All posts by freefallmotion.com Editorial Staff

Un geek adorador de los juguetes anime, de las series anime y de los droides, autor de The Book of Impossible Machines y One Small World disponibles en la App Store de Apple

New iPad Air 4 (2020) release date, price, and everything you need to know

Apple has confirmed its latest tablet

The New Apple Ipad Air seems to be the direct answer of the company to the evolving changes in tablet use that is making a big shift in the market, the Apple Pencil integration is very focused on this area – an item that not so long ago was only meant for the iPad Pro – making this device something more oriented to pro users – without actually leaving the casual users behind – so, if your idea of this device is using it only as a child distracting device, a netflix screen or a pacifier, apart from being an amazing productivity tool, this device is for you.

The new iPad Air 4 (2020) marks a big change for Apple’s ‘light-as-air’ line of tablets – no longer is it an ungainly version of the ‘standard’ iPads, but it’s now more like a specced-down iPad Pro.


This 2020 model in the line, the iPad Air 4, got shown off at Apple’s September event alongside the entry-level iPad (2020), the Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch SE. It was certainly the most premium product shown off at the event, and maybe the most intriguing too.

Continue reading New iPad Air 4 (2020) release date, price, and everything you need to know

Pixelmator Pro introduces AppleScript support for powerful automation

The latest update to Pixelmator Pro introduces support for AppleScript, opening up a range of automation tasks for the application.

AppleScript is an Apple-developed scripting language for macOS that lets users control apps through simple, English-like scripts. With support in Pixelmator Pro, users will be able to take advantage of powerful automations in the image editing program.

The newest update brings 60 Pixelmator Pro-specific commands alongside the standard AppleScript terms, including “detect face,” or “replace text.” It also provides support for scripting machine learning actions through CoreML.

Credit: Pixelmator

Pixelmator Pro said it developed the AppleScript support in partnership with Sal Soghoian, the former Product Manager of Automation Technologies for Apple. Soghoian developed core technologies such as the macOS Terminal, Apple Configurator, and AppleScript.

“AppleScript support in Pixelmator Pro is a game-changer, making this amazing app an essential component of everyone’s workflows,” Soghoian said.

Users will be able to write their own Pixelmator Pro scripts using the baked-in Mac Script Editor, or they could download and use scripts created by other users.

Pixelmator has also provided documentation and tutorials for getting started with AppleScript automation.

The update with AppleScript support should now be available as a free download for existing Pixelmator Pro users.

Via Appleinsider and Pixelmator

50 insanely creative and stunning packaging designs

Create a design in Canva

Think about your most recent purchase. Why did you purchase that specific brand? Was it an impulse buy, or something you genuinely needed?

Now that you’re thinking about it, odds are, you bought it because the packaging design interested you. Yes, you may have needed shampoo, but did you need that specific brand? The one with the sleek, expensive-looking bottle? No, but you bought it because you thought it would make you feel fancy, even if it’s the same product as what’s in the discount bin.

This is the purpose of packaging. Packaging, when done correctly and creatively, is ultimately what sells your product. It’s more than just putting your logo on a package. It draws attention, sends a message, and makes consumers feel a certain way.

Packaging is a form of branding and knowing how to make your product stand out amongst all the others on the shelves can be hard, so take a look at these 50 creative and unique packaging examples and tips to draw inspiration and learn how to make your packaging appeal to the masses.

01. Use patterns

Bricos packaging by Anagrama Studio. Image via Behance.

Use patterns to step up a simple take on packaging. This tool packaging is simple in structure, yet gets taken up a notch with the interesting striping on the background. The color scheme give it a quality, all-American feel, and the tools speak for themselves.

Get the look with the White with Floral Pattern Beauty Product Label template.

02. Consider all available space

Behance/Anagrama

When creating a package, utilize every inch that you can. This box uses a pretty floral pattern on the interior. Instead of leaving the inside untouched, the pattern makes the box feel more upscale, which, in turn, makes the product inside seem more upscale.

03. Don’t be afraid of simplicity

Behance/Anagrama

Sometimes simplicity is key, and that holds true in this packaging. The earth toned, recycled material gives off an earthy feel, which is solidified with the feather illustration. The bright pops of color on the labels lend to the design nicely, bringing a bit more of a modern twist to the package.

Cutting back on the elements you add to a design can lead to a simple yet elegant look. Try the Green Illustrated Herbs Kitchen Label template.

04. Think about the experience

Behance/Anagrama

Consider the actions a person will go through while interacting with your product. In this case, the product is luxury slippers. Since they’re a luxury item, they come inside a nice dust ruffle, which is then placed inside the box. The purchaser would open the box, see another package nestled inside, and then discover the slippers. The simple act of layering the package adds the luxury aspect, and makes it easier for purchasers to rationalize spending the few extra dollars for the experience.

05. Complement the product

Behance/Marie Zieger/moodley brand identity

Make sure your design complements the product that’s inside. This packaging looks simple and natural, just like what’s inside. You can see all the parts and pieces that you’re getting before you purchase it, so it gives off the impression of transparency and being proud of what you’re selling.

06. Be playful

Behance/Tried&True Design

If you have the opportunity to be playful with your packaging, take it. This packaging is incredibly playful, yet still simple. The illustration interacts with the product but still lets it shine through. The colors relate to the berries, and the act of the character eating the berries indicates their quality.

Get playful by using bright, cheery colors, just like here in the Lilac & White Cute Colourful Fruits Background Storage Label template.

07. Be bold

Behance/Futura —

Using multiple colors and shapes in an interesting pattern is a great way to stand out. This tequila packaging utilizes these things, and has a very unique look. It looks fun and playful, and promises a good time if you choose it.

08. Break the mold

Behance/Maude Paquette-Boulva

If you have a product that a lot of other people produce as well, try to be innovative in how you display it. This honey package took a step in the opposite direction of the typical glass or plastic jar, and is a container made of beeswax. What’s even better, once you’ve used up all the product, you can flip the container over and reveal a wick on the bottom. You then burn down the package, making it completely waste free.

09. Consider the process

If your product is something you believe to be gift-worthy, display it that way. This limoncello was created to be a gift, and appropriately packaged. The white paper protects the glass bottle inside the tall cylinder. When you open the cylinder, you’re able to tear the paper away from the bottle, which is reminiscent of opening regular wrapped gifts.

10. Use stylization

Behance/Robinsson Cravents

Don’t feel obligated to make your illustrations or graphics completely realistic. If you can stylize your imagery and use it as a textural element, go for it. This package uses a simple illustration of a head and hair. The hair moves throughout the box, creating a pattern in the background. At first glance, you don’t know what the pattern is making, but as you explore the package, you realize it’s been hair all along.

Get the look with the Purple Floral Wine Label template.

11. Don’t limit yourself

Behance/The6th studio

If your product is best coming in a certain type of package, don’t limit yourself to the basic idea. This soap is best coming in a box, but instead of just a regular box you open at one end, it folds open. The folding action makes it just that much more special and interesting, and makes it something worth saving and using for decorative storage.

12. Be modern

Behance/Saana Hellsten

Modern, sleek, and simple designs stand out. Use clean lines, simple colors, and sans serif fonts to achieve a modern look. This packaging took a very modern approach, and made it even more modern by making it gender neutral. It doesn’t lean one way or the other, and draws instant attention from viewers who are curious about who the product is for.

Modern designs stand out with their clean lines and colors. Get the look with the Orange and White Simple Product Label template.

13. Use texture

Behance/Yiannis Ghikas

Instead of only using texture visually, use it physically. People will be physically interacting with your package, so appeal to their sense of touch, not just their sense of sight. This packaging for insect repellent uses texture at the bottom of their bottles. Not only does it help you keep a firm grip, but it adds an interesting sensation to your hands, and visually relates to the dotted imagery on the top area of the bottle.

14. Be bright

Behance/Mitina Anastasia

If your product is brightly colored, draw inspiration from it. Use accents of the bright colors in your packaging, like this candy packaging. Each candy is a different color, and each bag uses the color of the candy on its sides and in the graphics. The line as a whole feels connected, but they’re just different enough that you can get the gist when a product is different than the next (without having to look at the candy).

Pick a color that stands out and makes your product label memorable. Try the Yellow Dog Illustration Product Label template.

15. Tell a story

Behance/Jonathan Yurek

If you can tell a story with your packaging, you’re doing yourself a huge favor. People love stories, and they love uncovering the information they may not otherwise. This packaging for socks tells a unique story. When you pull out the socks, a tuft of cotton is stuck to the top, replicating the smokestacks that often were found on sock mills in previous years.

Related article: 50 design terms explained simply for non-designers

16. Stick to your roots

The Dieline/Judit Besze

Analyze what your product stands for, and show that in your packaging. This beauty line stands for simple, all natural, and pure ingredients. They display that in their packaging. It is simple, clean, and looks natural. The earth toned box adds a nice flare to the natural aspect as well.

17. Be creative

The Dieline/Ahhaproject

You can make your packaging cool, but if you can make your actual product cool, you’ve got a real winner. Take this milk soap, for example. It’s just soap made with milk, and could easily have been just another rectangular bar. But instead of doing what was expected, the soap was turned into an ice cream treat, related directly to the milk contained inside.

18. Consider the interior

The Dieline/Tait Design Co.

The outside of your package should be interesting, but what about the inside, where the product is actually encased? If you have multiple parts and pieces to your product, display them separately. This yoyo packaging has small cut outs for each piece of the yoyo, and they all fit neatly inside. The colors of the product relate to the colors on the box, and it pulls it together nicely.

19. Serve another purpose

The Dieline/KOREFE

Being eco-friendly is a great way to get people to love your brand. One way to be eco friendly is to give your product’s packaging another purpose. These bottles seem like normal enough cleaning products at first glance, but when you interact with them you realize they’re not made of flimsy plastic. They’re porcelain bottles, and are intended to be used as vases once the product inside is gone.

