Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Better Place

Better Place is an electric vehicle infrastructure company founded back in 2007 by Shai Agassi, a former head of Product and Technology group at SAP.  I first heard about it last year through a presentation Shai gave at TED (annual technology / entertainment / design conference), laying out the boldest, most realistic, and most exciting vision for oil-free world I've ever seen.  To say that his vision and expertise to make the world a cleaner and healthier place to live is inspirational is a major understatement.  I quickly joined their community online, and a LinkedIn group here, which keeps me updated on their progress. 

Better Place builds necessary infrastructure, i.e. a network of charging stations and battery swap stations, but with a truly brilliant well-worked out business model.  Drivers will be able to subscribe to variety of mileage plans, similar to a cell-phone plan, where the ownership of an EV is for the first time separated from owning a battery.  Consumers own electric cars, but subscribe to energy on a basis of miles driven.  The thorough saturation of charge spots and battery swap stations insure that you will never run out of energy to drive your EV, thus totally overcoming the worst thing about 100% electric cars today - severely limited mileage range.   The battery-swap stations are beautifully designed to quickly change your battery without a driver ever getting out of the car, in about the same time it takes to fill up with gasoline.  On top of that they partnered with Renault-Nissan to create the first purely electric vehicles that will NOT cost more than the traditional gas cars, look and feel as good as or BETTER than traditional cars, and EXCEED the performance of the gas vehicles with far better instant torque and accelleration than inefficient gasoline engine - i.e. affordability being the critical key to global EV adaptation by the mass market.

Better Place has been working with many governments around the world, and are now deploying their business in Israel, Denmark, and Australia, with US, Canada, Japan, and many other countries following up as the equity funding continues to grow.  This will no doubts be the most notable sustainable transportation success story very soon, and I'm more than convinced we're witnessing history in the making.  I personally cannot wait till we here in the US have their green vehicle infrastructure in place so I could finally live my dream of driving without pollutting the air we breathe.  Stay tuned for more exciting developments from Better Place I'll be posting here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Design Revolution Road Show

The Design Revolution road show is a traveling exhibition and lectures given by Project H, an organization committed to improving peoples' lives on a global scale through power of design.  That is exactly the goal of the exhibition, which is traveling around the country right now in their Airstream trailer.  They're stopping in 35 schools and universities, featuring 40 humanitarian designs that solve problems for people in ingenious ways.  A great example is the Roughrider wheelchair designed by Whirlwind Wheelchair International, a San-Francisco company;  it features a rugged construction, anti-tip bar, and a long wheelbase optimized for conditions in the developing world.  All these products are part of their book called "Design Revolution: 100 products that empower people."  I have allways been their big fan, since not only does Project H design affordable solutions for the underpriveleged and overlooked, they spread the good message about the importance of good design, and how it changes the world for the better in every way.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Message on Soda Sugar Drinks - Design Makes a Difference:

Thank you Jesus someone at Bloomberg's administration is clearly getting how focused well-designed ad campaign can seriously change behaviour for the better.  I'm getting excited to the point of being giddy, since I learned through Fast Company that this ad against Coke / Pepsi's sad little sugar-obsessed world has appeared in New York City's subways and apparently made a real difference.  At least in the amount of attention it quickly generated and focused on the issue - by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  Message about sodas slowly killing you has been out there for decades, but never in this clear anti-smoking kind of manifestation.  I have not had a soda drink for so many years I literally can't remember when was the last time. 

And loving every minute of it - understanding the battle we all face with a host of deadly diseases it DID NOT take much convincing for me to drop the sugar drinks, and turn to the obviously healthy water and tea (green and jasmine variations in particular, yumm!!) years ago, along with chucking red meat and fast food crap, replacing it with anti-inflammatory Japanese and Mediterranean diets that are not just healthy, but the most delicious ever.  My wife and I are serious connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine, "collecting" as many Japanese restaurants as we can all over the country.

So - my hat's off to Mayor Bloomberg's administration and their efforts to actually improve their city's health with well-designed ads that influence behavior on the emotional level, which is exactly what good design does, whether it's graphic, industrial, or architectural.

Cradle To Cradle

Cradle to Cradle is a book by William Mcdonough and Michael Braungart that is, in my humble opinion, the most profoundly important book on the environment and its preservation ever written.  Unlike scores of other environmental publications over the years, this one really is in a category of its own.  First thing that separates it from the rest is its not alarmist in any way - the amount of common sense in every aspect of the writing is incredible.  The authors are a famous architect and a chemist that demonstrate crystal clear ways sustainable design thinking can be applied to any industry and produce measurable, truly revolutionary results.  Notable is their opposition to "eco-efficiency" which is basically even worse than our current unsustainable way of life, since it drains and obliterates resources just as much, but more slowly and deliberately.  The argument if for what they call "ecologically intelligent design" which considers the entire product cycle from raw supplies to its disposal and fundamentally designing the process with recycling as clearly implemented and supported part of the product or service.  Great examples of companies that already do business sustainably and reap great benefits are given, Ford Motor Company's original factory is notable.  The book is eye-opening, inspiring, and an absolute must-read for ANY design professional or student, check it out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Slava Saakyan Design

