• Some words from the lockdown, Futures Wheel as an opportunities map tool - Weeknote 2020/02

    (weeknotes)

    It’s April 2020, and for the lucky of us that can keep doing their job in the middle of a global shutdown and away from their office, the home is the new workplace. This is for me, since Monday, March 16th. Last social gathering was the Thursday before, a leaving party of a dear colleague at IXDS. From here, thinking of that event feels like a going back to another age, and it was only a month ago.

    My current mood is swinging between the urge of doing something for the now and taking this time to reflect and read long books. It’s been quite paralyzing, keeping working on personal projects despite an aftertaste of them not being really important now makes me less motivated, despite I could also have the time for those now.

    On a positive note, since the lockdown I’ve set up some new routines with far away friends I don’t see very often, and that felt like one bit of good to come out from this otherwise surreal situation.

    And how are you? Please be healthy and safe.


    From this Medium post by futurist Scott Smith, I’ve found out about a cool tool called Fuutures Wheel.

    Essentially it’s a mind-map like diagram, with at its centre marked a main change event; from this main event a list of immediate consequences (first order effect) and from each immediate consequence, their direct consequences (second order effect) and again for third and forth order effects until you can go.

    I found the tool particularly inspiring as a way to come up with opportunities to help with a specific problem, to open up a big change into more addressable, manageable topics and also to uncover overlooked ones.

    So, I’ve quickly made my own diagram. The change starting point is the same of the example by Scott Smith: “majority of professionals are working from home”. But apart from some obvious overlaps, I could come up with some new topics, my diagram based more on an individual perspective compared the one by Scott Smith, and as I noticed after, in many cases my consequences are of the kind that I could imagine a solution for.

    Next step is to use the third order consequence and try too think of some ideas that could answer to those.


    Findings

    1. Tellart’s Panacea (2020)

    Tellart made a series of experiments looking to replace physical presence while in remote. In the link there is a nicely made video of the experiments.

    here

    2. Social Distance Thing (2020)

    Dutch studio The Incredible Machine built a laser based thing that marks the safe area around you, so to help with social distancing.

    here

    3. Animal Crossing Hong Kong Protests (2020)

    This is how #hongkong ppl spend our time during coronavirus lockdown - villain hitting in #animalcrossing, the villain is #CarrieLam, the worst governor in #hongkong history.

    In the link, there’s the video posted on Twitter.

    here


  • Food inspired innovation - Weeknote 2020/01

    (weeknotes)

    This issue comes after a long time and from a weird one. Globally and especially in my country Italy, since some weeks friends and family has been staying home from work and school, following a state-wide effort aimed at containing the Covid 19.

    In Munich, Germany where I’m currently living, no such drastic measures are in place (yet), but as an independent company policy all of us at IXDS since next week will be working from home, whenever possible.

    And with more time at home, I thought this was a good moment to pick up the blog again, to re-open the RSS feed gates and start to go through thoughts and notes I’ve been scattered around in the post month.


    I’ve recently read a book about food by Italian historian Massimo Montanari titled “Il riposo della polpetta” (The rest of the meatball). One of the idea that Montanari refers to a lot in his writing, is from historian Marc Bloch, the Myth of the Origin.

    The Myth of the Origin is about the diffused tendency to consider cultural objects as if they came to be magically and fully formed at some point in time. This is what leads many people to be extremely protective when it comes to culinary traditions, which is good for protecting tried and tested recipes, but can prevent us to explore new flavours, potentially even more exciting than what we’ve tried already.

    Acknowledging that our current traditions were actually innovations some time ago, facing the same criticism by the traditionalist of the time, can help us being more confident when creating something new.

    Also, looking at how food culture evolved over time can be an inspiring reference when it comes to design and technology. Because if certain design and technological innovations can be captured in time through the issue of a patent or a product lunch, the ideas that leads to those innovations work much more like in food culture.

    Ideas move around from individual to individual and from organisation to organisation. And are used, modified, incorporated or also inspire other ideas according to needs, circumstances or chance.

