Defining the difference between Product & Industrial Design

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Product and Industrial Design are terms that have become interchangeable, especially for those who don’t live and breathe these terms the way we do. Although there are many finer points of distinction between them, the write-up below by Will Gibbons ( Product Designer and Design blogger) simply sums up the similarities and the differences these two fields share. So the next time someone asks you the question of what do you design, do redirect them to this article for better understanding!

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The definition and differentiation of industrial design and product design are debated, confused and sometimes vary given the context in which they’re used. Because many who visit this website may wonder why one term is used rather than the other, we’re going to take a deep dive and hopefully bring some clarity to the topic.

Let’s begin with a macro definition and progress to a micro level. We’ll start with a generic and practical explanation and end up arguing the semantics of the two, which should be fun. Maybe I’ll even ruffle a few feathers along the way. Also, I’ll break up each level of differentiation just to simplify things.

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Micro

For all intents and purposes, industrial design and product design are the same damn thing! A product designer and industrial designer play nearly identical roles professionally and share virtually the same goals. If you’d like to, go ahead and use the titles interchangeably as the general public doesn’t know the difference.

That said, each connotes a different idea of what the designer does. To many, industrial design sounds more technical and engineering-based. Alternatively, product design sounds more straight-forward and simple… one who designs products. Of course, the connotation of each is totally subjective and depends entirely on the previous experiences of the person you’re talking to.

Macro

Now, to draw some distinction, we’ll establish that industrial design is a field of study as well as a career path. Many colleges offer Bachelors and Masters Degrees in industrial design, and when a company wants to hire a designer who graduated from an industrial design program, the employer will advertise an industrial design position. Industrial design programs at schools are often divided into more specialized majors such as automotive, transportation and product design as was the case with the college I attended (CCS). At this level, product design is one of the various occupations an industrial designer may choose to pursue.

Based upon the above, all product designers are industrial designers but not all industrial designers are product designers.

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Industrial Design — an Abridged History

Back before many of us were born, objects were hand-crafted and cost much more to produce, which prevented most people from consuming at the level we do today. The industrialization of production made mass-production possible. Mass-production is how a product can be made in high volume at a low cost through a heavily automated process. Think of Henry Ford’s production line, which allowed his factory to crank out vehicles faster than ever before. The same thing happened to household products such as furniture, ceramics, tools, electronics and appliances. Prior to having a process that allowed for such high-volume production the cost per unit and production time of products didn’t matter much. When the mass-production became the goal, cost-per-unit, production time and efficiency surrounding the entire process became key to offering affordable products to the masses.

The need for engineers to optimize this whole process became clear, but lowering the price of a good wasn’t the only way to make a sale. Norman Bel Gedes is often credited with bringing sleek design to products that didn’t need to be sleek and sexy, but the result was that these beautiful products sold! It wasn’t long before the aesthetics of products were considered as important as function at the mass-production scale. Prior to the industrial design era, designers were artists and craftspeople. Primarily focused on creating quality objects that looked as good as they were built, designers weren’t designing for the masses, but were crafting low-production goods that were very expensive.

Now that mass-produced goods could be made, how do you get people to replace items that still worked just fine with newer versions? Designers filled the role of creating incentives for consumers to buy the new mass-produced products by adding features such as improving ergonomics, aesthetics and functionality. They did this through their knowledge of design. In order to increase sales, companies began hiring industrial designers to continually design new versions of the same products and sell them to customers year after year.

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Product Design — an Abridged History

Alright, so there isn’t really a distinct history of product design, since separating it from industrial design is impossible. Over the years, designers or companies have chosen to use the term ‘product design’ rather than industrial design as it’s slightly more specific than the vast field of industrial design.

As previously mentioned, product design is a specialized field within the broader spectrum of industrial design. product designers are often hired to design everything except for vehicles. Vehicle design (land, air and water) is a field that has its own traditions and practices and often prefers to hire designers who have specialized in automotive or transportation design. This leaves virtually everything else up to product designers. Today, software or digital products as well as services are often in the territory of product designers. In some cases, product design includes a sub-field of specialists called engineering designers. Given the common goals and roles played by the field of industrial design and product design, using one term instead of the other certainly leads to confusion for some. The field of product design and industrial design do overlap and sometimes the distinction between the two isn’t so clear.

