for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant

I <3 Siftables

I’m a HUGE fan of this idea from MIT grad student David Merrill and really hope these go into production soon. I tweeted a link to this the other week but have only just come across the video of his presentation at TED earlier this month. No point me explaining more- just watch the video below or here, or read more about the project here

Vodpod videos no longer available.

David’s last thought at the end of his presentation: “My passion is for making new human computer interfaces that are a better match to the ways our brains and bodies work… We are on the cusp of this new generation of tools for interacting with digital media, that are going to bring information into our world, on our terms”

Filed under: talent worth watching, technology, Uncategorized, visions of the future



On their blog, Frog Design have a slideshow summary of some of the most amazing recent medical breakthroughs from labs around the world, including whole organ decellularization and customizable bacteria, as well as details of the newly-established Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS) at Kyoto University.

Writer Anna Kardaleva explains the amazing process of whole organ decellularization:

University of Minnesota researchers recently announced that they have created a beating heart in the laboratory. This may sound like the stuff of a Philip K. Dick science-fiction novel – but it’s a real breakthrough in regenerative medicine.

The researchers used a detergent to remove cells from a dead rat heart, leaving behind only the nonliving fibers that give the heart its shape: a white, rubbery, 3-D structure called the extracellular matrix. This biological scaffolding allows cells to attach and grow into functioning tissue and gives the heart muscle something to pull against.

Scientists then injected cells from neonatal and newborn rats’ hearts into the left ventricle of this extra-cellular matrix and pumped oxygen and nutrients through the structure of blood vessels to support cell growth. Eight days later, the hearts were pumping.

Frog Design Mind: Medical Breakthroughs

Filed under: good, products with a purpose, visions of the future,


According to the Sunday Times, planners at Broadland district council in Norfolk have just approved a 22-home “green hamlet” designed by Conran & Partners, Terence Conran’s architecture and design studio, to be built in natural clearings in preserved woodland a few miles from Norwich. With these homes – 17 detached, plus a terrace of five affordable houses – Conran, the creator of Habitat and a major design force in many UK households, is putting his stamp of approval on affordable housing and sustainable living:

The Drayton scheme is the pilot for a larger eco-community of 4,000 homes, and Conran & Partners is part of a consortium of players in the housebuilding industry hoping to work with one of the developers chosen to build one of the 10 zero-carbon eco-towns planned in Britain.

“I passionately believe that as designers – whether we are working on buildings, products or even modes of transport – we have a great deal of responsibility to find eco-friendly solutions to the serious and real problems that threaten future generations. Eco-towns are going to be very much part of the future, and it is vital they are affordable and comfortable and that they function as places to live in their own right.”

The Drayton hamlet is a mix of three, four- and five-bedroom homes. No trees will be felled to make way for the properties, which will have pitched clay-tile roofs and be finished in render and timber cladding, with triple glazing and an array of eco-features. The hot-water system will be solar-powered, and rainwater, harvested and stored underground, will be used to flush lavatories and water gardens. The homes will be as airtight as possible and highly insulated: wood-burning stoves and small gas-fired boilers will provide top-up heating.

The big question is: will his eco-homes sell? They’re not cheap. The price of the smallest three-bed detached is expected to start at £300,000; a five-bedder will cost £500,000, and prices for the affordable homes are yet to be finalised. Given that five-bed new-builds in nearby estates are priced at £350,000 and the average house price in Drayton is £250,000, others aren’t so sure. “Eco-homes come at a premium, and I do not think there are enough people willing to pay those prices yet,” says Dave Richardson, head of group marketing for Howards, a local estate agency. He nevertheless predicts the affordable properties will be snapped up: “If people can have an eco-home and qualify for an affordable property, I’m sure they will.”

Times: The eco-hamlet that Sir Terence Conran built

Filed under: future cities, visions of the future, ,



After last year’s impressive trend blend based on the London Tube map, this year the folk at Nowandnext and Future Exploration Network have produced a new version for 2008 based on Shanghais’ underground routes. Slimming down from 10 segments last time, this map shows the 5 subway lines explaining what they see as the 5 key trends across Society, Politics, Demographics, Economy, and Technology.

