3D Printing Is a Big Help for Little Guys

26. November 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

As we get older, we tend to accept that there are some things in life that are out of our control; the best we can do is try to be prepared for them. Although we can't be prepared for every injury, we can learn from those we've already had and try to help those who are unable to help themselves.

Fortunately, the ways we can help others are being greatly improved by advances in technology. Conditions thought to be permanent just a few years ago can now be mended in a variety of ways. The following stories are about little ones who got big help from advances in 3D printing.

Puppy Love

From the moment Tumbles was born, his life wasn't easy. This adorable pup was born without his two front legs, and could not be nursed by his mother along with the rest of his litter. Hopes weren't very high for Tumbles when he was brought to an animal shelter in Athens, OH. But when a photo of the puppy went viral, his chances for a better life improved.

puppy in wheelchair
Image via IFLScience.

When the Ohio University Innovation Center learned about Tumbles, they saw a way they could help. Within fourteen hours, the Innovation Center designed and 3D-printed a special wheelchair-style apparatus for him. Tumbles is still getting used to being so mobile, but everybody is impressed by how quickly he's adapted. As shelter president Angela Marx put it, "He's a little sweetheart and doesn't act as if he has any limitations."

Hands Together

Before John Shull joined the Rochester Institute of Technology, he was put off by how prohibitive it was to procure prosthetics, especially for children. With the average attachment costing upwards of forty thousand dollars, many never received the help necessary to simplify their daily lives.

prosthetics and a laptop computer
Image via PBS.

At the Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York, Shull and his associates have dedicated themselves to creating free, fully functional 3D-printed prosthetics for children. Although the materials used aren't as high-grade as those used in expensive, top-of-the-line models, Shull says that they're more adaptable to children who are still growing. "It doesn't make sense to spend $40,000 on something they're going to outgrow in a year."

It's important to Shull that the children receiving the prosthetics not be solely defined by them. The bespectacled inventor says, "If I didn't have glasses in a world in which there's lots of fine print, I would be disabled. As it is, I'm just a guy who wears glasses."

Little Things Matter Most

Youths adapt to their environment and circumstances far more quickly than adults, and it's that sort of adaptation that inspires people of all ages to achieve more. Although unforeseen factors can inhibit one's abilities, they can also inspire the very innovations that enable us to overcome those conditions.

The Science Behind Logo Design

19. November 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

It's easy to say that design has a lasting effect, but most people don't take time to think about what that means. Logos with a lasting effect are the result of careful research into human reactions to colors, shapes, and patterns.

With the some of the world's biggest companies making changes to their interfaces in order to become more visually appealing, the complexity behind such changes is worth appreciating.

The Eyes Have It

The letter-based vision test has become a staple of waiting rooms the world over. Whether you're visiting the optometrist, getting your annual physical, or renewing your driver's license, you've probably had to stare long and hard at the shrinking cascade of letters on the white board. Unpleasant though it can be, the test is known for having prevented countless maladies. What isn't well known is the long and complex history behind the test.

letter-based vision test board
Image via Gizmodo.

In a recent article for Gizmodo, graphic designer Lorrie Frear traces the history of the contemporary eye chart. Beginning with the first chart, designed in 1836 by Heinrich Küchler, Frear describes how the test has been refined over the last 179 years. The refinements have taken into account physical factors like font design and viewer distance, along with psychological factors, such as the viewer's ability to describe the letters or words on the chart.

Color Me Sold

As you walk down the grocery aisle to pick up your favorite cereal, you probably put more thought into the taste of the cereal than the color of the box or the lettering of the logo. Still, why is it that you are drawn to one box more than all the others?

poster on the psychology of logo design
Image via Inc.

The design of the brands you see every day is the result of countless hours of research. The above infographic is a quick primer on the most common factors used in the design of some of the world's most recognizable brands. You may believe your choice is based solely on taste, but that nice-looking box has an influence on your wallet that you might not even be conscious of.

