Lessons from the Masters: Morley Baer

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The post Lessons from the Masters: Morley Baer appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Portrait of Morley Baer

Each time I find myself cruising down Highway 1 in California between Big Sur and San Francisco, the urge to make photographs instantly strikes me. It’s an easy feeling to encounter. The rocky beaches and rolling hills tend to beg for a lens. Accompanying this sense of photographic wanderlust is a recognition of walking in the footsteps of some of the greatest American photographers that the twentieth century ever produced. Names like Weston, Adams, and Cunningham all seem to linger in this area of the country. However, there’s another name connected to the deep photographic past of the west coast that you might not know quite so well but should: Morley Baer. In this installment of “Lessons from the Masters,” we’re going to take a closer look at the prolific work of Morley Baer and learn some valuable lessons about how he went about the business of photography that you can use to improve your images.

Morley Baer

Morley Baer came into this world on April 5th, 1916 in Toledo, Ohio. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a BA in English and an MA in Theatre Arts, he briefly worked in advertising in Chicago until fate pressed him into his life’s work. After seeing an exhibition of Edward Weston’s work, Baer became captivated by the medium of photography. He left his position with the advertising firm he worked to educate himself in the art of photography. After working in commercial photography briefly, he soon made the journey to Carmel, California to track down Edward Weston.

After serving in the Navy as war photographer from 1941 to 1946, Morley and his now wife Frances (also an artist and photographer) embarked on a decades-long exploration into photography in and around the Bay Area of California until finally settling in their home/studio near Garrapata Beach. Baer became one of the most desirable architectural photographers of his time. His landscape and seascape works are also still widely regarded as some of the finest photographic representations of the west coast of California ever to be recorded on film.

Here are some, but certainly not all, of the lessons you can’t learn from Morley Baer.

Total proficiency with the tools you use

For the main body of his landscape and architectural studies, Baer used one camera and one camera only; the Ansco 8x10S view camera. In our modern day photography jungle, we are constantly harangued by the marketing mentality that if our cameras are not the newest, then they are somehow lacking. Of course, that’s just an opinion.

In any case, Morley was an expert operator of his Ansco to the point when it became almost an appendage and an extension of his physicality. Similar in practice to Ed Weston, the fact that Baer became so monogamous with his singular 8×10 view camera speaks volumes to us today.

Portrait of Morley Baer and his Ansco by David Fullagar

Whatever your camera or tools, make yourself so familiar with their functions that you can control them without hesitation. The adage “the best camera is the one you have with you” is not enough. We must strive to become absolute masters of the tools we use to make our photographs. The tool is secondary to the ability of the user. No matter what gear you happen to be using it is essential that you understand how to use it and use it well.

Find what works best for you

Not only was Baer’s proficiency of his 8×10 camera finely tuned in, but he was also quite fixed in the way he presented his photographs. Morley was a darkroom master printer, and he virtually always printed his photographs using the contact method and seldom used an enlarger. This meant the negative was exposed directly in contact with the paper resulting in an image the same size as the negative. Contact printing remains one of the most simple and pure forms of printing even today. Regardless of its merits or limitations, this was the vehicle Baer found worked best for him and his creative expression.

By Morley Baer

While we should all continue to learn and grow with our photography, there must also be a conscious recognition of the methods and techniques that tend to produce the best results time and time again. Hone in on the processes that allow you to reach your fullest potential and pay no mind to whether or not they are popular or follow certain “rules.” When it comes to photography the so-called “rules” are there to guide us, not limit our flight.

Healthy competition can help you grow

Every so often I get an email or a Facebook message from someone asking whether or not they should enter a particular photography contest. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the idea of grading one photograph against another. This is because I feel it causes us to miss the purpose of photography altogether. At the same time, a photograph is a visual medium, and as photographers possess an inescapably inherent narcissism; we want our work seen by others.

By Adam Welch

I mentioned earlier that Baer’s wife, Frances, was also a camera jockey. Not only did she make photographs herself, but she was also remarkably accomplished in her own right to the point where Morley and Frances were essentially domestic competitors with their photography. There is a famous tale of them reaching an agreement for rights to photograph scenes when they were on road trips. The agreement they reached thereby declared that everything on the left side of the road belonged to the driver while everything on the right belonged to the passenger.

It’s important for us to reach a certain level of catharsis with our photography so that we produce work that is representative of our vision. At the same time, healthy (and I do stress the “healthy” part) competition with other photographers not only keeps our creative juices flowing but also serves to engage us with our fellow shooters. We learn and better ourselves through interaction with the work we love and respect. With the correct perspective, competition with our peers promotes dynamic artistic growth.

