Mui Board enables smart home control from a plank of wood


Japanese “calm technology” company Mui Lab has unveiled the consumer-ready version of its Mui Board – a minimalist control hub for the smart home that looks like an unassuming block of wood.

Designed for wall mounting, the Mui Board is a plank of timber that lights up from within using a subtle white LED dot matrix display.

This can be used like a touch screen to control lighting, curtains, thermostats, speakers and other elements of the home.

Photo of a hand finger-drawing domestic objects in a line on the wooden Mui Board
The Mui Board provides a discreet smart home interface

Mui Lab‘s aim with the design is to prevent distraction and information overload by reducing the presence of screens and providing a more discreet way to interface with the Internet of Things.

“Mui Lab’s unchanging focus is on the permanent value of family connection,” the company’s CEO Kaz Oki told Dezeen. “To this end, we have been developing ‘calm technology’ to enable people to focus on their important time without losing their attention at home.”

Photo of a mother reading to a child in the child's bedroom in dimmed warm light
The Mui Board was on display at CES 2023 as part of a “calm bedroom” installation

Building on previous iterations of the design, the company unveiled the second-generation Mui Board at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week, incorporating the new Matter networking protocol.

This allows for easy integration with other connected devices by the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon.

At the Las Vegas trade show, the gadget was displayed as part of a “calm bedroom” showing off the company’s vision for a more restful, family-orientated smart home experience.

Photo of a person drawing a curtain in a darkened bedroom to let the morning light in
Actions such as opening or closing a curtain can prompt an automatic response from the Mui Board

The act of closing the curtains in the room by hand prompted other events – a light would come on and a timer for the light would appear on the Mui Board.

Mui Lab offers a number of ways to set this light timer, including a playful option where the user draws a line with their finger – as squiggly as they wish.

The longer the line, the longer the light takes to start dimming, with the display showing the line gradually receding as time goes by. Mui Lab envisions this as a period for reading a book to a child or engaging in calm activities as part of a healthy wind-down ritual before going to bed.

As well as setting timers and controlling connected devices, the Mui Board includes additional functionality such as displaying poetry, showing messages left between family members and enabling users to collect “stamps” as a reward for actions performed towards a set goal.

Users can control devices and leave messages through voice commands, by handwriting directly on the wooden surface or by using the companion app.

Photo of a drawing displayed on the wooden Mui Board in a white LED dot matrix
The Mui Board has a touch-sensitive panel and a dot matrix display

In sleep mode, the lights go out and the Mui Board reverts to looking like an ordinary plank of wood.

Integrating the Matter protocol has allowed the company to scale up its ambitions for the product, according to Oki, with the aim of launching in the EU and US later this year.

“Matter’s connectivity will help spread Mui’s idea of a calm and peaceful experience to the rest of the world by adding it to existing devices,” he continued. “This is one of the factors that will ensure our entry into the mass market.”

The Mui Board is set to be rolled out in the EU and US this year

Other examples of calm technology include the Light Phone, which intentionally lacks features in the hopes of encouraging users to disconnect from the internet.

Google applies elements of the approach in its hardware design, often employing a domestic design language along with soft shapes and materials to make its electronics blend into home and work settings.

Similar display designs to the Mui Board have also been seen in concept designs such as Benjamin Hubert’s reimagined smart home device collection, which includes devices with mirrored and wooden surfaces.



Layer designs Ledger Stax hardware wallet for storing cryptocurrency


Design studio Layer has collaborated with tech brand Ledger and designer Tony Fadell to produce Ledger Stax, a screen-wrapped, credit card-sized device for storing cryptocurrency and NFTs.

Ledger Stax is a hardware wallet — a device that stores the digital keys needed to encrypt and decrypt crypto assets offline, where they’re considered to be most secure. Users can also view and send their cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) through the device.

Layer developed the product with French company Ledger, which has previously designed the Nano hardware wallets. The initial idea came from Fadell, who led iPod development at Apple and co-founded Nest Labs, now Google Nest.

