September 20, 2021
What could be better than a custom-designed home? It can be planned precisely to fulfill any whim or wish, with an architect standing by to turn customers’ visions into bespoke built form.
But one other thing also comes with custom houses–a huge price tag. That is, until now.
OpenHome—a new joint venture between the architecture firms KieranTimberlake and Lake|Flato and the prefabricated-home builder Bensonwood—is dedicated to creating a more accessible custom-home option, reports Fast Company.
By combining prefabricated elements with architect-guided custom design treatments, the system brings true dream-home design into the hands (and budgets) of the less than rich. . The design system can halve the time it would take to build a fully customized home, and can bring down the cost significantly.
Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake, San Antonio-based Lake|Flato, and Walpole, New Hampshire-based Bensonwood came together in 2018 to develop the concept and began taking on design projects in the spring of 2020.
Working with an architect, homebuyers can define the spatial layout of their house and the types of rooms it will have by combining clusters from the OpenHome library. The pieces can be combined in a variety of shapes from narrow to wide; single- to double-story; in straight lines, perpendicular arrangements, or with interior courtyards.
Sun and seasonal modeling provide a sense for how the light will change in each room throughout the course of the year, and also will help fine-tune the construction needs to ensure the home meets the high insulation requirements of the Passive House standard.
“It’s a really effective tool for being able to operate at this pace,” KieranTimberlake’s Matt Krissel, project lead for OpenHome, recently told Fast Company. “And acknowledging that a lot of people don’t actually understand floorplans or building sections, being able to model and walk people virtually through from early design really enhances our ability to get feedback.”
Once the design is set, Bensonwood takes about two months to fabricate the panels in its factory. It also coordinates the building permit and work with a local contractor to begin laying the foundation and preparing for the on-site installation.
The first home KieranTimberlake designed through the OpenHome process is now under construction in New Hampshire. Krissel says each of the partners in the joint venture has at least one OpenHome project in the works. KieranTimberlake is starting work on a second design and aims to be able to take on three to five per year to start.
“The goal is to be able to do these in less than a year, if [clients] can actually make all the decisions this fast,” Krissel says. “It’s a bit idealized, but the goal is that it’s substantially faster from beginning to end.”
The system brings architect-designed homes within reach of clients without the budget for a fully custom home. It also brings new opportunities to architects. “Now,” Krissel says, “we can say yes to projects that don’t have that luxury of a time frame or budget.”
Research contact: @FastCompany
September 16, 2021
Apple has revealed the iPhone 13. From the front, the new iPhone looks largely like its predecessor, the iPhone 12, with the same flat edges. But it does appear a little different on the back, where the cameras have been rearranged in a diagonal, The Independent reports.
And on the front, the “notch” that is cut into the top of the display is 20% smaller, Apple said. The company accomplished this by re-engineering the sensors in the top to enable them to take up less space.
The phone also comes in a range of colors, including a new pinkish hue.
On the inside, the iPhone has been “completely re-architected”, Apple said—with new features and a bigger battery. The battery should last for 1.5 hours longer on the Mini, and 2.5 hours on the bigger iPhone 13, Apple said.
It is powered by the “A15 Bionic” chip, which, Apple claims, is the “fastest CPU in any smartphone”—although it compared its performance with its “leading competitor” rather than the existing processor in the iPhone 12.
The phone also has a new camera system that includes “vastly improved low-light performance,” Apple said.
For videos, Apple is introducing a new feature called “Cinematic Mode”, which will allow the focus to change quickly and dynamically in a way that the tech firm suggested would recall Hollywood films. It does that automatically, by using artificial intelligence to allow the device to create “cinema-grade videos”.
The normal, non-Pro version of the iPhone 13 will come in the same sizes as the iPhone 12—a medium-size model and a “Mini.” Like the iPhone 12, the 13 has 5G. But it has more antenna bands, which should allow it to work both more quickly and in more places. Apple also has doubled the storage in the phones, meaning they now start at 128GB and go up to 512GB.
The Mini starts at $699, and the normal iPhone starts at $799, the same pricing as the iPhone 12. Some rumors had suggested that the price could be increased, as a result of processor shortages that have hit the entire technology industry.
Pre-orders will open on Friday, and they will go on sale a week later.
Research contact: @independent
September 15, 2021
Ola Electric Mobility’s new electric-scooter factory in India aims to build 10 million two-wheelers annually—or 15% of the world’s e-scooters by 2022—in an operation run and managed entirely by women, Bloomberg reports.
