The She Word: going behind hardware design with Ivy Ross

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Editor’s Note: The She Word is a Keyword series all about powerful, dynamic and creative women at Google. Intrigued by the unique aesthetic of Google’s new family of hardware devices released in October, we sat down with the woman who leads the design team: Ivy Ross. In the interview below, she shares with us how she approaches design at work, and life outside of work.

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How do you explain your job at a dinner party?

I lead a team that creates how a Google product—including Google Home, the Pixel laptop and wearables—looks, feels and acts when you hold it in your hands.

What advice would you give to women starting out in their careers?

Be fearless in using your heart and mind in what you do, and bring more beauty into the world.

Who has been a strong female influence in your life?

My daughter. Seeing the world through her eyes at various stages of her life has given me a “beginner’s mind” in much of what I do.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I’ve always wanted to be a designer/maker. My dad, who had a big influence on me, was an industrial designer and built the house I grew up in—the house was so ahead of its time that Andy Warhol used it to shoot a movie back in the late 70’s.

When I was 12 years old, I made a dress out of chain mail metal and wore it to a bar mitzvah. I linked together thousands of metal squares that made up the dress, designed a necklace that attached to the dress, and made a purse out of the chain mail to match. Even back then, I was designing for efficiency! Instead of bringing needle and thread in case the dress ripped, I carried a screwdriver.

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Ivy in her homemade dress (screwdriver not pictured).

What is one habit that makes you successful?

Trusting my instincts on both people and ideas.

How is designing hardware different than designing software?

Unlike software, you can’t fix hardware through a new release or update. You need more time up front because once something is tooled, you can make very few adjustments.

What is the most important design principle for Google’s hardware?

Human. By that I mean friendly, emotionally-appealing and easy to fit into your life and your home. I believe more time we spend in front of flat screens, the more we’ll crave soft and tactile three-dimensional shapes. This is reflected in the fabric in Home Mini, Home Max and Daydream View, the texture of Pixel phones and Pixel Books, and the soft silicon pad where you rest your wrist while typing on the PixelBook.

  • Shot_4_0168_FPO1 (1).jpg
    Color swatches for Google Home Mini
  • DesignStory_Phone_Table_T_034_FPO1_retouched (1).jpg
    Iterations of Pixel 2
  • DesignStory_Phone_Cases_T_073_FPO1_SIMP_retouched (1).jpg
    Testing fabrics for Pixel cases
  • DesignStory_Eve_Table_T_030_FPO1_SIMP_retouched (1).jpg
    Iterations of Pixelbook and Pixelbook Pen
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    Designing the new Daydream View

Are there any design innovations you’re especially proud of in this year’s hardware lineup?

The way we used fabric for Home Mini was not an easy path. It required special construction to accomplish the simplicity of the form with great acoustics. Some of the things that look the simplest can actually be the hardest to construct! I’m proud that we created a beautiful group of products without sacrificing their function.

I’m proud that we created a beautiful group of products without sacrificing their function.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I don’t spend much time looking at other electronics beyond what I need to understand about the market. You can’t create anything new by only looking within your own category so I draw inspiration from art, materials, furniture, music, nature and people. My dad taught how to look at something and see more than what appears on the surface.

You’re also a jewelry designer with big accomplishments at a young age. What did you learn from that?

Having gotten my work in museums around the world by age 25, I realized that life is not about the end goal, it’s about the journey and the adventure along the way with others.

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What 12 major analysts from banks like Goldman, JPMorgan, and Morgan Stanley think of bitcoin

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A trader looks at his screen on the IG Group trading floor in London March 18, 2013. The surprise decision by euro zone leaders to part-fund a bailout of Cyprus by taxing bank  deposits sent shockwaves through financial markets on Monday, with shares and the bonds of struggling euro zone governments tumbling.

A bloodbath gripped the crypto markets this week, with virtually every single major cryptocurrency taking significant losses, but huge amounts of excitement remains about the space from all corners of society.

Bitcoin, the first, biggest, and most recognisable cryptocurrency, has been at the heart of much of that excitement, with acolytes touting it as the future of global finance, and some even suggesting that it could replace fiat currencies like the dollar and the pound.

Bitcoin’s rise has been so rapid and so aggressive that the market’s more established institutions and figures have been simply unable to ignore it.

There is a big spread of opinion across the sector, with some seeing cryptocurrencies as a possible driver of a fundamental shift in the global financial system, others disliking bitcoin, but having some faith in the blockchain technology that underlines it, and others just seeing crypto as, basically, a complete waste of time.

