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“We will know we have done really great if it feels like a town square,” explained Apple’s SVP of Retail Angela Ahrendts in May 2024. Ahrendts was specifically referring to Apple’s flagship Union Square store in San Francisco, but the goal was part of a broader initiative to reimagine the experience of all Apple retail stores.

With more people shopping online than ever before, the success of the town square strategy is critical to Apple’s continued relevance in a changing space where other well established brands have struggled. Yet even for Apple, the road hasn’t been without bumps. The push to move closer to the hearts of communities is increasingly met with skepticism and even hostility from residents. Apple is faced with a significant and growing long-term challenge that it will need to tackle in order to fully realize its retail strategy.

If only it were that simple.

In each new city where Apple attempts to establish a significant contemporary store – typically adjacent to public space or inside a culturally notable building – a pattern of resistance is emerging. While every case is as unique and nuanced as the cities themselves, the broader sentiment is the same: citizens are wary of Apple’s reach.

“Some people may rejoice that they will have access to such a beautiful piece of architecture, but others will be clearly out of place,” writes Carlos Carmonamedina, a Washington D.C.-based artist, referring to Apple’s ambitious plan to restore the city’s historic Carnegie Library. Critics have argued that allowing a retail presence inside the library building, set to open later this year, undermines the original intent of the space as a public facility for learning. Apple’s answer is Today at Apple, a series of educational and community-driven sessions held at every store around the world. While the sessions are free and open to the public, signing up to attend still requires an Apple ID, and with the exception of live performances, getting the most out of a session often requires having your own devices.

Apple’s plans for Melbourne’s Federation Square (Photo: Foster + Partners)

Louder but sometimes less articulate are concerns raised over Apple’s proposed flagship store in Melbourne’s Federation Square. The project would be one of the company’s largest retail investments to date, placing a store not adjacent to public land, but on it. Construction would also come at the expense of the Yarra building, home of the Koorie Heritage Trust and numerous historic artifacts, all of which would be relocated. Apple says the proposal will improve the visibility and accessibility of the nearby Yarra River. The concerns of Melbourne citizens are justified, but difficult to parse amidst a wash of impassioned arguments that often devolve into attacks on Apple’s products and practices rather than the project itself.

In Sweden, a similar situation is unfolding. Apple and architecture firm Foster + Partners have revised renders depicting a retail presence at the head of Kungsträdgården, a historic park in Stockholm. Initial plans for the store were deemed too large and disruptive for the square. Even after redesigning the building with a more subdued footprint, nearly 80% of over 7,500 people surveyed in a recent Swedish poll viewed the store unfavorably.

Apple’s plans for Stockholm’s Kungsträdgården. (Photo: Foster + Partners)

“Personally, I think it would be a huge step up aesthetically from the (TGI) Friday’s restaurant that currently occupies the space, but I do think there could be even better use of the location than an Apple Store,” Stockholm-based software developer Andreas Hassellöf told me. In early July, public consultation began on the project, with hopes to facilitate similar civil discourse about the best use of the space.

Even Apple’s newly completed amphitheater in Milan, Italy has not gone without criticism. An unfavorable review in one Milanese newspaper called the store “an invasion.” Built underneath the historic Piazza Liberty, the space was formerly home to the Apollo Cinema.

In cities where town square-format Apple locations have already been established, communities have embraced the stores warmly, dissolving initial skepticism. Apple Michigan Avenue has quickly become an architectural destination and photography landmark in downtown Chicago. Apple Williamsburg in Brooklyn routinely draws crowds to star-studded live performances. So why are new projects so polarizing?

Apple’s earliest stores received little criticism, since most conformed to standard storefronts inside existing shopping malls throughout the United States. Even later and more ambitious projects were generally well received, with only a few exceptions like “there goes the neighborhood” concerns over New York’s Upper East Side store. Apple’s retail projects have long been lauded for their careful restoration and painstaking attention to detail.

Even the idea of Apple retail functioning as a gathering place isn’t entirely a new concept. Stores like Puerta del Sol in Madrid and Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona bordered public areas long before the rollout of Today at Apple. Widespread skepticism didn’t begin until Apple started explicitly promoting their stores as modern community hubs. A new wave of negative press coverage lamenting the privatization of public space followed when Angela Ahrendts used the words “town square” during an Apple keynote. Customers hear a message that Apple is trying to replace, not complement their cherished public spaces.