Parting words on Morley Baer

As with all esteemed photographers, seeing the work in person brings about a level of appreciation that cannot be obtained by merely viewing a photograph on a computer screen. I’ve recently been fortunate enough to visit select galleries in and around the areas where Morley Baer lived and operated. As usual, it’s easy to look and see the beauty of Baer’s photographs, but as perpetual students of photography, we should always seek to find what we can learn from those whose work we admire.

The lessons listed here are just a few to glean from Morley. Digest them and put them into practice with your own work. However, don’t stop there. Learn all you can, when you can and where you can. Never stop exploring the incredible world of photography.

 

You may also find the following articles interesting:

Lessons you can learn from master photographers – Minor White, Ansel Adams, and Syl Arena

More Lessons from the Masters of Photography: Edward Weston

Lessons from the Masters: Robert Capa and Jerry Uelsmann

More Lessons from the Photography Masters: David Burnett and Vivian Maier

Cartier-Bresson and Stieglitz – Study the Masters of Photography to Become a Better Photographer

Masters of Photography: Bruce Davidson, Master of the Subway

The post Lessons from the Masters: Morley Baer appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

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John Bogle’s Investing Philosophy Is Still the Best

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Image: Getty Images/Jemal Countess/WireImage for Time Inc.

John C. Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group and creator of the index mutual fund for individual investors, died Wednesday. He was 89.

It’s difficult to think of someone else in the financial world who’s had a bigger impact on normal people than Bogle (usually referred to as Jack); the index fund and his philosophy to sit tight and leave your money alone—principles adopted by Two Cents—have allowed average investors like you and me to accumulate wealth and avoid being swindled by the financial industry. He quite literally put billions of dollars back in the average investor’s pocket. As the New York TimesRon Lieber said, “How much more money do so many of us have because of him? His memory is a blessing.”

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If you’re not familiar with his philosophy about index funds, ironically, a post we ran earlier this week featured Bogle’s superfans and explained it. You only need to invest in a few, potentially just two, no more than three, low-cost mutual funds to build wealth.

The thinking is this: You don’t need to pay people to pick stocks for you and time the market to try to beat its earnings, because they never will, especially over the long term (years of research backs this up). Rather, track the stock market broadly, leave your investments alone, and you’ll at least match the market’s trajectory, which is pretty damn good (historically, the stock market has increased in value). In fact, “more often than not settling for an index fund has led to above-average returns,” notes Morningstar, an investment research firm. The first index fund Bogle created was the Vanguard 500, which tracks the S&P 500 (a collection of 500 large U.S. companies). It’s still around today, and it’s still a pretty good fund.

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Beyond providing more value for investors, these funds also cost less to invest in than other funds. When you hear people, like me, say to invest in “low cost” index funds, they are referring to operating expenses like the expense ratio, which is the percentage of a fund’s assets you’re paying to a company like Vanguard or Fidelity to manage your investments (Vanguard in particular, is revered for its low cost).

Because index funds track an already existing index and therefore don’t require a lot of legwork on the fund manager’s part, they cost less to invest in. And over decades, that can add up to a ton of money. Take these stats (from 2016):

One analyst at Bloomberg calculated this week that Vanguard has directly saved investors a total of $175 billion in fees that would have otherwise gone to Wall Street guys providing nothing of value; that it has saved investors an additional $140 billion in trading costs that would have provided nothing of value; and that it has saved outside investors $200 billion by forcing competitors to lower their fees to compete with Vanguard.

“Investors paid 40 percent less in fees for each dollar invested in stock mutual funds during 2017 than they did at the start of the millennium,” reports the Associated Press, which can largely be attributed to Bogle.

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As I wrote here, billionaire Warren Buffett is a Bogle/Vanguard fan. And he knows a thing or two about investing.

“In investing, you get what you don’t pay for. Costs matter,” Bogle told the New York Times in 2012. “So intelligent investors will use low-cost index funds to build a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds, and they will stay the course. And they won’t be foolish enough to think that they can consistently outsmart the market.”

There have been a number of lovely obituaries published about Bogle, and I recommend reading one or two to get a better sense of his impact. He might not be a household name, but pour one out for ol’ Jack tonight. Our lives are much richer because of him.

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Akai Force: standalone box that lets you sequence, produce, and play

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The leak was real. Akai have a standalone box that can free you from a laptop, when you want that freedom. It works with your computer and gear, but it also does all the arranging and performance (and some monster sounds and sequencing) on its own. It’s what a lot of folks were waiting for – and we’ve just gotten our hands on it.

Akai have already had a bit of a hit with the latest MPCs, which work as a controller/software combo if you want, but also stand on their own.

The Akai Force (it’s not an MPC or APC in the end) is more than that. It’s a single musical device with computer-like power under the hood, but standalone stability. It’s a powerful enough sequencer (for MIDI and CV) that you some people might just buy it on those merits.

