Design: News, Technology and Trends

Design: News, Technology and TrendsWhat's Wrong with Apple's New HeadquartersYou People Wouldn’t Believe the Type Design in Blade RunnerApple Architect Norman Foster Says the Future of Offices Must Be FlexibleAi Weiwei Gets Artsy-Fartsy About SurveillanceThe Beloved Monument Valley Returns With an Amazing Sequel Get in-depth design coverage at WIRED including news, trends, and how technology is shaping the world of design. <p data-reactid=”218″><span class=”lede” data-reactid=”219″>The new headquarters </span>Apple is building in Cupertino has the absolute best door handles. The greatest! They are, as my colleague Steven Levy <a href=”” data-reactid=”222″>writes</a>, precision-milled aluminum rails that attach to glass doors—sliding and swinging alike—with no visible bolts.</p> <p data-reactid=”225″>Everything in this building is the best. The toroid glass of the roof curves scientifically to shed rainwater. And if it never rains again (this being California), well, an arborist selected thousands of drought-tolerant new trees for the 175-acre site. Not every Apple employee will get to work in the new building—ouch!—but 12,000 will. Of course, it only has 9,000 parking spaces, but that’s supposed to encourage people to take an Apple shuttle to work. And once they arrive, they’re not going to want to leave. The fitness center has a climbing wall with pre-distressed stone. The concrete edges of the parking lot walls are rounded. The fire suppression systems come from yachts. Craftspeople harvested the wood paneling at the exact time of year the late Steve Jobs demanded—mid-winter—so the sap content wouldn’t be ruinously high. Come on! You don’t want sappy wood panels. This isn’t, like, Microsoft.</p> <p data-reactid=”227″>Whether you call it the Ring (too JRR Tolkien), the Death Star (too George Lucas), or the Spaceship (too Buckminster Fuller), <em data-reactid=”229″>something</em> has alighted in Cupertino. And no one could possibly question the elegance of its design and architecture. This building is $5 billion and 2.8 million square feet of Steve Jobsian-Jony Ivesian-Norman Fosterian genius. WIRED already said all that.</p> <p data-reactid=”232″>But … one more one more thing. You can’t understand a building without looking at what’s around it—its site, as the architects say. From that angle, Apple’s new HQ is a retrograde, literally inward-looking building with contempt for the city where it lives and cities in general. People rightly credit Apple for defining the look and feel of the future; its computers and phones seem like science fiction. But by building a mega-headquarters straight out of the middle of the last century, Apple has exacerbated the already serious problems endemic to 21st-century suburbs like Cupertino—transportation, housing, and economics. Apple Park is an anachronism wrapped in glass, tucked into a neighborhood.</p> <h3 data-reactid=”234″>The Architecture</h3> <p data-reactid=”236″>Apple Park isn’t the first high-end, suburban corporate headquarters. In fact, that used to be the norm. Look back at the 1950s and 1960s and, for example, the Connecticut General Life Insurance HQ in Hartford or John Deere’s headquarters in Moline, Illinois. “They were stunningly beautiful, high modernist buildings by quality architects using cutting-edge technology to create buildings sheathed in glass with a seamless relationship between inside and outside, dependent on the automobile to move employees to the site,” says <a href=”” data-reactid=”238″>Louise Mozingo</a>, a landscape architect at UC Berkeley and author of <em data-reactid=”241″>Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes</em>. “There was a kind of splendid isolation that was seen as productive, capturing the employees for an entire day and in the process reinforcing an insular corporate culture.”</p> <p data-reactid=”246″>By moving out of downtown skyscrapers and building in the suburbs, corporations were reflecting 1950s ideas about cities—they were dirty, crowded, and unpleasantly diverse. The suburbs, though, were exclusive, aspirational, and architectural blank slates. (Also, buildings there are easier to secure and workers don’t go out for lunch where they might hear about other, better jobs.) It was corporatized white flight. (Mozingo, I should add, speaks to this retrograde notion in Levy’s WIRED story.)</p> <p data-reactid=”250″>Silicon Valley, though, never really played by these rules. IBM built a couple of research sites modeled on its East Coast redoubts, but in general, “Silicon Valley has thrived on using rather interchangeable buildings for their workplaces,” Mozingo says. You start in a garage, take over half a floor in a crummy office park, then take over the full floor, then the building, then get some venture capital and move to a better office park. “Suddenly you’re Google, and you have this empire of office buildings along 101.”</p> <p data-reactid=”252″>And then when a bust comes or your new widget won’t widge, you let some leases lapse or sell some real estate. More than half of the lot where Apple sited its new home used to be Hewlett Packard. The Googleplex used to be Silicon Graphics. It’s the circuit of life.