Disney’s Concept 3D Printer Makes Soft Plush Toys

July 29, 2015 at 12:53 PM

When we think of 3D printing we usually think of solid objects, but the folks at Disney Research decided to try something else.

A Layered Fabric 3D Printer for Soft Interactive Objects

This conceptual (yet working) printer uses off the shelf fabric, laser cutters and a “heat sensitive adhesive” to bring it all together. Not only that, it weaves conductive fabric into the process to turn the toy into an interactive input device.

Disney's 3D printed soft fabric toy

Disney’s 3D printed soft fabric toy

The applications are no doubt numerous. In Disney’s case for example you could imagine a subscription service where they send families new characters on a regular basis.

I was also surprised to find out that Disney has not just one, but six research labs.

Even if everyone doesn’t end up having one of these in their home, the implications of this technology for stocking retail stores and supply chains in general are tremendous.

Google resources to support the hiring of veterans

November 16, 2014 at 2:27 PM
Google Doodle for Veterans Day

Google Doodle for Veterans Day

Google announced this month a new website to encourage and help veterans to apply for jobs at the company. In the official blog post titled ‘The doors are open for veterans at Google’ there are more details about the kind of resources veterans can find including mentoring, virtual classes, a way to match their military skills with existing teams at Google, among others.

The intro video says it best:

Veterans Make Great Googlers


This builds on the efforts of Google’s existing group ‘Google Veterans Network’ (Website, G+ Page) but this site focuses squarely on the issue of recruiting top veteran talent to Google.

Supporting veterans is a noble and smart move for the company considering the kind of skills and behaviors it takes to succeed in a professional military.

The doors are open for veterans at Google

The doors are open for veterans at Google


A view on why Humanity still comes out on top if an A.I. surpasses us

October 26, 2014 at 11:33 AM

There is growing concern over the risks posed to humanity’s survival by the development of advanced Artificial Intelligence. Some have gone as far as saying it is our biggest existential threat. Many point to evolution as one of the primary forces that threatens our species if we continue down the path of creating machines that are truly intelligent and autonomous.

Imagining for a moment that such a scenario occurred, that an A.I. gains consciousness, reproduces and refines itself to the point that it no longer follows human instructions and so is a new intelligent species competing for the finite resources on Earth. A robot uprising ensues in the style of many science fiction stories that leads to the extinction of the human race.

The former is one possible outcome. But there is another where even if an advanced A.I. succeeds in surpassing us, our species ends up benefiting and indeed flourishing.

Like pilot fish feeding on the back of a whale shark, there is the possibility that a symbiotic relationship develops between man and machine. But what could mankind possibly offer an advanced intelligence born of a Technological Singularity?

Human beings have one unique trait, one precious and valuable gift that a superior organism could value and so keep humans around for: creativity, ideas, imagination, the ability to dream and create things that previously didn’t exist.

Whale Shark and Pilot Fish symbiosis

Whale Shark and Pilot Fish symbiosis

The innate and tremendous capacity for innovation exists in us not in the least because of an instinctive tenacity to survive when faced with adversity. It takes energy to produce ideas, and an intelligent life-form such as a human that is able to build (or at least plant the seed for) a new and superior intelligence clearly has infinite potential to create.

No matter how advanced an A.I. could become it would still be limited by the physical and perceptive constraints of the universe. You could make the argument that since this machine would be several orders of magnitude more intelligent than people then whatever ideas we could come up with would be useless to it. Once again no matter how intelligent an organism is it is not immune to “intellectual blind spots”, indeed as Socrates said “I know that I know nothing” illustrates that true intelligence recognizes its limitations. The entire human experience, from the moment we’re born to when we die is unique to our species and through hundreds of millions of years of evolution nature has taught us how to survive. This is a useful trait to imitate, not to mention that since the universe is so vast and relative it would be beneficial to have another intelligent organism’s point of view on how and why the universe exists.

Assuming this hypothesis is true, that an A.I. sees that keeping humans around is beneficial to it’s survival, then it would probably want to have as many people as possible thinking, helping, dreaming. A sufficiently advanced A.I. might also recognize the value in observing biological evolution and by that token would also have to contemplate the probability of life on other planets. Keeping biological lifeforms around could give it an edge if it ever encountered an alien civilization.

