Bad Ads? Funeral Services Struggle with Sense of Humor

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[ By Steph in Design & Guerilla Ads & Marketing. ]

Funeral Home Ads 1

This billboard, reportedly spotted in a subway station in New York City, may not be the most tactful way to drum up business for a funeral home. But you have to admit, it’s clever. Naturally, the funeral industry doesn’t have too much trouble with supply – everyone dies eventually – but they have to compete with each other just like any other business. Are the ads that manage to stand out in poor taste, or just bringing a much-needed sense of humor to the realities of death?

Funeral Home Ads 2

The Devanny-Condron Funeral Home in Massachusetts raised a few eyebrows with this billboard congratulating a local resident on her 100th birthday. Conflict of interest, anyone? In Florida, the Beckman-Williamson Funeral Home & Crematory used a little dark humor to get attention in the form of ‘Thank You for Smoking’ lighters.

Funeral Home Ad 4

These ads are funny, sure, but probably not helping diffuse the public perception of the funeral industry as a bunch of vultures lurking around waiting to pick at people’s bones. That’s especially true considering the hundreds of suicides and murders that take place on subway tracks, and the millions of smoking-related fatalities. But other ads seen as insensitive – like the one below, touting funeral pre-arrangements as a romantic Valentine’s Day gift – are simply trying to call attention to a basic fact of life that most people ignore until the last possible minute.

Funeral Home Ads 3

Attitudes about death vary wildly between cultures, religions and geographic areas, so it’s no surprise that what one person finds incredibly tacky is greeted with a smile and a shrug by another. The mere existence of cell phone-shaped caskets is enough to testify to that fact.

And while it’s easy to laugh at things like Compton’s drive-thru funeral parlor (complete with bulletproof glass) – which many people see as cheapening the lives of the dead, making the mourning process as casual as grabbing a burger and fries – perhaps there’s more to it than that. After all, your attitude about death would probably be different if you lived in a place where drive-by shootings happen on a near-daily basis, and gang-related cemetery shootouts aren’t uncommon. If you’re interested in the demystification of mortality, check out the Order of the Good Death.


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Rad Rides: Nuclear Power Plant Turned into Amusement Park

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Offices & Commercial. ]

nuclear plant central swing

The iconic central cooling tower has been turned into a swing ride and climbing wall, but the re-purposed complex as a whole features over a dozen attractions including rides, restaurants, bars and hotels.

nuclear plant spinning carousel

nuclear plant rollercoaster ride

Wunderland Kalkar is set near Düsseldorf, Germany, the site of a nuclear power plant that never went live due to local protests and construction problems. The recognizably menacing centerpiece of its industrial landscape is no less noticeable for having been painted with a mountain-and-sky mural.

nuclear plant aerial view

Now that Germany is officially phasing out its use of nuclear energy, this solution (drawing in over a half-million annual visitors) may inspire other projects along similar lines.

nuclear plant park conversion

nuclear plant play space

In this case, billions in funding were ultimately scrapped and a developer was able to pick up the pieces for mere millions before turning a hefty profit through an unlikely conversion.

nuclear plant swing ride

Since the location’s transformation in 1995, visitors from around the country and the world have come to ride its wonderful merry-go-rounds and carousels. Some are drawn by its overt offerings, but many also feel the pull of experiencing a unique look into an what remains of an amazing abandoned nuclear compound.


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Augmented Sandbox: Realtime 3D Topographic Landscaping

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[ By WebUrbanist in Gaming & Computing & Technology. ]

gif-water-island

Simulating an amazing array of natural environments and phenomena, this dynamic playspace turns ordinary hand-sculpted sand into vividly colorful landscapes in the blink of an eye.

gif-volcanic-mountain

A real and working augmented reality sandbox, the system is designed to help educate students about earth sciences with a uniquely responsive and intuitive interface.

gif-interactive-volanco'

A team of data visualization and earth sciences experts, mainly from the University of California, created the setup using a Microsoft Kinect camera coupled with topographic visualization software and a 3D data projector.