Misaligned expectations may also contribute to skepticism. Anyone who has been to a contemporary Apple store with the latest design elements, video wall, and Forum will immediately recognize how dramatically different the spaces feel compared to “classic” locations. But in Australia, only one store has been refreshed with the new design. In Sweden, none. Globally, only around one fifth of all locations can offer the full Today at Apple experience. Without visiting a new store or taking a Today at Apple session, it’s difficult for concerned citizens to form an accurate picture of how Apple will impact their community.

“Gadget store can’t be the best possible use—not in the District,” writes Kriston Capps for CityLab in an argument against an Apple store in Mount Vernon Square. The perception of Apple stores as simply electronics outlets – no different than a shiny Best Buy – is not uncommon, and it speaks to a need for more thorough communication from Apple to the communities they prepare to enter.

While Apple can’t send every Stockholm citizen to Milan to see what’s in store for Kungsträdgården (although a few local journalists were offered a preview), they can take a proactive role in the community before construction even begins. Hosting Today at Apple-esque events and sessions in local venues – even without an accompanying store – would reap goodwill and offer residents a preview of what they can look forward to. Projects like the former Apple Music Festival come to mind. “…After seeing what they have done here in Milan, I’m not particularly worried that it will be bad in Stockholm,” writes Feber.

History has shown that commercial activities and public space can live hand in hand when executed in way that provides a perceived value to every party involved. Broader acceptance of modern-day town squares will continue to be a significant challenge for Apple as their retail ambitions trend toward increasingly grand architecture projects. The success of a store can’t be measured only by completion and profitability, it must also be valued as a resource by those who live and work around it. An upfront effort to set the stage and educate people about a significant store wouldn’t be a frivolous expense, rather it demonstrates a long-term investment in a community that’s about to do the same.

Related reading:

Today at Apple worldwide: The first year in review

Trying Today at Apple’s new app prototyping with Keynote session

Apple’s former retail stores: Where are they now?

Apple retail in 2023: A look at every store opened, closed, and remodeled

9to5Mac’s Apple retail guide

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

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Qualcomm Hybrid Ai And Our Deepening Relationship With Technology

Qualcomm provided an overview last week of what they’re anticipating as we roll out products that use Qualcomm’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology, coupled with the rollout of 5G.  

Qualcomm and others are implementing AI at the edge and in the cloud strategy, where some initial analysis is done at the endpoint. Only the partially analyzed data is sent to the cloud for additional analysis.

Hybrid AI

Hybrid AI is where some intelligence is at the endpoint and some is increasingly centralized in a cloud resource. Optimized both for the available bandwidth and latency and for the most efficient analysis of the data, the hybrid AI should perform like a centralized AI in terms of speed and outperform a localized endpoint, AI in terms of capabilities. Unlike distributed AI, which forms a peer relationship with others like AIs, hybrid AIs have more of a synergistic parent/child relationship between the cloud resources and the intelligent device.  

A smart surveillance camera’s intelligence identifies the best picture for facial recognition. It only sends that frame to the centralized AI, which can now identify the tracked individual. Another implementation would be when using facial recognition to log in to a computer. The local AI decides you look like the correct user. However, before giving you access, it queries the remote AI for a second test based on recent breaches, gaining instruction on how to scan for that type of fake identity. For instance, taking a second shot, and if they are the same, assuming it is an infrared picture and not you who wants access, denying that access.  

See more: Qualcomm’s AI-Driven Video Compression And Ensuring That AI’s Do No Evil

Auto Adapting Endpoints

In the movie “Minority Report,” Tom Cruise runs, uses biometrics, and every sign he runs by responds to him and provides an ad for something that he uniquely might want. When he changes his biometrics (by having his eyes replaced), the signs now think he is the eye donor. Even the e-paper newsstands put up news curated just for him (sadly, it is about his impending arrest). At the same time, the eye transplant option is a way in our future, while the ability for signs to use biometrics is possible today. 

But not just signs, locks that automatically unlock when you approach or lock when they see someone approaching they don’t recognize, active pointers in stores to direct you to products on your shopping list using local signage, offices that not only auto-provision but direct you to the cubicle or office you are to use fo the day, and intelligent health care that, before the doctor even sees you, provides an even more accurate assessment of your immediate needs.  

