train set for the holidays? That's not very creative. We suggest you ramp things up, literally, by devising some track hacks to make that train do tricks. For inspiration check out this video from 5MadMovieMakers, who typically film Hot Wheels stunts but have digressed here in favor of some Thomas the Tank Engine action:

Today's Urban Design Observation: Massive Iron Strap Hinges From When Manhattan Was Wild

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

Above is a Google Street View image of the Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, located in what is now hip NoLita. I pass this building often, and a point of interest for me is this massive iron door that leads into the church grounds.

You might be wondering why a church needs such a substantial and secure portal. Well, this church was built in the early 1800s, and while this is difficult for modern-day New Yorkers to comprehend, at that time Canal Street was the northernmost border of developed Manhattan. Everything above Canal was still wilderness, and this church, just five blocks north by modern standards, was considered "out of town." See image below.

In the early 1800s, this red area was the built-up part of Manhattan.

What drew my eye are the hinges required to hold such a heavy door in place. On the bottom it's a sort of offset strap hinge. The pivot has been mortared into the stone. I'm not familiar enough with masonry, particularly early-19th-Century masonry, to imagine how this was accomplished in a way that was both accurate and secure.

The top hinges have a little something extra, being reinforced with a strap that extends outwards and is affixed to the brick in three places.

If I had to guess, I'd say these brick-mounted straps were added later on, as a fix after the top hinge mounts showed signs of failure. I couldn't capture this in photos, but to my eye it looks like the brick wall has begun to tilt outwards over the centuries, which would add more stress to the top hinges.

I'm also not sure that they'd have had this type of nut in the early 1800s, so I'm guessing this is a 20th-Century fix. But ultimately I guess I'll never know.

Michael DiTullo Shares his "Sh!t My Friends Make" Ultimate Gift Guide

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

For more than 20 years Michael has been designing iconic products and brand experiences for some of the best brands in the world including Nike, Google, Motorola, Honda, and Hasbro. Located a block from the Pacific Ocean, his studio focuses on industry leading halo projects across autonomous automotive, consumer electronics, travel, mobile devices, wearables, toys and conceptual Hollywood entertainment projects.

View the full content here

New Tool: Ultrasonic Cutter Lets You Easily Cut Foamcore, Leather, Rubber, Plastic and More

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

With a static blade, cutting through matte board, foamcore, rubber, felt, leather, upholstery vinyl, etc. can require multiple passes and some skill in how much pressure you apply. All of us have screwed this up at some point and ruined the workpiece. But now a revolutionary tool called the WonderCutter promises to make short work of these materials and more by using ultrasound to vibrate the blade. These vibrations cause the blade to slice in place thousands of times per second, taking care of the cutting while our role is essentially reduced to just guiding the tool.

Take a look, and try not to get distracted by the nonsensical ESL product copy:

At $268 the tool isn't cheap, but it certainly looks handy, which is why Kickstarter backers have ponied up: At press time they'd reached $107,000 in funding on a $50,000 goal. They're estimating it will be ready by May of 2018, and the WonderCutter is expected to ultimately retail for $390.

Design Job: Design Functional, High-End Baby Gear as UPPAbaby's Junior Industrial Designer in Rockland, MA

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

UPPAbaby is a manufacturer of high-end baby strollers, carseats and gear based in Rockland, Massachusetts. We are a small but rapidly growing company with a high-energy, fast paced and laughter filled work environment. We are looking for someone who is very proactive, motivated and can find clarity amidst chaos. You will deal mostly with articulating mechanical parts. Our products are not as much about form as it is about achieving a functional and mechanical elegance that conveys a high end, sporty appearance.

View the full design job here

Stunning Video of a Sun Halo in Sweden

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

On Friday it appeared that an interdimensional portal opened in the sky above a ski resort in Sweden:

Spectacular Sun halo display, with a 22° halo, parhelic circle, sundogs and a tangent arc as well as 44° parhelia (sundogs) and 46° halo, spotted in Vemdalen, Sweden on December 1, 2017 https://t.co/yUgpfe2heS pic.twitter.com/Sv2OyvlC9G

— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973b) December 2, 2017 ">

Alas, no Norse deities came flying through the breach, nor did any humans get sucked into it from our side. The phenomena is apparently caused by sunlight being refracted through crystals of ice floating in the atmosphere. (Bor-ring.)