But it also performs all the Ableton Live-style workflows you know. So there’s an APC/Push style interface, clip launching and editing, grids for playing drums and instruments, and sampling capability. There’s also a huge selection of synths and effects (courtesy AIR Music Technology), so while it can’t run third-party VST plug-ins, you should feel comfortable using it on its own. And it integrates with your computer when you’re in your studio – in both directions, though more on that in a bit.

And it’s US$1499 – so it’s reasonable affordable, at least in that it’s possibly cheaper than upgrading your laptop, or buying a new controller and a full DAW license.

First – the specs:

• Standalone – no computer required
• 8×8 clip launch matrix with RGB LEDs
• 7″ color capacitive multitouch display
• Mic/Instrument/Line Inputs, 4 outputs
• MIDI In/Out/Thru via 1/8″ TRS inputs (5-pin DIN adapters included)
• (4) configurable CV/Gate Outputs to integrate your modular setup
• (8) touch-sensitive knobs with graphical OLED displays
• Time stretch/pitch shift in real time
• Comprehensive set of AIR effects and Hype, TubeSynth, Bassline and Electric synth engines
• Ability to record 8 stereo tracks
• 16GB of on-board storage (over 10 gigs of sound content included)
• 2 GB of RAM
• Full-Size SD card Slot
• User-expandable 2.5″ SATA drive connector (SATA or HDD)
• (2) USB 3.0 slots for thumb drives or MIDI controllers

Clarification: about those eight tracks. You can have eight stereo tracks of audio, but up to 128 tracks total.

All that I/O – USB connectivity, USB host (for other USB gear), CV (for analog gear), MIDI (via standard minijacks), plus audio input / mic and separate out and cue outs.

US$1499 (confirming European pricing), shipping on 5 February to the USA and later in the month to other markets.

I’ve had a hands-on with AKAI Professional’s product managers. The software was still pre-release – this was literally built last night – but it was very close to final form, and we should have a detailed review once we get hardware next month.

The specs don’t really tell the whole story, so let’s go through what this thing is about.

In person, the arrangement turns out to be logical and tidy.

Form factor

The images leaked via an FCC filing of a prototype did make this thing look a bit homely. In person with the final hardware, it seems totally logical.

On the bottom of the unit is a grid with shortcut triggers, looking very much like a Push 2. On the top is a touch display and more shortcut keys that resemble the MPC Live. You also get a row of endless encoders, which now Akai call just “knobs.”

The “hump” that contains the touch display enables a ton of I/O crammed onto the back – even with minijacks for MIDI, the space is needed. And it means the displays for the knobs are tilted at an angle, so they’re easier to read as you play, from either sitting or standing position.

There are also some touches that tell you this is Akai hardware. Everything is labeled. Triggers most often do just one thing, rather than changing modes as on Ableton Push. And there are features like obvious, dedicated navigation, and a crossfader.

In short, you can tell this is from the folks who built the APC40. Whereas sometimes functions on Ableton Push can be maddeningly opaque, the Akai hardware makes things obvious. I’ll talk more about that in the review, of course, but it’s obvious even when looking at the unit what everything does and how to navigate.

Oh and – while this unit is big, it still looks like it’d fit snugly onto a table at a venue or DJ booth. Plus you don’t need a computer. And yeah, the lads from Akai brought it to Berlin on Ryanair. You can absolutely fit it in a backpack.

Workflows

What impresses me about this effort from Akai is that it takes into account a whole range of use cases. Rather than describe what it does, maybe I should jump straight into what I think it means for those use cases, based on what I’ve seen.

It runs live sets. Well, here this is clearly a winner. You get clip launching just like you do with Ableton Live, without a laptop. And so even if you still stick to Live for production (or Maschine, or Reason, or FL Studio, or whatever DAW), you can easily load up stems and clips on this and free yourself from the laptop later.

You get consistent color coding and near-constant feedback on the grid and heads-up display / touch display about where you are, what’s muted, what’s record-enabled, and what’s playing. My impression is that it’s far clearer than on other devices, thanks to the software being built around the hardware. (Maschine got further than some of its rivals, but it lacks this many controls, lights, and display.)

That feedback seemed like it’s also not overwhelming, either, because it’s spread out over this larger footprint. There’s also a handy overview of your whole clip layout on the touch display, so you can page through more clip slots easily.

Logical, dedicated triggers and loads of feedback so you don’t get lost.

Full-featured clip launching and mixing.

