Next Generation Ideas: The July Rewind

Here are our picks of the best ideas from July from the world of brands, design, web3, and our society. Listen to the podcast below for an overview of these ideas:

1. Bridging two towns and reconnecting communities

For years Laredo, America, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, on either side of the Rio Grande were resigned to being cut off from each other. The plans for a border wall, introduced by the infamous and divisive former President of the US, were going to divide the towns and prevent access to the river, provoking further isolation and alienation between the two communities. But plans have changed.

Thanks to the No Border Wall Coalition campaign, the site is in the process of being transformed into a flourishing river park. It plans to “stimulate trade, enhance tourism and improve habits”, linking the two communities with a shared green space that invites residents and tourists alike to just be together. The campaign is currently focusing on Texas, but the group hopes to provide a blueprint for other towns. Connection, not division, bridges, not walls, nature, not concrete.

2. Haute Couture fashion steps into the frame on this luxury line of Crypto-Collectibles

A collection of 8,000 never seen sketches by Cristobal Balenciaga are about to be turned into a pack of NFTs. The drop will base each design on one of the original sketches from the founder of the Balenciaga fashion house, who opened his first atelier in San Sebastien, in 1917. Until now, they have been stored in a private collection with Lorenzo Riva, who acquired them while acting as director of the fashion house during the 1980s. Drawing an essential series of moments from fashion history, the wanderings of a curious and experimental mind is an attractive offer.

Perhaps in the not-so-distant past, these drawings may have been auctioned off. But now the crypto age is clearly growing, and fashionistas know how critical it is to be ahead of the curve. These collectible tokens should attract a wider audience than some digital art on the blockchain, which serves only a purpose in itself. Perhaps collections like these will open the minds of crypto-skeptics and much of the public who are hesitant to accept this revolutionary technology. For owners of the tokens, there is the chance to win limited edition hand drawings, bags, wallets, and designer gift cards.

3. Next-Gen Space Telescopes release inspiring new images of our Universe

In this mosaic image stretching 340 light-years across, Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) displays the Tarantula Nebula star-forming region in a new light, including tens of thousands of never-before-seen young stars that were previously shrouded in cosmic dust. The most active region appears to sparkle with massive young stars, appearing pale blue.

It’s said that we know more about space than we do about the oceans on our planet. But it’s a seriously crazy idea to internalize when you see mind-boggling new images like these. How is it possible that we know even the smallest details about the vast vacuum, the suspended stars, and clusters when they are so far away? The James Webb and the Hubble Space Telescope have both released new images of stars this month. The image on the right is a globular cluster; a massive collection of stars that hold each other close with their combined gravity. These telescopes are able to show us what these small pixels of space look like in such clear, chiseled detail, yet when we look into the night sky this square inch of space would barely be noticeable to the naked eye.

Just like the cluster relies on the combined gravity to retain each star, ideas that permeate our society also need a group of stars to be gravitating close to each other, helping each other shine brighter, orbiting each other. The James Webb and Hubble telescope are heralded as breakthroughs in telescopic technology and are on a mission to discover as much of the universe as possible, diving deeper into the darkness. New images like these keep us dreaming, looking out to space for answers, or exploring the universes that are held within our own minds.

4. The financial value of environmental impact is top of the list for investors

On the path to a net-zero carbon future, the stakes are high. How do we decide where to focus our efforts? How to allocate finite resources? Should we help to stimulate fresh start-ups, and nuclear fusion, or focus on financing the big energy players to transform their infrastructure to supply carbon-neutral energy to the world? A special report commissioned by the Financial Times explores different ways that companies are quantifying the depletion of natural resources and biodiversity loss. Increasingly, forms of Natural Capital are being used in the books to put a value on all the, once before, external environmental costs. This means that we can form a clearer, more vivid image of the impact of economic activity.