Led by Bhavish Aggarwal, the e-mobility business is a follow-up to ride-hailing startup Ola. It is expected to make its debut on public markets next year. The vision for his newest venture is to provide the world “clean mobility, a carbon-negative footprint, and an inclusive workforce,” the founder said.
The first group of workers started this week at the factory in Krishnagiri, about 2.5 hours southeast of Bangalore, which will cost $330 million to complete. “At full capacity, Futurefactory will employ over 10,000 women, making it the world’s largest women-only factory and the only all-women automotive manufacturing facility globally,” he wrote in a blog on Monday, September 13.
Aggarwal’s goal is to eventually assemble a full lineup of electric vehicles including three-wheelers and cars. Ola’s inaugural S1 e-scooter will be priced at 99,999 rupees ($1,360) to compete with traditional two-wheelers in India. Exports are to begin later this year.
“Enabling women with economic opportunities improves not just their lives, but that of their families and indeed the whole community,” Aggarwal said. Women’s participation in the local manufacturing industry stands at just 12% and, “for India to be the world’s manufacturing hub, we must prioritize upskilling and generating employment for our women workforce,” the founder said in the company’s blog.
Research contact: @business
September 14, 2021
Chicago is messing with Texas: Indeed, World Business Chicago, the public-private operation that serves as the city’s economic development arm, says it took out a full-page ad in the Sunday Dallas Morning News on September 12—inviting corporations to head north for the warm business climate and stay for the more liberal abortion and voting laws, The Chicago Tribune reports
The red, white, and blue print ad represents a swipe at restrictive legislation the Lonestar State passed on both fronts in recent months.
The ad opens with a friendly “Dear Texas” and proceeds to note that there “were always more than 100 Reasons” for companies to set up shop in Chicago, from the tech boom to the city’s place as a transportation hub.
But it quickly turns from a recruitment message to a political statement, offering “a few more” reasons to come to Chicago, including “Every person’s right to vote” and “Protecting reproductive rights” and “Science to fight COVID-19.”
As the Tribune reports, Texas is in the throes of several political battles on abortion and voting rights that have divided the nation. The state’s new abortion law, signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect a baby’s heartbeat, usually around six weeks (and before many women know they’re pregnant).
This week, Abbott signed an elections overhaul into law that adds more voting restrictions in the booming state, after Democrats spent months protesting what they say are efforts to weaken minority turnout and preserve the GOP’s eroding dominance.
And last month, Abbott banned government mandates on mask-wearing and vaccines as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surges across the nation.
World Business Chicago spokesperson Andrew Hayes calls the ad “a bold step” on the city’s part, explaining that it’s an invitation to “Texans and Texas-based companies, challenged by recent controversial state laws and policies, to consider relocating to Chicago.”
The ad sets the stage for a new round of Democrats vs. Republicans. No doubt Texas GOP officials will fire back at Chicago and Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the chair of World Business Chicago, over soaring crime in that city—and as the reason Texas businesses should stay put.
Asked about the forthcoming ad, Governor Abbott’s Press Secretary Renae Eze said in a statement: “The Texas economy is booming. People and businesses vote with their feet, and month after month they are choosing to move to Texas more than any other state in the country. Businesses are relocating to and investing in the Lone Star State at a record pace because we’ve built a framework that allows free enterprise to flourish and hardworking Texans to prosper.”
Research contact: @chicagotribune
September 13, 2021
Selected startups will take part in a six-month program designed to help raise brand awareness through Gopuff’s platform. The accelerator, called Put Me On, also will provide tools and resources aimed at unlocking barriers to distribution.
Developed in partnership with professional basketball player Chris Paul, the program includes the launch and promotion of participants’ products on Gopuff’s platform, access to monthly workshops hosted by industry leaders, networking events; and one-on-one capacity building sessions with Gopuff’s marketing, merchandising and supply chain teams. Participants also will leverage Gopuff Advertising Solutions, a service that helps brands execute strategic ad campaigns on the platform.
Founded in 2013 by first-time entrepreneurs Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev, Gopuff uses micro-fulfillment centers to deliver thousands of food and beverage products, pet products, cleaning supplies and over-the-counter medications, along with alcohol and fresh prepared meals in some markets, for a flat $1.95 delivery fee.
“As first-time entrepreneurs, Rafael and I know firsthand how impactful mentorship and community is in developing and growing a successful business,” Gola said. “Chris Paul has dedicated his time off and on the court to support entrepreneurs and we are excited to work with him to help aspiring entrepreneurs grow their businesses and reach new customers.”