 This is a design consultancy I stumbled upon last night doing research - Slava Saakyan.  To say I was impressed is a major understatement.  His practice is out of Moscow, and design style is truly cutting edge, with Karim Rashid's "sensual minimalism" appearing abundantly, and serious "old school" deliberate attention to most minute detail is nothing short of inspiring.  Most notable on their site are samples of beautiful train interiors, and wide range of industrial design.  Slava teaches a number of courses, and if I had a chance to take them I absolutely would have.  Too bad they're currently in European schools only.

LG EcoMobilization Program

Looking at LG, I was very impressed by their EcoMibilization program which provides numerous ways to recycle phones, and most importantly makes it easy.  Simple truth is most of us would recycle gladly if it was made easier.  You can print out a form off this site, request a free pre-paid pack, and ship the old phone to them, or just drop it off at a number of the mobile recycling bins, including ones by Waste Management which they partner with.  Additionally, LG came up with the Skycharger, a fully green freestanding phone charging station in a tent, which uses wind turbines and solar panels to create peak power or 1.8Kw, and can charge 104 phones per hour.  More of those Skychargers are going to be setup around the country, according to their facebook page.  My applause to all companies that make a visible effort to be ecologically responsible, encouraging recycling, power conservation, and renewable energy production.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Parrot AR Drone Augmented Reality

This is getting seriously fun - control this helicopter toy with your Iphone as an RC controller.  The "Drone" by Parrot, a French wireless company, generates its own Wi-Fi network, which enables the Iphone to control it.  Someone was bound to do this, and they are the first.  Seems obvious - use Iphone's own accellerometer to control the movements.  And to spice things up even more, the chopper streams live video to your Iphone, hence the videogaming experience.  They got the CES Innovations Award in the electronic gaming hardware category.  The videos speak for themselves.  No word on when it's coming out (apparently sometime 2010), or the cost, but very cool indeed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Designers Accord - Biomimicry Challenge:

"Have a design challenge? Ask nature for the solution" - states the top entry on The Designers Accord's site.  Very refreshing to see this great topic brought to attention of one of the most important design hubs out there.  The Designers Accord, according to their own definition is "...a global coalition of designers, educators, and business leaders, working together to create positive environmental and social impact."  They promote ecological awareness and serious sustainability through successful design case studies features on their site.  Fast Company posted a great article on Biomimicry, definitely worth reading.  I would also point out that when they say "...If we're trying to do it, chances are, nature already did it better", they are certainly missing the obvious, that God created nature and the world we live in with its amazing design all around us available for reference.  Saying that "mother nature" has done this or developed that has the same logic as the big bang theory, which literally makes the case for the great complexity and order on the level of the DNA molecule resulting from a giant explosion billions of years ago.  Unbelievably this theory is still taken seriously by world's scientists.  To me the fact that we and the world around us has been designed by the Intelligent Designer is as clear as the fact that a computer we're all using has been intelligently designed, engineered, and manufactured, vs. came out of an explosion and then evolved over a long period of time.  So, again, it is very refreshing to see Biomimicry highlighted on both sites.

ABC World News Tonight Profiles Mission to End Child Sex Trafficking in Cambodia

Diane Sawyer has reported on ABC news tonight about Clay Butler, an American missionary who started a mission in the heart of Cambodia child sex slave trade, where kids are sold into prostitution by their own parents.  Talk about insane, this is how sad and morally deprave that society is.  Thank God for people like Clay who sacrifice so much to rescue those children.  Dan Harris, an ABC investigative reporter did a great job showcasing what they do, and a truly life-changing results in his interviews. 
I applaud ABC, and any network that makes a serious effort to bring these kinds of issues and people who devote their lives to the good of others, keep on!

Friday, March 19, 2010

ASUS Waveface

Asus Waveface concept - a flexible screen hardware with intelligent beautifully-designed interface that represents location-based cloud computing to bring you relevant content and basically organize your life for you.  Don't know the details, but it looks well thought-out and I'm looking forward to seeing this concept brought to life soon.  Check out their concept video:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

LG Design Competition

I'm currently working on what's next in the mobile/smart phones for the LG "Design the Future" competition that just opened up.  Exciting for sure, since there's so much yet possible with personal mobile communication, not the least of which is simplifying and making mobile communication more intuitive.  That's been my focus for many years, and I'm looking forward to innovating in this segment.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Morgan's Wonderland

As shown on ABC World News Tonight, a businessman father of a special child raised $30 million (investing a million of his own) to build a specialized theme park (Morgan's Wonderland) designed specifically for mentally challenged - I thought it was BY FAR the best most profound report i've seen in a long time.  Not only did it demonstrate a great heart of a father who decided to do something about a real problem, it also shocased the true power of ethnographic research and what good design can accomplish.