It’s a playable instrument – finger-drummer friendly. Of course, now that you can do all that stuff with clips, as with Push, you can also play instruments. There are onboard synths from AIR – Electric, Bassline, TubeSynth, and the new multifunctional FM + additive + wavetable hybid Hype. And there are a huge number of effects from lo-fi stuff to reverbs to delays, meaning you can get away without packing effects pedals. It’s literally the full range of AIR stuff – so like having a full Pro Tools plug-in folder on dedicated hardware.

That may or may not be enough for everyone, but you can also use MIDI and CV and USB to control external gear (or a computer).

The grid setup features are also easy to get into and powerful. There are a range of pitch-to-grid mappings, from guitar fret-style arrangements to a Tonnetz layout (5th on one axis, 3rd on another) to piano and chromatic layouts. There are of course scale and chord options – though no microtuning onboard, yet. (Wait until Aphex Twin gets his, I think.)

And there are drum layouts, too, or step sequencers if you want them.

Two major, major deviations from Push, though. You know how easy it is to accidentally change parts on Push when you’re trying to navigate clips and wind up playing the wrong instrument? Or how easy it is to get lost when recording clips? Or how suddenly a step sequencer turns up when you just want to finger drum a pad? Or…

Yeah, okay well – you have none of those problems here. Force makes it easy to select parts, easy to select tracks, easy to mute tracks, and lets you choose the layout you want when you want it without all that confusion.

Again, more on this in the review, but I’m thoroughly relieved that Akai seems to understand the need for dedicated triggers and less cognitive overhead when you play live.

Tons of playing options.

It can replace a computer for production, if you want. There’s deep clip editing and sampling and arrangement and mixing functionality here. Clips even borrow one of the best features from Bitwig Studio – you can edit and move and duplicate audio inside a clip, which you can’t do in Live without bringing that audio out into the Arrangement. So you could use this to start and even finish tracks.

The Force doesn’t have the same horsepower as a laptop, of course. So you’re limited to eight stereo tracks. Then again, back in the days of tape that bouncing process was also creatively useful – and the sampling capabilities here make it easy to resample work.

Powerful clip editing combines with sampling – and you can use both the touchscreen and dedicated hardware controls.

Or you can use it as a companion to a computer. You can also use Force as a sketchpad – much like some iPad tools now, but of course with physical controls. There’s even an export to ALS feature coming, so you could start tracks on Force and finish them in Ableton Live – with your full range of mixing an mastering tools and plug-ins. (I believe that doesn’t ship at launch, but is due soon.)

Also coming in the first part of this year, Akai are working on a controller mode so you can use Force as an Ableton Live controller when you are at your computer.

There’s wired connectivity. You can set up MIDI tracks, you can set up CV tracks. There’s also USB host mode. Like the grid, but wish you had some MPC-style velocity-sensitive pads? Or want some faders? Plug in inexpensive controllers via USB, just as you would on your computer. You only get two audio ins, but that’s of course still enough to do sampling – and you get the sorts of sampling and live time stretching capabilities you’d expect of the company that makes the MPC.

For audio output, there’s a dedicated cue out as well as the stereo audio output.

On the front – SD card loading (there’s also USB support and internal drive upgradeability), plus a dedicated cue output for your headphones.

The full range of AIR effects is onboard.

Powerful audio effects should help you grow with this one.

And there’s wireless connectivity, too. You can sync sample content via Splice.com – which includes your own samples, by the way. (Wow, do I wish Roland did this with Roland Cloud and the TR-8S – yeah, being able to have all my own kits and sample sets and sync them with a WiFi connection is huge to me, even just for the sounds I created myself.)

There’s Ableton Link support, so you can wirelessly sync up to your computer, iPad, and other tools – clocking the Force without wires.

There’s even wireless support for control and sound, meaning that Force is going to be useful even before you plug in cables.

Yeah, it’s a standalone instrument, but it’s also a monster sequencer / hub.

Bottom line. It replaces Ableton Live. It works with Ableton Live. It replaces your computer. It works with your computer. It’s a monster standalone instrument. It’s a monster sequencer for your other instruments. It does a bunch of stuff. It doesn’t try to do too much (manageable controls, clear menus).

Basically, this already looks like the post-PC device a lot of us were waiting for. Can’t wait to get one for review.

The post Akai Force: standalone box that lets you sequence, produce, and play appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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This solar system photo was composited from photos shot from a photographer’s backyard

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Photographer Andrew McCarthy has recently published a breathtaking image of the Solar System. The photo is a composite made from the images he took, but what makes it even more impressive is that all the photos were taken from his own backyard. Andrew shared some details with DIYP and explained how he got all the photos, as well as the final image.

Andrew explains that almost all of these shots were done from his backyard, except the background Milky Way photo, shot from Lundy Lake, CA, and the comet, which was shot from Sly Park, CA. As for the gear, he used a Sony A7II, a Canon 60D, a ZWO ASI224MC astronomy camera, an Orion XT10 telescope, and a Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro equatorial mount.

