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Apple’s Ingenuity is Shifting Gears

This is not the Apple Inc. of the late Steve Jobs.

This blog post’s opening sentence is aimed directly at the surprising disclosure of development plans concerning evolving technology discussed in the recent interview above for the part-tech and part-lifestyle brand that is Apple. You’re likely recalling those iconic slideshow presentations when Steve Jobs was speaking/performing in front a packed auditorium in northern California’s Silicon Valley when he would suddenly reach into his pocket and reveal everyone’s favorite new gadget.

We all miss that suspense from the master of tech ceremonies.

But, as has been pointed out on Jimmy’s Daily Planet many, many times, Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. For better or worse, that’s a fact. However, for a CEO not categorized as something damn near demiurge for 21st century technology consumer products, Tim Cook has proven to be among the best business leaders in the world. That’s also a fact.

There’s no risk with Tim Cook. Whether that’s been good or bad for Apple is for another blog post.

Returning to the video clip above of the interview with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang (a Silicon Valley favorite), a couple things were subtly revealed that should leave us wanting more. First, Mr. Cook appears to be feeling a bit of pressure (from investors, critics, reporters, their consumers, etc.) because why else admit a project that’s still “in the shop”? Or maybe automotive AI is only intended to serve as the obvious appretizer to something much grander and mind-blowing that shall remain hidden until suspense reaches its peak, as is the past tradition of Apple? Secondly, is automotive AI the best design path forward for empowering Apple consumers in the future?

Not to mention the implications and dangers of increasingly intelligent and widespread AI, as boldly illustrated in virtually any science-fiction book, movie or TV show ever made (cough cough Westworld).

Today, I will leave more questions than answers. Why?

Because perhaps Apple should be asking more questions as our society continues to undergo a massive (and equally uncertain, to put it lightly) digital transfer of power, of which it has played no small part. For a company made a global sensation for literally putting a surreal amount of high-quality information, entertainment and power into our hands, it seems abnormal to shift that same awesome power away from those very same hands.

Automotive AI may or may not be an automatic sell to Apple’s global consumer base. That remains the variable.

The constant is that consumers around the world will ultimately determine whether this evolving technology will find success on the right side of the road.

An Architect’s Automation Atrophy?

Ladies and gentlemen, technology is preparing to challenge the burgeoning HGTV empire without even lifting a finger.

It’s hard to believe that the age definitively known as the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) was just the tip of the iceberg of what would come concerning the development of and progress of advanced machinery to be used by humans. And the key phrase in the previous sentence is, “to be used by humans.” In most circumstances, technology is perceived by many to be helpful when it merely assists people. However, with increasing frequency, technology is not merely assisting people, but gradually (and drastically, in some cases) replacing important human actions and interactions.

Example: Instead of talking on the phone or in-person, most of us will text each other. There are some good and bad elements to this communicative tool.

Another Example: Instead of relying solely on our memory to remember a specific occasion, we take a picture and then print that memory to be framed. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s a great way to recall special moments in our lives. Photographs are a powerful reminder of the great things technology can achieve.

The only problem with the latter example is that once we learned and celebrated the benefits of what a printer can do, we opened the future up to printing’s endless possibilities, potentially positive and negative.

This is where architects come into play.

The phenomenon known as HGTV has swept the nation and should be directly (and indirectly) credited with the spike in home construction and renovation. Sparking the curiosity of its viewers, shows like Fixer Upper (Chip and Joanna), Property Brothers (Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott), Love It Or List It (Hilary and David), Flip or Flop (Christina and Tarek) and House Hunters are inspiring people to reconsider what their house can truly be with bursts of creativity as wild as their imaginations allow. Naturally, there were big idea thinking individuals who have been observing this trend. And with these observations came an “a ha” moment that will likely generate a “wow!” reaction.

Very cool!

However, once you get past the impressively efficient and acutely detailed building capabilities of a 3-D printer that prints, well, a house, you might begin to contemplate what this means for construction workers and home builders beyond the blueprint writing architects and the hosts of popular HGTV shows. Because, as the video above shows, there appears to be minimal interference from people throughout this 24-hour printing session.

That’s right, the word “printing” may become commonplace in home construction. Insane.