From rough prototypes to its present state, the project has come a long way in terms of the level of rendering detail and response speed.

augmented reality sandbox

Tapping into a familiar form of childhood play, the project “allows users to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water. The system teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topography map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees [and more].”

Of course, one can imagine an array of applications of this technology beyond classrooms and science museums, from Minecraft-style, construction-centric games to simulators and modeling tools for landscape architects and urban designers.

interactive 3d projected sandbox

More about this amazing project: UC Davis’ W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES), together with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research CenterLawrence Hall of Science, and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, is involved in an NSF-funded project on informal science education for freshwater lake and watershed science. The sandbox hardware was built by project specialist Peter Gold of the UC Davis Department of Geology. The driving software is based on the Vrui VR development toolkit and the Kinect 3D video processing framework, and is available for download under the GNU General Public License.”


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Pocket Printer: Mini Roomba-Like Robot Prints on the Go

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[ By Steph in Gadgets & Geekery & Technology. ]

Mini Robotic Printer 1

While other gadgets have gotten smaller and more streamlined, printers have generally remained space-hogging behemoths. Seemingly ignored in the quest to make computers and their accessories compact and ultra-efficient, most modern-day printers look like relics of the circa-2000, oversized beige PC era. One new concept aims to challenge that with a tiny mobile design that moves across paper of any size like a Roomba.

Mini Robotic Printer 3

The Mini Mobile Robotic Printer makes it possible to take printing capabilities on the go with you along with your laptop, cell phone and other mobile devices. It prints from any device, including phones, and isn’t constrained by the paper size accepted by a conventional printer. It consists of a printhead on a set of small wheels that travels across a sheet of paper to print. An omni-wheel system enables the printer to turn in any direction.

Mini Robotic Printer 4

Powered by a battery that can be recharged via USB, the Mini Mobile Robotic Printer has a small inkjet that lasts over 1,000 printed pages. Once charged, the battery gets an hour of printing time. While the first version will be grayscale only, Jerusalem-based ZUtA Labs aims to create a color version in the future.

Mini Robotic Printer 2

Measuring just over 4.5 inches in length, the printer connects to gadgets wirelessly via Bluetooth. A Kickstarter campaign is currently raising production funds, and the first printers will go out to backers of the project in January 2015.


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Ancient Engineering Fail: 12 Historic Structural Disasters

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[ By Steph in Culture & History & Travel. ]

Engineering Fail Main
You can’t exactly fault ancient architects for building structures that were unable to withstand stone-shattering earthquakes, or simply experimental in nature – failure is part of the learning process, after all, and engineering methods were obviously less advanced back then. Big ambitions led to taking big chances, which often resulted in faulty construction and, occasionally, deadly collapses. Here are 13 examples of mistake-riddled churches, statues, lighthouses, stadiums and more from the period between 2600 BCE and the Renaissance.

Bent Pyramid of Egypt

Engineering Fail Bent Pyramid

Why does Egypt’s Bent Pyramid, an unusual example of early pyramid development created around 2600 BCE, have a sudden change in angle about halfway up? Archaeologists believe that what we see today is basically a mistake created during the learning process, in which the builders realized that the steepness of the original angle would be unstable and prone to collapse. The lower portion of the pyramid inclines at an angle of 54 degrees, while the top is a shallower 43 degrees. Another 54-degree pyramid is believed to have collapsed while this one was under construction, leading the builders to suddenly change their plans. Subsequent pyramids in the area were constructed at the 43-degree angle instead.

The Colossus of Rhodes, Greece

Engineering Fail Colossus of Rhodes

One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the towering Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek Titan Helios that stood over 98 feet high on a pedestal in the city’s harbor. Erected by Chares of Lindos in 280 BCE to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over Antigonis I Monopthalmus of Cyprus, the statue was among the tallest of the ancient world. The statue stood for 56 years until the 226 BCE Rhodes earthquake, which brought it crashing down. After the oracle of Delphi stated that the Rhodians had offended Helios, they decided not to rebuild.

