Did you know there are 10 archetypal spy roles? They range from cryptologist and hacker to intelligence operative and agent handler. Visitors to , New York’s first museum dedicated to secret intelligence, can determine which they are through interactive experiences designed by , which was also responsible for the overall 60,000-square-foot, three-level space. In fact, the London office handled the design, while the Manhattan team served as architect of record, a first for the firm.
Nendo’s Oki Sato Gives the Portable Toilet a Sleek Redesign
The devastating impact of natural disasters on power grids, water supplies, and basic hygiene spurred principal Oki Sato to rethink a relief-effort essential: the portable toilet. Unlike standard mobile loos, with their clunky and cumbersome structures, the elemental is, well, good to go.
Interface Takes Design Notes From the Hardworking Honeybee
The honeycomb is a masterpiece of natural engineering. Without the benefit of the human brain or design thinking, bees create functional spaces that are practical, sustainable, and beautiful. Designers are starting to replicate nature’s innovations through biomimicry, recognizing that organic systems can solve manmade problems, as well.
Kevin and John Watts left behind architecture school and an advertising career, respectively, to form . “We set out to create products that visually question how they’re made,” Kevin Watts explains. The unique shapes and textures of their lamps are developed by exploring the reaction between Styrofoam and acetone, which acts as a solvent on the foam.
Scientists Can Make Kale Glow in the Dark
A team of MIT researchers recently discovered that applying firefly enzymes to kale with gentle pressure causes the plant to glow in the dark. The plant only gives off one-thousandth of the light humans need to read by and the glow only lasts three-and-a-half hours, but there’s vast potential, says MIT professor and lead study author Michael Strano. With further development, glow-in-the-dark trees and plants could take pressure off energy infrastructure by providing free, earth-friendly lighting at night.
The Surprisingly Beautiful World Inside a Pencil Factory
The pencil—an indispensable tool for designers, architects, and artists for generations—is a humble, omnipresent product. Photographer Christopher Payne’s fascination with the origins of the graphite and wood instrument brought him to one of its last American manufacturers—General Pencil Company in Jersey City, NJ—where he documented a surprising world of color, scale, and mass over dozens of trips to the factory.
Researchers have long tried to make 3-D printed stainless steel with limited success, but they’ve gotten a step closer to bringing this method of manufacturing to the mass market. Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California invented a new technique that uses lasers and a rapid-cooling process, rendering the metal less porous than previous 3-D printed attempts, but three times stronger and just as ductile as conventional stainless steel. The printer and laser are commercially available, meaning that producing prototypes and large batches of small items will become easier in the future for design firms and manufacturers.
Elon Musk's Hyperloop Plays to Pedestrians
After an incendiary marketing campaign and heated tiffs with urban planners, Elon Musk’s plans for the Boring Company seem to have shifted. The Hyperloop's tunnels, which will shuttle automobiles beneath the traffic-jammed streets of Los Angeles on magnetized tracks, will now include an urban loop system. It seems vaguely like a conventional subway, but rather than having large stations where multiple lines converge, it will have thousands of small stations the size of a single parking space that will blend seamlessly into the urban fabric, Musk tweeted.
Supertall Towers Means Supertall Elevators
According to a report in Bloomberg Businessweek, real estate developers will raise 187 new towers—each at least 820 feet tall—in the next two years, and companies like Kone, Thyssenkrupp, Schindler Group, Mistubishi Electric Corp., and Otis Elevator are developing the next generation of elevators for this super-tall future. Some companies are approaching the challenge by focusing on materials, like Kone, who won the contract for the Saudi Arabian super-tall Jeddah building with their carbon fiber UltraRope, which doesn’t require lubricant and is significantly lighter than traditional steel cables. Thyssenkrupp is doing away with cables entirely, instead using high-powered powered magnets to drive elevators not just up and down but also sideways.
Despite falling shares, Snapchat continues to unveil new app-exclusive augmented reality features, including a collaboration with Jeff Koons. The American artist lent Snapchat virtual versions of his most well-known works, including Balloon Dog, Swan, Rabbit, and Play-Doh, which are set to appear across the globe in specific locations such as Central Park, the Sydney Opera House, and Champ de Mars, essentially creating a traveling VR sculpture park. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel presents the Koons project as an inherently democratic “art for the people” endeavor, explaining that “the fact we can bring these ginormous sculptures anywhere in the world is just the beginning of inspiring young people all over the world to create with our cameras.”
Architects Envision a Human Colony on Mars
After announcing an initiative to build a human colony on Mars by 2117, the United Arab Emirates started the Mars Science City initiative—a testing site for Martian architecture—by hiring Bjarke Ingels Group to lead design experimentation. In order to solve the daily problems of life on Mars (including an arid atmosphere, nonexistent pressure, a gravity far lesser than half of Earth’s, and an immense amount of radiation), founder Bjarke Ingels sought inspiration from desert architecture, like the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings and the native architecture of Tunisia. But besides exploring what Martian architecture might look like, Mars Science City hopes their research on growing food and generating clean energy on a foreign planet will help improve life here on Earth, too.
MIT Creates Tiny Robot Jewelry
MIT Research Lab has unveiled small robots that attach themselves to clothes via magnets. The lab presents them as “living jewelry”, although due to limited battery life, the pieces will only live for about 45 minutes. For now, Project Kino is purely cosmetic, but in time the MIT team aims to give them a “brain of their own."
Doug Wheeler’s 1971 PSAD Synthetic Desert III, installed at the Guggenheim Museum in 2017, creates an immersive optical and acoustic experience. It's designed as a “semi-anechoic chamber” that nullifies sound and creates the impression of unfolding space. Created with engineering firm Arup, the latest incarnation of Synthetic Desert is made up of mostly Basotect®, a muffling foam used to eliminate noise in subways and elevators.
Clever Toy Expands on the Possibilities of Lego
MAYKA block tape is a hybrid between LEGO blocks and tape—sticky on one side, and outfitted with LEGO nubs on the other. The tape is flexible, cuttable, shapeable, and reusable, allowing for construction feats once structurally banned by LEGO. Once on Indiegogo, MAYKA reached its fundraising goal, won a Toy of the Year Award, and is now available at most large toy retailers, including Amazon.
Airbnb Dives Into AI
“We developed a working theory that if machine learning algorithms can classify a complex set of thousands of handwritten symbols—such as handwritten Chinese characters—with a high degree of accuracy, then we should be able to classify the 150 components within our system and teach a machine to recognize them," said Benjamin Wilkins, Airbnb’s design technology lead. The initial tests were very successful, with the AI capable of reading the blocky sketches of different components of Airbnb’s app and translating them directly into nearly-perfect mock up. The team is continuing to refine this tech, and currently exploring other avenues of integrating this technology into app development.