</p> <p data-reactid=”254″>Except when you have a statement building like the Spaceship, the circuit can’t complete. If Apple ever goes out of business, what would happen to the building? The same thing that happened to Union Carbide’s. That’s why nobody builds these things anymore. Successful buildings engage with their surroundings—and to be clear, Apple isn’t in some suburban arcadia. It’s in a real live city, across the street from houses and retail, near two freeway onramps.</p> <p data-reactid=”256″>Except the Ring is mostly hidden behind artificial berms, like Space Mountain at Disneyland. “They’re all these white elephants. Nobody knows what the hell to do with them. They’re iconic, high-end buildings, and who cares?” Mozingo says. “You have a $5 billion office building, incredibly idiosyncratic, impossible to purpose for somebody else. Nobody’s going to move into Steve Jobs’ old building.”</p> <h3 data-reactid=”260″>The Landscape</h3> <p data-reactid=”262″>But that’s all future-Apple’s problem. Today-Apple’s problem is how the campus fits into Cupertino and crowded, congested, expensive Silicon Valley.</p> <p data-reactid=”264″>Between 2010 and 2015 the San Francisco Bay Area added 640,000 jobs, with <a href=”” data-reactid=”266″>more than a third</a> of that growth in tech. But the region didn’t add nearly enough housing; with the exception of a spike during the boom years leading up to the 2008 recession, the number of new housing units built in the city of San Francisco has trended <a href=”” data-reactid=”269″>steadily downward</a>, and the same is true for other Bay Area cities. Here’s what happens when supply fails to meet demand: The median price for a home in the Bay Area has <a href=”” data-reactid=”272″>climbed to $800,000</a>. It’s <a href=”” data-reactid=”275″>even higher</a> in Silicon Valley.</p> <p data-reactid=”280″>That’s starting to change. San Francisco has <a href=”” data-reactid=”282″>62,000 units in the pipeline</a>, and San Jose is <a href=”” data-reactid=”285″>adding thousands</a> every year, too. (To be clear, those numbers are still far lower than places like Houston and Atlanta.) But the towns along the 101 and 280, the homes of companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook? Nope. Cupertino, Mountain View, and Palo Alto all have tens of thousands of workers in the tech business, adding more and more all the time, but those cities have been reluctant to build new houses or apartments.</p> <p data-reactid=”288″>How is this Apple’s problem? “Apple’s obviously very important to the city, and when they came in with that plan, we understood this wasn’t going to be just any development,” says Aarti Shrivastava, Cupertino’s assistant city manager. “They had certain needs.” Heightened sensitivity to security was one of them, which meant no public access—and even closing a major road.</p> <p data-reactid=”292″>In the early days of the project, <a href=”” data-reactid=”294″>reports</a> suggest Apple wasn’t willing to participate in “community benefits,” financial or otherwise, and Cupertino’s city council didn’t seem too willing to push one of the city’s biggest employers and taxpayers. The mayor at the time tried to propose higher taxes on the company, but the city council didn’t support the move.</p> <p data-reactid=”297″>Over time, though, Apple committed to giving the city some money to help with traffic and parking. “We had to bring them into our world. They don’t do urban design. They don’t do planning. We needed to talk to each other,” Shrivastava says.</p> <p data-reactid=”299″>In its HP incarnation, the site had about 5,000 workers; the new Apple complex will more than double that. Just 10 percent of them live in Cupertino, but according to an Environmental Impact Report on the project that an Apple spokesperson sent me, that still means that demand for Cupertino housing will increase by <a href=”” data-reactid=”301″>284 percent</a>. Apple is paying a “Housing Mitigation Fee” to the city. It’s based on overall square footage, but it turns out Apple is only adding about 800,000 square feet of building over what used to be on the site. So the company agreed to double the usual fee. But since the city had already halved the fee, so Apple is just paying … the fee. It’ll be about $5 million.</p> <p data-reactid=”304″>You can do math: Ten percent of people working in Cupertino means that 90 percent of the people in the Spaceship will commute. Most of them live in San Jose (10 miles east) and San Francisco (45 miles north). The lack of a cohesive regional transportation network in the Bay Area privileges cars, which is why Google and other tech companies started fielding their own buses in the last few years. (In 2014, San Franciscans angry about gentrification met Google’s buses with <a href=”” data-reactid=”306″>resistance</a>.)</p> <p data-reactid=”309″>Apple has shuttles that range the entire peninsula and into the East Bay and has committed to raising the number of trips to its headquarters not in single-occupancy vehicles to 34 percent. According to the EIR, just <a href=”” data-reactid=”311″>1.5 percent</a> of commute trips to Apple’s existing facilities are on public transit; by that calculation, the company says, the public bus system’s plenty robust enough. That logic is as circular as the building; if you don’t build it, they won’t come.