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Reader Submitted: Towering, Sculptural Wireless Speakers Inspired by Japanese Design Principles

Mon, 2017-11-13 10:04

Fuyuu is a set of wireless speakers inspired by the Japanese concept of shibusa—a subdued experience of intrinsically fine quality, with economy of line and form. Currently, wireless speakers all skew toward soft, geometric shapes. Fuyuu purports a different design language, bringing a form factor with more permanence and more of a presence.

Equipped with 4 tweeters, 5 midrange woofers, and 4 subwoofers, Fuyuu delivers high quality sound in an evocative form factor. With Bamboo veneer panels and Kvadrat fabric, both the audible and tangible aesthetics of Fuyuu resonate with thoughtfulness and considered design.

Leveraging a hybrid-API approach, Fuyuu syncs with existing music streaming apps, allowing users to carry over their music and taste. At the same time, a "Fuyuu-specific" profile is generated on these apps, allowing playlists to be tailored to the specific settings in which users listen to Fuyuu speakers.

View the full project here

When Design Changes Stink, and Here's How to Get Apple's Podcasts App to Autoplay Again

Mon, 2017-11-13 10:04

When the design of a product, service or system is willfully changed or something new is introduced, it is typically for one of several reasons:

1. Because it's better for the consumer.

Example: The original iPod or iPhone. These objects provided a vastly improved user experience over what had come before.

2. Because it's better for the company.

Example: The way that Whole Foods constantly changes their stores' layouts, which I hate. I like knowing exactly where the thing I want to buy is. But by constantly changing the layout, the store forces you to wander in hopes that you will encounter something new, rather than shopping on autopilot, and buy it.

3. Because it's better for both the consumer and the company.

Example: YouTube or Amazon recommendations, when they are working properly. If I am watching an informational or how-to video on YouTube, other videos on that same topic are listed to the side. Amazon is a bit more your-mileage-may-vary, but occasionally I find they will recommend books or items that are helpfully relevant to my prior purchases.

4. Because the designers are imposing their will on the consumer.

Example: Think of any number of recent architectural monstrosities that do not work well, but which express and inflict the designer's ego upon the end users. On a smaller scale, see my recent gripes on the iPhone X.

Obviously there are more reasons than this, but I'm boiling it down to generalities. What's more irksome, though, is when the reason for the change is neither of the obvious four above but is completely incomprehensible, as it is with the following example.

Apple is a frequent target for me, because I'm entrenched in their ecosystem and spend more time using their products than any other brand. I'm typing this to you using a MacBook Pro and the Thunderbolt Display that I spend most of my days staring at. Each night I fall asleep reading a book on my iPad Mini. And from morning to night, the only object I own that is always with me is my iPhone.

My current gripe is with the recent changes to the Podcasts app, which I use constantly. Podcasts are a wonderful invention that have improved the quality of my life; I can now use the time occupied by boring, tedious tasks--cooking, cleaning, hanging laundry, sanding, my weekly sharpening of tools in the shop, even showering--to learn something new and hear people's stories in the background.

Previously the app had a simple, welcome feature: When you reached the end of an episode, the next one began to play. I never realized how important this feature was until Apple inexplicably removed it from the app last month. Since then I've discovered that podcast episodes have a way of coming to an end whenever I'm in the middle of a task, and my hands are too wet, dirty or otherwise occupied to pick the phone up and futz with it.

This last happened yesterday when it was raining, and I was out walking my dogs. I have two dogs and cannot carry an umbrella while walking them so I bundle up in rainproof gear. An episode ended and the phone went silent. We were still 20 minutes from home so I unzipped, fished out the phone; my hands were wet so the Touch ID wasn't working; I punched in my six-digit code and tried to dry my hands off enough to get my taps to register so I could cue up the next episode, my phone getting wet in the process.

And I'm thinking, there is no good reason for them to make this change. When I got home I searched for some button in the app that would turn auto-play back on, but there was none. A web search showed me others found the change similarly problematic. 

"I am also completely frustrated with the new podcast app," wrote a commenter on Apple's discussion board. "I spoke with Apple this morning and they said in order to fix the problem, several hundred people must complain on the apple.com/feedback website under the app Podcast. So everyone go write a complaint to fix the problem."

I did so, and I hope that you will too if the change bugs you.

Another commenter provided this helpful temporary fix and explanatory screenshot:

"The only workaround I have managed to find for this removed feature is to create a 'station' for the individual podcast in question. I had a couple of stations already setup when I updated to iOS 11 where I'd add podcasts of a similar theme, e.g. "Soccer" or "technology" and realised that the station settings allow you to choose the playing orders (see screenshot). You can then choose to play oldest to newest and they continue onto the next episode. This is a workaround and not a real fix but hope it helps."

I tried this with one of my podcasts. Despite configuring the settings as demonstrated, for some reason the station remained "empty" (no episodes), which I couldn't figure out. Then, five to ten minutes later, the episodes inexplicably populated the station correctly and it worked.

Now I just have to do this with each of the dozens of podcasts I listen to, which is needlessly time-consuming. I can't imagine what benefit Apple imagines is conferred to the end-user by removing the auto-play feature entirely, rather than at least making it an option one could toggle on or off. It speaks of a puzzling cluelessness, which I would not have imagined from a company that, previously, proved so good at predicting how to make things easy to use.