Three small devices with greyscale e-ink screens standing on their ends
Ledger Stax is a hardware wallet with a wrap-around e-ink screen

Ledger Stax is built on the same architecture as the Nano series, but has a unique form that Layer says elevates the experience of interacting with cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

Its distinctive feature is an e-ink screen that wraps around the front surface and spine of the device, allowing for intuitive touch interaction and, given the technology’s energy efficiency, a battery life of weeks or months.

Layer founder Benjamin Hubert considers the e-ink screen an “underused” technology that fits perfectly with the heavily text-based needs of Ledger Stax and allows it to have a different type of design language, free of the expectations set by phones.

Photos or NFTs can be displayed in greyscale on the lock screen, helping to personalise the device, which is around the same size as a credit card but a little thicker, with a six-millimetre-wide spine.

Three Ledger Stax devices at different angles, one showing a Bored Ape NFT in greyscale
The lock screen can display photos or NFTs in greyscale

The design also invites the stacking of multiple devices in the manner of physical currency or conventional ledgers. Adjacent devices will magnetically hold together, giving users the ability to organise their portfolios across separate devices while clearly identifying them from the labelling on the spine.

As well as allowing users to manage their crypto assets, Ledger Stax can be used to explore Web3 apps through the Ledger Live app, which also connects the device to a smartphone.

The device has an aluminium casing that Layer says gives it a reassuring weight in the hand and emphasises its secure nature. Its soft edges allow for easy grip.

In addition to the touchscreen, it has a single button providing the functionality to power the device on and off, and lock and unlock the screen.

Three Ledger Stax devices stacked upright like ledgers
Multiple devices hold together magnetically

Layer has been working on Ledger Stax for two years. Hubert believes that although the value of cryptocurrencies has plummeted in recent months, it has never been a better time to launch the product, as it provides people with an alternative to using centralised exchanges for storage.

“Crypto market ebb and flow aside, the need for people to understand how to and why they should take their assets into their own hands has grown in the wake of recent news,” Hubert told Dezeen. “A popular expression in the world of crypto is ‘not your keys, not your coins’, which refers to needing to own the private keys associated with your funds.”

“It has never been more appropriate with the struggles a number of centralised exchanges have been dealing with — most notably, the collapse of FTX — and the tragic fallout for the average person,” he continued.

“Ledger’s secure architecture will continue to lead the way in that regard, and Ledger Stax could not come at a better time.”

Close-up on spine of Ledger Stax device showing text reading "Tony's NFTs"
Electronic text on the spine can be used to label the devices

According to Hubert, its e-ink screen also makes Ledger Stax more sustainable than many other consumer devices as this technology draws less power and only when it refreshes, rather than constantly as O-LED screens tend to.

Sustainability is an area where cryptocurrency and NFTs have previously come under criticism, due to the amount of computer processing power that they require. However, Hubert says that more energy-efficient solutions are slowly being offered, pointing to Ethereum’s switch from using a proof-of-work to a proof-of-stake model earlier this year as an example.

“As crypto continues to mature, there will likely be more of this – and there are already many other players in the space that offer sustainability as part of their ethos,” said Hubert.

Close-up on the back of the Ledger Stax device showing "L" branding
The device was created in collaboration with Ledger and Tony Fadell

The designer, who has what he describes as a “moderate investment” in the cryptocurrency Ethereum, says the project suited Layer’s interest in working with technologies that enable and complement cultural shifts.

“Like any market, Ethereum has its ups and downs but I think it has a promising future,” said Hubert. “It’s exciting to be part of an emerging financial market, and working with Ledger has only cemented my belief in the potential of crypto.”

Ledger Stax is Layer’s second crypto product following Trove, a system incorporating a watch-like wearable device. The studio regularly works in the tech space, and has also recently designed smart glasses for Viture and a meditation headset for Resonate.



Aarke’s Carbonator 3 is a minimalist soda maker for the home


Swedish design company Aarke aimed to bring a sense of refinement to countertop sparkling water makers with the Carbonator 3, a minimalist kitchen gadget that pays homage to Italian espresso machines.