</p> <p data-reactid=”318″>Of course that wasn’t all Apple worked on with Cupertino. Because part of the new campus subsumed what was going to be public space, Apple paid $8.2 million so Cupertino could build a park somewhere else. And the company agreed to help address the community’s major concern: traffic. Cupertino already had big plans for walkability and bikability; Apple is paying for a lot of those efforts around its campus. It ponied up $250,000 for a feasibility study on improving one of the nearby intersections, and an extra $1 million for another. Recognizing that not having enough parking for everyone on site meant that people were going to park in nearby neighborhoods, Apple is paying $250,000 to Santa Clara and $500,000 to Sunnyvale in parking restitution. “We worked very hard with both cities to figure out what amount would be OK, and Apple was very open to that,” Shrivastava says.</p> <p data-reactid=”320″>Oh, and two big ones: Apple is one of Cupertino’s biggest sources of tax revenue, but the city used to forgive all of Apple’s business-to-business sales tax. Now the city will get 65 percent of it. And the company built, at a cost of around $5 million, a system to bring recycled water from Sunnyvale to hydrate the new landscape. That’s not a direct community benefit, but developments at two more sites, the Hamptons and the old Vallco Mall, will also use that water if and when they get built.</p> <p data-reactid=”322″>Still, though…Apple has $250 billion in cash. Against that, these community benefits feel small. The company could have chipped in to double the frequency of CalTrain’s commuter rail. It could have built a transit center in Cupertino, which, unlike Mountain View and Palo Alto, has none. “Apple could have done anything. Money was no object,” says <a href=”” data-reactid=”324″>Allison Arieff</a>, editorial director for the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association and lead author of its recent <a href=”” data-reactid=”327″>report on corporate campuses</a>. “They want to be innovative in everything, and they’re not innovative in this thing.” Apple is instead making significant improvements to roads and highways. “If the intractable problems of the region are housing and congestion, they’re giving the finger to all that,” Arieff says.</p> <p data-reactid=”330″>The problems in the Bay Area (and Los Angeles and many other cities) are a lot more complicated than an Apple building, of course. Cities all have to balance how they feel about adding jobs, which can be an economic benefit, and adding housing, which also requires adding expensive services like schools and transit. Things are especially tough in California, where a 1978 law called <a href=”″ data-reactid=”332″>Proposition 13</a> radically limits the amount that the state can raise property taxes yearly. Not only did its passage gut basic services the state used to excel at, like education, but it also turned real estate into the primary way Californians accrued and preserved personal wealth. If you bought a cheap house in the 1970s in the Bay Area, today it’s a gold mine—and you are disincentivized from doing anything that would reduce its value, like, say, allowing an apartment building to be built anywhere within view.</p> <p data-reactid=”335″>Meanwhile California cities also have to figure out how to pay for their past employees’ pensions, an ever-increasing percentage of city budgets. Since they can’t tax old homes and can’t build new ones, commercial real estate and tech booms look pretty good. “It’s a lot to ask a corporate campus to fix those problems,” Arieff says.</p> <p data-reactid=”337″>But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t try. Some companies are: The main building of the cloud storage company Box, for example, is across the street from the Redwood City CalTrain station, and the company lets people downtown park in its lot on weekends. “The architecture is neither here nor there, but it’s a billion times more effective than the Apple campus,” Arieff says. That’s a more contemporary approach than building behind hills, away from transit.</p> <p data-reactid=”341″>When those companies are transnational technology corporations, it’s even harder to make that case. “Tech tends to be remarkably detached from local conditions, primarily because they’re selling globally,” says <a href=”” data-reactid=”343″>Ed Glaeser</a>, a Harvard economist who studies cities. “They’re not particularly tied to local suppliers or local customers.” So it’s hard to get them to help fix local problems. They have even less of an incentive to solve planning problems than California homeowners do. “Even if they see the problem and the solution, there’s not a way to sell that. This is why there are government services,” Arieff says. “You can’t solve a problem like CalTrain frequency or the jobs-to-housing ratio with a market-based solution.”</p> <p data-reactid=”348″>Cities are changing; a more contemporary approach to commercial architecture builds up instead of out, as the planning association’s report says. Apple’s ring sites 2.5 million square feet on 175 acres of rolling hills and trees meant to evoke the Stanford campus. The 60-story tall Salesforce Tower in San Francisco has 1.5 million square feet, takes up about an acre, has a direct connection to a major transit station—the new Transbay Terminal—and cost a fifth of the Apple ring. Stipulated, the door handles probably aren’t as nice, but the views are killer.