Friday Gadget: Future Wearable Devices and Design Concepts

As mentioned in my post Friday Gadget: Rapport Device Detects and Reacts to Human Emotions I am resurrecting my series of Friday Gadget posts.

As I have been researching Wearables this past month, I thought I would provide a post about concept designs for future wearables

There is a ton of work going on by designers to make wearables more fashionable and functional.  The future looks bright for wearables!

Friday Gadget: Rapport Device Detects and Reacts to Human Emotions

I’ve decided to bring back the Friday Gadget posts after a very long absence. 

I am not really a gadget guy, but I do like to think about what types of products future generations will have that will make their life easier and think about how emerging technologies will be a part of our lives in the future. When I first started blogging back in 2006, every Friday I would post about a concept for a future technology or gadget.   The series of posts were designed to help us all take a step back on a Friday, have a little fun, and help us all imagine how technology can disrupt the future. 

So I am bringing back the Friday Gadget posts.  I am not sure how long the series will last this time, but we will have fun with it while it lasts…

For this first new post , I found a project team that asked the question:  What if your gadgets knew how you were feeling and could then respond appropriately?   A group of designers developed a device they call Rapport that can observe, analyze and react to your facial expressions in order to select a music playlist that suits you the best.  Once you make eye contact with the device, it leans forward and analyzes your facial expression. Taking into account the time of day, it selects a song that it feels might suit your current mood.   The Rapport device starts the playback of the song at a fairly low volume, but will boost the volume if it sees you smiling or excited.

Under the covers, the team utilized 4 different software programs including Visual Studio (stores the facial recognition library and eye tracking code), Processing (runs the facial recognition library), Max/Msp(controls volume and curates music) and Arduino (drives the stepper motors inside the device).

Potential initial applications could include smart homes, retirement homes, entertainment events, and education.  In the future, application developers will utilize emotion detection systems to design robots that understand how better to interact with humans.   Over time robots could learn to understand how different humans react emotionally and treat each person differently based on both visual and auditory inputs. 

For more, check out these resources:   1) Rapport Introduction (Youtube), 2) Rapport Demonstration (YouTube), 3) Emotional Intelligence (Yanko Design), 4) Feeling the Music;  Gadget Reads Emotions to Choose Songs (Gajitz)

Landor: 2010 Trends Forecast – Market trends and their impact on brands

Landor Landor Associates is a strategic brand consulting and design firm with 23 offices around the globe.  It recently released a 2010 Trends Forecast and I thought I would share it with you here.

The forecast provides perspectives from nine of Landor’s lead brand experts in the various industry domains that Landor focuses on.  Here is a summary of the individual perspectives. 

  1. Financial Services:  Dramatic shifts give every financial services brand reasons to rethink its relationships with key audiences.  Those that focus on core needs and genuine client experience rather than conventional marketing tactics will emerge stronger in 2010.   Read more here
  2. Social Media:  The social web take the spotlight as we learn to filter noise and concentrate on connections.  Read more here
  3. Airlines:  The airline industry has changes on the horizon.  Tourists are taking control of their travel to an unprecedented degree.  Read more here
  4. Design:  The challenge for forward-thinking designers is to provide flexibility as well as meaning to strengthen the connection between brand and consumer, the link between design and what it represents.  Read more here
  5. Green:  Will 2010 be the year of the green car—and will sustainability save Detroit?  Read more here
  6. Consumer Spending:  Brands that can capitalize on the pent-up demand while offering real value and even a little bit of joy into the bargain should do well.    Read more here
  7. Corporate Social Responsibility:  2010 will be marked by reinvention. A new model for social responsibility will emerge, one that aligns public good and business strategy with brand values. Read more here
  8. Hospitality:  These are difficult times for the hospitality industry, with increased scrutiny on value and the fear that any broken promises will be revealed instantly online.   Read more here
  9. Food and Beverage:  Brands must learn to approach marketing from the customers’ viewpoint, highlighting the buying criteria important to them.  Read more here

You can download a complete 12 page PDF file of the whole report at http://www.landor.com/pdfs/k9/Landor_Trends10_11Dec09.pdf

A Primer on 3D Printing

Although 3D printing has been around for a number of decades, the quality has increased dramatically in recent years and the prices are just beginning to drop, making it much more affordable for small and medium businesses.  And if you really want to explore 3D printing, they are even getting cheap enough for consumers to own.

The reality is 3D printing is a very cost-effective way to have an in-house rapid prototyping capability.  For a relatively modest investment, design engineers can use a 3D printer to catch design flaws earlier in the process lowering costs and shortening design cycles.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing involves having the computer sending the coordinates for a 3D object to an output device (a 3D Printer) that employs the same ink-jet printer principle that is used to print on paper.  However, in this case the ‘printer’ deposits successive layers of material to build up a full-scale 3D model.   The material used can be powder, plastics, resins or even metals. 

In the case of powder, the printer is actually delivering ultra-thin layers of powder onto a surface, one on top of another, until it produces a 3D model.  With each successive run of the ‘printer head’, the powder that is deposited is then given a spray of a binding liquid that' helps to harden the powder and help form a solid object. 

The end-result of this process might be a model which designers can use to verify a product’s design qualities before full-scale manufacturing begins, or it might be an end-use specialty product ranging from a component in a complex aircraft engine to a consumer medical  or dental implant.