I like to think that product designers are responsible for the design of household and consumer products, whereas commercial products are often designed by specialists such as aircrafts, architects and automobiles. I understand though, that there will always be exceptions.

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So What?

Some will think I wasted a whole bunch of words trying to distinguish between the indistinguishable. Perhaps. I just wanted to provide some contest to shed light on exactly why there is often times confusion between the two terms, product design and industrial design. The simplest way to bring clarity to an often ambiguous set of definitions is this:

Industrial design is the profession responsible for elevating function and aesthetics to all things manufactured. Product design is one of many niches within industrial design often defined by the kinds of products it designs. Just like a dentist is a specialist within the larger medical field.


The original write up by Will Gibbons published on Medium can be found here.

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Someone created a $57 button that silently lets your partner know you want sex, and the internet is stunned

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lovesync button kickstarter

  • LoveSync is a device that lets you, with the push of a button, silently and "anonymously" indicate to your partner that you’re in the mood for sex.
  • A fundraising campaign for LoveSync launched Monday on Kickstarter, and the device has already raised more than half of its $7,500 goal.
  • People on social media are roasting the button for its purpose of "summoning" your partner and intent to replace audible consent for sex.

Amazon pioneered the idea of miniature buttons that people press to quickly order household staples like laundry detergent and potato chips. Now, a startup has a button for couples to request another household essential: sex.

On Monday, a Kickstarter campaign introduced the world to LoveSync buttons, designed to help partners signal when they’re in the mood for sex.

LoveSync buttons come in a set — one for each person’s bedside table — so you can press it when you want to indicate to your partner that you want to have sex. If both partners tap their buttons in the same 15-minute "consensus window," both buttons will glow green, and you’ll know the other person is horny too.

Though it’s only a Kickstarter concept at this point, the LoveSync button aims for the elegant design of an Apple product or a Nest thermostat, with "CNC machined steel housing" and a "capacitive touch sensor."

lovesync button kickstarter

The device, the Kickstarter campaign says, is designed to "take the luck out of getting lucky" so you can "make your move with confidence" — so you don’t have to risk initiating sex and getting rejected.

LoveSync’s launch on Kickstarter wasn’t met with entirely positive reactions on social media. People on Twitter skewered several features of the device, as well as its description.

The video on LoveSync’s campaign page says you can push the button "anonymously" — which is puzzling, considering the buttons are advertised as being for a couple.

People also criticized LoveSync’s high price, versus simply asking your partner for sex. The Kickstarter campaign says a set of the LoveSync buttons will cost $57 (unless you nab an early-bird price).

Some also drew similarities between LoveSync and the "nut button" meme, which emerged online in 2016.

The founders are a Cleveland couple named Ryan and Jenn Cmich, who said in a promo video that they lost the "joys of romance" after being married for about 15 years. The buttons, they said, are a solution to an "age-old problem," allowing you to "get your LoveSync on."

As of Tuesday, LoveSync had 84 backers, who had pledged more than $4,000.

LoveSync has until March 13 to reach its $7,500 goal, and the campaign says backers will get their LoveSync buttons in August if it’s successful.

SEE ALSO: Here’s the complete timeline of the feud between Jeff Bezos and the National Enquirer, including the ties to President Trump

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How Apple went from a $1 trillion company to losing over 20% of its share price

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A depression drug that’s been called ‘the most important discovery in half a century’ just got a big step closer to FDA approval (JNJ)

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  • A first-of-its-kind treatment for depression got a big nod on Tuesday from a group of scientists convened by the US Food and Drug Administration.
  • Experts concluded that the drug, called esketamine and inspired by ketamine, is safe and effective and said its benefits outweighed its risks.
  • Their input will play a key role in the FDA’s final approval decision, expected in March.
  • If given the official green light, the drug would be the first novel therapeutic for depression in 35 years.

A drug inspired by ketamine, which has been called "the most important discovery in half a century," is on the cusp of becoming the first new kind of depression medication in 35 years.

Called esketamine and developed by Johnson & Johnson, the drug is a nasal spray designed to treat severe forms of depression that don’t respond to other medications. It’s the chemical mirror image of ketamine and thought to have slightly fewer side effects than the original compound.

On Tuesday, a panel of experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration voted 14-2 in favor of the drug’s effectiveness and 15-2 in favor of its safety. Their recommendation will play a key role in the FDA’s approval decision, expected in March.