</p> <h3 data-reactid=”350″>The Future</h3> <p data-reactid=”352″>Cupertino is the kind of town that technology writers tend to describe as “once-sleepy” or even, and this should really set off your cliche alarm, “nondescript.” But Shrivastava had me meet her for coffee at Main Street Cupertino, a new development that—unlike the rotten strip malls along Stevens Creek Blvd—combines cute restaurants and shops with multi-story residential development and a few hundred square feet of grass that almost nearly sort of works as a town square.</p> <p data-reactid=”354″>Across the actual street from Main Street, the old Vallco Mall—one of those medieval fortress-like shopping centers with a Christmas-sized parking lot for a moat—has become now Cupertino’s most hotly debated site for new development. (The company that built Main Street owns it.) Like all the other once-sleepy, nondescript towns in Silicon Valley, Cupertino knows it has to change. Shrivastava knows that change takes time.</p> <p data-reactid=”356″>It takes even longer, though, if businesses are reluctant partners. In the early 20th century, when industrial capitalists were first starting to get really, really rich, they noticed that publicly financed infrastructure would help them get richer. If you own land that you want to develop into real estate, you want a train that gets there and trolleys that connect it to a downtown and water and power for the houses you’re going to build. Maybe you want libraries and schools to induce families to live there. So you team up with government. “In most parts of the US, you open a tap and drink the water and it won’t kill you. There was a moment when this was a goal of both government and capital,” Mozingo says. “Early air pollution and water pollution regulations were an agreement between capitalism and government.”</p> <p data-reactid=”358″>Again, in the 1930s and 1940s, burgeoning California Bay Area businesses realized they’d need a regional transit network. They worked for 30 years alongside communities and planners to build what became BART, still today a strange hybrid between regional connector and urban subway.</p> <div class=”inset-left-component inset-left-component–article” data-reactid=”362″> <ul class=”inset-left-component–article__list” data-reactid=”363″><li> <h4 name=”inset-left” data-reactid=”364″>More About Apple</h4> </li> <li class=”article-list-item-embed-component__post” data-reactid=”366″ readability=”23″> <div class=”article-list-item-embed-component__description” data-reactid=”372″ readability=”32″> <p><span data-reactid=”374″>Steven Levy</span></p> <p class=”article-list-item-embed-component__title” data-reactid=”375″>Apple’s New Campus: An Exclusive Look Inside the Mothership</p> </div> </li> <li class=”article-list-item-embed-component__post” data-reactid=”376″ readability=”23″> <div class=”article-list-item-embed-component__description” data-reactid=”382″ readability=”32″> <p><span data-reactid=”384″>David Pierce</span></p> <p class=”article-list-item-embed-component__title” data-reactid=”385″>Apple’s HomePod Puts Siri in a Speaker</p> </div> </li> <li class=”article-list-item-embed-component__post” data-reactid=”386″ readability=”23″> <div class=”article-list-item-embed-component__description” data-reactid=”392″ readability=”32″> <p><span data-reactid=”394″>David Pierce</span></p> <p class=”article-list-item-embed-component__title” data-reactid=”395″>Siri Finally Got Its Coming Out Party</p> </div> </li> </ul></div> <p data-reactid=”396″>Tech companies are taking baby steps in this same direction. Google added housing to the package deal surrounding the construction of its new HQ in the North Bayshore area—nearly <a href=”” data-reactid=”398″>10,000 apartments</a>. (That HQ is a collection of fancy pavilion-like structures from famed architect <a href=”” data-reactid=”401″>Bjarke Ingels</a>.) Facebook’s new headquarters (from famed architect Frank Gehry) is supposed to be more open to the community, maybe even with a farmers’ market. Amazon’s new headquarters in downtown Seattle, some of 10 million square feet of office space the company has there, comes with terrarium-like domes that look like a good version of <em data-reactid=”404″>Passengers</em>.</p> <p data-reactid=”407″>So what could Apple have built? Something taller, with mixed-use development around it? Cupertino would never have allowed it. But putting form factor aside, the best, smartest designers and architects in the world could have tried something new. Instead it produced a building roughly the shape of a navel, and then gazed into it.</p> <p data-reactid=”409″>Steven Levy wrote that the headquarters was Steve Jobs’ last great project, an expression of the way he saw his domain. It may look like a circle, but it’s actually a pyramid—a monument, more suited to a vanished past than a complicated future.</p> Thu, 08 Jun 2017 14:15:00 +0000 Adam Rogers en text/html Design <p data-reactid=”243″><span class=”lede” data-reactid=”244″>Dave Addey doesn’t </span>just watch movies. He dissects them.</p> <p data-reactid=”247″>Addey is the creator of <a href=”” data-reactid=”249″>Typeset In The Future</a>, a website devoted entirely to fonts in science fiction. Why yes, it <em data-reactid=”252″>is</em> a bastion of gloriously esoteric nerdery.