- We wrote a couple of things: why humans make things, the ways mass production has failed human needs, and how we might do things differently in the future, and the tensions that can emerge in developing the user experience aspects of smart home devices that are monetized through data collection and analysis.
- Someone trained a neural network to make up colors and name them, based on training data from Sherwin-Williams. There's not really much of a story here technology wise, but the resulting bland, beige-adjacent colors with derpy names are pretty comical, at least if you're into non sequitur. We can't wait to suggest "Bank Butt" as a color option for a re-branding effort. From a data training perspective it's definitely a flawed proposition - we humans largely derive color names from words we've already connected with various natural phenomena. If the algorithms had used the available RGB data more intelligently (e.g. if G value greater than X, scrape first word of color name from plant database), the names might actually work quite well.
- Emoji watch: though emoji don't have Western origins, much of the voting power in the Unicode Consortium (which is responsible for emoji standards) is held by U.S. centric tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google. This has led to Westernized interpretations of objects or food that read more as parody than cartoony reportage to those in the know. With so many products and services now reaching a truly global audience at scale, there's increasing need for deep cultural expertise and interpreters to make sure messages don't get mangled or stereotypes reproduced.
- Augmented Reality from the big tech companies has roots in film and animation experiments from the early 1900s.
- Etsy is struggling to balance their original mission and status as a B-Corp with demands from shareholders to increase profitability. The transition from startup to publicly traded company can be rough for any team, but ones that are especially entwined with a community built on the founders promises find themselves with even more difficult choices. The same strategies that seem like an obvious path to expanding their market can alienate early, core users. How Etsy navigates this period in its history and the outcome will likely be business school case studies in years to come, and impact how companies handle B-Corp status in the future.
- A good profile of how electronics accessories maker Anker built a strong brand and business in a highly commoditized market segment.
- Another approach to occupational exoskeletons is being piloted by Lowe's: using carbon fiber rods as spring-assist for lifting heavy loads. E-commerce has put increasing demands on warehouses and retailers to do things faster and at ever lower costs. Whether it's Kiva robots moving shelves to human workers or mechanically souped-up shelf-stockers, retail and warehouse environments have emerged as significant spaces for experiments in the future of human/machine collaboration and competition.
Roadmapping the Future:
- A new book that seeks to quantify and prioritize efforts to slow climate change. It's important to note that some of the highest-impact solutions are social/cultural shifts, not technological ones: reducing animal protein consumption, educating girls, increasing access to family planning, and reducing food waste.
- Arctic ice is melting near the Svalbard Seed Vault, which led to widespread reports of flooding within the vault and compromise of its natural archives. Those claims were inaccurate, the vault is holding just fine.