Monday, June 30, 2008

Advertising is a monkey business

So called "experts" have been saying that the advertisement trend is to go "viral" i.e. make it look as if a commercial was recorded on a cellphone and edited by an amateur YouTuber. However, the latest trend is what I call "performance advertising" (if that term becomes famous, I'd like some credit). Since Honda's cog advert, there has been a trend (at least amongst Japanese corporations) to do commercials that are more like an artistic performance caught on tape, rather than any of the old fashioned styles.

Sony has been successful before with the Bravia adverts: the bouncing balls, the paint explosions, the homping bunnies, and now... they lost their inspiration, so they flooded Miami with foam more or less just like Homer Simpson already flooded Springfield. Now they're trying to get the same success for their other lines of products: handicams, walkman and maybe later we'll see something for Vaio. But the production of these latest adverts feels just like a copycat in a hurry, and they lack the freshness of their successors. The orchestra video for walkman is just lame... It seems like a copy of "Les Luthiers" with some "informal instruments" but without any of the fun. Sony are not the only ones obsessed with music themed performance advertising, Hewlett Packard did this office orchestra:

And Honda used a choir to simulate the sound of a car:

A long time ago, Sony used a monkey that enjoys cheesy music to advertise the walkman... (or "walkape"?) ... Now, Cadbury went ape with what it seems to be an audition for american idol... and they're not monkeying around!

Advertising is sometimes like the donkey which played the flute.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Dyson Product Design Award

The Dyson Product Design Award is run in association with British Council New Zealand, DINZ (Designers Institute of New Zealand), and IPONZ (the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand) and is open to final year tertiary students studying in the areas of design, technology or engineering, and to graduates in these areas who are in their first five years of work. Only 19 entries entered this year. The judging panel revealed the 4 finalists: a massage table, a harness to carry hunted carcasses, a beer cooler and a sheep testing station. Last year's winner was Stephen Smith with a vest that stores water for drinking, like a Camel Pack (no comments).

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Uh Oh Spaghettios

Just for the sake of letting out my frustration with yet another kiwi advertising. This time is "Watties' show us your spaghetti face". I don't know about you reader, but when I was a kid, we were not allowed to cut off the bread's crusts... or leave the pizza crusts. Some of my friends were allowed to do that at their homes, and I didn't understand that... until now.

You've probably heard about this year's food crisis. I mentioned earlier on this blog that it was caused by a higher than expected demand of biofuel. The allocated land for biofuel crops were not enough to cover the raising demand, and manufacturers of biofuel offered a higher price than normal, just to grab a few extra tonnes of some types of grains to make ethanol, causing a hike on the price of some staple food. Prices have gone in some cases to more than 60% higher than last year.

The problem is not you or me... if you are reading this on a computer (at home or work) you have at least middle class income. The problem is that an estimated one billion people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition and about 10'000,000 people die from hunger every year. The current increase on the price of basic staple food in some countries has already caused some unrest... the raise on food prices will only make things worse, and people in risk of starvation will almost double. It just hurts when you see and hear that some people actually not only "skip meals" but they have to eat dirt and mud to fill their tummies.

My problem with that watties advert, is that they are telling the children : "Remove the crusts from the Nature’s Fresh Multigrain Bread" and "Using a large pastry cutter or a large glass, cut one circle out of each slice of Nature’s Fresh White Bread". If you look at the snapshots... it's perfectly good food going to waste. About 40% of each loaf is going directly to the garbage bin, when there's a world shortage of grains (including wheat that is used to make those breads). I think that it is irresponsible to teach kiwi children to waste perfectly good food, when children in other countries are eating dirt cookies. At least they could suggest to eat the crusts and not to waste any food, while the children are waiting for the spaghetti faces to be baked. Shame on you Heinz-Watties! Uh Oh Spaghetti O's!



