What’s Up With That Tesla Logo?

Venture Beat: “Tesla’s logo is certainly not anonymous, but it turns out there’s more to it than may be immediately apparent. What looks like simply a stylized ‘T’ is actually a reference to the company’s products … The Tesla logo is intended to represent the cross-section of an electric motor, Musk explained to a querying Twitter follower.”

“Musk seemed to be referring to the main body of the ‘T’ as representing one of the poles that stick out of a motor’s rotor, with the second line on top representing a section of the stator. Repeating the Tesla logo in a circle, with the top of each “T” facing outward, does indeed create a reasonable facsimile of an electric-motor cross-section.”

“In this respect, it matches the logo of SpaceX, another of Musk’s ventures—which in this case designs and builds rockets, and contracts to send payloads into orbit. The stylized ‘X’ in the SpaceX logo is meant to represent a rocket trajectory, Musk said in his tweets. Both logos were designed by RO-Studio, a design firm based in New Jersey.”



Cafe X: Introducing The ‘Robotic Latte’

Geoffrey Fowler: “Cafe X is a new breed of coffee shop pushing the boundaries of automation both to make food and to serve it … Tap your desired beverage, flavor and artisanal bean on a phone or kiosk screen. That beams the order to the robot, which uses a Mitsubishi six-axis arm to grab a cup, pump in some syrup and pop it in front of one of its coffee-brewing cores, which grind beans and foam milk into an espresso confection. In 22 to 55 seconds, depending on the order, the arm lowers the cup on a hydraulic pedestal, revealing your coffee like the Batmobile heading out of the Batcave.”

“How is it taste? I’d give the first U.S. Cafe X, a kiosk in San Francisco’s Metreon mall, a solid A-. Its makers say their tech’s advantage is consistency. Their robot uses recipes and ingredients tweaked by local roasters, and can prepare them the same way every time … There is no algorithm for experience, but like a human barista, the Cafe X robot can adjust recipes on the fly based on temperature and humidity.”

“What can’t it do? Make those adorable foam drawings. At least not yet. Unlike a human, there are no misheard orders or wasted supplies. That arm keeps separate orders flying at a pace of two a minute, cutting back on the rush hour lines that Starbucks has reported hold back sales. The robot also won’t screw up your name.”


Bike Shops: Does Progress Hurt Innovation?

The New York Times: “Some smaller bike companies have sold their bikes online for some time, but now the industry’s largest manufacturers are offering bikes directly to consumers via their web pages. All of this presents the possibility of better service and perhaps even lower prices for consumers. But it has also raised concerns for the future of the neighborhood bike shop.”

“Some of the problem lies with the big bike manufacturers … The biggest companies provide incentives for shops to carry their brands; generally, if 60 percent or more of a shop’s inventory is from a single top-selling brand, the store will get better terms on its credit … These shops can have a hard time making room for small, innovative companies that may interest more cyclists.”

“Even Raleigh bicycles, the fifth-best-selling brand in the United States, was shut out of many stores … Raleigh used to encourage shops to carry its bikes and accessories, but it recently dropped those incentives.” Chris Speyer, a Raleigh executive, comments: “It was not healthy for anyone anymore. It was more like the mortgage crisis than a proper retail relationship.”


The Uritrottoir: You’re in Luck, On the Go

The New York Times: “In cities the world over, men (and, to a lesser extent, women) who urinate in the street — al fresco — are a scourge of urban life, costing millions of dollars for cleaning and the repair of damage to public infrastructure … Now, Paris has a new weapon against what the French call ‘les pipis sauvages’ or ‘wild peeing’: a sleek and eco-friendly public toilet. Befitting the country of Matisse, the urinal looks more like a modernist flower box than a receptacle for human waste … its top section also doubles as an attractive flower or plant holder.”

“The Uritrottoir, which has graffiti-proof paint and does not use water, works by storing urine on a bed of dry straw, sawdust or wood chips. Monitored remotely by a ‘urine attendant’ who can see on a computer when the toilet is full, the urine and straw is carted away to the outskirts of Paris, where it is turned into compost that can later be used in public gardens or parks.”

“Fabien Esculier, an engineer who is known in the French media as ‘Monsieur Pipi’ because of his expertise on the subject, said the Uritrottoir was more eco-friendly than the dozens of existing public toilets which dot the capital and are connected to the public sewage system.” He comments: “Its greatest virtue is that it doesn’t use water, and produces compost that can be used for public gardens and parks.”



Privacy: Losing Battle or Lost Cause?

Frank Rose: In ‘The Aisles Have Eyes: How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy, and Define Your Power,’ Joseph Turow shows shopping today to be an exercise in unwitting self-revelation—and not only online. Carry a smartphone? Thanks to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, downloadable apps and mobile wallets, it’s broadcasting your presence—and probably your name, email address, purchasing history, social contacts and ‘likes’ as well—to stores you walk into or even pass by. Ads might not yet be calling out to you by name, but they certainly know who you are and where.”