</p> <p data-reactid=”255″>It all began when Addey, a lifelong science fiction fan, started noticing the same font in every movie he watched: Eurostile Bold Extended. Designed in 1960, the font is geometric, functional, and looks good on the side of a spaceship (<em data-reactid=”257″>Star Trek</em>). Or a computer screen (<em data-reactid=”260″>Wall-E</em>). Or the wall of a fictional multinational corporation (<em data-reactid=”263″>RoboCop</em>). “Once I spotted it,” Addey says, “I couldn’t unsee it.”</p> <p><cite class=”caption-component__credit” data-reactid=”271″>Warner Bros. Pictures/Typeset In The Future</cite></p> <p data-reactid=”272″>So he made sure nobody else would, either. That was back in 2014, and since then Addey has turned himself into nerd-dom’s preeminent archaeologist of typefaces. His exhaustive exegeses of the type and symbols in <em data-reactid=”274″>Alien</em>, <em data-reactid=”277″>Moon</em>, and <em data-reactid=”280″>2001: A Space Odyssey</em> provided entirely new ways to understand those iconic works of science fiction; reading his essays and seeing his screengrabs was like seeing the movies for the first time. In his analysis of <em data-reactid=”283″>2001</em>, for example, he not only identifies that the spacecraft’s hibernation devices “use Futura for their numeric and medical buttons, and Univers for their Emergency Revival Procedures,” he also transcribes the device’s emergency revival procedures (noting multiple typos therein), and calculates the minimum time necessary to revive someone in an emergency situation. Like we said: exhaustive.</p> <p><cite class=”caption-component__credit” data-reactid=”293″>MGM/Typeset In The Future</cite></p> <p data-reactid=”294″>This week, Addey dropped a fourth essay, on arguably the most design-intensive science fiction movie of all time. Deep breath: It’s <em data-reactid=”296″>Blade Runner</em>.</p> <p data-reactid=”299″>In filmmaking, a production designer uses visual details to sell the story that’s unfolding on screen. That’s especially important when the designer is trying to build a world that doesn’t exist. And typography, it turns out, can be as important as the look of a spaceship or the sound of a ray gun in creating an immersive story. “With fonts you get a lot of context for free,” says Addey. “You’ve established the time frame for your movie in seconds without a lot of special effects or backstory.”</p> <p data-reactid=”301″>Addey uses easy-to-miss typographic details to guide readers through his synopses, which, more often than not, end up veering into esoteric design trivia.</p> <p data-reactid=”303″>The new <em data-reactid=”305″>Blade Runner</em> entry points out that the typeface used as the frontage of Los Angeles’ iconic Bradbury building, a “very lovely Berthold Block Heavy,” isn’t, in fact, the font used on the entrance of the <em data-reactid=”308″>actual</em> building.</p> <p><cite class=”caption-component__credit” data-reactid=”316″>Warner Bros. Pictures/Typeset In The Future</cite></p> <p data-reactid=”317″>Addey says the real typeface, with its curving, organic forms, was far more art nouveau, designed so long ago that it was probably a custom font.</p> <p><cite class=”caption-component__credit” data-reactid=”326″>Typeset In The Future</cite></p> <p data-reactid=”327″>From here, Addey segues into a discussion on the Bradbury’s distinctive architecture, which was also featured in <em data-reactid=”329″>The Artist</em> and <em data-reactid=”332″>500 Days of Summer</em> (not to mention <a href=”” data-reactid=”335″>a bunch more</a> Hollywood movies). And did you know that the building sits directly across the street from the Million Dollar Theater in Downtown LA? Because it does.</p> <p data-reactid=”338″>Addey’s analyses are delightfully rambling, but they’re also loaded with observations as witty as they are keen:</p> <blockquote data-reactid=”340″ readability=”7″> <p data-reactid=”341″>As we discovered in both <em data-reactid=”343″>Alien</em> and <em data-reactid=”346″>Moon</em>, omnipresent corporate branding is the single most important sign of a successful international conglomerate.</p> </blockquote> <p data-reactid=”349″>In the case of the Tyrell Corporation, the fictional company responsible for making <em data-reactid=”351″>Blade Runner’s</em> Replicants, Addey identified the corporate font as Akzidenz-Grotesk Extended. “That was the result of a very productive hour spent with a typeface samples book,” he says.</p> <p><cite class=”caption-component__credit” data-reactid=”359″>Warner Bros. Pictures/Typeset In The Future</cite></p> <p data-reactid=”360″>Addey’s articles combine everything that’s great about film obsessives and type obsessives. His process is meticulous, of course. First he watches a film all the way through, making notes about what he might like to revisit. Then he watches it again (and again and again), taking screenshots. For <em data-reactid=”362″>Blade Runner</em>, Addey watched various versions of the film 15 times and took nearly 500 screenshots.