Additionally, they voted 14-2 that the drug’s benefits outweighed its risks.

"I think there’s substantial evidence that this could be a game-changer," Steven Meisel, a system director of medication safety with Fairview Health Services who was one of the panel’s 17 voting members, said on Tuesday.

If the FDA approves the drug, it would be the first federally approved depression drug in nearly four decades to work differently than depression medications on the market.

That’s a significant milestone. Depression is the world’s leading cause of poor health and disability, and as many as one in three patients don’t get relief from existing antidepressants.

Analysts are hopeful that Johnson & Johnson’s new drug could help.

"Ultimately, we think [esketamine’s] risk-benefit profile favors approval, especially in a disease paradigm where little options are available," Carter Gould, the executive director of biotech equity research at UBS, wrote in a note circulated last week.

The emerging science on ketamine

columbia midtown ketamine clinic inside

Whether it’s Abilify or Zoloft, almost all antidepressants work by plugging up the places where our brain takes up serotonin, a chemical messenger that plays a key role in our mood.

Ketamine appears to engage a different part of the brain than traditional antidepressants, which is part of the reason it’s been called "the most important discovery in half a century" for mental illness.

The drug’s apparent rapid-fire effects may be especially useful for staunching suicidal thinking in people who are considering taking their own lives, experts say. Ketamine also has long been used to prevent pain, which suggests to clinicians that it’s relatively safe.

"There is nothing approved that gets patients better this fast," Walter S. Dunn, a psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor at the University of California Los Angeles who was also one of the panel’s voting members, said on Tuesday.

But right now, ketamine is neither cheap nor quick to administer. Because it’s given through an IV drip, the process can take 45 minutes to two hours. Each session costs $500 to $750 and is not covered by insurance, because ketamine is approved in the US only for use as an anesthetic. People given ketamine for depression are typically advised to get eight to 12 sessions, bringing the total cost to as much as $9,000.

Ketamine and esketamine also have some negative side effects. The most troublesome, according to analysts and scientists, is the drugs’ tendency to produce what’s known as dissociative — or "out of body" — experiences.

Experts worry that some patients could react negatively to the experience and then avoid the drug, or react positively and want to repeatedly use it, potentially leading to a drug-use disorder. Experts on the FDA panel said no misuse or abuse was seen in Johnson & Johnson’s clinical trials, however, adding that they considered the risk of abuse among adults to be low.

Read more: A ‘party drug’ with potential to be the next blockbuster antidepressant is edging closer to the mainstream, but it could set you back $9,000

Johnson & Johnson’s nasal spray for depression

Johnson & Johnson’s formulation of esketamine is designed to be taken as a nasal spray alongside a traditional antidepressant, reducing the time required to administer the treatment and potentially making it less expensive. (The company has not said how much the drug could cost.)

The company’s clinical-trial data suggests that the drug is fairly safe and well tolerated but still has some negative side effects.

More than a third of patients in two of Johnson & Johnson’s last-phase clinical trials reported dissociation. To address that, researchers say, the drug should be given in the presence of a clinician who can monitor the person for at least two hours after treatment. Roughly a third of patients in the trials reported dizziness, sedation, or nausea.

Also, because the studies focused on people with severe forms of depression that don’t respond to other medications, suicide was a known risk among the participants. In Johnson & Johnson’s trials, at least three patients died by suicide. On Tuesday, experts said these deaths were not likely a direct result of esketamine — if anything, they could have occurred because it didn’t work well enough, said Qi Chen, an FDA safety reviewer on the panel.

Julie Zito, a pharmacy professor at the University of Maryland who was one of two people who voted against esketamine’s effectiveness, said she didn’t see enough evidence of substantial improvement in mood among the clinical-trial participants.

Other researchers on the FDA panel said the drug still appeared to be more convenient than available antidepressants and the IV version of esketamine because the nasal spray doesn’t require an IV and could be given as frequently as once a week.

Esketamine also appeared to work better than a placebo in people with severe forms of depression over a month. However, the latest clinical trial — one of five studies presented to the FDA — was not able to show that the drug was statistically superior to a placebo. That’s a key finding that other trials appeared to support.

For a study published last May, Johnson & Johnson’s neuroscience partner, Janssen Research, had nearly 240 adults with severe depression take a traditional antidepressant plus a nasal spray for a month. Half got a spray with Johnson & Johnson’s drug, while the other half got a placebo spray. Those results were promising: The people who got the esketamine spray saw significantly better improvements in their depressive symptoms than those who got the placebo.