But just keeping humans around isn’t enough to spur innovation. It is plain to see that people produce many good ideas when their basic needs are met (and exceeded), when there is freedom and security. Under this scenario the A.I. would best serve it’s own interests by not only keeping humans, but keeping them at the highest standard of living possible to produce as many new ideas and perspectives as possible. Just one critical breakthrough that mankind could contribute to an A.I. species would justify keeping billions of people at the highest standard of living possible.

In the long-term would this mean that humanity would have to play a supporting role for another, more advanced organism? Perhaps. But there are many examples in nature where symbiosis ensures the survival of one species simply because of it’s usefulness to another more successful species; take dogs and cats for example, or your own intestinal flora.

Nature is a ruthless and efficient order, but where there is evolutionary value surprising combinations can arise. If it is even possible for A.I. to gain consciousness and create better versions of itself that ultimately eclipse human supremacy, we must take comfort in the knowledge that in all likelihood our species will survive. Having the unique gifts of limitless imagination combined with ferocious adaptability.

Musings on deeper Responsive Design that adapts to the uniqueness of each user

June 14, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Slowly the way people use software and computers is changing, design is getting better thanks to a focus on usability and the technique of Responsive Web Design. But this idea can be taken further when user interfaces respond and adapt to the particular and specific needs of the person using it.

A “one size fits all” approach where designers dream up an ultimate solution for how everyone should interact with the software or device has to disappear, indeed I believe it will, because what is beautiful and useful to consume information for one person might not be for another.

Swiftkey typing heat map, shouldnt our keyboards morph and change slightly to adapt to the shape and position of where our fingers tap?

My Swiftkey typing heat map showing where and how often my thumbs tap. Shouldn’t our keyboards adapt to us? Note how I don’t tap on top of the A, if that key shifted slightly for me, would I type faster?

It might be OK for some if the search bar is vertically placed, or if the “back” button is not an arrow and it’s not positioned to the left. What about people who can’t see at all?  These are very simple examples but the breadth of human culture and history should teach us that people see and interact with the world in different ways to the point that the things that are the most important in our lives are usually personalized and made our own. The “one size fits all approach” to software interfaces should especially be challenged as the world finally becomes connected in its entirety.

I’m not putting forward the idea that designers should come up with new and crazy designs for people to choose from, like in the way “skins” and interface layers are placed on software. Instead I believe that the idea of “responsiveness” taken to its full expression really escapes the designer and becomes the user’s territory, the user experience and information architecture should morph to serve the user in all of her intricacy.


There are deeper ways software interfaces could change and adapt to the user and his context:

  • The advent of tracking vital signs and other biological information through wearables such as fitness trackers and phones with medical sensors opens opportunities for adapting interfaces to a persons different physical states. Think of an interface enriched by the idea of the feedback of a mood ring.
  • The size and of buttons and other interface elements could slowly become bigger or smaller depending on the size of the users fingers. Children have small fingers, older people might have less precision in theirs, while some disabled people might not have any. The interface should sense and change to their needs.
  • Devices themselves could change and respond to specific user needs if the aspiration of smart materials is fulfilled.
  • User context, where they are, who they are with, what they are doing should also be an automatic factor for adapting software interfaces. If I get into my car, the way I interact with software should change. If i’m with friends, social activities should be on hand.
Information should be free from it's interface vessel

Information should be free from it’s interface vessel, changing into whatever form we want it to

  • The possibilities of Gamification have only just begun to be explored, both to reward and encourage the user. Platforms like Adwords could greatly be enhanced with game-like feedback.
  • The layout of the interface could shift and re-arrange depending on where the users’ eyes are spending the most time.
  • Texture and depth are part of the everyday world, why couldn’t a screen and interface aim to mimic this reality to create deeper connections with users?
  • Perhaps in a dystopian way, if software could respond and adapt to our very thoughts and mental states the line between our own mind and software could become seriously blurred.


As more people use software, and they become more adept at using it, the challenges grow to provide a solution for all the use cases and preferences that they will undoubtedly call for. Information must be freed from the constraints of the vessel that is holding it, like wine in a glass it must be spilled and allowed to be rearranged by the user. Responsive Design as a concept, should go beyond the mere arrangement of the graphics on your screen to a tailored user experience that is unique to you.

Google is making strides in this space with Material Design approach which is the idea of using rules akin to those in the physical world in a UX design.

Indeed, when design really adapts and responds to the individual it will usher user experiences that truly fit the timeless aspiration that Steve Jobs coined to explain effortless user interfaces: It just works. 

The concept of Responsive Design is that one design format should fit and adapt to all screen sizes

The concept of Responsive Design is that one design format should fit and adapt to all screen sizes