Ikea’s new print ad prompts users to pee on the ad. If they are pregnant, a new price appears giving them 50% off on a new crib. To redeem this deal people still need to sign up for the Ikea family discount.
Why it’s hot: This is a small example of a fun way Ikea is connecting their ads to the life events of their users. They have taken an advancement in the tech of pregnancy tests and integrated into their ads. This ad presumes that all new parents have a pregnant woman as part of the relationship, which isn’t the case. However, we often design with a particular user in mind, so is it okay to exclude or not target certain user groups? Where do we draw the line between a fun gimmicky ad and a statement about parenthood?
QuakeAlert is an app currently in beta testing that sends push notifications to users for impending earthquakes. For a 4.4 Earthquake yesterday in the Bay Area it alerted two beta-testers at the University of Berkeley 2 and 5 seconds before feeling the quake. Another beta-tester in Sacramento received a notification 27 seconds before they felt tremors in their location. In addition to sending text alerts it can trigger safety measures for infrastructure such as stopping trains, sending elevators to the nearest door and keeping the doors open, de-pressurize gas lines, and de-energize electric lines.
Why it’s Hot: Other countries such as Japan and Mexico already make use of advanced warning systems (texts and sirens) to alert people about impending quakes. The US has no current system to do so, which can in turn help save lives and infrastructure. This also seems like a good way to integrate people checking in after an earthquake to let friends and family know they are safe. As with all technology, this also means there are way to hack these systems and cause panic throughout the population.
Future Lab, an innovation division of Sony released Xperia Touch, has developed an interactive projector that takes on motions familiar to mobile touchscreen devices. It uses infrared lights and cameras to detect interaction. As described by the company, they are positioning the Xperia Touch as “a consumer device that can be used for gaming, education, online video streaming and communication.”
Why It’s Hot: This is another example of bringing digital interfaces into physical space. The applications of this device are very broad and captures the natural ways people have learned to interact on touch screens, and adapt them to the surrounding environment. There will certainly be new interaction patterns that develop from this type of experience.
Ikea’s external design team, Space 10, and Brooklyn-based design firm Antone & Irene, have created an research study aimed at redesigning co-living for 2030 called One Shared House 2030.
“The project’s aim is to explore and develop ideas for shared living to solve current housing problems, like affordability, rapid urbanisation and loneliness.”
Questions span topics like pets, furniture, tolerance and privacy.
Research Study Landing Page:
Examples of Questions:
Why It’s Hot: This study is fascinating way to gather data about innovating in an industry. It would be interesting to find out how they came up with the questions and what were some questions they didn’t include. The way the data is structured allows them and users to better understand what specific demographics prefer what type of co-living. However, as always, this data needs to be viewed with a critical lens. What users say may not always be what they actually want. Furthermore, this poses the question about if existing biases about co-living are racist, sexist, or otherwise exclusionist and if so, how will that information be harnessed for the future of co-living.
Amongst a myriad of other precautions being made to ensure safety in the event of a mass shooting, designers such as architects and landscape architects have also been taking measures to design with this in mind. For example, the new designs for the Sandy Hook Elementary School include doors hardened glass windows, deadbolts on doors, and an optimized landscape layout to distribute the flow of evacuees.
Landscape architects and researchers on evacuation patterns have already done research and taken methods to improve exit flows. However, these designs can only take into account types of attacks that have already occurred. Unfortunately, attackers can find new ways and methods to carry out their plans. The main goal however, is to make design decisions based on research that has been done and make spaces safer for threats that we already know have happened. These measures make it less likely someone will choose the site as another area to attack.
There have been some very interesting evacuation and crowd simulators to study how people evacuate spaces in mass.
Here are some videos showing this type of research:
Why it’s hot: With the number of recent mass shootings and public attacks, group safety is extremely important for designers to take into account for new or renovated spaces. The type of research that is done about evacuation patterns reveals insights into human behaviors that designers can utilize to better design safe spaces. Unlike digital design, iterations are less frequent and more costly, so doing research up front and spending the time to think through user journeys and patterns is of utmost importance.