Acquisition times for each photo were different. However, Andrew notes that processing time is the longest part, taking from a couple hours to a couple days, depending on the target. Below you can read the details for each of the shots that make up the final composite.

Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter

Equipment:

Orion XT10 (using stock alt-az mount)

ZWO ASI224MC

Acquisition:

Captured 8-10k frames each, at .25-.75ms, gain 200 (exposure time varies based on object brightness)

Processing:

Video files cropped and centered around object using PiPP

Video files aligned and stacked using Autostakkert

Sharpening (wavelets adjustments) done in Registax

Final adjustments such as contrast, saturation, color balance, and setting black point done in Photoshop.

Uranus

Equipment:

Orion XT10

Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro

Sony A7ii

Acquisition:

Single 30″ capture, ISO 6400

Processing:

Saturation adjustments in Photoshop

The ISS:

Equipment:

Orion XT10 (using stock alt-az mount)

ZWO ASI224MC

Acquisition:

Captured 25k frames at .32ms, gain 600

pointed the scope at the projected path of the ISS, waited for it to pass, repositioned scope, repeat for entire pass

Processing:

Video file cropped and centered around object using PiPP- rejected frames without the object. File converted from 25k frame video to around 2k individual TIF files.

Handpicked grouping of 25 of best images, aligned and stacked in Autostakkert

Sharpening (wavelets adjustments) done in Registax

Final adjustments such as contrast, saturation, color balance, and setting black point done in Photoshop.

Comet 46p/Wirtanen:

Equipment:

Orion XT10

Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro

Sony A7ii

Acquisition:

60x 30″ captures, ISO 6400

Processing:

Entirely processed in photoshop. Manually aligned around comet. Used median filter to eliminate stars and eliminate noise.

Minor saturation adjustments.

The Moon:

Equipment:

Orion XT10

Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro

ZWO ASI224MC

Acquisition:

Captured 1k frames for each component of a 24-panel mosaic, at .25ms, gain 200

Processing:

Video files aligned and stacked using Autostakkert

Individual tiles aligned using photoshop’s autoalign tool.

Sharpened using unsharp mask, finished with some minor contrast adjustments.

The Sun:

Equipment:

Orion XT10

Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro

Sony A7ii

Orion Safety Solar Filter 10″

Acquisition:

A single 1/200″ capture, ISO 50

Processing:

Minor color balancing, saturation.

The Milky Way background:

Equipment:

Meade 2120 w/piggyback mount

Canon 60D

28-80 Canon lens (set at 28mm)

1 single 120″ exposure, ISO 3200, f-stop: f/9

Processing:

Minor contrast adjustments, curves to bring out nebulosity.

The composition:

When he had all the photos he needed, Andrew arranged all objects over the background using Photoshop. He says that it was done in only about 30 minutes. He admits that he wishes he had spent more time compositing, but I’d say that the final image is impressive nevertheless!

Since “astronomy is quite lonely if you do it alone,” as Andrew says, he prefers shooting with friends. His partner in photography is his cousin Colin Matthewson, who helps Andrew with equipment and shoots the scenery as Andrew shoots the sky. You can find more of Andrew’s work on his Instagram account @cosmic_background.

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A company that makes ‘smart pills’ that track when you take your medicine and how active you are is now expanding into cancer

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Pills

  • A digital medicine company called Proteus makes ‘smart pills’ embedded with sensors that tell your doctor when you’ve taken your medication. The pills also track activity levels.
  • Backed by big name investors like Novartis, Proteus debuted the first medication made with the technology — a form of the depression and schizophrenia drug Abilify — in 2017.
  • Now, Proteus is expanding into cancer.
  • Still, the research on whether the pills actually help patients take their medications when they should remains somewhat unclear.

Would a notification from your doctor as soon as you forget to take your medication help keep you on track?

A digital medicine company called Proteus is betting the answer is yes.

The Silicon Valley-based company makes what have been called "smart pills": essentially, versions of regular medications embedded with a tiny sensor that can be tracked by a patch worn on a patient’s stomach.

Since debuting the first medication made with the technology — a form of the depression and schizophrenia drug Abilify — in 2017, the company has put its hardware into 40 different medications ranging from drugs for infectious disease and mental illness to diabetes. Valued at $1.5 billion, Proteus has raised $487 million with backing from big name investors like Novartis.

And now, the company is expanding into cancer.

On Thursday, Proteus announced the launch of the first clinical trial of its technology in oncology. As part of the trial, seven patients with advanced colorectal cancer are now taking a sensor-embedded version of the common chemotherapy drug capecitabine in place of their regular medicine. The company hopes to enroll as many as 750 patients in the trial — which is taking place in partnership with the nonprofit Minneapolis-based health system Fairview Health Services and the University of Minnesota — before the end of the year.