</p> <p><cite class=”caption-component__credit” data-reactid=”370″>Warner Bros. Pictures/Typeset In The Future</cite></p> <p data-reactid=”371″>All that attention to detail means Addey can tell you with certainty that Eurostile—the font that got him started down this road—appears just once in <em data-reactid=”373″>Blade Runner</em> (as the word “caution,” spelled out on the back of Gaff’s flying police car). Want your mind really blown? He calculated that Deckard’s clunky yet somehow still amazingly capable Esper machine would’ve had to zoom in <em data-reactid=”376″>667.9 times</em> to actually spot Zhora in that grainy photograph. That’s one hell of an “enhance.” Some proof:</p> <p>[embedded content]</p> <p data-reactid=”382″>“It’s written as if I’m somebody who takes all of this far too seriously, and that’s part of the fun of it,” says Addey. “It’s meant to be funny first and foremost.” He admits that science fiction typography is an odd niche, but he knows that there’s a surprising bit of overlap between people who like science fiction and people who like design. Addey chalks it up to the fact that science fiction films, perhaps more than any other genre, <em data-reactid=”384″>have</em> to embrace design minutiae, to be truly convincing. And the more convincing they are, the more there is to talk about. “I could’ve written another 20,000 words about Blade Runner,” he says. “There’s that much detail in it.” If a world is going to be more real than real, that starts with the writing on the walls. And control panels.</p> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 11:00:15 +0000 Liz Stinson en text/html Design <img src=”×1024.jpg” alt=”Urs Hölzle.” width=”819″ height=”1024″ class=”size-large wp-image-2255579″/><span class=”marg-r-micro”>Urs Hölzle and Google’s AI chip, the TPU 2.0.</span><span class=”credit link-underline-sm”>Cole Wilson for WIRED</span> <p>Urs Hölzle has a big job. As senior vice president of technical infrastructure at Google, he’s in charge of the hundreds of thousands of servers in data centers spread across the planet to power the company’s ever widening range of services.</p> <p>He’s also the person that the company’s engineers turn to when all that computing power turns out not to be enough.</p> <p>Today at the <a href=”″>2017 Wired Business Conference</a> in New York, Hölze explained that even with its enormous resources, Google has had to find ways to economize its operations in order to meet its ambitious goals. Most recently, he said, the company was forced to start building its own artificial intelligence chips because the company’s existing infrastructure just wouldn’t cut it.</p> <p>Around five years ago, Jeff Dean, who ran Google’s artificial intelligence group, realized that his team’s technique for speech recognition was getting really good. So good in fact, that he thought it was ready to move from the lab to the real world by powering Android’s voice-control system.</p> <p>But when Dean and Hölzle ran the numbers, they realized that if every Android user in the world used about three minutes of voice recognition time per day, Google would need <em>twice</em> as much computing power to handle it all. The world’s largest computing infrastructure, in other words, would have to double in size.</p> <p>“Even for Google that is not something you can afford, because Android is free, Android speech recognition is free, and you want to keep it free, and you can’t double your infrastructure to do that,” Hölzle says.</p> <p>What Google decided to do instead, Hölzle said, is create a whole new type of chip specialized exclusively for machine learning. He likens traditional CPU chips to everyday cars—they have to do a lot of things relatively well to make sure you get where you’r going. An AI chip, on the other hand, has to do just one thing exceptionally well.</p> <p>“What we built was the equivalent of a drag race car, it can only do one thing, go straight as fast as it can,” he says. “Everything else it is really, really bad at, but this one thing it is super good at.”</p> <p>Google’s custom chips could handle AI tasks far more efficiently than traditional chips, which meant the company could support not just voice recognition, but a broad range of other tasks as well without breaking the bank.</p> <h3>Pattern Recognition</h3> <p>This pattern has repeated itself again and again during Hölzle’s time at Google. He says that when he started at the company in 1999 (he was somewhere between the seventh and 11th employee hired by Google, depending on how you count), Google only had around 50 servers and was straining to support the number of search queries it received each day. But even with $25 million in venture funding, the company couldn’t afford to buy enough ready-made servers to meet its growing demand.</p> <p>“If we had done it with the machines, the servers, that people were using, professional servers, real servers, that would have blown our $25 million in an instant,” he says. “It really was not an option, so we were forced to look for other ways to do the same thing more cheaply.”</p> <p>So Hölzle and company built their own servers out of cheap parts. Each individual server was less powerful and reliable than a professional-grade machine, but together the clusters of computers they assembled was more powerful and reliable than what they could purchased otherwise. Google didn’t invent the idea of using big clusters of cheap machines in lieu of more expensive hardware—that honor might go to the nearly forgotten search engine <a href=””>Inktomi</a>—but it did popularize the model by proving that it could work on a massive scale.