Google Pixel Fold prototype shows it could have been a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Although there were plenty of rumors and high expectations, it was still a bit of a miracle that Google came out with a foldable phone. After all, it didn’t exactly hold tablets in high regard, so a phone that transforms into one would have probably been even less within Google’s radars. Of course, that’s now history with the launch of the Pixel Fold, Google’s first and so far only foldable, which turned out to be quite popular, especially with its design. It turns out, there was a slim possibility that the Pixel Fold could have turned out very differently and looked more like Samsung’s design, at least based on a prototype that is now running over the Internet.

Designer: Google (via Mishaal Rahman)

Phone manufacturers go through numerous prototypes before settling on a final design, especially when the device is rather new or unconventional. That’s true for seasoned brands like Samsung, and even truer for the likes of Google, and a device codenamed “jumbojack” was spotted nearly four years ago as Google’s foldable prototype. Now that name has become a real device, at least based on what is allegedly that very same prototype device which happens to be a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.

This “jumbojack” foldable doesn’t look like a custom prototype made by Google but an actual Galaxy Z Fold 2 that has been repurposed to run “stock” Android stripped of Samsung’s branding. It’s pretty much a quick and easy way for Google to test its Pixel user experience on a foldable without having to go through the trouble of assembling a prototype. That said, the final flavor of Pixel is quite different since it was designed to work on a foldable with a distinctly different form factor.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

The prototype does raise the question of whether Google actually considered following in Samsung’s footsteps to adopt a design that was already in use for a few years by that time. That meant that it would have used a design that resulted in a narrower external display, a squarish unfolded shape, and possibly a gap at the hinge when folded. Perhaps it was for the best that it went the other way and used a design more similar to the OPPO Find N, which was wider, a little smaller, and also a bit more comfortable to hold.

Then again, the “jumbojack” prototype might have simply been used to test the software without committing to the device’s design. Unfortunately, there are now rumors that Google might actually be heading towards Samsung’s direction for the Pixel Fold 2, along with a camera design that’s sure to cause some controversy. If anything, this alleged prototype only proves that there is still plenty of room for improvement in the foldable phone design space, but recent rumors are already painting a rather bleak future in that regard.

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This innovative emergency shelter prototype is sturdier, eco-friendly creation by designer Norman Foster

When you think of emergency shelters in times of natural calamities or refugee camps, often we think of flimsy tents that might actually get blown away by a strong gust of wind. I often wonder about the people who stay there and whether they will remain safe in that kind of shelter and environment. Lately, we’re seeing better designs for these temporary housing since people who will be staying there really deserve to be in a space where they can take actual shelter and try to recover from whatever it is they’re trying to get away from.

Designer: Norman Foster

This new design for a fast-assembly emergency shelter is called the Essential Homes Research Project and is a collaboration between the Norman Foster Foundation and concrete company Holcim. They displayed the prototype at the Venice Architecture Biennale to show that these temporary (and sometimes not so temporary) housing can be well thought of and should also be something that can last for years. There are times when families have to stay there for a longer time so the structure should be something that can stand for a long time.

The prototype is a rapid-assembly building and can be easily be put up on the site itself instead of wasting time building it elsewhere and transporting to the area. It is also built to withstand strong elements as these camps can sometimes suffer from extreme weather conditions. You get an arch-shaped framework and a rollable outer shell that is made from mostly low-carbon concrete. Once assembled, you spray it with water and in just 24 hours, the structure is sturdy and rigid. It is waterproof to withstand rain and on the inside, there is insulation to keep the residents warm. The inside is also something that people will want to live in as the bunk beds and the shelves and furniture seem to be comfortable and practical.

The housing is also eco-friendly as the base itself is made from reused construction rubble. It says that the construction of the shelter uses 70% less carbon than the usual traditional housing. It has a lifespan of two decades but if needed, it can be easily demolished and recycled for other things. Hopefully things like these become the standard for emergency shelters eventually.