The goal is to determine if "smart pills" are truly smart: that is, if they help patients take their medications when they should. That’s an important goal for conditions like depression, schizophrenia, and cancer, where patients often struggle to take medications. Timing those medications and ensuring that patients always take the correct dose is a key part of treatment.

"In cancer, the difference between too much of a medication and too little of a medication is very narrow," Edward Greeno, a practicing oncologist who is overseeing the trial and is the director of the University of Minnesota Health’s oncology service line, told Business Insider.

Pills that tell your doctor when you’ve taken them — and how much exercise you’re getting

Proteus Patch Pill and AppProteus’ digital pills work by way of a tiny sensor roughly the size of a period. The sensor can either be stamped into a pill or included alongside a traditional medication and then encased in a translucent shell that breaks down when a patient swallows it. Then, patients attach a credit card-sized adhesive sensor anywhere on their stomach. The sensor tracks when the pill is ingested.

The company was founded in 2001 and got approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its technology in 2012. So far, the company said there have been 177,000 ingestions of Proteus sensors in various medications ranging from drugs for tuberculosis to those for HIV. 

Proteus Digital Medicine clear pill case

In addition to alerting clinicians as to when patients take their medications, Proteus’ digital pills also keep track of patients’ activity levels — telling them where and how often they move around.

That could be a tough pill to swallow for patients who don’t like the idea of being monitored remotely, but Greeno said the patients he’s working with currently actually feel better having a physician involved in this way.

Greeno said he’s observed some other surprising things, too, like seeing how little activity some of his patients get. That’s already motivating him to think about ways to better incorporate exercise into treatment.

"It’s a nice surprise to start thinking about things we hadn’t thought about before," Greeno said.

Should all your medications be digital?

Proteus’ cancer trial is ambitious. Although only seven patients have been enrolled so far, the company aims to have 750 sign up by the end of the year. Fairview Health System is covering the cost of the treatment.

Beyond making a digital version of the chemotherapy drug capecitabine, Proteus aims to eventually digitize all of the medications a cancer patient is taking, George Savage, Proteus’ cofounder and chief medical officer, told Business Insider. Those would include everything from anti-nausea drugs to pain medications like opioids.

All of that rests on the idea that digital pills offer a significant benefit over regular ones. However, the scientific evidence of this remains somewhat unclear.

A Proteus-sponsored study of roughly 100 patients with hypertension and type 2 diabetes suggested that its digital pills might be an improvement on regular pills, but the results were somewhat mixed. Researchers behind the study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2017, concluded that patients using Proteus’ digital pills had slightly better measures of blood pressure, but rates of medication adherence — or whether or not patients took their pills when they were supposed to — was not measured as part of the study. 

Several other researchers have attempted to study whether other means of reminding patients to take their medications could help, but they’ve also come up with subpar results.

Scientists behind a clinical trial of roughly 50,000 patients published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2017 concluded that none of three devices designed to remind patients to take their pills significantly improved medication adherence rates. The reminders included an elaborate toggle system that people engaged each time they took a pill; a bottle cap with a digital timer; and a pill container with distinct compartments for the days of the week.

It remains to be seen whether Proteus’ digital cancer pills will help patients take their medications when they should. Results from their clinical trial are expected in the next few years.

SEE ALSO: 16 billion-dollar startups revolutionizing healthcare that you should be watching in 2019

DON’T MISS: A genetic testing company you’ve never heard of could become a household name as it takes on 23andMe

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Five more major trends shaping Product Design

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Last week we walked through the 5 major trends shaping product design. The trends covered there speak of the current positivity wave, with most people looking to live a more wholesome, fulfilled life. In part 2 of this series, Ryan Chen (Director of Design & Innovation Strategy at the Bressler Group) talks about five more points he considers pivotal in shaping up the future of product design.

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The Five Global Megatrends I wrote about last month touched on a number of fundamental shifts in consumer and social trends, and their implications for design. The picture they painted was of a more pared down, meaning-focused world, where just enough is better than too much, focus is better than distraction, and well-being trumps getting ahead.

But they only paint a partial picture of what the next decade is going to look like — there’s also a lot changing in the way we communicate with each other, our ability to impact the world around us, and our expectations for products and services to understand and adapt to our needs. To get a full understanding of what’s going to change in the next five to ten years, and how brands and organizations need to change in order to stay relevant, you need to go deeper.

These next five megatrends plumb the depths of identity, community, and meaning, revealing some sky-high expectations from consumers, but also an increased willingness to form lasting relationships, especially with communities (and products) that treat us as individuals rather than just wallets or eyeballs.

