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Tag Archives: design

With its new in-car operating system, BMW slowly breaks with tradition

When you spend time with a lot of BMW folks, as I did during a trip to Germany earlier this month, you’ll regularly hear the word “ heritage .” Maybe that’s no surprise, given that the company is now well over 100 years old. But in a time of rapid transformation that’s hitting every car manufacturer, engineers and designers have to strike a balance between honoring that history and looking forward. With the latest version of its BMW OS in-car operating system and its accompanying design language, BMW is breaking with some traditions to allow it to look into the future while also sticking to its core principles. If you’ve driven a recent luxury car, then the instrument cluster in front of you was likely one large screen. But at least in even the most recent BMWs, you’ll still see the standard round gauges that have adorned cars since their invention. That’s what drivers expect and that’s what the company gave them, down to the point where it essentially glued a few plastic strips on the large screen that now makes up the dashboard to give drivers an even more traditional view of their Autobahn speeds. With BMW OS 7.0, which I got some hands-on time with in the latest BMW 8-series model that’s making its official debut today (and where the OS update will also make its first appearance), the company stops pretending that the screen is a standard set of gauges. Sure, some of the colors remain the same, but users looking for the classic look of a BMW cockpit are in for a surprise. “We first broke up the classic round instruments back in 2015 so we could add more digital content to the middle, including advanced driving assistance systems,” one of BMW’s designers told me. “And that was the first break with tradition. Now in 2018, we looked at the interior and exterior design of our cars — and took all of those forms — and integrated them into the digital user interface of our cars.” The overall idea behind the design is to highlight relevant information when it’s needed but to let it fade back when it’s not, allowing the driver to focus on the task at hand (which, at least for the next few years, is mostly driving). So when you enter the car, you’ll get the standard BMW welcome screen, which is now integrated with your digital BMW Connected profile in the cloud.

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Netflix is adding an interactive ‘Minecraft’ story to its lineup, denies entry into gaming

Netflix denies a report that it’s entering the gaming market, but says it is expanding its lineup to include a new game-related, “interactive” narrative series called “Minecraft: Story Mode.” The new series will be the latest addition to its growing collection of interactive stories, which include kid-friendly titles like “Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout,” “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale,” and “Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile.” According to a recent report from TechRadar , Netflix is partnering with Telltale Games to bring game experiences to its TV service, starting with a Minecraft game. Netflix is now clarifying that it’s not a “game,” exactly, it’s an interactive story. The company announced a year ago it would begin experimenting with a new way to stream video, through “choose your own adventure”-style stories that allow viewers to pick what happens next. This allows for the same story to have multiple variations. It’s the sort of thing that would have never been possible through traditional linear TV, but is enabled through an online platform like Netflix. The stories could also make for a selling point for families with younger children, in terms of being a differentiating feature for its service. The company confirms that “Minecraft: Story Mode” is a licensed 5-episode interactive narrative series that will be coming to its service this fall, in partnership with Telltale. The gaming publisher Telltale Games already offers “Minecraft: Story Mode” across other platforms, including Steam, game consoles, Google Play and the App Store. While Telltale and others consider “Minecraft: Story Mode” to be a type of game, Netflix does not. It’s a narrative you work your way through, similar to the others, it believes. (The story does take place in the Minecraft universe, however.) “We don’t have any plans to get into gaming,” a Netflix spokesperson said, in response to TechRadar’s report

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Microsoft gives Office a refreshed look and feel

Microsoft today announced that it’s bringing a new user interface design to its Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. This new look will be in line with the Fluent Design System the company launched last year and will roll out to both the Office.com online apps and the Office desktop tools over the course of the next few months. Besides the overall switch to the Fluent Design System, which is essentially Microsoft’s take on what Google is doing with Material Design, there are three major changes to the design of the Office apps. The most obvious is the redesigned and simplified Ribbon — though Microsoft is taking a very cautious approach with rolling this new feature out to all users. While it was a bit controversial when it first launched in Office 2007, most users quickly got used to the Ribbon and Microsoft quickly brought it to virtually all its Windows and online applications. With this update, Microsoft is collapsing the traditional three-row view into a single line that highlights the most important features. Users who want the traditional view can still expand the simplified Ribbon and get that full view. Microsoft is clearly aware that this is going to be a controversial move, so it’s only launching the new Ribbon for the web version of Word for now. Some Office Insiders will also see it in Outlook for Windows in July. For now, though, the company is holding back on a wider rollout. “Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on Windows offer our deepest, richest feature set – and they’re the preferred experience for users who want to get the most from our apps,” the company writes in today’s announcement.