Added Benefits

Perhaps the most intriguing factor in the psychology of consumer brands is the fact that the average person is taking part in an experiment that never ends. Just as the right to vote gives people an active role in the mechanics of their government, so the purchases consumers make give them an active role in their economy. That's why those who want consumers' hard-earned money invest so much time and energy into influencing their decisions.

Child's Play: New Printing and Design Tools

Scientists the world over agree that encouraging the creative tendencies of children is not only helpful to their overall intelligence, but crucial to their mental development. There’s also a lot of fun to be had in playtime activities such as assembling blocks, drawing pictures, and playing on jungle gyms.

While such playtime activities are encouraged during childhood, they're generally expected to be given up by adulthood. But if childhood games can stimulate the brain of a young person, who’s to say they wouldn't work on people who’ve become set in their ways? Several of the world’s most prominent behavioral therapists have asked that very question.

Fine Line

Coloring books have been a staple of children’s playtime for over a century, and their popularity shows no signs of waning. A typical volume consists of vector-like black-and-white images, with color added by the user. Recently, this “childish” past time has seen an increase in popularity among adults as a calming activity for their increasingly stressful lives.

adult coloring book design
Image via The Atlantic.

In a recent piece for The Atlantic, writer Julie Beck argues that, although this appears to fall into the recent trend of adults' recreating childhood activities, coloring is in fact a form of art therapy. “There's something satisfying about seeing your thought and effort create a tangible, pretty thing at a reasonable, predictable pace,” says Beck. “This rarely happens in life.” Beck reports that the technique has proved useful for her in dealing with the pressures of everyday life, and believes it could for many others.

Baby’s First Design Kit

In an increasingly digitized world, it’s easy for both children and parents to look at modern technology as nothing more than an easy distraction for the little ones so that parents can steal a few moments for themselves. But this hasn’t stopped many innovators from using technological tools to teach children practical skills.

can-do children's products
Image via Mental Floss.

Khandu (pronounced “Can Do”) is a forthcoming game created by the Spanish design agency Seven Thinkers. The goal of the card game is to teach children how to think like designers, getting them to come up with and implement ideas. Although the game is currently only available through Seven Thinkers’ Kickstarter campaign, the creators are hoping to have it accepted as part of Pope Francis’s Scholas Occurentas program.

Repeating Patterns

No matter what one’s age, it’s important to have a creative outlet in one's life. The stories above show that age need not decide how one's creativity is expressed. Whether you're an eight-year-old or an eighty-year-old, you should feel free to take a little time out of each day to color the world your own way.

Signs of the Times

5. November 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: , , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

For regular readers of this blog, it should come as no surprise that we appreciate the importance of a good logo. A lifetime of training and precision can go into creating pieces of brand recognition. Though logos may be seen only momentarily, they generally leave a lasting impact on the people who see them.

This is just as true for independent business and creators as it is for corporations on Madison Avenue. The "little guys" might not have the financial backing of their larger counterparts, but what they lack in financing they can make up for in creativity. Once designers make a connection with their intended audience, they can inspire a sense of loyalty bordering on the religious.

Rock & Rule

The basement or garage may not seem like the most auspicious place to begin a successful career, but many of the world's most memorable innovators started their careers right there. From Hewlett/Packard to Apple computers, the garage has proved to be a breeding ground for creative mavericks.

Perhaps no industry has benefited more from "garage innovation" than rock music. Metal music in particular has always stood on the fringes of the musical mainstream. It's no wonder that logos created for many metal bands reflect that same outsider status.

heavy metal band logo
Image via Wired.

A typical metal logo wouldn't look out of place on a horror-film poster, and that's not an accident. The logos lend visualizations to the dark and aggressive music. In designer Mark Riddick's new book Logos from Hell, he collects and comments on 600 logos from metal acts over the past 30 years. "The genre kind of commands a particular style of logo that the listener can identify with," says Riddick. "I want people to recognize this as much more than a high schooler scribbling in his notebook and calling it art. This is legitimate serious talent. It's a subculture that's create a whole look and feel unlike any other. That's a powerful thing."