To find out where the industry’s big players stand on the cryptocurrency world, Business Insider looked back through recently published analyst notes from major investment banks, research houses, and asset managers.

You can see what staff from the likes of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan think below:

 

James Faucette, Morgan Stanley: Bitcoin is worth $0.

Bullish or bearish?: Bearish

What they say: Faucette’s issue with the currency is that it is incredibly hard to value, and that it also very hard to determine what kind of an asset it is.

As BI’s Jim Edwards wrote back in December when the note was first released:

"Morgan Stanley analyst James Faucette and his team sent a research note to clients a few days ago suggesting that the real value of bitcoin might be … $0.

"That’s zero dollars. (Bitcoin stood at around $14,400 at the time of writing.)

"The paper (titled "Bitcoin decrypted") did not give a price target for bitcoin.

"But in a section titled "Attempts to Value Bitcoin," Faucette described why it is so hard to ascribe value to the cryptocurrency. It’s not like a currency, it’s not like gold, and it has had difficulty scaling."

Chief Investment Office team at UBS: Crypto is a bubble but blockchain is important technology.

Bullish or bearish?: Bearish on bitcoin, reasonably bullish on blockchain.

What they say: "Cryptocurrencies have soared in popularity since 2008, with more than 1,000 in existence today and an aggregate value greater than the market capitalization of IBM. But we are highly doubtful whether they will ever become mainstream currencies," a note from the Swiss bank said back in October 2017.

"The need for companies and individuals to pay tax receipts in government-issued currency, and the potentially unlimited crypto-money supply, pose significant barriers to widespread adoption. We think the sharp rise in crypto-currency valuations in recent months is a speculative bubble."

"But while we are doubtful cryptocurrencies will ever become a mainstream means of exchange, the underlying technology, blockchain, is likely to have a significant impact in industries ranging from finance to manufacturing, healthcare, and utilities."

Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, JP Morgan: Futures contracts for bitcoin have the "potential to elevate cryptocurrencies to an emerging asset class."

Bullish or bearish?: Bullish

What they say: Panigirtzoglou and his team believe that the recent introduction of futures contracts for bitcoin have the "potential to elevate cryptocurrencies to an emerging asset class."

"The value of this new asset class is a function of the breadth of its acceptance as a store of wealth and as a means of payment," Panigirtzoglou and his team said in the note back in December.

"Simply judging by other stores of wealth such as gold, cryptocurrencies have the potential to grow further from here."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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TOM LEE: Bitcoin’s bloodbath was totally normal, and now offers ‘the biggest buying opportunity in 2018’

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Tom Lee

  • Tom Lee, the managing partner and head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, sees bitcoin’s recent slump as a buying opportunity.
  • He notes that bitcoin has seen similar patches of wild volatility in recent months, and that the 34% decline seen over the past two days is normal.

Tom Lee doesn’t get all the fuss about bitcoin‘s recent skid, which some experts characterized as a "bloodbath."

Sure, the wildly popular cryptocurrency plunged as much as 34% in just two days, hitting an intraday low near the $9,185 level, but Lee says that sort of whipsawing price action is normal for bitcoin.

Lee, the managing partner and head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors, points out that bitcoin has seen similar fluctuations over the last two years. He notes that since mid-2016, it’s seen six rallies of more than 75%, and six selloffs exceeding 25%.

The chart below shows this pattern at work. As Lee puts it: "what happens in years in equity markets is months in the crypto-world."

Screen Shot 2018 01 18 at 8.48.33 AM

Because bitcoin has repeatedly shown the ability to recover from similarly-sized drops in recent months, Lee sees depressed levels as offering an opportunity for bulls to increase exposure.

"We think the best way to think about sell-offs is to look at it through the lens of retracements — how much of the prior rise is given back," he wrote in a client note. "We view this $9,000 as the biggest buying opportunity in 2018 — and we would be buyers at levels around here."

It would appear that Lee’s forecast for a rebound is already being fulfilled, as bitcoin has rallied roughly 20% off its overnight low.

On a longer-term basis, Lee remains extremely bullish not just on bitcoin, but on cryptocurrencies in general. He sees the total crypto market cap exceeding $1.2 trillion, with digital currencies leading the way, and he says that the newest generation of consumers are the key.

"Looking beyond 2018, adoption of blockchain is powered by millennials and outside the US," said Lee. "Millennials are the largest population cohort at 96 million and are now just entering their prime income years — surveys show millennials have low trust in existing financial institutions and we see this demographic driving adoption."