This from the times about food waste in the UK.
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Saturday, June 21, 2008


The silhouette drawings for this movie reminded me of Sandra's Uncle, Hartmut's "Scherenschnitte" (scissor cuts). It may look simple, but it's quite hard to visually communicate with just two tonalities. High contrast is a very rare art, but it's quite powerful.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pillowfight of the future

E.M.A. fembotYou probably have heard about some robot challenges like soccer games, mazes, and robot demolition derbies... but we're rapidly approaching the era of fembot's pillowfights and mud-wrestling. Sega Toys just released an info pack (2008年06月12日) about their "new" Eternal Maiden Actualization (E.M.A.) which is in fact just an updated or localized version of WowWee's Femisapien, a fembot that can blow kisses.

Fembot FT FemaleTypeFT (FemaleType) on the other hand, is a very sexy "top model" robot developed by RoboGarage at Kyoto University. "FT is the result of Tomotaka Takahashi’s desire to create a female type robot. I took over a year of development by Takahashi, who believes that half of all robots will be “female” in the near future. FT’s parts were designed specially to express a lean, feminine body line. Twenty-three motors, controlled by an onboard computer allow FT to move gracefully; SHIN-Walk enable her to walk like a woman. In addition, Takahashi consulted with professional fashion models to make FT’s movements even more lifelike." Watch the video of FT on a fashion catwalk... amazing!

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Showerhead

My cousin Marcos Algara started his blog a few days ago. I'd like to quote (from his blog) a quote from Ayn Rand's novel "The Fountainhead" and this image of Madrid's Barajas Airport T4 by Sir Richard Rogers. (sick)
-What is it that I like so much about the house you’re building for me, Howard?

-A house can have integrity, just like a person,” said Roark, “and just as seldom.

-In what way?

-Well, look at it.
Aeropuerto Barajas MadridEvery piece of it is there because the house needs it – and for no other reason. You see it from here as it is inside. The rooms in which you’ll live made the shape. The relation of masses was determined by the distribution of space within. The ornament was determined by the method of construction, an emphasis of the principle that makes it stand. You can see each stress, each support that meets it. Your own eyes go through a structural process when you look at the house, you can follow each step, you see it rise, you know what made it and why it stands. But you’ve seen buildings with columns that support nothing, with purposeless cornices, with pilasters, moldings, false arches, false windows. You’ve seen buildings that look as if they contained a single large hall, they have solid columns and single, solid windows six floors high. But you enter and find six stories inside. Or buildings that contain a single hall, but with a façade cut up into floor lines, band courses, tiers of windows. Do you understand the difference? Your house is made by its own needs. Those others are made by need to impress. The determining motive of your house is in the house. The determining motive of the others is in the audience.”
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

silver & gold

silver plate kaleidoscopeThis is the first time that one of my fractals/kaleidoscopes wins a flickr challenge. The funny story is that I was completely unaware of the challenge. This silver plate was inspired by one of the early entries, and I just loved the silver finish. So I decided to make a "silverish" kaleidoscope myself without knowing about the challenge. I was later invited to submit my image to the challenge pool... I was surprised that so many people voted for my entry, There were so many amazing images.

concurso plata siglo XXIA real silver challenge, is this silver jewelery competition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the jewelery school. INBA and Escuela de Artesanías e Industrias Peñoles are inviting submitions to the National Jewelery Competition "Plata del Siglo XXI". (via) There are 2 categories: professional and amateur. Up to 3 pieces at least 80% silver may be entered until August 29th. The prizes are amazing: 5 kg , 3 kg and 2 kg of pure silver .9999 for the professionals, and 3 kg, 2 kg and 1 kg of pure silver .9999 to the amateur winners. The winning pieces along with other selected submitions will be exhibited at the Franz Meyer Museum. By the way: visit their 3D virtual museum. A java applet lets you view some of the collection pieces in various 3D modes (parallel eyed, cross eyed, red-cyan, red-green, anaglyph, 3d LCD, etc.)