Nice visualisation of current issues and how they interrelate, especially the five ‘major interchanges’ of Globalisation, Digitalisation, Virtual worlds, Ageing and Anxiety!

Download the pdf here

Filed under: visions of the future,



Virgin held a press conference today for the unveiling of SpaceShipTwo, their first official space tourism vehicle specially designed by veteran aerospace designer Burt Rutan. Whilst the original concept design, SpaceShipOne, was launched over a year ago, this final refined model is now apparently 60% completed and due to start taking its first travelers next year.

As well as touting the exciting potential of galactic tourism and describing 2008 as ‘the Year of the Spaceship’, Richard Branson used the event to highlight his vision for space as a solution for the future of the planet:

“Our population is now heading to 9 billion people by the middle of this century — that’s three times more than when I was born. With the end of the oil era approaching, and climate change progressing faster than most models have been predicting, the utilisation of space is essential not only for communications but also for the logistics of survival through things such as weather satellites, agricultural monitoring, GPS and climate science.

I also believe that someday we will be able to use space as a source of energy for the planet, through solar power satellites, using the most sustainable source available – our Sun.”

Read the full transcript and see more pics at Virgin Galactic

Filed under: brand extensions, visions of the future, ,

Hub Culture Presents Future Visions of an Enlightened Global Singularity

I was lucky enough to be invited (for PSFK) to the fabulous surroundings of Miller’s Academy in London to hear a talk by Stan Stalnaker, the brain behind social collective Hub Culture.

Stan energetically filled the evening – entitled Scenarios: Technology, Community and Consciousness – with fascinating global realizations and future insights, not least his vision of an approaching global singularity within a technologised ‘omniverse’. In fact we were so swept up in his passion that note-taking was somewhat overlooked! Luckily for us though, Stan has been kind enough to share the presentation doc – which we highly recommend reading:

Hub Culture – Scenarios: Technology, Community and Consciousness

Some quotes scribbled during the talk worth thinking about:

  • “everything is a network”: brands as media companies leveraged through networks
  • “everyone becomes a friend and no-one becomes a consumer”: you need to have as many ‘friends’ as possible for business success
  • your value will soon be driven from your ‘economy’: your worth as dictated through the power of your network
  • the bending of social rules and the growing impact of ‘social suicide’
  • “the singularity of a collected conscious is closer than we think”: by 2021 $1000 of computation (ie one mac) will have the intelligence of a human brain – and by 2050 the intelligence of all human brains, leading to a connected organism that can create its own processes
  • “the reality is that every individual is now a brand”

The presentation is a sneaky preview of Stan’s article for the Feb 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review, which they have classed as one of the 20 Big World Changing Themes for 2008.

Hub Culture

Filed under: visions of the future

e-Wash Wins Electrolux Design Lab 2007

electrolux-winner07Electrolux have finally announced the winner of their 2007 Design Lab, the student competition to design eco-friendly and sustainable household appliances for 2020. This year’s winning design, the ‘e-Wash’ by Levente Szab from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art & Design in Hungary, is an attractive and compact washing machine that uses soap nuts instead of regular detergent. According to Gizmag the e-Wash took inspiration from India and Nepal where people have used the soap nut (sapindus mucorossi) for centuries to clean their clothes, and where a kilogram of soap nuts would last the typical person a year: “I was looking for a substance that could replace the detergent.”


Second place went to the Pebble, a portable solar food cooker by Laura Pandelle from École Boulle. “inspired by the fact that we use very powerful appliances for little uses, particularly in the kitchen,” the Pebble uses spray-on solar cells and induction heating for precise, energy-efficient cooking, combining sustainability with modern nomadic lifestyles.