    And like in the kitchen, common sense and experimentation, rather than being too stuck on existing processes and traditions, are good skills for creating something new.

    Sure, a tomatoes and Nutella sandwitch might not be a good idea. But finishing risotto with miso and tahini instead then butter and parmesan cheese could work well (it does).


    Another thing worth to share from my side.

    I’ve started an interview series about AI and Design. The first on it’s with Andreas Refsgaard, who had great things to share about teachable interfaces and prototyping with machine learning. The secret advantage of prototyping with machine learning: An interview with Andreas Refsgaard.

    Findings

    1. Pornhub Premium free in Italy to keep them company while at home (2020)

    This is cute and smart.

    here

    2. Paper Phone & Envelope (2019 & 2020)

    Two calm technolgy projects hacking your phone to make you use less of it.

    Paper phone is an app that allows you to print on a piece of paper all the most important information for one day, like maps, contacts and calendar. So that for that day you can leave your phone at home.

    Envelope is a set of cardboard boxes each transforming your phone into a single function device.

    I love Special Projects.

    here and here

    3. Hey Robot (2019)

    A game to play with friends and a voice assistant. Each person tries to make Google Home or Alexa to say a specific word by saying its definition. For instance: “what is that animal that has a long neck”.

    here


  • Amazon's underwhelming futurism (and findings) - Weeknote 2019/14

    (weeknotes)

    Amazon is not the kind of company that makes a big fanfare (read Apple) when releasing something new*, so they tend to underwhelm when they announce a new product.

    So, if someone gets (used to get?) standing ovations when presenting even a feature of a new products (Oh, and there’s something else), at Amazon the style is more of a understated dry affair (so, we have this, and that and also that. Oh, yeah, we also did that…)

    Lack of confidance? I don’t think so. I believe is more a keen disregard of anything unrelated to the thing itself (read branding, communication strategy PR and the like). The result is that there seems to be no emotion in what Amazon does. And this gets them little love among tech enthusiasts. I can’t blame when I read on my Twitter feed people dismissing the new 2019 physical products release, as Amazon put Alexa in a bunch of products.

    At Amazon they are iterative purists, RERO (release early, release often) believers at a massive scale. They launch bold but definitely unpolished products, gather feedback, and build upon it (for instance, makers like hacking the Dash button? They made an hackable version. People use the Echo for timers? Let’s make a connected clock which shows the timers you’ve set via Alexa, etc.). This is their way, and no, it’s not sexy.

    But I actually like this pragmatic approach to invention. It led them to release an incredible amount of memorable products. Echo, Kindle, Amazon Dash (yes, press a button in the cupboard to order more washing powder, that’s sci-fi isn’t it?), Amazon Web Services, Next Day delivery…

    So I think that there’s potential also in some of the new physical products they released, beyond the Alexa in a thing first impression.

    In particular I see the point in something like a personal assistant in a ring or in a pair of glasses. Much more than in a phone, a wearable, easy to access device, is a much more suitable place for it.

    In fact, I think that the idea of Siri speaking out loud to you and to everybody else in the same supermarket lane your shopping list of Oreo biscuits, hummus and Chinese chili oil is what stops people from using it for these kind of mundane, but ubiquitous cases. Yes, you could have some sort of private chat with your favourite virtual assistant through Airpods, and other microphone equipped headphones, but it’s still a clunky experience.

    Thing instead about the assistant in a ring. You cup your hand, whisper some question onto it, bring the hand to your ear and listen to the response. Neat, discreete and cool. So yeah, I’m looking forward to see the future for the Amazon Loop and for similar devices to come**.

    *Some micro-historical context for (my) future reference. In the past week also Nick Cave had a new release, which he announced it as casually as Amazon did. A fan at Nick Cave forum/website asked, hei Nick when are you gonna have a new album. And Nick Cave casually, thanks for asking, in two weeks. It’s a double album… And then it was released.