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Monday, June 09, 2008


Big Buck BunnyBig Buck Bunny is a stunning cgi animated film that was made to show the capabilities of blender, which is a 3D animation freeware (that's right: GPL freeware and it's also available for macs). The Blender Foundation and Blender community initiated the Peach Open Movie Project. They invited a small team (7) of the best 3D artists and Big Buck Bunnydevelopers in the Blender community (Sacha Goedebure, Andreas Goralczyk, Enrico Valenza, Nathan Vegdahl, William Reynish, Campell Barton and Brecht van Lommel) to work in Amsterdam from October 2007 until April 2008 on completing a short 3D animation movie. They had as main targets:
  • Developing tools in Blender for editing and rendering hair, fur or grass
  • Improve character animation tools for cartoonish motion and deformation
  • Test Blender with giant outdoor environments, with large grassy fields and many trees with leaves
  • Further validate Blender as a professional animation creation suite
And secondary:
  • Create a great and good looking animation short, licensed freely as open content
  • Provide content for other artists to learn from or to re-use, including documentation and tutorials
Big Buck BunnyThe movie "Big Buck Bunny" produced by Ton Roosendaal was released last month. So far, it has been downloaded / streamed 917,000 times in just a couple of weeks. You can download BBB on several formats. I recommend the H.264 Quicktime 1280x720 or larger to appreciate in full detail the grass and fur of the characters... the big furry bunny it's totally worth it and/or equivalent to the big size file... or you can buy the DVDs which include not just the movie in various formats, but also the character's .blend files, textures, models, documentation and video tutorials by the team members about all technical aspects the movie; like how to re-use assets, animate characters, or add new shots, etc. BBB is also available on youTube. But there's more:
Big Buck Bunny"After Orange and Peach, Blender Institute continues with a new open project: Apricot. This time it isn’t a movie but a 3D game! Starting february 1st 2008, a small team of again the best 3D artist and developers will develop a game jointly with the on-line community. The main characters in the game are based on the short 3D animation open movie Peach "Big Buck Bunny". At the end of July 2008 the game will be launched."
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Friday, June 06, 2008

Midsummer Glau's dream

The company AI ROBOTICS was founded 2 years ago by Etienne Fresse and Yoichi Yamato, both robotics specialists working on developing cutting-edge technologies. During the last 3 years they have dedicated all their time and energy to their project “robot woman LISA” aka "the perfect woman" thanks to the (very) generous support of foreign investors. Lisa will be presented to the public on June 11 2008, if you can't wait until next week, you can make a pre-order already.

Lisa is an anthropomorphic robot. She never gets a headache (at least that's what they guarantee) and she uses “Recognition Krax System” RKS technology , which allows for vocal, tactile and visual recognition. RKS technology is based on 3 main senses: the sense of touch, the sense of sight and the sense of hearing. Through RKS the robot becomes highly autonomous and requires hardly any human intervention, except for training purposes.
LISA - the perfect woman robotThe sense of touch: Lisa's surface is covered by thousands of micro-sensors. Each of these sensors has a special function. Some measure temperature, others register proximity and touch. The data of each sensor alone is not very helpful, but combined all the gathered bits of information provide valuable results. By analysing the temperate and touch sensors' data Lisa can for example distinguish her proprietor from other people.

The sense of hearing: RKS technology is based on technologies for the interpretation of collected data (ICD). The hearing sense is mostly created through vocal recognition. Sound sensors are located near the ears and send the arriving signals to the on-board computer which then analyses the data. These sensors register the tonality and the amplitude. They also split the signals into syllables just like vocal recognition programmes do. Like for the sense of touch it is the combination of these pieces of information that allows for augmented use. By associating tonality, amplitude and syllable recognition Lisa is for example able to distinguish between different tones of voice (question, excitement, sorrow…)

The sense of sight: Lisa possesses 2 micro cameras that are directly connected to her internal computer. Through these 2 cameras she can register large amounts of information simultaneously and for example follow the movements of objects or recognize certain people. This works like this: first the "scene" is divided into several levels – foreground, background etc. Each level is then again segmented into zones and finally every object is detached from its background and analysed.
Lisa's intelligence is not fixed. She can connect to the internet wirelessly whenever she encounters an unknown situation, object or piece of news... or thinks she's going to get a headache and needs to download a virtual aspirin. A male version will be available in the near future... However, Summer Glau's Otaku fans will be disappointed, 'cause it will be a while until they develop a robot like Cameron Phillips. Did I mention that Lisa never gets a headache?