</p> <p>Hölzle and his team had to do something similar years later when it found that off-the-shelf networking gear no longer met its needs. So few companies needed switches that could support the number machines Google had that no established networking company was interested in producing them. So, once again, Hölzle and his team had to build their own gear—something that other companies, like Facebook, now do as well.</p> <p>“These decisions become a lot easier if all the other alternatives are non-viable,” Hölzle says. “It’s not necessarily that we’re somehow bolder or more insightful, but it’s actually that for many of these things in our history, it was almost a forced choice, you didn’t really have a viable alternative that you could buy.”</p> <p>But Hölzle probably isn’t giving himself enough credit. Most people, after exhausting all the viable options, would conclude that their task is impossible. When Hölzle ran out of options, he created new ones.</p> <a class=”visually-hidden skip-to-text-link focusable bg-white” href=””>Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.</a> Thu, 08 Jun 2017 19:32:00 +0000 Liz Stinson article Apple’s Architect Says the Future of Offices Must Be Flexible×630-e1496872883645.jpg Norman Foster has a qualm about Apple’s new headquarters: What happens when people stop driving? en-US text/html Design <p data-reactid=”255″><span class=”lede” data-reactid=”256″>Walk down the </span>street in New York City and your likeness will be captured on camera dozens of times. You’ll pass cameras affixed to buildings and traffic lights; on the subway platform, more than 4,000 closed circuit cameras will track your every move. There are security gadgets planted in elevators and lobbies, coffee shops and convenience stores, all of which keep a watchful eye.</p> <p data-reactid=”259″>An estimated 62 million security cameras monitor the United States alone, which means that at any given moment, you’re probably being watched without even knowing it. It’s almost like a dystopian version of Hansel and Gretel, where everywhere you go, you leave a path of digital breadcrumbs in your wake.</p> <p data-reactid=”261″>We often don’t see or think about these cameras, but a new exhibition at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory puts the surveillance state overtly on display. For <a href=”” data-reactid=”263″><em data-reactid=”264″>Hansel and Gretel</em></a>, artist Ai WeiWei and Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, transformed the Armory’s cavernous drill hall into a surveillance park. A series of 56 tiny computers attached to infrared cameras and projectors hang from the rafters. Meanwhile, a handful of tethered drones buzz overhead, taking footage of the visitors and feeding it back into a live stream.</p> <p data-reactid=”267″>As visitors wander through the dark room, cameras capture their likeness and cast ghostly renderings onto the floor. A grid of projected red boxes and white lines frame each person as an unspoken acknowledgement of technology’s ability to precisely pinpoint your location. “It’s the physicalization of surveillance,” says Herzog, who with de Meuron and Ai aimed to create an interactive surveillance state. The concept? People should see firsthand the kind of technology that tracks them on a daily basis.</p> <h3 data-reactid=”269″>Surveillance on Display</h3> <p data-reactid=”271″>Watchdog technology has proven a rich area for artists to mine, both because it’s so pervasive and so invisible.</p> <p data-reactid=”275″>The knee-jerk response is for artists to use it as a tool to elicit shock—a bait and switch that reveals the delayed truth that something’s been watching you and you didn’t know it. With <em data-reactid=”277″>Hansel and Gretel</em>, the artists seemed to sidestepped that idea, instead making the technology an obvious component of the experience. The fact that you were being monitored was no secret, which made it easy to work the technology in your favor. All around the hall, people paused for eerie photo shoots; posing, smartphone in hand, as the cameras above snapped their picture and replicated it on the ground.</p> <p data-reactid=”280″>Despite the darkness, the flashing lights, and the ominous mood in the space itself, the environment felt almost convivial. Rather than inducing fear and paranoia, the installation turned surveillance into selfie culture. “There seems to be an ambivalence [towards surveillance],” says Tom Eccles, the show’s curator. “Maybe that’s the way the world has changed.”</p> <p data-reactid=”282″>After exiting the main hall, visitors shuffle toward another entrance at the Armory where an usher greets them. “Hi there, could you put your toes on the line and look straight ahead for me?” he cheerfully asks. Straight ahead is another camera, this one capturing a straight-on headshot that minutes later will be projected onto the digital frames that line the Armory’s walls. On the tables below the frames, a row of iPads invite visitors to take another selfie, which gets fed into facial recognition software that searches for a matching image. Within seconds, my face pops up in the photo taken just moments ago. The computer’s software is 52% confident it’s me.</p> <p data-reactid=”284″>For some people, the immediacy of this recognition will be jarring. But the creep factor quickly subsides when a pop-up box emerges on screen. For $10, you can buy a print of the photo, available in the museum’s gift shop.