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Isn't Giving Hands to a Robot Chef the Wrong Design Approach?

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

The hand sewing needles and awls that we've used for centuries has the point at one end, and the eye on the other end. Designed to be manipulated by a human hand, this was the most efficient way to poke a hole in fabric and pull thread through that hole.

Attempting to mechanize this process, 19th-century inventors tried building contraptions that would mimic the actions of human hands to push and pull this needle through fabric. All of them failed. But one inventor (believed to be Walter Hunt circa 1832; sewing machine nerds may argue) came up with the brilliant idea to put the point and the eye on the same end of the needle.

Why? Because then a lockstitch could be formed with the needle piercing the material, traveling through it just a short distance, then being retracted. This type of motion lent itself to the repetitive strokes of a machine, not the biomechanically sophisticated actions of human hands.

Similarly, early attempts at creating airplanes were preoccupied with how to get the wings to flap like a bird's.

Then the Wright Brothers came along with their fixed wings.

I thought of this after seeing footage of Moley Robotics' ceiling-mounted robot chef in action, courtesy of New Atlas:

I can't see the wisdom of having a robot chef with humanoid hands and arms; why is it even handling human utensils and cooking in a kitchen designed for humans? With a list price of around £248,000 (USD $338,000), it seems unlikely it would be purchased by someone planning on sharing the kitchen and cooking implements with the 'bot. So oughtn't it have its own attachments it can run through, like a CNC tool changer?

For their part, Moley states that the robot has "generated much interest in the hotel, restaurant and catering industries," so it's possible it will pop up at high-end omelette stations and the like.

"Alternative Artifacts:" An Antique Smartphone and Other Post-Truth Objects

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

Canadian artist Jeff Bartels creates absurdly hyperrealist paintings, like this rendition of a Leica:

I'd argue that no one can see the truth more clearly than a hyperrealist painter. And as most of us recognize, the truth has repeatedly been twisted, obscured and/or outright denied these past four years. Recognizing this, Bartels created a series of "Alternative Artifacts" in a style that he calls Post Truth Realism:

"Antique Smart Phone Type 1"

"SCUDA - Self Contained Underwater Deejay Apparatus"

"Alternative Artifacts is Jeff Bartels' first series of Post Truth Realism paintings which features strange antiques that never existed. The name is derived from a White House official who described falsehoods told by the Trump administration as "alternative facts". The series stretches and bends the truth about our past in order to bring attention to deceptions going on in our world today. Each object has a surreal quality that is meticulously painted which causes the viewer to question the authenticity of what they are seeing. The artifacts appear to be absurd but they are presented with such precise detail that their stories can almost be believed."
"Super 8 Telephone"

"Cash Projector"

"In a world with access to more information both real and fabricated then at any time in history, how do we know what to believe? In a world where people live in an echo chamber of their own making, how does the truth get through? What is real and what is not? Alternative Artifacts is the Post Truth Art for the Post Truth Era.""Track Skate"

"Wheeled Level"

"Antique Cameraphone"

Check out more of Bartels' work here or on his Instagram.

Another Design Approach to the Enclosed E-Bike: EV Mobility's LEF

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

Our post on the CityQ e-bike (above) drew strong interest, and we've just learned it has an existing competitor with a very different design approach. Dutch company EV Mobility's LEF is a one-person, three-wheeled e-bike that's sort of like a cockpit on wheels.

While this is an existing product that's on the market, to me the LEF seems more like an individual's passion project than something designed for mass uptake. It has that "designed by an engineer" vibe, most notable when you see the method of ingress/egress:

Right off the bat, the LEF's requirement for the user to climb into a tub knocks out a large swath of the population: The elderly, those with joint and mobility issues, or relatively fit me on a "bad back day." For the young and able-bodied, the LEF looks like it would be fun to zip around in. However, I'd have liked to see a little more storage space than what's offered behind the seat.

What I see as the largest design flaw is the limitation on rear visibility. The monocoque's raised rear blocks all vision, and with the canopy down, there's no way to poke your head around it to look behind you. There are, however, small rearview mirrors.

Also worth noting: While I think the CityQ is a better design with more mass market appeal, the LEF is more affordable: €4,380 (USD $5,298) versus the CityQ's €7,450 (USD $9,053). Furthermore, EV Mobility's website sells used LEFs for as cheap as €3,100 (USD $3,750).

If you were in the market for an enclosed e-bike and had to choose between these, which would you pick, and why?

Nissan's Mobile Office Pod Concept Van

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

A couple of years ago, Nissan came up with this concept for a mobile workshop based on their NV300. It was designed specifically with craftspeople in mind.

Now, inspired by the pandemic, its effects on society and a healthy desire to retreat into pure fantasy, they've designed a mobile office pod aimed at deskbound drones living the WFH reality.

Based on their NV350 Caravan and kitted out with all-terrain tires, the concept imagines--assuming you can get a signal/Wi-Fi--that you can drive to the secluded space in nature of your choice, slide the desk module (and fancy Herman Miller chair) out of the back, and breathe in fresh air while you work.