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6. Radical Personalization

Never before has it been so easy or cheap to personalize products and experiences. Where bespoke and highly targeted offerings were once reserved for the wealthy and sophisticated, such customization is now commonplace, for everything from laptops and athletic shoes to vacations and medical advice.

Part of the appeal is function: a personalized product satisfies your specific needs more completely and efficiently than a one-size-fits-all alternative. But the emotional aspect is perhaps even more important. If you want to build a true connection between consumer and brand, there’s nothing more direct or more certain than giving them something unique, that shows you know them and understand their individuality like no one else does.

What’s driving this trend?

  • Digital services are naturally easier to customize (digital stickers in social media, recommendations based on browsing history, etc.), pushing consumers to expect higher levels of personalization offline as well.
  • Technologies like 3D printing and rapid prototyping make customized products feasible to produce at scale, at far lower cost than in the days when personalized automatically meant made-by-hand.
  • An explosion of available data means the information needed to create a personalized product or service has already been gathered. All the customer needs to do is give permission for it to be accessed.

What does this imply for design?

  • Customization still often comes at a premium, so target niche users who stand to get the most out of it. IKEA’s user-specific 3D-printed chairs, for example, are aimed specifically at the hardcore gamer crowd.
  • Seek personalized offerings that reinforce your brand direction. Nestle’s Wellness Ambassador service does this by using customer-supplied genetic data to make diet and supplement recommendations, in keeping with its pivot in recent years away from sweets & snacks, and toward health-conscious living.
  • Recognize the difference between pragmatic and emotional personalization: it doesn’t always have to provide technical benefits. Candy store Lolli & Pops, for example, uses facial recognition to alert sales associates when VIP customers enter, giving them a list of preferences and allergies so they can make more personalized recommendations.

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7. Search for Authenticity

More abundant, more probing media and the rise of fake-everything means consumers rarely take things at face value anymore. And in an era when anyone can publish content, there’s no reason to rely on the traditional sources for our information. All of this makes it much harder for brands to convince consumers that they’re for real.

“Symmetry of Information” is one of the most promising responses to this skepticism: the idea that customers should know as much about the brand as the brand knows about them. While marketing campaigns are often met with skepticism, a clear window into the workings of the company is hard to dismiss, especially if it comes with a shift in policy, away from misleading images, statements or practices.

What’s driving this trend?

  • A social media and political climate in which traditional sources of reliable truth are increasingly seen as untrustworthy.
  • Cynical corporate practices around environmental responsibility and labor practices are harder to hide, leading to declining faith in once-trusted brands.
  • The rise of small, socially conscious startup brands and citizen media are giving real alternatives to traditional commercial and media channels, and an opportunity for consumers to find new brands that more closely resonate with their own values.

What does this imply for design?

  • Give consumers a little credit — they don’t necessarily need every video, photo and testimonial to be flawless. Suave’s “Hair You Can Believe” campaign and Dove’s “No Digital Distortion” mark, for example, both attract followings among customers tired of unattainable standards of beauty and perfection.
  • Look inside your organization for qualities to celebrate externally. Fashion brand Everlane has built a huge loyalist base (and grown 100% annually for five years now) by exposing every detail of its business, from manufacturing costs to tours of the factories where its clothes are made.
  • Invite real customers to participate in marketing messages. Lush Cosmetics now sources spokespeople from among its “superfan” customers, who make up in enthusiasm and authenticity what they might lack in adherence to traditional norms of photogeneity.

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8. Connection/Disconnection

For decades, technology and telecommunications has worked relentlessly to give us more access, more information, more communication — and now it seems we’re victims of their success. Bandwidth is so cheap and communication channels so abundant today that choosing when and how to be connected has become a treasured capability.

Increasingly, this means services that make connection easier with the right people or information, while providing more fine-grained control over who we interact with, when, and in what context. In some cases, it can also mean disconnecting, as evidenced by the proliferation of “digital detox” vacations and device-free events.

What’s driving this trend?

  • Smartphones, connected devices, ubiquitous WiFi, dozens of messaging and sharing apps, all conspiring to keep us communicating non-stop, whether we like it or not.
  • Increased competition in digital services means one size no longer fits all. Consumers can choose the platforms that make the most sense for their situation and desired communication modes.
  • Greater awareness of the downsides of constant connection. The latest research identifies developmental effects of too much screen time on kids, as well as the emotional burden of being “always on”.
  • Increasing social isolation, as younger generations delay marriage and move more frequently than their parents. This has created a critical mass of digitally-savvy solo consumers, eager for connection but wary of unmoderated interactions.

What does this imply for design?

