50 Years of the LED

Today is the 50th birthday of the first practical LED, an invention built on an understanding that has transformed our lives: enabling cheap, mass-produced and very hardy display and lighting technologies.

A while back, GE produced a great piece of branded content featuring its inventor, Prof. Nick Holonyak, where he offers some insight into the moment that his light emitting diodes were first conceived:

He leaves us with the advice to “Learn more, do more, build more, reveal more”, which doesn’t take a physicist to know is just brilliant advice for life, for ‘inventors’ of all kinds.

“And you know what? This isn’t the end!”

A New Kind of Business Card

Question: How do you share that great idea of yours while keeping your intellectual property secure? Answer: You use a non-disclosure agreement.

Beer: tool of the trade

But NDAs are way too formal for the modern entrepreneur, who is more likely to meet a potential partner or investor at a conference, in a coffee shop, or over a beer than arrange to meet at the lawyers.

In an informal situation, the most common business exchange is probably handing someone your business card. I’ve been thinking about this, so in the spirit of sharing ideas, here’s what I’ve come up with:

What if your business card could unlock new conversations?

On the understanding that a signed non-disclosure agreement allows for a far smoother flow of communication in the exchange of business ideas, my business card design offers the ability to turn a casual conversation into a pitch scenario, but without the formality.

Take a look at this mockup I created for MOO Cards, who sadly weren’t interested in the exclusive ownership rights!

Click the image to see in fullscreen

My design is a perforated piece of card designed to be ripped in half:

  • One half lists the usual business card details
  • One half has space for a signature against the statement:
    “I hereby agree to treat your idea as confidential in a bond of trust”
    (or whatever)

Each party keeps one half of the card in this interactive business exchange. Not legally airtight, of course, but still an innovative means of quickly forming trust with a potential partner.

So then, anyone out there want to help turn this design into a reality?

Superhuman Babies

French artist Alexandre Nicolas has produced some quite beautiful sculptures of superheroes in a foetal state. The work comprises his 2008 series: PRÉDESTINÉS, working in his preferred media acrylic and resin.

I think these pieces inherit a special fragility because we’d usually see these characters (Hulk; Silver Surfer; Batman etc) as fully-grown and badass, whereas here they are quite the opposite. Take a look:

Catwoman
Catwoman
Silver Surfer
Silver Surfer
Superman
Superman
Spiderman
Spiderman
The Hulk
The Hulk
Batman
Batman

Visit PRÉDESTINÉS for more images from this series.

Typewriter Cocktail Machine

Excuse the continued delay to fresh posts here lately. I’m currently drafting a talk for a conference next month called Get Together – hosted by the Next Bigger Better Society – and truth told as it’s my first speaking gig I’d like the content to be as fresh as possible.

I’ll be talking on the subject of technology and evolution, probably around how the liberal arts act as playground to new & culturally transformative ideas. If you’re interested in coming along, tickets are available right here.

In the meantime though, here’s the first of some less heavyweight posts I’ll be making over the coming weeks!

I love how this invention takes an analog medium (plastic / liquid) and mimics a digital one (LCD display) in the guise of another analog medium (the typewriter) to output not words, but what looks like a terribly strong concoction of different drinks. Each customer would create a different, personalised recipe based on their input.

I can see this being really fun in a bar that sold tokenised access to the machine, along with predefined recipes such as the keywords ‘pineapple’ or ‘cherrybomb’, each letter plugged into its own mutually exclusive blend of base flavours. Nice work morskoiboy (site currently down).

Cinemetrics: Interactive Movie Infographics

Cinemetrics is the fascinating result of Frederic Brodbeck‘s bachelor graduation project at The Royal Academy of Art in the Netherlands.

cinemetrics quantum of solaceAs a graphic designer, Brodbeck is drawn to particular style details, but as a generative coder he’s interested in exploring the role for graphic design in analysing these same details.

He picked the medium of film as his ‘data-set’ and came up with something actually very unique: rather than analysing the meta-data around a film (i.e. from IMDB), he’s using movies themselves.

The project seeks to ‘fingerprint’ films (a bit like the recent moviebarcode site) and turn them into interactive models. The models can be manipulated to allow users to identify differences or trends in the graphics via a sexy looking interface, all of which he’s now open-sourced on GitHub.

Here’s a demo:

Brodbeck defines the project as “an experiment to find out if the data that is inherent in the movie can be used to make something visible that otherwise would remain unnoticed.” It’s a really interesting area for academic inquiry, one which he set out the following goals:

Measuring and visualizing movie data to reveal the characteristics of movies and to create some sort of unique “fingerprint” for them.

Extracting and analyzing information – such as the editing structure, use of colors, speech or motion – and transform them into graphic representations, so that movies can be seen as a whole and easily be interpreted or compared.

Working experimentally and presenting the work both in print and digital media.

A side effect is that the system he’s built is great at comparing films, so as to see differences between originals and remakes; within similar genres; among a string of sequels, similar filmmaking styles or certain directors.

What’s great is the system is actually useful. It’s an infographic engine for film-buffs, and we know how popular those are, don’t we?!

Frederick, I look forward to the sequel!

Sun, Sand & Selective Laser Sintering

It’s the Summer. It’s an extremely hot day here in London, the hottest day of 2011, in fact. So it’s with just the tiniest stretch of the imagination that I could be right there in the desert watching Markus Kayser at work on his next great experiment.

He’s built his own solar-powered 3D printer out of a large panel of magnifying glass and a computer-guided motorised panel, the raw material being the desert’s primary natural resource: sand.

With his design, he is able to create a focused laser beam that melts sand, so that it cools and hardens in a design of his choosing. In effect, he is ‘growing’ his designs right out of the sand. It’s really, really impressive:

Markus describes the process on the project’s website:

Silicia sand when heated to melting point and allowed to cool solidifies as glass. This process of converting a powdery substance via a heating process into a solid form is known as sintering and has in recent years become a central process in design prototyping known as 3D printing or SLS (selective laser sintering).

These 3D printers use laser technology to create very precise 3D objects from a variety of powdered plastics, resins and metals – the objects being the exact physical counterparts of the computer-drawn 3D designs inputted by the designer.

By using the sun’s rays instead of a laser and sand instead of resins, I had the basis of an entirely new solar-powered machine and production process for making glass objects that taps into the abundant supplies of sun and sand to be found in the deserts of the world.

Markus with his Solar Sinter
Markus with his Solar Sinter

Sintering is a natural process, commonly occuring products being Fulgurites, which are glass tubes that form deep in the sand when lightning strikes in the desert. Each have a unique quality: colour; shape; consistency and location, which together with their ‘atmospheric origins’ they’ve become quite collectible artefacts.

My take is that Markus’s device will allow command over the sun to grow one’s own kind of ‘artisanal fulgurites’, quite a powerful idea, and undoubtedly a great use of technology that harnesses our most abundant natural resources in a really cool way. Nice one!