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

More songs about buildings and food

This is David Byrne's new creation... he transformed the Battery Maritime Building in NYC into a music instrument. The building itself became a giant organ... watch the video:

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Diddley and the City

A couple of days ago, I found a school paper written by Sietze Meijer about emotional architecture. It's just a school paper, not a serious article or a Ph.D disertation, but there are quite interesting things about it. First: the graphic layout, presentation and rationale about how text and images are organized to optimize "absorption". It made me think about portfolios, sketches and papers from my students that are printed behind old photocopies...

The Clovis Heimsath fallacies are brilliant!
Each of these fallacies describes a common misperception of designing by designers. Because of this the issue of designing, the creation of the built environment according to needs and perception by users, becomes obscured. There is need to break through these fallacies and to take a sociological approach to design problems.
  1. Designer fallacy: It describes the fallacy of architectural determinism which operates as though architecture directly determines behavior through design. The designer assumes that, by designing in such a way as to stimulate certain behavior, his design will assure the occurrence of this behavior.
  2. Genius fallacy: When an extraordinary concept is devised by a designer, the so-called genius, it may be copied by others. If wrongly copied and applied, the concept may lose it function or even fail.
  3. Common man fallacy: This fallacy denies that architecture has any effect at all on human behavior. It disconnects building programs from social programs.
  4. The open society fallacy: It states that the physical location of people does not influence social status and development possibilities. It supports urban structures of cities.
  5. The manipulation fallacy states that over-planning may lead to a too sterile urban environment and eventually to a totalitarian state.
  6. The know-nothing fallacy: Designing with vision is overruled by practicalities and the visions and ideals are abandoned.
Then of course Sietze describes Mead's theory about gestures and social objects, and how Chris Abel transformed Mead's theories into the idea of "rational design".
"In architecture, rational design should therefore be based upon common meaning. In that way, the meaning that a built form arouses in the designer, will arouse the same response in the users. If common meaning is not the basis, then the designer has no control over the effect his built design will have over users. The designer, through taking the attitudes of others involved in the building process, adjusts his or her own behavior as a designer in the light of critical awareness of the meaning a design may have for other persons. The products of rational design will be significant symbols in built form."
His analysis of perception focuses only on the primary senses and some psychological responses to Gestalt and composition. Despite being this quite simple and obvious, it is sometimes (or most of the time) forgotten by many design practitioners. Critics always write about famous architects (or designers). Because those critiques are the only source of information for many students, they are led to believe that some basic principles that famous designers use, are part of the "unreachable" package. Thing that only the great designers or architects do, but no one is expected to do the same in "real life". I mean, students dream about designing the next Guggenheim museum or maybe an international airport... but when they are given the task of designing something like a 3 bdrm house, they soon forget about having the passion of innovation, creation... and following any of those basic principles. Same story with Industrial Design: if it's a car, they dream about being the next Pininfarina and try to get into their design all the tools and design principles they've learned. But if it's just a foldable chair, they don't get the motivation to think about composition, style, ergonomics, or any other basic design principle in the book. Anyway, we may all agree on the importance and effect of principles like proximity, similarity, closure, emergence, reification, multistability, invariance, experience/ emotion, psychology of colour, etc... but those are seldom used on "everyday" projects... (and are BTW totally absent on kiwi houses).

However, I was expecting this essay to be about emotional architecture just like "emotional design" i.e. how the perceived branding or style are making some architects "fashionable" or "desirable" For example the Icon apartment buildings have the same "emotional design" effect as a toilet seat designed by Philippe Stark... people just want to buy them because they are "designer branded" regardless of any other consideration. The same happens with Gehry, and many other divas. I guess we are experiencing the same emotional design manipulation in architecture, where buying and development impulses are becoming more and more driven by branding, famous names, and not necessarily by quality of the design itself.

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