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3D-printed dresses, an incompetent barista for your kitchen and more in this week’s Staff Picks

Digital Trends Staff Picks

andrew coutsAndrew Couts: Remembering the Wild, Wild Web

The Web is alive. Once a cacophonous jumble of bustling forums, flashing Geocities pages, and grimy subculture underbellies, the Web of today exists mostly above ground. Even the dark corners that have survived can be exposed to the sunlight of public scrutiny with a single tweet. But the Web’s transformation is far from finished. As University of Maine communications and journalism assistant professor Michael J. Socolow writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “We are at a pivotal moment in the Web’s evolution.” The economy of advertising on the Web is changing. Because of this, the Web’s open nature is gradually succumbing to paywalls and walled gardens. “The free-content gravy train is quickly breaking down,” he writes. “The Web is starting to feel constricted and channeled as each new gate and tollbooth appears.” And some day, we will tell our children about the Web that we know today, a Web that will no longer be. So take notes – because sometime in the not-too-distance future, now will be known as the good old days.

Wild Web

natt garunGoodbye, Project Runway; In the future, we’ll 3D print our own dresses

The rise of 3D printing has been a fun phenomenon to watch, but for the most part, I haven’t seen anyone outside of the tech realm particularly swayed to buy 3D-printed iPhone cases over traditional kinds. And there isn’t exactly a booming general consumer market for 3D-printed mugs, guitars, and or board-game pieces. 

This line of 3D-printed dresses from Paris Fashion Week, however, may just change attitudes. A collaboration between Dutch designer Iris van Herpen and Belgian-based manufacturer Materialise, these flexible, soft dresses feature incredible details you won’t ever find in a fabric print. The printed effect also helps the dress create its shape and form, constructing a shell-like volume designers often struggle to achieve with traditional fabric. Sure, each dress probably costs upward of $10,000, but I couldn’t help but imagine: What if the future of 3D printing means fashion designers will eventually sell their dress blueprints online so people at home can 3D print their own wardrobe? No more awkwardly trying on clothes at the mall, no returns and exchanges, no complaining that the dress doesn’t come in your preferred color. You can also print the same dress in a different size if you gain or lose weight, or manage to damage the first version. That hopeful future may be light years away from ever becoming affordable, but I’ll hold out hope for getting my grandchild a 3D-printed prom dress one day.

3D printed dress

Jennifer BergenOoh la la! The world’s first computer art was titillating filth

Porn today is very different from the early days of Playboy in the early 50s. Sixty years later, fewer and fewer dirty mags are being hidden under the mattress as more people favor hard drives for their XXX collection. Though porn on computers is nothing new, we were surprised to find out that provocative images on computer screens actually date back to 1956. when an anonymous IBM employee took the artwork of a naked lady from an Esquire calendar and turned her into the world’s first instance of computer art. In a must-read Atlantic article by Benj Edwards, we learn that the pinup girl “was programmed as a series of short lines, or vectors, encoded on a stack of about 97 Hollerith type punched cards.”

The two U.S. Military-owned computers that read this stack of cards cost $189 million each (in today’s dollars), and took up half an acre of space. We can only imagine what the men working on these mammoth-sized computers would think of today’s $35 credit-card-sized Raspberry Pi computer. We salute this mysterious IBM programmer and pioneer of what was essentially the world’s first instance of computer porn. Make sure to check out the Atlantic article for the full story.

Computer porn

Don’t try to get to know me, just make me my coffee, dammit

There is something about my name that confuses the hell out of all Starbucks baristas. It’s three letters and relatively easy to say, yet I either have to repeat it three times or spell it out. Even that only works only about 40 percent of the time. After years of seeing Liz, Lez, Wes, Jess, and what appears to be Klingon language written on my cups, I’ve just resorted to calling myself Bob. Perhaps I’m the butt of some inside joke that takes place inside every Starbucks. But, as this recent Saturday Night Live sketch proves, I am not the only one who’s had to go through this ordeal.

In this “commercial” for the new Starbucks Verismo home coffee maker, one of the functions mentioned is a built-in voice feature that calls out your name when your drink is ready. Hilariously, the machine gets the name wrong, as well as the beverage. The machine then communicates with the Verquonica, a device designed for the sole purpose of talking trash with the Verismo about the customer. I’ll admit that the sketch is not P.C. – it’s probably borderline racist – but those of us who have had to endure having our name mangled by Starbucks employees can take comfort in knowing that we aren’t the only ones.

caleb denisonCaleb Denison: Baby you can drive my car

Recently, Digital Trends published a piece proposing that the safety tech built into cars is making us worse drivers. I’ll admit that I agree with the majority of what the author has to say, but I also feel compelled to point out that there are some hazardous driving situations we are occasionally confronted with which humans simply can’t anticipate, or react to quickly enough to handle safely.

There’s a reason we don’t use slide rules anymore, folks: Computers are exponentially faster and more efficient than humans at processing mathematically complex problems. Along the same lines, machines are capable of accomplishing certain physical tasks with the sort of speed and precision humans are incapable of. And when we pair computers with machines, sometimes what we get is a mechanism that will save our ass in those moments when we are incapable of saving it ourselves.

Case in point: Volvo’s new CW-EB system (Collision Warning with Emergency Brake). You could have the visual acuity of an eagle and the reflexes of Bruce Lee, but you would still be unable to avoid certain collision scenarios – especially if you have several tons of cargo on your back. Those situations make Volvo’s new tech invaluable and necessary. In the video below, you’ll see how quickly a large truck is able to come to a stop once the CW-EB detects trouble. Check out how close the truck gets every time. It’s wince-inducing, and awesome.


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