Amidst the range of smart products coming to market, it may not appear that a smart coffee cup has much to offer. Ember, a L.A.-based startup has been making temperature controlled products and have recently released their latest product: a smart coffee cup.
The cup connects with a mobile device through bluetooth and through an app the user can set the desired temperature of their beverage. The mug maintains the set temperature for 2 hours of sitting idle (it detects if you move it) and then goes to sleep as a safety measure. To recharge the cup, it needs to be placed on-top of a chargeable coaster.
Moving forward, Ember wants to continue to expand their products to plates, serving ware, baby bottles, and glassware for mixologists.
Why it’s Hot: Ember is focusing on creating products that “add technology to them without letting that technology take anything away from the original experience”. For example, Ember ensured the cup had the same curve of the lip and weight as a regular ceramic mug, as well as the same sound when placing it on a table. By focusing on these small details, it appears as if Ember has created a product that integrates technology in a subtle way the augments the experience without disrupting it.
Strava, the athletic tracking app, was originally geared towards athletes and grew its user base amongst commuters, particularly cyclists. Currently about half of the activities recorded on the app are commutes.
Back in 2013, Strava launched a visualization tool aimed at engaging users— a heat map showing the frequency of routes around the world. While originally intended for users, city planners and policy makers became very interested in this data to better support infrastructure recommendations. This resulted in a branch being created in the company called Strava Metro, as a way to harness the data being collected. Previously city planners used manual counters to record pedestrian and cycling traffic.
This past week Strava has released an iteration to their heatmap visualizations, growing in types of activities.
Why it’s hot: This is a good example of unintended uses of data and unexpected user groups. While there is always reason to be wary of companies selling personal data, Strava is at least acknowledging their biases in their data (such as the facts that not everyone in a city uses their app and not everyone has a smartphone). They also allows users to make their activities private and provide a clear and robust privacy guide. The data that is collected is aggregated and anonymized.
In anticipation of the long-awaited second season of Stranger Things, there have been a flurry of ads, games, and branded content getting watchers eager for the season’s release. Netflix and Google have collaborated to create a Google Home voice game where the user talks to the different characters from the show, with the aim of joining the main characters in the Hawkins AV club.
Since Stranger Things is centered off of 80’s pop culture, the idea for a voice interface game came from the idea of walkie talkies.
Why It’s Hot: Voice interfaces are still evolving in the types of branded content they can deliver. Stranger Things in particular is able to use new technology to mimic a more analog technology. This is a good example of how users can continue to interact with a TV show storyline that pushes past traditional screens.
Umbrellium, a London-based design firm, created a prototype of a new, digital cross walk that embeds LED lights in strong high-impact plastic that can withstand the weight and impact of cars.
Here is how the designers thought about prioritizing the pedestrian and adaptive environments:
“Typically, when we hear about road technology, it’s almost always about cars, autonomous vehicles, traffic light control systems, but what we wanted to do is create a pedestrian crossing technology that puts people first, responding to their needs,” he says. In this case, “technology enables a more interactive, fluid, and adaptive relationship between pedestrians and the street–you might almost think of it as a ‘conversational interface’ with the road.”
Here are some examples of how the crosswalk adapts:
When raining or if a child runs into the road, the crosswalk creates a larger buffer zone.
Near a school, the crossing could create a larger buffer zone when a polluting vehicle is waiting.
Early in the morning, when few pedestrians are out, the crossing won’t appear until someone approaches.
The crosswalk will adapt over time to the natural path and shortcuts that pedestrians take.
Why It’s Hot: This prototype is still in the beginning stages, but the design firm seems to be on the mark about how to use research and machine learning to create an adaptive system that reflects the variety of needs of a crosswalk and prioritizes the pedestrian. As they continue to develop this prototype they are planning to expand its capabilities, such as providing audible signals for the visually impaired.
While we’ve talked about the projects in the U.A.E. to study the effects of how humans could live on Mars, an article by Fast Company this week takes a deeper dive into the architects who are imagining the structure and design system. Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG), a Copenhagen architecture firm, is beginning the design process for prototypes for Martian colonies. BIG is taking into account site specificity and designing a system that accommodates for climate and resources while also being able to scale and become self sustaining.