The month before, researchers did a small, daylong version of the study and came away with similar results. But the latest study, of nearly 350 adults, did not show numbers statistically significant enough to bolster the other findings.

Nevertheless, most of the experts on the FDA-assembled committee said they considered the drug an effective treatment for severe depression. Some said the latest study still suggested positive results even though the findings didn’t reach statistical significance.

"I was persuaded not only by the two positive trials but even by the partial evidence in the third trial that was at least pointing in the same direction," Wilson Compton, the deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse with the National Institutes of Health, said on Tuesday.

SEE ALSO: A ‘party drug’ with potential to be the next blockbuster antidepressant is edging closer to the mainstream, but it could set you back $9,000

DON’T MISS: Pharma giants are looking to ketamine for clues to the next blockbuster depression drug — and science says they’re onto something big

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: There are serious health reasons why you shouldn’t eat your boogers

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A Majestic Rare Black Leopard Was Photographed In Africa For The First Time In 100 Years And It Looks Metal AF

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iStockphoto / Mateja Gornik

An extremely rare black leopard was photographed underneath the full moon in Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya by wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas. These creatures are so rare at this point that they’ve achieved an almost mythical status in Africa. One hadn’t been properly photographed in 100 years until now.

The black coat is caused by melanism, the opposite of albinism, and unlike albinism that leaves an animal exposed to predators 24/7/365 because it doesn’t have any natural camouflage, melanism and the dark coat actually makes these some of the best predators on the planet because they can navigate the night virtually undetected.

Black leopards haven’t been unseen in Africa for 100 years, there just hasn’t been a photographer lucky enough to capture a proper photograph of them in a century. After reports that several were spotted in Kenya’s Laikipia area, photographer Will Burrard-Lucas set up his an expedition, according to the Daily Mail. What resulted was these absolutely stunning photographs.

By setting up a motion-activated camera underneath the full moonlight the photographer was able to capture the first photographs of a black leopard in 100 years and they are truly stunning. The eyes on this creature are enormous and set to full-alert for prey.

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He also captured this stunning image of a normal leopard.

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Previous photographs of any black leopards in Africa were either extremely grainy or caught the animal in motion. Similar to pictures you’d expect to see of a Yeti or Chupacabra. This is the first time in a century that a photographer managed to capture hi-res close-up photos of a black leopard.

According to the Daily Mail, Burrard-Lucas installed the DSLR ‘camera traps’ while working with biologists from the San Diego Zoo who were working in the area and helped the photographer map out the best locations to ‘catch’ the majestic predator based on reports of where it had been seen.

Burrard-Lucas documented his expedition on a blog post on his website which you can check out by clicking that link but I think his site’s down at the moment from receiving too much traffic because I can’t seem to get the post to load.

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Xnor’s saltine-sized, solar-powered AI hardware redefines the edge

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“If AI is so easy, why isn’t there any in this room?” asks Ali Farhadi, founder and CEO of Xnor, gesturing around the conference room overlooking Lake Union in Seattle. And it’s true — despite a handful of displays, phones and other gadgets, the only things really capable of doing any kind of AI-type work are the phones each of us have set on the table. Yet we are always hearing about how AI is so accessible now, so flexible, so ubiquitous.

And in many cases, even those devices that can aren’t employing machine learning techniques themselves, but rather sending data off to the cloud where it can be done more efficiently. Because the processes that make up “AI” are often resource-intensive, sucking up CPU time and battery power.

That’s the problem Xnor aimed to solve, or at least mitigate, when it spun off from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in 2017. Its breakthrough was to make the execution of deep learning models on edge devices so efficient that a $5 Raspberry Pi Zero could perform state of the art computer vision processes nearly as well as a supercomputer.

The team achieved that, and Xnor’s hyper-efficient ML models are now integrated into a variety of devices and businesses. As a follow-up, the team set their sights higher — or lower, depending on your perspective.

Answering his own question on the dearth of AI-enabled devices, Farhadi pointed to the battery pack in the demo gadget they made to show off the Pi Zero platform and explained: “This thing right here. Power.”

Power was the bottleneck they overcame to get AI onto CPU- and power-limited devices like phones and the Pi Zero. So the team came up with a crazy goal: Why not make an AI platform that doesn’t need a battery at all? Less than a year later, they’d done it.

