US – At its 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), US tech giant Apple announced Apple Vision Pro, its hotly anticipated augmented reality headset. ‘It’s the first Apple product you look through, and not at,’ CEO Tim Cook said of the device, which the company is calling a spatial computer.
Apple Vision Pro is predominantly controlled with the eyes; users browse rows of app icons in an operating system called visionOS by looking at them. They can also use their hands and voice. Apple Vision Pro positions itself primarily as an AR device, but it can switch to full VR at the turn of a dial. The headset will retail for £2,809 ($3,499, €3,269) and will be launched in early 2024 in the US before becoming available in more countries later in the year.
Apple’s VR headset has been highly anticipated as the tool that would bring VR and AR engagement to the mainstream. We previously highlighted in The Betterverse how consumers and businesses could create new progressive digital spaces thanks to VR technology. So far, the Apple Vision Pro has received accolades for its sleek design and user-friendly interface. But there are valid concerns about its high price, potentially limiting its availability to a wider audience.
Tel Aviv – Bambox, a company specialising in sustainable packaging for the tissue paper industry, has developed a revolutionary toilet paper pack that is more sustainable without sacrificing convenience. Moving away from the 130-year-old toilet roll design, Bambox came up with paper folded like an accordion and stored in a box rather than on a roll. ‘It’s stored in a square, and the paper is square and compressed to the maximum,’ the company’s founder Roy Shihor told Fast Company.
The final product contains the equivalent of four or five toilet rolls, while the solid square design facilitates transport, with shipments able to carry twice as many boxes as conventional rolls. Users can still expect optimum comfort and softness as the compressed paper will fluff up with air when the box is opened.
Made with bamboo, this alternative loo roll could help cut the high costs of wood and fuel necessary to produce toilet paper and transport it worldwide. Bambox claims its innovation can reduce logistics and shipment costs by up to 50%. Retailers could also benefit from a 150% increase in profitability thanks to fewer storage issues, better shipping rates and high quality.
While attending Milan Design Week 2023, we uncovered similar innovators attempting to merge sustainability with tangible solutions to benefit consumers, businesses and the planet.
US – Birdwatching is known as a somewhat sedate activity – but not with BirdBuddy, a tech-powered hummingbird feeder that gamifies spotting and looking after our feathered friends.
Now crowdfunding on Kickstarter, the BirdBuddy Smart Bird Feeder is a tech-elevated answer to birdwatching as we know it. Thanks to a hidden camera module, the bird feeder identifies avian visitors, sends a notification to the user’s connected app and snaps photos. The close-up pictures are used to identify the birds via AI-powered facial recognition, and all shots feed into databases both for private use and for scientific purposes.
But the most striking feature of the smart bird feeder might be its gamified and humorous messaging, typified by its goofy video campaign, rebranding the often mocked pastime of birdwatching as a fun-filled chase à la Pokémon Go, having users ‘collect’ species and snaps of rare birds. With consumers expressing interest in reconnecting with nature, we expect the Nature-Hacking Market to continue innovating with solutions like the BirdBuddy.
Japan – The Conran Shop has opened its new ‘locally edited’ concept store in Daikanyama, Tokyo, placing designers and artisans from Asia in the limelight.
One of the original concept stores where anything from furniture to flowers and books can be bought, The Conran Shop has opened the first in a series of retail spaces with an updated creative vision – focusing on locally edited spaces that are deeply rooted in the culture of the region. For the debut concept store in Japan, the shop follows the company’s ‘plain, simple, useful’ philosophy, carrying a hand-picked selection of items and decorated with pieces designed by about 60 Asian makers. The same careful curation is applied throughout the store, from the playlist created by a local record shop to the tea bar located in the basement, where a tea master serves organic brews, wagashi sweets and tea-infused cocktails.
The Conran Shop has imagined the store like a home, where visitors feel at ease and relaxed, a living space more than a retail space – what we call a fourth space, blurring home, retail and leisure, and engaging visitors at a deeper and non-commercial level.
Germany – Artist, technologist and voice expert Harry Yeff (also known as Reeps100) has joined forces with the opera house and ballet company Oper Leipzig to create Fusion, the world’s first ballet partly powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Generative AI was used throughout the ballet’s creation in the concept, music and set.
AI is also part of the story as dancers explore the dynamics between humanity, artificial intelligence and nature on stage. Performed in The Neues Opernhaus (New Opera House) in Leipzig, the show will include an ethereal musical landscape imagined by Yeff, associate composer Gadi Sassoon and contemporary classical composer Teddy Riley. ‘My voice is now augmented as a result of hundreds of hours of training with AI,’ said Yeff in a statement. ‘I am able to reach speeds and depths I didn’t believe were possible. I am a living, breathing augmentation; soon there will be many more of me.’
In The Case for AI as Augmented Intelligence, we explore the technology’s ability to supercharge the human experience and take it to new horizons. AI won’t replace dancers from the Leipzig Ballet but can certainly help revolutionise the art form.
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