Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

Eubiq Plugs

Eubiq Plugs

Recently the Eubiq (hey, it’s a Singaporean company!) power tracks and plugs were featured on quite a few design and gadget websites, touting to solve most of the common problems associated with current plugs. The most obvious benefit would be the fact that you can place your plug anywhere within the rail – up to 12 plugs per meter of track.

Design wise, it is unobtrusive and versatile, fitting into home and office interiors very well. The grey rubber strip effectively prevents water from splashes (e.g. in the kitchen). They claim it is virtually impossible to get an electrical shock because of the design – if you poke your finger through the grey rubber sleeves, all you touch is the earth contact – which is grounded and current-free. It has adapters so you can work with current plugs. You can order the system by the meter. You can integrate the system together with LAN data cables. Even the plugs themselves look sleek and modern. It almost seems too good to be true!

There are some clear advantages of the Eubiq system over current conventional sockets, and I am sure they’d be able to find buyers who’d adopt these plugs. Would it be a revolution in the world of plugs and sockets – like what CD did to the cassette tapes? I think not – it’d probably remain a product for a niche market where discreet appearance weighs heavily, but it does not seem like a candidate that will replace our plugs-and-sockets. Here’s why:

Firstly, it is a proprietary, patented standard. The fact that I’m naturally allergic to closed, proprietary (and almost by definition more expensive) standards aside, having a protected standard creates barriers to purchase and adoption. While it protects intellectual property and profits, it also at the same time prevents mass adoption, especially since the company is a relatively small one without much clout. Yes, there are adapters that lets your conventional plugs fit their track system, but unless some miracle switches all the plugs in the house to their Eubiq plugs, you’d find the appeal of Eubiq diminishing very quickly as you purchase 30 adaptors for the plugs in your house.

Eubiq Kitchen

Secondly, the freedom that this new system offer isn’t all that great. Right, so you can now place your plug anywhere along a 1-dimensional (horizontal or vertical, usually) axis. What sort of difference does that make, really, to be able to place your plug maybe 50 cm more towards the left? If a new system allows me to place my plug, for instance, anywhere in a 1mx1m space, then it’d make some real sense. To be able to have a meaningful semblance of freedom and liberation with this system, you’d practically have to have this track run through most of your walls.

Some other peeves: Ultimately the cable mess problems are not solved. Cables are still going to grow out of the sockets (whether linear track or discrete sockets), merrily remaining an eyesore within the space between the wall and the appliance. Also, the 12-socket per meter figure is just a best-case scenario. From what the salesperson told me, it’d be hard-pressed to support more than a few heavier-duty appliances (e.g. kettles and fridges) per meter. It is not cheap – and for what you pay for, you are in bondage to use their plugs/adaptors only. Also, in case you imagined that the plugs can slide along while you move your appliances, that isn’t the case. They are very firm, and you’re better off unplugging from the track and then replugging it in a new location if you need to shift your plug.

Perhaps I’m ranting a little too much. I do, however, have a tendency to be harsher in my critiques for products that I am have higher hopes, or am more excited with. Kudos still, to the innovation and design of Eubiq, which is in its present incarnation already loaded with quite a few clever design solutions like the shock-proof safety features.

What’s your take?

Electrolux Design Lab 2007

Electrolux Design Lab 2007

“So listen to me you boys and girls,
If design is your thing,
And you’ve got some zing,
Then take a fling it’d be no bee sting

Don’t matter if you’re name is Ling, Singh or Bling,
Or if you’re a left wing or a right wing
This challenge’s still awaiting.”

Don’t blame me if you didn’t like the little (cheesy?) “rap” above – it aint from me, it’s from Electrolux’s official Youtube video to promote their Design Lab 2007. It does seem like they’ve taken an entirely different tack in promoting this year’s design competition, what with the whimsical promotion video that is a clear attempt to engage and get closer to the target audience – young design students.

If you’re the serious type, here’s the beef:

For this 5th year of the Electrolux Design Lab competition they are seeking submissions for household appliances that are environmentally sound, commercially-viable and enable people to better live in harmony with the environment. The goal is to get the applicants to go above and beyond simple energy and water efficiency and suggest ways to foster sustainable behavior and product usage.
Electrolux Design Lab, over the previous years, has attracted thousands of applicants from over 80 countries and some of those concepts submitted are now actually in the early stages of development. The grand prize is 5,000 Euros and a six-month internship at one of Electrolux’s design centers. This year the gala dinner and award ceremony will take place at the end of November in Paris!