Here are some renderings of the interior domes:
BIG is known for their simple and communicative diagrams that explain the thought process of their designs. Here is a series that shows the the ways they are planning to accommodate for the restrictions of life on Mars. They also show how this design system is scalable over time.
Why It’s Hot: The science behind this Mars project is fascinating, but the design and architecture is as engaging. These architects are conceptualizing a new architectural paradigm. They are utilizing the principles of design thinking to take into account the business and user needs and pain points.
Why It’s Hot: This technology allows people to access hard to get and potentially dangerous to areas more safely and efficiently. The fact that this technology can be applied to both micro and macro situations opens many possibilities.
The Queens Museum has just opened a new exhibition called Never Built New York, featuring drawings, models and VR experiences of architectural projects that never were. They span from fantastical sci-fi imaginings to alternative mockups of built NYC buildings.
There are five VR experiences that allow visitors to see what certain landmarks, like Coney Island and Grand Central Station, would have looked like on a different time timeline. In a few weeks the curators and the VR designers are releasing a stand alone app to feature these experiences.
“This still image from one of the exhibit’s virtual reality experiences shows William Zeckendorf’s 1946 vision for an airport on the Hudson River.”
“Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1959 idea for remaking Ellis Island was to turn it into ‘a city within a city,’ with residential towers arranged like spokes on a wheel and glass domes that would contain parks and other shared spaces.”
“The Queens Museum successfully raised over $50,000 on Kickstarter to build this custom bouncy house model of Eliot Noyes’ 1961 plan for the Westinghouse Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair. Each sphere would showcase one of the company’s best-known innovations, which at the time included everything from refrigerators to live TV technology to fighter planes.”
“This model shows an airport stretching down the Hudson River and into Midtown Manhattan, an idea pitched by real estate mogul William Zeckendorf. He owned the Chrysler Building.”
Why It’s Hot: Architecture is not often a field in which you see the many iterations of the design process, so this exhibition is an ode to that process and the interesting ideas that may not have made it. It was also an interesting decision to incorporate VR into the exhibition, because not all museums are allocating the time and funds towards developing new ways to interact with content.
The museum is also organized by geography rather than chronologically, so it is interesting to see the neighborhoods and locations where designers and urban planners have been focused on to improve over the decades.
Dot, a South Korean company, has developed a smartwatch with its display in braille. Like other smartwatches, its main function is to display the time, but can also be connected to a smartphone to display information such as road navigation, weather notifications, calls and text messages, as well as social media alerts.
Why It’s Hot: The Dot Watch provides an alternative to smart watches for blind people. It can allow them to be more independent while on the go. The electro-magnetic actuator that is used in this Dot Watch can also be applied to other devices to make them accessible, which can be incorporated in many different situations that are currently inaccessible to blind people.
Matel has finally come out with an color blind friendly version of the classic card game, Uno. It only took them 46 years. Uno is notoriously difficult for those with color blindness, especially with red and green colors, which are often the most problematic colors and also two of the featured Uno colors.
Why it’s hot: With about 350 million people worldwide, including 13 million in the US, with some form of color blindness, this classic card game is now inclusive for more people.
However, it did take 46 years to do, and the solution was very simple. It also doesn’t seem necessary to have a separate set of cards, but rather integrate it into the existing game. I also think they could have come up with better icons for the colors.
Hurricane Harvey broke the National Weather Service’s (NWS) color charts. They had to add another color to the color spectrum to show the new heights of this storm’s precipitation. They opted for a light purple, which starkly stands out from the saturated reds and purples that characterize the higher end of the spectrum.
This has been controversial for the cartographic community and data scientists, who have created the #endtherainbow hashtag. Their argument is that rainbow color spectrums can be misleading and exclusionary.
“There’s plenty of research that suggests the rainbow makes it harder for most of us to understand scientific data. We perceive the color spectrum not just in terms of red or blue, but through hue and brightness; some colors look lighter or darker to our eyes, meaning some colors look more different than others … ‘Transitions between some colors, green and red, for example, occur very rapidly, leading to false contrast.'”
Therefore these color contrasts can be confusing and to people with colorblindness (1 in 12 and 1 in 200 women) this makes these maps inaccessible.Therefore, scientists and cartographers are advocating for maps with more thoughtfully balance hue, saturation and brightness.