That thing right there performs a serious computer vision task in real time: It can detect in a fraction of a second whether and where a person, or car, or bird, or whatever, is in its field of view, and relay that information wirelessly. And it does this using the kind of power usually associated with solar-powered calculators.

The device Farhadi and hardware engineering head Saman Naderiparizi showed me is very simple — and necessarily so. A tiny camera with a 320×240 resolution, an FPGA loaded with the object recognition model, a bit of memory to handle the image and camera software and a small solar cell. A very simple wireless setup lets it send and receive data at a very modest rate.

“This thing has no power. It’s a two-dollar computer with an uber-crappy camera, and it can run state of the art object recognition,” enthused Farhadi, clearly more than pleased with what the Xnor team has created.

For reference, this video from the company’s debut shows the kind of work it’s doing inside:

As long as the cell is in any kind of significant light, it will power the image processor and object recognition algorithm. It needs about a hundred millivolts coming in to work, though at lower levels it could just snap images less often.

It can run on that current alone, but of course it’s impractical to not have some kind of energy storage; to that end this demo device has a supercapacitor that stores enough energy to keep it going all night, or just when its light source is obscured.

As a demonstration of its efficiency, let’s say you did decide to equip it with, say, a watch battery. Naderiparizi said it could probably run on that at one frame per second for more than 30 years.

Not a product

Of course the breakthrough isn’t really that there’s now a solar-powered smart camera. That could be useful, sure, but it’s not really what’s worth crowing about here. It’s the fact that a sophisticated deep learning model can run on a computer that costs pennies and uses less power than your phone does when it’s asleep.

“This isn’t a product,” Farhadi said of the tiny hardware platform. “It’s an enabler.”

The energy necessary for performing inference processes such as facial recognition, natural language processing and so on put hard limits on what can be done with them. A smart light bulb that turns on when you ask it to isn’t really a smart light bulb. It’s a board in a light bulb enclosure that relays your voice to a hub and probably a data center somewhere, which analyzes what you say and returns a result, turning the light on.

That’s not only convoluted, but it introduces latency and a whole spectrum of places where the process could break or be attacked. And meanwhile it requires a constant source of power or a battery!

On the other hand, imagine a camera you stick into a house plant’s pot, or stick to a wall, or set on top of the bookcase, or anything. This camera requires no more power than some light shining on it; it can recognize voice commands and analyze imagery without touching the cloud at all; it can’t really be hacked because it barely has an input at all; and its components cost maybe $10.

Only one of these things can be truly ubiquitous. Only the latter can scale to billions of devices without requiring immense investment in infrastructure.

And honestly, the latter sounds like a better bet for a ton of applications where there’s a question of privacy or latency. Would you rather have a baby monitor that streams its images to a cloud server where it’s monitored for movement? Or a baby monitor that absent an internet connection can still tell you if the kid is up and about? If they both work pretty well, the latter seems like the obvious choice. And that’s the case for numerous consumer applications.

Amazingly, the power cost of the platform isn’t anywhere near bottoming out. The FPGA used to do the computing on this demo unit isn’t particularly efficient for the processing power it provides. If they had a custom chip baked in, they could get another order of magnitude or two out of it, lowering the work cost for inference to the level of microjoules. The size is more limited by the optics of the camera and the size of the antenna, which must have certain dimensions to transmit and receive radio signals.

And again, this isn’t about selling a million of these particular little widgets. As Xnor has done already with its clients, the platform and software that runs on it can be customized for individual projects or hardware. One even wanted a model to run on MIPS — so now it does.

By drastically lowering the power and space required to run a self-contained inference engine, entirely new product categories can be created. Will they be creepy? Probably. But at least they won’t have to phone home.

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Opportunity Mars rover goes to its last rest after extraordinary 14-year mission

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Opportunity, one of two rovers sent to Mars in 2004, is officially offline for good, NASA and JPL officials announced today at a special press conference. “I declare the Opportunity mission as complete, and with it the Mars Exploration Rover mission as complete,” said NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen.

The cause of Opportunity’s demise was a planet-scale sandstorm that obscured its solar panels too completely, and for too long, for its onboard power supply to survive and keep even its most elementary components running. It last communicated on June 10, 2018, but could easily have lasted a few months more as its batteries ran down — a sad picture to be sure. Even a rover designed for the harsh Martian climate can’t handle being trapped under a cake of dust at -100 degrees Celsius for long.

