The Epic Share-Icon Battle Royale!

No matter what device or service you're using these days, you're probably being offered a button to "share" it. But this need is new enough that the icon for "share" hasn't yet been standardized - and the variations are quite, well, varied. Min Ming Lo gives a great overview, begs for standardization and/or sanity, and even suggests a new and clever milkshake-based option. I'm sure we'll see these variations weed themselves out over the next few years, so place your bets now: who will (or should) win the Epic Share-Icon Battle Royale?!?
[via Gizmodo]

"XBox On" - Problems with voice commands...

Microsoft understandably wants to show off the new tricks its XBox One is capable of, including voice control. But a smooth demo for potential buyers becomes a real annoyance for existing owners, as this ad with Aaron Paul saying "XBox On" is causing real-life units to power up unintentionally. The design of controls becomes tricky as the triggers become smarter - anticipating intent that can be subjective, varied, unreliable can easily result in false fires, unresponsive triggers, or (remarkably) both. In other words, it's no longer as clear-cut as pressing a button!
[via Engadget & BBC News]

Airline Food Trays: A little design saves a lot...

Airlines are a design area where a little change can have a big impact, because every product gets multiplied by millions of passengers and by the fuel cost to repeatedly lift that weight to 30,000 feet. With that in mind, MAP's redesign of Virgin Atlantic's food trays stand to save the company quite a bit: shrinking the tray by a third and reusing it for multiple courses, and using a non-slip material that eliminates the need for disposable paper liners, the overall weight of the service setup is reduced by 291lbs per plane. There are quite a few other details to the design, discussed in Wired and Gizmodo articles - worth a quick read!

Toilet-Paper Sensor Block: Adapting to adaptations...

I've written about the frustrating false-flush tendency of automatic toilets before, but here's a new salvo in the arms race between man and machine: putting toilet paper over the sensor to prevent accidental flushes. This would seem to make sense - until you realize that we're creating a complex adaptation for a device that was designed to adapt to our inability to use a simple system in the first place. Seriously, when it gets to this point, shouldn't we just be using a manual mechanical flush handle? The usability path has come full circle, and it seems we should have stayed where we started.
[Photo from Duey Rando]

Seat-back tablet holders for budget entertainment...

Good design can happen in airplane seat-back entertainment systems, but usually doesn't - and regardless, those systems add cost to the plane (plus complexity, weight which increases fuel use, and the expense of licensing content). Meanwhile, travelers more frequently carry their own fully capable entertainment systems with them, in the form of tablets and smartphones. UK carrier Monarch has done the math and opted for tablet holders instead of seat-back systems on their new lower-cost seats. It remains to be seen just how "universal" these holders are - from the photo, it looks like only full-size tablets will work - but the idea is a good one which feels better than DIY alternatives. I'll entertain myself, thanks - you guys just concentrate on flying the plane, and maybe serving up some drinks.
[via Gizmodo]

HeadFoams: Personal audio, Nerf-style...

Parents are always looking for products that are both (1) indestructible and (2) unable to cause injury when flung at high speed - and "monobody foam" is a manufacturing method / marketing term that can provide both. That's why HeadFoams, "the world's first monobody foam headphones," sound like winners to me. It's especially clever to show an image of kids seemingly trying to break these things, and failing. Keep your Beats - my kid will be rocking out Nerf-style!
[via Gizmodo]

Smart fan targets humans (in a good way)...

A step toward the robot apocalypse cleverly disguised as an improved comfort device, the human-sensing oscillating fan blows air only where there's a person to enjoy it. Seriously though, this is a textbook use of smart sensing: directing resources only toward the intended use instead of brute-forcing air all around the room, improving both effectiveness and efficiency. Just make sure yours doesn't become self-aware and use its targeting system for evil!
[via Gizmodo]