Here is an example of the types of maps that are being recommended:
*click image to link to gif
Why it’s Hot: With the amount of data we are collecting across the board, it is important to communicate effectively the impact of the data. In the case of hurricanes it can often be these weather maps that is the deciding factor between whether someone evacuates or braves out the storm, which ultimately could put them in a life threatening situation.
Poor posture is the leading cause of back and neck pain, especially for musicians who spend hours practicing. A Royal College of Art grad has designed a solution that gives audio and visual feedback to improve posture and technique while playing an instrument. The camera clip-on attaches to a music stand and provides video feedback to a device where the user can view their posture. The user selects examples of good vs bad posture and is given audio and visual feedback for their improvement.
Watch the video below to see more about how this functions:
Why it’s Hot: This device can no only reduce back and neck pain, but also is a good way to teach good techniques when learning an instrument. This can also be applied to other technique or posture based activities such as yoga or sitting at a desk. The type of feedback it gives is particularly well suited for musicians because they will be focusing on the sound of their instruments.
Humanscale is an analog tool used by industrial designers in the 70’s and 80’s as a reference tool to quick human focused data points. It was originally created by Henry Dreyfuss & Associates (HDA), the creators of iconic designs such as the Honeywell thermostat and Bell’s tabletop telephone. Henry Dreyfuss was an advocate for ergonomics and compiled Humanscale because there was no central place for ergonomic data. For example, if you wanted to know the dimensions of the average North American man’s leg, you could reference military records. Another example is that they learned that the average height of a fedora was 2 inches, which would be important when considering door measurements.
MIT stopped producing them in the mid 1980’s and they became a collectors item. Now, IA Collaborative, a global design consultancy created a Kickstarter to reprint Humanscale. Their long-term plans are to also create an interactive interface for this data.
Overview of the 9 selectors:
You can slide the selector to adjust data points for different demographics:
So these selectors can be used to design for a multitude of products.
Why it’s hot: The ability to reference key ergonomic data points is crucial to the design of industrial and digital products. These can be useful tools to many types of designers. In addition, the graphic design of the selectors are really cool! The slider seems very intuitive and fun to interact with. It optimizes how the information is displayed.
Adobe Research and the University of Toronto have created a design and research study to create a new UI element for how digital artists can use color palettes. This new method, called the Playful Palette, provides a digital approach for mixing colors as an artist would with paint. A digital artist would move “blobs” around and be able to mix and change colors with similar principles as with paint. There is also an easy function to adjust colors globally in a document for easy adjustments. This research was A/B tested with the traditional Adobe color picker and the Playful Palette was found to work more seamlessly into artist’s creative flow. Here is the study from this project.
Why It’s Hot: While this element may or may not be integrated into the Adobe suite, this study shows the research and brainstorming that is going into furthering improve digital artist and illustrators’ user flows. Again, like with the introduction of many interfaces, we see that a skeuomorphic interpretation holds value to the ways in which users are used to working with digital interfaces.
This week, 99% Invisible, a podcast about the unnoticed design that shapes our world, released an episode called “Repackaging the Pill” about this history of birth contorl packaging. The episode details out the history of the birth control pill as a new option for women in the 1960’s. The episode focuses on one of the most iconic birth control packaging designs: the round plastic disc that opens up like a makeup compact.
Originally, birth control pills were packaged in regular jars like other medications. This posed a customer experience problem where it was difficult for women to remember if they had forgotten to take a pill or not.
One couple, Doris and David Wagner, who has four children and were not looking to have any more, wanted to come up with a better solution. Since David was an engineer, he created a prototype on a piece of paper that showed a calendar and put a pill on each day. However, if there was an accident, the paper and the pills could fall. This led him to create the first prototype of the circular birth control packaging, which would hold the pills in place.
Since there was still skepticism from male doctors whether women could be trusted to remember to take their pills correctly, this packaging was marketed as a “fool-proof” method to taking the pill correctly. This is reflected in the advertising at the time, which addresses only men, and talks distantly about the real users–women.