Why is this important for investors? “Everything you do as an investor leads to biodiversity loss because economic activity leads to biodiversity loss”. The report argues for a wholesome energy transition, one that accounts for all affected stakeholders and Natural Capital. It also suggests we must recognize the importance of the existing big energy firms, who have unprecedented access to resources, which will be necessary to organise the huge infrastructural challenges of net-zero plans. When we apply this to design, web3, and tech, the importance of understanding your climate impact can’t be understated. Choosing a proof-of-stake ledger, understanding the life cycle of materials used in product design, and working with greener cloud hosting companies. All these choices will impact our tomorrow, and shape the Next-Generation.

5. Recreating live studio sessions’ spatial character for Apple Music subscribers

As streaming services continue to compete, there’s only one platform that is keeping up with the development of audio technology and helping the average listener take advantage. It’s Apple Music. They continue to innovate in ways that Spotify, Netflix, and other primary streaming services aren’t. The New Apple Music Sessions give subscribers access to exclusive live performances recorded using Dolby 5.1, 7.1, or object-based spatial audio. It means that there are more advanced microphones around the room, which can record both the individual elements of the music and also the entire room sound from different perspectives.

Imagine you’re trying to build the most detailed 3D render of a new build modular housing complex. You want to be able to see how the front, back, and birds-eye angles look and to essentially see the plan from any angle. This is what high-tech surround sound is for the listener. You can get closer to the true experience of being in the room, and even accentuate that experience by emphasizing certain sounds post-production. Combine this with Apple’s Earpods, which are one of the market leaders for quality in-ear sound reproduction, and it’s clear to see that Apple will keep working hard to retain its position as an industry leader in creative technology.

6. Crystalline structure created by starfish embryos

For the first time in recorded history, a natural substance has been recorded creating a crystalline structure. Scientists at MIT have been observing starfish embryos to understand how they evolve and develop into the fascinating five-pronged creature that crawls our seabeds. While watching the embryos meet together, they witnessed a structured, organized group interaction that they didn’t expect. Starfish embryos are classed as ‘active matter’, which is a collection of natural entities that individually use energy to create their own motion and force. So this means they act independently, but together they form larger, coherent shapes, which seem to be controlled by a singular conscience. Imagine a group of birds flying in the sky, from a distance it looks like a cloud, communally moving in motion, but when you zoom in you realised that each of these birds is using their own intuition to decide where to fly.

In the case of the starfish embryos, they joined together and rotated in a lattice formation; a strong, evenly-spread structure that is one of the molecular arrangements of a crystal. It’s a fascinating sight. These unformed, undeveloped embryos can either communicate in ways we don’t yet understand or are built with the intuition that we also don’t yet understand.

7. Speaker bag reimagines portable sound for the Haute Couture.

Coincidentally, Balenciaga is featuring twice on our Next-Generation ideas this month. It seems like they’re putting a lot into futurizing their brand at the moment. They’ve collaborated with Bang & Olufsen to create a new generation of sleek, stylish, hand-polished speaker bags. Boomboxes are no new phenomenon, but the refined ideals of this bag look to a different market, of elegance in sound. It has the ability to be a functional purse as well as a speaker, expanding the idea of the movable sound system to include other functions.

We already have some fairly established products such as the speaker bag and speaker hat, however, they are designed more for casual, everyday use. But this range is refined and subtle. There are only 20 purses available, so you won’t catch a sound clash between two or more purse speakers in the high street anytime soon. We believe this design could well inspire a generation of portable speakers that test and innovate with shape and form.

8. Figures break free of their cage in Ai Weiwei’s Stockholm installation

Brilliant Minds have worked with Ai Weiwei to install a new sculpture that takes on challenges of sovereignty, borders, and free movement. The two interlocked, grappling figures have created an archway and a space within the cage-like structure that imprisons them. It’s art for change, it’s art that can influence public opinion, that can reach people on the street. Visitors to the arch can walk inside the figures, and feel their exertion and desire to break free from their confinement. They can put themselves in the shoes and minds of someone who is trapped.