I particularly liked the brief this year – “to go above and beyond simple energy and water efficiency and suggest ways to foster sustainable behavior and product usage”. Green is a definite priority on everybody’s agenda these few years, rising in status as an “afterthought” to a conscious choice of conscience. And that sentence in particular I think captured the attitude very well. It’s no longer enough to be more efficient, save a little here and there. Green has become an attitude to be identified with, and to market with – the attitude towards environmental protection is shifting from a passive “damage-reduction” mode to an active lifestyle preference for many.

I’d definitely anticipate seeing concepts that go beyond simple, mechanical means to reduce consumption, but more to influence our conscious behaviour, which is all the more difficult for a white-goods company like Electrolux whose core offerings are still very much rooted in the consumption of water and electricity currently. Too bad I’m no longer a student. 😦

Playground formed from a Line

Playground from a Line

This is as much an art installation as a out-of-the-box playground design. If I knew more Dutch (is it Dutch?) I’d probably be able to give you more information, but as for now, you can simply head on to the artist’s site.

Bring the Love Back

The media landscape today’s definitely a vastly different one than just twenty years ago. Effective advertisements of yore were mass-blasted through the conventional channels: TV, Mass Print, radio, etc. Most of the time, the effectiveness of the campaign scaled rather proportionally with your pockets.

With recent developments in technology, we’re seeing the emergence of a whole new ballgame.  We can now skip past the ads in TV program segments. We probably don’t even watch TV all that much – preferring to get our stuff through the Internet, sans advertisements, at our own time and pace. We’re freed from the confines of having to sit through commercials, informercials – we can effectively filter them now.

What, then, happens to the conversation between the advertiser and the consumer? This video explores.

[By the people from Bringtheloveback]

Intel’s Thin Laptop

Intel Thin Laptop

Wow. That’s a really thin and cool laptop. Designed by ZIBA with Intel’s engineers, it is what most people would ask for in their dream laptops. Name it: 0.7 inches thick, 1kg weight, Flash drive (no more scary spinning hard disk – they’re much more stable), 14 hours battery life (Flash drive requires much less power than hard disks), and a folder for the laptop that is also its charger.

For now it’s still a prototype, but let’s hope it’d come true. Quickly. And cheaply.

[Business Week has more detail]

World’s First Air Car

Air Car

India’s largest automaker is set to start producing the world’s first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engine’s pistons. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008.

With a top speed of 68mph and a 125 mile range, this car might be a little shabby for a full-fledged family car, but they are decent enough for urban transit, especially considering the cost: 340 liters of air compressed at 4350 psi can be refilled in a few minutes, at only $2.

I have always wondered about the validity of an “air-car” though. While it certainly sounds very green – powered by air, does no harmful emissions at all – physics tells me that the work required to compress the air would have to involve some sort of energy input somewhere, whether it be at the car’s compressor, or the delivery pump. What do these pumps run on? Oil? Electricity? Is the compressed-air engine more efficient than the combustion engine?

Book Pop-Up Photography

Joseph Bellows

Allen’s photographs are inspired by his childhood experiences with pop-up books and View-Masters. He begins his process by cutting figures and images out of illustrated pages of old books and vintage fiction novels. Allen then cleverly rearranges and juxtaposes the forms to create three-dimensional scenes. Next, he carefully lights his subjects and photographs the scenes.

Extremely poetic, don’t you think?

[link]

Fair(y) Use – Tale

Here’s an amazing effort by a professor in a university to illustrate what copyright means. The entire movie was narrated by a continuous montage of narrative derived from snippets of Disney’s movie (which perfectly illustrates the principle of fair use as satire). It’s quite refreshing to see this rehash as a retort to the sometimes absurd legal measures taken by copyright owners like Disney!

Some Ecards

Someecards

Haha, if you ever need some real, honest-to-(not so)goodness e-cards, here are some really good ones. Just about stripping away every sense of human cordiality in exchange for a jab of brutal honesty (nice designs too!).

[someecards]

PowerCursor

Power Cursors

PowerCursor is a Flash toolkit that web designers can embed in their designs to have interfaces with tactile properties – like slope, roughness, motion, etc. – by simulating them in terms of visual feedback. For instance, if you hover your cursor over the “Hills” area, your mouse cursor moves much slower when going “upslope”; if you run your cursor in the “Maze”, it can only follow the paths, etc. This brings yet another dimension into websites that are traditionally thought of as flat papers – “webpages“.

The application could be interesting – giving textures to a website. For now I can’t quite imagine a site which would be enhanced by this – maybe Flash games. I just hope that Flash web interface designers would take a page from history: let’s not have a whole barrage of “texture-enabled” websites that serves little to enhance, or even deteriorate, the usage experience, ala “Skip Flash Intro”.