- IKEA has a new joinery method for their tables that looks pretty slick, robust, and cheap to make at scale. Notably, this innovation was arrived at by prototype engineers rather than designers sketching out possibilities on paper. As a team of designers who started as fabricators, it's a type of knowledge development and transfer that makes a lot of sense to us but is fairly rare in an era of work practices kept in their respective silos. Frontline workers across a company, in any department, should have channels to suggest improvements (with commensurate rewards for good outcomes) and those that find their work at the upper end of the ladder a little too clean should have more opportunities to get their hands dirty.
- A California senator is introducing legislation that would require new construction projects to include solar panels. California's energy and environmental policies are often ahead of the curve and later adopted in some form by other states, so this will be a bit of policy to keep a close eye on as we move towards a more sustainable energy future. Assuming it goes through, it could also be a big win for products like Tesla's Powerwall battery for residential energy storage.
- The Brookings Institute, the DC area thinktank (typically described as centrist or somewhat liberal) has a piece on the potential for the so-called Maker Movement to act as a sort of traditional manufacturing alternative and bolster economic opportunities for blue-collar workers in the United States. While it's a nice thought, their case is flawed in a few key ways: these digital-fabrication enabled craft practices are rarely just blue collar, the typical "maker" also has skills in engineering or design, that these craft practices tend to employ very small teams, and the majority of the people working in these makerspaces have well paid, white-collar day jobs and are not exactly examples of rising economic opportunities for displaced blue-collar workers. Perhaps the biggest flaw here is that the Maker Movement itself is nothing new, really a rebranding of the kind of serious hobby-to-small business design and build practices that have existed for many decades. Rather than suggesting substitutes for some never-was golden age of manufacturing, we should be discussing what the needs of our best future will be, and what jobs will be required to meet them.
- The Atlantic with another view of manufacturing in the U.S. - essentially that the country lost the "bad" manufacturing jobs (low skill, lower pay, highly repetitive) but has kept, and grown "good" manufacturing jobs that require higher levels of training and an agile approach to making goods that change design rapidly or are highly regulated.
- Not one to be discouraged, Keurig is trying to turn the same "Keurig Kold" technology that powered their soda-machine flop into another product line, this time for alcohol.
- Snap Inc has acquired an augmented reality company based in Israel called Cimagine that had been developing software capable of mapping a room and adding objects like furniture to the scene. It's a logical choice for the Snap extending their AR domain from faces to include the very spaces we live in.
Roadmapping the Future:
- William Gibson's seminal novel Neuromancer (often credited with defining the cyberpunk sci-fi sub-genre) has felt like the near future almost since it was published in 1984, with its dystopian details of military hacking, designer drugs and reality TV. Tech writer Jon Christian revisits the text to search for clues as to when the story takes place, finding it feels dangerously like our present moment: caught between the grand promises of technology and the worst aspects of human nature.