Mr Woo´s robots

March 8, 2009

A while a ago i stumbled over the story of the amazing Mr Woo of China. He reminded me of Franz Gsellmann, who i wrote about in an earlier post.
Mr Woo has no formal training at all, but builds amazing robots out of scrap materials. They are all called Woo after him and numbered (Woo1, Woo2 etc). There is a robotic dog, a tea pouring robot and Woo22 the newest model, can pull Mr Woos rickshaw to the market.

Those robots are really an incredible accomplishment. Especially considering the conditions and difficult of the robots. I remember an article a while ago which talked about how to design walking robots was one of the most difficult parts of robot-making.


November 23, 2008

VTOL means Vertical Take Off and Landing, an installation by designers Kram/Weisshaar, which was shown during the Vienna Design Week this ocotober outside the went Liechtenstein Museum.

Their organic concrete surface seems to float above the ground. Smart use of mirros combined with an using an innovative glass fibre-reinforced concrete called fibreC. A really beautiful sculpture.

Personal Skies

April 20, 2008

IDEO is more known for its sophisticated product and industrial design, but i really liked their Personal Skies installation at the Moma (way back in 2001, but who cares).

“Cut Skies/Under Someone’s Sky recognizes how the sky affects our mood, lighting a workspace with images of the sky projected onto a light panel suspended above a table. Cut Skies allows the visitor to choose a sky–from sunny blue to rainy gray–to enhance the feeling of the moment. Under Someone’s Sky creates a powerful experience of shared environment by showing the sky that is above the person at the far end of a phone call.”

I don´t know how this would work out in an office, but it´s still a intriguing concept and experience.

Concrete Canvas

April 6, 2008

Design is not just about making pretty things. Good design makes life easier for people, great design encompasses other factors such as being environment friendly or user friendly. Ground-breaking design however sees a need and assuages it – smartly.

British inventors Peter Brewin and William Crawford saw such a need 2004 in Uganda. They had developed a “concrete canvas“, a super strong cloth, which could be formed into strong stable igloo-like structures and won several prizes with it.

In Uganda, like in many countries, refugees lack safe shelters. Flimsy tents are blown away by the wind and get destroyed by water, or broken into by thieves or even enemy soldiers,who seek to steal away children for their army.

The designers answered to this need for safe shelters by inventing their “building in a bag” that only requires air and water for construction, can be deployed quickly and easily and can last up until 10 years. It can be sterelized for medical uses, provides better security (against looting and nature elements) and safe emergency shelters. It can also be demolished easily and leaves little material for disposal.

Go to Designboom for a cool interview with the designers and to see how it works and/or to this Newsweek article explaining how it could help those people in Uganda. (Although i´m still wondering how much water the structures actually need, since that is also lacking in a lot of the areas they would be used in.)
Still, a wonderful invention that hopefully will soon be used to help thousands of people.

This is design at it´s best.

I just rediscovered (and “wasted” a complete day over it) the wonderful TED initiative. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. The talk topics range from arts to global issues, science and business. Only a 1000 people each year are invited to the conference, now the best talks are available online for free.

Big names like Al Gore (on averting climate crisis) and soon-to-be names like Patrick Awuah (on educating leaders) get the chance to to talk about an idea that they think is worth spreading. Each year three ideas are awarded, the winners can name their wish and the TED community helps them to make it come true.

This years winners include Bill Clinton (who asked for help to create a world-class health care system in Rwanda), E.O Wilson who asked for help for his Encylopedia of life and the photo journalist James Nachtway who wants to break a vital new story to the world, in all possible media.

Some favourites:
James Nachtway´s searing images of war
Patrick Awuah on educating leaders
Al Gore on averting climate crisis
Janine Benyus shares nature’s designs
John Maeda on the simple life

This post is about a lecture and not primarily about art. But it´s certainly about inspiration.

Professor Randy Pausch (Professor of Human Computer Interaction, Computer Science, and Design) of Carnegie Mellon gives one of the so-called “last lectures”, where a professor gives a lecture as if it was the last one of his life.

For Professor Pausch, diagnosed with cancer and expected to have 3 to 6 months left to live, it was the last one. He calls the lecture: “Really achieving your childhood dreams” and talks about just that. The lecture is one and a half hours long, but it´s worth it. You really won´t notice the time and the end is just, well, what everything is really about.

You´ll hear a wonderful and inspiring life story full of hilarious and moving moments (favourite lovable-geek-moment: “future Star wars movies”).

The brick wall metaphor will stay with me for a long time.
And good teachers make all the difference.

Thrilling wonders

September 10, 2007


This image is not Photoshop generated. In fact this enormous cavern is part of Tokyo´s infrastructure built to prevent overfloading during typhoon season. I found this post on the amazing website of Avi & Rachel Abrams, which is part of the “Thrilling wonder” family of sites. They want to promote “the intense, wonderful and never-boring” side of things. And do so beautifully. If you have some hours (days!) of free time and are in serious need of inspiration, spend some time on their website.

Here you can find galleries with themes like: Abandoned tunnels and vast underground spaces, The most beautiful libraries of the world, Lord of the logistics 1-5, Dust storms, Guy´s thing:weird inventions, Aim…Fire! (High speed photography), Cool ads and many many more (i wish i could name them all).

I have no idea how they could amass such a beautiful collection of images, but they are all worth a look, so check out DarkroastedBlend: Something old. Something new. Something cool.

Lunar Light

July 14, 2007

Ok, i stand corrected. This one is a much better example for energy crisis induced design. The winner of the Next Generation competition of the Metropolis magazine was the San Fransisco based collective Civil Twilight. with their lunar-resonant street lights. Their idea is, like most good ones, very simple. They basically want to put a dimmer in each streetlight in San Fransisco. Their hightech photo sensor cells would react to the moonlight and thus reduce their brightness according to the lunar cycle.

A very poetic idea, since it would not only significantly reduce energy costs and heat, but would make it bring back the simple pleasure of being able to see the moon and stars again from inside the city.

Lightbulb von Jeff Lieberman
Remember how everybody loved the flying candles in the Harry Potter movies? Well, i know Ingo Maurer already did that with his Fly, candle, fly! installation, but this one is just as ingenious. Yes. It´s a lightbulb. But it´s floating. Really. And doing that fully lit! Jeff Lieberman uses electro magnetism and induction to create this effect. I think its a beautiful und poetic installation, especially using such a “boring” everyday object. And what a great metaphor for all the talk about today´s energy crisis!