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Re-imagined phone booth to bring modern, digital services

If a kid from Gen Z or Gen Alpha walks by an old telephone booth (in the few places in the world where there are still some around), they would probably look at it in wonder or confusion. In fact, some millenials may have never used or seen one since it’s already considered a “relic”. But there’s still a way to recreate these previously useful booths and create one that is perfect for the digital generation and their mobile needs. And you can even be earth-friendly about it.

Designer: 100architects

Shangai is probably one of the “smartest” cities in the world and it’s about to get even smarter as they might be rolling out a new kind of phone booth. Instead of just letting people make phone calls when they drop coins, this new structure will have all the digital conveniences that a commuter, tourist, or even residents may need. It still retains some of the aesthetics of a phone booth including the red color, a boxy shape, a sloped roof. But this time around you get a solar panel roof and other functionalities.

The digitalized phone kiosks has Wi-Fi hotspots so those who don’t have data can stand near it or inside it and get connected. You can also wirelessly charge your mobile devices for when you run out of juice. You also get 5G transceivers and USB connectivity. For tourists and commuters, there are city maps on the touch screen and you can even access taxi-hailing services there. There’s also something for the elderly as there’s face recognition (there might be privacy/security issues there) and a panic button if there’s an emergency.

Oh and yes, you can also make a phone call from the booth as there’s a free service that gives you three minutes. And since this will probably be a structure that will draw attention, there’s a “selfie” wall with headphones and eyeglasses so you can take pictures or have your picture taken. If this catches on, we might see some of these reimagined phone booths in other parts of the world.

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This modular housing system in Chile is an ingenious solution to the growing housing crisis

Ignacio Rojas Hirigoyen Architects and The Andes House teamed up to create modular housing that can be configured and modified to build low-cost housing. In a time and age, where the housing crisis is accelerating daily, The Industrialized Building System Prototype is an ingenious solution fabricated by Cromulux in Santiago, with the final assembly taking place in the town of Casablanca, Chile.

Designer: Ignacio Rojas Hirigoyen Architects and The Andes House

“The prototype was conceived to give an answer to the urgent global dwelling crisis. We decided to build a house as a first prototype of the Building System but with these parts and pieces that work as a ‘LEGO,’ you can design and build any other typologies,” said architect Ignacio Rojas Hirigoyen. The prototype home includes a thick and layered wood fiber panel which is amplified by “wooden sub-modules that link together by a system of locks and wedges. This, in turn, forms a foundation or building blocks for floors, ceilings, and walls.” All of this creates the modular coordination of steel and wood carpentry with no surplus material, and where every part has its own place and function,” Hirigoyen said.

All the panels have been placed and installed within a lightweight structure built using recycled steel. The structure measures 5 meters by 18 meters, in turn building a home that occupies 80 square meters. The panels have been coated with a vapor barrier and corrugated metal plates, which provide ventilation to the facade. The roof has a rather gabled form and is constructed from metal. It forms an attention-grabbing triangular truss on top of the house. “Under its wide eaves, airflow is achieved to deliver fresh air to the interior through the windows below them. It also serves as a fog catcher by condensation, which allows water collection and provides support for solar panels for a 100 percent off-grid electrical scheme,” Hirigoyen concluded.

The interiors of the home include two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an open dining, living, and kitchen space. The home has also been incorporated with a wastewater treatment system. The construction process behind the prototype was smooth, efficient, and streamlined. It needed four onsite crew members, a bunch of wrenches and screwdrivers, and a crane.

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Computer accessories look like delicious hard candy on your desktop

From keyboards to mice to webcams, computer peripherals have existed since the dawn of computers themselves, and most of these were designed for technical function more than anything else. It has only been in the last few decades that ergonomics and comfort have become a core focus for some but not all of these products, and aesthetics have arrived even more recently only. Of course, function, ergonomics, and form aren’t mutually exclusive, but it takes a lot more work to make sure that all three boxes are checked. It requires a lot of back and forth between designers and engineers and definitely a lot of prototyping and waiting time. With the right tool, however, that waiting time could take only minutes, or at most two days, allowing manufacturers to play around with materials and finishes that lead to eye-catching results like this almost literally sweet collection of peripherals for desktops and laptops.