There is a beautiful potential of this public piece to drive empathetic and reflective responses from the public that encounters it. Ai Weiwei is well known as a multidisciplinary artist, who addresses many social challenges in his work, particularly borders and identity. Currently based in Lisbon, Portugal, the artist uses bases in the city as well as the countryside to work and be inspired.

9. Ultrahuman Smart Ring to make personal health slicker

Designed to work with their current ‘Cyborg’ offering, Ultrahuman’s new smart ring can also work as a standalone product. The wearable ring is an alternative idea to the watches that we have become used to. Like smart watches and fitbits, it will measure biomarkers like glucose levels, stress levels, heart rate, and more, to try and provide biohacking advice to the user, such as what type of foods to eat and the exercise that would benefit you the most. By understanding the exact state of your metabolistic make up and using real-time biomarkers, the ring can give you a deeper insight into how your body works, personalizing personal health even further.

Revealed in a Zoom call with TechCrunch, the CEO discussed various aspects of the new product. Unlike ‘Cyborg’, which requires a spring to be inserted into the user’s arm (freaky), this new offering slips on and off, with no permanent installation needed. It seems much more likely to appeal to fashion-conscious young consumers and anyone who is a little hesitant to insert spring into their body that records all of their biological data.

10. SocialFi, an emerging market that combines Web3 and Social Media

Currently, social media platforms own us. Our data belongs to them, and how powerfully they can use, manipulate and share that data is a deciding factor in what they’re traded for on the stock market. SocialFi projects and thinkers plan to flip this model on its head. They want the user to be the owner, period. You make, you create, you own. You won’t be subject to the platform’s ‘anonymous’ collection of all things you, that they then sell to the highest bidder. Cent is one example of this type of organization.

They mint tweets, playlists, and illustrations. The development of a full-scale platform that functions in a similar way to Tiktok, Facebook, Instagram, and others do today is yet to be seen, but the ideas this market is developing are extremely interesting for anyone concerned about privacy, security, data, and power. Whether it will take off will be a test of time; attracting a large enough user base to get over the tipping point for social media platforms isn’t easy.

11. Hyundai’s EVs that leave you in a cloud of dust.

Hyundai’s N-Lab is imagining the future of Electric Vehicles with their two new anticipated releases. They are all-electric, high-performance cars that can reach 250kph, and have a driving range of 372 miles, which is impressive. Each time a new concept for an EV that can mix high-performance specs with a respectable driving radius, your ears should prick up. To truly see the EV market flourish, they have to be able to change the minds of some fairly stubborn customers. Hyundai understands this and understands some of the characteristics that diesel owners love about their cars.

The driver in these two concept cars would have the option to activate ‘emotional driving. This mode plays fake engine sounds in surround sound so the driver still has the impression that they’re on top of a powerful, rage-fuelled, oily monster that’s testing the limits of how they can handle g-force. Both models are still concept cars, but we hope there will be enough interest and uptake to get these on the road soon.

12. Could glass be a thing of the past for alcoholic drinks?

Packaging design is a huge part of a product offering. How does the customer first see your product, how does it feel, and what do they think when they look at it? There is an increasing range of innovations across the food and drinks industries; bottles and jars in all sorts of shapes, premium coverings for products, sets, and packages of complementary products bundled together. But the packaging for alcoholic drinks remains a fairly homogenous industry. Predominantly, you can find beer, wine, spritzers, spirits, ciders, and more in either cans or bottles. It’s been this way for a long time.

So it’s exciting to see Carlsberg testing 8,000 beers in a paper fiber bottle that they claim can retain the fizz and taste just as well as glass, and insulate it better. Using this type of packaging, they claim, means huge carbon savings, energy savings in recycling, and also cost savings in distribution thanks to the reduced weight. As long as the bottles don’t melt in your mouth like so many paper straws that you’re given in bars, Carlsberg could be onto something revolutionary here.