Yosemite from Air. Made with iPhone 13 Pro Max

One day somebody will explain to me why it is that, at a time when science has never been wiser, or the truth more stark, or human knowledge more available, populists and liars are in such pressing demand.— John Le Carre

Did You Know?

Only “11% of companies are able to fully meet California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requirements” or that 44% of companies do not provide any mechanism for consumers to exercise their data rights? Just because there are rules doesn’t mean anyone is following them. Source: Cytrio

Future Proof 

  • What does the web look like in 2036? A fantastic read from one of my favorite bloggers/web-technologists, Jim Nielsen. [Also, how the web was destroyed one blue link at a time.]
  • Five books about science fiction and philosophy, recommended by Eric Schwitzgebel is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside. Admittedly, I read only one of the five  — Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and thoroughly enjoyed it. I find science fiction hard to read, as much of it is eats into the optimism you need for the future. 
  • The future of clothing is smart, and for that, we need new kinds of sensors. Scientists have developed a soft, stretchable, self-powered thermometer that can be “that can be integrated into stretchable electronics and soft robots.”It will likely open up “new possibilities to create new human–machine interfaces and soft robots in healthcare, engineering and entertainment,” said Zhigang Suo, one of the paper’s authors. 


There are 1.3 billion ballpoint pens shipped every year in Japan. And while it might not seem a lot, that’s still a lot of plastic. So Japanese pen makers have decided to do **something about it** — their pens will have 30 percent less plastic. And their refills will replace 30 percent less plastic with more ink. I am glad that the pen makers are trying — Japan produces 8 million tons of plastic waste every year— so every 30 percent cut helps. Or be like me: use a fountain pen. 😉

How sensors will redefine our homes

Last week while on my travels through the Internet, I came across Biome Smart Terrarium. A terrarium, by the way, is a miniature landscape with plants (and animals). I am fascinated by these micro worlds. Typically, I would look at the beautiful pictures and move on.

But what got my attention was the fact that this Terrarium was controlled by an iPad or a smartphone. It was a sensor-based micro world, connected to the network. An artful marriage of physical living and digital worlds, the terrarium could be a precursor for what home and gardens could become in the age of connectedness.

Tony Fadell with his thermostat and his startup Nest have already kicked off the ultimate home makeover. It is only a matter of time before we start to see a rush of devices that marry the physical and the digital worlds and thus bring about a whole new level of interactivity.

What is Biome and how does it work?

Biome is a flora terrarium that works a little like a live tamagotchi, and it is the brain child of product designer Samuel Wilkinson. It has low-energy lighting built into the terrarium, which also has sensors that are in turn connected to a smartphone or iPad that is used to control its climate, water level and nutrients. “It is designed to incorporate different types of environment — tropical, desert, even herb garden — and can be easily controlled by even the least green-fingered of users,” a press release notes.

As I wrote in my recap of last week’s GigaOM RoadMap conference, to me connectedness is a transformative force, and this terrarium is an embodiment of that force. This marriage of the analog and digital worlds shows that in the future everything will be connected. Terrarium’s creator Wilkinson (follow him on Twitter) is one of the world’s foremost product designers. The London-based designer has worked for companies such as LG, Samsung and Virgin Airways and has his own design studio.

He has come up with some astonishing designs, such as Plumen, an energy-saving light bulb, that has been drawing praise from around the world. I emailed Wilkinson to find out how he came up with the idea of this iPad-controlled terrarium. Wilkinson says that the idea for Biome came when he got an invitation to participate in an exhibition called Slow Tech.


New Slow Tech

The concept of the Slow Tech exhibition was that with increasing connectivity, we were going to need digital downtime, which in essence is the need to have a break from being connected. There is a school of thought that believes that being connected inhibits creativity and thus our brains need some downtime away from screens to become generally more efficient and rested.

“I wanted to design something that did not force you to put down your device, but encourages a less immediate response, something that over time will be gratifying and rewarding,” says Wilkinson. “The main thought was that if the terrarium became a charger that when you connect, it disables the device from other connections and only allows the terrarium connection (plus a re-charge) so that over time you get a therapeutic reward for un-connecting for one or two hours a day.”

“New devices have become purely ‘personal assistants’ that fit into our lives rather than the other way around. Future of technology is to become far more immersed and subtle, even hidden. Something that is so intuitive that when used it is so natural we don’t even register the use,” says Wilkinson.

The Biome is a perfect example of it. Unless you know that an iPad is being used to control the terrarium, it looks like any other micro-scape: cool, serene and utterly charming.