Future Cities Digest #13 (20.02.2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

#transformative #companies #MIT #TechReview

MIT Tech Review published recently a list of 50 ‘smartest companies‘ that in their opinion represent ‘companies that made strides in the past year that will define their field’. The top three are Ilumina, Tesla Motors and Google. Ilumina was ranked first, as it is becoming the dominant supplier of fundamental technology – both software & hardware – for the age of genomic medicine. Second is Tesla Motors, pioneering electric vehicles and selling twice as many cars as either Nissan or GM did when they first introduced their battery-powered vehicles. Thirdly – and not surprisingly – Google, with its strengthening capabilities in consumer electronics. Other organizations on the list worth the attention include: D-Wave – for trying to build the quantum computer, Bright Source – for deploying the world’s largest solar plant, Oculus VR – for spearheading virtual reality headsets, Jawbone – for making wearable and tracking technology mainstream, and Uber – for disrupting the taxi business.

#glass #wearable’s  #diffusion #Google

Google’s flagship wearable – Glass –  tackles with problems of ‘being a device which is so different from existing mobile computers, having a software ecosystem which is immature, and a concept which seems too geeky to be a successful mass-market product’. For that reason Google already engages in initiatives ‘de-geekyfing the user experience. It is carefully selecting its early adopters (in the ‘Explorers Programme’), introduces mass-market designer frames, and releases a guide for nor being a ‘Glasshole’. After all, one of the thorniest questions is about privacy — or rather, privacy perceptions – the main problem remaining: how do we prove we’re not taking a picture? Another unsettled aspect is usability – Google’s voice recognition works extremely well for navigating menus (because it’s easy to match a second of speech with one of a dozen possible menu choices) but the technology is not as reliable for captioning photos and replying to messages point, especially in crowded settings. There is a good, comprehensive article about the device – worth the time for those interested.

#snow #neckdowns #traffic #Economist

What does snow tell us about natural traffic control? The Economist dedicated this week a column to an initiative supported by Streetfilms, a company which specialises in using short films to highlight how transportation design (and policies) lead to ‘smarter cities’. It has been engaged in raising awareness about ‘sneckdowns’ (originating from ‘snowy’ + ‘neckdown’), an idea that takes advantage of using snow accumulated after storms for designing safer streets. The snow acts as ‘nature’s tracing paper’ and unravels how cars and pedestrians use the street. This reveals where cars carve a path through the city and more importantly, the parts of the road left untouched by the wheels. These surplus spaces could be then used for ‘traffic calming’, narrowing roads or introducing street furniture. Also, people are encouraged to get involved in raising awareness about their area by taking pictures of their streets and uploading the content via twitter. This initiative corresponds quite well with yesterday’s presentation from Claire about human-centred design and creating cities for people.

 #design #futures #architecture #NYC

The Museum of Modern Art PS1 and the art institute in New York have recently selected architect David Benjamin as the winner of their annual Young Architects Program competition. The winning building called Hi-Fy is marketed as a showcase for ‘a new paradigm in design’ –  a combination of self-assembling, industrial and compostable elements. That said, Hi-Fy is a self-assembling fungus tower. It is made up of bricks composed of chopped up corn husks and mycelin (fungus). Once these two elements are combined they are placed in a rectangular mould made up of rectangular shapes allowing for the building to grow into place – morphing the disciplines of biological technology and architecture. The building will be grown in July 2014 at the MoMA PS1 site in New York.

New releases on Amazon:

William SW Lim, chairman of the Asian Urban Lab, brought together architects, designers, historians, sociologists and urbanists from the region to discuss public space in selected Asian cities – Chongqing, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Taipei.  The book emphasises how engaging with the present actuality of cities and public awareness of spatial justice are crucial  for the achievement of spatial justice that helps to create a greater level of happiness across societies.

Based on the results of research by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, “Smart Communities” provides directions for strategic decision-making and outlines key strategies used by thousands of leaders who have worked to create successful communities. The book offers leaders from both the public and private sectors tools they need to build a civic infrastructure and create a better space for all the community’s citizens.

De Vaal’ book discusses the ways in which digital and mobile media are changing urban life and our everyday experience of our physical surroundings; it ask how do they affect how the city functions as a community and provides both examples of new media implementations as well as some historical case studies.

This week’s artefact from the future:
Choice Reducer 5000 (IFTF)
3:11 pm, your weakest time. You’ve already reached your calorie limit for the day, but the vending machine still calls. Time for a new defense — an app for your augmented reality glasses that blocks from view the foods that you shouldn’t eat. Instead, the app shows minutes of treadmill time to work them off. Your best friend Neela is your food coach, and she even removes your worst weakness altogether. Mounting evidence shows that the plethora of choices we face when finding food are bad for our peace of mind and self-control, but store formats are slow to change. Manufacturers are in a bind between simplifying and catering to fragmenting desires. But in this future, an individual reclaims choice through voluntary simplicity: using augmented reality to mask temptations and stick to health goals.