SEE ALSO: These 14 stocks will see sales skyrocket in 2018, Goldman Sachs says

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The owner of the New York Stock Exchange is launching a crypto data product for hedge funds

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FILE PHOTO: An electric board showing exchange rate between South Korean Won and Bitcoin at a cryptocurrencies exchange in Seoul, South Korea, December 13, 2017.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

  • ICE, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, is launching a new cryptocurrency data feed. 
  • It’s teaming up with Blockstream to launch the product, which is aimed at hedge funds. 

Intercontinental Exchange, the Atlanta-based owner of the New York Stock Exchange, announced Thursday it is gearing up for the launch of a cryptocurrency data feed built for hedge fund clients. 

The so-called Cryptocurrency Data Feed, which ICE built in partnership with blockchain tech company Blockstream, will draw information from 15 cryptocurrency exchanges, according to a release on the news. 

“With the broad array of cryptocurrencies and exchanges, and given the price variances between exchanges, it’s critical that investors have a comprehensive source of pricing information,” said ICE data services president and COO, Lynn Martin, in a press release.

Blockstream, a San Francisco-based blockchain tech company, is behind a number of projects aimed at enhancing the the underpinning technology of bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency on the market. 

The feed is set to launch in March and will join a family of more than 450 real-time data feeds operated by ICE. Such a product could be easily integrated into the infrastructure of banks and hedge funds which already utilize the exchange’s other data feeds. 

The news is on the heels of a massive sell-off in the cryptocurrency markets. During Wednesday’s trading session, the total value of the cryptocurrency market fell below $420 billion, almost half of its worth on January 7. 

The markets have since come storming back and at last check the market capitalization for all cryptocurrencies stood at $582 billion, according to CoinMarketCap data.

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Drone comes to the rescue of two swimmers in Australia

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One day, they may yet turn against us, but for now, they’re still our allies: A drone rescued two teenage swimmers in distress off the course of New South Wales in Australia, according to a new report. The drone spotted two teenagers in trouble around a half-a-mile out from shore, and then dropped a flotation device it carries for the purpose to give them something to hang on to (via Verge).

This drone was actually not supposed to be saving anyone just yet – it was engaged in a pilot project to test its viability. But the Sydney Morning Herald reports that when a call came through about the swimmers in trouble, the drone happened to be in the Ari and nearby, positioned well to respond.

The drone’s pilot, a decorated veteran lifeguard for New South Wales, was able to Gert out to the swimmers’ position, and drop the pod in a minute or two, which is at least a few minutes less than it would’ve taken to respond directly with actual flesh and blood lifeguards.

This training exercise was designed to get lifeguard staff familiar with the so-called “Little Ripper” drone, which is part of a government plan to help mitigate the risk of shark attacks. Its ability to save the swimmers was an accident, but a lucky accident that definitely helps prove its viability as part of the $16 million government program.

Also, it’s a reminder that sometimes, drones are actually good.

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Education quiz app Kahoot says it’s now used in 50% of all US classrooms, 70M users overall

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With HQ Trivia continuing its viral and popular run, and education remaining a perennially strong category in app stores, it was only a matter of time before someone came along that combined elements of both to hitmaking effect. Kahoot, an app based out of Oslo, Norway that aims to teach its users across a wide variety of subjects and ideas by way of quizzes that they take in competition with others either on their own or in live classroom environments, could be the one.

The startup today is announcing some hefty milestones. With 51 million Kahoot games now built on its platform (yes, 51 million) by its users and by Kahoot itself, the startup says that its app and site are now being used by 70 million monthly unique users, a combination of businesses that use Kahoot’s app for training purposes, and students and teachers who use it for more traditional learning.

That number, up 75 percent in the last year, includes 50 percent of all the students in the US, kindergarten through twelfth grade (or 30 million out of an estimated 60 million), up from 30 percent in April of last year; and 47 percent of all teachers in the US. It also includes 1 million employees from the business world. The company has seen 1.6 billion players cumulatively since launching in 2011, including 1 billion in the US alone.

It’s a huge leap for a startup originally incubated as a side project at a creative agency called We Are Human. We Are Human folded itself into its incubated child as Kahoot began to see traction, and its supercharged growth eventually helped it close out a Series A round of $20 million last year, bringing its total raised to $26.5 million. Notably, its investors included strategic stakes from Disney and Microsoft, along with Nordic VC biggies Northzone and Creandum.

