Happy Holidays! Time for our annual Christmas Special full of lots of whimsical toys.
This time, Nora Young likes Urbio, a cool looking modular set of plates that you mount on the wall, then attach sleek white pots of various sizes to using magnets. Nora likes the mix-n-match quality of it, and the space saving aspect for those of us without a lot of counter space or window sills. You can use it for planting kitchen herbs or for general storage of small items in a home office.
Also, cool: Beer! Nora talks about Collective Arts Brewing, a new craft beer company that features artists of all stripes on the beer labels. They select a curated crop of artists to put on the labels, and you can use the augmented reality app to learn more. Neat-o.
Cathi Bond is thinking about experiences and travel this time, and has found two wild places. First is Kulturinsel Einsiedel (Culture Island) a whimsical, huge park near the Germany-Poland border. It features a series of treehouses (you can even spend the night) windmills, and all sorts of fantasy architecture (via Gizmag).
She also showcases a wonderful art installation in Russia by Estonian architects Salto: a 170 metre trampoline road. See pics of the road in action over at The Guardian. Fun!
And, because it wouldn’t be a Sniffer Family Christmas without it, the Christmas Eve scene from The Thin Man:
This time around, we do a bit of a debrief about Cathi Bond’s book launch.
Nora Young talks about an upcoming episode of Nora’s show Spark, on the future of work, and wonders what are the jobs that humans – for sure – can do, that A.I. programs can’t down the road. She mentions this New Scientist article on A.I. taking on some functions traditionally performed by judges. You can find some of Spark’s past coverage on this issue here and here. So, what do you think? Based on how A.I. is progressing, what would you advise young people to go into as a career?
Cathi’s obsession with nests, cocoons, and tree-houses continues. This time it’s a model rainforest in Cornwall that includes a very cool tree-house where you can stay over amongst the trees! (Via Gizmag)
Nora’s obsession with data continues as well. This time, it’s a neat project launched by Intel’s R&D wing and some TED fellows: We The Data is a platform for thinking up democratic approaches to data use (via Technology Review) Along the way, Nora refers to research at MIT, and practical uses of feature phone data.
On this edition of The Sniffer, Nora Young talks about all the buzz around Nest, the design-y, smart thermostat. On one hand, it’s a great example of how smart design can get people to buy into energy efficiency. On the other, given that it’s actually way more energy efficient just to live in an apartment or a small condo, there’s something about the idea of furnishing your fancy house with a sustainability tool that seems a wee bit ‘greenwashing’ – what do you think? I have to admit, it is pretty cool! Interesting profile of the Nest guys and what the future may hold at Technology Review.
Meanwhile, Cathi Bond flags this neat Kickstarter campaign to provide software that teachers can use to teach mindfulness meditation techniques to students. What do you think of it? Nora loves the idea of teaching mindfulness, but the particular use of ‘mindfulness messages’ as part of it seems a bit Stuart Smalley-esque.
This time on the podcast, Nora Young talks about the Pebble smart watch. We used the Pebble as a topical ‘hook’ to a recent piece on watches on Spark, and that got me thinking about what makes this great looking little watch so appealing. It reminded Cathi Bond of the Little Printer, a smart, digital solution that looks analog, that looks friendly. Nora mentions all the self-tracking tools and health monitors that were at CES recently (see, for example, Technology Review’s coverage here).
Cathi Bond talks about the RP-VITA which is a remote presence robot that can wander health care facility halls, checking in on patients, thus allowing doctors who are far away to see patients virtually (via Medgadget). It can even allow the remote physician to consult with other doctors. Interestingly, it’s from the iRobot people, who brought you the Roomba.
And, Nora has a quick hit: Swisshotel has a handy dandy ‘single serving’ website that notes handy tips for travellers to different cultures: stuff like tipping, gestures, and dos and don’ts (via Lifehacker). Nora thinks lots more businesses will do this sort of thing for branding purposes – useful info connected to your product’s brand that can live as an app. Have you seen any good examples of this?
This time, trendspotters, Cathi Bond talks about one of the more surprising trends she’s seen: cocoons. See them here, here, and here. (Via Gizmag). Any theories as to why cocoons, why now? Is it the search for security in difficult times, or something else?
Meanwhile, Nora Young talks about CustomMade, a service that brings craftspeople and buyers together in a marketplace for customized manufacture (via Core77)Nora also tells the story of Bemz, a site that makes new covers of just about all the chairs and sofas IKEA has made. With all this disintermediated customization going on, are major retailers going to need to be a lot more flexible?
UPDATE: Bemz apparently delivers internationally, not just in North America.
OK trendwatchers, this time, Nora Young talks about how her experience watching the U.S. presidential election results has made her think about the disruptive state of TV right now. Who is a broadcaster now, anyway, when you can watch live TV coverage on Apple TV and original content on Netflix? Has your TV watching behaviour changed? If you’re changing the way you watch, does that leave you more open to ‘switching’? Also: Google announces voice search. And in other news, are you watching Breaking Bad?? Is it as addictive for you as it is for Cathi and me?