Every Second Counts

Rethinking the Nest Protect Wave-Off Feature

This was an unfortunate outcome for the Nest Protect. I honestly think the designers got into corner about this.

They asked the right question: what irks people the most about existing smoke/monoxide detectors?

And they deduced the right answer: false alarms and the cumbersome process of turning off these devices in such a situation, usually relating to a rather aggressive bout of Iron Chef in the local kitchen. 

Unfortunately, a gestural solution, while more challenging, was always going to pose problems in such a critical context.

The Nest Protect has WiFi and talks to an app on the owner’s smartphone. It would be logical then to have a push notification dispatched whenever an alarm goes off, allowing the user to launch the app in the foreground and then press down on a button for 2-3 seconds to shut off the alarm. Everybody has their smartphone around somewhere to execute this. 

If Nest was worried about someone at the office dismissing the alarm even though there was a real situation, then the app could have been designed to detect Nest’s signature alarm sound to “prove” proximity. 

In addition to the press-to-dismiss feature, a fail-safe to handle any other edge case would have been to place a classic “reset” button on the Protect itself. One clever way to do this might have been to make the entire Protect chassis “pressable”. This way, a well timed hop toward the Protect would compress it, and thusly reset the detector. 

A ‘yes man’ is a despicable man.
Happy 100th Birthday, Sam ‘Bahadur' Manekshaw.

This is an awesome 3D printed housing initiative by Dus Architects and feels like the future. They are right - this is some serious R&D iteration, all the way from design to tooling to construction.

That being said, I don’t think room-sized or house-sized printing using a singular construction material, is viable. I suspect the final product would end up feeling too ‘plasticky’ and cold. It would require a lot of “warm” fixtures to make it truly feel like a habitat. I have no doubt that these mono-constructions are going to be visually arresting though.

I’ve had my eye on the 3D printed housing since 2009, and believe that such a future can be unlocked by componentizing all the construction elements and letting the tooling intelligently “put them together” in unique configurations. Instead of pursuing mega-printers, I believe the answer lies with smaller component printers (additive) and sculptors (subtractive) that specialize in specific materials (polymer, metal, wood).

Couple those printers with a small subset of “interlock” patterns. Then set up some minimum tolerance levels, scale ratios, to ensure nobody builds something structurally unsafe. Then build an ecosystem around these components, allowing for extension and personalization. An app store for housing, so to speak. 

And if you get bored, the system would know what resources went in, and could in theory, recycle them for use in other components (converted to metal sheets, wood pulp, plastics), and build something fresh and unique again. 

The best part is that all of this can be controlled through software and made extraordinarily intuitive to construct. I bet we could get to a point where ‘available resources’ and  ’number of people’ end up being the only inputs, and we let the AI construction interface put together all sorts of interesting combinations, borrowing from the cloud of data it has from cultures around the world. 

The result is a world that is greener, smarter, more accessible - and deeply personal. I want this future.

Loved this little trailer we made for SecretSocial back in the day. Arguably the first ephemeral social networking service, debuting in early 2011.

This time we’re working on technology that will change not just computer gaming, but potentially how all of us interact with computers, information, and each other every day. I think it’s going to be the biggest game-changer I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen quite a lot over the last 57 years.
Mike Abrash

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