A Silent GIF That Somehow Makes You Hear a Sound

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

I've seen my share of GIFs, but I've never seen any that were able to make me hear a sound. Take a look at this and tell me what you experience:

Does anyone in visual perception know why you can hear this gif? pic.twitter.com/mcT22Lzfkp

— Lisa DeBruine ?????? (@lisadebruine) December 2, 2017 " contenteditable="false">

Do you hear anything? According to this informal survey, 75% of viewers' brains fill in the audio blanks to provide the repetitive thudding noise of the impact. The poster of this GIF, Dr. Lisa DeBruine of the University of Glasgow's Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, believes this is due to a phenomena known as acoustic reflex, whereby the muscles in the middle ear involuntarily contract in response to stimuli in order to protect the ear from damage--and that it is this contraction that we "hear."

I'm no doctor, but I disagree wholeheartedly. Because when I see the GIF I not only hear the thud, but I also hear the "rope" slapping against the ground. I believe that a lifetime of watching television, movies and YouTube has conditioned me to correlate certain visuals--a sharply-vibrating camera shot, for instance--with an attendant noise, like a crash, and that my mind is simply filling in the blanks.

Anyways, are you part of the 75% that can hear the noise?

Design Experience That Matters: The Internet of Terrifying Things

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-12-05 21:33

Here's a quick story about unintended consequences in design, specifically when product capabilities exceed our design specifications.

Voice-commands with audio feedback are becoming a more common user interface for cellphones and digital "personal assistants" like Google Home and Amazon's Echo. Many of these devices are always on, listening for a wake-up word or command. South Park played a prank on Amazon Echo owners by having the cartoon characters shout the Alexa wake-up word and then rattle off an absurd shopping list.

Google Home, what could go wrong?Why is this dolphin smiling?  Because he just ordered a million bucks of herring through your iPhone's voice interface.

A team of researchers from Zhejiang University in China discovered that it is possible to translate vocal commands into ultrasonic frequencies that are inaudible to people but perfectly decipherable by the personal assistants. They call the hack DolphinAttack. The group was able to generate not only ultrasonic wake-up commands like "OK, Google" and "Hey Siri", but follow-up commands like ordering the device the place a call to a certain phone number, open a website or even perform home-automation tasks like unlocking the front door.

First there was war dialing ("Shall we play a game?"), then there was war driving (naughty Google Street View). Now hackers can just walk around with an ultrasonic speaker blasting, "Hey Google Siri Alexa, call 1-900-PHONE-SCAM".

Ultrasonic signals that pass undetected by users aren't limited to academic stunts. An advertising analytics company called SilverPush turns this excess acoustic capacity into a user-tracking feature, using ultrasonic "audio beacons" to identify people across platforms. Webpage ads or TV commercials that use SilverPush generate a kind of chirp pitched too high for the human ear to detect. When a cellphone app with Silverpush code picks up the chirp emitted by the TV or the computer, it knows that the devices are close together and presumably belong to the same person. Tag, you're it!

It's unlikely that Amazon Echo's designers specified that the microphones and speakers be capable of generating and sensing high-frequency sounds that are inaudible to humans--it's simply excess capacity that the components include "for free". In fact, it's probably more expensive to manufacture microphones and speakers that cannot generate or detect ultrasonic frequencies.

And excess capacity isn't only a problem for audio devices. That innocuous little LED on the front of your computer that blinks whenever the machine accesses the hard drive? The right malware can repurpose that LED as a miniature optical semaphor, transmitting data from your computer even if you've disabled wireless and you're completely disconnected from the internet. "Every blink can spill sensitive information to any spy with a line of sight to the target computer, whether from a drone outside the window or a telescopic lens from the next roof over."

The cute little hard drive LED says: ... - .- -. -.. / -... -.-- / ..-. --- .-. / .- / .-.. .. ... - / --- ..-. / -... .- -. -.- .. -. --. / .--. .- ... ... .-- --- .-. -.. ... (paste to translate)

Why does this matter? The point isn't that we should all channel Gene Hackman in The Conversation, start slapping electrical tape all over our laptop and cellphone cameras, disabling the microphones and yanking out the speakers. Rather, as designers there's a lesson here about how the world will find its own creative applications for unintended capacity in our designs. 

