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Launched in 1995, Core77 serves a devoted global audience of design professionals, corporations, students, enthusiasts and fans.
Updated: 5 hours 49 min ago

Items Invented to Make Eating in a Car Easy

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

Eating fast food while sitting in your car is kind of sad, but I still do it. When you're in the middle of nowhere and starving, it's often the only option, with ubiquitous burger joints having COVID-closed dining areas and offering drive-thru only.

Unsurprisingly, there's a category of objects designed to ease in-car dining. For starters, this plastic object mates the shape of your cupholder with a French fry container:

This "universal mount" dipping sauce holder attaches to your car's vents, and is designed to hold containers of different shapes from various fast-food chains:

This cupholder-mounted tray ratchets up the sadness by providing a smartphone mount, so you can watch superhero movies while you silently munch saturated fats:

This tray design below seems the most sensible. It plugs into the cupholder while still allowing you to use that space as a cupholder, and offers a second cupholder, and the whole thing pivots so you've got a little more freedom…

…and you can also pretend it's not for eating off of.

I'll put these objects in the category of "I'm sad they exist, but I see why they exist."

The Nasal Ranger: A Tool for Measuring Odors with Precision

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

My college roommate's dad had an unusual and high-paying job: He was blessed with an extraordinary sense of smell, and worked for a major whiskey manufacturer in quality control. His job was to travel to various plants, and use his nose to confirm that each blend would taste exactly like the same blends made at the other plants.

Because his nose was his moneymaker, each night he'd suck warm salt water from a Dixie cup up each nostril and spit it out of his mouth. (My roommate told me he'd grown up accustomed to the awful "HHHKKKKK" sound of his dad doing this each night.) Because of this daily salt water regimen, he hadn't had a cold in over 20 years!

This invention might've given my roommate's dad a run for his money:

The Nasal Ranger is a portable olfactometer invented by chemical engineer Chuck McGinley and sold through his company, St. Croix Sensory. It looks like a megaphone that connects to your nose, and the device allows you to precisely measure the strength of odors.

The bulk of purchasers are from wastewater management facilities that need a way to verify that they're adhering to odor regulations. Recently, however, a new market has cropped up following the legalization of marijuana in some areas: Marijuana growing operations want to ensure that they, too, are not running afoul of odor laws, which would lead neighbors to complain.

If you're interested in the particulars of smelling science, the Times has got an interview with McGinley here, and Vice caught up with McGinley in the video below:

Tattoos for Cars: Japanese Finishing Expert Develops Metal Paint Engraving Technique

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

Automotive finishing expert Takahiko Izawa runs Rohan Izawa Art Design, a car customizer with peerless techniques. Izawa spent over ten years perfecting "IZ METAL," a type of metal paint that he can spray onto a car and actually engrave into.

Other finishers can do similar things on small parts of a car, like side mirrors and door handles, that can be chromed and subsequently engraved; however, Izawa eschews this method because it produces a finish that breaks down under UV over time. Izawa's IZ METAL technique, in contrast, not only retains its original finish over time, but allows him to engrave or "tattoo" the entire vehicle, not just parts that can be chromed.

The results are absolutely stunning:

He can also do it in gold:

Prices run from ¥11,000,000 (USD $96,027) to have a small car, like a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, painted and engraved in silver, up to ¥33,000,000 (USD $288,075) for a large car, like a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, painted and engraved in gold.

Local Motors Shuts Down

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

Local Motors, the company that introduced the radical concept of what they called the "co-creation design" of small-batch automobiles, with royalites paid to the designers, has gone out of business.

Two years before the emergence of Quirky, a product development platform that also championed co-creation design, Local Motors set up shop in 2007 and began building an online community of designers and design fans. Members submitted automotive designs for the community to vote on for development, and by 2008 they'd chosen their first model: The Rally Fighter, designed by Sangho Kim, who was then a student at Art Center.

Startlingly, the off-road minded but street-legal Rally Fighter was successfully developed in just 18 months and at a cost of only $3 million. Built from off-the-shelf components like a Ford axle and a crate motor from GM, and skinned in a fiberglass body of Kim's design, the first Rally Fighter rolled out of Local Motors' microfactory in 2009. An additional 29 were produced over the next seven years, with purchasers invited to the microfactory to help assemble the cars themselves.

Image: markus941, CC BY 2.0

In 2014 Local Motors created a sensation with their electric Strati, by Italian designer and community member Michele Anoé. The dune-buggy-like Strati was largely created with large-scale FDM 3D printers developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, leading Local Motors to call it the world's first 3D-printed electric car.

Despite creating a successful prototype and generating much press, the Strati never made it to batch production.

