The designer’s inspiration comes from the simple gestures in human relationships, like hugging your loved one, and even accounts for the intimacy deprivation of a long-distance relationship: The organic HUG silhouette makes room for a laptop when your loved one is away, for those late-night videochats that keep the relationship alive.
Gotta love the simple brilliance of its form/function hybrid — the intimacy of a loveseat sans the girlfriend-induced leg umbness, plus the comfort of a laptop lounge setup, sans the overheated quads. We want one.
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What do vehicles, plastic bags, shipping containers and coffins have in common? They all carry their contents from one place to another. And they can all be rethought in ways that may well outsmart, outcool and outweird the original purpose.
BETTER THAN THE VAN
Couchsurfing has been around for quite some time now. And just like anything that’s become really, really big really, really fast, it was only a matter of time until it niched out. Enter Better Than The Van — a niche stay-for-free community designed specifically for bands and artists on tour. Even the search function is niche-level particular: you can narrow down your results by age range, weekday/weekend preference, and host’s relationship to music — consumer (a.k.a. fan) vs. producer (a.k.a. in a band).
We suspect the majority of couch-offerers would end up being in a band themselves — simply because nothing breeds empathy like having had the same miserable, sleep-folded-in-half-on-the-back-seat-with-drummer’s-protein-bar-wrappers experience.
Plus, we think it’s a great way for up-and-coming bands to make new friends, for up-and-coming music fans to discover new bands they dig, and for artists to meat each other and possibly sprout some killer collaborations.
No matter how many CFL’s we swap for incandescents, our homes remain environmental Big-Foots. Luckily, going residentially green doesn’t have to mean settling for a hippie shack in the Ohio outback.
It may, however, mean inheriting the living space of a FedEx box.
EnterQuik House. You know those “bed in a bag” things at department stores? We’d call Quik House a “house in a box”… except it is the box. It’s a prefabricated “house kit” made from recycled shipping containers. But don’t be fooled — the 2,000-square-foot dwelling includes 3 bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. It assembles in less than a day, so it should be less than 3 months between the time you order it online and your housewarming party.
You can further greenify the already super tiny-carbon-footed house with the optional solar and wind energy sourcing available. And speaking of customizing, you even have the option of getting your Quik House tagged by local graffiti artists.
At $125-$165 per square foot, including everything except the land, this isn’t just a smart investment in the planet’s future, it’s also a pretty good real estate deal.
MUSEO AERO SOLAR
If this kind of static environmental statement isn’t your thing, how about one in flux? Museo Aero Solar makes you reconsider what you choose to carry your groceries in. Thousands of plastic bags compose the “flying museum,” a hot air balloon propelled solely by solar energy. It travels from country to country and whenever it makes a landing, more bags are added, increasing both its size and the next flight distance.
Since its inception several months ago, Museo Aero Solar has toured three continents. Upon each landing, the local community gets to add to the quilt and shape this ever-growing flying canvas.
We like the idea of calling it a museum: it’s a visceral exhibition of our excess, constantly growing to reflect our never-ending consume-produce-waste cycle. The irony, of course, is that with an estimated 1 trillion plastic bags consumed annually worldwide, most of which end up in landfills, it’s virtually impossible for the museum to run out of resources. If the project carries on and continues to increase in size, it could eventually cover earth’s entire atmosphere.
How’s that for a global warming wake-up call? We hear shrink-wrap makes things even hotter.
On a brighter note, Coffin Couches: corpse carriers repurposed into living room furniture.
Apparently, there’s some sort of government regulation (gotta love those) that prevents funeral homes from reselling unused coffins to the general public. So the guys behind the unorthodox venture approach said funeral homes with a recycling attitude and snag 18-gauge steel coffins with minor flaws, sculpting them into an impressive array of leather and vinyl couches.
We’re pretty sure those new media and interactive technology gurus couldn’t possibly outdo the “immersive TV experience” of watching Six Feet Under on one of these babies.
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Alas, we may have just discovered something that outawesomes the super-awesome repurposed materials fare from a couple of weeks ago. Because reestore may recycle objects, but their furniture designs are 100% original. They say they “take everyday waste objects and cheekily turn them into charming yet functional pieces of furniture and accessories.” And they mean business.
