Tag » design

Tata Nano – the world’s cheapest car

Tata Motor’s new Nano starts at under $2000. I love how spare the dashboard is. Their attitude towards safety is interesting:

Is it safe?
The Nano is built to meet the safety standards of whatever country it is in. For India, that means crash tests, seat belts and fog lamps, but no airbags. As it moves to other countries, the Nano will scrupulously meet minimum standards, but Tata Motors is not trying to use safety features as a selling point.

While this may seem like a dangerous trade-off, the main article points out that low cost might be a much more important safety feature than expensive airbags:

In New Delhi in the early 1970s, my family traveled by scooter in the classic, death-defying Indian fashion. My father would drive, with me, a toddler, standing in front gripping the handlebars and my mother seated pillion, my infant sister in her arms. My father was a civil engineer and my mother a nurse, and in India at that time, cars for a young family were far out of reach.

Water-based eyeglasses

Josh Silver’s water-based eyeglasses use pockets of fluid to hopefully improve the vision, and lives, of millions of people around the world. The ease of adjusting them is a particular advantage:

Silver calls his flash of insight a “tremendous glimpse of the obvious”–namely that opticians weren’t necessary to provide glasses. This is a crucial factor in the developing world where trained specialists are desperately in demand: in Britain there is one optometrist for every 4,500 people, in sub-Saharan Africa the ratio is 1:1,000,000.

Great idea.

Eco cooker

Eco-cooker: save water and energy by cooking two items in one pot. I could use one of these.

The $300 Million Button

On the importance of good UI design: The $300 Million Button.

It’s hard to imagine a form that could be simpler: two fields, two buttons, and one link. Yet, it turns out this form was preventing customers from purchasing products from a major e-commerce site, to the tune of $300,000,000 a year.

2009-2-16-7:21 PM #   

What will the next iPhone look like?

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Every year or so, Apple comes out with a new version of the iPhone. Last time, they added the much requested 3G and GPS. At this point, most people I know who own an iPhone (i.e. half the people I know) are pretty happy with it. So, apart from better battery-life and more storage space, what are some thing we can expect to see in the next iPhone?

  • Video.
    This is probably the most obvious improvement. Record video, post video to YouTube, and perhaps video conference via a front-side camera (already rumored for the 3G).
  • A real camera.
    The iPhone has already taken one gadget out of my bag (my iPod); now it’s time to replace my point & shoot camera. Cameras in phones have usually performed poorly because the chips and lenses are so tiny that they don’t capture light very well. It’s not clear that Apple has the in-house expertise to do something better, but then again, no one knew they could build a phone either :)
  • A better display.
    The current display is wonderfully bright and crisp. However, a screen with twice the resolution would reach 320dpi, better than print. Such displays are probably still prohibitively expensive, but Apple’s volumes could drive those costs down. Another possibility is using an OLED display, which wouldn’t require a backlight (drastically improving battery life).
  • A better keyboard.
    The Blackberry Storm innovated with a single button keyboard. I’m sure Apple engineers are working hard to discover a technology that simulates the tactile feel of keys in a satisfying way.
  • Everything wireless.
    Wireless audio via bluetooth. Wireless sync to your computer via wifi or bluetooth. Wireless music streaming from the iPhone to your Airport Express. Wireless streaming to the iPhone from your home computer. Maybe even wireless charging via a mat replacing the dock.
  • On-the-go.
    An iPhone connected to a friend’s laptop could let you log into your own account. On a Mac, you could run Safari with your bookmarks, Apple Mail with your mail, iTunes with your Music, iPhoto with your pictures, and so forth. On a PC, it could run a scaled-up version of the iPhone OS X, giving access to the same apps. And AT&T willing, the computer could even use the phone’s 3G connection.
  • Coffee-maker.
    I don’t expect them to fit a full coffee cup, but an espresso should be possible, no?

We may not see all of these ideas in the next iPhone, but I would be suprised if most of them weren’t there a few years from now. If you have other suggestions, post your  idea in the comments!

Well-Designed American Cars

Since everyone is down on the big three automakers these days, I want to highlight what I think are some well-designed American cars.

All of these cars are currently sold under a big-three American brand (that means no Volt, and no Saabs) Also, by design, I refer only to exterior aesthetics – I haven’t had a chance to drive any of these, so I can’t vouch for interior styling, practicality, engineering quality, etc.

Without further ado…

Chrysler 300

With its huge grill and armored-car looks, the Chrysler 300 looks truly menacing. If I was a drug dealer, I’d definitely want one of these.

Ford Mustang

Just like the New Beetle captured the essence of the original bug, the Ford Mustang embodies the classic American Muscle Car (yup, I just compared the Mustang to the New Beetle…).

Cadillac XLR

My personal favorite, I think of the angular Cadillac XLR as the “cubist SL500″.

While most US cars are bland and shapeless, I think these cars all achieve a coherent, thoughtful aesthetic designed to appeal to a particular audience. I’m not about to go out and buy one, but it’s great to see some good-looking vehicles coming from Detroit.

How about you – what cars from the big-three automakers do you admire?

Pontiac commercial

Super slick black and white Pontiac Commercial. I love the transitions.

On a related note, it seems that American car manufacturers are finally starting to get a grip on design again. The Chrysler 300 may be brutish, but it has a really distinctive “tough guy” look to it. The Pontiac Solstice has a certain classic charm.

And I recently saw the new Cadillac XLR on the street, and it looks like an angular version of a Mercedes S500… in a good way!

Feedback loops

Feedback loops

Wired magazine has an interesting article about using Ambient Orbs to help people conserve energy:

Martinez realized he could use Orbs to signal changes in electrical rates, programming them to glow green when the grid was underused — and, thus, electricity cheaper — and red during peak hours when customers were paying more for power.

The result? Peak period use was reduced by 40%. It’s amazing how much easier it is for people to change their behavior if you make them aware of it.

We implemented some simple feedback loops in Google Reader in the form of the trends feature, which lets users track their data consumption and see which feeds they should unsubscribe from.

Geared wheelchairs

Geared wheelchairs

The MagicSpeed wheelchair is a brilliant invention:

MAGICWHEELS™ – 2-gear wheelchair drive work very similar to a 2 speed bicycle allowing you to shift into a lower gear before you climb hills or roll over any type of uneven or rough terrain.

It’s always nice to see design well applied to good causes.

Cluttered by design

Cluttered by design

An interesting WSJ article on retail in India:

Mr. Biyani doesn’t allow haggling, but having damaged as well as good quality produce in the same box gives customers a chance to choose and think they are getting a better deal.