Shortlisted in the product design category of the Dezeen Awards 2022, the soda maker adds fizz to still water via carbon dioxide gas canisters, presenting an alternative to bottled sodas.

Studio photo of the Aarke Carbonator 3 in Black Chrome
Aarke models its soda makers on Italian espresso machines

To elevate the gadget’s design and ensure a long lifespan, Aarke tried to emulate the same sense of heritage associated with traditional espresso machines as well as their use of solid materials.

The resulting object is compact, with a head that resembles the portafilter of a coffee machine attached to a single stainless steel column.

Photo of the Aarke Carbonator 3 in Matte Black finish sitting on a white table with a bottle and glass of sparkling water
The Carbonator 3 is a minimalist take on the product category

It has a CNC-machined stainless steel nozzle that the brand says is engineered to allow for a “smooth and precise” release of CO2.

The product was designed “from the inside out”, according to Aarke, so that form follows function and every part serves a purpose. Even the nameplate serves a dual role, securing the tubing that allows excess water to travel safely through the inner chamber down to the drip tray.

Photo of a woman pushing down on the lever of a soda maker, carbonating an attached bottle of water
The machine adds carbonation to still water

Other details are aimed at improving safety and efficiency such as the rotational damper on the lever, which allows for a more controlled release of pressure within the bottle and a higher filling line.

The Carbonator 3 is cordless, needing only standard CO2 gas canisters and no electricity to function. These cylinders carbonate up to 60 litres of water each and can be refilled at speciality stores.

One of the biggest challenges in designing the product was creating its stainless steel enclosure, according to Aarke founders Carl Ljung and Jonas Groth.

“The three-dimensional stainless parts are extremely hard to produce on a bigger scale without compromising quality and precision,” said Ljung. “The shapes of the Carbonator are pushing metal craftsmanship to its limits.”

To help ensure a long lifespan, Aarke’s engineers built a dedicated device to tests the product’s functioning across more than 10,000 carbonation cycles. This allowed them to identify and adapt parts that were potentially sensitive to repeated use.

Currently, only some of the gadget’s parts are replaceable but the brand is aiming towards making the product more repairable.

Gold-coloured soda maker
It comes in a range of finishes including a gold colour

Ljung and Groth, both industrial designers, founded Aarke in 2013 and launched the first Carbonator four years later.

Their most well-known competitor is SodaStream, a company that was founded in England in 1903 and is now owned by PepsiCo and headquartered in Israel.

Since it bought the company in 2018, PepsiCo has made a fizzy drinks dispenser for schools and offices that people can use with their own bottles.



Open-source Re:Mix blender works with household jars


German tech company Open Funk has developed a more sustainable version of a food processor, which is repairable, upgradable and compatible with glass jars that people already have in their homes.

Shortlisted in the sustainable design category of the 2022 Dezeen Awards, the Re:Mix blender works with standard canning jars of any shape or volume, such as those used to hold jams and pickles, as long as they have an 82-millimetre twist-off lid.

Open Funk’s aim was to create a new approach to designing kitchen appliances by stripping back unnecessary components, open-sourcing the design and allowing people to utilise everyday items they already have in their cupboards.

Person using the Re:Mix blender with various fruits
The Re:Mix blender is designed to be compatible with common canning jars

Re:Mix is constructed from recycled and recyclable materials, with speckled panels of reclaimed waste plastic used to wrap the cuboid base, which holds the motor of the food processor.

Much like a Nutribullet, the gadget has a separate blade head designed to be screwed onto the jar containing the food. This is then slotted on top of the motor and controlled via an aluminium knob mounted on the front.

To extend its lifespan, the product was designed to be easily repaired and upgraded – either in Open Funk‘s Berlin workshop or at home with the help of open-source design plans.

Base of a blender on a kitchen bench surrounded by fruit
Its separate blade head is designed to be screwed onto the jars

The company also developed a closed-loop business model for the blender, which will involve buying back and refurbishing used Re:Mix models.