All this is coming from auto-adapting AI-based endpoints tied to centralized computing resources designed to alter the world around you to fit your unique needs better. That’s the most significant part of the coming change. Historically, we have to adapt to the environment. With hybrid AI, the environment will increasingly adapt to us. 

Wrapping Up:  The 5G-AI Future

Qualcomm talks about a fascinating future of hybrid AI devices that can identify who you are and automatically provide what you want. What about privacy? 

Surveys have shown that as long as people get what they want when they want it, they don’t care about privacy. In a recent survey I’m currently reviewing, Amazon came out as the most trusted company, with Twitter and Facebook falling to the bottom of the list, and that is because Amazon uses the information they have on you to serve up better choices. Social media tends to sell that information to people who appear to want to do you harm, and thus the privacy concern is more about what is done with the data than with the capture of that data.  

My surveys have shown a similar distinction. As long as the data is used to provide a better experience — Netflix serving up better choices, for instance — folks are okay with data capture. It is only when that data is used against them that they get upset. Now, what Qualcomm presented is a tool that can be used for good or ill, hoping governments get their acts together to assure the good and prevent ill.  

I like the idea of a world that alters itself for my unique needs automatically. I can hardly wait!

See more: Top Performing Artificial Intelligence Companies of 2023

Darpa Virtual Robotics Challenge Finalists Move Forward With Life

DARPA Virtual Robotics Challenge finalists move forward with life-sized humanoid bot

As the next generation in computing springs forth, so too does the robots world – and with it, replacements for human beings in dangerous situations. What the DARPA Virtual Robotics Challenge this year is doing is filtering out challengers from across the globe – first from 100 entrants, then down to 26 entrants, then down to a select few or only one team that’ll gain the highest prize.

The goal of this program is to develop a robots capable of working with commands for complex- ground-based tasks for “dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environments.” The competitive nature of the program allows for an engaging setup for both those involved in creating these robots and this technology and for those that would otherwise not find interest in a program that, from its outward appearance, seems a bit more complicated than your average fun and engaging robot-based news release.

The images you’re seeing here are Example VRC images from the DARPA Simulator. Here you’re seeing one of what will be a wide variety of solutions for the future of robotics, specifically those aimed at replicating human abilities in situations where humans would otherwise be subject to dangerous surroundings. DARPA hopes to take the best of the best in today’s robotics-friendly scientists and put them to the task of finally, at long last, bringing a next-generation “Rosie” to a much more real place.

Below you’ll see Nate from OSRF (Open Source Robotics Foundation) speak about the preliminary challenge for this project.

While the contest itself was supposed to bring 6 teams to this round, greatness shone through, and 9 (and you’ll find soon, 7 in the end) appear here in this cut-down.

• Team IHMC, Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Pensacola, Fla. (52 points)

• WPI Robotics Engineering C Squad (WRECS), Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass. (39 points)

• MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. (34 points)

• Team TRACLabs, TRACLabs Inc., Webster, Texas (30 points)

• JPL / UCSB / Caltech, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (29 points)

• TORC, TORC / TU Darmstadt / Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. (27 points)

• Team K, Japan (25 points)

• TROOPER, Lockheed Martin, Cherry Hill, N.J. (24 points)

• Case Western University, Cleveland, Ohio (23 points)

Winners will receive a cash prize as well as – believe it or not – a real human-sized (life-sized, that is) humanoid robot to compete in the next round of the challenge. This machine is an Atlas robot, having been created by Boston Dynamics and based on the company’s Petman platform.

The finals for this DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) will be coming up in December of 2014. While the government brought on prize funding for a total of six teams, one of the current (9) teams JPL has announced that they’re giving some of their funding and their Atlas robot to the Lockheed Matin team – friendly of them, isn’t it? The rest of the funding will be going to a team newly formed to make a merger of Team K and Case Western: this team known as HKU.

HKU will be using a donated robot as well, this time from Hong Kong University, participating in the December finals as well. The final round will therefor be featuring seven teams.

Apple’s Patched A Bluetooth Exploit Allowing An Attacker To Brute

A major vulnerability discovered in the Bluetooth wireless protocol, officially acknowledged by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), has been patched by Apple in the latest iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS updates to the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV devices.

