Sometimes there's nothing more calming than hearing the soft sounds of rain against your window. The newest app from the user interface research lab Taptanium, called Thunderspace, takes relaxing...
A companion to the immensely popular website of the same name, "Famous Objects from Classic Movies" is an iPad app that keeps you guessing. Users are presented with simple silhouettes of iconic images from different films, which they must guess in order to move on. As their tallied scores increase players are rewarded with consecutive levels of movie buff recognition. An additional 30 titles over the website version bring the iPad app to 140 movies in all—perhaps not quite as much a time such as "Angry Birds" but potentially addictive nonetheless.
Challenges range from a fairly universal box of chocolates from "Forrest Gump" to a much more obscure jalopy from "Once Upon a Time in America." Other examples induce hilarity, such as the band camp flute from "American Pie" or the over-the-shoulder banana hammock from "Borat." Our advice to the stumped: remember your Jeopardy training and start with the common letters R-S-T-L-N-E. By the end, you're likely to feel that all those hours noshing on popcorn were actually valuable trivia preparation.
"Famous Objects from Classic Movies" is available for download from the iTunes App Store. The first three levels are free with the option to purchase the full app.
In a recent sit-down with TED Curator Chris Anderson, I had the chance to try out the TED Books app, a dedicated platform to hold the company's publishing endeavor. Focused on short books, TED Books hopes to continue TED's method of viral ideation by tailoring to today's attention spans. This addition to the TED family has fascinating implications for the company, which has clearly moved from an annual meeting-of-the-minds to a global media phenomena. As Anderson, a publishing veteran, explains, "TED is a media organization devoted to ideas worth spreading."
"Arguably, a lot of the reason why books are the length they are is because the physical form demands it. If you were to print a short book, it just feels cheap, so things have to be 80,000 words regardless of whether or not the content demands it," says Anderson. "A book that fit the length of the idea that it's trying to express became interesting to us." Long enough to communicate the idea and short enough to feel unimposing, TED settled on 20,000 words—an ideal length for a single sitting.
"In a magazine, the mode of behavior is bit like a playground in that you browse—a page here, a page there. With a book, you're on a train journey. You start and you work your way through, and there's something very satisfying about that," explains Anderson. "So what do you do on an iPad where you have lots of reasons to play and lots of opportunities to play?" After searching through available platforms, they settled on Atavist. The platform gave TED the level of interaction they were seeking, with narrative linearity and optional browsing of multimedia tangents.
Launched last January, TED Books is now moving away from Kindle singles to their dedicated app. The new platform accommodates browsing through in-line items that can link to images, maps, audio and video. Best of all, the interaction is optional—users choose the way in which they read by toggling the additional elements on or off. There is also social element that allows for a kind of user-generated marginalia. While books come in at $2.99 on the free app, TED encourages the subscription model for $14.99, which delivers two monthly books for three months. Founding subscribers (people who sign up in the first 90 days) will also receive free access to the entire back catalog of TED Books. Because users know what to expect from TED, the company can get away with this subscription model.
"I think one of the biggest problems in the book publishing world as it goes online is just the problem of discovery—so what's the equivalent of walking into a bookstore and browsing to find the thing you want? The subscription model is an interesting alternative. You just say 'Look, trust us.'"
Portrait by Josh Rubin
The world's largest cylindrical aquarium is one of many amenities at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Berlin, where 260,000 gallons of water house 1,500 fish. Scuba diving in the Aquadom isn't an option for hotel guests, although there are plenty of vantage points to marvel at the engineering feat.
In a vintage recording of "This is Your Life", we are reminded of Dick Clark's truly fascinating life and prolific career. Recorded when Clark was still a young man, the episode sheds light on his accomplishments prior to becoming a New Year's Eve institution.
Using very basic tools, furniture maker Max Lamb carves out a hexagonal mold in the sand and fills it with molten pewter to create a metal stool. The primitive process brilliantly champions the foundations of furniture design.
Top Gear host Richard Hammond reveals his picks for the finest automobiles found stateside in an interview for GQ. A few of Hammond's favorites include the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, 1969 Dodge Charger, pick up trucks and the AMC Pacer.
The Skyline Lab Kitchen is designed entirely around the needs of wheelchair users, marrying sharp stainless lines with thoughtful ease of use. Low sinks, an absence of cabinets and curvilinear countertops are among the design elements making it easier to maneuver the kitchen.