20. Play with the senses

The Dieline/Depot WPF

Try to appeal to every sense a human has in your packaging, if you can. The sense of touch is played up again in this sheet packaging. Small pieces were inserted inside the package before it was vacuum sealed, and it created a 3d, raised effect. It’s interesting not only to the eye, but to the hands as well.

Related article: 20 actionable tips to build a winning visual brand identity

21. Let the product speak

The Dieline/Watts Design

If you have a quality product, let it speak for itself. Don’t feel the need to surround it with shiny, obnoxious wrappings if it doesn’t need it. These tights are great quality and look great as well. Instead of hiding them away in a box, they’re front and center, allowing you to see how great they really are.

22. Limit resources used

The Dieline/Mapache

Packaging costs you money, plain and simple. If you don’t need an excess of packaging, don’t use it. These music cords are packaged very simply, yet still effectively. The paper wrap is designed beautifully, with bright pops of gold on black, and the colors correlate with the colors of the products.

23. Give a sneak peak

The Dieline/Arithmetic

Where food products are concerned, being able to see what it is you’re getting is incredibly important. Who knows what’s lurking in bags and boxes when you can’t see inside? These dog treats have a cut out window so you can see exactly what you’ll be feeding Fido. There won’t be any surprises once you get the product home, and you can tell that it’s quality just by looking at it.

24. Be luxurious

The Dieline/Aaron-Harper Lee

If there’s one item people shell out tons of their hard-earned cash on, it’s liquor. With so many brands out there, don’t you want to make sure yours stands out on the shelf? This liquor pulled out all the stops. It’s enclosed in a unique box, comes with shot glasses, and is an incredibly vibrant yellow and pink. It screams ‘good time’, and could be kept to display to commemorate a weekend well spent.

25. Use restricted colors

Creative Bloq/Big Fish

Limit your color palette to create a cohesive look. These rice cakes drew their color palette from the flavor, sea salt and balsamic, so it took on a nautical theme. The shades of blue work great together, and the complement of orange adds a nice pop.

Having a limited color palette doesn’t mean limiting your options. Take a look at the Blue Vintage Illustrated Beer Label template.

Related article:

26. Utilize the product

Creative Bloq/Gürtlerbachmann GmbH

If you can use your product as part of the actual package, do it. These shoes have awesome bird boxes, and instead of leaving the shoes just lay inside the box, the laces are strung through holes, giving the illusion of a worm in the bird’s mouth.

Relates article: How to use design to build your personal brand

27. Be trendy

Creative Bloq/Sasha Kischenko

Piggy back off of current trends to make your packaging more current. This beer uses the incredibly popular font not only as it’s branding, but as its namesake. It’s simple, clean, and modern, and looks slightly ‘hipster’.Take inspriation from what’s the trend today, and place your own twist to it. Check out the Pink Red Circle Shapes Japan Modern Beer Label template.

28. Think outside the box

Water in a box designed by Designate.

Or in some cases, in it. Break the conventions of what your product is ‘supposed’ to come in. Water typically comes in a plastic bottle. But this water comes in a cardboard box. it’s still just water, but it’s different than anything else on the market, and it’s sure to grab your attention.

29. Use interesting imagery

Spine Vodka’s packaging design concept by Johannes Schulz.

Use imagery that is a little out there, something that isn’t expected. Luckily, the name of this vodka is a little out there, and the imagery could be pulled from that. The spine appears to be 3D the way it’s printed on the glass, and it gives an awesome effect.

30. Be literal

Saturday Mfg (now part of the Maclyn Group) created this unique packaging for Thelma’s Treats.

If your product is manufactured a certain way, try implementing it into your packaging. These cookies, for example, are baked in an oven. So why not package them in an oven? It’s a playful and approachable take on a standard bakery box, and it feels like a real treat.

31. Make it relatable

Design for Stranger & Stranger’s limited edition moonshine.

Is there a common idea when it comes to your type of product? Try using it in your packaging to get universal understanding. This liquor bottle doesn’t only have an incredibly detailed label, but it has a funny brown paper over wrap. Everyone knows what it means, and everyone can get a bit of a chuckle out of it.

32. Include a tactile aspect

Smirnoff Vodka: “Peel The Bottle” Design & Branding by J. Walter Thompson.

If your package is interactive, people will love it. This Smirnoff alcohol features a wrapper on the outside that you have to physically peel off. It also resembles the fruit in which the alcohol is flavored, and makes it feel more natural.

33. Be weird

Juice Skin by Naoto Fukusawa. Image via artist’s website.

Make people uncomfortable if that’s your style. These juice boxes are very, very strange to look at. The resemblance of the actual fruit is uncanny, and seeing it in juice box shape makes you do a double-take. It gives the impression that you’re drinking straight out of the fruit and makes it seem healthier.

34. Use humor

Creative Bloq/Poilu

Being a little tongue in cheek with your packaging is fun. If you can make someone smile when they see your product, why wouldn’t you? These paint brushes act as facial hair for the illustrated faces on the sleeves. It’s fun to look at, and definitely stands out against other paint brush brands.

Good, clean humor never fails to make people laugh and pay attention. Check out the Yellow Bold Beer Label template.

35. Don’t be afraid to exaggerate

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boredpanda/Lacy Kuhn

Exaggerate your shapes, colors, and illustrations when you can. This cereal brand uses a bear as its character (since it’s honey flavored). Instead of just having a picture of a cute bear, the bear has his mouth wide open, stuffing it full of the delicious cereal inside.

36. Turn it into something else

boredpanda/Soon Mo Kang

Just because your product is one thing doesn’t mean it can’t look like something else, get creative with how your product can look. Instead of being a plain old tea bag, this tea brand turned the bags into ‘tea shirts’, complete with hanger. The hanger keeps the bag upright on the rim of your mug, making it functional and not just for aesthetics.

37. Make it what it is

boredpanda/Igor Mitin

Show what your product is made of in the packaging. This perfume (called Zen) is made with bamboo. Instead of using a bamboo print or illustration, the bottle is turned into bamboo. It becomes a real statement piece, and something someone would like to display.

38. Incorporate beauty

boredpanda/Natalia Ponomareva

People love beautiful things. Using and buying them make people feel good. Another interesting tea bag, though taken in a different direction, is this bird tea bag. It floats beautifully in your cup, as though it’s flying, and gives off an aura of serenity.

Add elements like flowers or vintage icons to add interesting and pretty dimensions. Check out the Dark Blue and Beige Malt Vector Beer Label template.

39. Get ridiculous

Creative Guerrilla Marketing/Scholz & Friends

Be extreme, ludicrous even. These Nike Air shoes aren’t packaged in a box, they’re packaged in – that’s right – a bag of air. It is so literal yet so creative. You have to get your hands on them, and it is incredibly effective.

40. Create something with the product

Noté Earbuds by Corinne Pant. Image via Behance.

Use the product to create your imagery, but make sure it relates to what you’re selling. These headphones are used to create music notes. Since the notes aren’t printed on the paper, they’re 3d, and really add something extra to the flat piece of cardstock.

41. Be risque

Creative Guerrilla Marketing/Dennis Evers

Being a little suggestive with your packaging can attract a different audience than you could have otherwise. This product is just regular bread, but the packaging portrays it as something else. The packaging is actually to promote breast cancer awareness, and it does a great job of attracting attention.

42. Be morbid

Creative Guerrilla Marketing/Reynolds and Reyner

Shock your consumers. This cigarette packaging is very shocking. It’s rooted in truth because smokers know the risks they take when they choose to light up. While it may not be the best marketing ploy, it certainly draws attention.

43. Push it

Creative Guerrilla Marketing/Raewyn Brandon

Be unorthodox with your packaging. As long as consumers can draw the connection between your product and what it’s packaged in, you haven’t gone too far. This vodka gel is packaged in a tube that resembles caulking. It’s an interesting way to get the product out, and it’s a fun play on industrial gels.

44. Address the situation

3M’s Solar Earplugs. Designed by Scholz & Friends GmbH, Berlin, Germany.

Try to make a play on why someone would need your product. These earplugs do just that. The cap resembles the volume knob on a stereo, and the motion of taking the cap off ‘turns down’ the volume. The cap really isn’t blocking out the noise, the earplugs are, but it’s a fun twist.

45. Relate it to the cause

Nobilin by Daniel Schweinzer.

Relate the imagery to your cause. This packaging is for a plant-based digestive aid. It takes a stab at meats, and when the pills are popped out, it looks as though they’ve been shot in a shooting range. It goes with the slogan ‘target heavy food’ and gives the impression that it’s powerful.

Get the look with the Gold and Cream Illustrated Beer Label template.

46. Make it something it’s not

Packaging of the World/remark studio

Make your product look like something else – just don’t get too drastic. Canned beer is cheap, but a lot of the time, the packaging isn’t too great. This beer is canned, but appears as though it’s in a special beer glass. The contrast between the lid and the rest of the ‘can’ creates an interesting effect, and makes the beer unique.

47. Use the product to your advantage

Butchers by Kei Meguro

Use the texture, color, or shape of the product to your advantage. This meat packaging uses the actual meat as a design element. The negative space in the animals reveals the actual product underneath, creating a contrast between how it began and how it is now.

48. Be compact

Yanko Design/Kurt Rampton/BOLTgroup

If you can make something work just as well smaller, try it. The more compact something is, the easier it is to store and transport. These flashdrives are connected together by cardboard. The entire thing is only the size of a credit card, and easily fits into a wallet. If you need to give someone a file, you simply tear off a notch, load it, and hand it off. It’s convenient and reminiscent of those popular pull tab flyers.

49. Go over the top

Packaging of the World/Hani Douaji

Push your design as far as you can, you never know what interesting solutions you could come up with. Trident used the shape of their product to create teeth. Rather than just having the simple red lips, they added in funny mustaches and facial hair. It takes a unique idea and pushes it further.