Bunny Hop

For more than 60 years, Playboy magazine has been the industry standard for showcasing some of the world's most beautiful women. The magazine's first issue featured a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe and has since gone on to feature award-winning actresses and renowned supermodels, often wearing nothing more than a smile.

That tradition is about to change, in light of the recent announcement that the magazine will no longer feature nude pictorials. It's a bold move, to be sure, but it raises the question whether Playboy's photo spread's were ever as important as its famous logo.

Playboy bunny logo
Image via Wired.

The Playboy bunny logo was reportedly created in just half an hour by Chicago artist Art Paul. Founder Hugh Hefner commissioned a design that, like the magazine he was assembling, would be "a projection of the wonderful world I dig." After the recent announcement, WIRED magazine design columnist Magaret Rhodes argued that the company's award-winning writing and legendary icon were more important than its infamous photos. "Losing the nudes shouldn't pose a big threat," writes Rhodes. "If you're looking for pornography in 2015, you're not likely to pick up a print edition of Playboy. For a lifestyle brand that once claimed to prize Picasso, Nietzsche, and sex equally, that can only be a good thing."

Medium Cool

Since its creation in 2012, Medium has quickly become one of the Web's premier platforms for longform writing. The layout is intentionally simple so that focus is kept on the written essays rather than on flashy design. But that hasn't stopped the site from making noticeable design changes, the most recent of which was the introduction of its new logo.

Medium logo
Image via Medium.

Although the original "Stag M" logo—which consisted of a white "M" against a black background, or vice versa, proudly represented the site's simple design, the creators felt it was time for a change to something less monochromatic. "This simple geometric interpretation of the M felt fun, like a delightful game or a deeply satisfying puzzle," said Medium reps Erich Nagler and Karen Jaimes. "We couldn't stop ourselves from playing with all the different treatments, mutations, and color combinations it was practically begging for."

Although there were no announcements about expanding the design to other parts of the site, the reps maintained that they were happy with the design, which does not distract from the essays for which the site is still known.

Same Name

People remember a logo even when they don't remember what a company actually does. That said, making brand recognition the sole focus risks making the services purely superficial; failing to evolve the brand itself risks making it obsolete. In the end, a beautiful design will catch people's attention, but adherence to high quality will keep them coming back.

Amazing Attachments

Regular readers of this blog will know that we've shared many wonderful stories about the use of 3D printing in the field of medicine. The technology has quickly been adopted for everything from the growth of replacement organs to the creation of prosthetic limbs. The processes associated with 3D printing could become one of the most revolutionary advances in the history of modern medicine.

With all the advances made so far, perhaps the most pleasant surprise is that they're showing no signs of slowing. Thanks to this technology, ailments and disabilities previously thought to have no treatment could have possible cures. The following stories document the latest advances of medical 3D printing, and it's safe to say they won't be the last.

Homegrown Hearts

Scientists at the University of Florida recently made headlines when they revealed that they'd created a new gel-based 3D-printing process. Printed using this process, the final product is less likely to fall apart after printing is complete. The University had successfully printed complex shapes with a variety of materials, including living cells from human blood vessels and canine kidneys. Although this would seem to be the perfect prelude for the printing of replacement organs, the university's team was unable to keep the living cells alive within the gel. That's where Carnegie Mellon comes in.

cells in gel
Image via IFL Science.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have long been working on their own process for 3D-printing organs. They recently had a major breakthrough when they concluded that they could successfully print a working human heart. Using a chemical-based gel process of their own design, the researchers began printing arteries and veins.

The heart being an organ that is unable to repair itself when injured, the importance of the Carnegie process was not lost on its creators. Although printing a complete organ is still expensive and time-consuming, the idea that it may become a commonplace process isn't so far-fetched anymore.