Now the company’s growth surge is now driving the startup to its next phase. We understand that Kahoot is gearing up to raise a bigger Series B this year, to help it forge more partnerships aimed at producing a wider range of content particularly through its own Kahoot Studio, to develop its monetization, and to become a cornerstone in how people are using technology as a supplementary way to learn, whether it’s in school or at work.

Partnerships are already figuring in an interesting way at the company. According to Kahoot’s CEO Erik Harrell, Disney is working with Kahoot on ways of incorporating some of its iconic brands into its quizzes, as another way of engaging students to use them. Microsoft, which already has a strong foothold in the education space, is used as a sign-in option for people who want to Kahoot with others. (Google, not an investor but also doubling down on education these days, is the other profile log-in option, alongside email.)

Kahoot’s growth is an interesting development, as it underscores a trend of how the worlds of educational and gaming apps have been intersecting for years. And when you think about it, that makes a lot of sense: gamification has long been seen as a useful trick for engaging people to learn, and not all games are based on dexterity; many are based on knowledge and information.

Here are some excerpts from an interview I had with Harrell on the occasion of their milestone figures, in which he talks about Kahoot’s popularity, its business model, and how to monetize without raising the hackles of regulators trying to protect minors.

There have been a ton of educational apps on the market. Not all of them have grown like Kahoot has. What’s going on?

It really started with the product: people just like the idea of a quiz and the fun and competitiveness that comes with it. It’s like a quiz show. There is also something here about inclusivity. Every student is engaged, and no one is left out, in this format. This is different from a traditional classroom, where some will always be engaged, and some are bored. It seems that at some level, everyone can and wants to compete on Kahoot.

The other thing is teachers. We have had strong teacher engagement and growth in the second half of the year. What we are seeing is that many teachers in the US — we started in the US and have been there longer — are making it a part of their teaching platform. The word of mouth among teachers has been a big part of it.

How are you making money? 

So far we have been focused mostly on user growth K-12. The initial focus for commercializing has been around companies, with 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies now using the product. We only launched the premium business service in October of last year but we already have companies like Facebook, Uber, PwC and really well known brands using it for training, sales and HR, and retail training. On the corporate side it’s a platform play for companies to have the tools to create their own Kahoots, or something we can create in the Kahoot Studio.

For students, we have a big ambition around premium content, which we’ll develope ourselves but also with partners. Over time we want to bring lots of content providers on to the platform. People can consume all kinds of stuff, not just Kahoot-created.

What about the fact that a lot of school systems lack money, and that teachers are already feeling a lot of pressure to fork out from their own wallets to buy materials for classrooms? And also that some parents don’t have the resources to buy apps for their kids? 

We are sensitive to that issue about the lack of funds, so the initial focus we will have is sponsorships. There are corprorate sponsors we are in dialogue with now, many who want to support education, and sponsoring content on Kahoot is a great way to do that.

We also believe in a subscription service. We have already found that there are many who are willing to pay subscribe, school districts that want to enable teachers and also parents.

How do you see content on Kahoot developing over time?

Most of the content is user generated today, but over time we want to be more of a publisher, we are open now and want to be in the future, and we also want to bring third parties into the mix. Our announcement with Disney and ESPN to pilot Kahoots around LucasFilm and ESPN in academic Kahoots is one example. We think this could be a great way to engage some kids, teaching science and math through film. Others might be Kahoots tagged to textbooks, say from established publishers like Pearson and McGraw Hill. Our focus will be on making quizzes though, complementary not replacing these.

 

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This startup’s new chip connects blockchain to the IoT

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This story was delivered to BI Intelligence IoT Briefing subscribers hours before it appeared on Business Insider. To be the first to know, please click here.

Blockchain startup Filament announced a new microchip that will allow companies to connect industrial devices, shipping containers, and similar assets and enable them to communicate with blockchains, according to VentureBeat.

The new Blocklet chip allows connected devices and equipment to complete transactions on their own and create contracts that are recorded on a blockchain based on rules and procedures set by their operator.

Filament’s new chip offers a prime example of one way that companies can use blockchain within the context of an IoT solution, providing an alternative to cloud-based systems and enabling device-level automated commerce.

Filament’s chip will augment the company’s blockchain-based IoT solutions, which use custom hardware paired with software to connect devices to a blockchain, CEO Allison Clift-Jennings previously told BI Intelligence. The company’s solutions use the open-sourced Hyperledger Sawtooth blockchain, though it’s also looking into support for the more commonly used Ethereum blockchain ledger, as well Hyperledger Fabric. That should help Filament provide customers with more choices, for instance, by enabling its solutions to support Bitcoin-based microtransactions.