Among the first group of Put Me On participants are the following;
- A Dozen Cousins, a Los Angeles-based startup offering ready-to-eat rice and beans;
- Cool Cat Wine Spritzers, a Miami Beach-based maker of low-calorie, gluten-free wine spritzers.
- French Toast Bites Ale, Philadelphia, a line of ales inspired by popular Philadelphia street food;
- Me & the Bees Lemonade, an Austin, Texas-based a line of lemonade featuring honey and flaxseed;
- MUMGRY, a Vancouver-based nut butter brand;
- Pipsnacks, a New York-based startup offering better-for-you versions of classic salty snacks;
- Cards for All People, aColumbus, Ohio-bsed a toys and games company; and
- Donata SkinFood, a Hollywood, Florida-based maker of vegan personal care products.
Entrepreners interested in participating in Gopuff’s next cohort may apply through the Put Me On website through October 24.
Research contact: @FoodBizNews
September 10, 2021
Amazon plans to roll out a line of Fire TV sets that will feature its Alexa voice assistant—an expansion that also showcases a growing ambition to place itself at the center of customer living rooms, reports The Wall Street Journal.
On September 9, the tech giant announced two lineups of Amazon-branded TVs—one named Amazon Fire TV Omni Series, starting at $409.99, and the other Amazon Fire TV 4-Series, which will start at $369.99. The TVs will be available on Amazon’s website and at Best Buy. locations in October.
What’s more, the Journal notes, Amazon has become dominant in streaming, with its Fire TV devices regularly ranking among top sellers. Its entertainment services include the Prime Video streaming platform, Fire TV operating system, and an assortment of streaming devices.
In recent years, Amazon has expanded its own-brand business in several arenas, including apparel, groceries and even items such as batteries. The company has opened branded grocery shops and plans to operate several department stores that will feature its private-label brands, the Journal reported last month.
Through its branded TVs, the online retailer is taking on a segment of electronics known for low margins that have dissuaded some competitors. Apple spent years studying the potential for an Apple TV, but has so far only developed a streaming device and the video service Apple TV+. The iPhone maker has long targeted opportunities to integrate hardware and software to make products where it can command hefty premiums and profit margins.
Amazon, meanwhile, historically has sought market share over profit and to appeal to customers with lower prices. The company in recent years has released an array of Alexa-enabled products, including ear buds and glasses.
An Amazon TV “speaks to Amazon’s product road map—anything customers spend time on, they want to take a shot at,” said Loup Ventures tech analyst Gene Munster. “There will be a market for cheap, good tech.”
The streaming industry is crowded with competitors. Amazon has faced steep competition from Roku while being challenged by broadband giants such as Comcast, which has worked with Walmart and Chinese manufacturer Hisense to develop smart TVs.
Amazon said its Omni Series TVs will be equipped with the company’s Alexa assistant, which will feature “far-field voice controls” that enable customers to ask Alexa questions without a remote, much like the company’s Echo smart speakers.
The TVs will be available in sizes ranging from 43 inches to 75 inches diagonally and will have 4K resolution. Amazon said its Fire TV 4-Series will support Alexa capabilities available through its Alexa Voice Remote. The more affordable 4-Series TVs will be available in 43-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch models.
Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, said the television lineup will build on the company’s effort to bring ambient computing to people’s homes. He likened their capabilities to its smart speakers, with the Omni Series models responding and turning on to a wake word—often programmed as “Alexa”—even when they are turned off.
Finally despite launching competing TV products, Amazon said its partnerships with Toshiba and others aren’t changing. The company Thursday also announced new Fire TV-powered televisions by Toshiba and Pioneer. Amazon has clashed with partners and potential partners over how it has launched products that compete with them. The company has said it doesn’t use confidential information that other firms share with it to build competing products.
Aside from its branded TVs, Amazon on Thursday also revealed the latest iteration of its Fire TV Stick 4K product. The new Stick 4K “Max” (priced at $54.99) will include Alexa features and have power and networking upgrades.
Research contact: @WSJ
September 9, 2021
In a press release posted on September 8, the organizers said that the music and food festival will be broadcast live on Circle Network, SiriusXM, and FarmAid.org. The program will include music from the day and videos that tell the stories of New England farmers.
“Connecticut has embraced Farm Aid again, and we are thrilled to return to live music, especially after such a difficult year. We’re grateful for the opportunity to gather with people across the Northeast who value the power of music, appreciate delicious family farm food and—most of all—support family farmers,” said Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid. “We are excited to partner with Circle this year to bring the Farm Aid festival to television for those not able to join us in person.”
