Getting Closer to Mind-reading Products

A lamp that changes color based on your facial expression:

Wired cover story this month:
In the Programmable World, All Our Objects Will Act as One

Just announced:
Arduino Yún with on-board WiFi

Vittorio Cuculo took an Arduino, an RGB LED, and an IKEA lamp and programmed the system to recognize your facial expression and change the color of the light based on how it thinks you’re feeling. I’ll say that again. How it thinks you’re feeling. Sure, it’s a simple interaction and it may be easy to argue the utility of such a system, but projects like this represent significant steps into the future of our interactions with the physical objects we own even though the steps may appear, at first blush, to be small.

via Arduino Blog

Design, Manufacture, Test as Told by McLaren

It costs absolutely the same amount of money to make a car look ugly as it does to make it look beautiful.

Regarding the McLaren design language:

…it’s not coming from just aesthetics. It’s very easy to design a sexy car; a dramatic looking car. That’s not what design, for me, is all about. It’s more about doing efficient design that has a reason for being.

(emphasis mine)

Frank Stephenson, automotive designer and Director of Styling at McLaren Automotive

While it can be interesting to hear the designer wax poetic about design philosophy it’s even more interesting seeing how the design comes to life:

Even better to see the product perform as designed:

Explaining Diagrams

Diagrams. Charts, graphs, and maps. Nearly everyone on a product team makes them yet few of them are great. How do you make them better? As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of fundamentals and this video by Virtual Beauty brilliantly communicates the fundamentals of diagrams:

Explaining Diagrams: a short introduction from Virtual Beauty on Vimeo.

Via the always inspiring Flowing Data

Interested in learning more? Start with Edward Tufte:

Fastener Innovation

I’m not even going to bother trying to explain how Rotite‘s helical dovetail works. Just watch the video.

Rotite Technologies from Rotite Technologies on Vimeo.

Rotite is a potentially diverse technology, with a multitude of applications, in a range of industries. Therein there are “Industry Specific” and “Application Specific” and “Geometrically Specific” Licenses available.We can assist you both in the right choice of license and the ideal geometric solution for your application.

Rotite Technologies offer a comprehensive support package to all our licensees , ensuring you stay up to date with all “Geometric, Technical and Intellectual Developments “.
We offer a range complimentary support services such as prototyping and detailed structural analysis.This ensures that together, we can optimise your intended application and get your products to market – quicker.

It isn’t often I see something so interesting applied to something as mundane as fasteners. If you’re using this technology in a specific application let me know at design (at)

There are 433 Parts in your Telephone

We’re not talking about that Android phone, Windows phone, or iPhone in your pocket. This 1947 video from Bell Telephone Systems shows all the pieces of a 300 Series phone, designed by Henry Dreyfuss, coming together. If “Tommy Telephone” annoys you the way he annoyed me, skip ahead to about the 3:15 mark when the phone parts make their appearance.

It’s interesting to see not only the parts, their geometry and how they fit together, but also the materials used. Not surprising to see copper, nickel, and gold on the list. The lead surprised me for the moment before I realized the product was designed in the 1930’s. Wax, leather, linen, cotton? Yes.

Seeing all the pieces of such an iconic, ubiquitous product come together reinforces the great respect I have for early industrial designers.

Engineer vs. Designer Podcast

Josh Mings of Solidsmack and Adam O’Hern of have been getting together every week and choppin’ it up over some design and engineering topics, tips, tricks, interviews with special guests, recording it, and publishing the conversation as “Engineer vs. Designer.” Episode 7 airs today with a little insight into the philosophy behind Form Loves Function along with their usual industry news, tips, and tricks. Check it out at

Cam-driven Automation

Back before nearly every piece of manufacturing equipment shipped with computers and motors, automated equipment was driven by cams; mechanical cams not “Computer Aided Machining.” I saw such a machine when I was a young man. Remembering how impressed I was watching this machine execute a dozen or so movements all driven by a single cam shaft with multiple cams, I set out on a video search for footage of such machines. After way too many hours this is the best I could find. It’s footage of a vintage multi-spindle lathe from a now-defunct machine shop in the UK.

It might not be as exciting as watching a 5-axis machine cut a motocross helmet from a block of aluminum, but at about 90 seconds in you can see one of the cam shafts driving some movement. There is a good overview shot at about 2:01 and an interesting close-up on about 5 axes of movement at about the 2:30 mark. There are 7:15 minutes altogether with footage of a few machines.

Deus Ex Machina 1200 Street Tracker

Deus Ex Machina transforms vintage motorcycles into modern machines of mayhem while staying to true the original heritage. Check out the step-by-step photos of this 1200 Street Tracker:

And while we’re on the topic, why not check out some of the Deus creations rippin’ at Harold Park Paceway:

Deus Ex Machina – Harold Park Paceway Revisited from Deus Customs on Vimeo.