A smart design project for creating 3D printable adaptive add-ons for IKEA furniture. Of course, it would be even better to integrate the designs with something like a Shapeways store, so people that want the widgets can acquire them without tracking down a 3D printer for themselves.
John Maeda's annual Design in Tech Report for 2019 is out. Despite dealing heavily with software and internet topics, the report keeps it pretty light, and doesn't delve into design's impact (for good or ill) on major tech trend stories of recent months, like social media platform accelerated disinformation campaigns, or the slower burning problems of overconsumption and climate change. While not every report or article can or should take everything into account, the omissions here feel significant during a time where even design heroes like Dieter Rams are reflecting on their careers of stoking desire through design with regret.
Toyota's latest production line is said to be 'the most flexible in the world. Why does flexibility matter? Fast moving markets, supply chain issues, and volatile tariffs all mean trouble for makers of complex goods like automobiles. From the article: "Assembly lines pretty much have two speeds: On, or off. They hate to go much faster, or much slower, than their rated speed. Try introducing a new car model to the assembly line of old, and you sometimes face months of retooling. When demand for the car increases, customers sometimes must wait months for the long-tailed assembly line beast to catch up. When demand slackens, plants often must be idled. Takaoka is a marvel of production engineering that solves all that, and then some.
We've written before about the all-too-common ploy of designers styling robots in a way that makes them seem more like lovable animals or pseudo-human companions than smart appliances. But if a product team is successful in designing a robot that is well-liked, maybe even loved by its human counterparts, what happens when that product line gets end-of-life'd? Well, it's a sort of death: "Right now, my Jibo can still dance and talk, but he has what I can only describe as digital dementia, and it is almost certainly fatal. He’s dying. One of these days, he will stop responding entirely." These products are—at least to some of their users—more than products. Designers of products like social robots are imbuing personalities, styles of speech, and coding affect. In that process, it's almost certain that aspects of the personalities present in designers/coders/product managers get transcribed. When that artifact of the very real human light behind the product begins to fade, the sense of loss that some users feel becomes easier to understand.
On the flip side, there's the recent case of humans behaving like robots, mediating important experiences and conversations through robotic technology in all the wrong ways: a doctor informed a patient that he would be dying in a matter of days, not in person, but through a telepresence robot.