Here's an example from our own experience.  During an early design review with our Otter newborn warmer, someone pointed out our requirement that the bassinet have a seamless interior (in order to be easy to clean) also meant that the device would be water-tight.  Another reviewer then pointed out that a water-tight bassinet meant Otter would make a fantastic heated baby bathtub. Wait, what?  Yikes!


This "Design Experience that Matters" series is provided courtesy of Timothy Prestero and the team at Design that Matters (DtM). As a nonprofit, DtM collaborates with leading social entrepreneurs and hundreds of volunteers to design new medical technologies for the poor in developing countries. DtM's Firefly infant phototherapy device is treating thousands of newborns in 21 counties from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. In 2012, DtM was named the winner of the National Design Award.

Western Digital Transitions to RISC-V Open-Source Architecture for Big Data, IoT

Design News - Tue, 2017-12-05 03:22

RiSC-V, the open-source computer core architecture, will be getting a big push from Western Digital in the coming years as the company has pledged to transitioning its own consumption of processors to RISC-V. According to the company Western Digital ships over one billion cores per year, and plans to double that number. And if all goes according to plan, they will all be based on RISC-V.

Western Digital believes Big Data and Fast Data will need application-specific solutions and that RISC-V is ideal for delivering them. (Image source:  Western Digital) 

During an announcement at the recent seventh-annual RISC-V Workshop in San Jose, Calif, Martin Fink, CTO of Western Digital stressed this move isn't about cost saving or building a new product pipeline for Western Digital, but about innovation and creating an Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem that can both support the massive storage needs of Big Data while also facilitating Fast Data - delivering Big Data as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

“I'm not announcing a RISC-V product ... there's no expectation of directly selling a processor,” Fink said. “We're not doing this for cost reasons. This is all completely and totally about innovation. ... Unlocking our ability to bring innovation to data and process it in ways we can't contemplate today.”

Fink said that most people think of Western Digital as a storage company, but WD wants to be thought of as a data company going forward. He added that applying general purpose computing, wherein the everything is centered around the CPU, to Big Data is simply not the best way forward. “Assuming you've sort of reached the best possible lowest common denominator you have something that's hopefully pretty good. But the odds that it's implemented in the optimal way for your application are pretty slim.”

Fink cited emerging applications such as machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and blockchain technology are prime examples of use cases wherein powerful, application-specific computing will be preferable over general purpose computing. Devices based at the IoT Edge may be performing safety- and mission-critical tasks and won't be able to rely on cloud computing. Instead, they will need make the best data-based decisions as quickly as possible. And Western Digital doesn't believe general purpose computing will be up to the task.

“RISC-V open architecture engenders incredible amounts of innovation,” Fink said. “Today when we think about storage and data we think about, let's go grab [the data] from somewhere in the data center, let's move it to a central location, do some stuff to it, and send it all back. ... How do we move all of that work to right where the data is? Let's go process the data where it lives.”

Western Digital plans to develop RISC-V cores itself as well as through strategic partnerships, and Fink commented that the company may even buy cores from other parties to leverage the work of others. The best estimate he was willing to give on delivery of Western Digital's first RISC-V device was late 2019 through 2020. He was also quick to note that all of this is at its early stages and RISC-V is still a nascent technology that is just beginning to come into its own. Fink warned developers that as an open-source architecture RISC-V will face a lot of criticism, but he believes RISC-V's course will chart similar to Linux in the long-term impact it will have.

“You're going to have a number of people that say RISC-V isn't ready; it isn't mature [but] it's all good. Nobody would laugh at the power and impact that Linux and other open-source projects have had in our industry. That will happen [for RISC-V] and it will grow,” Fink said. “We have a tremendous amount of confidence in the ability of the industry to drive this message of openness and drive this through.”

RISC-V has built up a lot of momentum this year thanks in part to SiFive, which in October debuted the first-ever RISC-V chip that supports Linux and which will present at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Silicon Valley this week. The announcement represented the first time RISC-V had escaped the confines of embedded systems.

This latest announcement positions RISC-V as a serious solution for the IoT landscape, as well. But Fink said for RISC-V to really take off engineers are going to have to both ignore the criticisms and also think beyond conventional core development.

“If you take a RISC-V processor and make it look like an X-86 or an ARM, you're missing the point,” Fink said. “The point is about the data. Start from the data, that's where the power is, and say 'What do I need to solve the problems I have for my data?' Make the processor a means to an end, not an end unto itself. That is where the real opportunity is for us in storage and in memory.”


