Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Last Lecture: Randy Pausch

It’s a long video - slightly over an hour - so set yourself the time/place when you’re ready for this video. It is certainly a very inspiring video - here’s the short introduction:

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.

It’s truly amazing how much positivity Randy can exude - he’s got not much time to live, and yet his message is nothing but life, achieving your dreams and remembering the priorities of life. It was truly a moving moment when he said that he had the lecture only for his three kids - but certainly millions more around the world have been inspired. I hope this video helped to ignite and spark our own dreams in our lives.

Lenovo X300 Parody Ad on MacBook Air

Whether you’re an Apple fanboy or a PC die-hard, a good commercial is a good commercial. Here’s a clever parody portraying Lenovo’s edge over the Apple MacBook Air - showing off its integrated DVD-Drive, Ethernet ports and 3 USB ports and driving home the message: Lenovo’s machine is not a compromise, but a complete machine that still fits within that small envelope.

In almost every post this would inevitably draw fanboys on the Mac and the PC sides, claiming the superiority of their preferred choice while mudslinging the ‘enemy’. Sometimes it makes me wonder - with the marketing adage that apathy is worse than hate/love - so, what if everything you use has some crazy zealous fan/enemy? All the way from the choice of your breakfast cereal, to the file you use, to the USB cable that you carry - what if each and everyone of them has such polarizing camps?

If that sounds too scary or faraway, then what exactly is the essence that makes a product more polarizing than others? What is it about operating systems, MP3 players, computers and cars that bestow upon them this natural (?) sense of territory and boundary, of ‘me’ versus ‘the rest’?

BMW's skinny skeleton CAR


BMW has just unveiled their latest concept called GINA Light Visionary - GINA being an acronym for their design philosophy behind: Geometry and Functions In ‘N’ Adaptations (I suppose GINA sounds cooler than GIFNA?). At my first glance, I thought it was not too radical - the initial impression was a concept that was probably a sportier extension of the Mille Miglia concept unveiled back in 2006.

But after going through the video (in Youtube above), I realized it was a rather radical and refreshing perspective of automotive design - this may yet be a watershed in automotive styling. BMW has always been experts in dealing with expressive surfaces (that are often sharply ‘clipped’), with one of their master strokes being the iconic negative curvature found along the sides of many of its sportier cars. But I think in GINA they re-thought the whole tradition of car body designs.

In typical automotive designs, you have a certain structure on which you add metallic panels on. You can style these panels in as many ways as there are cars on market now - but they are generally all seen as panels. The associated possible actions are linked to traditional metal sheet forming technologies - bending, rolling, cutting, etc., as the automotive designers think of themselves as sculptors, adding or coring away extra ‘clay’.

In GINA, instead of hard panels, the body is conceived more like a soft skin wrapping against a skeleton body. While it may very well be made of metal panels eventually just like any other cars, the important thing is at the design level, the ’skin’ metaphor brings out a whole set of different analogies and thus designs - you’re thinking about creases, pinching, pricking, etc. Design is thus by growing and subtracting the inner skeleton (which then defines the creases). I particularly liked the quote by Chris Bangle in the video: “…let’s let material talk in a different manner; and let the tooling be a different issue, instead of just a way to give us form.

There are some other interesting features enabled by such a skin too: for example, there can be a continuous line on the sides, with the door creasing and folding away rather than opening/lifting. It could also consume less resources to build and drive, since the fabric would probably be lighter and require less manufacturing energy. Imagine also the possibility of changing the profile of your car exterior at a whim - in a fabric concept, it may be as simple as pressing a knob to rotate or shift the underlying skeleton.

It reminds me of Gehry’s Guggenheim too - which was for architecture another conceptual breakthrough: where technology has grown to such sophistication that we can in fact produce a building not by ‘ground-up’, ‘level-by-level’ structure which is then clad by facade. Instead, the building was defined much by its skin itself, its transformations and its refreshing organic lines.