50. Abstract it

Juice Juice by Preston Grubbs. Image via Behance.

Take your product and abstract it in your packaging. Rather than having just a regular small box of orange juice, the boxes are abstracted into ‘segments’ of an orange. They’re then wrapped up in a similar material that fresh bags of oranges come in and appear to construct an entire orange.

Shapes can bring fun and interesting textures to your design. Try the Peach and Blue Abstract Beer Label template.

Via Canva Blog

After seeing the limitless possibilities there are for making awesomely creative packaging, there should be no hesitation to push your product’s package to the max. It can be functional, purposeful, entertaining, or just outright bizarre, but one thing’s for sure: The more creative and inspiring your packaging is, the more likely the product is to sell.

Good Hair Day Pasta

Designed by Nikita Konkin | Country: Italy

“When I was making this packaging I was in love and perhaps this influenced me, though it could be just a coincidence.

I use the strands and shapes of pasta to create an interesting series of packaging that capture attention on the shelves. It emphasizes the high-quality &amp; naturalness of pasta.
An of course It should bring good mood for people with good taste.”

Nikita Konkin achieves the famous Golden A’ Design Award.

A’ Award and Competitions are happy to inform that the work Good Hair Day Pasta by Nikita Konkin has been honored with the prestigious Golden A’ Design Award in Packaging Design Category marked as one of the winners by the esteemed jurors of the A’ Design Awards & Competitions within numerous nominations.

The Golden A’ Design Award

The Golden A’ Design Award is a prestigious award given to top 3% percentile designs that has carried out an exemplary level of quality in design. The designs are judged by a panel of three different jury which is composed of Academic, Professional and Focus Group Members. The designs are evaluated with score normalization to remove any biases and are voted on aspects such as functionality, ergonomics, engineering, presentation, innovation, usability, fun details, technology, and any other specific points that could be considered, each of these points are further weighted for different jury groups.

About A’ Design Award and Competitions

Via Lovely Package

A’Design Award and Competitions, aims to highlight the excellent qualifications of best designs, design concepts and design oriented products. A’ Design Award and Competitions are organized and awarded annually and internationally in multiple categories to reach a wide, design-oriented audience. To learn more visit whatisadesignaward.com. For further information about the competition please visit competition.adesignaward.com.

Everything new in iOS 14.2 beta 1 — updates to Control Center, Watch icon & more

Apple is about to release the new iOS 14 and some of the amazing feats available in this amazing OS are ready to rock most users – apart from the fact that if you don’t have Youtube Premium you won’t be able to use the PIP feature, but who cares if there is a lot of other places that might allow u to use that feature for free.

Apple seeded iOS 14.2 beta 1 — the first iOS 14 point release — to registered developers on Thursday. Here’s everything that’s new.

It isn’t clear why Apple has jumped to the iOS 14.2 build. The company may release iOS 14.1 separately as a bug-fixing update, or it could simply skip that point release entirely.

Most of the beta’s changes appear to be focused on the iOS Control Center. For example, there’s a new music recognition Shazam icon that users can add to Control Center.

The Magnifier in Control Center also has a new “people detection” option that lets users measure the distance between themselves and another person.

Additionally, there are some aesthetic and design changes to the Control Center’s media player, including larger artwork and a refined interface.

Lastly, the Apple Watch app icon has been given a minor revision with slightly different colors and a new band watch icon similar to the Solo Loop.

Via Apple & AppleInsider

This is the first beta version of the upcoming iOS 14.2 update, and Apple will likely release a public testing variant soon. Apple officially released iOS 14 to the general public on Wednesday.

8 UI design trends for 2020

The rapid growth of technology influences design trends every year. As designers we need be aware of the existing and upcoming design trends, constantly learning, improving and expanding our design toolkit in order to be up to date on the current market. Based on my research, experience and observations I’ve selected very carefully 8 UI/UX design trends that you should watch in 2020. Let’s get started then! 🙂


#1 Animated Illustrations

Illustrations have been in digital product design for a long time. Their evolution in the last years is very impressive. Illustrations as very popular design elements add natural feel and “human touch” to overall UX of our products. Illustrations are also very strong attention grabbers: at the top of that by applying motion to these illustrations we might bring our products to the life and make them stand out— adding extra details and personality.

Another benefit of applying motion is capturing users attention and making users engage with your product. Animations are also one of the most effective ways to tell the story about your brand, product or services.

Onboarding animations — Virgil Pana

#2 Microinteractions

Microinteractions exist pretty much in every single app or website. You see them every time when you’re opening your favourite app —for instance Facebook has tons of different microinteractions and I assume that the “Like” feature is just the perfect example. Sometimes we are not even aware of existence, because they are so so obvious, natural and “blended” into user interfaces. Although, If you remove them from your product you will notice very quickly that something really important is missing.

Generally speaking, in UI/UX design sometimes even really small and subtle change might make huge impact. Microinteractions are the perfect proof that details and attention to them might greatly improve the overall user experience of your digital products and place them on the next/higher level. Every year, every new device brings new oppurtinitues for creating brand new and innovative microinteractions. 2020 wouldn’t be exception for sure.

Menu toggle close animation — Aaron Iker
Tab bar active animation — Aaron Iker

#3 3D Graphics in web and mobile interfaces

3D graphic exist pretty much everywhere — in movies, video games, adverts on the streets. 3D graphic has been introduced few decades ago and since then has improved and evolved dramatically. Mobile and web technology is also growing rapidly fast. New web browser capabilities have opened the door for 3D graphic allowing us as designers to create and implement amazing 3D graphics into modern web and mobile interfaces.

Creating and then integration of 3D graphic into web and mobile interfaces requires some specific skills and tons of work, but very often the results are very rewarding.

3D graphic renders allows to present the product or services in the a lot more interactive and engaging way: for instance 3D graphic renders could be viewed in 360 degree presentation improving the overall UX of the product.

In 2020 even more brands will use 3D render models to present the product or services in order to emulate the real world (in-store) shopping experience.

Car health report UI by Gleb Kuznetsov
3D flip menu by Minh Pham

Apple AirPods Pro landing page

#4 Virtual Reality

2019 has been a big year for VR. In the last years we have seen a lot of progress and excitement in VR headsets — mostly in gaming industry. We need to keep in mind that gaming industry very often brings innovation and new technologies into digital product design. Research proves that VR is no exception as after Oculus Quest in 2019 launch many opportunities have opened for other industries. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already tested exciting hand interaction feature and officially announced hand-tracking update for Quest, coming early 2020!

Sony and Microsoft will release their new generation consoles in 2020 holiday season. These would bring a lot opportunities and room to growth for VR technology.

Oculus Quest — hand interaction feature

#5 Augmented Reality

In the last years we have seen a lot of progress, excitement and improvement of AR. The world’s leading tech companies are investing millions into AR development , so we should expect to expand and grow this technology in 2020. Even Apple has introduced their own AR toolkit called ARKIT 3 to help designers and developers build AR based products.

There are endlessopportunities to innovate and create brand new and exciting experiences in AR space. UI design for AR will be one of the major trends in 2020, so as designers we should be prepared and eager to learn new tools, principles when creating AR experiences.

Apple ARKit 3 by Apple

#6 Neumorphism


Generally speaking Skeuomorphic design refers to the design elements that are created in a realistic style/way to match the real life objects. The growth of VR/AR technology and latest design trends shown on the most popular design platforms (Dribbble, Behance etc.) might make skeuomorphic design comeback in 2020 — but this time with a lot modern fashion and slightly modified name: “New skeuomorphism” (also called Neumorphism).

As you’ve probably noticed:Neumorphism represents very detailed and precise design style. Highlight, shadows, glows — attention to details is very impressive and definitely on spot. Neumorphism has already inspired a lot of designers from all over the world and there is big chance that Neumorphism will be the biggest UI design trend in 2020.

Skeuomorph Mobile Banking | Dark Mode by Alexander Plyuto

Simple Music Player by Filip Legierski

Sleep Cycle App — Neumorphism Redesign by Devanta Ebison

#7 Asymmetrical Layouts

In the last years we have noticed huge grown of asymmetrical layouts in digital product design. Traditional / “template” based layouts are definitely going away. 2020 will not be any different as this trend will continue. Proper usage of asymmetrical layouts add a lot of character, dynamic and personality to our designs, so they do not template based anymore.

There is a lot of room for creativity as the number of options and opportunities when creating asymmetrical layouts are endless. Although, creating successful asymmetrical layouts requires some practice and time — placing elements randomly on the grid wouldn’t work 🙂 also they should be used and implemented with care — always keeping in mind users needs : we do not want to get them lost when using our digital products — do we? 🙂

Limnia Fine Jewelry Grid — Zhenya Rynzhuk
Carine fashion store — selection screen concept — Dawid Tomczyk

#8 Storytelling

Stories play an very important role in overall UX in the digital product design. You might see them very often on the landing pages as introduction to the brand, product or new service. Storytelling is all about transferring data to the users in the best possible informative and creative way. This could be achieved by copyrighting mixed with strong and balanced visual hierarchy (typography, illustrations, high-quality photos, bold colours, animations and interactive elements).

Storytelling really helps to create positive emotions and relationships between your brand and users. Storytelling might also make your brand a lot more memorable and making users feel like they are part of our products or services, so they would like to associate with them. Having said that, storytelling is also great and efficient marketing tool that might greatly increase the sales of your products/services. Storytelling as the very successful tool will continue and expand in 2020.