</p> Thu, 08 Jun 2017 18:08:11 +0000 Liz Stinson en text/html Design Security <p data-reactid=”259″><span class=”lede” data-reactid=”260″>There was a </span>time when Dan Gray didn’t think <em data-reactid=”263″>Monument Valley 2</em> was going to happen. The head of Ustwo Games swore it, saying publicly that his team was done with <em data-reactid=”266″>Monument Valley</em>, the isometric puzzle game that has been downloaded more than 50 million times since its release in 2014.</p> <p data-reactid=”269″>For a while it seemed that way. Months after releasing the original game, Ustwo followed up with <a href=”” data-reactid=”271″><em data-reactid=”272″>Forgotten Shores</em></a>, a pack of extension levels to expand the original game. A year after that, the team released its first VR title, <a href=”” data-reactid=”275″><em data-reactid=”276″>Land’s End</em></a>, a gorgeous exploration of what the medium could be. And then, the studio went quiet.</p> <p data-reactid=”279″>Beneath the surface, though, plenty was happening at the studio: It split from its parent company Ustwo, and opened its own self-sustaining studio called Ustwo Games. It expanded its staff from 8 to 20 people, and started to experiment with what could come next. The answer, it turned out, was the exact opposite of what Gray expected: a sequel to <em data-reactid=”281″>Monument Valley</em>.</p> <p data-reactid=”284″>Today, Ustwo Games releases <a href=”″ data-reactid=”286″><em data-reactid=”287″>Monument Valley 2</em></a>, a 16-level follow up to the 2014 blockbuster. The game is like a funhouse mirror of the original: On the surface it looks and plays like the first <em data-reactid=”290″>Monument Valley</em>, but a closer look reveals a deeper, smarter game than before.</p> <p data-reactid=”293″><img src=”” alt=”giphy.gif” data-reactid=”294″/></p> <h3 data-reactid=”297″>Into the Valley</h3> <p data-reactid=”299″>The first thing you’ll notice about <em data-reactid=”301″>Monument Valley 2</em> is the familiarity. The opening scene features an avatar named Ro sitting atop a piece of geometric architecture. Revisit the <a href=”” data-reactid=”304″>first game</a>, and you’ll see a nearly identical opening tableau—the same dusty blue colors, the same architecture. Even Ro bears a striking resemblance to Ida, the main character from the original.</p> <p data-reactid=”307″>But soon, you’ll notice all the differences. Ustwo set <em data-reactid=”309″>Monument Valley 2</em> in a different corner of the same universe. It still revolves around solving architectural puzzles, which themselves feel manageable and familiar, but that’s where the similarities end. <em data-reactid=”312″>Monument Valley 2</em> is subtly more sophisticated than its predecessor. “If you go back and play the first <em data-reactid=”315″>Monument Valley</em>, it feels sort of retro,” Gray says. Small things—like a sleeker, sans serif typeface and generative audio that changes when you activate certain mechanics—make the update feel modern. The team pushed the artistic boundaries on certain levels, too, replacing the game’s signature isometric geometry with flat drawings in one world.</p> <p data-reactid=”320″>The biggest change, though, is the storyline. In the second scene of the game, you meet a new character: Ro’s tiny, nameless daughter, who accompanies her mother on the journey through the Valley.</p> <p data-reactid=”322″>The maternal bent isn’t coincidence. <em data-reactid=”324″>Monument Valley 2</em>’s development coincided with a time when Ustwo’s staff was starting to have children, which sparked a conversation around the gaming world and its depiction of mothers. “We realized there weren’t enough games about motherhood,” Gray says. “And when you do see mothers they’re often seen as something vulnerable or something to protect.”</p> <p data-reactid=”329″>Ustwo subverts that common narrative by acknowledging the nuanced relationship between parents and their children. Together, Ro and her child travel together from world to world, relying on each other to move monuments and solve puzzles. At first, the child follows Ro, mimicking her every move. Later, Ro encourages the child to take the lead and forge her own path through the levels. The game is, in many ways, a metaphor for the ever-evolving relationship between child and parent: one that shifts from reliance, to mutual respect, to a reversal of caregiving.</p> <p data-reactid=”331″>In that way, <em data-reactid=”333″>Monument Valley 2</em> feels less like a big-budget mobile game and more like one born of the indie world, which tends to value atmosphere and narrative over points and other typical metrics of success. That’s not to say it’s aimless. Unlocking *Monument Valley 2’*s storyline requires finishing puzzles and ascending levels, but the overtly tugs-at-the-heartstrings narrative gives players a sense or purpose that they might not have felt with the original.</p> <p data-reactid=”336″>In the end, the relationship between mother and child creates a deeper bond with a game that could otherwise be viewed simply as a beautiful puzzler. Gray calls the tactic “trojan horsing” emotion. “We engage people with the visuals and charming mechanics and impossible geometry first,” he says. “That way, we manage to get a whole bunch of new people who didn’t know they wanted emotion from video games to play.”</p> <p data-reactid=”338″></p> Mon, 05 Jun 2017 18:46:29 +0000 Liz Stinson en text/html Gear Design