In a way, I also felt it made the car more organic - it’s almost like a silent…monster. As it lifts it eyelid, the head lamps project its vision menacingly ahead; the unveiling of the bonnet reminds me of open-heart surgery; makes me think about Toyota’s ‘Human Touch’ ad too (haha both are somewhat creepy).

Overall, I must say this is one of the most refreshing and innovative concept cars that I’ve come across these years. There are many concept cars that are wild, interesting, etc. but I thought the GINA managed to tackle car design in a whole new perspective, while inheriting the qualities that make it a BMW.

Bravo to the design team!

(And if you’re the essay type, here’s their philosophy (wall-of-text!))

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This Train Never stops

In the current train system design, the train has to accelerate/decelerate to a complete stop for every station to pick up passengers. The video above shows a very interesting concept for an alternative solution to mass commuter trains - it is a train that doesn’t stop.

Instead of stopping, it’d have a slider carriage on the top of the train. The slider carriage serves as an intermediary ‘pod’ where boarding and alighting passengers transit (before diffusing into the main train carriages). Commuters at the station wishing to board the train would enter the carriage (and presumably at some point before the train actually arrives, the doors are shut). The train seamlessly picks up this carriage, while depositing its own carriage to drop commuters wishing to alight.

Without having to stop for stations, train journeys can be drastically reduced without sacrificing passenger convenience - it is the best of both worlds! I’m definitely not an expert in locomotion engineering, but on the surface it does seem like a possible concept (hey, we’ve sent people onto the Moon!).

A small (social) concern for me might be how effective/efficient can passengers diffuse from the pod into the rest of the carriages. In a system like this, there is even more inertia to venture away from the sliding pod if you’re just hanging on for a few stops, and people are likely to gather in the few carriages nearest the pod. This could however probably be solved by having multiple sliding pods instead of the singular one as visualized in the video and If there is only one person to get down at station then its waste of energy ?.

If you can read Chinese, here’s a more detailed explanation by the inventor Chen Jian Jun. It seems like he’s been working hard trying to pitch his ideas to various agencies (including government, rail etc), but hasn’t been particularly successful.

What are your thoughts on this?

Demolish without Destroying

Wow, that’s way cool - demolishing a building from the lowest level first:

How do they do it? First they replace the support pillars at ground level with computer-controlled metal columns. Then, a crew carefully demolishes the entire floor by hand, leaving the structure resting on the mechanical pillars, which then go down slowly until the next floor is at ground level. They replace the support pillars again with the mechanical ones, destroy that floor, and repeat the operation until they get rid of all the floors. This makes it look as if the building is shrinking in front of you, or being swallowed by the street.

According to the company, this method greatly reduces the environmental impact of the demolition, as well as the time. Kajima says that it speeds up the task by 20%, while making it easier to separate materials for recycling, as well as reducing the amount of products released into the air.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are they real stars??

Look at the spat between SRK and SALMAN here!!

Let us stop idolizing filmstars, taking sides is the first thing everyone does, look beyond the recent incident, if shahrukh khan is after money, tell me who isnt,, does salmans khan's pay cheque for dus ka dum ring a bell...If salman appears friendly on his show ,he is getting paid for it ,one crore per episode...Salman was my fav star but as he grew, he changed his personality,,today my fellow indians call salmans attitude as style, but it is nothing short of sheer pride and haugtiness, i am not a fortune teller , but one thing is for sure , katrina doesnt seem to be happy with salman , she is just giving in coz of his weightage in bollywood. Be it salman or srk or anyone arent we taught to treat our guest well. Any wise person can see salman being full of himself. Shahrukh on the other hand is no angel, he is a wise guy and very diplomatic. Flim stars constanly live in fear, fear of getting old, fear of not getting recognised, fear of losing fame, it is this fear which makes them lose control and do stupid things,,imagine 40 year olds fighting my show is better then yours,,,i am the real superstar... They are indeed growing old but are the grown up ?. I really miss the old salman and shahrukh, money and fame have gone to their head.