Most of the pieces are pure design delight, all hip no hippie. And it seems like they’re all crafted with a lot of love: each product carries a “human” name and its description addresses it as a respective “he” or “she.”
reestore reminds us of childhood when imagination made common household objects into superhero attire and snow sleds and medieval castles. Except reestore makes stuff that helps adults be hip adults. Some of our favorites: Heather the waste tube lamp (right), Max the roll top bath loveseat (above right), Olivia the hanger folding chair (above left), Agnes the rear bumper sofa, and their most popular: Silvana, the washing machine drum lamp.
Pick your own faves — or, hey, make some of your own. All it takes is a design eye and a prolific dumpster.
And if doing unexpected things with useless old crap is exciting, it’s all that much more exciting when you do it with really, really expensive new crap. Which is why we dig the Conice 6×18 Zoom Attachment for iPhone.
Sure, it may weight almost as much as the iPhone itself (4.69 oz, vs. 4.8 oz), but it sure pimps the iPhone’s measly 2-megapixel fixed-lens camera with its 6x optical zoom. Only glitch we foresee: the iPhone has no image stabilization whatsoever, so those long-distance zooms would require bomb-squad-steady hands.
Still, at $14.77 with free shipping, it’s worth it even just for goofing around and making people gawk. Just like Steve Jobs here.
Okay, so maybe you’re not as fortunate as us to have OS X Leopard with its nifty screen share feature. (Which actually begs the question of why you’re depriving yourself of that ultimate license for smugness.) But smug as we may be, we’re also charitable: so we’ll turn you onto another way to share your computer screen with others, letting them see what you’re looking at and seeing what they are.
Enter YuuGuu, which does just that. Once you download and complete the super-simple registration, you can build your private network or invite your friends to also join so you can do remote screen-sharing.
Best part: soon you’ll even be able to share screens with people who don’t have YuuGuu, thanks to a new feature called Web Share. And even Leopard can’t claim that — your network is still confined to others who also have Leopard, not to mention it’s only within your system network (a.k.a. office, etc.) rather than all around the web.
One of our favorite trends from the past decade — retro-futurism — has made a quiet but powerful return lately. Gadgets are being de-timed at rapid rates, producing sculptures of historical modernity.
You may recall our passing mention of the Modbook — a slate-style tablet Mac reminiscent of the now-ancient Newton, but sporting the latest and greatest of software and hardware: Leopard, Firewire, BlueTooth, AirPort, USB and more, topped with a 2.1GHz processor. And if you’re not a believer already, watching it in action will certainly make you one.
But that’s minor league retro-futurism. Because all the big boys are busy translating the Steampunk genre (you know, that speculative science fiction thing of the 80’s and 90’s) to today’s tech arena. And there are a handful of undisputed King Pins in that scene.
There’s Jake von Slatt (an alias, of course) whose Steampunk Workshop brings an Industrial Revolution life to modern objects. He decks out everything from Altoid Tins to keyboards to guitars in brassy, etched, Victorian goodness to really capture the notion that Steampunk is the intersection of science and romance.
Then we have the arguably even more hardcore Datamancer — there you’ll find stuff so elaborate it’ll make your head hotter than a steam locomotive’s boiler. As if the Steampunked Laptop isn’t wild enough, he’s cooking up something that’s a whole nother ball game: a Pixello-Dynamotronic Computational Engine. (If you’re having trouble saying it, try making it.)
And to put a twist on the already twisty, there’s Greg Brotherton of Brotron — he takes the design elements of Steampunk, putting the technology aside, and superimposes them on elements of pop culture and mythology, often to a stunning yet diabolical result. His aim, in his own words, is to “create heroic icons from our ever-evolving cultural saga.”
All in all, it’s a whole fascinating subculture that creates its own mythology through storytelling unlike anything else out there, a cultural time machine if there ever was one. Dig in some more with the guys at Wired.
Here’s a dose of Steampunk for our web generation: the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine. It’s a catalog of 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to today. (Yep, you read right: billion.) So you can check out what your favorite websites looked like way back before running water and electricity.
