There’s a bit of drama going on in Toronto these days regarding the (in)famous sign that used to adorn the storefront of Sam The Record Man. The admittedly iconic sign was safely put aside before the store was demolished as part of the revitalization of that part of Yonge Street. Ryerson University is erecting a new Student Centre on that site now, but it may well be that the sign will have to be re-mounted elsewhere. This is causing ‘way more of a fuss than it deserves.
The city is repaving our road. In prelude to that, they’re replacing the curbs and sidewalks. I saw this out my front window today. As I watched them go at it, I noticed a very significant problem in the system consisting of the curb-layer (the yellow machine to the right), the cement truck, and the workers.
Can you figure it out?
I recently posted about a really shitty product on Google+, and one of the comments on that post put me in mind of the question of design ethics. I almost just replied to the comment within G+, but then thought it might be better posted here.
Briefly, the product (described further here), is a highly modular and asymmetrically styled containers that can be “assembled” into many different configurations.
I’ve found that I’m writing more short design-oriented pieces on Google+ than I am here. Example: a short critique of this design monstrosity: a lump of Carrara marble to measure spaghetti. You can read that piece here.
If you want to read about the other design fails that I’ve written about on Google+, try this link.
It seems that there’s an Android subculture that revolves around the design of “home screens.” (An Android “home screen” is equivalent to a “desktop” on a conventional computer.) This subculture is so extensive that whole websites have sprung up to share home screen designs (e.g. MyColorScreen, and a significant portion of Deviant Art). Given the overall customizability of Android, it’s no surprise that this should happen. It should also come as no surprise that many of the home screens shown there, though beautiful, are surprisingly un-usable.
The world’s largest solar panel manufacturer, China’s SunTech, appears to be going into bankruptcy.
What I see here is a series of problems, caused by business and political concerns, that that created the problems both that led to SunTech’s bankruptcy and that will impact the employees and investors, and indeed, the entire global economy.
I came across a post at Core77 about a concept design for a device to clean up the Pacific Trash Vortex, a region of the north Pacific Ocean that seems to be gathering garbage, particularly plastic, where global ocean currents converge. Unfortunately, it’s a really bad design. I will sketch a solution that I think is much better.
The Pacific Trash Vortex is an interesting phenomenon that no one really saw coming till the 1980s, but, in hindsight, seemed rather obvious. Floating garbage will be carried by currents. Any gyre where several such currents meet will result in collections of garbage. This garbage eventually starts to poison the water and the wildlife that lives in it.
The idea behind the design in the Core77 post is that a device slowly wanders through the Vortex, collecting garbage in its net. When it’s full, it gets pulled up to a “mothership,” emptied, and then sent back for more.
A major intersection in Toronto is closed for two weeks to renovate the streetcar tracks that pass through it. Whether the intersection should have been closed only at night – turning a two week job into a two-month nightmare – is a question on the minds of many. Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure, because no one seems interested in determining the balance point of this situation.
The intersection of Queen and Spadina in Toronto is not only one of the city’s busiest intersections, it is one of the very few with all-way streetcar tracks that can turn in any direction. The complexity of the track system at that intersection is huge. And it needs to be renovated.
So the City of Toronto has decided to close the entire intersection down for two whole weeks to get the work done as quickly as possible. This has obviously raised the hackles of many drivers who use that intersection in their commutes to and from work.
In the Cambrian period, there was an “explosion” of life. During that time, over 500 million years ago, pretty much all the major animal phyla evolved over just a few million years. I’m starting to wonder if we’re not experiencing an explosion of robotic “life.”
Consider the following:
- Thomas and Janet, the romantic robots
- BigDog, the robotic pack mule that can walk (rather comically) on icy surfaces
- Swarms of quadcopters acting cooperatively
- Various UAVs
- The Google Car
- Stair-climbing robots
- Rescue robots
- Robot snakes
- Pneumatic robot babies
- Robots to soothe the dying
- even a walking pneumatic robot made of LEGO!
All these advances in robotics happened in the very recent past. It suddenly struck me that the massive surge in robotic innovation might not be a parallel to what happened to life on Earth. Why is robotic development experiencing this sudden growth? I theorize that it isn’t the result of any planning by anyone, but rather by the unintended achievement of a technological “sweet-spot” where technical capacity and cost have hit values that allow a whole new generation of ideas to be pursued. And each idea that is tried leads to even more ideas.
This project is open only to members of the Design Society, but it’s so cool that I wanted to broadcast it widely. Here’s the writeup, quoted directly from the Design Society Advisory Board:
As one of its activities towards promoting its members’ research, The Design Society is partnering with Google Scholar to pilot a new service, aimed at promoting DS members’ publications and citations. Please read on if you are interested in being a part of this experiment…
“Quality publications and high citation counts” is the ever-increasing focus of the academic research assessment exercise worldwide. The design research community provides great theoretical and empirical research results, but compared to neighbouring science fields, we have a challenge in upping our game with respect to publications and citations.