Other performers who will make appearances include Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, Bettye LaVette, Jamey Johnson, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Allison Russell, Particle Kid, Ian Mellencamp, and Wisdom Indian Dancers.
Circle Network will begin livestreaming Farm Aid 2021 at 2 p.m. (ET) across Circle All Access platforms, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, with the live, on-air broadcast beginning at 8 p.m. (ET). To find Circle in your area, visit www.circleallaccess.com/watch-circle. The Farm Aid 2021 webcast at www.farmaid.org will begin at 2 p.m. (ET).
As of August 17, all attendees of Farm Aid 2021 will be required to show proof of full vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 48 hours prior to entering Xfinity Theatre upon their arrival at the event. Attendees are encouraged to bring either their original vaccination card, a paper copy of the vaccination card, or a printed copy of the negative test results to streamline the verification process at the gate. For those areas of the venue that are indoors, please note that the City of Hartford currently mandates that masks must be worn indoors. Farm Aid is encouraging mask wearing in outdoor areas as well.
Research contact: @FarmAid
September 8, 2021
Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is pushing the envelope—on marketing, on suborbital space travel, and now on longevity. He is among a group of investors backing a new anti-aging company, according to a new report obtained by Fox News.
A Russian-born billionaire tech investor, Yuri Milner, and his wife, Julia, also have invested in the company, according to the report. Milner—who is known for investing in companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and Airbnb—is worth about $4.8 billion, according to Forbes’ estimates.
Altos was incorporated earlier this year in the United States and the United Kingdom; and has plans to create institutes in California, Cambridge, and Japan, according to the report obtained by Fox News.
It’s also reportedly seeking university scientists with deep pockets dedicated to researching how to reverse the process of aging cells.
Bezos’ investment office, Bezos Expeditions, did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
However, this isn’t the first time the world’s richest man has invested in this kind of research. The 57-year-old Bezos has also invested in the startup company Unity Biotechnology, the New York Post reported.
Unity, according to its website, is working to develop a “new class of therapeutics to slow, halt, or reverse diseases of aging.”
Representatives for Unity did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Research contact: @FoxNews
September 6, 2021
The Federal Trade Commission is said to be investigating why the burger chain’s ice cream machines break down so often—a matter that’s become the butt of late-night TV jokes and viral social media posts.
The FTC contacted McDonald’s franchise owners this summer seeking information on what the problem is with the chain’s ice cream machines, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, September 1—citing a letter from the FTC and sources familiar with the matter.
When reached for comment by The Post, representatives for the FTC declined to comment.
The broken machines have drawn the ire of franchisees, who say it leaves them unable to serve milkshakes, soft cones; and the preeminent McFlurry, a cup of ice cream blended with candy and cookies.
The machines require a nightly automated heat-cleaning cycle that can take up to four hours, the Journal reported; and the cleaning cycle can fail, which makes the machines unusable until a repair technician can fix them.
The dysfunctional machines make treats that account for about 60% of the chain’s dessert sales in the United States, the Journal reported, citing a consumer survey by research firm Technomic.
And the repeated breakdowns rub customers the wrong way, spurring some to even pen petitions calling for action.
“We are tired of being the butt of late night jokes. So are our customers and crews,” The National Owners Association, a group of franchisees, said in a May message to owners, according to the Journal.
Some franchise owners aren’t waiting for the corporate bosses to do something. Instead, they’re reportedly paying on their own to train staff on how to fix the machines.
Others have reached out to the machine’s manufacturer, Taylor Commercial Foodservice, which says the machines, themselves, are fine.
“A lot of what’s been broadcasted can be attributed to the lack of knowledge about the equipment and how they operate in the restaurants,” a Taylor representative told the Journal.
When working with dairy products, “you have to make sure the machine is cleaned properly. The machines are built up with a lot of interconnecting parts that have to operate in a complex environment and manner,” the representative added.
“There is no reason for us to purposely design our equipment to be confusing or hard to repair or hurt our operators.”
One startup, called Kytch, has tried to help franchisees address the problem by building a device that mounts on the ice cream machines and alerts owners about a breakdown through real-time text and email alerts.
At one point, McDonald’s franchisees in 30 states used Kytch’s devices, the company told the Journal, but then McDonald’s told franchisees that the devices aren’t sanctioned and that they could pose a safety hazard, which Kytch denies.