It’s certainly not surprising that seismic activity would have caused the statue to collapse, given that it was built long, long before any real understanding of earthquake-resistant engineering. But the fact that such a tall structure could have been built in the first place during that time is a wondering itself; modern engineers have speculated about the bronze plates and iron bars that would have been attached to the feet to reinforce them.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt

Engineering Fail Lighthouse Alexandria

Another ancient wonder, the Lighthouse of Alexandria stood somewhere between 393 and 450 feet in height, making it among the tallest structures on earth for centuries. But the limestone structure, completed between 280 and 247 BCE on the island of Pharos, couldn’t stand up to three earthquakes spread out over four hundred years. It likely lost its upper tier before the first one struck in the year 956 CE, and by the third disaster in 1323, it was abandoned. What was left of it was covered with a medieval fort in 1480.

Fidenae Amphitheater Collapse, Italy

Engineering Fail Fidenae Ampthitheater

20,000 people were killed or wounded in the worst stadium disaster in history, which occurred in 27 AD at the Fidenae Ampthitheater about 8 miles north of Rome. The structure was cheaply built of wood and not up to the task of accommodating the 50,000 people who amassed to watch gladiatorial games after a ban on them was lifted. The Roman Senate decided that too many lower class people were ruining everyone’s fun, so they banned anyone with a personal worth under a certain amount from attending the events.

Circus Maximus Upper Tier Collapse, Italy

Engineering Fail Circus Maximus

Built in the 6th century BCE, the infamous Circus Maximus was an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium capable of holding 250,000 spectators who gathered to watch the Roman Games and gladiator fights, and later, the races. The oldest and largest public space in Rome, and has been in near-constant use every since, with its latest incarnation as a public park and space for events like concerts and festivals. But in 140AD, it was the site of a major disaster: the upper tier of seats collapsed under the weight of too many spectators. 1,112 people were killed in what remains the deadliest sports-related incident in history.

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Unbelievable Advert: Augmented Reality Bus Shelter Window

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[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Guerilla Ads & Marketing. ]

pepsi viral marketing bus

Taking over a single bus shelter on New Oxford Street, guerrilla advertisers threw everything they could think of at commuters, including (but not limited to) flying space aliens, underground squid monsters and giant city-crushing robots.

pepsi augmented reality display

The campaign, created for Pepsi Max, takes a real-time projected display and adds (almost) impossible scenarios seamlessly to convince viewers of their authenticity.

pepsi marketing stunt lion

pepsi alien invasion overlay

pepsi guerilla marketing campaign

From its creators: “Watch their reactions as unbelievable scenarios unfold before their very eyes; from a giant robot crashing through the street to a passer by being abducted by flying saucers.” With over 5,000,000 views and counting, it is safe to say that Pepsi can clearly count this one as a success.


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Mountain-Shaped Residences with Walkable Green Rooftops

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[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

green space residential complex

Beyond any inherent beauty or formal references to surrounding mountains, there is a more profound proposition in this series of structures about the way we walk into, through and above spaces.

green space ridge tops

green space aerial view

green space flowering plants

green space outdoor paths

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) was commissioned by a Taipei developer to create a mixed-use complex of housing, restaurants, cafes and more, all woven together with pedestrian walkways, jogging paths, gardens and plazas.

green residential complex diagram

green space sloped sides

Their solution introduces a degree of vertical accessibility we are not used to seeing beyond the first few floors of a building, tying together indoor and outdoor circulation, connecting public and commercial spaces beyond ordinary horizontal surfaces.

green space lobby area

green space entry seating

green space interior home

The Haulien Residences are intended to be a resort destination and their shape was inspired in part by mountains and the ocean, but many of its signature green ribbons are sloped to accommodate paths and stairs.

green complex elevation image

green hill structures

In turn, the green roofs provided by this approach offer shelter and shade in a tropical region for the dwellings themselves while preserving views and providing gardens, decks and porches at various heights throughout.