The big benefits of 3D printing is it’s low cost and speed.  The printers can generally produce models in as little as one-tenth the time it takes other types of machines.  3-D Printer-produced models are throwaway models that allow you to see things you would not be able to see as well on a computer with a CAD system.  The beauty of this approach is people can hold the proposed design, study it, and get a good feel for its shape.

Video Introduction to 3D-Printing

The video below (just under 4 minutes) is a promotional video, but it really is one of the best videos I’ve seen that can help you understand what 3D printing is and how it could be used in an office environment.  The video is from the Z Corporation and it promotes the company’s ZPrinter 450.  While Z Corporation products are out of the price range for most individual users, they represent amazing technology that is commercially available to anyone.

It is doubtful that this new generation of 3D printers can replace traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding, machined or milled parts and manufacturing line assembly.  However I do believe that small and medium specialty manufactures should consider implementing 3D printing processes for individual steps or subsystems in a traditional line manufacturing process.  It is very possible that these new low cost printers would help reduce overall manufacturing costs.

For More Information

Wikipedia has a nice article on 3D printing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing).  And the site Fab@Home has lots of good information.  For those of you wanting to learn more about products and services out on the market, here are a few vendor sites to visit

  • Desktop Factory  Makes a very small and affordable printers that truly fit on top of a desk.
  • 3D Systems   Provides mid-range solutions that employ a technology that film transfers photopolymer to build 3-D objects
  • Z Corp  Is widely thought of as providing top of the line printers for an office environment

Friday Gadget: The Spruce Whale – An aircraft we’ll see in 2095?

BlueWhaleI’ve been doing these Friday gadget posts for almost three years now.  For me, these Friday gadget posts are not only about having fun on a Friday, but have always been about imagining the future.  What types of products will future generations have that will make their life easier?  In addition, how will emerging technologies play?

For this week’s post, I found a concept by designer Reindy Allendra for an aircraft we might see in 85 years.  Randy calls it the WB-1010 but affectionately also calls it the Spruce Whale (named after the famous Spruce Goose).  He’s entered the design into a KLM design contest.

According to the design specs, the WB-1010 (named after the Wright Brothers)  will be constructed from material made of thin layers of metal and glass fibre. Other featured include:

  • Ability to harvest wind energy into electricity.
  • An extractable robotic stand would also be used during the craft’s vertical landings.
  • Seats for more than 1500 people.
  • It can reach speeds of over 600mph
  • Helium injected in the body makes the plane lighter

For more, see Randy’s post at Yanko Design here http://www.yankodesign.com/2009/10/14/the-spruce-whale/

Friday Gadget: Concept for a Harley in 2020

harley davidson concept

What will a Harley look like in 2020?   That’s what designer Miguel Cotto wanted to explore.   His resulting design is sleek and robotic. 

The 2020 Harley design is Cotto’s attempt to fast forward 10 years.   According to Cotto, the 2020 Harley will still have a large 883cc engine, with that solid brand sound of high revs and roars, but the traditional road hog will look entirely different.  Missing are today’s handlebars and spoke wheels.  The wheel hubs are said to be giant bearings.  And you can’t miss thinking that the orange color represents total transformation.

More pictures at Harley Davidson Circa 2020, which is on the Yanko Design website.  Yanko Design is a site that encourages designers to explore designs for the future.  If you spend some time on Yanko’s website, you’ll see there are all sorts of concept designs.

To me, this is more like a 2060 (or maybe even a 2100) design than a 2020 design.  From a technology perspective, I seriously doubt that embedded sensors, robotics, AI, and nanotechnology that looks to be a part of this whole design will be ready by 2020.  And from a brand image perspective, I don’t see Harley making such radical changes to their design over the next ten years…but perhaps you could make a case for 50 years from now. 

Want to get a feel for what it would be like to ride one of these things?  Check out the Official Tron Legacy Trailer and go for a 3 minute ride.

AIAA: Top Ten Emerging Aerospace Technologies

imageLast month, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) released a list of top emerging aerospace technologies.  The AIAA hopes to make this an annual list. 

Here is the list of ten

  1. 'Greener' aviation technologies – including emission reduction and noise reduction technologies as used in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)'s Continuous Low Emissions, Energy and Noise (CLEEN) program, and the European Environmentally Friendly Engine (EFE) program and Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative.   For more see this AIAA press release.
  2. Alternative fuels – including biofuels, as promoted by the FAA's Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), and the recent FAA grant to the X Prize Foundation to spur development of renewable aviation fuels and technologies.  For more see this AIAA press release.
  3. High speed flight technologies – such as supersonic and hypersonic aerodynamics, sonic boom reduction technology, and thermal management aids.   For more reading, check out Supersonic travel may return
  4. Efficient propulsion technologies – including open rotors and geared turbofans, such as those used in the European DREAM (valiDation Radical Engine Architecture systems) program.
  5. Active flow technologies – such as plasma actuators.
  6. Advanced materials – such as nanotechnology and composites.
  7. Active structures – such as shape memory alloys, morphing, and flapping.
  8. Health management – such as monitoring, prognostics, and self-healing.
  9. Remote sensing technologies – including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and satellites such as those used in NASA's Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) program.
  10. Advanced space propulsion technologies – including plasma-based propulsion such as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, and solar sail technologies.

You can access a pdf of the AIAA announcement here AIAA Names Top Ten Emerging Aerospace Technologies of 2009:  Download PDF