Touch & go

PJ’s That Read

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A new company called Smart PJs recently developed a pair of pajamas that can read to kids. The white pajamas’ series of patterned dots can correspond with a free smartphone app, so that when scanned, a story appears on the screen with pictures and words. Parents can read along with their kids, or activate a storyteller to recite the tale. Each series of dots connects to a different story, allowing the pajamas to serve as a walking library.

Design Craft

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American Craft magazine recently released a special edition design issue, featuring over 25 designer-makers sharing their process and work. The issue is available as a special digital edition, which can be viewed online, or downloaded for free in fully interactive form for the iPad or iPhone. The app version also includes some great interactive features, videos and slideshows.

A Lesson in Delft

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Continuing to delve into a wonderful, deeper world of interactive, web-based content, the NYTimes produced a lovely special section on the trend and history of Delftware. Jewelry designer Charlotte di Carcaci narrates a three-minute historical account of the prized blue and white patterning, tracing it from East to West and back.  A slideshow highlights Rem Koolhaas’ 2005 Casa da Música concert hall in Porto, Portugal, Rodarte and Valentino’s use of the pattern in prints, and its continued application in everything from traditional chinaware to upholstery fabric.

Computing Flavor

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Does a computer have the capacity to develop the refined taste, sensibility, and – most importantly – creativity of the world’s best chefs? Researchers at IBM think so. They’ve created a computer program – the Flavorbot – that cross-references huge databases of existing recipes; measurements of flavor at the molecular level; and connections between existing foods and flavors, to result in the most creative and unexpectedly good-tasting creations. One creation is an Italian grilled lobster, with surprising components of saffron, green olives, tomato, pumpkin, mint, oregano, orange juice, and bacon.

Type Away

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For those of us increasingly using tablets for email and longer typing sessions, the new KALQ keyboard might solve all our awkward typing issues. Researchers at the University of St Andrews in Scotland developed the thumb-favoring layout, which contains all vowels on the right, and most consonants and first letters of words on the left. In studies performed, users almost doubled their typing speed using the KALQ layout compared with the more common QWERTY keyboard.

New Fashion

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A new crowd-funding company hopes to alter the traditional modes in which fashion designers create clothing. Byco, from NY label JF& Son, helps young designers connect with investors and manufacture a sample clothing piece. Designers submit drawings, and when accepted, Byco caluculates the cost of sampling and posts to an investing page. Once the sample has funding, Byco manufactures it and sells it as well. Designers own samples and copyright along with 20% of sales, and investors receive 10% of sales. With successful designs and funding, all win.

All in the Gesture

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Although they may seem intuitive now, just over 5 years ago we didn’t use the gestures of pinching, tapping, clicking, scrolling, and swiping very much in our daily lives. These movements are now common, but we don’t use them to interact with anything in our life but screens. Lithuanian designer Gabriele Meldaikyte created a series of objects that help us explore these motions outside of screens. Her simple, interactive machines created from plastic and wood encourage the gestures with real objects, resulting in simple-yet-physical experiences.

In the Mail

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While many of us still love receiving letters, postcards, packages, etc in our real mailboxes, some would rather have all mail – digital and physical – in one tidy spot. Outbox is a new service allowing users to view all of their physical mail on their computer, iPhone or iPad app. For a fee, subscribers allow someone with the secure service to access and photograph each letter, bill, and junk flyer. All can then be viewed in an organized digital Inbox, with the ability to archive, delete, or mark items as junk (Outbox contacts the sender to stop).

Snapping Trends

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Looking to capitalize on all of the photo-taking and sharing done with smartphone apps like Instagram, iCoolHunt is a new app that gives users a directive for their photo-sharing: find something cool. Users can create categories of trends, like “Plaids in Fashion,” or “Urban Picnic.” Then, they and others can add applicable finds, with each gaining “cool” points as others “like” their findings. Theoretically, if they trusted the users’ eyes, anyone could look to the app for future ideas. Images are searchable by location, and you can follow users, or just see what’s trending.

Drive Time

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A simple, new device called Automatic helps you connect with and understand your car better. A small, USB-like component easily connects with the onboard computer of any car sold in the US since 1996, and then connects wirelessly with your smartphone. Every time you drive, Automatic provides you with feedback, showing infographically where you went, how long it took, and a fuel efficiency rating. It gives tips on improving gas usage, even providing info on how much you spent. Using your phone’s GPS, Automatic also locates your car when parked, and contacts authorities and family when in an accident.

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