A+WQ / Young Lab Page Story of The Week Animation by Zhenya Rynzhuk
Free Sketch Template :: Mimini by Tran Mau Tri Tam

Via UX Design


rivate car showroom by bureau fraai in amsterdam frames views of iconic jaguar models

Its quietly amazing how the european design always mesmerize the senses by proposing amazing features out of things that seems to come from clients ego, and even if the feat seems just to justify the needs of a random individual, the result can be pretty amazing if lands in the hands of a compelling architect.


all images courtesy of bureau fraai

a couple of owners of two jaguar models have asked architecture firm bureau fraai to design a garage where they can store their cars safely, and also showcase them in an elegant way. 

the architects have come up with a private showroom concept to be located within the backyard of the clients’ main house in amsterdan. formed as a distinct black volume with an automatic car lift, the garage is completely visible from the residence. 


all images courtesy of bureau fraai


all images courtesy of bureau fraai

the showroom by bureau fraai stores the two jaguars, stacked on top of each other, with the use of an automatic car lift. the structure features a large steel plate window, framing the client’s favourite model as if it were a painting to be enjoyed from within their own living room. the characteristic design of the garage is enhanced by integrating a custom-designed grill with the jaguar logo, referring to classical models from the car brand’s history.


all images courtesy of bureau fraai

besides the showroom, bureau fraai has also designed a matching black roof extension for the main residence. the roofing connects to the two different roof heights of the neighbouring buildings. here, two big steel plate framed windows enclose the interior of the top floor living and working area, creating an edward hopper like appearance when observed from the exterior.


all images courtesy of bureau fraai

both window frames also serve a second purpose; the front one extends into the interior as a desk while framing the view to the neighbourhood. meanwhile, the rear one facing the roof terrace and garden evolves into a bench where one can relax and enjoy the sky. in contrast with the black exterior shell, the interior has a warm and light character. both the ceiling and the connected built-in wall cabinet are made from wood, with clear matching partitioning and refined detailing.


all images courtesy of bureau fraai

project info:

name: black gems
architects: bureau fraai
location: amsterdam, the netherlands

via Designboom

Apple choose users over sold units to avoid misinterpretations

Form many years, many voices in the industry like to interpret the sucess of any given company thru the total unit sales from any given period, in some cases, just for the peace of mind of the shareholders. Apple in the other hand has always focused in earnings and so far they are making great on that part. What most industry seems not to understand is that users, not units are the most important metric, and in the Apple side of the world, this make more sense that anything. Even when Apple sells just few devices, its earnigs are the bigger ones in the entire industry, not even Samsung and the Chinese companies are close to that, money is what drives innovation and focusing only in units sold, tend to make such units cheap and bad made in general, poor software implemented, and in general perfect for the hackers to steal user data.

Enjoy this amazing analysis in the hand of Daniel Eran

Across the lasthttps://twitter.com/danieleran 20 years, Apple has shifted from selling Macs in a world dominated by Windows PCs to being a dominant global brand that services a vast installed base that’s more valuable, influential, and lucrative than Windows was at its peak. Apple wants its investors to understand that, and is now challenging the media narrative that suggests it running an unsustainable race against various manufacturers churning out ever-increasing volumes of hardware units.

Apple customers visiting its Taipei 101 flagship store in Taiwan

 

People over Units

Starting with Apple’s Fiscal 2019 —which began this holiday quarter —the company will be reporting its hardware sales only in terms of revenue, rather than unit sales. As previous segments in this series have laid out, the cynical take that Apple is doing this in an attempt to hide failure is simply false.

Conversely, Apple’s historical quarterly unit sales reporting has given analysts and pundits data that they frequently interpret incorrectly. In doing so, they obscure the company’s actual performance and distract from its real value and potential.

Going forward, Apple’s revenue-only reporting will still provide a clear picture of the overall health of each of its business segments —the same way that Microsoft, Samsung Electronics and other large companies with multiple lines of business report their quarterly performance without necessarily enumerating any units sold. The shift puts a new focus on what is really the most valuable aspect of Apple’s global operations. Today, that’s commonly understood to be iPhone sales. Just over a decade ago it was thought to be iPods, and prior to that it was assumed to be Macs.

The real value of Apple’s business has never changed. The real reason why Apple has always been uniquely able to sell premium hardware in a marketplace full of less expensive, generic commodity is its ability to successfully reach people, convince them that things are better inside the Apple ecosystem, and then retain their loyalty by delivering what Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook refers to as “user sat.”

Essentially, Apple doesn’t sell people units. It sells units of people on Apple.

Apple has successfully sold nearly a billion on Apple

Successfully selling and establishing a brand is much more work than simply selling units. But the work the company has invested over the last two decades has sold nearly a billion people on Apple. Industry research indicates that the installed base of customers Apple has built are largely not shopping around.

Apple’s massive installed base represents an Elysium of buyers that consistently generate ongoing hardware, software, and services sales for Apple. It’s also the premium demographic of consumer electronics buyers, necessitating Google to pay Apple billions for search traffic. Unit sales simply don’t reflect the true nature of Apple’s business.

Outside of Apple’s installed base of users, there are a series of PC makers who collectively sell more computers than Apple. However, Windows PC buyers are not necessarily loyal to any specific PC maker, as reflected in the constant shift in sales share between them.

The situation is similar among Android licensees, where various companies take turns selling the most phones, but none have established any strength in creating the intensely loyal base of users Apple now has.

Despite huge unit sales of phones for years, Samsung has been unable to sell its buyers on Samsung itself

As Samsung has demonstrated, achieving years of large unit sales is meaningless if it doesn’t generate sustainable income, particularly if those sales can subsequently be stolen away by lower-priced rivals. Samsung Mobile is now dragging the rest of the company down in profitability in part because it achieved unit sales without actually selling those buyers on Samsung.

Samsung buyers were simply sold Android as a commodity, and they left when they found it cheaper elsewhere.

The size of installed base “sold on Apple” is now so large that it acts independently of the industry. While overall sales of PCs, tablets, and phones are shrinking, Apple’s Mac, iPad and iPhone have been bucking that trend.

Just as importantly, the price tiers Apple can offer are also rising upward in an environment where Windows and Android licensees are struggling to prevent their already low Average Selling Prices from dropping any further.

It’s not simply that Apple is “raising its prices.” Rather, it’s expanding its offerings to include more luxurious products on the high-end, even as it now offers a $330 iPad and iPhone 7 starting at $450. What’s new is that Apple’s installed base is now so large that it can support a luxury tier that includes a $13,000 iMac Pro, a loaded iPad Pro at $1,900, and the high-end $1,450 iPhone XS Max.

Samsung also offers luxury-priced devices, but it doesn’t have an installed base that’s large, loyal, and premium enough to actually sell commercially significant numbers of those devices. That results in large numbers of Samsung unit sales of smartphones, but at an Average Selling Price below $250, according to Counterpoint Research. Luxury brands in China have only pushed up their ASPs slightly higher, but are still at or below $275.

Meanwhile, iPhone ASPs are nearly $800 across sales of more than 200 million annually—that’s a new development that analysts apparently still haven’t yet digested. Samsung and its Android rivals in China are generating unit sales but not developing a reliable installed base of users. And because they can’t sell higher-end devices in quantity, they can’t bring down the cost of expensive components via economies of scale or generate the revenues and the profits that drive the development of future generations of technology on their own, without Apple’s help.

Because this is a relatively new development—and unique in the tech industry—many analysts have no frame of reference to help them understand how Apple’s business works, leaving them stuck in the mindset that Apple is still in its desperate 1990s struggle with cheaper commodity vendors over each unit sold.

The historical scrutiny of Macs units sold

Apple’s critics love to talk about the potential of its demise, and nothing has suggested Apple’s apparent, imminent death quite like the prospect of its products being “outsold” the same way Macs were outnumbered by the collective sales of Windows PCs, starting in the 1990s.

The Apple Computer of 25 years ago was negatively impacted by the rise of commodity Windows PCs for two reasons. First, Microsoft’s large alternative PC platform attracted investment from developers that eroded away the level of interest in Macs and Apple’s unique development APIs. This impaired Apple’s ability to update or add value to its Mac platform, as many of the improvements it made were simply ignored by developers now focused on Windows, where more customers meant more money and a greater return on developers’ investment.

Secondly, large volumes of PC sales created economies of scale for Intel x86 processors and PC-related standards such as PCI, Parallel and PS/2 peripherals, and VGA monitors. The economies of scale shared by PC vendors not only helped make Windows attractively cheaper, but also made the price of Macs appear less affordable because Apple lacked the hundreds of millions of PC users that were driving down component and peripheral prices via consistent, high volume sales.

Steve Jobs worked to interrupt this vicious catch-22 by focusing Apple on fewer Mac models that could sell in higher quantities. Jobs also targeted areas where Apple could shine over commodity PCs, focusing on multimedia, education, ease of use, and the technical lead PowerPC briefly delivered during Intel’s misstep with Pentium 4.

Even so, Apple under Jobs continued to struggle to sell more than a few million Macs annually in a market of hundreds of millions of PCs, forcing it to constantly work to identify new technical advantages it could exploit to stay ahead of generic PCs. Apple directed attention to its software, integration, and industrial design, ushering in the age of translucent colorful plastics and later more serious looking aluminum unibody designs which helped Macs stand out from generic PCs.

Apple adopted Intel’s chips in 2006

At the same time, Apple also worked to adopt Intel chips, USB, and other technologies that allowed it to share some of the economies of scale that were incrementally bringing down the component costs of PCs. The number of Mac units Apple was able to sell each quarter was a closely watched barometer of how well its various initiatives were working to win over PC user “switchers.”

As noted earlier, Apple transparently documented this progress in incredible detail for years, breaking down its quarterly Mac sales by target audience, form factor (portables and desktops), and region sold. Yet over time it has increasingly published fewer details.

Apple’s installed base gains a critical mass

Apple’s dedicated installed base of Mac users have long appreciated the fact they were paying a premium for a superior experience. However, the Mac’s price premium still prevented Apple from successfully attracting large numbers of PC users who had grown accustomed to saving money by putting up with the rougher edges of Microsoft’s haphazardly managed Windows platform.