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Uber bets on developing world growth with low-data Uber Lite

“The next hundreds of millions of riders for us are going to come from outside of the United States”, Uber’s head of rider experience Peter Deng tells me. The transportation giant already sees 75 million riders per month and 15 million rides per day. But to grow in the developing world, it had to rethink its app to work on the oldest phones and slowest networks. So Deng’s team traveled the globe asking people what they needed from Uber, but also what they didn’t. The result is Uber Lite. It’s launching today in India before rolling out to more countries, though there’s still a waitlist form instead of a download link. The Android app takes up just 5 megabytes. “You delete three selfies, you have room for Uber” Deng laughs.  300-millisecond response time means its quick to hail a ride, even for the 4 percent of users in India on sluggish 2G networks. And by streamlining the design and only showing maps by request, it won’t burn much data for users on a budget. Uber needs to score growth in developing markets after retreating while cutting deals with local winner like Didi in China, Grab in Southeast Asia, and a forthcoming arrangement with Yandex in Russia. India’s Ola rideshare service already has a ‘Lite” app that’s just 1 megabyte and a 45% share of the taxi market, compared to Uber’s 35%. Uber has reported has talked with Ola about a possible merger in India, sources have told TechCrunch and others. With the country making up 10% of Uber’s rides, it’s a market it can’t forfeit. To reach its full potential, Uber has to start out-competing homegrown competitors. Success with Uber Lite could give it leverage with Ola and path to gaining more of it around the world

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Build morale by slaying monsters after work

On the 62nd floor of One World Trade Center, Lorghoth the Decayer is waiting. A party of brave coders and digital strategists gathers around a conference table to slay the wicked beast -- praying the D20 rolls their way. It's just another Wednesday...

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Peak Design Anchor Link Replacement

Peak Design have issued an update regarding a few instances of accelerated wear regarding the company’s “Anchor Link” quick connect system. The issue only affects PD Straps purchased within the last year (more specifically 8/17/17-6/5/18).

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Switchee raises £1.3M for its smart thermostat for social housing landlords

Switchee , an IoT startup based in London, has raised £1.3 million in “pre-Series A” funding for its smart thermostat and accompanying cloud-based service. However, unlike consumer offerings, such as Nest, Hive or Tado, the company’s product is targeting large landlords, initially within the social housing sector. The idea is to help social landlords both tackle fuel poverty amongst their residents and as part of their social remit, and to provide a scalable technology solution for managing their properties. This includes something akin to an early warning system for common housing stock maintenance issues, such as mould, poor insulation, or a failing boiler. Leading the round is Fair by Design Fund, a new £15 million fund managed by Ascension Ventures and backed by Big Society Capital and Joseph Rowntree Foundation. It specifically targets companies tackling the U.K.’s poverty premium. Other backers of Switchee’s latest round include Contrarian Ventures, an early stage energy fund backed by Lietuvos Energija (the largest energy provider in the Baltics), and AU Capital Partners, a VC fund focused on the U.K.-India corridor and investing in technology companies in IOT, Smart Cities and fintech. Previously Mustard Seed, and ClearlySo invested. “We solve two problems, one on the resident side the other on the landlord side,” Switchee co-founder Ian Napier tells TechCrunch. “For residents, fuel poverty and high energy costs, with 1 in 10 households in the U.K. having to make a choice between ‘heating’ or ‘eating’. For landlords, the poor or non-existent data about their housing stock and resultant maintenance and repair inefficiencies. To give an idea on cost, the average annual maintenance spend per property is £4,000

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