Autonomous driving is not what Google thinks it is.

When you choose to debut a full concept car at the Consumer Electronics Show, rather than the looming international auto show a few days later, it’s gotta be a piece of forward-looking, high-tech wizardry. The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion is that and more. The car represents Mercedes’ vision of a fully autonomous rolling lounge that envelops four passengers in technology and comfort.

Instead of getting weighed down in superfluous details, Mercedes zeroes in on the real highlight of the concept, the lounge-style cabin. The swiveling front seats can face forward as in a normal car, but given the lack of any human driving responsibilities, they can also swing around to face the rear passengers, creating a roomy interior space that promises to make passengers of even the Maybach S600 feel a bit cramped in comparison. The seats automatically swivel 30 degrees outward when the doors open, making it easier to get in and out.

Passengers of the futuristic car can take advantage of their new face-to-face orientation to converse amongst themselves, but who opts for real-life conversation when they can lose themselves in a world of cat videos and emoticons? The “digital arena” of the F 015 keeps occupants connected by way of six high-resolution displays integrated into the instrument and side panels. The displays can be operated via touch, gesture control and eye tracking.

 

The city is an ever changing canvas; street art is meant to be ephemeral.

Worn away by the bustle of cities, eroded by rain or painted over by real estate developers, graffiti has evolved into art—making some famous such as the elusive English street artist, Banksy. However, the internet has brought the once maligned art form to a higher level of recognition and respect by preserving it. Google Street Art Project does just that.

What some call vandalism, others call street art. Where some see criminals, others see outlaw poets, heroes of free speech taking their work directly to the people, bypassing galleries and auction houses, and democratizing the relationship between art and the public. That outlaw freedom jumped time and space last week when the Google Street Art Project announced it was doubling its worldwide database by adding 5000 new images.

Launched in June 2014, the street art database features roughly 260 virtual exhibits from 34 countries where you can browse art or hear guided tours. More than 50 organizations partnered on the project, southern California contributors being Wende Museum in Culver City, Pasadena Museum of California Art and the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.

 

Dream cars: an exhibition of visionary automobile designs.

“We dream of cars that will float and fly, or run on energy from a laser beam, or travel close to the ground without wheels. Such research may border on the fantastic, but so did the idea of a carriage going about the country without a horse.”  —The Ford Book of Styling, 1963

The automobile has evolved from curiosity to daily necessity. Its form has advanced from the horseless carriages of the early twentieth century to the sleek, highly functional objects we know today. The experimental, concept, or “dream car,” as it became known in the early 1950s, has long been a dynamic tool allowing designers to showcase and demonstrate forward-thinking automotive design ideas. Concept cars were not objects the public typically could purchase, but rather the testing ground for innovations that might find expression in automobiles produced decades later. This exhibition explores the innovative designs that sparked ideas of future possibility and progress. It examines the dream car through five themes: individual makers, the impact of styling, visionary designers, the design process, and the influence of automobile fairs.

Chosen from hundreds of concept cars produced between 1932 and the present day, the visions for these automobiles are exciting to behold. Like most concept cars, those on display were never intended for production. Imagine an egg-shaped electric car, an exterior surface made of flexible fabric, or a jet fighter rolling down the highway – all of these were among the ideas dreamed up by designers and are featured in these galleries. The “dream” represented by these cars was that of future possibilities and pushing the limits of imagination and design.

 

Can design help 35 million displaced people in 126 countries?

Every day, all over the world, ordinary people must flee their homes for fear of death or persecution. Many leave without notice, taking only what they can carry. Many will never return. They cross oceans and minefields, they risk their lives and their futures. When they cross international borders they are called refugees.

The Refugee Project is an interactive map of refugee migrations around the world in each year since 1975. UN data is complemented by original histories of the major refugee crises of the last four decades, situated in their individual contexts.

Exhibited during the 2nd Istanbul Design Biennal, brooklyn-based designer Ekene Ijeoma presented “The Refugee Project,” a narrative-time map of refugee migrations since 1975. The responsive interface was developed with UN data to visualize refugee volumes over time, adding historical content to help explain some of the largest refugee movements of the last four decades. The project questions the role of design, its relationship to society, and its ability to be an active agent for change.

 

Flying saucers spotted in London show that communication and technology really are different.

Technology changes so rapidly that if you don’t focus on the message you’re behind before you start. For example Pepsi Max has surprised commuters with their “unbelievable” augmented reality installation at a bus shelter on New Oxford Street in London. The intervention locates a special real-time display on the exterior face of a billboard wall, which visualizes a realistic augmented live stream of exaggerated events from the inside.  Unsuspecting bus passengers are terrified by a glass screen showing the street scene overlaid with apolcalyptic scenes of mayhem and destruction. From a giant robot crashing through the road’s brickwork to a passerby being abducted by flying saucers, the interactive experience creates unusual scenarios on the street, engaging the public for a publicity stunt. But will it make people drink Pepsi?

esqA past issue of Esquire featured the latest digital technology to dazzle advertisers and consumers alike, “augmented reality.” Its cover displayed a code designed to interact with PC-connected video cameras. The “augmented reality” offering features video clips, a music track and even an interactive marketing section. You can visit www.esquire.com/the-side/augmented-reality and experience the fusing of print and interactive and judge for yourself whether this will save print as we know it.

I love this technology. It’s new and fun and geeky—and like the James Cameron film, “Avatar”, which changed the way films are made—it’s amazing. However, for some reason it makes me think of 19th Century author Victor Hugo who probably never used the word “technology” in his life. He wrote his massive tomes, such as “Les Miserables”, by hand many times before publication; but somehow he communicated with such insight and power and relevance that when he died more than two million people took to the streets of Paris in a spontaneous show of respect. We all will have to decide what the difference between technology and communication is for ourselves before all human ideas become lost in the digital ecosystem.