Heavily Armed

The ability to procure a prosthetic limb isn't only a matter of restoring physical ability. Social stigmas associated with being an amputee must be overcome. Great strides have been made in making modern prosthetics as visually appealing as they are functional. Yet, as appealing as the new designs are, they still lack sensation, and may draw unwanted attention to the amputee. It has long been the goal of prosthetic designers to create a skin-like covering that would look as real as organic skin and provide a sense of touch to the wearer. Science has just moved one step closer to attaining these goals.

prosthetic hand
Image via Gizmodo.

Researchers at Stanford University, led by electrical engineer Benjamin Tee, have created a system they call DiTact (The Digital Tactical System). It uses a series of sensors in the prosthetic which sends signals back to the optical nerves in the brain, restoring a sense of touch to the amputee. What's more, the artificial skin is made from flexible material. The next step will be to recreate the look of organic flesh. This is, however, only a long-term goal for the Stanford team.

As inspiring as the above stories are, it's too soon to say that made-to-order organs will be readily available. But with 3D-printing technology being used to create everything from fire arms to human teeth, don't be surprised if printed replacements come sooner than you'd expect.

Building your own LEGO Land

For more than sixty years, LEGOs have allowed children all over the world to create worlds of their own. Although most sets come with a predetermined set of specs to follow, much of the fun lies in veering away from those designs. You might start out making a fire station and wind up constructing a small fortress. Or you might begin with a mansion and then add on propellers. The appeal of LEGOs has always been that the possibilities are endless. What begins as a simple pile of bricks can easily turn into a complex work of art. Wouldn't it be great if you could create life-size things with LEGOs? It used to be a dream, but now it's one step closer to becoming reality. The following stories are about how professionals use LEGOs and 3D printing to create real-world designs.

Building a City

Many factors have to be considered in urban planning: location, population, environmental concerns, potential growth. In addition to those factors, planners must consider the design area. Architects want their buildings to be aesthetically pleasing in addition to being functional. The difficulty lies in getting a clear idea of the visuals from a static set of blueprints. That's where LEGO comes in.

lego city
Image via City Lab

At the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a new public display allows Boston residents to shape a city as they see fit. MIT's display features a 3D projection of the city laid out on an interactive board. Citizens then use LEGO pieces to shape an area of the city, to which the projection automatically adjusts itself. This allows Boston citizens to see very quickly how construction proposals would positively or negatively affect the city.

According to Chris Zegras, professor of Transportation and Urban Planning at MIT, the purpose of the project is to bridge the gap between city planners and the average citizen. "Our ultimate objective is this idea of co-creation," explains Zegras. "Having producers and consumers work intimately together in the production of a good creates a better good. We would like that to happen in how we produce 21st-century transit systems."

Happy Camper

When kids create LEGO automobiles, they're usually variations of the cars their parents drive or re-creations of vehicles from films and television shows they've watched. Whatever the design, both parents and kids wish they could build their own vehicle and take it for a test drive. At the recent Motorhome and Caravan Show in the United Kingdom, one such vehicle really was taken out on the road.

lego camper
Image via Guinness World Records

One of the highlights of the show was the display of life-sized caravan camper built from 215,158 LEGO pieces, setting a Guinness World Record for the largest caravan built with interlocking bricks. The camper was built over 12 weeks, and required more than a thousand man hours. As impressive as it is in design, what really sets the camper apart is that it's fully functional. It features a sink with running water, a working refrigerator, and even a bed, among other amenities. The camper will next be shown alongside its real-life counterpart at BRICK, a British LEGO fan event, in late October, before being displayed in London in early December.

Did you play with LEGOs as a kid? How about as an adult? Share your stories in the comments below!

