This man wants to be the Steve Jobs of robotics

Tomotaka Takahashi and one of his robot creations

Take a close look at your smartphone for a moment.

Unless you’re among the rare Blackberry holdovers or a true clamshell-toting troglodyte, it’s a slab of glass and plastic and/or metal, a plug or two, a couple of camera apertures and a couple of buttons. From the perspectives of design and user interface, your phone is basically the same thing it was years ago.

Considering the gigantic scale of smartphone business, the tight product cycles and the hordes of creative people and engineers working to make the latest and greatest, conventional wisdom says there’s nowhere else to go with smartphone, design-wise. Tomotaka Takahashi would beg to differ. [more]

Graph paper, digital roads, the quirks of proteomes: the future of data

(courtesy Mona Chalabi)

For a sense of Mona Chalabi’s work with data, you could do an author search at her employer’s site, The Guardian, where she’s the data editor. But if you wanted some really fascinating, raw insights, you could go to her Instagram page. There you’ll find handwritten, hand-colored charts, graphs and various other depictions showing such things as American nose jobs by year (which “beaked” at nearly 4 million in 2000); keyboard usage by key (“e” is the English champ); when Americans eat pizza (snacking is the surprising winner); and the top languages by (scarily depicted) native tongues. Chalabi’s interests are far-ranging, and include lots of borderline NSFW data nuggets, too (ideal penis size, farting frequency, orgasm rates and more). While her data sources are digital, her preferred tools are overtly analog: graph paper and colored markers. [more]

A bucket of organs leaves lasting impression

CU School of Medicine Pathologist Carrie Marshall, MD, in the Organ Room of tissues used for training and outreach.

CU School of Medicine Pathologist Carrie Marshall, MD, in the Organ Room of tissues used for training and outreach.

Toni Schoenleber couldn’t do her job as a stroke clinical coordinator at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital if she didn’t have brains. In fact, it’s because she has brains that she knew just where to go when she needed more brains…[more]

 

That moment when sci-fi becomes reality and all chocolate is 3D-printed and nobody owns a car

Visualizing a home improvement project in a Lowe’s Holoroom

Visualizing a home improvement project in a Lowe’s Holoroom

Scenario planning has been around for a half century. Royal Dutch Shell used it to foresee and react to the oil crisis of the early 1970s — and still uses it. Futurist Brian David Johnson added science fiction to the scenario-planning formula, helping Intel predict future applications of its microprocessors in the 2000s.

But it wasn’t until 2012, when Ari Popper opened the doors of his Burbank, California consultancy SciFutures, that science fiction emerged as a mainstream organizational visioning, strategy development and even prototyping tool.

History has shown that, with sci-fi, art presages life: think iPad, IBM’s Watson, the smartphone and much more. Directed energy weapons have made less-than-killer-moon-scale versions of the Death Star a reality. Arthur C. Clarke imagined communication satellites more than a decade before Sputnik. Even those old pre-Jetson’s mainstays, flying cars, are on the cusp of commercialization.

In that spirit, Popper and his SciFutures team created for The Hershey Co., a graphic novel about a future sated with 3D-printed food. For Ford, they imagined a future without car ownership (subscription transportation services and sharing among the alternatives). For the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, they envisioned the future of warfare. Most famously, SciFutures worked with Lowe’s to create the Star Trek holodeck-inspired Holoroom, a 20-by-20-foot space in which shoppers can see how Lowe’s products might look in their own homes. Customers pick out products on a tablet, then use a virtual reality headset to see those products placed in context in the home. [more at Medium.com]

 

The Queen of Sh*#$% Robots

Simone Giertz

Simone Giertz with a few of her creations

Note: I’ve been writing Medium.com posts in the lead-up to the second-annual Brain Bar Budapest this June (did the same last year). If you’re in the neighborhood, this year’s lineup is awesome.

Comedy comes in lots of flavors — anecdotal, improvisational, insult, deadpan, sketch, satire, physical, and so on. Simone Giertz, through her own inventions, has invented another. Call it robotic comedy.

Giertz, 26, builds what she describes as “shitty robots” and has crowned herself their queen. Among the creations her 420,000 YouTube subscribers and counting have observed include a wake-up machine, a hair washing robot, a sandwich robot, a butt-wiping machine, a hair-cutting drone, and knives of doom. Vids of these and others have more than 20 million views. She co-hosts TESTED, founded by Adam Savage of MythBusters fame, with whom she created the popcorn helmet. She’s been featured on all sorts of websites as well as on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Conan. It wasn’t always this way. [more]