Mostly, we dig it because it’s fascinating how easily we adapt to and endorse new technology, taking it for granted before the developers’ motherboards have cooled from building it. Email? Puh-leez. RSS? Ha. Streaming video? Meh.
So feel free to dig back, point and laugh, but then when you snap back out, remember you’re doing it all on a blog…that you reached through your email or your RSS feed…that talks about iPhones and widgets…with embedded video…and a bit of Ajax…without ever hearing the brain-drilling sound of a dial-up modem.
And, suddenly, 1996 seems nothing like 2008.
Here’s an antidote to the horrible flashbacks of pre-Gmail times past. Remember the London Design Museum’s Design Library from a couple of weeks ago? Now imagine the same thing, only instead of fashion, architecture and real-world technology, it’s about websites and apps and all those exciting online lovelies. Now stop imagining and just visit the Museum of Modern Betas, or MoMB.
MoMB may be in early Alpha itself, but this isn’t stopping it from cataloging a world’s worth of apps in Beta. You can browse them all by language, most anticipated, all-time top 100, latest hot 100, and more.
Skimming them is a nifty test of how up to speed with the two-point-oh Interwebs you are. But it’s also an exciting discovery tool — we stumbled upon some great stuff, way beyond our usual Beta main squeezes like Gmail, Flickr, Twitter and the like. Go — explore.
You may recall the guys you can hire to remedy your reputation by burying those what-was-I-thinking moments. Well, now you’ve got a Plan B — say “hey mamma” to the Liquid Trust Spray from Vero Labs.
The product is based on oxytocin — a human hormone and neurotransmitter secreted in acts of social recognition and bonding, including hugging and touching. Your brain gushes it at the sight, smell, touch or even thought of people you love.
Now, we’d be the first to vouch for the legitimacy of the hormone itself, thanks to our countless hours in cognitive science lecture halls, but the premise of the product is a whole different story. It promises that the oxytocin in it will make people develop a strong, inexplicable, immediate feeling of trust when they meet you, without ever realizing you’re neuro-scamming them. (Okay, that last part is our words.)
Read their spiel and decide whether you wanna shell out $50 for this social snake oil or just, you know, be a trustworthy person with an extra $50 in their pocket.
Few brands can claim as loyal a following as IKEA’s, and even fewer can sprout so much creative interpretation. We’re talking about IKEA Hacker, a blog that agglomerates the funkiest, most creative transformations of IKEA furniture into something cooler, more functional or entirely different.
IKEA Hacker started back in 2006 with a quick Google search that yielded an astounding amount of creative hacks, which just begged to be compiled in one place for all Swedish meatball lovers to savor. Or attempt — the blog sprouted the Instructables hacks group, where you can get step-by-step instructions on various hack projects. There’s even a Facebook app that lets you share your latest hacks and designs with your friends.
We’re off to watching that baby changing table play My Sharona. And we imagine if PacMan was in a band, that’s he instrument he’d be playing.
And now for some comic relief — literally. What happens when a comic strip is relieved of its main hero? You can find out a Garfield Minus Garfield, a brilliantly entertaining exercise in neo- minimalism that captures the tragicomic elements of modern self-conception as Jon Arbuckle embarks upon solitary adventures into the questionable corners of mental health.
And if you’re like us and often feel like your life’s been robbed of its Garfield (ever worry your neighbors hear your heated debates with yourself?), then you’ll relate all the more.
And now for the grand finale: the ultimate hack. One guy in Australia, Ian, is walking the fine line between genius and idiocy by putting up his whole life for sale. It has nothing to do with suicide, the dude’s just had enough and wants to start from scratch, with nothing but a passport and a ton of cash.
Basically, what he’s doing is to identity theft what shopping is to shoplifting.
Why? He had a life-wrecking breakup with his wife of 12 years, whom he still can’t get over. So he figured the only way out is the all-out out. How? One huge eBay auction, slated to kick off on June 22. And, most importantly, what?
Everything. His house, car, and bike. His furniture and clothes. His hobbies — skydiving gear and jet skis. His friends. Even his job.
No, this is not a joke. The dude is for real and all business — we strongly recommend you check out his site, complete with his reasons, the full list of stuff and their valuation, before this life brokerage thing becomes the latest neo-nomad trend.
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