Twill #14: Robot nurseries, on-demand toys, tanks with pixels, Tesla and the moth…





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Twill by yiibu

June 3 · Issue #14 · View online

An occasional dispatch on our evolving relationship with technology.

This week: Robot nurseries, on-demand toys, tanks with pixels, Tesla and the moth, 5 ways to use a missed call and Amazon’s auto-personalised interfaces.

Apologies for the lack of Twill the past two weeks :( 
Life got in the way in the form of an unexpectedly short-notice flat move, followed by Steph jumping on a plane to UX Lisbon (…while Bryan was left to un-pack boxes).
We’ll be posting a UX Lisbon recap shortly, but in the meantime do check out…
  • the slides from our Physical Web workshop (big thanks to all the participants!!)
  • Steph’s short conversation on evolving uses of tech in emerging economies with the nice people at UX Podcast.
New this week!
0.0 A lovely on-demand manufacturing concept by Crayola that will turn any child’s drawing into a plush animal toy. (Gentle creative hacks of this will no doubt appear ;-).
1.0 A few lines of code plugs a chat interface into almost anything. A simple hack that shows the continued blurring of web vs. app models into something as yet undefined.
2.0 Minecraft, pixels and tanks
“In the late 1970s O’Neill suggested to the US Army that square blocks of colour would disguise an armoured fighting vehicle better than large blotches. His idea was to build a pattern that would work no matter how far the vehicle is from the observer. Large patterns work well at long distances, and small patterns are better at close range. But patterns made from small squares, or pixels, can be painted to mimic both.”
3.0 While researching our Physical Web workshop for UX Lisbon, we ran into several examples of device mediated real-world play at Disney theme parks. What we really liked was how comparatively old fashioned—and yet fun and effective—the technology choices were. 
  • Glow with the Show’s light-up Mickey hats use infra-red to create “geographic spatial effects” that synchronise the hats with in-park light shows. Other areas of the park also spontaneously trigger hat behaviours, and kids can pair their hats to create effects of their own. (Curious parents can also deconstruct and hack them into something new :-)
  • Fun Wheel Challenge works with a local wi-fi network to enable (non-destructive!) interactions between your device and a ferris wheel. The activity uses the web so there’s no app to download.
  • A future facing experiment from Disney research using passive RFID to power simple toys.
[Not lost on us that Disney is likely hoovering up boatloads of data each time these objects are used. Especially if everyone happens to be wearing a Magic Band].
4.0 Strange but true “…studies have found that we have more positive emotional associations with words that have a higher ratio of letters from the right side of a QWERTY keyboard – those from “y”, “h” and “n” onwards. This is known as the QWERTY effect.”
5.0 How should a semi-autonomous vehicle notify you that it’s time to take the wheel
“…it takes about 0.8 seconds for a driver to shift attention so that his eyes are on the road. But even after having receiving a tactile warning and turning his or her focus toward the situation, it still takes a moment before the driver has assessed the situation enough to make a helpful response…tactile warnings, resulted in faster brake reaction times than did, say, flashing lights, beeps, or a computerized voice. Vibrations also spurred human drivers to take the wheel and begin steering much more quickly than did visual or auditory cues.”
6.0 From the department of “the street finds a use for things”: five things you can get in India by (purposely) missing a call on your mobile. Ad-hoc versions of these behaviours were evident as far back as 2003 (in parts of Africa if memory serves) as a way to politely ask a friend with a cheaper phone plan to call you…or to simply say ‘hey!’ without incurring a charge. 
7.0 Is there a Twitter account yet that follows stories of bad things that happen when a sensor stops working as planned? In this case, a Tesla fell prey to a giant moth
8.0 Engineers should not design streets (…not an anti-engineer piece). You could substitute several other words for streets but the most immediate parallel that comes to mind is contemporary software platforms such as Facebook where the platform’s goal of equally serving the needs of multiple actors (users, brands, Facebook itself) doesn’t always work. 
“Roads and streets are two separate things. The function of a road is to connect productive places. You can think of a road as a refinement of the railroada road on railswhere people board in one place, depart in another and there is a high speed connection between the two.
In contrast, the function of a street is to serve as a platform for building wealth. On a street, we’re attempting to grow the complex ecosystem that produces community wealth. In these environments, people (outside of their automobile) are the indicator species of success. So, in short, with a street we’re trying to create environments where humans, and human interaction, flourish.”
9.0 An AI co-pilot for programmers (and IMO a sign of things to come in all sorts of domains where we could benefit from a domain-specific advocate or companion). 
“Kite is a heads up display (HUD) for programmers that surfaces proven engineering knowledge in a live internet­ connected environment helping developers write better code, faster.”
10.0 And if that looks interesting…here’s an example of a massively impressive single-purpose AI assistant for sketching 3D models
11.0 A patent from Amazon that would vary AR interfaces available based on the type of person in the room. A use case here is to prevent kids from killing hours of AR ‘work’ with a bout of enthusiastic hand-waving. Useful…if you can get past the idea of who you are and what you do being constantly scrutinized to helpfully suggest the most ‘suitable’ options.
“[the patent suggests that]…children will be offered different UIs entirely, after their hand size is recognized. If the patent’s images are anything to go by, adults will be treated to boring things, like “email,” “app,” and “workspace.” Kids, on the other hand, will play with trains, planes, and whatever else it is that children like.”
12.0 Did you know that video game photography was a thing? It’s apparently so much of one that NVIDIA has built a chip to help gamers capture 360 degree, high resolution (4.5 gigapixel or 61,440 x 34,560!) stills. 
This week in robots
1.0 The concept of self-designing, -printing and -assembling robots isn’t exactly new, but this ambitious project is finally starting to think the concept through.
2.0 Chock full of photos of early automatons and science-fi robotsThe fourth industrial revolution: robot ethics” by Andra Keay of Silicon Valley Robotic.
3.0 Do real robot names reflect the nomenclature of fictional robots? A brief analysis of about 300 robot names from science fiction revealed a few major themes. 
4.0 Maintaining line of sight while flying drones using augmented reality glasses. Not a bad use to be honest… 
5.0 What do you do with a cute-ish, smart-ish, $1600 robot? Slap a screen on it and turn it into a pizza flogging MasterCard terminal :( 
“MasterCard announced that Pepper will soon be implemented in Pizza Hut restaurants in Singapore to take orders and process payments. Users will do so by “greeting” Pepper and pairing a MasterPass account to Pepper’s attached tablet
Thing from the past. Thing from the future
(So tempted to buy this book...but ouch, the price tag)
(So tempted to buy this book...but ouch, the price tag)
From the past: The Kowloon walled city was a marvel of grit and ingenuity that we will no doubt see renewed shades of in a future where 10 billion of us are mostly urban.
From the future: Rapid prototypes are awesome, like this one of a multi-screen smartwatch. Just think of the second screen as an optional companion to the first. (You could even sell alternate companion parts for different purposes).
That is all...
Our best wishes for a productive week.
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