Modern Day Mapping

The practical purpose of maps has often overshadowed their artistic value. Maps are meant to be easy-to-read guides that lead you from Point A to Point B. At the same time, their design is the work of skilled illustrators taking great pains to make the maps not only practical, but visually appealing as well.

As technology advances and borders are redrawn, it's tempting to think of old maps as obsolete relics. But they provide a fascinating look at the world as it once existed, and the illustrative methods that were once considered state of the art. The following two stories show us how far we've come and perhaps provide a glimpse of what lies ahead.

Course Plotter

There are few people in the United States who can read an atlas as well as John Hessler can. A cartography expert for the Library of Congress, he's made it his life's work to chart the evolution of the visual guides that humans have used to get around. One of the most important things he's discovered is that the visual design of a map is just as important as the geographical data it represents.

Ptolemy Map
Image via Wired.

"What we're looking at whenever we're looking at a map is an abstraction," Hessler says. "Really what we're doing is like any visual art or design; were taking extreme complexity that takes place in the real world and abstracting it to simple visual images that help us understand complex interactions." Hessler showcases a great deal of his knowledge in the new Phaidon Publishing book Map: Exploring the World. The book collects over three hundred historical maps from all over the world.

Big Apple on the Tree

Although the isle of Manhattan is renowned for being a hub of cultural change, its place as a hub of geographical change can sometimes prove controversial. Both historians and casual New Yorkers have wondered what it would be like to see The Big Apple before the skyscrapers were built. Thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Society, you can.

Green Manhattan
Image via Mental Floss.

The Welikia Project is a digital experiment by the WCS which takes satellite images of modern-day Manhattan and replaces them with realistic visualizations of how they would have looked in years past. This allows users to see the city covered entirely with flora and fauna.

It's impossible to predict how maps may be used in the distant future, because it's impossible to know what new areas will be discovered next. But, then, part of the fun of looking at maps is documenting how far you've come.

Hackers Use Drones to Steal Wireless Print Jobs

8. October 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

Wifi in the Sky

Researchers in Singapore recently proved that unsecured wireless data isn't safe - even if it's 30 stories in the air. The "hackers" attached a smart phone loaded with two different apps they designed to a drone. The first detects open wifi printers and alerts organizations that their device is open to attack. The second app actually intercepts the data being sent to the printer. The project was designed by students Jinghui Toh and Hatib Muhammad in part of a government-sponsored effort to defend against cyber attacks. 

The students were supervised by Yuval Elovici, head of iTrust, a cybersecurity research center at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. "The main point [of the research] was to develop a mechanism to try to patrol the perimeter of the organization and find open printers from outside the organization," Elovici says. "It’s dramatically cheaper than a conventional pen test."

A drone hovering outside your office window would be hard to miss, but a typical printer's signals are transmitted 30 meters. Combine this with the hacker controlling the drone from a half mile away, or an autonomous drone flying itself, and the thief is hard to track down. In the video above, researchers even attached a phone to a robot vacuum cleaner and left it to clean up data as it moved its way around the building.

You can read the rest of the details of this study on Wired.

Protect Your Printer

The biggest takeaway from this research is that no network is safe, whether it's your home wifi or the office printer network. If you don't have a dedicated IT professional or tech-savvy friend, here is some information from HP on the different types of networks and how to protect them. Tips include working behind a firewall, creating a network just for guests, and securing your printer account.

Take a few minutes to secure your networks now. It could save you a lot of time and hassle in the future!

 

Tiny Masterpieces

For centuries, scholars and commoners alike have debated what defines the word "art." Is the distinction between what is and isn't art made by financial valuation? Do people need to have training in order for their work to be considered legitimate art? Are artists truly artists if their work is not their sole occupation? These questions and more have kept history's greatest minds awake at night.

Still, if there's one thing humanity has proven throughout its existence, it's that there's no limit to the type of canvas people can use for their art. From etchings on cave walls to galleries of the modern metropolis, our species has shown its boundless creativity by designing with whatever materials are available and on whatever canvas can be found.

