What would thrift shopping look like in the metaverse?





Built around the idea of a digital universe (or a metaverse), Around is a unique approach to thrifting, that facilitates the exchange of original products through online trading… and relies on NFTs to act as a proof of product authenticity as well as a sort of warranty card.

Sure, cryptocurrencies and NFTs are an absolute curse for the environment, although this new conceptual VR marketplace is certainly doing its part by promoting a somewhat sustainable culture of second-hand product ownership and an extension of a product’s life cycle. Meet ‘Around’, a metaverse marketplace for your physical goods. Much like a digital storefront like Amazon or Shopify, it allows products to be bought and sold, although it lets individual sellers sell their own belongings, sort of like a virtual garage sale – think eBay but better. What’s interesting about Around is that it doesn’t just let you buy and sell used goods, it’s a comprehensive virtual world where even your digital avatar buys and sells items too… so a pair of actual Jordans purchased in the physical world would also mean that your digital avatar would own a pair of Jordans.

Secondhand products are simply auctioned off to the highest bidder in this virtual universe. Your digital character participates in a bidding war with other characters, and the person who wins the bid doesn’t just get the actual product shipped to them, they also get the bragging rights of their avatar owning a digital copy of the product too (similar to buying skins on Fortnite). Along with the digital copy, your avatar even acquires the product’s NFT, which acts as proof of ownership and authenticity. An NFT is minted for each individual product, sort of like a digital badge, and when you sell a product, the NFT gets transferred to its new owner. The NFT serves as a warranty certificate in the real world, allowing brands to live up to the promise of their product’s quality, and for the added flair, it displays as a digital badge in your digital world, allowing you to flaunt your swag in the real world as well as the metaverse!





What Around proposes isn’t something radically new, but it does package a few existing concepts, like product ownership, thrifting, NFTs, and the metaverse into a singular cohesive solution. It seeks to reinvent how youngsters shop in the future, offering an interactive, immersive virtual storefront that people can practically line up in front of to buy limited-edition merch, effectively turning the digital store into a new social space.

Designer: Jeongin Lee

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Emojis for the blind? A type designer is meticulously translating popular emojis into Braille

While the idea of emojis was originally to promote visual texting, its drawback remains the fact that its visual nature makes it inaccessible to the vision impaired. To help overcome this barrier, type designer and PhD student at Belgium’s MAD School of Arts, Walda Verbaenen took it upon herself to redesign popular emoticons in Braille. The project, titled “Braille Emoticons” proposes the addition of 22 different symbols or emojis to the Braille alphabet, comprising everything from the various smileys to thumbs up and thumbs down, and even the heart emoji.

“People who use Braille are forced to use the letters of the alphabet to describe their emotions”, Walda mentions. “This became a starting point to design an addition to the Braille alphabet, based on our visualized emotions into emoticons, converted into the ‘dot’ language that characterizes Braille.” To ensure it doesn’t conflict with the traditional braille alphabet of a grid of 12 dots, the emoticon addition to the Braille alphabet was developed in a grid of 9 dots, fitting well with the square structure of the emoticon symbols.

Designer: Walda Verbaenen

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This automated robotic arm is actually an unconventional photo booth that draws your portrait!





Pankraz Piktograph is a reinterpretation of the classic photo booth, only this one uses automated robotics to translate photographs into portrait sketches.

Photo booths are just as good as cake at parties. Everyone loves a photo strip souvenir they can take home with them and laugh at in the morning or keep for years to follow. Taking inspiration from ancient photo booths like Maillardet’s automaton from the 1800s that didn’t use flash to capture smiles and funny faces, but robotics to perform automatic sketches of people standing before the machine. Felix Fisgus, a design studio, in collaboration with Joris Wegner, multimedia artist, and product designer, designed their very own robotic automated sketch booth called Pankraz Piktograph, a self-contained portrait-drawing robot.

Turning the act of getting your very own portrait into the event itself, Wegner created their Pankraz Piktograph to draw portraits of bystanders at events like science exhibits, trade fairs, and museums for them to bring home. With the press of a button on a handheld remote, the Pankraz Piktograph snaps photographic portraits of its users to then transform into a delicate pencil sketch.