Ron Mueck masterfully toys with scale, and until you see his awkwardly massive human figure sculptures in person, it's hard to fully comprehend just how beautifully creepy they are. The former puppet maker's newly opened show is on view at London's Hauser & Wirth gallery through 26 May 2012.
A promotional piece for the upcoming film Prometheus offers a peek at the futuristic vision of director Ridley Scott. The movie trailer is presented as a commercial for a fictional corporation, and features heartthrob Michael Fassbender as an android performing human tasks, proving the robot's ability to mimic our actions and emotions—if not only at the surface level.
With cursive on its way out, in the digitally-obsessed future lettering may end up a single standard format. In an effort to protect and celebrate the beauty of regional signage, Molly Woodward created Vernacular Typography—a crowd-sourced, community-based program aimed at preserving vanishing typefaces around the world.
This year's arts and journalism awards saw a first-time win for a new media outlet and the omission of a Fiction winner for the first time in 35 years, as well as two war-related images in the Breaking News and Feature Photography categories. For the former, the committee recognized Massoud Hossaini for his "heartbreaking" depiction of a young girl screaming in the wake of a suicide bombing that killed 70 people in Kabul. Craig F. Walker of the Denver Post took home the Feature Photography award for his "compassionate chronicle of an honorably discharged veteran, home from Iraq and struggling with a severe case of post-traumatic stress."
Graphic designer and illustrator Ed Lea offers up some nourishment for UED geeks out there, pitting the differences between UX and UI in a photo infographic built with cereal. While the rundown is certainly clever, the philosophical analysis found in the comments section may be just as entertaining.
After its popular run as a doubled-up bike taxi service at SXSW in March, the Companion Bike Seat is ready to put its attachable second seat on the market. Grab your friends and support this Kickstarter project—you can promise to take each other for a spin once it's funded.
Stylist Dan May dresses eight of Tokyo's most fashionable men for Mr. Porter's recent photo spread, highlighting the brilliance of Japanese designers. Photographer Angelo Pennetta's subjects include Beams creative director Hiroshi Kubo, director of Huge Magazine Toro Ukon, and Takuro Ogasawara—fashion journalist for Senken newspaper.
Even the savviest of frequent travelers can fall into the miles trap, letting their rewards go unclaimed or worse, losing entire days strategizing how to cash in for a free ticket.
Superfly is a relatively new engine that simplifies the process of shopping for reward travel by storing membership information for airlines, hotel chains, ground transportation and credit cards. Flight searches cross reference this data to present the most relevant results.
The search engine allows users to set up frequent flyer accounts from 67 airline options, integrating each seamlessly into an easily digestible interface. Miles are given a dollar amount to simplify the appearance and enable users to compare their accounts. The interface is light and clean, and stacks up flight options in comparison through price, rewards and net value rankings.
In the search funciton, adjustments can be made through the sidebar to adjust time, number of stops, cabin and preferred airlines. The site essentially plays the role of a good travel agent: rather than assuming that each individual will be interested in the same results, Superfly is in the game of personalized travel planning. While certain sections of the start-up remain in beta, Superfly is ready for booking.
When we visited Ford back in September 2011 for an exclusive preview of their new "Police Interceptors", we felt the story wasn't complete without getting behind the wheel, which we finally had the opportunity to do. The Sedan and the first pursuit-rated Utility available represent a thoughtful and considered approach to designing cars specifically for law enforcement use. We sat down at Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, MI with Lisa Teed, the Marketing Manager for the Police Interceptor line, and Mike Interian, the line's Vehicle Integration Engineer. We learned about the difficulty of designing a purpose-built machine to service one of the most specialized jobs on the market.
At first glance the Interceptor models bear a striking resemblance to the standard Ford Taurus and Explorer consumer market automobiles. Initially, we were really disappointed, having imagined a design similar to one you'd more likely find in a science fiction movie—but therein lies the amazing design story of these cars. They build off of existing car platforms, which cuts development and maintenance costs. Their design is functional rather than superficial, and nearly every component of the cars other than what you see right away is tuned and suited to the very different uses that these look-alikes perform. From their radiators and engines to their stiffer bodies, steel wheels and enormous breaks, not to mention the column shifter, equipment plates, special fabrics and wide door openings, nothing has escaped the team's (and their customers') considerations. Ford isn't new to the law enforcement space—its Crown Victoria Police Interceptor is a law enforcement standby that continues to dominate the market, but is being discontinued to make room for the Interceptors.