When iPod arrived, millions of new people were exposed to Apple’s “far less frustrating” experience, where layers of complexity were purposely stripped away—not to demean the user’s ability to figure out endless series of technical minutae, but to free them from having to waste time dealing with it. Jobs’ iPod taught users to pay a premium for a premium experience. That lesson was more convincing in the individual world of everyday electronics, compared to the dauntingly complicated, technical patriarchy of desktop computing.

Seven years later, Apple went from selling 3 million Macs a year to annually selling 50 million iPods and 7 million Macs. But more importantly, Apple wasn’t just increasing its unit sales —it was vastly increasing its installed base of loyal users. In 2008, the active Mac installed base had reached 36 million machines. That was still a small fraction of the PC market, but it represented a premium demographic of users capable of attracting some specialized attention from developers.

It was iPhone that really erected a walled garden of constrained experience for users, one that minimized the nature of personal computing so much that nobody thought of the new mobile computer as being a “computer” at all, but rather just an effortlessly simple device that could browse the web, listen to music, take pictures, play games, message friends and run a new class of spectacularly easy-to-use apps. In three years Apple was selling 50 million iPods, 40 million iPhones, and over 13 million Macs per year.

Apple’s growing installed base begins crushing rivals’ unit sales numbers

While the tech media obsessed itself with unit sales of iPhones —and initially smirked in contempt of its inability to execute Adobe Flash applets and regularly announced how much they hated that users were unable to compile their own kernel or side-load bootleg apps from random untrustworthy sources —none of that helped predict what was about to happen. It also didn’t stop iPhone from blowing up into a force that completely destroyed every other existing smartphone platform of the day within just its first few years.

Giant established mobile phone makers Nokia, Blackberry, and of course Microsoft’s Windows Mobile partners such as Samsung and Sony formerly had large unit sales. In fact, Nokia and Blackberry kept selling huge unit numbers of phones even as it became clear that they were completely outgunned and had no functional strategy for competing with iOS. Their unit sales collapsed suddenly and spectacularly, offering no real indication of health until it was too late to matter.

Apple’s iPhone wasn’t simply stealing unit numbers away from Nokia and Blackberry —it was building upon the installed base of its satisfied Mac and iPod users. Apple’s installed base, not merely of machines but of users—was increasingly growing more important to understanding Apple’s potential for success than just the unit sales it sold each quarter. While initially small, the unit sales of iPhones meant that Apple was attracting buyers into its retail stores, where it could sell them Macs and other products.

Apple’s installed base begins creating its own weather

By 2010, Apple’s installed base of users was large enough to be sold a new category of device. Apple adapted its iOS architecture to deliver the larger, tablet-sized iPad that year, which undercut the foundation of the conventional PC market and caused the entire Windows platform to tilt sideways as users flocked to Apple’s dumb-simple device by the tens of millions every year for a period of time comparable to reign of Windows 95 through Windows XP.

Three years after launching iPhone, Apple’s installed base had grown large enough to support an iOS tablet

The media narrative that insisted that Apple was just around the corner from once again being outnumbered by commodity was proven wrong over an extended period of time, first by iPhone, then by iPad. Additionally, unit sales of Macs were incrementally rising, but something else was also happening: its installed base was growing even faster. By 2013, Apple could announce that its installed base of Macs had doubled over five years, reaching 72 million.

The size of Apple’s installed base was now capable of launching another new product category: Apple Watch, which inherited the sports-centric, wearable functionality of iPod, and added a fashion-oriented element of exchangeable bands and customizable faces. Its tight integration with Continuity, Health, Home, Siri and App Store titles helped it to grow within Apple’s installed base of tech-hungry buyers even as Samsung’s larger unit sales of Androids did virtually nothing to launch Galaxy Gear into a functional orbit.

Microsoft’s once important Windows platform was similarly unable to drive sales of its cheaper Band, and despite its supposedly vast “leading” platform of Android, Google’s Wear efforts have flopped as well.

Over the last year, Apple sold more than 217 million iPhones, 43 million iPads and 18 million Macs. Those are the last official unit sales numbers we’re going to get. Apple also revealed this year that the Mac installed base had grown to 100 million.

That might sound small in comparison to iPhones, but this year Amazon was applauded for having 100 million Prime users. In a world of shrinking PC sales, Apple is not just bucking the trend in growing its unit sales but is expanding its core installed base of users.

This year, Amazon announced 100M Prime users and Apple announced its 100M active installed base of Macs

Rather than understanding the integrated nature of Apple’s businesses and how its product sales feed each other and launch new categories, many analysts and industry pundits have been distracted by focusing unit sales of specific categories. This is reflected in observations along the lines that Apple’s non-iPhone businesses—Mac, iPad, Services and Other—are all so small compared to iPhone in units that they are a “rounding error” or “barely move the needle.”

The reverse is actually true: Macs and iPad are collectively a $44.3 billion business, while Services and Other products generated over $37 billion and $17 billion respectively.

Rather than competing with iPhone for attention, Apple’s base of iPhone users is driving business to its other segments—which are individually about the size of Amazon Web Services or Facebook! Conversely, the hardware segments of companies that don’t have an iPhone business, like Google Pixel and Microsoft Surface (about $4.5 billion), are a fraction the size, if they can register at all.

It’s a huge stretch to say that Google’s search is driving Pixel at all, or that Windows, Office 360 or Azure are driving Surface.

Why a installed base of people is far more valuable than quarterly units sold

Apple no longer needs to desperately prove that it can entice PC users to switch to the Mac. Instead, it is increasingly leveraging its much greater installed base of iOS users to sell Macs. Beyond its 100 million Macs, Apple now has an installed base of users with 1.3 billion active devices. This installed base of users is more important than units sold for multiple reasons.

Firstly: for third party developers, the number of new Macs sold per quarter is far less interesting than Apple’s growing, premium installed base of Mac users. The Mac installed base of users is both growing large enough to support new development and is also more likely to pay for software and services—certainly more so than users in Microsoft’s PC platform who largely weren’t even willing to pay to upgrade to Windows 10. Google’s Chrome OS platform is not only tiny, but almost entirely made up of K12 schools looking for a nearly free solution.

If you combine Windows PCs and Chromebooks, various vendors’ unit sales look more significant than they really are—particularly if you compare them against only Apple’s Macs and segregate iPads into a separate category, as research firms like IDC do. But Apple’s installed base of premium users tells an entirely different story, one that’s actually true.

Secondly: the Continuity and familiarity between Macs and iOS are actually quite important, but goes missing when you break down Apple’s installed base of devices into units of products. Further, the similarities in development and coding tools between Macs and iOS means that companies that have already invested in iOS because of its size and importance can repurpose much of what they already know to bring their software to the Mac.

At WWDC 2018, Apple introduced expanded plans to drive Mac development via iOS

Apple is making this even easier in its recent initiative to enable iOS UIKit apps to run on Macs—starting this year with its own internal iOS apps including Home, News and Stocks, and expanding next year to allow third parties to bring their iOS apps to the Mac App Store. The tight integration of Apple’s huge installed base of users is not reflected in Mac unit sales alone.

Thirdly: the WinTel PC economies of scale that once worked against Apple have now virtually vanished. Instead, you can observe even more powerful economies of scale in Apple’s internal development, where features created for the more than 1 billion iOS devices can be adapted to work across its 100 million Macs. This includes services like Maps, Siri, and News, which would have been impractical to build just for the Mac.

Apple’s massive, highly profitable iOS mobile platform allows it to pay for other new technology investments that benefit Macs, including APFS and its custom T2 silicon with Apple’s custom SSD controller, encryption, support for Hey Siri, and security for features like Touch Bar and Touch ID.

Looking just at unit sales of Macs, Apple’s investment in macOS—creating a substantial new version each year, with a half dozen minor updates in between, along with related software, hardware, and firmware technologies used in Macs—barely makes any sense.

Other PC makers that maintain global unit sales of 20 million computers are largely shipping commodity hardware components packaged with Windows, with very little proprietary feature innovation. They can’t afford to invest very much into their PC business. No PC makers have a massive, wildly profitable mobile device business that subsidizes development of new technology. And the declining nature of the conventional PC market means that Microsoft is increasingly less interested in driving investment in Windows development.

More importantly, in lacking a large, loyal installed base of users, generic PC makers can’t count on anyone buying its new products, but must instead compete against other generic PCs almost entirely on price. That requires making value engineering design compromises that help differentiate Macs as premium machines.

The scarcity of high value, new unit growth

Next to Apple, large mobile device makers such as Samsung, Huawei, and Lenovo are barely making money on their mobile devices and all appear to be losing money on PC and tablet sales. None of this hardship is reflected in their high unit sales, which are increasingly unsustainable in a world where there is no more overall growth occurring in PCs, tablets or even phones.

Huge potential expansions of volume shipments into new regions are growing scarce. And the growth that is occurring is happening in emerging countries where already slim margins are being pared down even further by cutthroat pricing competition among device makers. While Apple has some near-term hurdles to jump in markets like India, its long-term strategy is maintaining iOS as an aspirational brand, so that once there’s an installed base of smartphone users, it can upgrade them to iOS the same way it upgraded Americans from Windows Phone and later Android; Japan and Europe from Symbian; and China from Linux and Android.

All of those territories were once sold huge unit sales volumes of non-iPhones for years before Apple entered and began selling them iPhones, and then sold its iPhone users on iPad and Macs, and then Apple Watch, and increasingly apps, subscriptions, and other Services.

Functional business model vs failures

It will be much easier for Apple to upgrade the world to higher-end gear than it will be for the collective commodity licensees of Windows and Android to find new markets to sell more units.

In part, that’s because Apple has a functional business model for increasing the desirability of its products in a crowded field. For the last twenty years, Apple has consistently been selling hardware at a profit that can fund investment in new technology. And rather than that model wearing out as a strategy, it is working increasingly better over time, launching new categories of products and enhancing the lives of Apple’s base in a way that retains their loyalty. The base is growing substantially and the price they are willing to pay keeps increasing.