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Living Legos: Build Your Own Robot with TinkerBots Blocks

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[ By Steph in Gadgets & Geekery & Technology. ]

TinkerBots Custom Robots 1

High-tech and low-tech come together with this set of not-so-basic building blocks connected to a central ‘Power Brain’ cube that turns your creation into a working robot. TinkerBots is a building kit that comes with all sorts of mobile and immobile components that snap together around the central cube so you can create an endless array of custom toys that walk, crawl, roll or or perform other movements.

tinkerbots

The red ‘Power Brain’ cube provides energy and contains an Arduino-compatible microcontroller, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB charger, an LED button interface, a speaker and more. Kinetic components include twisters, pivots, motor-modules and grabbers, while static components are simple building blocks in various shapes. The kit is also compatible with Legos.

TinkerBots Custom Robots 3

TInkerBots Custom Robots 4

Put them together any way you like – there’s no need to wire or program your creation, so even a five-year-old can get creative with it. Once you put it together, you ‘teach’ the robot what you want it to do. Hit the record button and move the robot the way you want it to move. Then, when you press play, it’ll repeat the action.

TinkerBots Custom Robots 2

TinkerBots Custom Robots 5

TinkerBots is currently raising money on IndieGoGo to distribute the kit and add even more parts like renewable energy-producing modules, wind engines, and generators with crank handles. The more money you donate to the fundraising campaign, the more advanced of a kit you receive to start on your own robotic creations.


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Disorienting Design: 14 Trippy & Surreal Interior Spaces

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[ By Steph in Design & Fixtures & Interiors. ]

Surreal Interiors Main

You might feel like you’re dreaming or even drunk when you wander into these bizarre, surrealist interiors, from a bar that looks like the inside of an alien to a hotel room modeled after TRON. Going beyond mere concepts, these are real, existing spaces with interior design so surreal, avant garde or otherwise unexpected, it’s disorienting.

Conversation Pieces by HEAD Design

Surreal Interiors Conversations 1
Surreal Interiors Conversations 2

The entire room can be a conversation piece, as proven by this unique interior design series by students at ‘HEAD,’ the Geneva University of Art and Design. The designers created an entire apartment with dreamlike rooms including a bedroom that feels like a cloudy white womb, a library entrance that never seems to end, and a dining room that wouldn’t be out of place on the set of the latest Star Trek movie.

H.R. Giger Bar, Switzerland

Surreal Interiors Giger Bar

Few spaces are more surreal than the H.R. Giger Bar in Gruyéres, Switzerland, which takes its cues from the artist’s work. The skeletal motif found within, with giant vertebrae arches, makes it feel like you’re inside some monstrous creature.

HITGallery Hong Kong

Surreal Interiors HITGallery

The paintings of artist Giorgio de Chirico inspired this surreal black, white and blue shop interior in Hong Kong. Symmetry, a restrained color palette and the scale of the humanoid shelves that take up the center of the store make it feel like stepping into a work of art.

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Emoji-Nation: Famous Paintings Revised for the Internet Age

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[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

famous edward hopper conversation

In a world of mobile devices, share icons and popup alerts, fine art is interrupted by signs and symbols of our times, adding a jarring layer of technology to recognizably classic works.

famous painting like count

famous add friend hack

famoust summer evening porch

famous art instagram share

Nastya Nudnik is the Kiev-based Ukrainian artist behind this project that pairs emoticons and other digital features with familiar images by renowned artists, from Michelangelo to Edward Hopper.

famous friend requests

classic painting did you mean

classic painting google maps

In her latest set, icons and frames are overlaid on or around artworks, but in other parts of her ongoing series emoji are paired with famous painted faces and modern movie poster are given an historical twist.

famous god is dead

famous disconnected

famous access denied

Some of the jokes are perhaps a bit obvious, so whether one wants to call this art or cartoonish vandalism is an open question. Regardless, more of her work can be found on the creator’s Behance page.


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