Inventor Spotlight: Jessi Baker, applying blockchain to LCA

Jessi Baker is a technologist, designer, and founder of Provenance, a European startup that uses blockchain to track supply chain of products. Why is this kind of system valuable? It’s valuable for product companies in that it can help streamline supply chain issues. But more important, it’s valuable for customers who want transparency on where and how the companies they buy from source their materials.

TAKE IT FURTHER

The Sustainable Supply Chain. HBR, 2010.

Sustainability in Supply Chains. McKinsey, 2016.

 

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Artist Spotlight: Joan Jett

After yesterday’s hearings, I need a good dose of Joan Jett.

Joan Jett was a pioneer in Rock & Roll. In 1970s Hollywood, she set out to form an all-girl rock band. As you can imagine, that idea was met with a lot of resistance.

But Jett survived and thrived and this month she’s got a documentary coming out that captures her story. I can’t wait to see it. In the meantime, there’s a lot of great coverage out there to read and listen to. This interview with Marc Maron is fantastic (it starts about 15 min, 50 seconds in) and this interview with the NYTs is sweet.

In these interviews, you’ll hear that Jett has this great combination of character traits.  She’s strong, yet humble. She has had crystal clear vision and integrity throughout her career. She’s authentic and she f*ckin rocks. Thanks, Joan. Much love and respect.

Immigration and Innovation

On the fourth of July (yesterday), Tech CEO Ayah Bdeir wrote and shared a thoughtful piece on rethinking immigration: The Hottest New Space to Disrupt is Immigration. 

Disruption is a term that is used a lot by folks in tech to describe a sector that’s ripe for change. Uber is disrupting transportation. Netflix is disrupting network television.

Who and what will disrupt immigration in a positive way?

Bdeir, raised in Beruit and schooled at MIT, believes in the entrepreneurial power of immigrants. Over half of US companies are founded by immigrants. The skills that immigrants acquire in adapting to a new home are exactly the skills they need to succeed in business.

When Trump’s travel ban was implemented in January 2017, Bdeir’s company littleBits placed an ad in Times Square–a highly visible, positive message that framed Arabic and Muslims in a positive and inventive light.

However, speaking out in this way has a real business cost. When Bdeir wrote a piece last week titled “Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance,” it was met with some backlash. Loyal customers wrote to her to say that they would no longer buy her product.

That said, Bdeir stands by her decision to use her voice, “History will judge us if we quietly allow our government to strip us of the diversity and innovation that make America so amazing.”

A true leader.

 

Toggling between 2D and 3D

Artists and inventors transform dimension. They make a 2D sketch, then build a model of that sketch in 3D. They build a 3D environment, take pictures of it to use in 2D images. Autodesk 123D had a feature that took your 3D model, sliced it up into 2D pieces that you would then cut from a flat sheet of material and reassemble in 3D.

This toggling between 2D and 3D gets even more interesting when you introduce soft materials. In the example above from Prosthetic Knowledge, they are making 3D models in CAD, processing them to generate a one-piece cut pattern for fabric, then using a jig (of that same cut pattern) to attach zippers to the patterns’ curvy edges so that it can be reassembled in 3D. The result has a topographic quality that is really beautiful.

Another take on this process was explored by Josh Jakus, a textile designer and fabricator, who used a similar approach to create some gorgeous felt bags a few years back. His bags employ “simpler” cut patterns and the results are less topographical and more sculptural.

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Inventor Spotlight: Melanie Shapiro

Melanie Shapiro is the CEO and co-founder of a wearable identity system, Token. Shapiro holds a PhD in Consumer Behavior from the University of Reading, sold her first tech company, Digsby, in 2010, and has spent time as a researcher for Microsoft.

In this video, Shapiro spends a glorious eight minutes talking about her product at a high-level, “We are trying to give people control of their identity and we start by eliminating all of the things that you have to carry around to prove who you are.”

She’s talking about the social and human behavior that her design team is responding to  (the problem space) and not the technological features that her team is building (the solution space). Shapiro offers us some history,

“When we were living in villages, our society was only as big as the 150 people around us. People knew us by our personhood…and that was enough. Complexity was added when that society grew to be a global society and suddenly I need to prove who I am to someone that is all the way on the other side of the world and that person has no history with me. How do we create that sense of trust?”

And then goes on to critique the centralized and siloed structure of our current solutions for creating trust. It’s an insightful and articulate critique.

It’s such a pleasure to watch a tech video that isn’t focused on features but rather on human behavior, culture, and society. And I appreciate a smart device team that thinks beyond the screen and beyond siloed solutions as the Token team is doing. The tech world needs more of this.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

You can read more about Shapiro’s human-centered approach on the Token blog

Artist Spotlight: Katerina Kamprani

 

uncomf

Katerina Kamprani is an Athens-based architect who has designed an entire series of objects that are meant to make you feel uncomfortable. In most cases, the architect has changed just one tiny aspect of an object–the thickness of a fork or the orientation of a broom handle. And this little change renders the object completely useless. It also calls attention to how important good design is. And finally, the collection is incredibly playful. What a fun project!

If you want to see the entire collection, go to: https://www.theuncomfortable.com/

and be sure to check out this short interview with Kamprani here.

Inventor Spotlight: Jie Qi

Circuit Sticker Sketchbook from Jie Qi on Vimeo

Jie Qi is the co-founder of a digital-paper-circuits company called Chibitronics. She’s also a Berkman Fellow and an alum of the Hi-Lo Tech Lab at MIT.

In the video above, Qi demonstrates the analog precursor to Chibitronics with her Circuit Sticker Sketchbook. It’s a delightful workbook and equally delightful demo video. And if you’re into product evolution, you can find some earlier iterations of Qi’s sketchbook on youtube like this video here

What’s so impressive about these books is their simplicity and high usability. Simplicity is a funny thing. Artists & Inventors know that it’s harder to make something simple than to make something that’s not. Simplicity is actually complex and it takes a lot of work and emotional intelligence to achieve.

I admire inventors like Jie Qi that create easy-to-use modular systems that help people be creative. Systems like legos or tinker-toys or little bits or bare conductive!

Artists Invent New Tools

Now that we have the ability to add interactivity and computation to just about anything, we need new tools that work on just about anything–any material, any surface, any environment.

Bare Conductive is a UK based company that makes conductive paint. Not only do they make and sell this paint, but they have designed some pretty neat projects to help you imagine how their product might be used. The lamp kit in the video above is wonderful.

More Bare Conductive Projects here

 

Transforming the Mundane

Artists and Inventors observe the world around them and make things that aim to improve it. Sometimes that means adding something, sometimes it means taking something away, and other times it means picking out one or two details within a situation and transforming them.

I love this 2009 Kid Cudi video by French designer, So Me. In the video So Me draws flat, colorful animations on top of footage of mundane scenes. Two pizza makers turn into DJs spinning records. An aisle in a bodega turns into the yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz.

With some imagination and the right box of crayons, what might you transform?