Alternatively, commodity hardware producers have been locked in a vicious cycle of lower prices and even cheaper competition that is driving them out of business. Slim margins aren’t enabling them to invest in technology, and like Apple in the 1990s they are locked out of the economies of scale that the most valuable mobile platform is driving.

The standouts that are seeking to copy Apple’s model, including the Microsoft Surface, Google Pixel, and Samsung Galaxy brands, are spending billions on product development that isn’t resulting in high volume sales or sustainable profits; instead, they’re merely burning up resources generated elsewhere by those companies. As Zune, Windows Phone, Nexus phones, Chromebook Pixel, and Galaxy Player all demonstrated, unsustainable sales volumes will eventually result in failure, despite many assurances that these companies are invested in a long-term approach.

Vía Appleinsider

bamboo club + cafe by VTN architects takes center stage in the heart of vietnam

The place were the bamboo becames a part of the city scenary…

vinh, in central vietnam, has been a battleground for multiple wars resulting in a massive amount of destruction to the city and the surrounding region. renovation for vietnam’s biggest city in the central region of the country has steered toward european design with colonial style façades, providing VTN architects with its latest challenge.

from street level, the bamboo material is visible on both levels: the rooftop dome and cafe under
all images by trieu chien

 

 

the project, titled ‘nocenco cafe,’ focused on morphing a middle-rise concrete building located in the city center of vinh. this scheme sees a renovated a cafe on the last floor and rooftop of a 7th floor turned into a neighborhood and city icon, with an emphasis on using a unique local material to create a new structure.

nocenco cafe‘ provides a completely unique interior but follows the bamboo theme

after a study period, VTN architects decided to use bamboo; an easily accessible material in the tropical climate reducing construction time and budget, but one that is also light and structurally sound.

the club has a cave like feel but sports open views of the surrounding city

 

 

the end product was a large dome structure on the roof with a club/lounge recognizable from any part of the city and a redesigned cafe on the floor below with an interior built using bamboo. this project equips a city that was once ravaged by war with a gathering place that has ‘a great view over the surrounding low-rise houses, towards the river, magnificent forest scape and various aged buildings.

 

the rooftop’s structure is built from bamboo and take the shape of an ‘L’

 

 

the vietnam-based architecture firm used ten bamboo columns to hide the existing structure and four additional columns to elegantly divide the space into different private areas, thus creating a cave-like space but juxtaposed with an open view of the surrounding city.

 

center of the dome is an open area

the club dome supported by bamboo columns opens up the surrounding views of the city

the dome is left open at the top

the bamboo structure provides a local and organic aspect to the neighborhood

clear views of the city from the rooftop club

the cafe under the rooftop club also sports views of the surrounding neighborhood

the incorporation of bamboo creates a unique environment complimented by shrubbery

the bamboo cafe also allows for natural light to enter

project info:

name: nocenco cafe

principal architects: vo trong nghia, nguyen tat dat

design team: to quang cam, le hoang tuyet ngoc, takahito yamada

office credit: VTN architects (vo trong nghia architects)

status: built in may 2018

program: café, club

location: vinh city, nghe an, vietnam

footprint: 438 sqm

GFA: 687 sqm

bamboo contractor: VTN architects

photography: trieu chien

Vía Design Boom

MINI LIVING + freelandbuck’s urban cabin offers living quality within 15m2

the 2018 los angeles design festival has begun and with it, one of the most anticipated installations has opened its doors: the MINI LIVING urban cabin. the new site-specific installation, which resides on the rooftop of the ROW DTLA, is the first in the series to house overnight guests. it follows the project that started in 2017, with stops in london and at A/D/O, brooklyn, NYC.

all images by laurian ghinitoiu

 

 

‘we’re working on our own very distinct interpretation of co-living. our aim is to enable a genuine sense of community, opening doors and creating public space,’ explains esther bahne, head of strategy and innovation MINI.‘our installations and visionary formats seek to explore a whole new range of possibilities in the creative use of space, and we’re now putting what we’ve learned into practice in the form of real-life construction projects.’

 

 

MINI’s urban cabin is a continuous installation project comprised of a small living unit that travels to various locations across the world, adapted for each city by local architects. each variation is designed with limited space and inspired by local surroundings, demonstrating creative approaches to the challenge of saving space while creating unique identities. the concept has been designed to demonstrate how a living space can be smart and flexible while, at the same time, make its inhabitants feel at home.

 

 

the LA cabin, with a footprint of just 15-square-meters, is a downtown oasis that allows visitors to embrace nature at the heart of the city. furthermore, the design focuses on enhancing a collective experience, rather than concentrating on just the domestic needs of one occupant.

 

 

this collective and open spirit is exactly what freelandbuck furthers with their part of the unique, locally-inspired urban cabin. by extending the perceptual boundaries and the contemplative life of a living space through spatial effects and experimental material assemblies, visitors can look and experience a transforming piece of architecture. two nested boxes, constructed with aluminum framing, are wrapped in translucent polycarbonate printed with the image of a third box that appears to be projected through the structure. the three-dimensional graphic surfaces vary between graphic alignment and kaleidoscopic effects as one moves around and through them. the indoor/outdoor quality created by the translucent skin is accentuated by a hanging garden which forms another cubic volume suspended from the enclosure.

 

 

on each side of freelandbuck’s kaleidoscopic experience room, the urban cabin features two outer modules: one for living and sleeping; the bathroom and kitchen on the other. the MINI LIVING design team have created these areas with a perforated metal facade on the exterior. as sunlight shines through the material, as well as the sporadic holes cut into the interior’s wooden cladding, varying mesmerizing and characterful patterns shimmer upon the floors and walls. making creative use of space down to the last, smart detail, the cabin features many space-saving solutions, such as push, fold and rotate mechanisms to further open the architecture to the environment and allow residents to adapt the space to their needs.

 

 

the MINI LIVING urban cabin will be open from june 8 – 10 during the LA design festival 2018. after the event, the urban cabin will continue its global tour, heading for beijing next and then onward to tokyo.

Vía Design Boom

bjarke ingels group designs customizable tiny house that can be built in any location 

bjarke ingels group has designed a customizable micro-home that can be built within a rapid time-frame in any location. named ‘A45’, the project is an iteration of the traditional A-frame cabin, known for its pitched roof and angled walls. BIG has developed the qualities of this classic structure with a design that maximizes usable floor area by taking a square base and twisting the roof 45 degrees. this enables the tiny home to boast a soaring 13 foot (4 meter) ceiling height.

all images by matthew carbone

 

 

constructed in upstate new york, ‘A45’ is a prototypical tiny house designed for klein. founded by designer and interior architect søren rose, klein’s goal is to develop a diverse range of tiny house concepts with the world’s leading architects. the homes are to be built by leading manufacturers and can be delivered anywhere in the world within a six month lead time. BIG’s tiny home is customizable inside and out and will be available for future home-owners to purchase.

the project is an iteration of the traditional A-frame cabin

 

 

externally, the building’s crystal-like form lends the project an ever-changing appearance. internally, the 180 square foot space has been prioritized for comfort and to foster a close relationship with nature. a morsøe wood-burning fireplace is nestled in one corner, while off-grid equipment is tucked away in the back. furniture includes a kitchen designed by københavns møbelsnedkeri, hand-crafted furniture from carl hansen, and a bed fitted with kvadrat fabric designed by søren rose studio. the bathroom is made of cedar wood with fixtures by VOLA.

the design maximizes usable floor area by taking a square base and twisting the roof 45 degrees

 

 

the dwelling is assembled in modules on site and consists of 100% recyclable materials. this includes the timber frame, wall modules, a subfloor, and the triangular floor-to-ceiling window that comprises seven glass pieces. the structure is slightly elevated on four concrete piers that give optimal support and allow homeowners to place their tiny house in even the most remote areas.

the tiny home boasts a soaring 13 foot (4 meter) ceiling height

the kitchen has been designed by københavns møbelsnedkeri

the project features hand-crafted furniture from carl hansen

the bathroom is made of cedar wood with fixtures by VOLA

the dwelling consists of 100% recyclable materials

the micro-home can be built within a rapid time-frame in any location

klein’s goal is to develop a range of tiny house concepts with the world’s leading architects

 

 

project info:

 

name: klein
date: may, 2018
program: housing
status: completed
size: 17 sqm / 183 sqf
project type: commission
client: klein house
collaborators: soren rose studio, dinesen, morsø, gagganau, kvadrat, carl hansen & søn, suite new york, københavns møbelsnedkeri, XAL, vola

 

project team:
partners-in-charge: bjarke ingels, thomas christoffersen
project leader: max moriyama
project architect: rune hansen
team: jian yong khoo, tianqi zhang

Vía Design Boom

land ark RV looks more like a high end ski lodge on wheels

land ark RV — a nomadic lifestyle brand on wheels — just released ‘drake.’ it sleeps up to six people, costs a little less than an airstream, can handle snow and is absolutely move-in-ready.

all images courtesy of land ark

the simply-shaped square and rectangular windows break up the sparse design like a cubist, picasso painting. its acute corners could cut the sky in half. these photos don’t show it, but you can imagine what this sharp black box might look like encased in a soft blanket of snow. in addition to its high-end design and curated amenities, drake the land ark RV was designed by people who actually live the mobile tiny house lifestyle. since 2011, founders of land ark brian and joni buzarde have been ‘guinea pigs,’ experiencing and recording the positives and paint points. after these years of research, the two designed drake.