    ** Important disclaimer. The fact that I have a certain appreciation to the way Amazon works in the innovation business doesn’t mean that I approve of them as a company. In fact, I find their treatment of workers, especially in fulfillment centers, disgraceful on both a social and personal level.

    Findings

    1. #AntiMaskLaw

    Projects a different face on top of your face. It surfaced on Twitter from the account of an Hong Kong protester, without any informations on the tweet.

    Wearable face projector #AntiMaskLaw #EmergencyLaw

    Didn’t dig further, in respect of clandestine feeling intended by the poster. But I dig the idea, so it made it into the findings.

    here

    2. Exausting a Crowd (2015)

    A website playing a 12 hour video from a London (and other cities location). At any time you can zoom-in in a specific part of the scene, for instance at a person, and add a comment.

    Very nice project by Kyle Mcdonald from 2015. I somehow missed then, just got to my attention as it was recently updated with a new location in Beijing.

    here

    3. Amazon Echo Loop

    You cup your hand, whisper some question onto it, bring the hand to your ear and listen to the response. As part of a pilot/beta program, Amazon released an Alexa ring and Alexa glasses. I’m looking forward to more wearable pieces with voice assistant like these.

    here


  • The underground epoch of local fabrication, bad AI, misjudged AI and peel cups - Weeknote 2019/13

    (weeknotes)

    3-D Printers Could Help Spread Weapons of Mass Destruction. Until I read this article last week, I didn’t think about personal fabrication since a while.

    It was 2013 when Cody Wilson released the files for his design of the 3D printed gun Liberator. That news added a scary angle to the mostly optimistic maker movement, but it also showed that distributed manufacturing could really have a strong impact in society.

    I shared that enthusiasm for a future of distributed manufacturing, fab-labs and open-source consumer goods, and I’m still the most proud of the project I worked on around the topic with the Hacking Households team 👋.

    Since then, the whole maker revolution has deflated, and with consequences. In 2015 the poster-boy of personal manufacturing, 3D printer maker MakerBot, went through serious layoffs and closed all its shops. In 2017 US fablab chain Techshop filed for bankruptcy despite around 9000 members around the country. And just this year in June, Make, the magazine and organiser of the MakerFair, was saved from bankruptcy just by some last minutes investments (Source: Martino, thanks!).

    The article mentioned at the beginning is a warning by some researchers that “the proliferation of 3-D printers, combined with advances in artificial intelligence, could make it much easier for nations or individuals to covertly build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.”.

    This is not good news, but it got me thinking about that moment in a the lifetime of a technology, that in the Gartner Hype Curve is referred to as its curve of disillusionment. When media stops caring, investments are few and nobody seems to bother. Conversely, in this moment, there is space and time to work more freely, without the pressure and expectations of of the hype. This is where personal fabrication technology is at right now, in the middle of this curve of disillusionment, having its underground epoch.

    And if during this time I hope nobody’s churning out lethal 3D printed weapons, I like to think that there’s somebody that is now slowly and effectively working to somewhat turn those ideas of distributed manufacturing and open-source fabrication into something concrete, cool and with well-intentions. I’ll wait.

    Findings

    1. ImageNet Roulette

    ImageNet Roulette is a provocation designed to help us see into the ways that humans are classified in machine learning systems. It uses a neural network trained on the “Person” categories from the ImageNet dataset which has over 2,500 labels used to classify images of people.

    Have a look on how people (you, for instance) are classified by our current state of the art machine learning. Sometimes the results are funny (like in the classic photo I used, “Elon Musk smoking weed”), sometimes less, and more generally it makes clear why blindly trusting algorithms to in society is not a great idea.

    Also, I love the approach researcher Trevor Paglen and Kate Crawford used here, accompanying their written analysis about “The Politics of Images in Machine Learning Training Sets” work with a small project giving a quick, and interactive demonstration of the issues they talk about.

