Author Archives: tjenks

The types of companies that make concept videos

We’ve seen a lot of concept videos on this blog (including ones I’ve posted) but it’s nice to put some of it in perspective. John Gruber is usually a pretty big Apple avocate, so I tend to take a lot of his proclaimations with a grain of salt, but his thoughts on the types of companies that make concept videos seem pretty spot on:

I’m not arguing that making concept videos directly leads to a lack of traction in the current market. I’m arguing that making concept videos is a sign of a company that has a lack of institutional focus on the present and near-present. Can you imagine a sports team in the midst of a present-day losing season that makes a video imagining a future championship 10 years out?

The designs in these concept videos are free from real-world constraints — technical, logical, fiscal. Dealing with constraints is what real design is all about. Institutional attention on the present day — on getting innovative industry-leading products out the door and creating consumer demand for them — requires relentless company-wide focus.

It’s especially interesting when we note that a lot of the companies we see making the videos posted are not recently innovation leaders in their fields (e.g. Nokia, Microsoft with respect to UX, Google in the hardware space). Are these concept videos marketing stunts with no real innovation practices to back them up?


Microsoft Office’s vision of the future of productivity

Sand Flea Jumping Robot

Forget the bipeds–now robots can murder you, even upstairs:

Home Vacuum Surveillance Robot

This is possibly old news, but the “LG Hom-Bot 2.0 Smart Robot Vacuum Cleaner” is a roomba-like vacuuming robot that has webcams built into it. You can log into these cameras via an iPhone or Android device. This is absolutely hilarious, but probably not worth the €500-700 that LG was expecting to charge for it.



Commercial Home Mapping Service

Jan Chipchase, formerly Chief Usabilty Researcher at Nokia and now “Executive Creative Director of Global Insights” at Frog Design, has an interesting post up speculating about businesses using small-scale quadrotors to map houses as a commercial service:

Let the swarms fly!



Drone Landscapes, Intelligent Geotextiles, Geographic Countermeasures

I feel like I’m maybe getting too into BLDGBLOG, but this post seems really interesting in a smart home context, although maybe a little larger in scope. Along the theme of “Design of Environments” is this post considering “speculative geotextiles,” allowing sensing of presence, reconfigurable landscapes, containing hills that roll and move, or respond to natural disasters. Based on laying underground cables, these networks could be configured to produce hundreds of mile-long swaths of sensor networks. Evocative.

underground cable
Laying sensor cable

underground cable
Augmented Landscapes

Home Technology for Religion

I’m sorry to keep posting links to papers to read ;), but I just remembered an interesting article out of the sadly now-defunct Berkley Intel Research center. Alison Woodruff led an ethnographic study around home automation technology to support Sabbath practices for Orthodox Jews. It’s super interesting!

here’s an arXiv link to the paper:
Sabbath Day Home Automation: “It’s Like Mixing Technology and Religion”

Pop up Robots/Architecture

Over at BLDGBLOG, there’s an interesting post that—while based solely around the formal similarities of two entirely different projects—gets my imagination going. Harvard researchers created small, insectoid robots that are popped out of prepared sheets, allowing inexpensive manufacture. Similar (looking!) is Bernard Khoury’s nighclub in Beirut that opens up to the night.

full post

Subversive home practices

The paper on developing an alien presence in the home to create a sort of dramatic tension within living spaces reminded me of a project that I did some work on as an undergraduate. The Home Health Horoscope was designed to be a system of sensors that would try to gauge the emotional state of a home and produce horoscopes based on its readings rather than astrological input. While the system was eventually deemed a failure, it provides another look into producing technology that is ambiguous, interpretive, and “other.”

Using design to support wellness practices

Coolhunting has a post up about a designers efforts to create unified, ergonomic products around medical necessities, producing a coherent system that reminds users to be consistent with their regimens.

Sabi Products

I’m frequently pretty irritated by Coolhunting, in that its essentially non-stop aadvertising, but these containers seem like an interesting approach to creating formal consistency and even introducing elegance to stuff many people would rather not think about or engage with.