Once the photograph has been taken, it’s translated into a vector representation, which can then be drawn by the automated robot styluses. Equipping the Pankraz Piktograph with the technical makeup to master various drawing styles, users can choose to have their photograph drawn from fast minimalist styles to more intricate, or abstract renderings.

Running the whole show, the Pankraz Piktograph contains a Raspberry Pi 3 that takes charge of drawing on the 3.5” display canvas. The machine’s integrated technology generates vector-based graphics from photographs and increases its contrast to capture the essence and edges of each photograph, leaving out the softer details to prioritize the image’s harsher lines.

Describing the robot’s motion technology, Wegner states, “Each arm is moved by a stepper motor via a one-to-five pulley transmission. This helps to increase the torque as well as the resolution of the movements. We decided to go for an open control loop, thus light barrier sensors at each shoulder joint are used for calibration and determining absolute positions of the arms.”

With such accurate movements, the Pankraz Piktograph is constructed to capture even the finer details of each photograph’s distinct features – from moles to dimples. Attached to each moving arm, the spring-loaded pens are set into motion with a servo motor to make enough contact with the paper, but to keep the pen swift enough to capture slight irregularities in each photograph.

Designer: Felix Fisgus

You won’t believe that these psychedelic art pieces are actually close-ups of molds and fungi!

No, this isn’t an alien planet. It’s a psychedelic work of art by Dasha Plesen using paints, pigments, foodstuff, and bacterial/fungal cultures from everyday life.

I don’t know about you, but when I see mold growing on something, my knee-jerk reaction is to throw it away. Daria Fedorova, on the other hand, busts out her camera, mounts a macro lens, and gets to work! Fedorova’s psychedelic artworks are more of a collaboration than anything else. She uses paints, yeasts, foodstuff, and biofilms to compose her art pieces, introduces microscopic fungal and bacterial cultures to the mix, and then lets nature take over as the molds grow on top of her abstract pieces of art, giving it a new appearance altogether.

Fedorova (who goes by her online moniker Dasha Plesen) hopes to redefine what it means to “create” art, and to explore how much of a role she plays in the creation. A lot of the artwork’s process is unpredictable, as Fedorova just allows the cultures to incubate over a period of 3-4 weeks, growing on top of the canvas she creates. The Russia-based artist spent 7 years researching microcultures and learning how to develop and control them. Most of her artwork occurs in controlled environments inside Petri dishes, and her microculture samples come from a variety of places, including “air, surroundings, body, and objects”, according to the artist.

It’s worth noting that no two molds/cultures in her artpieces are the same. They come from different locations and samples, and are the result of multiple natural bacterial and fungal colonies naturally propagating. Fedorova’s experimented with bodily fluids (like sweat, saliva, mucus, and milk) and even decorated her art with sprinkles and granules of sugar, adding pops of color to her “disgusting” art. The results are undeniably fabulous, that is, if you can somehow get yourself to look beyond the fact that those microbiotic cultures are incredibly unhealthy and potentially dangerous if exposed to humans (Fedorova does make it a point to safely dispose of them once she’s done). However, they make for great prints (Fedorova actually sells posters and tee-shirts)… and if you’re into NFTs, you can get your hands on some “CryptoFungi” too!

Designer: Daria Fedorova (Dasha Plesen)

These modular prefab homes could be the world’s first to use a steel 3D-printed “exoskeleton” construction system!

Located in Orani, Sardinia, Exosteel comprises the world’s first housing development to use a steel 3D-printed “exoskeleton” construction system that supports and distributes all the functional elements of the building, inspired by the sculpture work of Costantino Nivola.

Museums are social hubs for travelers. They’re cultural and artistic landmarks first, yes. But they’re also guaranteed spots where tourists can take some respite from long hours spent wandering the city. Near the Nivola Museum in Sardinia, Italy, international design studio Mask Architects visualized a cluster of homes to function as a housing development for the surrounding community. Conceptualized as a small village of modular prefabricated steel houses, Mask Architects is the world’s first architecture and design firm to use a steel 3D-printed “exoskeleton” construction system to build the small village, calling it Exosteel.