    Be quick if you want to try this out, because “Starting Friday, September 27th this application will no longer be available online”.

    here

    2. Open AI’s Emergent Tool Use from Multi-Agent Interaction (Hide and Seek)

    I have to admit that the photo above and the following headline lured me into this finding for all the wrong reasons.

    OpenAI Tried to Train AI Agents to Play Hide-And-Seek but Instead They Were Shocked by What They Learned

    The headline is from a post on Towards Data Science, but in fact there’s nothing “shocking” about the Open AI project, nor the author elaborates on what shocked him in the first place, despite title and photo clearly suggest some sort of emerging aggressive behaviour by the AI agents. So a well played click-bait operation (👏👏👏).

    In fact the project is a cool experiment showing emerging behaviour for a reinforcement learning algorithm, the kind that learn out how to achieve something by trying stuff our and see what work best. In this case for hide and seek.

    here

    3. feel the peel - 3D printed glass from orange peel

    Experiments in circular design. Italian design and technology studio Carlo Ratti Associati made a juicer/3D printer machine that creates glasses with the orange peels.

    here


  • A Mountaineering metaphor for designing and inventing, AI certifications, a sleek remote and an AI game - Weeknote 2019/12

    (weeknotes)

    I was familiar with Don Norman and Roberto Verganti shared argument on design & innovation. In a nutshell: Human Centred Design is great for improving existing products but it doesn’t work for inventing new ones (I agree, and have my take on that).

    But somewhat I missed this paper they wrote together: Incremental and Radical Innovation: Design Research vs. Technology and Meaning Change.

    If the paper it’s like a summary of their known argument, what was new to me was the Mountaineering metaphor they use for talking about “incremental innovation” VS “radical innovation”.

    Basically inventions in a particular product space are like mountain peaks, where the height represent the quality of that product. What Human Centred Design (HCD) excels at is to climb up the current mountain - improving the product in its current form, until even managing to reach its top. But what HCD doesn’t do is to look if there are alternative, higher mountain to climb - meaning, a completely different approach in the same space that could lead to a better product, a “radical innovation”.

    I really like the metaphor, it does a great job at explaining the topic, and besides, it pictures a very vivid image of the value of being able to switch between different level of focus when working with design. In this case is between improving and inventing, but it can be for any detail-big picture scenario, wether is the feature and the product or even the soldering and the prototype. I believe getting comfortable in this focus-hopping is a mighty hard ability to get, but it’s when I somewhat manage to do well at it that I get the most satisfaction from working in this space.

    Findings

    1. Certified Artificial Chrome Extension (2019)

    Certified Artificial is an organisation claiming to independently verify if your business is really using the latest AI techniques and is an expert of the field or just a jumper in the AI-hype bandwagon.

    For a nominal assessor’s fee ($1,499), businesses can procure independent verification by our team of experts that the products and services they’re offering are in fact leveraging the latest machine learning techniques. When verified, these businesses are added to our public database of certified companies and receive an embeddable digital certificate CAI Certified that attests to their genuine use of the emerging technology.

    To make it cool, they also created an browser extension that show their certification along a certain name or business (as an examples, according to their standard Yuval Noah Harari and Elon Musk are rated Do Not Recommend (DNR))

    here

    2. IKEA’s remote control for SONOS speakers (2019)

    IKEA released a controller for the speaker it released with Sonos. Super minimal, portable, no buttons and gestural-like interactions. An iteraction with extra functionalities to their smart lightbulb dimmer. Very cool.

    here

    3. Beat the traffic, by move lab (2019)

    Turn cars in busy roads into emoji. Nice little game by the guys at move lab. I particularly like the use of object recognition on a video file, rather than on a camera feed. Well thought!

    Submit your highscore if you manage to rescue your city from the avalanche of cars rolling through cities every day. The mobility wonderland you’ve created by transforming cars into unicorns, rainbows and trees isn’t only magical. The cars you’ve transformed are finally converted into the amount of public transit needed to transport everybody sitting in these cars. For cities with less cars and more quality of life.

    here


  • Ars Electronica. Three headlines and four highlights - Weeknote 2019/11

    (weeknotes)

    Notes from my visit to Ars Electronica. Collected strolling in that multi-cultural cyberpunk mini-sprawl that is the Postcity, the huge building where most of the works are exhibited and events take place (for the last time this year), and from other locations around Linz.