Here are some ways companies could use blockchain for IoT devices with the Blocklet chip:

  • Connected shipping containers could autonomously record, share, and even arrange much of their transit.Using preset rules, a container originating in China, for example, might be put on a truck and delivered to a port where it would check container ships’ rates for various vessels heading to its destination, and then arrange and pay for transit through the shared blockchain. It could also record and share location and arrival data, and arrange transportation from a port to a warehouse through the blockchain, sharing this information with all stakeholders.
  • A piece of manufacturing equipment could record and share information on its usage and supplies. A machine stamping and molding metal, for instance, might record its progress and how quickly it’s stamping sheets. It could also use a blockchain to order additional metal to use on its own, shopping among various suppliers to find the lowest rate and paying through the ledger. And it could record and transmit data about production rates or other usage stats on that blockchain, facilitating analysis to improve operations.

Blockchain provides a useful alternative to cloud services for many companies. Using blockchain can enable a company to cut down the number of vendors it needs for its primary business and reduce the complexity required to implement and maintain IoT solutions. It provides an alternative to traditional IoT projects, allowing companies different means of achieving increased device connectivity, data analysis, interoperability, and even automation through smart rules and dynamic, automated contracts and ledger entries. Filament’s new Blocklet chip will help continue the growth and development of blockchain within the IoT, showcasing the utility of dedicated and custom-built hardware.

BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on the blockchain in the IoT that:

  • Explains how firms are already exploring ways to make use of blockchain in all sorts of IoT projects.
  • Provides an overview of disruption in critical sectors including the supply chain and asset management.
  • Analyzes how blockchain is poised to see rapid expansion as a tool used in IoT solutions that reduce costs, increase efficiency, and remove reliance on cloud-based platforms.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you’ll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now
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The Morning After: Thursday, January 18th 2018

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The next big Nintendo gaming accessory? Cardboard. The games maker unveiled Labo, a DIY add-on system for kids to fold and stick together peripherals from cardboard — proving once again that Nintendo is the good kind of crazy. Elsewhere we’ve got iPhone bugs, more cool cars I can’t afford and unlimited data on Google’s Project Fi.


Crazy.Nintendo unveils Labo, DIY cardboard add-ons for the Switch

Behold Labo, a set of DIY tools built on cardboard sheets that turns the console into a powerhouse of play. Make a piano with the Switch’s screen for music. No, wait, a motorcycle game with cardboard handlebars. A house with the Switch displaying an interior you can customize. Now is the era of the Toy-Con — and it involves a recyclable robo-suit. Yay!


Currently, older phones silently begin to run slower if they detect battery problems.
Apple CEO: iPhone owners will be able to disable power management

About a month ago, Apple explained that slower performance of older iPhones is intentional, implemented as a power-management plan through an iOS update. While it was ostensibly intended to prevent phones from crashing in situations when their worn-out battery couldn’t supply enough juice to support demanding functions, owners were (and still are) upset they weren’t notified it was happening. In fact, it was only discovered through benchmarks. In an apology, Apple lowered the price of battery replacements and promised an iOS update that would inform users when the phone detects battery problems. CEO Tim Cook said that owners will be able to check the health of their battery as well as turn off the performance-slowing power management, with a warning that it could lead to unexpected restarts.


You’ll have to pay extra to use all that data at full speed.
Google’s Project Fi now offers unlimited data (with a catch)

Google’s Project Fi can make sense if you only use a smattering of data and want to save money, but if you consume copious gigabytes it’s not so much of a great deal. Thankfully, there’s now an unlimited option… of sorts. Google has introduced a Bill Protection feature that caps your data bill at $60 if you use over 6GB in a given month. In other words, $60 (plus your base bill) gives you as much data as you need. It’s not quite an unlimited plan in the strictest sense, though — it’s more of a bridge between Fi’s original approach and what incumbent US carriers offer.


Don’t send it to anyone, unless you want to be really annoying.
chaiOS bug can cause iMessage to crash with a text message

There’s a new bug floating around called chaiOS, which appears to be a basic GitHub link. However, when you text it to a person via the iMessage app (whether on iOS or MacOS), it will crash the app and possibly cause the device to freeze and restart. In other words: Be aware of it, and don’t send it to anyone.


Yes, that is a G-Wagon inside a block of resin.
The most eye-catching cars and tech from NAIAS 2018 in Detroit

Next week, the NAIAS opens to the public, and if you can’t make it to the Mitten State yourself but still want a peek at what’s tucked inside Detroit’s Cobo Center, we’ve got you covered.

But wait, there’s more…


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