“Andreas Weigend’s ‘Data for the People: How to Make Our Post-Privacy Economy Work for You’ takes a different tack. Instead of advocating for a 20th-century concept of privacy, Mr. Weigend, the former chief scientist at Amazon, states bluntly that we have entered a new era and challenges us to respond.”

“The author makes a strong case for what we need—the right to amend or blur the data that pertains to us, the freedom to experiment with it and take it with us to other sites and services, and the ability to insist that data refineries be clear about how they’re using our information. Unfortunately, he’s better at enumerating these rights than at explaining how we can assert them.”


What Makes ‘Snap’ Crackle & Pop?

The New York Times: “When Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy were undergraduates at Stanford University, they made an unconventional observation about what makes a social network valuable. Thanks to the rise of Facebook, most everyone believed that networks became exponentially more valuable by amassing more users. But Mr. Spiegel noticed that in real life, even people with thousands of acquaintances spent most of their time with just a few friends whose value outweighed a large number of looser ties.”

“So when Mr. Spiegel and Mr. Murphy created Snapchat in 2011, they inverted the social networking dynamic. Out of their Stanford dorm rooms, they made Snapchat as an app that would send disappearing messages and photos in a way that more closely mimicked the dynamics of a real world conversation. That would increase the appeal of Snapchat as a service that people used with a small number of good friends, they figured.”

“While online identity previously emphasized everything anyone has ever done, with Snapchat ‘my identity is who I am right now,’ Mr. Spiegel said in a 2015 video to describe the app:”


Videogame Euphoria: The Harder The Game, The Better

New Scientist: “Hard games are more popular than ever … Such games are built on the idea that dying over and over again, and getting stuck on the same section for hours, is a key part of play. For many, overcoming an enormous challenge that once seemed impossible is one of the most euphoric experiences games can provide … For the experience to be meaningful, the challenge cannot be illusory.”

“For Petter Henriksson … that sense of slowly getting better at something is crucial. It’s a similar pleasure to playing a musical instrument.” He comments: “When I’m learning a set of guitar riffs I know what I need to do and eventually it just works. It’s muscle memory. You learn things without actually knowing you’re learning them. Suddenly, you’re just better.”

“That single-minded focus may be why a community of players say the extreme challenge … has helped them deal with depression. These fantasy-themed games pit you against formidable monsters that nearly always kill you when you first meet them. When you die, you retrace your steps and try again. On each attempt, you learn a new parry or spot a different way to attack until you master what was once unachievable.”


How Does IKEA Name its Products?

Quartz: “IKEA has a crack team of product namers, who assign names from a database of Swedish words. Bookcases are named after professional occupations (Expedit means shop keeper) or boys’ names (The bestselling Billy bookcase is named after IKEA employee Billy Likjedhal). Outdoor furniture are named after Scandinavian islands (Äpplarö an island in the Stockholm archipelago and Västerön is in Aaland). Rugs are named after cities and towns in Denmark (Ådum, Silkeborg), while bed sheets, comforters and pillowcases are named after flowers and plants. (Häxört or circaea lutetian is an herb in the primrose family).”

“The rules for naming were devised by IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad, who struggled with dyslexia and had trouble remembering the order of numbers in item codes. The name IKEA itself is acronym for Ingvar, Kamprad, Elmtaryd (his family’s farm) and Agunnaryd (the village in Småland where he grew up).”

“To simplify inventory for its 389 stores around the world, the Swedish home furnishing chain uses the same name for its products in all its markets. The database is culled for words that may have offensive meanings in other languages—though sometimes things fall off their radar. In the annals of unfortunate IKEA product names: 2004’s Fartfull children’s workbench … Some products are given names that evoke their function. For instance, IKEA’s newly-launched bicycle is called ‘Sladda’ which translates to ‘skid’ in Swedish. In the kitchen section, there’s a spice mill called Krossa, which means to crush or grind.”


Lego Life: The Instagram of Kindersocial

Quartz: “Parents hoping for something safer than Instagram, take solace: Lego has introduced a social network for under 13s which does not allow kids to upload human photos or write snarky and/or inappropriate comments. LegoLife, as the network is called, has some Instagram-like features, including a newsfeed, profiles and the ability for kids to share pictures of their own Lego creations.”

“Parents have to approve the sign up, which requires an email verification. User names are generated for kids, with silly three-word mixes, like ‘ElderPowerfulBelt’ or ‘ChairmanWilyDolphin’ churned out. Text is limited to prewritten responses of custom Lego emojis and stickers. And every image is vetted by Lego before it goes up to make sure it is Lego-related and not creepy-human related.”

“There are no in-app purchases, but Lego-related ads abound … It’s not clear whether one long, rolling product-placement will repel or appeal to kids, even if they love Legos … In Britain, more than half of 12- to 15-year-olds and 43% of of eight- to 11-year-olds are on Instagram … It’s unlikely that any who have joined Instagram will gravitate to something significantly less personal and customizable, but it may offer the perfect practice ground for younger kids eager to test social-media waters.”