Third place was awarded to He Cheng Fei from Jiangnan University, China for his Go Fresh fridge, an energy-saving fridge with 12 individual, honeycomb-shaped compartments that are temperature-controlled and automatically close the air inlet when the correct temperature is reached

All the runners up are also worth a look- in particular the very clever Fog Shower that uses a mere 2 litres of water for a 5 minute shower, compared to the 26 litres used by today’s water-saving showerheads in the same time. Check them all out at Electrolux Design Lab

Filed under: creative ideas, products with a purpose, visions of the future

Zopa Listings: Personalised Social Lending

Zopa, the clever UK-based social lending service that enables people to lend and borrow money from each other, thereby completely redefining the traditional banking model, is about to get even more personal with the launch last night of Zopa Listings.


Currently in Beta, Zopa Listings allows borrowers to make their own specific loan listings, display their own credit information, and invite lenders to bid against their loan requirements. Within this, each Zopa listing can include a very personalised request with photos, and in the near future video, highlighting exactly what the money will be used for. Sections within listing pages include ‘Why I’m borrowing’, ‘Why I’m a safe pair of hands’ and ‘The state of my finances’, and borrowers are rated on a 5-star system displaying their credit score, affordability and stability.

Feel like lending to Drew to help finance his honeymoon to Vietnam or help SailorBoy pay for a car for his partner and new baby? Just ‘bid’ on a listing, showing how much you are prepared to lend and at what rate. These details will also appear on the listing page which , Zopa hopes, will encourage competitive bidding among lenders to offer the best rates.

This open, personalised system is not for the black coats out there, but by turning the premise of established banking on its head and putting the control back in the community, individual social lending can only go from strength to strength. As Giles Andrews, Managing Director of Zopa explained:

“Our launch comes at a time when more and more people feel let down or even failed by their bank and indeed the ‘old system’ as a whole. The results for our borrowers and lenders over the last two and a half years has proven that people are better than banks – that Social Lending can be a better alternative for people seeking to borrow, or to find a more attractive return on money they have saved. Zopa Listings adds new levels of individuality, personal control and choice, extending the appeal of this innovative alternative to the banks even further.”


Filed under: visions of the future,

Social Retailing: “Is This Dress For Me?”

116mall6_413x550_1IconNicolson has a “social retailing” vision which means mashing up social computing and near-field communication technologies with youth shopping habits – to target young adult shoppers. As a part of this project, they have come up with an interactive mirror that sends a live video feed to any cell phone or e-mail account selected by a shopper. CNet reports:

A New York-based designer has come up with a mirror equipped with infrared technology that sends a live video feed to any cell phone, e-mail account or personal digital assistant device selected by a shopper.

Christopher Enright, chief technology officer for digital design company IconNicholson, said putting these mirrors outside store fitting rooms meant women could go shopping with their friends — remotely.

“She could be in Paris, your mom, watching you try on your wedding dress (while you are in New York),” Enright told Reuters on Tuesday as he unveiled the interactive mirror at a retail trade show.

Using the interactive mirror, a shopper’s friends can then text message back with comments about the outfit.

Filed under: mobile lifestyles, visions of the future

Smart Shirts- Let Your Clothes Monitor You

Smart_shirtA project by US-based Georgia Tech Research Corporation and SensaTex Inc, the smart shirt is designed to monitor the your heart rate, EKG, temperature, respiration and a host of vital functions, alerting the wearer or physician if there is a problem.

The clever t-shirt is woven or knitted incorporating a patented conductive fiber/sensor system which without effecting the look or feel of the fabric creates a wearable physiological information management platform that transmits data to a small external controller which then forwards this wirelessly to the chosen location.

Suitable for a range of people from police and military personnel, to patients and the elderly, the goal of the smart shirt is to minimize casualties by providing knowledge of patients health conditions to operators during emergency situations.

Currently field testing with plans to release for commercial use very soon, watch out for smart shirts- or let them watch out for you!

read more

Filed under: products with a purpose, technology, visions of the future