By the Spoonful

All parents have told their children at one time or another not to play with their food. Ioana Vanc was told the same thing growing up as a child in Romania, but her artistic sensibilities were hardly reined in. Now an adult and a professional artist, she has taken her messy childhood habit and turned it into a hobby that has brought her worldwide recognition.

zebras on a teaspoon
Image via Ioana.

Using nothing more than the most minimal of food scraps, Vanc creates colorful landscapes and recognizable portraits on the surface of a teaspoon. Her works include zebras in an open plain, as well as likenesses of celebrities Karl Lagerfeld, Iris Apfel, and even Kermit the Frog. Regular updates to Vanc's gallery can be found by following her Instagram page. They make for some of the more interesting food pictures one can find on the site.

Petri Paintings

With art being such a deeply ingrained part of the human experience, it isn't very far-fetched to think that artistic urges might be part of the very building blocks of our existence. Similarly, it isn't too great a stretch to imagine those very building blocks becoming works of art themselves. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) recently launched the first-ever Agar Art competition, inviting challengers to use microorganisms and mold to create art pieces that fit inside of petri dishes.


Petri dish
Image via Hyperallergic.

The above stories show how, more often than not, art adheres more to vision than to tool or format. All it takes is a little imagination to transform something ordinary into something truly inspiring.

The ABCs of Science

24. September 2015 13:57 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments (0)

The contradictory nature of language makes it fascinating. The nuances and inflections found in various languages seem to separate us. Meanwhile, the widespread use of language brings us together. Language is one of the hallmarks of human evolution. It's a diverse, evolving system that represents our inherent need to connect with one another.

Although the importance of language can’t be overestimated, its prolific use is often taken for granted. Varying dialects and physical disabilities create even more difficulties in communication, even among those who speak the same language. Whether or not it's a matter of life or death, people need to be able to get their message across as clearly as possible. Fortunately, when regular words fail us, technology lends some assistance.

Hands-On Speech

Since its creation in 1824, the Braille writing system has been an invaluable resource for the visually impaired. Braille readers are able to decipher literature physically by moving their hands across deep impressions in paper. Unfortunately, the process by which Braille pages are printed is both costly and time-consuming. In the fast-paced Digital Age, this puts the blind at risk for not getting crucial information in a timely fashion. One young inventor is hoping to change that.

Shubham Banerjee
Image via Smithsonian Mag

Although twelve-year-old Shubham Banerjee has full use of his sight, he is well aware of the statistics regarding the drop-off in modern Braille usage. With the prohibitive cost of printing and the popularity of voice-to-text technology, he saw that people were missing out on access to an important literary tool. It was then that the young engineering student used a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit to build a prototype Braille printer that he named Braigo. The printer expedites the printing process while using materials that significantly lower the cost. Banerjee, now a high school freshman, has founded his own company, Braigo Labs, which has already begun crafting the new model of his invaluable printing device.

Living Language

Biochemist Linden Gledhill was growing and cultivating live coral when his internet research led him to information on ferrofluids. Ferrofluids are created when fluids are infused with magnetic particles that allow them to be controlled and manipulated. The unique patterns fascinated Gledhill and he soon found that he could recreate specific patterns over and over again. That’s when he informed his friend Craig Ward, a former advertising executive, and the two of them began to form a series of random blobs into a specific language.

meaningful blobs
Image via Wired.

The collaboration led to the creation of the Fe203 Glyphs alphabet. It consists of 138 individual designs, which resemble Rorschach-style ink blots. Although the glyphs were created for no specific purpose, the creators say they’ve gotten many interesting suggestions. They say the system has been suggested as an alternative to Braille, cryptography, and even QR codes.

Whether these newly invented writing styles become the new norm or become ancient history remains to be seen. What's certain is that technology has increased the number of ways people can communicate with one another. Linguistic barriers are no longer as imposing as they once were.

Month List