Lastly, the episode discusses how there were hearing about the undisclosed side effects of the birth control pill. Ultimately this lead to the inclusion of the fine print information that is now included in all medication packaging.
Why it’s cold and hot: This history is clearly problematic in many ways and illuminates the deep misogyny that was present in our very recent past (and still is). While it’s terrible to see the language of these ads, it’s interesting to understand the perspective and audience that was being targeted. By better understanding our history, we can of course be better equipped to think critically about the ways in which we talk about and design for users.
From a user experience perspective it is also interesting to see the prototype and interation process that was used to develop the packaging for an everyday object.
While most office workers are stuck in chairs or transitioning to standing desks, there is still a sizable portion of the population that work in manufacturing that require standing for long lengths of time. This exoskeleton allows those workers to sit/lean to relieve pressure and provide additional support when they are in bending, crouching and squatting positions.
Why it’s hot: This seeming futuristic solution to physical constraints in working environments can provide ergonomic support to prevent occupational health and safety issues. The adjustable and adaptable nature of the exoskeleton allows for different shapes and sizes. As more and more jobs are being automated, there are still tasks that are more efficient to be completed by people and ways to support those workers with available technology. The advancement in 3d printing technology and exoskeletons open a lot of possibilities for the future of manufacturing.
As discussed in a previous hotsauce, Google released “Quick, Draw” this past November, which prompts users to draw an object in 20 seconds. This game data is then used to teach algorithms how humans draw. There have been over 50 million drawing collected to date.
The data has been synthesized, specifically basic shapes, and which way people from different countries draw them. “Americans tend to draw circles counterclockwise. Of nearly 50,000 circles drawn in the US, 86% were drawn this way. People in Japan, on the other hand, tend to draw circles in the opposite direction. Of 800 circles drawn in Japan, 80% went clockwise.”
The researchers’ theory is that different writing systems influence which direction we draw circles. Here are some examples of Japanese and Arabic characters and the directions they are drawn.
Why It’s Hot: While this study does not reveal any huge life-changing new discoveries, it provides a dataset that supports more detail about the ways in which our culture subconsciously impacts how we do things. At a time when more and more things are on touch screens and keyboards, we still carry earlier cultural impacts in how we interact with interfaces. Knowing this information can further help designers better understand interactions that will come naturally to users from different cultures.
With the advent of home delivery meal kits like Blue Apron and the recent sale of Whole Foods to Amazon, there has been much talk about food delivery. While these companies target Americans who can afford healthy and interesting meal combinations, there are about 13% of Americans who are unsure of where their next meal with come from. The non-profit, Feeding Children Everywhere, has created a simplified version of the pre-portioned meal kit which they are calling Fed40. Users can sign up on the Fed40 app or website for 40 shelf stable meals within one business day. They must provide their address and how many family members live in their residence. The best part is that it’s free!
They are currently offer one meal, Red Lentil Jambalaya. This meal can be shipped without an ice pack, which saves on shipping costs and can easily be adjusted at home to include additional spices or ingredients.
Feeding Children Everywhere thinks of this solution as a stop gap, and wants to encourage participants to take advantage of their local federal and state support programs. If participants sign up 4 or more times for this program they will be contacted to ensure they are aware of all the other support services in the area.
Why it’s hot: Feeding Children Everywhere has taken a home delivery meal kit craze and turned it into something that can serve the sizable population of people who are lacking resources in this country. While the program aims to address this problem, the organization also acknowledges that there is still more than needs to be done to support these families. Therefore they can also act as a hub where participants can learn about the other support programs in their area. However, there still seem to be some issues that go unaddressed. It would be interesting to conduct user research to gather insights about how people would use this service, how it improves their experience and what pain points are still unaddressed.
While spray-on tans have been around for years, spray-on skin seems to be on the horizon. RenovaCare has developed a “Cell Mist” that sprays stem cells onto burn wounds. This process is more effective in regrowing skin that functions as the original skin did and is much less painful and faster.
Why it’s hot:
It’s less painful, faster and more efficient than skin grafting. Overall a great development for burn victims.
We tend to focus on tech gadgets made of metal and microchips, but this example reiterates what advancements in medical tech can do.