  • Consider offering alternative versions of existing products and services, to address different styles of browsing and communication. Dating apps are a good example, with a landscape that includes image-first (Tinder), conversation-first (Taffy), women-first (Bumble) and algorithm-driven (Match, OKCupid) approaches — each of which has a loyal audience.
  • Look for new ways to serve solo customers, by connecting them with each other to share costs and experiences in a curated way. Co-working spaces like WeWork and ridesharing apps like UberPool make this effortless and relatively secure.
  • Create services that put a moderation layer between strangers who still need to communicate. Airbnb and eBay have been doing this for years; more recently, apps like MoveCar allow residents of Chinese cities to leave virtual notes for their neighbors, asking them to move vehicles without fear of awkward or dangerous interactions.

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9. Empowered Individual

The line between consumer and producer has been blurring for years, with newly democratized tools for producing and publishing content, and communications platforms that allow entire new movements to spring up practically overnight. For companies this can be a two-edged sword: empowered individuals can be tremendous marketing allies, merciless critics, or even upstart competitors.

Many brands are seizing on this fluidity as a source of ideas and a way to activate their customer communities. It’s still early days though, and a poorly executed customer engagement effort can easily come across as a cynical attempt to exploit authentic social connection for commercial gain.

What’s driving this trend?

  • Social movements are exploding, from #MeToo and grassroots political campaigns to environmental protests and pro-housing YIMBY activism. More than just making noise, they’re affecting real change in the lives of millions — including consumers.
  • User reviews are so credible and so easy to leave that they’ve largely supplanted marketing and professional reviews, for everything from restaurants to taxi rides to people’s homes.
  • Powerful, easy-to-learn tools have transformed a wide range of creative endeavors, making tasks that once took a roomful of seasoned professionals achievable with a laptop or smartphone.
  • Investment and commerce have been democratized too, with crowdfunding and sales platforms designed for broad access, and blockchain promising to remove the need for central controlling authorities in many transactions.

What does this imply for design?

  • Take a page from independent makers and use crowdfunding platforms to try out experimental product ideas. LEGO did this recently, proposing the FORMA line of mechanical kits on IndieGoGo, and using the launch to solicit feedback and build buzz while testing the concept’s appeal with a new audience: adults.
  • Look for opportunities in the peer-to-peer (“sharing”) economy created by new technologies. South Korean ridesharing app TADA, for example, is taking on Uber by using blockchain payment utilities to cut out the middleman, letting drivers earn more per ride.
  • Crowdsource new products and features — carefully. Fashion label Nyden uses Instagram stories to get feedback on new designs, inviting followers to vote on their favorites. This is different, though, from simply asking users to design something for you from scratch, which can appear exploitative, and rarely produces good results.

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10. Consumer Remapped

More granular information about customers and more powerful ways of processing it are giving companies unprecedented insight into who’s using their products and services, and what their interests and needs are. This has the potential to revolutionize market segmentation, making it far more granular, and accurate, while also letting customer service associates know more about who they’re talking to when offering assistance or solving problems.

The results of all this insight can upset accepted wisdom: it turns out that consumers are more likely to fall into a spectrum than a series of buckets. Some skateboarders are girls, some makeup users are men or transgender, and some NBA fans are disabled. In the past these were dismissed as niches too small to address, but with today’s informational and personalization tools, they’re sources for growth — and intense loyalty for the brands that get there first.

What’s driving this trend?

  • Big Data, in all its glory. As consumers travel through their connected lives, they leave a massive trove of information about their interests, habits and social connections.
  • Machine learning and improved processing algorithms are making it easier to draw meaning out of the petabytes of data now available.
  • Multi-culturalism is becoming the norm, with ever more mobile societies, and significant fractions of North American and European kids identifying as multi-racial.
  • Consumer expectations for personalized experiences mean more than just being able to ask for something specific. They want to be known, and to see brands proactively shaping products and services for them, without effort or fuss.

What does this imply for design?

  • Over-reliance on traditional demographic segmentation like age, income level, gender and education is becoming a liability. Conversely, more granular consumer insights can translate directly into new offerings, such as a recent special issue from Vogue, focusing on readers over 60.
  • “Inclusive design” is no longer just to satisfy policy or demonstrate virtue. Properly done, it can also signal to underserved consumer groups that they are valued and welcome, as with Sephora’s makeup classes for transgender customers, or the NBA Store’s efforts to make its NYC location more comfortable for autistic shoppers and those suffering from PTSD or dementia.
  • Use the customization potential in new technologies to show customers what’s uniquely relevant to them. UK fashion retailer ASOS, for example, is using Augmented Reality to let customers view clothes on a variety of body types, going far beyond the typical 5’10” size 2 model.

The original write-up on the Bressler Group blog by Ryan Chen can be found here.

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