    Three headlines and four highlights.

    Flasks & germs galore

    Bio Art is not new, but I was surprised to see how many projects there were in this category and how advanced independent artist managed to go in their biology skills. But the usual media-art aesthetic is still there, just that in place of cables and electronics there are now tubes with running liquids, organic stuff in glass domes and flasks filled with weirdly coloured liquids.

    I felt we are now in the dawn of a whole new age - maybe after we’ve done with digital transformation there will be a whole consulting industry helping companies to deal with biological transformation?

    BIGGan aesthetic

    Like on Twitter, so in Ars. A good number of project had to do with morphing strangely-familiar uncanny images generated by GAN algorithms. Beyond the future potential of this technology, for now it looks as if AIs got into a sudden Francis Bacon frenzy and all started to paint like him. For my part, I love Francis Bacon’s, so I’m enjoying the moment.

    Climate crisis art

    A greenhouse gas reacting installation, a sound piece sampling cracking polar glaciers and one work testing the habitability of alien environment, speculating on a post-collapse ultimate solution. Climate crisis is definitely a recurring theme in many works, no matter the category.

    Findings (Ars Electronica 2019 special)

    1. Vframe, Adam Harvey

    Vframe is a tool to recognise landmines in war territories. Brilliant idea, execution and intention.

    A visual search engine was trained to analyze video data sets from battle zones to spot such weapons. In order to train the neural network of the search engine to recognize them even in low-resolution recordings, 3D models were created and fed into the object detection software.

    here

    2. Tiger Penis Project, Kuang-Yi Ku

    A bioengineering speculation aiming to conciliate the needs of traditional chinese medicine and the safeguard of endangered animals. The project’s website is very nice too.

    Is there a way to resolve the conflict between health, culture and environmental conservation through a new interpretation of traditional Chinese medicine? […] Combining Western and Chinese Medicine and Technologies, this new hibrid medicine prevent the destruction of both animals and traditional cultures, and provides more possibilities for coexistence of human society and the natural environment

    here

    3. Deep data prototypes, Andy Gracie

    Three prototypes subjecting small plants to environmental conditions of non-terrestrial environment. Testing how simple organisms react to the magnetic field, light spectra and gravity of other planets, where we might have to migrate when we’ll be done with our own. For the crafty, the artist made a step-by-step tutorial on how to build his prototypes.

    here

    4. The Sinewave Orchestra

    Simple and beautifully executed. Displaying in under the roof of a church helped too.

    The SINE WAVE ORCHESTRA has chosen to dedicate its work to the sine wave, said to be the most basic sound and therefore called pure tone, containing neither overtone nor noise but a ingle frequency. This work is defined by the interplay of visitors: Each spectator is given a small device which can play a sine wave and asked to choose its frequency and position on one of the columns of copper wire in the attic.

    here


  • Stubborn AI, humble AI - Weeknote 2019/10

    (weeknotes)

    Catching up with some readings on AI and design, I’ve re-read Fabien Girardin’s great When Automation Bites Back.

    The post is a thoughtful overview on how automation is sometimes against people’s interest and present some thoughtful and practical guidelines on how to design AI product differently.

    But what particularly struck me was Fabien’s image of “stubborn” automation:

    stubborn autonomous behaviours are intentionally designed as the core of business models that trades human control for convenience.

    Of course I love personification metaphors when talking about designing with AI, in fact our project Solo came from something like that, so I allowed myself to play a bit with it.

    One one end we have Fabien’s “Stubborn AI”. This is one that has a very precise knowledge (it’s trained with a lot of data) and can take all decisions autonomously (never requires any guidance from the user) but can be inflexible even on critical cases (and that’s when the issue arises).