It’s interesting that they chose a spray gun to dispense the stem cells. I wonder what the design process looked like and what other options they considered. What other types of designs will we see and this type of technology evolves?
“Tech Will Save Us”, a UK based company making kits that spark the creative imagination of young people using hands on technology. They recently started a Kickstarter for 3 sets of interactive toys that allow kids to bring Play-Doh to life with light, sound, and movement.There is an accompanying tablet app that features stories and projects kids can engage with.
Why It’s Hot:
Other than the fact that it is awesome for kids to learn STEM principles at an early age, this technology incorporates hands-on play. It let’s kids be kids and experiment while providing cool features that opens possibilities for their creations.
The design of the kit is minimal and the user interface of both the toy and app seems simple and clear.
How many times have you heard people say they don’t read e-books because they “like the feel of a real book.” Is it the weight, act of flipping through pages, or the type layout? Vellum is a new company selling software to make prettier e-books (with an option for paperback layouts as well). Users can easily build, style, preview, generate, and update their e-books.
Why it’s hot: There is something about e-books that feels like it is missing to physical book lovers. An attempt to bring well designed text layout seems like as good a place as any to improve.
Why it’s cold: Even with better layouts and visuals there is still no e-book solution that quite matches the feeling and smell of flipping through the pages of a worn book.
Obama recently revealed the concept designs for his presidential center in Chicago’s Jackson Park. This design differs greatly from previous presidential libraries in that it focuses less on a physical library as a storehouse to tell the story of his presidency, but rather as a community center that will feature green space in the city and as a hub for events.
Why It’s Hot:
This center has reimagined what presidential libraries are and what they could be. As we dive into a more digital world, our needs will continue to evolve.
MindRight is a new non-profit startup aiming to help high school aged students recover from trauma through text-messaging. They rely on volunteers (who go through training) to target actionable ways to treat students’ trauma. This solution came from a Stanford D-school research project about how to best cater to high school students needs. Through this research they found that students are more comfortable communicating through the anonymity of text messages. MindRight uses AI not to communicate with students, but rather to suggest resources for coaches to help students and to help track the students.
Why it’s hot: This is a good example of using a design thinking research process to identify a product solution that is targeted to a specific user groups’ needs. It also is an interesting way to capitalize on AI technology advances, but prioritize human contact and communication.
A Universe Explodes is a new type of digital book that builds off the of the idea of limited edition physical books, but using technology. A Universe Explodes starts as an e-book with 128 words per page. The original “owners” of this limited edition can share it with their friends, but must delete two words on each page and add a new word on each page. As the digital book gets passed from more and more people the book ends up transforming in many ways and ultimately will end up with 1 word per page. Users not invited to partake in the editing of the book can view any of the versions of the book online.
Why it’s hot: This project is like a contemporary surrealist experiment. While unclear if this type of project would actually be enjoyable to read, it does sound like a fun way to push the boundaries of our ideas of book publishing and reading in the digital age.
Carbon and Adidas have been experimenting and prototyping with 3D printing, specifically how it can revolutionize the sneaker sole. Addidas’ latest sneaker, the Futurecraft 4D, has a mid-sole made from the process called “Continuous Liquid Interface Production”, where the design is pulled out of a vat of liquid polymer resin, and molded into the desired shape with ultraviolet light.
Why it’s hot:
3D printing shoes will allow for more customization which will allow for better a better experience and performance for users.
Carbon, the company who developed the Continuous Liquid Interface Production process, started by developing better 3d printed parts, and then evolved to designing and producing applications for this new 3d printing process.
Why it might be cold:
Will all these 3D printed products end up in a landfill? Hopefully the companies at the forefront of 3D printing will figure out ways to recycle or reuse the plastic used for this process.
Sway, a new meditation app, uses a phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer to guide meditation sessions that focus on slow, constant, deliberate movement. The idea is that this motion brings a user into a meditative state of calm.
Why it’s hot:
Sway is letting users interact with their phones in a different way than just touching the screen. Therefore, users can implement their meditation practice in less conventional situations such as walking or sitting on a bus.
The app is encouraging users to take their faces out of their screens, but use those screens to be more in tune with their mind and body.