"Ford has been making police vehicles for 60 years," says Teed. "We usually took our products and then we morphed them to fit the needs of police. That was until the Crown Vic—and keep in mind the Crown Vic is on a 19-year-old platform. Our mission said the next generation must be equal to or better than the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. Well, that's easy from a platform perspective—you can find a better platform. It's got to be safer. It's got to be equal in durability—now that's the hard one."
"Police don't treat the vehicle all that nice, honestly," Teed continues. "This is a vehicle that lives 24/7. One person gets off the shift and the other person comes on. The vehicle just takes a beating all day long. That's why the Crown Victoria has this great reputation. So we have to build vehicles that have the same durability in the life of police use. From a design perspective, the vehicles aren't about aesthetics, they're about function. But from an engineering perspective, it's all about good design because you've got to make this thing survive."
From custom interior fabrics for easy cleaning to skid plates on the undercarriage, Ford went to great lengths to ensure the durability of the new models. Door hinges are reinforced to double the lifespan of the components, a necessary measure on a car that is constantly exited and entered. The 18-inch wheels are bigger than those found on civilian models, and are built to meet the needs of the extra-large calipers and brake pads—both of which translate to jaw-dropping braking capabilities. Match that with an optional 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine souped up with two turbochargers and a high-pressure direct-injection system, and you have a 365 horsepower vehicle that can jump to high speeds and slow to a crawl at the drop of a hat.
Due to the difference between civilian and police driving techniques, all of the driving dynamics like suspension and turning sensitivity have been tweaked to provide optimum performance. If you imagine that driving a police car is fun, you are right. I was able to drive both the Crown Victoria and the new Interceptors on identical courses, and the differences were instantly noticeable. The Crown Vic has the brazen power and handling that's a bit of a throwback. The Interceptors leverage AWD and every modern engineering tool to create a vehicle that handles and performs better, safer and more easily. I'm not going to lie, however—throwing a Vic around a corner is a helluva good time.
Most surprising, perhaps, was the way the Utility Interceptor drove, which didn't feel anything like its street version. It gripped and turned more like a car than an SUV, and its braking was particularly impressive. The cars also feature 20% better fuel economy than the competition, and considering how much it costs municipalities to keep fleets gassed up that really matters.
Another important element to consider was distraction while driving, which inhibits decision-making. "We tried to make it as easy to drive quickly as possible," says Interian. "A lot of the new technologies help us with that. The all-wheel drive, the stability controls—we tuned the suspension to that kind of driving."
While the interior looks much like that of an explorer or Taurus, subtle details are peppered throughout. "We took a lot of design effort in the seats," said Teed. "We took down the bolsters to the point where there was hardly any foam left so that the butt of the gun would fit. The seat has "anti-intrusion" plates—there's a nice big steel plate that runs through the back of the seat. Then you put a partition in there, which is generally common in most patrol vehicles, and all of a sudden it becomes a cell, a safety cell." Ford also pushed back the rear seats and widened the door, creating safer and easier entry and more legroom for all.
Ford worked with a team of officers from start to finish, making sure that every detail was purpose-designed for the line of duty. In some cases that included doing less with technology—fleets can either be ordered with standard keys that work in all models or individual fobs that are car-specific. While Ford included their iPod and USB-enabled info-center, the real innovation came in allowing "after-market" technologies to work in the automobile. They inserted unassigned control buttons on the wheel that can be wired to sirens and other police-specific electronics. Ford realized that older models are often rigged to accommodate police needs, so the new Interceptors are designed to be easily customized.
One of the unique quirks of law enforcement fleets is that electronics often outlast the automobiles. With Ford's malleable models, police forces can outfit the new cars with existing technology utilizing the customizable features. The trunk of the Sedan features interior lights and a custom-mounted gear box for installing technologies out of the way. On the Utility, a wide berth and mounting options make it easy for officers to include their own after-market storage.
In terms of safety, crumple zones have been specified to divert impact away from the cabin, a feature that is enhanced by (optional) ballistic door panels. Airbags are intelligent, and can distinguish the difference between the impact of a bullet round and that of a collision. Steel has been used throughout the car for its ability to diffuse heat. This, combined with the larger radiator and and auxiliary transmission oil cooler, help to counteract overheating from long running times.
The Interceptor Series, building off of a long history of police-specific automobiles, is a great example of how purpose-built design can turn standard-issue sedans and SUVs into a versatile tools of law enforcement.
All photos by Josh Rubin and Evan Orensten