A fix was implemented in the iOS 12.4, watchOS 5.3, tvOS 12.4 and macOS Mojave 10.14.6 updates released July 22, 2023. A pair of security patches issued the same day brought those fixes to older Macs powered by macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 and macOS Sierra 10.12.6.

According to Apple’s relevant support documents, an attacker in a privileged network position may be able to intercept Bluetooth traffic due to an input validation issue that existed in the Bluetooth specification. “This issue was addressed with improved input validation,” the iPhone maker noted in an August 13 update to the security documents.

Apple credits researchers Daniele Antonioli of SUTD, Singapore, Dr. Nils Ole Tippenhauer of CISPA, Germany and Prof. Kasper Rasmussen of University of Oxford, England.

Here’s how this bug could be exploited, as explained by 9to5Mac:

Bluetooth operates on the basis that both devices have to agree to the connection. One sends a request and the other must accept it. An exchange of public keys verifies the identities of the devices and encryption keys are generated for the connection, ensuring that it is secure. The Bluetooth security flaw means that an attacker could interfere with the encryption setup, forcing a much shorter encryption key — right down to a single octet, equivalent to a single character. That then makes it easy to try all possible encryption keys to establish the connection.

Bluetooth SIG has more in its security notice:

Since not all Bluetooth specifications mandate a minimum encryption key length, it is possible that some vendors may have developed Bluetooth products where the length of the encryption key used on a BR/EDR connection could be set by an attacking device down to a single octet.

In addition, the researchers identified that, even in cases where a Bluetooth specification did mandate a minimum key length, Bluetooth products exist in the field that may not currently perform the required step to verify the negotiated encryption key meets the minimum length. In such cases where an attacking device was successful in setting the encryption key to a shorter length, the attacking device could then initiate a brute force attack and have a higher probability of successfully cracking the key and then be able to monitor or manipulate traffic.

All companies making Bluetooth-enabled products have been asked by Bluetooth SIG to issue software updates to shorten the time window available for a spoofed connection, which should guard against such exploits. The organization has also updated the Bluetooth specification to require that pairing encryption keys have a minimum of seven octets.

I’m glad Apple has fixed this vulnerability.

As an industry standard when it comes to exchanging data between devices over short distances using short-wavelength UHF radio waves, Bluetooth certainly has its fair share of issues. The protocol’s ubiquitousness means a critical flaw discovered in its specifications requires an industry effort to patch across platforms and devices.

In fact, Bluetooth SIG took immediate action after learning of the issue by updating the official Bluetooth specification in such a way that should prevent the vulnerability from being exploited in the wild across hundreds of millions of Bluetooth hosts and accessories.

Apple, too, should be praised for squishing the bug before it had a chance to wreak havoc.

On a related note, another Bluetooth vulnerability, discovered back in July, makes it possible to track some devices, including iOS, macOS and Microsoft products. Apple has not yet issued a fix for that exploit but should in the near future, if history is anything to go by.

In 2024, the Cupertino tech giant became a Promoting Member of Bluetooth SIG and gained voting rights so it should be able to respond to those kinds of threats in a timely manner.

Are you glad that Apple has neutralized this particular attack vector?

Revamping The Retail Experience With Ai Analytics And Customer Data

Since reopening and adapting to changing consumer purchasing patterns, retailers with digital solutions in place — particularly AI-powered solutions — are using customer data to study evolving shopping habits in real time.

At Samsung, we’ve seen operators’ thinking shift — from simply how to reopen to how to engage customers in new and different ways. In order to compete with the industry’s behemoths, retailers need to create a satisfying customer journey that spans from online shopping to immersive in-store experiences. Blending online and in-store shopping into a memorable omnichannel experience is the next big thing in retail.

Immersive omnichannel tech with AI

With digital tools like in-store analytics, 3D modeling, intelligent displays and heat sensors, retailers are tracking customers’ behavior in their stores to up their service game. The goal is to make the customer journey — which often begins at home or on their phone — so intuitive and convenient that what they remember most is the enjoyable, safe experience they had at your store.

Personalize the customer journey

Many retailers assume they know how consumers move through their store or where shoppers spend the most time, but it’s hard to know for sure without the data. Heat mapping can identify critical opportunities in the conversion funnel and help retailers make well-informed decisions. Using AI-powered machine learning, FastSensor technology gathers traffic insights from physical data points inside a store and sends them to a cloud-based server. From there, the data sets are analyzed according to an algorithm and converted into actionable items that can be implemented inside the store.

