- Another way that 3D printing is unlocking some interesting design possibilities: the continual development of methods to perform so called 4-D printing (essentially parts that can change their shape in a predictable, designed way, after printing). Like printing metals and topological modeling, it's not going to be a key part of mainstream products straight away, but it will have huge impacts on things like sensors and apparel, and that could lead to the technology crossing over into the mainstream sooner than we think.
- Big companies keep getting disrupted by problems with "the stack" of products and services - a good read on the subject from Christopher Mims at the Wall Street Journal. We think the relatively recent trend of big companies acquiring (mostly small) design consultancies is an attempt to solve this problem - the latest is IBM acquiring a digital marketing firm (maybe inspired by the big and immediate backlash to their poorly thought out "hack a hairdryer" campaign to encourage women in STEM careers).
Feeding the Future:
- There's lots of talk about the difficulty of feeding a more populous world in the midst of climate change. We're going to need technologies that enable precision agriculture- drones, robots, etc. - but we're also going to need the the low-tech and no-tech solutions like the societal discipline to stop wasting so much.
- On the high-tech side, a Japanese company called Spread is working to build the first agricultural system run entirely by robots with the intention of harvesting 30k heads of lettuce per day.
- The "internet of things" branch of LogMeIn, known as Xively, is working with the shipping container farming company Freight Farms to develop software that helps their plant growing operations.
- The body of the Barbie is revisited and reworked for the first time in a long time. Specifically, Mattel has introduced 3 new body types for their iconic dolls.While hardly representative of the variety of real world humans, it's a step in the right direction of a play world that is more reflective of the world and less harmfully prescriptive about what "normal" is. The totally unrealistic beauty standards are still in place
- Getting prescription lenses for VR is a thing.
- A factory in China has replaced 90% of its human workers with robots. It's improved production rates and reduced defects, good for the factory owners but a worrisome signal for China's human workforce. The march towards a service-oriented economy has been steady, but manufacturing still employs a huge chunk of the population. Given the shaky performance of the markets in China as manufacturing growth has slowed, we wouldn't be surprised to see the government introduce policies to limit the speed at which robots can displace humans.
Up in the Air:
- Lufthansa has partnered up with Chinese drone maker DJI. It won't be the last incumbent aviation business to team up with a fast-moving drone startup. In our opinion, Lufthansa picked a winner with DJI which has been more prepared to embrace a variety of commercial applications and pursuits compared to many U.S. drone makers which have been content to focus on consumer applications or pick a single industry o(agriculture, defense, etc.).
- Sometimes the present feels more like science fiction. Kids using drones to pull themselves along in the snow.
More next week.