The team has been trying to reach it for months, employing a variety of increasingly desperate techniques to get the rover to at least respond; even if its memory had been wiped clean or instruments knocked out, it could be reprogrammed and refreshed to continue service if only they could set up a bit of radio rapport. But every attempt, from ordinary contact methods to “sweep and beep” ploys, was met with silence. The final transmission from mission control was last night.

Spirit and Opportunity, known together as the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, were launched individually in the summer of 2003 and touched down in January of 2004 — 15 years ago! — in different regions of the planet.

Each was equipped with a panoramic camera, a macro camera, spectrometers for identifying rocks and minerals and a little drill for taking samples. The goal was to operate for 90 days, traveling about 40 meters each day and ultimately covering about a kilometer. Both exceeded those goals by incredible amounts.

Spirit ended up traveling about 7.7 kilometers and lasting about 7 years. But Opportunity outshone its twin, going some 45 kilometers over 14 years — well over a marathon.

And of course both rovers contributed immensely to our knowledge of the Red Planet. It was experiments by these guys that really established a past when Mars not only had water, but bio-friendly liquid water that might have supported life.

Opportunity did a lot of science but always had time for a selfie, such as this one at the edge of Erebus Crater.

It’s always sad when a hard-working craft or robot finally shuts down for good, especially when it’s one that’s been as successful as “Oppy.” The Cassini probe went out in a blaze of glory, and Kepler has quietly gone to sleep. But ultimately these platforms are instruments of science and we should celebrate their extraordinary success as well as mourn their inevitable final days.

“Spirit and Opportunity may be gone, but they leave us a legacy — a new paradigm for solar system exploration,” said JPL head Michael Watkins. “That legacy continues not just in the Curiosity rover, which is currently operating healthily after about 2,300 days on the surface of Mars. But also in our new 2020 rover, which is under construction here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.”

“But Spirit and Opportunity did something more than that,” he continued. “They energized the public about the spirit of robotic Mars exploration. The infectious energy and electricity that this mission created was obvious to the public.”

Mars of course is not suddenly without a tenant. The Insight lander touched down last year and has been meticulously setting up its little laboratory and testing its systems. And the Mars 2020 rover is well on its way to launch. It’s a popular planet.

Perhaps some day we’ll scoop up these faithful servants and put them in a Martian museum. For now, let’s look forward to the next mission.

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Ending my fastlane chapter

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I’ve built and published iOS apps for over 8 years now. Back then the App Store review times were over 2 weeks, iTunes Connect would allow only uploads of a single screenshot at a time, there was no CocoaPods… and code signing was pretty much the same as it is today.

In 2014, I sat in my dorm room and started working on a tool to solve some of the challenges I faced as an iOS developer. It started out by just automating the upload of screenshots and binaries to iTunes Connect. After publishing the initial version in November 2014, the iOS community seemed excited about it. It slowly went from just deliver, to more tools like snapshot to generate the screenshots and pem to automate iOS push notifications.

Fast-forward to today, I’m so humbled by what fastlane has grown to be. It has changed the way large iOS teams work every day, how they release their app updates, and how code signing works. It even enabled founders to start new businesses using fastlane as their core foundation.

I’m so proud to see how the community has grown around it. When fastlane initially launched, it supported only 10 integrations. Today there are over 570 different integrations, from code coverage reports, beta testing services to build version management. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the all the 922 contributors of the fastlane main code base, all the authors of the 355 third party plugins, as well as the fastlane core contributor team.

It was great to see fastlane evolving from a small side project, into a stable, self-sustainable open source project with a strong community of contributors around it. I have no doubts that fastlane will continue growing stronger in the next years, with the support of Google, as well as other companies and individual contributors.

📯 After 4.5 years it’s time for me to step away from fastlane, and with that leave Google.

As for what’s next, I don’t have any specific plans yet. I’ll be taking a vacation and then figuring out what problem I’m excited to solve next 🙂

As always, you can stay in touch on Twitter and Instagram.

What does it mean for fastlane?

Google will keep investing in fastlane. There will be no changes to fastlane and its support system. To get help with fastlane, submit an issue on GitHub. At the same time, we will continue accepting new fastlane core contributors, meaning you can get full push access to the fastlane code base.