Exosteel comprises a group of modular steel homes that would be constructed using ​​a 3D-printed construction system that supports and distributes all the functional elements of the building. Mask Architects co-founders Danilo Petta and Öznur Pınar Çer felt inspired by Costantino Nivola’s sculpture work, in particular a travertine sculpture called ‘La Madre.’ Punctuating the terrain of a sloping mountainside in Sardinia, Exosteel is comprised of heart-shaped, white homes with center ‘energy towers,’ oriented in the same way as the head on Nivola’s ‘La Madre.’

Mask Architects plan on building Exosteel by first inserting a hollow central column ⅓ of the building’s height into the ground, reinforced by wooden beams to support each home’s three floors. Then, on each floor, a perimeter frame “divides and supports the [home’s] facades made up of panels modeled to follow the organic shape of the house,” as described by Mask Architects. Following Nivola’s pursuit of binding communities together through art, Mask Architects chose Exosteel’s location due to its proximity to Orani, Sardinia’s national museum, where Nicola’s ‘La Madre’ is on permanent display.

Striving to ensure each building is entirely “self-sustainable,” Mask Architects designed each module that comprises Exosteel to be expandable and flexible to meet the conditions of Sardinia’s natural climate and weather conditions. Considering Orani’s propensity for wind, the homes of Exosteel are completed with built-in voids that guide wind through each building to the development’s communal wind turbine. As described by Mask Architects, Exosteel garners energy from individual energy conduits placed at the top of each home.

Describing the energy conduits, Mask Architects note, “Each building is centered with an ‘Energy Tower’…covered with solar panels that will harvest solar energy while the top of the central energy tower itself will rotate 360 degrees at the same time with the wind that will also generate wind turbine energy…​​The main centered energy tower that houses all the systems is constructed out of a steel skeleton. By connecting our bearing steel beams to this skeleton column, we actually created a completely self-supporting steel carcass metal structure.”

Designer: Mask Architects

Warehouse-friendly robot comes outfitted with smart technology to streamline operation and optimize ergonomics!

In collaboration with OTTOBO Robotics, product and car designer Berk Kaplan developed a concept design for a task robot that integrates smart technology to streamline ergonomics and package-carrying flexibility.

Each day, it feels like we’re getting closer to a future where robots will walk among us. Advancements in smart technology and Artificial Intelligence have streamlined and catapulted robot development to the forefront of our minds. Wrocław-based car and product designer Berk Kaplan recently teamed up with OTTOBO Robotics to develop a concept design for their smart task robot.

During the beginning stage of the concept design phase, Kaplan first conducted his own research to settle on the overall mood and personality of the robot. Following the research period, Kaplan sat down to sketch outlines of his robot in development, toying around with practical elements and aesthetic touches. The first proposal envisioned the robot with both a hard outer shell and inner core, giving it a tough, hardworking personality and weighty body.

Where the first proposal found durability in a tough exterior and interior, the third proposal from Kaplan wrapped the robot in a soft outer shell to cover the robot’s soft interior core. The second proposal, which Kaplan and OTTOBO Robotics ultimately chose as the concept design’s final form, conceived the robot with a soft outer shell and hard inner core for a cushioned tactile experience, outfitting the robot with a friendly and approachable disposition.

Once the final conceptual form was chosen by the OTTOBO Robotics team and Kaplan, 3D models were created to further develop the robot from every angle. Working with 3D models of the robot allows Kaplan to find the best ways to optimize the robot’s ergonomics and package flexibility. During this stage, more technical specifications were chosen for the robot, more specifically deciphering how smart technology would be built into the room to ensure its operability. Following this concept design phase, Kaplan and the OTTOBO Robotics team are looking forward to future production.

Designer: Berk Kaplan x OTTOBO Robotics

Berk Kaplan used 3D models after deciding on the robot’s conceptual final form to understand its shape from every angle.