“The world’s obsession with competition, globalisation and patents got us to the point where the way we make things is causing tremendous harm to our environment,” said Open Funk. “We believe Re:Mix is proof that another way is possible.”

The base of the food processor has a modular design and is held together without adhesives, allowing it to be disassembled with common tools. Its puzzle-like joints have a simplified design that is sturdy and durable, according to Open Funk.

Diagram of the parts in a blender
The design is open-source so that anyone can make their version of the product

The speckled panels surrounding the base of the food processor are made in France by melting and pressing waste plastics, before the resulting slabs are CNC milled in Berlin.

Open Funk says it chose to make Re:Mix compatible with 82-millimetre jars as these are widely available across Europe, as well as being large enough to accommodate the blades and to fit most people’s hands for rinsing.

A QR code on the back of the blender’s base leads to a repair guide, video tutorials and a product passport that helps users to repair and upgrade the product themselves.

Open Funk only ships to the European Union, which the company says was an intentional decision to guarantee repairability, lower the ecological footprint from shipping and bypass the work of having to engineer the product for international standards.

Instead, the company hopes to inspire designers around the world to adapt its product for their own markets.

“We hope to see other hackers, makers and entrepreneurs take the open-source blueprints of Re:Mix and build their own local versions in their own regions,” Open Funk co-founder Paul Anca told Dezeen.

A person plays with the disassembled parts of a kitchen mixer at a table
It has a modular design that is easy to take apart for repairs and upgrades

“Not only would this create a platform for decentralised production with low emissions but the end products will be reflections of local customs, taste and materials,” he continued.

“That’s a much more creative expression than the current one-size-fits-all approach we see in the industry.”

Re:Mix is shortlisted in the sustainable design category of the 2022 Dezeen Awards, where it is up again projects including the K-BriqTM – a brick made entirely of construction waste – and a bespoke furniture collection made from firehoses by Local Works Studio.



BUG modular gadgets | Dezeen


American technology company Bug Labs has developed a system where consumers combine modular electronic devices to build their own ideal gadget (via Protein OS).

Called BUG, the system consists of a BUGbase with four connectors so that different elements can simply be snapped onto the sides. It was unveiled at the International CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Four modules will be available to start with: GPS, digital camera and videocam, touch-sensitive colour LCD screen, and accelerometer and motion sensor.

Other modules will be added later this year, including a teleporter apparently.

Below is some information from Bug Labs:

BUG is a collection of easy-to-use electronic modules that snap together to build any gadget you can imagine. Each BUGmodule represents a specific gadget function (eg: a camera, a keyboard, a video output, etc). You decide which functions to include and BUG takes care of the rest letting you try out different combinations quickly and easily. With BUG and the integrated programming environment/web community (BUGnet), anyone can build, program and share innovative devices and applications. We don’t define the final products – you do.

(Above: Digital camera/videocam module)
(Above: Digital camera/videocam module)

The Platform:

BUG helps you explore the realm of personalized devices and applications, and find ways to solve many of the problems current gadgets can’t. For example, with BUG, you can easily assemble and program a GPS + digital camera device that automatically publishes geo-tagged photos as a web service. Integrating with an online photo-sharing service like Flickr is only a few more lines of code away, and now you have your own real-time, connected traffic-enabled mobile Webcam!

(Above: Accelerometer/motion sensor module)

The platform is designed to enable a collaborative development environment. BUGnet, our online community, is tied in directly to the BUG SDK, which allows developers to connect with others, share information, and jointly build products or services.

(Above: GPS module)

BUGbase:

BUGbase is the foundation of your BUG device. It’s a fully programmable and “hackable” Linux computer, equipped with a fast CPU, 128MB RAM, built-in WiFi, rechargeable battery, USB, Ethernet, and a small LCD with button controls. It also has a tripod mount because, well, why not? Each BUGbase houses four connectors for users to combine any assortment of BUGmodules to create their ultimate gadget.