JR’s hut is a true australian home on the range, built by a two person team

R’s hut at kimo estate is an australian home on the range. typically for property value, location is everything. most people pay top dollar to be were the action is, but this project in rural new south wales has the exact opposite virtue. there is absolutely nothing around it, except for beautiful rolling hills. the house appears as if part of a dream. as a true little house on the prairie, the plot was historically used as a farm but is now used to host weddings and other special getaways. it was designed by anthony hunt design and luke stanley architects to reference the a traditional farm house construction with some modern touches. it’s both cozy and bright inside, where the scenic views do not go to waste.

all images by hilary bradford

 

as impressive as the project’s design, is its construction. the structure at kimo estate was built by a two person owner-builder team, who used ‘sustainable australian hardwoods’. therefore the materials needed to be easily sourced and handled on site. according to the designers, ‘the hut’s form was inspired by a classic ‘A’ frame tent, which simultaneously provides both refuge from, and connection with, the natural environment.’ it only measures 28 square meters, but its small size contributes to the comfort and minimalism inside. in realizing this hilltop abode, anthony hunt and luke stanley have created a beautiful addition to this picturesque landscape.

 

 

project info:

 

name: JR’s hut at kimo estate
architect’ firm: anthony hunt design with luke stanley architects
lead architects: anthony hunt & luke stanley
project location: gundagai, new south wales, australia
completed: 2017
gross built area: 28 square metres
photography: hilary bradford
clients: david & emelia ferguson at kimo estate

Vía Designboom

Google Play estrena nuevo software para minar tu smartphone sin permiso

La Google Play Store se vuelve a llenar de aplicaciones maliciosas, ahora si, esas fotos privadas y esos nudes tan suculentos estarán de la mano de tanta gente buena onda en Youporn y Porhub.

¿Se acuerdan que Google había limpiado la Play Store? Pues parece que no sirvió de mucho.

En ese mismo rango, Apple lanzó un comercial haciendo alusión a este problema de Android, y lamentablemente puede que hayan tenido algo de razón.

Sucede que después de que pasaran minuciosamente la escoba para limpiar la tienda de aplicaciones que no eran tal y que tenían solo como objetivo robar datos, bastó con una simple movida para que volvieran.

¿Qué hicieron estos desagradables desarrolladores? Muy simple, le cambiaron el nombre a sus aplicaciones y las volvieron a subir. Prácticamente todas están de vuelta.

Estos datos los entrega Symantec, añadiendo que el código malicioso es exactamente el mismo que se usaba antes.

Las aplicaciones malignas tienen forma de teclado de emoji, limpiadores de espacio, calculadoras, grabadoras de llamadas y más, aunque claro, ninguna hace lo prometido. Solo infectan el móvil.

La mayoría de los usuarios finales aprietan “aceptar” a todo lo que diga una aplicación cuando se abre por primera vez, dando acceso a veces a datos que no deberían tener. Por qué una calculadora querría acceso total a mis datos…

En fin, el consejo siempre es el mismo: eduquen bien a sus usuarios cercanos que sepan que no saben tanto. Muéstrenles cómo reconocer una app confiable.

Vía Fayerwayer y Clark.com

Cracking the Brain’s Codes

How does the brain speak to itself?

IWhat Is Life? (1944), one of the fundamental questions the physicist Erwin Schrödinger posed was whether there was some sort of “hereditary code-script” embedded in chromosomes. A decade later, Crick and Watson answered Schrödinger’s question in the affirmative. Genetic information was stored in the simple arrangement of nucleotides along long strings of DNA.

The question was what all those strings of DNA meant. As most schoolchildren now know, there was a code contained within: adjacent trios of nucleotides, so-called codons, are transcribed from DNA into transient sequences of RNA molecules, which are translated into the long chains of amino acids that we know as proteins. Cracking that code turned out to be a linchpin of virtually everything that followed in molecular biology. As it happens, the code for translating trios of nucleotides into amino acids (for example, the nucleotides AAG code for the amino acid lysine) turned out to be universal; cells in all organisms, large or small—bacteria, giant sequoias, dogs, and people—use the same code with minor variations. Will neuroscience ever discover something of similar beauty and power, a master code that allows us to interpret any pattern of neural activity at will?

At stake is virtually every radical advance in neuroscience that we might be able to imagine—brain implants that enhance our memories or treat mental disorders like schizophrenia and depression, for example, and neuroprosthetics that allow paralyzed patients to move their limbs. Because everything that you think, remember, and feel is encoded in your brain in some way, deciphering the activity of the brain will be a giant step toward the future of neuroengineering.

Someday, electronics implanted directly into the brain will enable patients with spinal-cord injury to bypass the affected nerves and control robots with their thoughts (see “The Thought Experiment”). Future biofeedback systems may even be able to anticipate signs of mental disorder and head them off. Where people in the present use keyboards and touch screens, our descendants a hundred years hence may use direct brain-machine interfaces.

But to do that—to build software that can communicate directly with the brain—we need to crack its codes. We must learn how to look at sets of neurons, measure how they are firing, and reverse-engineer their message.

A Chaos of Codes

Already we’re beginning to discover clues about how the brain’s coding works. Perhaps the most fundamental: except in some of the tiniest creatures, such as the roundworm C. elegans, the basic unit of neuronal communication and coding is the spike (or action potential), an electrical impulse of about a tenth of a volt that lasts for a bit less than a millisecond. In the visual system, for example, rays of light entering the retina are promptly translated into spikes sent out on the optic nerve, the bundle of about one million output wires, called axons, that run from the eye to the rest of the brain. Literally everything that you see is based on these spikes, each retinal neuron firing at a different rate, depending on the nature of the stimulus, to yield several megabytes of visual information per second. The brain as a whole, throughout our waking lives, is a veritable symphony of neural spikes—perhaps one trillion per second. To a large degree, to decipher the brain is to infer the meaning of its spikes.

But the challenge is that spikes mean different things in different contexts. It is already clear that neuroscientists are unlikely to be as lucky as molecular biologists. Whereas the code converting nucleotides to amino acids is nearly universal, used in essentially the same way throughout the body and throughout the natural world, the spike-to-information code is likely to be a hodgepodge: not just one code but many, differing not only to some degree between different species but even between different parts of the brain. The brain has many functions, from controlling our muscles and voice to interpreting the sights, sounds, and smells that surround us, and each kind of problem necessitates its own kinds of codes.

A comparison with computer codes makes clear why this is to be expected. Consider the near-ubiquitous ASCII code representing the 128 characters, including numbers and alphanumeric text, used in communications such as plain-text e-mail. Almost every modern computer uses ASCII, which encodes the capital letter A as “100 0001,” B as “100 0010,” C as “100 0011,” and so forth. When it comes to images, however, that code is useless, and different techniques must be used. Uncompressed bitmapped images, for example, assign strings of bytes to represent the intensities of the colors red, green, and blue for each pixel in the array making up an image. Different codes represent vector graphics, movies, or sound files.

Evidence points in the same direction for the brain. Rather than a single universal code spelling out what patterns of spikes mean, there appear to be many, depending on what kind of information is to be encoded. Sounds, for example, are inherently one-dimensional and vary rapidly across time, while the images that stream from the retina are two-­dimensional and tend to change at a more deliberate pace. Olfaction, which depends on concentrations of hundreds of airborne odorants, relies on another system altogether. That said, there are some general principles. What matters most is not precisely when a particular neuron spikes but how often it does; the rate of firing is the main currency.

Consider, for example, neurons in the visual cortex, the area that receives impulses from the optic nerve via a relay in the thalamus. These neurons represent the world in terms of the basic elements making up any visual scene—lines, points, edges, and so on. A given neuron in the visual cortex might be stimulated most vigorously by vertical lines. As the line is rotated, the rate at which that neuron fires varies: four spikes in a tenth of a second if the line is vertical, but perhaps just once in the same interval if it is rotated 45° counterclockwise. Though the neuron responds most to vertical lines, it is never mute. No single spike signals whether it is responding to a vertical line or something else. Only in the aggregate—in the neuron’s rate of firing over time—can the meaning of its activity be discerned.

This strategy, known as rate coding, is used in different ways in different brain systems, but it is common throughout the brain. Different subpopulations of neurons encode particular aspects of the world in a similar fashion—using firing rates to represent variations in brightness, speed, distance, orientation, color, pitch, and even haptic information like the position of a pinprick on the palm of your hand. Individual neurons fire most rapidly when they detect some preferred stimulus, less rapidly when they don’t.

To make things more complicated, spikes emanating from different kinds of cells encode different kinds of information. The retina is an intricately layered piece of nervous-system tissue that lines the back of each eye. Its job is to transduce the shower of incoming photons into outgoing bursts of electrical spikes. Neuroanatomists have identified at least 60 different types of retinal neurons, each with its own specialized shape and function. The axons of 20 different retinal cell types make up the optic nerve, the eye’s sole output. Some of these cells signal motion in several cardinal directions; others specialize in signaling overall image brightness or local contrast; still others carry information pertaining to color. Each of these populations streams its own data, in parallel, to different processing centers upstream from the eye. To reconstruct the nature of the information that the retina encodes, scientists must track not only the rate of every neuron’s spiking but also the identity of each cell type. Four spikes coming from one type of cell may encode a small colored blob, whereas four spikes from a different cell type may encode a moving gray pattern. The number of spikes is meaningless unless we know what particular kind of cell they are coming from.

And what is true of the retina seems to hold throughout the brain. All in all, there may be up to a thousand neuronal cell types in the human brain, each presumably with its own unique role.

Wisdom of Crowds

Typically, important codes in the brain involve the action of many neurons, not just one. The sight of a face, for instance, triggers activity in thousands of neurons in higher-order sectors of the visual cortex. Every cell responds somewhat differently, reacting to a different detail—the exact shape of the face, the hue of its skin, the direction in which the eyes are focused, and so on. The larger meaning inheres in the cells’ collective response.

A major breakthrough in understanding this phenomenon, known as population coding, came in 1986, when Apostolos Georgopoulos, Andrew Schwartz, and Ronald Kettner at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine learned how a set of neurons in the motor cortex of monkeys encoded the direction in which a monkey moves a limb. No one neuron fully determined where the limb would move, but information aggregated across a population of neurons did. By calculating a kind of weighted average of all the neurons that fired, Georgopoulos and his colleagues found, they could reliably and precisely infer the intended motion of the monkey’s arm.