Image: z22, CC BY-SA 3.0

By 2016 the company had shifted direction; rather than personal cars they unveiled Olli, an autonomous electric shuttle bus designed by Edgar Sarmiento, a Colombian industrial designer just two years out of school. It was Sarmiento's first design that made production, and with startling speed, at that; Local Motors had lined up some 100 partner companies and had built two Ollis within months of the design being green-lit. Two years later, NPR reported that 10 Ollis had been ordered, and that Sarmiento had earned $28,000 in royalties by then.

As of last year, Local Motors had Ollis deployed in 24 cities in the U.S. and around the world, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia.

As of last month, Local Motors' Facebook page announced they'd be showing up at this month's CES.

Sadly, last week Automotive News reported Local Motors was shutting down, with no formal announcement made by the company nor explanation given. At press time the Local Motors website was still up and running as usual.

It's possible, I'd say likely, that the pandemic killed funding for public transportation vehicles and that Local Motors was a casualty. It's also worth noting that on December 16th of 2021, an Olli shuttle in Toronto crashed into a tree, leaving "the attendant onboard…critically injured," according to Toronto's City News, and it's possible that played a role in the company's decision to shutter.

In any case, Local Motors lasted for nearly 15 years. Quirky closed its doors after just 6 years in business. Co-creation design, at least for now, seems a tough nut to crack.

A Cleverly Designed Tool (That We Shouldn't Need in the First Place)

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

This has me pretty conflicted. I love a cleverly designed tool, and this one clearly fits the bill, but I am questioning what we are doing as a society that creates the need for this tool.

The HydroFlask Flex Strap Customizer was designed to allow you to easily remove the strap on your HydroFlask and replace it with one of a different color. Here's how it works, and you'll see why I call it clever:

My hat's off to the designer(s). The tool executes its tasks perfectly. It's pure form follows function and as minimal as you could make it. But 1) Why are we now spending money to bling out vessels for carrying water? And 2) Wouldn't it be better to have designed the strap in such a manner that it could be replaced, if need be, using a teaspoon or something we're already likely to own?

So yeah, I'm conflicted. You could argue I'm simply not keeping up with society, but in my eyes the whole point of a permanent water bottle is to use less plastic. It seems a step backwards to me that we have to create new plastic stuff to accessorize our plastic-saving stuff, presumably in the name of fashion.

Tactile Toy: A Touchable Tamagotchi

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

This strange Japanese amusement device walks the line between innovative and creepy. The Punirines Touchable Digital Pet is, like the original Tamagotchi…

…a digital pet trapped inside an electronic case. But there's a finger-sized hole in the Punirines' case, so you can insert a digit and "pet" your Punirines. An animation of your finger appears on-screen, and you feel a texture—described as "squishy" in the product copy below—on your fingertip.

"The award-winning Punirunes features more than 50 characters that are very squishy and addictive to touch!"

"There are lots of modes and scenarios, including eating, bathing, and cleaning, and there are also several mini games. As you look after your Punirunes, it grows up, gets bigger, and transforms into other characters."

Ways to make it grosser:

- Insert your finger and it's hot: The Punirunes is running a fever.

- Insert your finger and it's wet: The Punirunes is sweaty.

- Insert your finger and it's cold: Well, you didn't feed the thing for two weeks, what did you expect?

Brilliant Design: Tavar, Magnetically-Joined Modular Storage Furniture from Germany

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

German inventor Michael Linden has designed a storage system that it's impossible to outgrow. Called Tavar, it's an easy-to-assemble modular system of panels and connectors that allows you to build an infinite number of rectilinear configurations, and you can integrate doors and drawers too.

All of the components are based on a 20-cm grid, though units can also be divided in half.

Look at how quickly these units come together:

You can learn more about the Tavar system here.

Designey Cast Iron Wood Stoves

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

Alba is a Portugese manufacturer of cast iron wood stoves. Although they offer traditional models, like this Metafire Stove

They also have two rather radical departures from the form, by designer Francisco Providência:

R2D2 Stove

Remade Stove

Sadly, Alba is one of those old-school European companies with a Spartan website; details about either stove are scarce, save for the name of the designer. It's too bad, as I'd be really curious to learn how well those radiator fins disperse the heat.

Lastly, I think the R2D2 stove actually looks much more like a Minion.

Engineer Figures Out How to Unload a 400-Pound Pallet From Her Vehicle Without a Forklift

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

Mechanical engineer Amy Qian purchased a cabinet-style SawStop table saw, which was loaded into her Honda Element on a pallet by a forklift at the store. When she got home, she then had to figure out how to get the 400-pound unit safely out of the vehicle—by herself.

Qian's clever solution utilizes the built environment, two elements she fabricated herself, two tools she had lying around, and some 2x4s:

A Sofa That Turns Into a Bed, Designed to Fit in a Honda Element

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

Carson Terry, a metal fabricator who goes by the handle Hossly, doesn't mind switching to wood for an interesting project. Mechanical engineer Amy Qian of AmyisMakingStuff designed a simple sofa unit that quickly extends into a bed and is designed to fit inside a Honda Element, and Terry built it:

The sofa/bed appears to be a one-off, but Hossly sells his metal wares here.