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


Makerbot Labs Pivots to New Target Audiences by Opening Its 3D Printer Software

Design News - Tue, 2017-12-05 02:39

When technology history is written, 2013 and 2014 will be noted as the years of “peak hype” for 3D printing. The promise of a “3D printer in every home” was a popular one in technology news. As we near the dawn of 2018, the hype has receded, and 3D printer manufacturers have realized two things: most people don’t need a 3D printer in their home, and even if they had one, they’d spend more time on the phone troubleshooting with customer service because of the printers’ inherent complexity.

Before computers had easy-to-use operating systems, the Internet and consumer-friendly apps, most people who didn’t know a computer language didn’t own one. 3D printers are in a similar place today: Unless you're an educator, designer or engineer, or you’re in possession of CAD and design skills, you probably won't have much use for one. This has left the creators of smaller printers scrambling for new market footholds.


The new platform’s connection with Thingiverse was added to allow users to share in a “collaborative sandbox” of ideas. Image credit: MarketBot


Manufacturers such as MakerBot (once a card-carrying member of the “3D Printer in Every Home” hype), now a subsidiary of 3D printer giant Stratasys, have refocused their efforts in more realistic directions outside the consumer sphere. The company is now tailoring its Replicator+ and MakerBot Print models for different audiences (as are other small 3D printer companies) in an effort to find new niches rather than rely on a consumer market that doesn’t exist and (if it did) was too broad to serve well in the first place.

“The ‘consumer’ market is sort of a mystery -- the result of some contradictory definitions being applied to it,” Josh Snider, public relations manager for MakerBot, told Design News. “On one hand, you have the garage-based hardware hackers and cosplay designers, who are highly technical personas that likely have some CAD and fabrication skills. On the other, you have unskilled home users, the chef or lawyer, looking to 3D print a replacement dishwasher knob or custom cup holder for their car. Do these vastly different users really belong to the same ‘consumer’ market?”

Last year, MakerBot CEO Nadav Goshen announced a new strategy to address the bulk of the company’s users – those in education and small business – and tailor its solutions directly to those organizations’ needs. One of the fruits of that strategy is a new version of the company’s experimental software platform, MakerBot Labs. In the latest release, the company has opened the software a bit, as one would expect with a refocus on small business professional and educational markets rather than home-based consumers. It also offers more advanced print settings and a collaborative community on Thingiverse to give advanced users a place to share best practices, print modes and custom modifications. Inside an organization, users can build an ecosystem that allows for collaboration between designers and devices.

The changes were made to the platform because professional users and educators – MarketBot’s new target audience –  required more advanced capabilities and more control over their printers, as well as the ability to explore different materials and hardware modifications. The updated and opened MakerBot Labs platform supports a new feature for several of the company’s printer models: the Experimental Extruder, a modified extruder for more advanced users. The tool enables four interchangeable nozzles for printing with different materials at faster draft speeds.

It’s a tall order to serve both the DIY community and the small industrial prototyping community simultaneously, as both groups have very different needs and value sets. DIY users are looking for high fidelity, good surface quality and the flexibility to customize their 3D printer. They tend to print more sculptural objects and explore exotic materials like wood or bronze for their unique looks and feel. Professional designers and engineers, on the other hand, need high-dimensional accuracy and functional mechanical features, and have a much greater need for reliability and ease-of-use. If a hobbyist's printer jams, or fails to print a new material, he or she can take the time to tinker and explore a solution. If a professional's printer fails, each hour spent troubleshooting detracts from the company’s goal of rapid prototyping.

“In some ways, it’s not possible to serve both communities at once,” Snider told Design News. “One community demands a fully open system and the other community demands reliability and controlled quality, which can only be delivered by a closed system. In reality, the market is not so absolute or binary, and our current 3D printing solutions are a mix of both, with the new MakerBot Labs product family bringing a strong touch of openness back to the fold.”

The changes will be particularly relevant to small businesses looking to engage in rapid prototyping but which lack the ability to afford the six-figure price tag of an industrial machine.

“There's no shortage of small, 10-person design shops or product startups that can't afford a half million dollar machine, but can afford a $2,500 MakerBot,” said Snider. “Most professionals working in rapid prototyping have the skill set to operate a larger industrial 3D printer, but the costs are simply too high. This is a really exciting market segment for us.”