Designer: Beta Design Office

It’s not really that much of a surprise that computer accessories have traditionally been labeled as utilitarian or even geeky products. The most common designs don’t inspire much appreciation because of their, well, common forms, and they aren’t even that comfortable to use for long periods of time. Fortunately, we have come to a point where good ergonomics and good lucks have become more important and also more common, like these prototypes for three of the most common computer accessories that look almost delicious enough to lick.

The Mayku Accessories collection comprises a keyboard, a mouse, and a more traditional webcam that attaches to the top of a monitor. While their designs don’t show anything functionally new, it’s their appearance that really catches the eye. Instead of using the usual flat surfaces and sharp corners, these products use “softer,” more curved forms, like the sides and tops of the keycaps, the entire surface of the mouse, or the body of the webcam.

While the designs themselves are already interesting, the story behind their creation is equally so. It is the result of multiple iterations and prototypes that played around with different colors, materials, and finishes, more commonly known as “CMF” in the design world. The end result is a series of shells that use soft colors and sometimes transparent materials, making these usually cold and impersonal devices look like hard candy or even soft marshmallows.

What actually made this possible is a novel machine called the Mayku Multiplier that allows the creation of molds and parts in just minutes rather than hours. This has made it easier to create those prototypes with different CMFs, allowing designers to quickly discuss and change designs in just days instead of weeks. With tools such as this multiplier and 3D printers becoming more accessible, it will be easier and more feasible to create designs that buck trends and appeal to the sensibilities of different people while still maintaining their technical features and ergonomics.

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Lenovo rollable phone and laptop at MWC 2023 paint an alternate future of flexibility

Foldable phones might be starting to become a little bit more common, but they aren’t the only way to get a larger screen without increasing the phone’s size. Due to their relative simplicity and fewer moving parts, however, they are easier to develop and manufacture, at least compared to other alternatives. That doesn’t mean foldable displays are the best, though, just that they’ve had a long time stewing in labs and factories. Rollable screens are slowly catching up, especially in the TV and signage space, because of their space-saving feat. That is still something not completely feasible for mobile devices, but at MWC 2023, Lenovo is showing off not one but two such concepts that could help change the way we use smartphones and laptops, hopefully for the better.

Designer: Lenovo

Rollable Phone Concept

A foldable phone technically only needs strong and reliable hinges, while any device with a rollable screen will need some form of motor, which increases the likelihood of something breaking over time. While that might sound like a major disadvantage, the deforming screen has the advantage of being able to hide portions of the screen that don’t need to be used, unlike a foldable display that is only an either-or arrangement. There have been quite a number of ideas on how to put this into practice, and Lenovo is now publicly revealing two of the concepts that it has been developing for some time now.

We’ve actually seen some rollable phone prototypes in the past few years, including one from LG that almost made it to the market. Lenovo puts a unique spin on this concept by having part of the screen hidden at the back of the phone when it’s in its compact 5-inch form. A double press of the side button raises the top of the phone, rolling the screen to extend to its full 6.1 inches. Expanding and shrinking the phone can be done manually with that side button, but it can also be made to roll automatically depending on the app being used.

When in its smaller configuration, the small section of the screen on the back can be used as a second viewfinder, showing the camera’s preview or animations to catch kids’ attention when taking photos. Interestingly, the screen also rolls down slightly to reveal the front-facing camera at the top, hiding underneath the display. The prototype phone weighs around 310g, which is considerably heavier than most phones today and has a middling 3,000mAh battery. That said, it’s also still in its early stages, and there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement in other aspects.

Rollable Laptop Concept

Lenovo is, of course, primarily a PC manufacturer, so it’s no surprise that it also has a rollable laptop prototype to show off. Foldable laptops have only started to become available to consumers, and these early models still have a lot of room to grow. A laptop with a rollable screen, however, would have a very different form factor and use case, and it’s all for helping people be more productive, especially when dealing with long documents or scrolling Web pages.

This laptop prototype starts with a traditional 12.7-inch screen that grows to 15 inches when the rest of the display rolls out from underneath the keyboard. In this form, the focus is simply providing more screen real estate to fit more content rather than changing the device’s form significantly. That may sound a bit limiting, but it is also more conventional and easier to understand for most people who really just want a larger screen without a large laptop.