A Voice-Amplifying, Air Purifying Face Mask for Gamers

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

Razer has designed an air-purifying face mask aimed at, you guessed it, gamers. The thinking behind the Razer Zephyr Pro is that in-person gaming events will continue, and that team gamers in particular have a need to be heard by their teammates. "Breathe freely and be heard clearly," the company writes.

"Stay safe with its replaceable air filters for daily protection. Stay social with its transparent design, illumination, and voice-amplification for seamless communication. Stay sustainable with its reusable nature for long-term use."

The company points out that it is not an N95 mask, but features two-way air purification filters that offer "greater protection compared to standard disposable/cloth masks, and filters air both inhaled and exhaled to safeguard you and others around you." The company says their filters (for which they sell replacements) offer "95% Particulate Filtration Efficiency (PFE) and 99% Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) for up to 72 hours in a normal environment." Additionally, the built-in fans have two speed settings to allow the user to tune the airflow.

This being Razer, the mask also features RGB lighting (tuneable via app). The face seal is silicone, transparent, and is treated with an anti-fog coating. "The interior lights allow your expressions to be seen even in dark settings."

The company has not yet announced a release date nor pricing.

The Neon Boneyard: An Outdoor Collection of Las Vegas' Decomissioned Signs

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

Las Vegas once looked like this:

Over the years, as newer competitors moved in, many of the old-school casinos were decommissioned, their signs torn down.

Thankfully, not all of the signs went into landfill. A variety of individuals and corporations couldn't quite bring themselves to trash the signs, and found places to tuck them away. And in 1996, a nonprofit called the Neon Museum was founded. The organization has tracked down and acquired as many old Las Vegas signs as they could find, and has set them up for display in a multi-part Neon Boneyard. The organization is "dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment."

"Dedicated individuals from the private sector, as well as corporate and government entities, worked collaboratively to promote the preservation of these national treasures as significant pieces of artistic and historical importance."

"In addition, The Neon Museum collection chronicles changes and trends in sign design and technology through pieces ranging from the 1930s to the present day."

Visitors can tour the collection as well as rent a portion of the Boneyard for events, photo shoots, educational programs and (of course) weddings. You can learn more here.

Brilliant Design for an Always-At-Hand Microwave Anti-Splatter Object

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

I can't remember the last time I backed something on Kickstarter, but I just backed this one.

The Duo Cover is a collapsible silicone dome with microwave-safe magnets in the top. It clings to your microwave's ceiling, where it "lives." When you want to reheat something and contain the splatter, you simply pull the Duo Cover down over the dish. It's got vents in the top to allow steam to escape, and you can also add water to a depression in the top, so you can nuke items without drying them out. Lastly, you can use it as a potholder for dishes that are too hot to touch.

As someone who is constantly cleaning out the microwave, and doesn't want to waste paper towels or use plastic films, I cannot wait for this item to arrive.

At press time the Duo Cover had $589,612 in pledges on a $5,000 goal, with 21 days left to pledge.

The Surprising UX of Rat Poison

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

One of the structures on our farm has a rat problem. They're chewing through the plumbing and the results have been disastrous.

The exterminator we hired examined the site and let us know it would be cheaper to solve the problem ourselves, as it requires distributing rat poison in the crawlspaces every week, until all of the rats are dead. I asked him how we would know that we got them all, and he shared this interesting piece of information:

All rat poison is required by the EPA to be dyed in bright, vibrant colors. This is ostensibly for human safety; if a child shows up at the ER with a bright green tongue, the doctors know what to do.

The bright coloring, however, also helps exterminators. As you crawl around under a house inhabited by rats, you'll spot rat droppings, which are naturally dark. But when they eat the poison, their poop turns green (or whatever color the poison is dyed).

Each week as you get under the house, he said, examine all the droppings. When you stop seeing any dark droppings and only see bright green droppings, you'll know you got 'em all. Until then, keep distributing the poison.

Eventually comes the fun part: Finding and disposing of the rotting corpses. #countrylife

Lenovo Unveils Laptop With Second, Smaller Screen Next to Keyboard

Wed, 2022-01-19 16:51

Here's another experimental laptop design, not quite as weird as Asus' folding-screen machine. Lenovo has announced the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3, a 17" laptop that has an additional and portrait-oriented 8" screen right next to the keyboard.

The unusual layout means the upper screen has a 21:10 aspect ratio.

The lower screen "supports many productivity apps and phone syncing and content mirroring," the company writes. "It also lets you easily duplicate or extend the primary display."