BRP Design Worth a Good, Long Look

Bombardier Recreational Products headquartered in Quebec, east of Montreal, make the most ridiculously fun toys humans can play with - imho, most unique, fun, and well-designed personal watercraft, roadster, and atv vehicles out there.  Sea-Doo and CanAm Spyder are the two of their brands I appreciate most.  Note BMW-like attention to detail, sweeping curves, angles, chamfers, color breaks, finishes, and lighting.  Not to mention the unique 2 front-wheel base configuration.  While they get pretty pricey, especially the Spyder RT, I think they pay it all off in the amount of fun they provide.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Do You Matter?

"Do You Matter?"- it's been a few months since I've read this book by Robert Brunner, former head of Apple's design team and currently head of Ammunition design consultancy, and Stewart Emery, entrepreneur, creative director and consultant.  From a good number of design books that I went through last year, this one, by far is the best, most clear, most common sense writing on the subject that truly demystifies industrial design to anyone that ever wondered about it, and makes it crystal clear to any company executives, large or small, that if they really care to succeed and matter in every sense of the word, they should learn the meaning of good design.

My favorite quote from the end chapter is their conclusion that summarises why good, thorough, and well-thought out design matters: "People are seeking a great experience of being alive."   Really, enough said.  For more great insight, read for yourself.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Open Letter To The Aviation Industry:

Dear aviation executives,
I just came back from a 2 day business trip.  Had total of 4 flights through a connection in Philadelphia.  And after having done that for the Nth time I just couldn't take it any more.


It's confusing.  Last I checked it was year 2010. Back a few short decades ago when someone talked about 2010's they imagined hovercrafts and everyone in a silver suit of some sort.  Well, I just flew on US Airways, a major international airline, with regional services to Erie PA and gazillion of other small towns accross the country, on a De Havilland Canada Dash 8, a very common regional plane.  Though not the first time, I now felt like I was thrown back in a time machine to 1954, with engines roaring a deep shattering bass roar the entire time it took to get there.

Besides the plane being small to begin with, US Air, just like most airlines in the world, crams as many seats per plane as they can, despite the push for more legroom that started with AA I believe back about 20 years ago.  Apart from the debilitating engine noise where I could barely hear any music through my sound-isolating headphones, and screwed up air conditioning that made the interior way too warm for comfort, by far the worst part of the experience was the seats.  Not only are these seats criminally small, they appear to be purposefully designed to be the worst, most uncomfortable, and anti-ergonomic seats for any trip, let alone a long airplane one.  (And I'm about 5' 7", slim/average buid, no worries about ever buying 2 tickets for being too large)

Forget the fact that I'm a professional designer - no, as a regular normal human being who thinks a plane ride should not be used an "enhanced interrogation technique", here's my few simple questions to US Airways and the rest of the airlines and aviation equipment companies:

- This being 2010, and with immence history and knowledge of human factors, anthropometrics, ergonomics, and what makes a proper supportive comfortable seating, what possible explanation or excuse do you have for manufacturing and using seats, from regional turbo-props to coach class in a B-767, that SIMPLY DO NOT support lumbar, push your neck forward, and cause pain to your paying customers?

- Again it being 2010, not 1920's, or 1960's, dear executives of world airlines, what possibly makes you think that it is perfectly ok to be offering war-time antiquated aviation technology to transport passengers today?  Other than "well we have those planes and we've got to use them" or "grin and bear it"?  Whatever happened to investment in innovation?  Whatever happened to passenger comfort?  Whatever happened to the idea that it might just be that most people prefer to spend long hours of travel in peace, quiet, and comfort, and not be subjected to non-stop head-pounding propeller engine noise?

- While most of the flight comfort improvement efforts seem to go into added entertainment options, and occasional increased legroom, have any of the aviation executives, engineers, or designers ever thought about fundamentally re-designing airplanes to be turbulence-resistant, or even turbulence-proof?  As opposed to seatbelt warnings and apologies from the flight deck?  How about intelligent systems that know exactly where, how far, and how strong the cross-winds are, modify planes' geometry, materials, or behavior to accomodate to the environment and make the flight truly smooth and safe?

Can all of you aviation industry executives just ask yourself - would you like to fly your own airline, in coach class, day after day, vs. your private corporate jets?  With space-age technology available today, are you making one single effort to make air travel something people could actually look forward to, not a necessary evil?  Both for the airline industry and the government, how is it the norm, and perfectly acceptable to not only put up with crazy tarmac delays and lost baggage, but to need chiropractic services after a flight in a coach class?  I think you get the point, and I really hope you do - when you actually get the idea that air travel experience should be thoughtfully and carefully designed in every detail to make it actually enjoyable.