Consequentially, it seems as if the home printer is not so much assisting people, but replacing people in previously held jobs by, you guessed it, people. Is this how we want technology to evolve in the near future? Of course, this will take substantial time to integrate with lots of red tape, cost and benefit analyses and so forth. The change will not happen in the immediate future, but a seismic shift regarding the role of the architect and home builders will likely occur within 20 years. The fact that a 3-D printer constructed a home in 24 hours in 2017 is incredible.

Only time will tell as to whether this 3-D printing of a home will be an assisting or replacing technology. In the meantime, a key dilemma for architects and home builders in the future is going to be trying to explain why home renovations continue to take so long…

Upon deeper thought, home owners may be perfectly content with the option of replacing those garbage “unforeseen and uncontrollable” timeline excuses by feet-dragging contractors with a 3-D printer that can just be, simply put, turned on.

Time to Fold on TV

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(LG Display)

“The company will also showcase futuristic concept displays that highlight the dynamic forms that OLED can achieve, including the world’s first 30R 18-inch rollable display that can be rolled-up like a newspaper…”
(LG Press Release)

The January 4, 2016 press release from technology giant LG (Life’s Good) disclosed many exciting products in-and-out of development for the annual forward-thinking Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Specifically, the OLED screen that bends with impressive flexibility and resolution presents a unique opportunity for a more convenient future.

As phones and tablets continue to increase in size and inflexibility (iPad Pro, damn), there is a natural instinct to ponder if a Zack Morris phone-wave is upon us?

Keep in mind that retro is always in style, especially the nineties.

Fortunately, LG may have just changed shrunk rolled the game back to size while peeking forward towards what may be commercially sold during the forthcoming third decade of the 21st century.

Envisioning LG’s flexible screen for televisions makes anyone impossibly curious about how TV-watching will change in the future. The question that comes to mind is if we (consumers) will actually have the option to roll up a high-definition TV like the Wall Street Journal and carry it to any flat surface in our home and simply stick it up like a magnet on a fridge?

Crazy.

The even crazier question: Who’s been bringing the Fruit Roll-Ups to LG’s innovation lab?

The Pursuit of Levitation

Apparently, now is the right time to hover.

Scheduling my ride on the first-ever hoverboard last Friday was born out of availability and great airfare. It never dawned on me that the subsequent week would reveal the first glimpse of the world’s second hoverboard: SLIDE.

Utilizing similar principals of magnetism, the specialized design group at Lexus has dipped its toe into the water (well, technically in the air) of hover technology following Arx Pax and their pioneering Hendo Hoverboard. Still, the specific components between the Hendo and Lexus hoverboards are distinguishable enough.

“Lexus said the test hoverboard in its “Amazing in Motion” campaign generates magnetic levitation by combining the effects of liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and permanent magnets” (USA Today).

Appearance wise, the hoverboard by Lexus is sleek and appears consumer-ready. Functionality wise, however, is still a lingering question. Looks like October 21st of this year will reveal that verdict, the same day Marty McFly quickly found out the answer to this question. Also, Hendo does not use liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors, which is important to note for a couple reasons. First, both companies have legitimate claims to creating original hovering technologies, however similar the role magnets are to flotation. Second, it’s wonderful to see there is more than one way to build a hoverboard.

The creative minds at Hendo and Lexus, developing this desired mode of transportation out of nostalgia for the future (it makes sense), are in the alpha stage. Envisioning what the beta stage and beyond will produce is exciting as reductions in cost (Hendo’s board costs $10,000), battery life improvements and infrastructure will undoubtedly become focal points of business plans going forward. Perhaps this leads to a small skate park with magnets built underneath in the next few years (Lexus did that for the video above), then a long pathway around a park and then Marty’s daring and boundless flight throughout a town square will be reality soon thereafter.

Except over water.

The power of movies (and love for the BTTF fan) is inspiring for many reasons. Despite living in 2015 without most of the cool advancements featured in Back to the Future Part II, those scenes have clearly made a permanent impression on fans and innovators alike as a future to strive for and build towards. That’s incredible. The sparks of innovation can literally come from anywhere.

And Lexus seems to be opening a future debate: Will consumers buy a luxury car or a luxury hoverboard?

They may be surprised by the answer.