MIT

Ori

Over the last 25 years, I have never lived in a space larger than 1500 square feet. For my wife and I smaller has always been better. I know that we are going against the grain since the average size of a house in America has steadily grown from 1800 square feet in the mid-1960’s to just under 3000 in the 2010’s. The reality is though, not everyone is can afford to, or wants to live in a McMansion. World-wide the average size of a living space  is between 1000 and 1500 square feet, and in larger cities much smaller at 500 to 800 square feet. That means less room for furniture and furniture that is designed to function with multiple uses, or in ways that save space. This is where those clever students at MIT and designer Yves Béhar come in.

Full-line

A team of MIT engineers have partnered with designer Yves Béhar to develop the ORI system of robotic furniture system for smaller/micro apartments that transform at the touch of a button or via a smartphone app. The Ori system is a compact module that incorporates a bed and a closet on one side, and a home office and an entertainment suite on the other expanding and contracting as needed to give up much-needed space. (This would have been so useful in our 850 square foot loft)  On one side the bed is hidden, sliding under the bottom of the unit beneath a closet, couch, and office to maximize space. When activated, the unit moves in or out to become a bedroom or a more generous living room. One side of the unit hosts a full closet, but also contains a desk for a home office. The other side of the unit holds a media center for entertaining. Each room can be preset for Each room can be preset for your specific needs so that one touch on the physical interface or on the smartphone app will morph the room.

Ori is more than functionality. Units can be customized with a variety of finishes, materials, and colors that truly let you design your space. And the functionality means a small space can be transformed into a multi-functional home in just seconds. Beyond small apartments and loft spaces, I could see this being used in smaller vacation homes, guest houses, hotels and more.

Detail

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Etching Castles in a Grain of Sand.

Once again the Creators Project has released a new video that makes you step back and think. The video below features photographer Vik Muniz and designer Marcelo Coelho who, using science and technology have drawn castles on a grain of sand. The project involves transferring Muniz’s drawings made with a camera lucida to a grain of sane that is less than 1 millimeter wide. The process is done with an ion beam focused on the tiny object which etches the image onto the surface. The narrative makes you stop and think about the imagery, concept of scale, the blend of art and science, and the direction that photography is headed as we move forward.

MIT’s City Car, Becomes a Reality as Hiriko.

About 5 years ago, MIT began developing an inner city automobile that was designed for highly congested areas. The commuter car had a distinct advantage in dense urban areas where parking is always at a premium. “City Car” could fold up to reduce it’s physical footprint.

Recently in Brussels, the “City Car”, now renamed “Hiriko Fold” was revealed as an actual production prototype slated to go into production in 2013. The first urban areas slated to receive the car is Vitoria Gasteiz, a community on the edge of Bilbao Spain. Cities slated to follow the debut of for a trial run with Hiriko are Boston, Berlin, Hong Kong, Francisco, and Malmo. It will be interesting to see how well this concept does in the United States, a country that loves it’s over sized gas guzzling SUV’s and Trucks. A country where people don’t mind driving from an hour outside the city on their daily commute. One thing about most of the United States, land is available, and urban sprawl is common. These factors lend themselves to the obsession with Suburbans, F-350’s, Hummers, and Explorers in most of America.

The Hiriko, when unfolded is slightly smaller than a Smart Car, yet the styling is very futuristic, and sleek. Factors that might help it do better than Smart has done since it’s introduction to the American market a few years back.

What makes Hiriko unique is it’s ability to fold into itself allowing it to park in a space about one third the size of a normal car. According to MIT, three to four Hiriko vehicles can fit into the space used by a normal full sized car. This will be huge for American cities like New York, San Francisco, or Boston. In addition, the Hiriko has the ability to turn on its axis with virtually no turning ratio which aids in inner city driving/parking conditions. Powered by four independent electric motors (one for each wheel) Hiriko can even move sideways in a crab-like manner, virtually eliminating the need to ever parallel park the in a traditional fashion.

Hiriko is estimated to cost around $12,500 when it arrives next year. That price point makes it affordable, and it’s size makes it desirable for many. I just hope MIT can come up with a marketing plan that will sell this to an American audience. In my opinion Hiriko will be a huge success in Europe, Japan, India, and other extremely dense urban areas. Here in the good old USA, it might be a tough sell since we have to share the streets with so many bloated over sized vehicles. Either way I can’t wait to see this in person, and actually take it for a test drive.

Pattern Studio’s Interactive Chemistry Table.

I am so envious of children’s education these days. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in school, and have computers, iPads, iPhones, touchscreen tables, interactive content, etc. at my finger tips all day long. Dynamic content that extends the learning experience beyond text books, and lectures.

Pattern Studio has created an interactive exhibit for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Using RFID chips embedded in the table, as well as tactile pucks, the system allows users to build and create chemical reactions by moving objects on the surface.

Working with Sensetable hardware, the platform allows you to bring the computer interface off the screen, and create a more tactile, engaging, interactive experience. Sensetable tracks the position of the pucks on the table surface, and uses them as interface inputs to display content which is not only lit from underneath, but projected from above as well. The Sensetable concept and initial prototypes were developed by the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab. Patten Studio has developed a robust and affordable implementation of the Sensetable platform for a variety of commercial applications. Pattern Studio

This is the kind of technology, and human factors design that really makes me think the future of education is good. I know there are studies and people who say, our memories are being effected, that people are learning less now, that education is suffering from technology. I don’t believe any of  that is true. I think it means things are changing and not necessarily for the worse.

Sensetable uses the LusidOSC API for application development. This open source API makes it easy for application developers to use tools such as Processing to develop Sensetable applications.

Graphical Japanese Postcards From the Russo-Japanese War.

While I was looking for some images of handmade Japanese papers, I came across this series of postcards from MIT’s Visualizing Cultures collections. The subject matter deals with the Russo-Japanese War from 1904 to 1905, but that isn’t what caught my eye. What I love is the imagery, and the way the cards are printed. Bright, colorful, and in many cases abstracted images, that while visualizing the romanticized view of war which was common before WWI, are really quite beautiful. One of my favorites features ships at sea with harbor mines floating beneath them. The mines look like alien cow utters floating in a sea of pink and blue. Another is a water-color wash of a ship’s mast emerging from a slash of red. The ship flies the flag of surrender, but if you had to historical reference to the Russo-Japanese War, the image could be taken entirely differently.

It’s interesting in the fact that these postcards were specifically propaganda for the Japanese people, and the Japanese victory over the Russians. The postcards themselves were distributed and collected on a global level due to international postal conventions and the low expense of printing and mailing them. In addition, not only did Japan produce postcards but the Europeans, americans, and Russians did as well. Because of this, we have a visual reference to the modern war as seen from a multi-national perspective.

“We can literally “see,” through thousands of fixed-format images (postcards have remained the same size to the present day), what people throughout the world were being offered as a mirror to the war and all that it portended.” -John W. Dower, MIT’s Visualizing Cultures