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With this technology, sensors can “see” a customer in front of a certain item and then display relevant on-shelf messaging, such as discount codes, photos and reviews of the product, as well as complementary items, warranty offers or even a short video of the product in use. Businesses can build custom solutions based on their specific needs, growth goals and KPIs. Over time, FastSensor helps retailers gather, analyze and deliver data points, which you can use to continually reoptimize your displays.

Create, manage and distribute content

It’s essential that retailers deliver relevant, engaging and up-to-the-minute content exactly when their customers need it. Samsung’s proprietary content, device and data management system, MagicINFO, is a game changer for busy operators who don’t have time to manually troubleshoot every technical issue. With a single intuitive platform, you can create, publish and manage content in real time.

MagicINFO could, for instance, be used to announce limited-time offers, showcase new inventory, or alert in-store shoppers of an upcoming weather event. MagicINFO also allows retailers to automate tasks and schedule upcoming promotions. In addition, it can help lower costs, shrink your company’s carbon footprint and drastically reduce how many printed materials you use. The need for overhead drops too, as all content and displays can be managed from one single location by a single employee.

Through MagicINFO, operators can view real-time in-store analytics and detailed marketing performance reports. MagicINFO’s comprehensive technical support and regular software upgrades ensure retailers always have a robust marketing toolkit at their fingertips.

Maximize throughput with 3D mapping

Knowing how customers move about the store helps retailers create more interesting customer journeys, incorporating strategic points of engagement.

If a retailer discovers (through heat mapping, for instance) that their store layout isn’t fully optimized, they can use that data to reorganize the store. 3D mapping takes the guesswork out of store design and conversion optimization by allowing operators to compare detailed before and after analytics.

For example, grocery stores often place popular items like milk, beer and diapers near the back of the store to encourage impulse purchases along the way. When you know which aisles customers are most likely to use to get there, you can optimize your displays and messaging on those paths.

What’s next for AI and data in retail?

With AI-powered retail solutions, stores can blend the ease of online shopping with the convenience of picking up items in person — and that’s where Samsung comes in.

By integrating seamlessly with retail software, digital signage from Samsung can entice window shoppers to come inside, at which point heat mapping and sensors can track their journey and see where they linger and for how long. Smart displays can also boost upsells by providing relevant suggestions based on a customer’s location in the store, the time of day, season or other custom triggers — for example, recommending LED bulbs when a customer purchases a light fixture.

As brick-and-mortar stores evolve to take on new challenges, retailers have been forced to innovate. Embracing digital solutions will help them meet their community’s needs.

Get more tips on configuring and tailoring real-time messaging using an integrated CMS such as MagicINFO in this complete guide. You can find more innovative signage solutions for in-store shopping by exploring Samsung’s full retail display lineup.

Designing Spaces With Marginalized People In Mind Makes Them Better For Everyone

In the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of World War II veterans returned home with disabilities. Frustrated by the difficulties they faced, Jack Fisher of Kalamazoo, Michigan, petitioned his city commission to install an experimental curb cut—a gentle slope that brings the end of a sidewalk down to meet the level of the street—at the corners of several blocks downtown. A few months into the pilot project, Fisher reported that even residents without wheelchairs were enjoying the impact of the little ramps: Older adults leaning on canes, parents pushing strollers, and kids pulling wagons benefited from the human-made hills, too.

Today, these shallow slants are an essential feature of the pedestrian landscape across the United States. They’ve also spurred a titular design concept: the “curb-cut effect,” which refers to the fact that supporting marginalized groups of people often ends up helping much larger swaths of society. Whether it’s applied to accessible design, investments in social welfare, or pioneering legislation, study after study shows the effect has the power to uplift us all.

Pictograms: Painting a picture

The human brain processes images faster than letters, likely because alphabets and other writing systems have only been part of our lives for a few millennia. That’s why the pictogram—a symbol standing in for a word or phrase—is a common tool for helping people with intellectual disabilities. But they can also ease the way for any sighted traveler. People can recognize an image in as little as 13 milliseconds, compared to around 300 milliseconds for a word. Now many of us take for granted that we’ll be able to quickly identify the nearest emergency exit or bathroom in a mall, or determine when it’s safe to cross a busy street, anywhere—even if we don’t speak the local language.