"The 8" LCD display also has useful time-saving apps, widgets, and an express app launcher. In a Teams meeting, you can jot down your idea on the smaller screen, mirror it to the main display, and share it with others instantly. You can also stream videos on the main screen while editing timelines on the secondary screen. The ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 laptop makes multitasking easy and beats tabbing through applications hands down."

Lenovo says the Gen 3's 70Whr battery is good enough to power both screens long enough for you to "work through the day uninterrupted."

As with Asus's new laptop, pricing and release dates have not yet been announced. Tech specs are here.

Asus Unveils Bizarre Laptop With a Screen That Folds in Half

Tue, 2022-01-18 14:40

Asus has unveiled a peculiar object that they're calling the "world's first foldable OLED laptop." While all laptops fold, it's the screen that folds in their Zenbook 17 Fold OLED. Folded, it's the size of a 12.5" laptop. Unfurled, it's a 17.3" screen.

The Bluetooth keyboard can be placed atop one half of the screen for compact use…

…or the screen can be opened to its full width and placed opposite the keyboard.

The company says the versatile device can be used as a laptop, PC, tablet or "book."

Additionally, the lower part of the screen itself can be used as a keyboard…

…or you can use it with the Bluetooth keyboard in this bizarre "Extend" mode.

I'm pretty skeptical of the durability of folding screens. For their part, Asus says they've tested the Zenbook for 30,000 cycles. I also wonder what the bottom of the keyboard is lined with, to ensure it doesn't scratch the screen or pick up crumbs that get sandwiched between the keyboard and screen.

At press time, no price or release date was announced, but the machine's tech specs are here.

Great Product Design Student Work: The Stair Cubby, for Storage on Staircases

Tue, 2022-01-18 14:40

Something I saw a lot of in NYC was people using staircases for storage. Landlords and Fire Marshals don't care for the practice, but particularly if you lived on the top story of a walk-up, that last flight of stairs became a de facto free extra closet.

NYC isn't alone in this practice. Bronwen Rees and Bryony Wood, both product design students at the UK's Nottingham Trent University, seized on the stairs as fertile storage territory for a class assignment for Umbra. The brief was to design storage furniture "aimed at young professionals living in small, rented homes." Students were asked to "Consider mass manufacture, packaging and Umbra's style."

Rees and Wood subsequently designed this Stair Cubby:

"An open access cubby that fits over two steps for everyday storage. It can hold up to five pairs of shoes, books or other [knick-knacks] and comes flatpacked."

The duo designed the unit, which ships flatpacked, to be assembled with no tools. Tabs, slots and pegs are all cut from the same piece of plywood. An adjustable panel on the back slides up and down to accommodate staircases of different dimensions. Taking manufacture into consideration, the unit is designed to have all its pieces cut from 1/3 sheet of 4x8 plywood with minimal waste, so one sheet yields three units.

Rees and Wood also mocked up the packaging…

…as well as experimenting with Umbra's colorways used by retailer John Lewis & Partners:

Ultimately the pair "decided the wood worked best with a simple white."

Nice work, Rees and Wood!

French Product Designer's Experimental Garden Table/Watering Can

Tue, 2022-01-18 14:40

In seeking to "Recherche autour des expressions françaises," French product designer Lucas Lorigeon devised this unusual outdoor object:

To explain the application:

I do wonder: Are the cigarette butts meant to be dropped down the spout? That's undoubtedly a fire-safe way to go, but cleaning it out would get pretty gross.

Can't Roll a Joint? The Otto Automatically Grinds, Fills and Rolls Your Favorite Herb

Tue, 2022-01-18 14:40

For the unpracticed, rolling cigarettes or joints isn't easy. A device called Otto is designed to ease the latter. It's essentially a push-button automatic grinder that you fill with weed, then place atop a transparent jig with a conical interior. That's where you place your pre-rolled cone, and Otto fills it as precisely as a cigarette, if the video's to be believed:

I like that every bit of weed goes into the cone, and not all over your tray or table.

The Otto is made by a company called Banana Bros. and retails for $150.

Bago: A Hilarious Object Designed to Keep Bags Upright on the Floor of a Car

Mon, 2022-01-17 13:00

I don't deny that this object is clever (for what it is), but I'm stunned that people would purchase one for the $22 asking price. Bago seems like a simple thing to rig up. It's basically an adjustable strap and a small A-clamp. You throw one end into the glovebox, then attach the clamp to a bag on the floormat, holding it upright:

This seems like one of those quirky only-in-Japan objects. Instead it was invented--and successfully crowdfunded, on both IndieGogo and Kickstarter--by a guy named Dan Stevenson, who hails from Atlanta. Congrats to Stevenson. To the rest of you, here's proof that if you have the idea for a simple and even narrowly useful object, there's probably a market out there for you.