Using 3D technology, Kaplan deciphered how to best optimize the robot’s package-carrying flexibility. 

After settling on its form and creating matching 3D models, Kaplan added aesthetic details like branding and logos. Production coming soon!

The viral Xiaomi robotic dog posed to be an affordable challenge to Boston Dynamic’s Spot just released new images + sketches!

Quadruped robots hit the scene in 1976 and since then, they’ve been used for everything from unsafe forensic and governmental tasks such as bomb-sniffing and mine surveying to clinical tasks like connecting with patients to provide remote medical attention.

Quadruped technology is the talk of the robotics world. Four-legged robots are relied on by industries across the world for tasks that require a stable walking gait and agile mobility. Xiaomi, a Chinese tech company, recently unveiled more 3D renders of their own Quadruped robotic creation, CyberDog.

Currently, the bio-inspired, four-legged robot has been engineered as a robotic companion whose future technical capabilities are still in development. In a recent press release from Xiaomi, it’s said that CyberDog comes complete with “AI interactive cameras [and sensors], binocular ultra-wide-angle fisheye cameras, and Intel ® RealSense™ D450 Depth module, and can be trained with its computer vision algorithm.”

CyberDog’s external interface features an array of camera sensors. CyberDog’s involved vision sensor system allows the robot to carve out its own navigational map and analyze its surrounding environment in real-time, allowing it to look toward a destination and avoid physical barriers on the way. Currently, CyberDog’s integrated software allows the quadruped robotic companion to operate like a real dog.

Inspired by the pet-like nature of canines, CyberDog also features built-in smart technology that allows posture and facial recognition, which means CyberDog can even follow its owner around like a real dog. Xiaomi filled CyberDog with 11 high-precision sensors that allow the robot to register, analyze, and interact with its surrounding environment. With a maximum torque output and rotation speed up to 32N·m/220Rpm, CyberDog can move at speeds up to 3.2 m/s.

Syberdog also comes with 3 type-C ports and 1 HDMI port so users can attach hardware add-ons, Xiaomi describes, “be it a search light, panoramic camera, motion camera, LiDAR, or more.” In addition to its integrated biometric technology, CyberDog responds to voice commands like assigning tasks or operation control. Alternatively, users can manage CyberDog’s movement and direction via accompanying remote control or smartphone applications.

Expanding on CyberDog’s technical and managerial potential, a “rich external interface” includes 3 type-C ports and 1 HDMI port, allowing users to attach hardware add-ons or software systems to make acute improvements to CyberDog’s existing technology. On CyberDog’s ability to register commands, Xiaomi notes, “CyberDog can be called on for the most unique tasks, and the ways in which it can be interacted with holds unforetold possibilities.”

Designer: Xiaomi

Rubber bottomed feet allow CyberDog to move around rugged terrain and indoor settings alike.

Hinged limbs allow CyberDog to move just like a canine animal.

CyberDog can even do push-ups. Only half-kidding. It can do push-ups, thanks to its 220 rpm32N-m maximum torque.

Soft rubber bottoms allow for soft and nimble treading.

11 high-precision sensors fill out CyberDog’s internal wiring that give CyberDog the power to understand, analyze, and interact with its environment.

CyberDog comes equipped with voice command technology and facial recognition software so it can follow humans around and respond to tasks like a real canine might.

CyberDog can conduct high-speed movements up to 3.2 m/s.

This autonomous shuttle bus reimagines last-mile commute with informative graphics and a minimal, transparent design





Modern architecture constantly reimagines what cities might look like in the future, but public transportation still lives in an era of antiquated buses and faulty subway trains. Weaving between smart office buildings and shiny skyscrapers in a packed bus from the ‘90s proves that public transportation could use some reimagining of its own. Designing Campus Shuttle as a mobility concept to connect busy drop-off/pick-up areas, student designers Kilian Wiesmann and Nils Achenbach aimed to rethink public transportation through a transparent and autonomous public bus.