Reading machines: Getting the message

In 1976, technologist Ray Kurzweil released a device for the blind and visually impaired that converted images into text it then read aloud—he called it, simply, “the reading machine.” That gadget combined several new tools his eponymous company devised, including one of the first text-to-speech synthesizers, which evolved into an essential part of virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant; smart speakers with those voices are now in roughly one-quarter of US homes. The machine also featured an important component of computer vision called optical character recognition, which, by detecting street signs and house numbers, is helping build the maps that self-driving cars use to navigate the world.

A warm welcome starts with a door that everyone can open—and some designs are more accessible than others. The Voorhes

Lever-style knobs: Opening new doors

Traditional doorknobs often end up keeping people out. Rounded ones, for example, can be hard for those with arthritis to grasp—and not everyone has hands with which to do the grasping. As of 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, doors in public areas must require less than five pounds of force—and only one hand—to open. That often means installing automatic options or broader, lever-style handles that folks can operate without twisting their wrist (or lifting a finger, as an elbow or hip will often do the trick). These regulations increased and eased access for the one in seven Americans with a mobility disability. But they’ve also been a boon to older adults, young children, and people with their hands full. Touch-free ways to enter or exit a building can help keep germs from spreading, too.

Closed captions: Following the conversation

Sears launched the first TV with a built-in decoder that allowed deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers to read along with their favorite programs in 1980. Previously, only open captions—which producers burn directly onto video and appear no matter what—were available. In the 1990s, text became increasingly ubiquitous as DVDs and, later, streaming services embedded the ability to switch the words on at will. A 2006 survey found that only around 20 percent of the people using subtitles had auditory impairments. Today, most people who switch on captions are watching sports in loud bars, making sure the kids stay asleep, learning new languages, or just trying to parse the thick Irish accents on Derry Girls.

[Related: The office will never be the same]

Telecommuting: Balancing work and life

In 1979, in an effort to reduce traffic on the office mainframe, IBM installed computer terminals in the homes of five employees, helping to usher in the era of remote work. The development of increasingly small and inexpensive personal computers made the end of the office seem attainable. By 1983, some 2,000 IBMers were logging on from home; in 2009, 40 percent of the firm’s 386,000 employees worked remotely. The extra flexibility can make it easier to pick children up or take elderly relatives to doctor appointments. For those with injuries and physical disabilities, having a home office can remove many hurdles to a simple commute and productive workday. COVID-19 has shown just how many can get the job done in their sweatpants: In the spring of 2023, at least one-third of all employed Americans were WFH, with some companies eyeing long-term arrangements to reduce office overhead and lower disease transmission risk.

Sound-dampening materials such as mossy plants can help reduce annoying ambient noise—and look darn good doing it. The Voorhes

DeafSpace design: Keeping things quiet

There are more than 150 design elements that can make offices and public facilities better suited to the specific needs of people with auditory impairments. Those suggested tweaks come thanks to research by the DeafSpace Project, a universal design effort from architect Hansel Bauman and Gallaudet University, the world’s only higher education institution specifically for the deaf and hard of hearing. One aim is to eliminate distracting ambient noises, which can make it difficult for people to use their limited auditory abilities or perceive vibrations, and can even distort the sounds coming from hearing aids. To achieve this, designers can incorporate dampening materials such as rubber or mossy plants into structures and décor to reduce echo. By keeping conversations and other aural disturbances from traveling and bouncing around the room, these tactics also make it easier for all sorts of students and workers to focus.

Bike lanes: Sharing the street

[Related: The pandemic could make cities more bike-friendly—for good]

All-gender restrooms: Welcoming everyone

Architects and business owners initially promoted family-style restrooms—which typically feature a single toilet instead of many stalls—for people requiring more space, including those with physical disabilities or kids in tow. By the early 2010s, it became clear these commodes could also benefit the 1.4 million or more transgender individuals in America. In a 2024 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, the majority of respondents reported avoiding public restrooms for fear of being denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted; many recounted painful instances where other patrons perceived them as being in the wrong space. As all-gender toilets have begun to proliferate in certain spaces like college campuses, it’s become clear that they can afford everyone more privacy.

This story appears in the Winter 2023, Transformation issue of Popular Science.

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