One of the first illustrations of what neurotechnology might someday achieve builds directly on this discovery. Brown University neuroscientist John ­Donoghue has leveraged the idea of population coding to build neural “decoders”—incorporating both software and electrodes—that interpret neural firing in real time. ­Donoghue’s team implanted a brushlike array of microelectrodes directly into the motor cortex of a paralyzed patient to record neural activity as the patient imagined various types of motor activities. With the help of algorithms that interpreted these signals, the patient could use the results to control a robotic arm. The “mind” control of the robot arm is still slow and clumsy, akin to steering an out-of-alignment moving van. But the work is a powerful hint of what is to come as our capacity to decode the brain’s activity improves.

Among the most important codes in any animal’s brain are the ones it uses to pinpoint its location in space. How does our own internal GPS work? How do patterns of neural activity encode where we are? A first important hint came in the early 1970s with the discovery by John O’Keefe at University College in London of what became known as place cells in the hippocampus of rats. Such cells fire every time the animal walks or runs through a particular part of a familiar environment. In the lab, one place cell might fire most often when the animal is near a maze’s branch point; another might respond most actively when the animal is close to the entry point. The husband-and-wife team of Edward and May-Britt Moser discovered a second type of spatial coding based on what are known as grid cells. These neurons fire most actively when an animal is at the vertices of an imagined geometric grid representing its environment. With sets of such cells, the animal is able to triangulate its position, even in the dark. (There appear to be at least four different sets of these grid cells at different resolutions, allowing a fine degree of spatial representation.)

Other codes allow animals to control actions that take place over time. An example is the circuitry responsible for executing the motor sequences underlying singing in songbirds. Adult male finches sing to their female partners, each stereotyped song lasting but a few seconds. As Michale Fee and his collaborators at MIT discovered, neurons of one type within a particular structure are completely quiet until the bird begins to sing. Whenever the bird reaches a particular point in its song, these neurons suddenly erupt in a single burst of three to five tightly clustered spikes, only to fall silent again. Different neurons erupt at different times. It appears that individual clusters of neurons code for temporal order, each representing a specific moment in the bird’s song.

Grandma Coding

Unlike a typewriter, in which a single key uniquely specifies each letter, the ASCII code uses multiple bits to determine a letter: it is an example of what computer scientists call a distributed code. In a similar way, theoreticians have often imagined that complex concepts might be bundles of individual “features”; the concept “Bernese mountain dog” might be represented by neurons that fire in response to notions such as “dog,” “snow-loving,” “friendly,” “big,” “brown and black,” and so on, while many other neurons, such as those that respond to vehicles or cats, fail to fire. Collectively, this large population of neurons might represent a concept.

An alternative notion, called sparse coding, has received much less attention. Indeed, neuroscientists once scorned the idea as “grandmother-cell coding.” The derisive term implied a hypothetical neuron that would fire only when its bearer saw or thought of his or her grandmother—surely, or so it seemed, a preposterous concept.

But recently, one of us (Koch) helped discover evidence for a variation on this theme. While there is no reason to think that a single neuron in your brain represents your grandmother, we now know that individual neurons (or at least comparatively small groups of them) can represent certain concepts with great specificity. Recordings from microelectrodes implanted deep inside the brains of epileptic patients revealed single neurons that responded to extremely specific stimuli, such as celebrities or familiar faces. One such cell, for instance, responded to different pictures of the actress Jennifer Aniston. Others responded to pictures of Luke Skywalker of Star Wars fame, or to his name spelled out. A familiar name may be represented by as few as a hundred and as many as a million neurons in the human hippocampus and neighboring regions.

Such findings suggest that the brain can indeed wire up small groups of neurons to encode important things it encounters over and over, a kind of neuronal shorthand that may be advantageous for quickly associating and integrating new facts with preëxisting knowledge.

Terra Incognita

If neuroscience has made real progress in figuring out how a given organism encodes what it experiences in a given moment, it has further to go toward understanding how organisms encode their long-term knowledge. We obviously wouldn’t survive for long in this world if we couldn’t learn new skills, like the orchestrated sequence of actions and decisions that go into driving a car. Yet the precise method by which we do this remains mysterious. Spikes are necessary but not sufficient for translating intention into action. Long-term memory—like the knowledge that we develop as we acquire a skill—is encoded differently, not by volleys of constantly circulating spikes but, rather, by literal rewiring of our neural networks.

That rewiring is accomplished at least in part by resculpting the synapses that connect neurons. We know that many different molecular processes are involved, but we still know little about which synapses are modified and when, and almost nothing about how to work backward from a neural connectivity diagram to the particular memories encoded.

Another mystery concerns how the brain represents phrases and sentences. Even if there is a small set of neurons defining a concept like your grandmother, it is unlikely that your brain has allocated specific sets of neurons to complex concepts that are less common but still immediately comprehensible, like “Barack Obama’s maternal grandmother.” It is similarly unlikely that the brain dedicates particular neurons full time to representing each new sentence we hear or produce. Instead, each time we interpret or produce a novel sentence, the brain probably integrates multiple neural populations, combining codes for basic elements (like individual words and concepts) into a system for representing complex, combinatorial wholes. As yet, we have no clue how this is accomplished.

One reason such questions about the brain’s schemes for encoding information have proved so difficult to crack is that the human brain is so immensely complex, encompassing 86 billion neurons linked by something on the order of a quadrillion synaptic connections. Another is that our observational techniques remain crude. The most popular imaging tools for peering into the human brain do not have the spatial resolution to catch individual neurons in the act of firing. To study neural coding systems that are unique to humans, such as those used in language, we probably need tools that have not yet been invented, or at least substantially better ways of studying highly interspersed populations of individual neurons in the living brain.

It is also worth noting that what neuroengineers try to do is a bit like eavesdropping—tapping into the brain’s own internal communications to try to figure out what they mean. Some of that eavesdropping may mislead us. Every neural code we can crack will tell us something about how the brain operates, but not every code we crack is something the brain itself makes direct use of. Some of them may be “epiphenomena”—accidental tics that, even if they prove useful for engineering and clinical applications, could be diversions on the road to a full understanding of the brain.

Nonetheless, there is reason to be optimistic that we are moving toward that understanding. Optogenetics now allows researchers to switch genetically identified classes of neurons on and off at will with colored beams of light. Any population of neurons that has a known, unique molecular zip code can be tagged with a fluorescent marker and then be either made to spike with millisecond precision or prevented from spiking. This allows neuroscientists to move from observing neuronal activity to delicately, transiently, and reversibly interfering with it. Optogenetics, now used primarily in flies and mice, will greatly speed up the search for neural codes. Instead of merely correlating spiking patterns with a behavior, experimentalists will be able to write in patterns of information and directly study the effects on the brain circuitry and behavior of live animals. Deciphering neural codes is only part of the battle. Cracking the brain’s many codes won’t tell us everything we want to know, any more than understanding ASCII codes can, by itself, tell us how a word processor works. Still, it is a vital prerequisite for building technologies that repair and enhance the brain.

Take, for example, new efforts to use optogenetics to remedy a form of blindness caused by degenerative disorders, such as retinitis pigmentosa, that attack the light-sensing cells of the eye. One promising strategy uses a virus injected into the eyeballs to genetically modify retinal ganglion cells so that they become responsive to light. A camera mounted on glasses would pulse beams of light into the retina and trigger electrical activity in the genetically modified cells, which would directly stimulate the next set of neurons in the signal path—restoring sight. But in order to make this work, scientists will have to learn the language of those neurons. As we learn to communicate with the brain in its own language, whole new worlds of possibilities may soon emerge.

Christof Koch is chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University and a frequent blogger for the New Yorker, is coeditor of the forthcoming book The Future of the Brain.

Vía Technology Review

Fossil finger points to early humans in Arabia 85,000 years ago

Fossil bone of what scientists believe is part of a Homo sapiens’ middle finger found in the Al Wusta site in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Ian Cartwright

An international team of scientists say they have found the oldest Homo sapiens fossil outside of Africa and the Levant corridor — suggesting that early humans left Africa 20,000–25,000 years before most earlier evidence suggested.

Why it matters: The finding published in Nature Ecology and Evolution Monday supports the view that rather than migrating out of Africa 60,000 years ago in a single large migration, small groups of early humans may have left the continent earlier and in more complicated patterns than previously thought.

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What the team found: After searching a site in the Al Wusta region of Saudi Arabia for nearly 10 years, they found part of a finger bone in 2016 along with hundreds of artifacts like stone tools and various types of animal fossils, including hippos. “It was like a dream come true,” Michael Petraglia, one of the study authors, told reporters during a press conference.

How they tested it: They directly dated the fossil using radioisotopes, which they say is more reliable than solely testing the surrounding sediment or artifacts. They also tested the surrounding sediment, animal fossils and artifacts at independent laboratories and found the ages roughly matched.

The testing “very strongly demonstrates” the bone is from an early human, according to University of Oxford’s Huw Groucutt, another study author who also spoke at the press briefing. Not only did labs confirm this, but the boneshape is much longer and thinner than Neanderthal fingers, he said.

Yes, but: Richard Potts, paleoanthropologist and director of the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History’s Human Origins Program, says he agrees the bone is “probably” from a Homo sapiens but adds the claim that it is the oldest may downplay other recent findings in East Asia and Australia that also support the idea of smaller, periodic exits from Africa or its bordering Levant region.

The response: The authors say those prior studies are limited though because they either did not date the fossils directly (instead they tested associated layers of sediments and artifacts) or were unable to directly prove their fossils were Homo sapiens.

The big picture: “It’s not just one single wave out of Africa 60,000 years ago,” Petraglia said. “We’re arguing here there were multiple dispersals out of Africa. The movement was far more complicated” than originally thought.

Vía Axios

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