If the idea of a smart coffee cup sounds silly to you, you probably haven’t tried the Ember Ceramic Mug. Envisioned by the San Francisco design studio Ammunition, it has a built-in heater to keep coffee warm for hours, but otherwise looks and feels like any other mug. This is the firm’s specialty: “We’ve all experienced technology that creates barriers,” says Ammunition partner Robert Brunner. “We focus on amplifying the everyday.” A breakout consumer hit (it sold 110,000 units in the first six weeks following its November 2017 release), Ember is among more than a dozen recent projects from the design firm. Here’s a look at the most notable debuts:
1. Ember Ceramic Mug
This smart mug connects to your phone via Bluetooth and lets you set an ideal temperature for your beverage via the Ember app. (A single LED light conveys information on the mug.) It’s for people who say, “ ’Look, all I want is a good cup of coffee,’ ” Brunner says. The item is now sold at the Apple Store, 4,600 Starbucks locations, and Tmall, in China.
2. Deep Sentinel
Most home-security systems are designed to look inconspicuous. Deep Sentinel was created to stand out—and frighten. The outdoor camera of this AI-equipped system has a menacing red light around its speaker that is activated by intruders. “It was an opportunity to take our approach to technology and be really transparent,” says Ammunition partner Matt Rolandson.
3. Acorns Spend
Ammunition designed the debut debit card for the digital-investing company Acorns to look like nothing else in your wallet, with a lizard-green facade and a vertical orientation suited to today’s ubiquitous chip readers. It’s made of tungsten, adding a heft that makes the card feel like a reward.
4. June Oven
The device uses object recognition and deep learning to sense your food and calibrate the right cooking time and temperature, whether you’re air-frying potatoes, baking a cake, or reheating last night’s dinner. But rather than emphasize the complex technology that powers the oven, Ammunition opted to make it look oven-like, with a glass door, rounded edges, and a no-nonsense, powder-coated metallic-gray finish.
5. Polaroid Mint
Polaroid’s latest collaboration with Ammunition, Mint, is an instant digital camera with a built-in printer. Clever details such as default portrait orientation and a tiny mirror for framing selfies reveal Ammunition’s bigger play: to help the retro brand become relevant to a new generation of consumers.