“Nothing is more important to us than delivering on our high standards for food quality and safety,” the corporate parent reportedly said to franchisees, “which is why we work with fully vetted partners that can reliably provide safe solutions at scale.”
Kytch responded in May with a lawsuit that accused Taylor, a separate repair company authorized to work on the ice cream machines and a McDonald’s franchisee of conspiring to steal Kytch’s technology and replicate its device.
“This is a case about corporate espionage and the extreme steps one manufacturer has taken to conceal and protect a multimillion-dollar repair racket,” attorneys for Kytch wrote in the complaint in California Superior Court in Alameda County. The case is pending.
But Taylor denied it had a copy of Kytch’s device or that it wanted to steal the startup’s technology.
“This is a case of a hacker—Kytch—incredibly accusing the hacked—Taylor—of theft,” lawyers for Taylor said in a court filing.
The Tennessee-based franchisee who was named in the suit also denied the allegations.
In an interview with the Journal, Kytch co-founder Jeremy O’Sullivan then accused Taylor of infringing on McDonald’s franchisees’ rights to alter and repair their ice cream machines.
Taylor responded by saying that owners are allowed to repair equipment as they see fit, but that the warranty on the machines isn’t valid if they fix them on their own, according to the Journal.
According to the Post, the FTC’s interest in the matter may stem from the Biden administration’s previously announced efforts to crack down on various manufacturers of products ranging from phones to farming equipment. Critics have alleged that major manufacturers of such products restrict customers from fixing the products themselves.
In July, Biden signed an executive order directing agencies to take the matter on, saying at the time in a fact sheet that Americans should be able to repair good they purchased on their own.
At the root of the FTC’s inquiry is how McDonald’s reviews suppliers and equipment, including the ice cream machines, and how often restaurant owners are allowed to work on their machines. The FTC inquiry is preliminary, and “the existence of a preliminary investigation does not indicate the FTC or its staff have found any wrongdoing,” the agency’s letter reportedly said.
In a statement, McDonald’s said it “has no reason to believe we are the focus of an FTC investigation.”
Research contact: @nypost
September 3, 2021
After years of scientific research, Worcester, Massachusetts-based Vella Bioscience has introduced what it describes as “a revolutionary pleasure serum that promises to increase the frequency, intensity, and satisfaction of a woman’s orgasm,” reports Forbes.
Developed by a medical team—including Dr. Harin Padma-Nathan, the lead principal investigator for Viagra and Cialis—Vella works locally to relax the smooth muscle tissue and increase blood flow to enhance sexual arousal and orgasm in women.
“Viagra for men is very different. Viagra is a prescription medication that works systemically to treat erectile dysfunction,” he explains. “Vella is applied locally and doesn’t treat sexual dysfunction. Rather it works to enhance sexual pleasure from the potential that is already there.”
Unlike menthol-based drugstore topicals, which can irritate, or lubricants that only lubricate, Vella delivers a carefully regulated dose of cannabidiol (CBD) through a nano-encapsulated serum that penetrates the delicate tissue in a way the topical application of oil can’t.
Rather than taking a pharmaceutical approach, as a comparable Viagra for women would, Vella aims at the rapidly growing sexual wellness market.
“We wanted to give half the world’s population—women—equity in sexual fulfillment in a manner that is safe and effective,” Dr. Padma-Nathan continues. “We are focused on augmenting a woman’s normal function or recuperating a lot of that function if lost, as in post-menopausal women. And in our studies we found two out of three women overall will respond.”
The idea has been quick to catch on: With women now demanding equal time in the pleasure department, established retailers are scrambling to find ways to serve her. Bloomingdale’s, for example, has opened a “Sexual Wellness” shop online, offering “body-positive, female-led” brands as the “ultimate in self-love essentials,” with an emphasis sex toys.
Vella’s packaging is designed to look like prestige beauty and sit alongside a woman’s beauty products and on a retailer’s beauty counter.
Priced at $65 for 16 carefully regulated doses, it is pricey but its research-based technology justifies the price tag. However, it is also available in a single-use packet for $8; and, this holiday season, the company is releasing a gift-boxed skew for $30 with five applications.
In May it was introduced on the company’s direct-to-consumer website and quickly gained interest from retailers. Bergdorf Goodman’s trend-spotter and creative director Linda Fargo was one of the first to bring it into the store.
Also taking the in-store plunge is multi-brand luxury beauty retailer Cos Bar. It is now carried in five of its 19 stores, though it is planning to add two more locations soon. Cos Bar was founded in 1976 and is renowned for leading with beauty innovations.
Research contact: @Forbes