Lenovo says that the prototype’s rollable panel has the same durability as the ThinkPad X1 Fold, which means it has been tested for 20,000 to 30,000 cycles of rolling up and down. The laptop is rather thick at 17.9mm, but like the rollable phone, it is still in its infancy as an R&D device. There is no promise that it will become a product you’ll be able to buy, but it’s definitely reassuring that the world’s biggest PC maker continues to innovate and challenge conventions to push the envelope of computing.

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Autonomous robot with sensors can help carry heavy loads on just 2 wheels

Some people are afraid that robots will one day take over all our jobs and render humans basically useless, at least in some industries. So far though, we’re not seeing a robot apocalypse just yet but we are seeing ways that these machines can actually help lighten the load for us. We’re seeing some advances in logistics and shipping that will be beneficial for workers rather than a threat to them. Robotic systems are being developed to create autonomous and more flexible machines to assist these cargo workers.

Designer: Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics

The evoBOT is an autonomous robot that can self-balance and help transport goods and packages, relieving workers of some of their heavy loads. It has undergone an entire evolution and has now turned into an agile and flexible robot ready to be the “buddy” to cargo workers. It doesn’t really look like your typical robot but more like a more advanced and futuristic looking trolley. It’s still in the prototyping stage so there aren’t much details when it comes to the maximum load it is able to carry.

What we do know is that this machine is able to stretch both its arms in order to lock in whatever it is carrying. It is also able to flex its legs on the floor in order to carry objects and even bend into a V-shape to carry said object between its legs as it moves towards its destination. It is able to do more than just the usual pushing and pulling that some existing machines are able to do. They are equipped with sensors to “eye” the objects that they will be carrying and it is also able to navigate its path in the space it is moving in.

The evoBOT is also designed to be space-saving and is also created to be lightweight, using the principle of inverse compound pendulum without external counterweight. The researchers at the institute also said that the robot is able to permanently balance itself so it can move on various surfaces, including sloped ones which may be found in a lot of warehouses and factories where something like this can be of great use.

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Actual prototype unit confirms exactly what the upcoming Google Pixel Fold will look like

YouTuber Dave2D got his hands on a dummy unit of the alleged Pixel Fold and here’s everything we know… and feel.

First off, this isn’t even scandalous anymore, given that Google has perhaps the worst track record when it comes to keeping upcoming smartphones a secret. Last year, the company prematurely revealed what the Pixel 7 would look like just for kicks, months before the phone actually launched… so when I see a YouTuber talking about ‘credible leaks’ of Google’s next product, my best bet is that they’re as credible as it comes! Anyway, earlier last year Jon Prosser debuted renders of the highly-anticipated Pixel Fold device, and it seems like Dave2D’s latest video confirms everything we know. Google IS indeed working on a folding Pixel smartphone with an inward-facing foldable display. Although just a 3D-printed dummy unit, Dave2D’s prototype is surprisingly slim, and has a shorter, stouter form factor, similar to Oppo’s Find N2 device.

Designer: Google

The dummy unit doesn’t really reveal much apart from the bare-bones design of the phone, but it’s enough to piece together a fair bit of information. When placed alongside the Pixel 7 Pro, the Pixel Fold is relatively shorter, making it easier to hold and operate with a single hand. When compared to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4, the Pixel Fold is MUCH more ergonomic, letting your thumb reach parts of the screen that you couldn’t with Samsung’s foldable. The device also has a new camera bump design, going for something more pronounced like the iPhone’s camera bump, unlike the Pixel’s curved bumper design. All indications show that the Pixel Fold will have the same 3-lens camera unit like the 7 Pro, although the flashlight seems to have migrated to the left of the lenses for some odd reason.

Perhaps the most interesting detail here is the screen, which Dave2D mocked up in post-production to reveal what the Pixel Fold’s actual screen sizes and resolutions will most likely be. The outer screen is expected to have a hole-punch camera, while the insides reveal thicker bezels on the top and bottom, and a camera built right into the upper bezel.