The designers prioritized versatility and accessibility with Campus Shuttle to ensure a smooth ride for everyone. From the outside, wheelchair access is made available via a retractable ramp that bridges the edge of the curb with the shuttle entrance. Curated animations and LED signal lights communicate with other vehicles on the road through autonomous programming. Built from curved glass panels and an aluminum framework, Campus Shuttle is a fully transparent, four-wheeled vehicle.

Getting inside the Campus Shuttle is also as easy as unlocking your smartphone. Using proximity sensors located in the shuttle’s sliding doors, commuters are granted access to the shuttle by scanning their ticket’s barcode or by paying for a ticket through Google or Apple Pay. Retractable seats line the perimeter of Campus Shuttle’s interior space, offering flexibility and creating more space when necessary. Situated in the center of the vehicle, an interactive information hub helps commuters become familiar with the shuttle route and surrounding city.

Campus Shuttle is designed to carry commuters between high-traffic pick-up/drop-off areas throughout major cities, such as airports, campus and office buildings, and public markets. The designers explain,” Our trend research phase has shown a remarkable inefficiency of transport in big cities. Individual traffic takes up a lot of space. In addition, the number of passenger cars in Germany has grown relatively steadily by half a million vehicles annually over the past two decades, from 450 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in 1998 to 560 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in 2018.” Designed to bring public transportation out of the ’50s, Campus Shuttle boasts a futuristic, sleek profile.

In cooperation with Brose Mechatronics, Wiesmann and Achenbach conceptualized Campus Shuttle to be a city staple for the public transportation industry. Designed with five curved glass panels that surround aluminum beams, Campus Shuttle maintains a minimal look. When in motion, Campus Shuttle almost appears to hover above the ground, linking a vision of futuristic public transportation with contemporary architectural landscapes. Personally, I see it as a nightrider in the dark, hovering above the street in sleek lighting. Campus Shuttle’s low-rise build makes it appear to hover above the ground when in motion.

Campus Shuttle was built to be versatile and accessible, so the designers implemented the most cutting-edge smart technology into the shuttle’s autonomous design. Pre-programmed signal lights and wheelchair access ramps add Campus Shuttle’s overall safety factor. These design elements specifically focus on the local users, “The university consists of several remote buildings that can be challenging to reach by foot, especially for students and staff with disabilities. This is exactly the challenge we took on with our concept vehicle: Linking extensive areas like universities, company facilities, airports, and trade fairs.”

With a traditional interior bus design, Campus Shuttle is familiar enough for commuters to intuitively understand and the modernization of the design makes it more accessible, giving a win-win situation that is sure to be appreciated by all users!

Designers: Kilian Wiesmann & Nils Achenbach

This sleek drone fits in your pocket and transforms uses its magnetic modular design!

The rise of drone photography and videography has opened the door to plenty of technological and design advancements. Likewise, with the rise of social media, drones have seen some major improvements across the board, spanning from obstacle avoidance to camera quality and speed. Adding portability to the list, industrial designer Kendal Toerner conceptualized Xenon Drone, a handheld and modular drone designed for the most rugged of adventures.

Xenon Drone was first designed for the drone videographer looking for a drone that’s as durable as it is portable. Noticing the lack of handheld and high-quality drones on the market, Toerner sought to balance functionality and space. Broken down into three pieces, Xenon Drone is made from recyclable, plant-based thermoplastic and features a magnetic launching pad wedged between two drone modules. To communicate Xenon’s portability and simplicity, Toerner designed the drone to be versatile in its assembly, resulting in three different possible forms for flying and stacking achieved via magnetic connectors.

Getting Xenon Drone out of your hands and into the sky is simple—users need only attach the two drone modules at their center magnetic grooves, connect their propellers, and let it fly. One end of each module contains the chunk of embedded electronic wiring; the other end holds Xenon Drone’s triple-axis gimbal camera and batteries. But, while getting it up in the air is exciting, Toerner didn’t lose sight of the importance of a safe landing. Embedded with ultrasonic sensors, Xenon Drone depends on a magnetic landing wand to guide its safe descent—by raising the magnetic wand, Xenon Drone can land safely no matter where it flies from.