Technical Specifications

* ARM1136JF-S-based microprocessor
* 1 USB 2.0 HS host interface/4 hub port connections
* 1 USB OTG HS interface
* 4 UART serial links
* 4 channel SPI interface
* I2C (400 kbits) interface/4 channels
* I2S interface/2 channels
* Smart LCD interface
* Camera sensor interface
* Micro memory card interface
* MPEG4 hardware encoding/decoding
* Hardware graphic acceleration
* 10/100 Ethernet MAC
* 802.11b/g
* Base unit LCD module interface
* Base unit onboard memory (FLASH/DDR SDRAM)
* JTAG/ICE support
* Serial debug port
* Power system
* AC operation
* Battery operation/up to 4 external batteries
* Fast battery charging/simultaneous of internal and external batteries
* Smart power management support
* Battery-backed real-time clock
* Audio out via onboard piezo speaker

(Above: Touch-sensitive, LCD screen)

BUGmodules

BUGmodules are the functional components used to add capabilities to your BUG device. Each module connects to the BUGbase, and installing and swapping modules is literally a snap. Each additional module exponentially increases the overall function of your BUG, and every combination unlocks virtually unlimited new potential devices.

Available Q1, 2008: GPS, Digital Camera / Videocam, Touch-sensitive, Colour LCD Screen, Accelerometer, Motion Sensor

Software:

BUG is built entirely with open source software. BMI, the BUG Module Interface, attaches devices to the BUG. Device-based services and applications are dynamically available based on which modules are connected to the BUG. Higher up the stack is Java, which hosts a service-oriented component runtime called OSGi. Java and OSGi make creating new BUG applications simple and intuitive, as BUG applications are essentially one or more bundles. In addition, each BUGmodule launches an OSGi bundle which in turn creates services for other components to consume. BUG applications are created using the BUG SDK (internally named Dragonfly), and are shared with other developers and users through BUGnet, our online community.

About Bug Labs:

Bug Labs is a new kind of technology company, enabling a new generation of engineers to tap their creativity and build any type of device they want, without having to solder, learn solid state electronics, or go to China. Bug Labs envisions a future where CE stands for Community Electronics, the term “mashups” applies equally to hardware as it does to Web services, and entrepreneurs can appeal to numerous markets by inventing “The Long Tail” of devices.

Bug Labs didn’t just start with a dream or a vision. As kids, we were more likely to take apart new toys than actually play with them, just to see what was inside. As teenagers, personal computers were still new and as much a challenge to tinker with as they were to operate.

With BUG, we want people to recapture and share this excitement again, and we want them to apply this to their everyday device. We believe everybody is an inventor at heart, so we’ve developed a platform for users to create and forever modify their favourite gadget, allowing for ultimate customization and use.



Jawbone Prime and Ear Candy by Fuseproject


American industrial designers fuseproject have launched updated versions of their Jawbone Bluetooth headset for manufacturer Aliph.

sizedjbprime_model_earcandy__201.jpg

Jawbone Prime features enhanced audio and the product is now available in a variety of colours under the name Ear Candy.

sizedjbprime_black_3-4_black.jpg

Jawbone Prime has an earbud instead of the earloop in the earlier version.

sizedjbprime_earcandy_yellow_203.jpg

Here’s further information from fuseproject:

Jawbone and fuseproject continue their partnership with the launch of Jawbone Prime and Earcandy today. Jawbone PRIME brings consumers even better audio quality, improved comfort and fresh, fun color choices.

sizedjbprime_earcandy_pack_f_202.jpg

>>

EARCANDY is a summer color burst, to bring self-expression and a smile to our line-up. The 4 colors represent great skin-tone complements and contrast, as well as personal style one cannot resist, this reinforces the basic notion that anything that the consumer wears makes a statement, and it should be designed as such…this is what we call EARCANDY.

sizedjbprime_black_front_black.jpg

This release continues Aliph’s tradition of marrying technology and design to deliver the best Bluetooth headset on the market. Jawbone PRIME and its EARCANDY colors are available today for pre-order at www.jawbone.com and will be sold in retail stores nationally starting May 1, 2009.