Car Tech, Traffic Tech, and Then Some Beer

Hi, we're back after a liiiitttle bit of a hiatus, but amped up and ready to go. This time around, Nora Young and Cathi Bond talk about some new tech solutions to the problem of distracted driving (via The Economist). As we move into a world of smart cars, and more devices in our vehicles, how will we maximize the power of them without becoming a distracted menace on the road? Nora mentions Social Physics, a new book by Alex (Sandy) Pentland, which includes an intriguing idea about how realtime information from smarter cars can make driving safer. In other news, remember Gort, the giant alien robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still? (We call him Klaatu in the podcast, but as fans will point out, Klaatu is the humanoid, and Gort is the robot). In any case, we were reminded of Gort when Cathi read the news of the use of a robotic looking automated traffic control system, in Kinshasa intersections (via PSFK). It's a smart invention, and it's even solar-powered! Cathi is a fan of fine beer. And here in Canada, beer is practically a bonding national characteristic. So Nora brings her Lean Machine Ale: a health beer, meant to be a healthier alternative to the post-exercise beer (via Springwise) Would you try it, or is there something special about a frosty pint after sports?

Christmas Special 2013!

Hi there, 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:

The Future of Shopping: Online AND In Person

As holiday season approaches, we've got a shopping special! Nora Young points to this article in Technology Review by Avi Goldfarb about the death of the "death of distance" - why local still matters in the ecommerce era. Nora explores this story in an interview with Avi over at Spark. Cathi Bond looks at shopping habits of Generation Z, in an era of social shopping (via Marketing Week). She mentions Wanelo as a cool example of the trend in action. Nora wonders if more of us aren't going to the online/offline social shopping model, and if Gen Z are just early adopters. What do you think? How are your shopping habits changing?

Robots on the Farm and Implantable Tech

This time, Cathi Bond talks about the Agrirover, a robot designed to run 24/7 on livestock paddocks, combing the field looking for spots where grazing grass is damaged by, erm, pee (via Scoop). A chat about robots down on the farm ensues. Meanwhile, Nora Young mentions that Motorola has a patent on an "electronic skin tattoo" (temporary!) to transmit voice and also to serve as a power supply (via PCPro, and others). The premise is that it would be a microphone and a power source. For me (Nora) it's interesting mostly as yet another example of how normal implantables and wearables are going to be in the next 5 years or so. In the near term, though, would you use something like this?

The Sniffer, Nov 3rd, 2013: Trends in Housing and Web Nostalgia

Hi! This time around, Cathi Bond talks about The Citadel, a new project from the design firm Waterstudio. The idea is to design luxury housing units in the Netherlands as a possible response to climate change. They float! The plan is to re-flood the "polders" (low lying areas now surrounded by dikes) so that they can respond to rising water levels. Cathi thinks the aesthetic is reminiscent of Expo '67's Habitat project. Nora Young talks about a cool project from CERN, which is trying to re-create aspects of the early Web. They've created a simulation of the early text-based "line mode" browser experience that you can run on your current browser (via Ars Technica). (Note: at the time of posting, the link to the bookmarklet doesn't seem to work, though it did when we recorded the project). Nora talks about it not just because it's a cool little thing, but because it suggests the Web is mature enough for us to have nostalgia about. She points to The Wayback Machine as a way of visiting the early Web, and Wochit, a startup that uses A.I. to create video news stories (an example of how visual the Web has become compared to the old days). Finally, Nora mentions Relately, a way of managing your social network connections (via Springwise).

The Sniffer, Oct 14, 2013: Trends in Creativity and Crowdfunding

This time around, Nora Young point to this Fast Company article on "art thinking". Building on the idea of design thinking, art thinking is about learning from artists' practices and bringing them to non-artistic workplaces. Given that it involves open-ended, seemingly "non-productive" exploration, it might be a tough sell in most businesses, but letting the mind go fallow and explore are necessary parts of creativity. Nora also refers to Kal Spelletich's praying robots. Cathi mentions this freaky video of the latest animal-like robot, the WildCat. Meanwhile, Cathi Bond has been poking around Indiegogo and is impressed by crowdfunding at the tipping point. Sure, it's been around for a while. We even talked about it back in 2008. As it becomes more and more mainstream to fund projects this way, though, how far can it go, and what other funding models might it replace? Nora mentions that Jack Cheng raised money to fund writing a novel this way. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wE3fmFTtP9g

Cathi Bond Reviews #lightwebdarkweb

Cathi has a review up at Rabble right now, looking at #lightwebdarkweb: Three Reasons to Reform Social Media Be4 it Re-Forms Us. The book is by author and lecturer Raffi Cavoukian, better known as children's troubadour, Raffi. You can find Cathi's review here. Please check it out!

The Sniffer, Sept 23rd, 2013: Trends in Google Glass and Bunker Couches

Hi there! This time around, Nora Young points to a recent Google Glass hackathon (via PSFK), which produced, amongst other things, the GlassFrogger game that re-imagines the old video game Frogger as an augmented reality game for Glass (see below). Fun? Sure, but it's also got Nora thinking about all the cool stuff you could do once you imagine Glass as including a whole app ecosystem. Nora and Cathi talk about the coming world of virtual personal assistants, the forthcoming movie Her, and an upcoming episode of Nora's show, Spark. Cathi Bond has the story of the CouchBunker, a sofa that contains a safe in which you can store up to thirty guns (via Gizmag) It comes complete with bullet resistant cushions. Nora also thinks you should check out this article on the relationship between "gut health" and mental health. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8wXr3QFXZM

The Sniffer, Sept 7th, 2013: Trends in Smart Watches and Phones

Hi all! Welcome back to season NINE(!) of The Sniffer! This time, Cathi Bond and Nora Young pick up on a trend they talked about last season: smart watches. The Samsung Galaxy Gear came out this week to lots of buzz. Cathi rounds out some of the rumour mill about other smart watches coming down the pike. The Guardian has a great summary here. Would you wear a smart watch? Do you see it doing stuff that your phone doesn't? Let us know in the comments below. Nora Young has been reading this article by Nick Bilton. It reminded her that travelling with friends now means that you bring their social media friends along with you, since part of vacationing for so many people involves posting photos-as-you-go. Have you had this experience? Does it change the nature of vacationing for you? Nora also points out that although it's very convenient to have GPS, maps and guide books with you on your phone, it takes a lot of the serendipity out of travelling. Your thoughts welcome, and thanks for joining us for another season of the podcast!

The Sniffer, August 6, 2013: Trends in Memory, Economy, and Marketing

Happy Summer! This time around, Cathi Bond talks about an intriguing opinion piece by Shawn Parr, arguing that someone should bring Kickstarter-style narrative and bootstrapping to the US debt problem (via PSFK) Nora Young mentions this Technology Review profile of neuroscientist Daniela Schiller, about the nature of memory, and how alternatives to drugs may be used to change the way we experience our memories. Does this square with how you think about your own memories? Let us know! In lighter news, Cathi points to chef Robert Ruiz's use of edible QR codes on his sushi (via PSFK). Gimmick? Smart? The Sniffer is off until after Labour Day. Have a great rest of the summer, and see you for season - ack! - NINE in the fall! Nora and Cathi