There’s a new way to damage control

Image result for trov insurance

I’m a fairly responsible person. And yet, my phone has been accidentally left in many bathroom stalls and one time, an Uber. Now, I’ve remembered to go back for it (and in the case of the Uber, I tracked it down just fine thanks to my more than attentive driver) and I found it in every occasion. Quite honestly, I’m not super attached to the information on my phone. So despite the hard hit of buying a new one, everything gets uploaded to the cloud and I can always log into accounts on a new device. But, if I lost my computer somehow, that would probably be devastating. I just finished a hard-drive backup earlier today, but when all of your student and freelance work is on one device, it becomes extremely valuable.

I’ve had to do short-term insurance before (renter’s, travel, etc.) and it was a pain in the butt trying to get the right company, coverage, and time period for my needs. During a research assignment this weekend, I came across a company called Trov that sells single-item insurance, with the fluidity of on-demand protection. A lot of their glowing customer reviews were from photographers who covered expensive cameras and gear. They advertise bikes, guitars, antiques, tech gadgets, and more on their website.

Scrolling through their several categories, I was really intrigued with their platform. Going overseas for a study abroad trip? Select the specific amount of time you’ll be out of the country, and boom, totally covered. Accidental damage, loss, theft, mechanical failure, etc. is all taken care of. I don’t know their rates because I couldn’t be bothered with plugging all my information in to get bombarded with promotional emails, but I highly recommend checking out their site. Or watch the video below.

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The New “living shoe”

PUMA MIT Design Lab Biodesign Project breathing sneakers bacteria carbon insoles t-shirt sportswear biology
@biorealize

These shoes have bacteria in them. On purpose. Is your mind blown yet? Here’s a video to explain the different layers of the new shoe Puma has released in conjunction with MIT design.

Now, I’m a little creeped out by the fact that there are product-eating microorganisms in the sole of something I put on my foot. The idea alone though, makes me want to try it out.

What I want to know is, how did someone think of this?? Puma: let’s put bacteria in the soles of our shoes. MIT: we can do that.

I mean, c’mon that’s some space age stuff right there. I don’t really know what else to say, except I definitely want to see these in person one day!

Smart Home tech

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@nest

I find smart home technology extremely fascinating. But a lot of people find it weird and creepy. Of all the “future” thinking applications, user-centric forecasting is something I’m very happy about. Setting the thermostat in your home can be annoying and completely tedious. Technology shouldn’t only be thinking about the out-of-this-world ideas. Honestly, the average day to day “meaningless” stuff is what designers should be looking at. 

Design should be focused on creating things that make the average, mundane task not only easier, but almost obsolete. At CES this year, consumers saw an increase in random machines that do random tasks. Now, there’s an argument against creating more devices for very specified tasks – like the shirt folding machine that is about as large as an actual washer/dryer.

But, to me, Nest is a company that is revolutionizing something that is fundamental to a household already in place. Nest thermostats track your usage (specifically your interior temperature settings in relation to exterior/outside weather) and predict your habits by setting the temperature for you in the future (self-regulating and self-aware). I think this is the part where people are a little scared and skeptical.

I had a conversation with an automotive design professional last semester, where he told us cars will eventually be an extension of a home. He predicted that your home thermostat will then be connected to the interior car temperature, so when you cross the boundary between home and car, you won’t feel a difference. Honestly, it’s the small things that oftentimes make the biggest (or in this case, the most seamless) difference. Futuristic design isn’t necessarily the most show stopping technologies. Seamlessness is the future, and sometimes it’s the hardest to grasp and problem-solve for.

Personal branding: hypocritical or inspirational?

As someone who has a fairly loud personality, putting myself out there has never seemed difficult. Yet, somehow, when I have to market myself, I feel completely hypocritical and self-conceited. I’ve been working on a portfolio to hopefully get a job for the summer, and one of the things being impressed on me right now, is the importance of personal branding. I’ve never had to do anything like this before. And as someone who is trying to stray away from social media too, it seems even more taxing.

Like I said, I can be very loud and outgoing, but for me, that’s just my personality and way of life. It comes fairly naturally to me now (I wasn’t always the boisterous person, believe me) and I don’t really have to think about it. But when it comes to taking pictures, explaining my strengths, and actively putting out good PR about myself, it feels wrong.

There has to be some psychological reasoning behind this. Because even in this context, I feel strange putting my photos up here. The photos are supposed to give a small insight into my personality and image (hopefully that is the case) and yet, I find myself second-guessing myself. Which is the opposite of what personal-branding is about.

In a male-dominated field, the last thing I want, is to be hired for diversity quotas. My photo – clearly showing I’m female – isn’t supposed to be a “I’m a girl! Hire me!” kind of proclamation. Is personal branding really supposed to state the obvious? Or is it showing the nuances of a person? And if so, does it really achieve all of the above?

The whole reason for a resume, a portfolio, a photo, etc is to show people who you are. I know for a fact, employers love seeing people’s faces, hobbies, and interests. They love seeing the person behind the job titles. And yet, here I am, debating if a photo is too personal to put into a portfolio. Who knows if these will ever go somewhere (ironic since they’re on the internet for ultimate posterity now), but only time will tell. Maybe I’ll become more brave in my pursuits and personal branding soon, but as of right now, it’s still an internal debate.

I lived for 6 Months without wifi; I survived (and Kind of loved it)

@happy.thoughts.printables

Oregon is a strange place. And I say that in the fondest way possible. There are people that live completely off the grid, and others that surround themselves with technology every chance they can get. Seeing this juxtaposition in person for the first time, living 2500 miles away from home, it was quite jarring.