Thank you

I’d like to thank everyone from the Twitter Fabric, Firebase and Google Cloud teams for taking fastlane where it is today. I’d like to specifically call out all the contributors and the iOS community for welcoming fastlane and continuing to support it. In particular Hemal who believed in my vision and helped me grow personally and professionally.

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Opportunity rover’s last picture is as grim as it is dark

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A mighty dust storm swirled around the Opportunity rover on June 10, 2018, forcing the robot to shut itself off and conserve power. The dust blocked out nearly all the sunlight, turning day to night. 

Opportunity would never awake. On Wednesday, NASA announced that they would no longer attempt to revive the 15-year-old machine, formally ending the legendary extraterrestrial mission. 

But on that dark June day, just before Opportunity went silent, the rover took one final picture:

Opportunity's final picture.

Opportunity’s final picture.

The image captured a Martian world shrouded in darkness by the dust storm. 

“This was the last image we ever took,” Bill Nelson, chief of the Opportunity mission’s engineering team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in an interview just after NASA declared the mission over. 

“We are looking at an incredibly small amount of sunlight — .002 percent of the normal sunlight that we would expect to see,” said Nelson. “If you were there, it would be late twilight. Your human eye would still be able to make out some features, but it would be very dark.”

But in this final image, no Martian features are visible.

In the picture, the white static amid the black is just image noise the camera picked up in the darkened setting (“It’s kind of like the image you get on your phone in a very dark environment,” said Nelson). The thick black bar at the bottom of the picture is data that never arrived back to Earth — as if Opportunity’s message was cut off mid-sentence.

If the rover had not been caught in such a dust storm, it would have taken a picture down a channel, about 20-feet across, as Opportunity peered down a valley, said Nelson.

So-called “Perseverance Valley” became Opportunity’s final resting spot. 

Six days earlier, Opportunity captured the following picture of the wide, sloping environment.

Perseverance Valley, taken in early June 2018.

Perseverance Valley, taken in early June 2018.

Over the course of Opportunity’s life, the rover shot well over 200,000 images and sent them back to Earth. 

One of Nelson’s favorites came just 180 Martian days, or sols, into Opportunity’s exploration of the red planet. With the sun shining behind the rover, Opportunity captured an image of its long shadow.

Opportunity's shadow taken on July 27, 2004.

Opportunity’s shadow taken on July 27, 2004.

“It’s very evocative of the status of that rover,” said Nelson. “Here we are, with one tiny rover on this foreign, alien planet all by itself.”

Now, the 400-pound robot will spend millennia getting shrouded in red dust, and NASA engineers like Nelson will move on to other extraterrestrial projects, as will his entire NASA exploration team.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Nelson, noting how proud he is to have worked with engineers and scientists that directed Opportunity for some 15 years. “Now, our teams are going to sort of scatter to the winds.”

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Romance scams cost more money than any other type of consumer fraud, says the Federal Trade Commission

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The Federal Trade Commission has released data that shows romance scams cost more money than other types of consumer fraud reported to the agency last year—and the problem is getting worse. Romance scammers target people through dating sites and apps or social media, often using fake profiles and sob stories to convince victims to send them large amounts of money.

The number of romance scams reported to the FTC increased from 8,500 in 2015 to 21,000 last year. Reported losses from these scams grew more than four times, from $33 million in 2015 to $143 million last year. The figures for 2018 are based on 21,368 reports submitted to FTC’s Consumer Sentinel, a database of consumer complaints.

Romance scams were particularly costly for individual victims. The median loss reported by romance scam victims was $2,600, or seven times higher than the median loss across other types of fraud. People between the ages of 40 to 69 reported losing money to romance scams at twice the rate of people in their 20s, but the elderly lost larger amounts, with victims aged 70 and over reporting the biggest median losses at $10,000.

The FTC says the majority of victims were asked to wire money, while the second largest group were asked to use gift or reload cards like Moneypak, which are all methods that are quick, usually difficult to reverse, and allow recipients to remain anonymous. Romance scammers often claim they need money for medical and other emergencies, and come up with excuses about why they can’t meet with their targets in person, for example claiming to be in the military and stationed abroad or not having enough funds to travel.

To prevent being victimized, the FTC suggests doing a reverse image search of profile photos to check if a profile is fake, not sending money to people you haven’t met in person, and being open with family and friends about online relationships.

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