    But what if we flip that around? What we have, is some kind of “humble AI”. This is an approach to autonomy that needs adapting before being useful (with an initial ad-hoc training by the user), is always open to adapt its behaviour (can be constantly updated with new instructions) and whenever unsure, it requires the user’s intervention (and learns from it). Yes, there will be some tradeoff in term of “seamlessness”, but I feel that this “humble AI” is a better, more human-aware way for our relationship with smart stuff.


  • An historical perspective - Weeknote 2019/9

    (weeknotes)

    Few months back I’ve discovered and started listening the excellent podcast The Secret History of the Future. Each episode of the series focusses on one technology that is currently making the news (AI, electricity and the brain, VR, autonomous driving… ) and compares it with historical moments when comparable innovations were causing very similar strong discussions. One of my favourite episode is about the problem of dealing with the ever-growing amount of information available online and through social media. If the overall amount of data is surely unprecedented, concerns about information overload are not new. When printing was invented, many intellectuals of the time, Martin Luther was one of them, were extremely worried that the new spread of publications would make it really hard to know what books were worth reading and which weren’t.

    History could have a more systematic role in how we work in design and technology. The design thinking flavour of innovation has its key elements in discovering what people want, through interviews and in testing solutions early on, and in empowering everybody to be creative through well defined processes of ideation. Create something (apparently) new and make sure that it fits people’s desires is the gist of this approach, while looking back tends to be seen just as some accessory, optional work.

    Is it right? Without letting our past condition us too much, I feel that some kind of - even ingenuous, quick and partial - historical research could give us perspective and inspiration for building what comes next. Especially since our times are not as special as we tend to think.


  • Back to the continent, CO2 calculators, doodles and an AI oracle - Weeknote 2019/8

    (weeknotes)

    Ok, this is a continuation as much as is a new beginning.

    First things first. Since last weeknote many thing happened. I’ve left Uniform, left Liverpool and the UK and moved to Munich, Germany where I’ve just started to work as a Creative Technologist Expert at IXDS.

    These have been truly amazing years. I’m thankful to have had a chance to collaborate and learn from all of you beautiful minds at Uniform! I wish you Mike, Timea and the new member of the Creative Technology team the best of luck (you won’t need it though :)) and I’m looking forward to see what you’ll work on!

    Obviously this means that the weeknotes won’t be published in the Uniform Medium channel any longer, but will live only in my personal blog. Apart from that, is my intention to regain momentum and go back to use this space in the same way as before, to keep track of inspiring projects and document quick thoughts on design and tech.

    Let’s go.


    Whenever in the past I approached a new self-initiated project, at Uniform or before that, there was always the discussion whether it should be about exploring a specific technology or about solving a user problem. Although the latter has often got a priority, looking back at my past projects, I’ve noticed that the most inventive ones started by freely trying to do something exciting with a specific technology. Some recent reads, and in particular the chapter on Invention in Jared Diamond’s excellent Guns,_Germs,_and_Steel gave some more historical beef to my thesis: that inventions are mostly coming from technological exploration, rather that a strong focus on people’s need. This is not to say that user research and user testing are not necessary. Of course they are, but I believe that among (digital) designers there is the tendency to work in a level of abstraction too disconnected from the technology they are using, and especially if you want to create something new, it’s necessary to get your hands dirty with tech.

    I’ve condensed this thinking in a longish Medium post here: In Praise of Creative Technology*.

    *(the title is inspired by Junichiro Tanizaki’s beautiful essay on Japanese culture and aesthetic In Praise of Shadows, you should definitely read that too).


    Findings

    1. Guardian CO2 flight calculator (2019)

    This powerful and insightful interactive visualisation by the Guardian compares the CO2 emitted by a single flight with the annual emission of a person in dozen of countries in the world. Yes it is comparable, and yes it is concerning.