Las Vegas Launches Self-Driving Shuttle, Which Experiences Accident in First Hour of Service

Mon, 2017-11-13 10:04

Yesterday the City of Las Vegas launched ARMA, an autonomous shuttle that provides free rides to passengers along a short route. While the shuttle's circuit is barely over a mile, the vehicle is interacting with regular traffic, which it was hoped would provide public confidence in the viability of the vehicle.

However, the vehicle was involved in a collision within its very first hour of service. By all accounts this was a minor fender-bender, initiated by the human driver of another vehicle, but it does highlight a glaring flaw (or a potential malfunction) in the technology of the vehicle, which is produced by French company Navya.

Apparently a semi-truck was backing up, did not see the shuttle, and "grazed" it, producing no injuries. Here is how a passenger interviewed by Channel 3 News Las Vegas described it:

"The shuttle just stayed still and we were like, 'Oh my gosh, it's gonna hit us, it's gonna hit us!' And then…it hit us! And the shuttle didn't have the ability to move back, either. Like, the shuttle just stayed still."

A City of Las Vegas representative issued the following statement:

"The autonomous shuttle was testing today when it was grazed by a delivery truck downtown. The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it's [sic] sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident. Unfortunately, the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided."

The key problem, as I see it, is the assertion that "the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident." Yet it didn't avoid the accident. Ideally it would have taken some type of evasive action, although admittedly we do not have the details; was it already boxed in? But failing that, it ought be able to do what a human driver would do if penned in while a vehicle is about to back into it, which is to start frantically leaning on the klaxon.

In any case, the accident was minor enough that the shuttle will continue its trial. "Testing of the shuttle," says the city representative, "will continue during the 12-month pilot in the downtown Innovation District."

Why You Should Donate Leftover Materials to Public School Art Departments, and How the New Tax Plan May Affect You

Mon, 2017-11-13 10:04

Years ago, I was stunned to learn that NYC schoolteachers, facing budget cuts, were purchasing art supplies for students out of their own already meager salaries. I myself would never have become involved with industrial design if my own public school education didn't involve art classes.

Upon learning of the lack of art supplies provided to students, I began donating the unused ends of my photography studio's seamless paper to nearby P.S. 130. These are large 9-foot-wide, 10-foot-long rolls of paper, in a variety of colors, that the students then cut into manageable sizes and use for their projects. It doesn't cost me anything extra to donate these rather than recycle them, yet every time I drop them off, the art teacher thanks me like I'm bringing her some priceless gift.

If teachers are purchasing supplies for students because public schools cannot provide them, they at least ought be able to deduct those expenses from their taxes. But under the revamped tax plan that's currently in the works, they won't be able to. Here are some ways in which the current proposal would affect not only those teachers, but you, versus a corporation that might employ you:

Surely, folks, we can do better than this. Corporations are an important part of our economy and, incentivized properly, a potential engine for growth. But if individuals struggle financially to purchase their products and services, where will we be?

Lastly, if you are lucky enough to work in a creative field that produces an abundance of leftover materials--fabric scraps, paper, foamcore, wood cut-offs, et cetera--please consider gathering these materials up and donating them to your local public school's art department. Chances are you'll find a grateful teacher who's all too happy to accept them.

Yo! C77 Sketch: Digital Car Sketch Using a Simple Color Technique

Mon, 2017-11-13 10:04

In this video, I show you how I quickly sketch a car using a very simple color technique. Using sky tones for all of the upward facing surfaces and warm tones for all of the ground facing surfaces, I quickly and effectively show off the surface changes in these two sketches. 

As always, if you have any questions or comments on the techniques shown, leave them in the comments below. What other techniques would you like to see?

For Less Than a Week, Get a Killer Deal on Expensive Stop Hinges

Sun, 2017-11-12 10:03

I'm not ashamed to admit that I ordered some for myself before writing this entry.

If you're looking for high-quality made-in-the-U.S.A. hardware, Brusso Hardware, out of New Jersey, is a go-to. The company manufactures precision-machined hinges, pulls, catches, latches, knobs, feet, lid stays, hooks and more. Their quality is vastly better that the cheap stuff made overseas and is, thus, more expensive.

So when I just heard they were having a whopping 40% off sale on stop hinges (thanks WoodTalk podcast), starting yesterday and ending on November 14th, I ordered two pairs. Their stop hinges open to 95 degrees, allowing you to install them in a box and keep the lid open without having to install supports or stays.

They're also having a clearance sale on sundry items, primarily knobs.

Box Making Techniques: How to Make a Piston Fit Tray

Sun, 2017-11-12 10:03

If you've ever seen a piston fit drawer or interior tray in action, you know it's like watching magic. A piston fit sees one part sinking into another on a cushion of air, which requires what seems like an impossible amount of precision to get right. This isn't the kind of precision that comes from using CNC technology, but rather, human judgment, good preparation and knowing how, when and where to apply finesse.

Professional furniture builder David Barron, who has mastered the technique, gamely shares every last secret of how this is done in the videos below. I found them hugely informative.

In Part 1, Barron shows you the preparation required to make the tray, which he then assembles prior to fitting:

In Part 2, he demonstrates how you actually get the thing to fit so perfectly, using a variety of techniques to detect where the problems are and eradicating them:

I was surprised to see Barron provided the information for free; this is the kind of thing you'd typically pay hundreds of dollars for to take a class on. Thanks David!