Closeup of the internal single-lens camera setup

Dave2D also speculates that aside from mimicking the Oppo Find N2’s smaller form factor, the Google Pixel Fold will have a similar hinge detail too, that causes the screen to recede inwards when folded shut, causing it to assume a more natural water-drop shape that gives it a longer life while minimizing the crease that tends to form with foldable displays.

A USB-C port on the bottom comes as no surprise, although there isn’t any word on wireless charging capabilities

Although there’s no official word from Google, we could expect the Pixel Fold as early as this year, alongside the Pixel 8 launch, or probably even sooner when Google officially announces the Pixel 7A. The Pixel Fold is also expected to cost an eye-watering $1700, although I’d probably hold my wallet if I were you. Given the company’s track record with axing products and services, we don’t want another Stadia on our hands, do we now?

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Prototype can release mushroom spores to remove toxicity in wildfire-hit areas

If you live in the area where wildfires are a constant problem and threat, things like pollution and a toxic environment are things you have to deal with in the aftermath (aside from the obvious dangers of the fire of course). And with global warming continuing to wreak havoc, it’s also become dangerous for places not normally affected by things like this, like when we saw the rising heat levels in parts of Europe this summer. There are product designers out there thinking of solutions to somehow help make life better for those who are affected by wildfires.

Designer: Suzie McMurtry

The Living with Wildfire system is a yet untested prototype for a mycelium pod that cant withstand fire and has water and dormant oyster mushroom spores inside. The idea is that when a wildfire happens, the water will evaporate and bring pressure inside the steel vessel that is sealed with a cork. When the cork finally launches into the air, the spores will be spread out into the area and then take root in spots when the fire is finally over and reduce toxicity in the soil and air. The system uses an experimental method called mycoremediation which uses fungi to remove pollutants from a toxic environment.

The system looks like a lamp on a stand and multiple ones need to be set up in areas where there’s a likelihood of wildfires occurring. The pod itself or the spore canon is like an upside-down water or perfume bottle with the cork facing the ground. It is made of mycelium, the vegetative part of the fungus which has fire retardant properties. The prototype has oyster mushroom spores and the pod uses a minimalist, naturalist design. The system is actually modeled after the fireproof seedpods of trees like the lodgepole pine and Australian banksia.

The pod has tags with the Latin name of the mushroom spores inside and it is made from quick-melting pewter. Once fire hits it, it will melt into the steel rim of the frame that holds it. People can also pile branchs and brush under the pod to hasten the process of the spores being released once fire hits it. And even when there’s no fire, the Living with Wildfire system can serve as a reminder to people who see it that there’s always the danger of wildfire in that area.

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House prototype in Spain combines 3D printing and clay techniques

The latest trend in architecture and product development is 3D printing. On its own, you still probably cannot create something like an entire house but if you combine it with other techniques, like the age-old material of clay, then you can come up with something that’s both sustainable and beautiful. Some postgraduates from Spain have combined these two practices and come up with their country’s first prototype that uses 3D printing and is made from clay.

Designer: Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

Clay is actually one of the oldest building materials that archaeologists have uncovered. Whether it uses the sun as its hardener or it’s fired in kilns, it’s one of the most sustainable and sturdiest materials available. So these students were able to combine it with the more modern technique of 3D printing materials to come up with TOVA, the first prototype of a habitat in Spain that uses these two techniques. We get a habitat with a simple yet elegant design and a sustainable one at that.

It also has a functional design with a sloping roof meant to let rainwater slide off of it while the gravel drainage is able to be the basin for the excess water. If the weather is too hot or too cold, the framed, insulated ceiling is able to give you better temperature control either way. The window allows natural light to brighten the space while the walls have ventilation holes for fresh air. It’s not a mansion of course but there’s room for a foldaway bed inside the house.

Using polymers as its substructure, wood for its roof, and T and L joints for its walls, you get a house with a wavy exterior so that it is able to match the natural water currents and other natural shapes that you associate with its surroundings. We of course love habitats that fit in with its environment, not just in terms of materials but even more so with the structure and overall design. It’s surrounded by tall trees and other natural things so you have somewhere you can breathe inside and out. The TOVA prototype looks like it came out of ancient times but is built using more modern techniques.

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