    The figures highlight the disproportionate carbon footprint of those who can afford to fly, with even a short-haul return flight from London to Edinburgh contributing more CO2 than the mean annual emissions of a person in Uganda or Somalia.

    here

    2. Do Not Draw a penis (2019)

    A new small site by the always excellent Moniker. It uses machine learning to recognise a very specific doodle and then uses it to form a dataset of that specific drawing. Nice!

    In 2018 Google open-sourced the Quickdraw data set. “The world’s largest doodling data set”. The set consists of 345 categories and over 15 million drawings. For obvious reasons the data set was missing a few specific categories that people enjoy drawing. This made us at Moniker think about the moral reality big tech companies are imposing on our global community and that most people willingly accept this. Therefore we decided to publish an appendix to the Google Quickdraw data set. Do Not Draw a Penis functions as an agent to collect inappropriate doodles from people who are not willing to stay within the moral guidelines set by our social network providers.

    here

    3. Nuovo Oracolo Cittadino (2019)

    New project from me! This was done together with friend and collaborator Federico Floriani. The project is physical installation representing an AI oracle. It was a good chance to play with text generation (Char-RNN), which I’ve never done before and overall great fun to work with Federico after quite some time.

    The Nuovo Oracolo Cittadino is an example of how emerging technologies can transform the mundane: an artificial intelligence fortune teller. From street cartomancy, fortune-telling always went through a technological upgrade. Television brought nigh-time dedicated shows on tarot reading and internet platforms lead to online consultation services. And with some bigger sites already using outsourced call-centres for offering consultations, with machine learning technologies becoming as accessible as creating a Wix or Wordpress site, AI fortune telling is just around the corner.

    More info including some tech notes in the Medium post linked below.

    here


  • Beyond voice assistants skills, beds, TV and robot arms - Weeknote 2019/7

    (weeknotes)

    3 (approx) interesting things, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.

    With the Creative Technology team at Uniform we always strive to think differently about technologies. We definitely like more simple ideas that challenge what a specific technology allows to do, to ideas that are richer, but don’t push the medium in any new direction - I like to see it as a preference for ideas with rich features rather then features-rich.

    In the past 12 months we’ve worked on three different projects using Amazon Echo and Google Home. For different reasons, we didn’t develop them further than rough prototypes, but together they are a great example of our out-of-the-box thinking with emerging technologies. Here it is: Beyond skills: doing something different with voice assistants

    Findings

    1. Ford lane-keeping bed (2019)

    Ford has released a video of a smart bed prototype that detects when one partner takes too much space and roll them back to their side of the bed.

    Just a prototype, the “Lane-Keeping Bed” is part of a series of Ford Interventions, including the Noise-Cancelling Kennel, all of which apply automotive expertise to tackle everyday – or in this case, every night – problems.

    I like the bed and I love this Ford Interventions initiative. It presents the company in a completely new way, and I also believe this self sector-stealing approach - repurposing your own technology in some other area - is great to come up with weird, new product ideas. Surely this sounds much more exciting of the usual software people approach to smart products: put sensors, collect data.

    A very similar example was from last year, when car maker Nissan released a video of a Japanese traditional guest-house equipped with self-driving slippers

    here

    2. Playdeo’s Avo! (2019)

    Some former people from BERG (Little Printer, etc.) have a new company and recently launched their first product. It’s an interactive story for Smartphones in which you control the character of an Avocado in real filmed scenes, helping its owner, an inventor, solving mysteries.

    It’s a new kind of hybrid between TV and mobile gaming, and for the first two episodes that I watched/played, very very interesting.

    I also recommend to read Jack Schulze post about the company and their first release, it’s truly inspiring.

    Playdeo operates from the notion that invention is a joyful act. At every stage of my working life I’ve used invention — to produce images, films, even products — with the ambition that people will find joy in the particular kinds of connection it affords. For me there is a politics to approaching the craft this way — it’s optimistic.

    here

    3. Hexbot: The Modular All-In-1 Desktop Robot Arm For Everyone (2019)

    This is cool. A robotic arm with modular “hands” that can 3D print, laser engrave, draw and move things around.

    here