Users can also control Xenon Drone’s route from their smartphones using an elastic joystick controller that can adapt to almost any smartphone. From your smartphone, Xenon Drone’s joystick controller displays the drone’s altitude, distance, and velocity, as well as the haptic joystick and pan controls. In addition, integrated GPS technology and Bluetooth connectivity allow users to locate Xenon Drone wherever it lands.

Designer: Kendall Toerner

Broken down into two parts, each module of the Xenon Drone attaches at its magnetic center.

A launching pad was wedged between the two modules to ensure an effective takeoff.

Embedded magnetic springs pluck out to deploy each drone module.

After the two modules connect, propellers are attached before Xenon can take flight.

Xenon’s magnetic connector.

Users need only attach the two modules and connect their respective propellers.

A magnetic landing wand guides Xenon in a safe descent.

An elastic joystick controller allows users to choose Xenon’s route.

“By modulating an electromagnetic force on your fingertip, the flat surface of the controller feels just like a joystick. The further from the center, the more resistance. This allows for eyes-off flying, mitigating finger-drifting issues,” Toerner notes.

“Using the onboard transceiver, GPS, and Bluetooth, the exact location of the two drone parts is always known even when they separate.”

“A camera with a triple-axis gimbal allows for optical image stabilization and manual panning. Having both a wide-angle and telephoto lens allows for unique options when capturing adventures.”

“A thermoplastic, layer-based circuit board can be decoupled from its components with a hot liquid solvent, allowing for reuse and recycle of almost every part. Xenon is manufactured using renewable energy, plant-based thermoplastic, (recyclable) metal, and can be fully disassembled because it uses fasteners and a removable thermal adhesive.”

The rolling green roof of this modern art museum was built with to merge art preservation with futuristic technology!

On one hand, museums are known for keeping paintings and artifacts of ancient civilizations with preservation being the goal. On the other, more modern museums incorporate some of the most advanced technology of today into their exhibitions to introduce the exciting possibilities for the art of tomorrow. Enacting his own preferred modern technology to conceptualize a modern art museum for the city of Tehran, architect Milad Eshtiyaghi hopes to evolve this relationship between today’s technology and the preservation of Islamic and Iranian art.

Known for designing bold, daredevil retreats stationed on the edge of mountain summits and cliffsides, Eshtiyaghi maintained the same mythical energy for his most recent rendering of Tehran’s Modern Art Museum. From an aerial viewpoint, Eshtiyaghi’s museum does not form any distinct shape, progressing past geometric, sharp angles for a gleaming white roof that slopes and bulges like a white tarp covering a wild landscape. Modern museums are generally known for their conceptual architecture, a form Milad Eshtiyaghi executes well considering his wide array of escapist hideaways. The green space that surrounds Eshtiyaghi’s museum tightens the museum’s abstract energy with rolling green roofs that mimic the overlapping lines of soundwaves, offering a place to rest on its manicured lawns.

Inside, the shapelessness of Tehran’s Modern Art Museum provides an eccentric stage for contemporary art exhibits. The museum’s tower wing spirals above the rest of the exhibition space, bringing guests to the museum’s highest vantage point via a web of winding, interconnected staircases. Etched along the tower’s facades and the museum’s main lobby, circular holes infuse the museum’s industrial interior with plenty of sunlight. Throughout the museum’s interior and exterior spaces, Eshtiyaghi hoped to communicate the significance of modern technology when used for art preservation, merging the age-old practice of museum work with today’s technological advancements.

Designer: Milad Eshtiyaghi

Without any distinct shape, Eshtiyaghi’s Modern Art Museum welcomes contemporary art, for all its abstract, shapeless glory.

Like many modern museum spaces, Eshtiyaghi’s Modern Art Museum features an outdoor plaza and interconnected green spaces.

Various vantage points puncture the museum’s facades.

The museum’s tower spirals above slopes and bulges of the museum’s white roof.

Holes are dotted across facades to bring in natural sunlight to the museum’s industrial interior.

 

Rolling green roofs mimic the flow of soundwaves.

Inside, staircases interconnect to form webs of walkways for guests to explore.