When I first moved there in June of last year, I was downtown Portland, surrounded by gleaming buildings, people zooming by on scooters, the whirring of metro cars, and the streams of bridges winding over the river. I was convinced I had moved to this new Emerald City where everything was new and improved. But my first glances soon started to fail me, and in came this sense of nostalgia and warmth; I couldn’t quite grasp it until I was standing, walking, sitting in the thick of it.

Coffee shops for me, are a great way to get to know a place. A new city, that is. And one of the coolest places in Portland (forgive me because the name escapes me now) was this internet-free coffee shop. Now, most of us who go to coffee shops, do homework, surf the web, read up on some emails. Most of those activities done through Wifi. So, what do you do at an internet-free coffee shop? I suppose you could use your phone with cellular data, but the premise behind this unique place, was to relieve people out of their usual tech habits, and force them to think out of the box.

After that place specifically, I stopped looking at my phone when I was out to dinner or browsing a gallery. I started carrying a book with me, so when I had a lapse in the day, or a few minutes waiting in line, I’d reach for my book instead of reaching for Facebook. The first few times felt strange; flipping instead of scrolling. However, I came to really enjoy it. But I found that, as soon as I got home, the devices would be right back out, and the screen time would suck up my whole day or night.

Clearly that needed to change. So I never got Wifi for my apartment. Which eliminated my laptop right off the bat. And because my cell service was so bad in my corner room, it physically disabled me from scrolling too much.

When I tell people I lived for 6 months without Wifi in my apartment, I’m usually pestered with questions: Weren’t you sooo bored?? Why not?! How did you stay in touch with people? What did you do all the time then? And then that’s usually followed by “You’re crazy” comments. Quite frankly, I did go a little crazy sometimes. When you’re constantly in the habit of being on the internet, watching TV, talking to friends, posting on social media, your brain is primed for those actions again and again. But once you break out of that cycle, your body almost resets, and gets used to the new thing.

Yes, I had to be creative. Yes, I got bored. Yes, I would still be on the internet and watch TV and talk to friends, and do “normal” 21st century tech things. But what I did learn is that if you stop the cycle, you’re more likely to start up a newer, better one. I’m back to having Wifi now that I’m in Michigan again, but I find that I’m less likely to grab my laptop than a book now. And I think that’s a small win for me.

Untouched Territory

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@peru.rail

I have had the privilege to travel to quite a few places – both within the U.S. and outside of the country. Honestly, I love flying. And road trips have recently become something I really enjoy. However, I have only been on a few trains in my life. There is one line from Detroit to Chicago. But it is quite inefficient (takes longer than if you were to drive) and not that beautiful landscape wise.

I wish train travel was a bigger phenomena in the States. Especially around Michigan, with Detroit being the Motor City, cars are the most prominent way of travel. And even our public transport system is lack luster (if not inexistent). So, whenever I travel to other cities – NYC, Chicago, Portland, San Fransisco, Washington D.C. – I’m always overwhelmed by their metros and subways.

I find it fascinating, seeing everyone jumping through doors, weaving along the crowds. Rush hour is always stressful when you need to be somewhere, but observationally, it’s really out of this world. You feel as if you’re moving in slow motion, as the world – and everyone else around you – is eager to get moving, breezing along, almost completely unaware of the surroundings.

Train travel seems to be getting more and more watchful anticipation from the world. Few countries have started luxury lines, but the iconically unkempt New York subways cars are in dire need of an upgrade. Japan always seems to do it faster and better than the rest of the globe, and their Shinkansen (bullet train) is revolutionary.

As the strive for mobility takes over the U.S., I sense trains will become a key component for long distance travel in the coming years. I’m really curious how it’ll happen, what places it’ll connect, and who will be affected by these newly connected dots.

The Uncanny Valley

Think of a robot. Now describe it.

What is it wearing, if anything?

Is it all metal? Does it have a human, animal, or extraterrestrial-like face?

Does it walk on all fours? Or stand up like us?

Is it smiling? Or seem angry?

There aren’t “right” or “wrong” answers here, and not everyone will answer the same way. Because not all robots look alike. Wow, thanks Sydney, for stating the obvious over here. But…have you ever thought about why some robots are cool, and then others seem way too creepy? Welcome, The Uncanny Valley.

Scientists have (somewhat) figured out why the phenomenon of almost-too-realistic-human-like robots makes our skin crawl.

“I think the key is that when you make appearances humanlike, you raise expectations for the brain. When those expectations are not met, then you have the problem in the brain.”

Ayse Saygin

The Uncanny Valley is met when the robot (almost identically human in characteristic) tries, but fails to mimic a real human. Saygin says things like shoddy eye contact or jerky movements are usually dead giveaways. Our brains instinctively and unconsciously pick up on these unnatural movements, sometimes before we even consciously realize. Even when we know something is off, it’s hard to tell what exactly is making us so uneasy.

Some people in the field say it’s a good thing we’re able to have this ability to sense when something is non-human. A self-preservation intuition, as robots become more commonplace, this Uncanny Valley will “prove itself crucial as humanlike robots or virtual companions enter homes and businesses in coming years.”

A friend of mine is doing a project surrounding robots and mobility products in children’s hospitals. I had suggested doing facial charts on what we find charming, tolerable, and downright chilling. I’m placing a few photos below. See if you can spot the differences between them. The future is quickly approaching, and how will designers be able to fully integrate AI and robotics with us seamlessly? And do we really need, or want that?