One thing I can't figure out is why they went with the goofy texture for the exterior:

You folks ever wash a vehicle after it's been "out in nature?" Trust me, you want less surfacing effects, not more!

The Sound Produced by a Rivian Electric Delivery Van is God-Awful!

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

This would drive me absolutely nuts. In L.A. a YouTuber spotted one of Amazon's new Rivian electric delivery vans, and the whining drone it makes has to be heard to be believed:

I mean it started out medium-annoying, but as the vehicle begins to move, the pitch increase sounds like an audio cue inspiring dread in a horror movie.

I'm still holding out for the idea of vroom-tones, whereby drivers will get to choose what their e-vehicles sound like by downloading ringtone-like clips.

Linksys Designs an Inoffensive, Good-Looking Router

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

It's almost as if Linksys' designers read that "Why are WiFi Routers So Darned Ugly?" post. If you look at what their routers used to look like…

…and the stuff that's on the market these days…

…the design of their new AXE8400 Wi-Fi 6E System, just unveiled at CES, looks like a breath of fresh air:

The press release doesn't mention a single thing about the understated design, but I want to thank the designers for demonstrating that rarest of qualities in current ID: Restraint. This is precisely the amount of aesthetic intrusion I want from a router.

Cadillac Bringing Back Manual Transmissions, With 3D-Printed Stickshift Caps

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

Cadillac has yet to unveil their 2022 V-series Blackwing sedans, but they have announced a surprising feature they'll boast: Manual transmissions. Both the CT4-V and CT5-V will come "standard" with a 6-speed. "It's something we know V-Series buyers want and it's something we knew we had to have," said Mirza Grebovic, Cadillac performance variant manager. "There are a few ways to really get that connected feel with the vehicle and the manual transmission is probably the most obvious one."

Grebovic adds that they "used innovative processes to make [the manual transmissions] happen," by which he's apparently referring to the "unique 3D-printed medallion [that] will sit on the manual shifter knob:"

I am not at all sure why that had to be 3D-printed, and I find the design a bit of a letdown, to be honest. The aesthetic seems oddly tech-y for such an analog feature, but perhaps it will match with the look of the Blackwings, which won't be unveiled until February 1st.

Part of what led Cadillac to roll out stickshifts is some surprising research from a Harris Poll study they commissioned:

- Sixty-six percent of American adults surveyed know how to drive a manual.- Of those who do not know how to drive a manual, roughly 40 percent are either somewhat or very interested in learning.- More than half (55 percent) of American adults say they have owned or leased a car with a manual transmission.- Interest in driving or learning to drive a manual is higher among those with $75,000 or more in annual household income (64 percent interested) and those between 18-34 in age (62 percent interested).

I'd have guessed that the majority of adults couldn't drive a manual. I'd also have guessed that those who preferred stick would skew older, not younger. But in Cadillac's opinion, it's "one of the most popular features for driving enthusiasts." The question is, will other brands follow suit?

Sprout Viz: An Industrial Design-Led Visual Content Creation Agency

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

Boston-based design firm Sprout Studios has spun off a new division: Sprout Viz, which is something like Lucasfilm for for designers and manufacturers. Sprout Viz wields top-notch design talent with CGI chops, replacing time-consuming photo shoots with high-res renderings and videos.

If you're wondering "How is this different from just hiring a rendering gal/guy," well, it's a lot different. Sprout Viz can crank through thousands of SKUs, producing everything from Apple-quality product "photography" to presentation videos to countless iterations of use cases.

For one client, an Amazon seller with a deep inventory, "we produced north of 2,600 images for over 500 SKU's by the time we were finished," the company writes. "Each SKU's deliverables consisted of a variety of images including hero product images, packaging images, exploded views, material cutaways, and in-context images. Each SKU was neatly organized for the client to upload to Amazon and wherever else they were needed. This entire project took just over 3 months and in the first few weeks of uploading the new imagery, there was a noticeable increase in their Amazon sales."

For a Staples project encompassing over 16,000 SKUs, Sprout Viz created entire virtual office environments to set the products in for "shoots." They also handled the packaging photography:

"In an ideal world, packages would be produced, and products would be manufactured simultaneously. Unfortunately, we know that this often isn't the case for companies who frequently have to operate under changing and tight deadlines. We applied our understanding of structural packaging design and on-package graphic design to bring photorealistic packaging images across all of the Staples sub-brands to hit these tight timelines."

Sprout Viz uses existing CAD data where possible, but can also reverse engineer the CAD files if that's quicker.

Business has been brisk during the pandemic, as traditional product photo shoots became impossible. "We have seen an explosion in CGI-related projects," says Jordan Nollman, CEO of Sprout Viz. "To cater to this growing demand, we analyzed the trends, built a state-of-the-art render farm and data center, and stacked our team with world-class talent."

You can check out their case studies here, and below is their reel.

This Eraser is Designed to Always Present a Sharp Corner, Even as It Wears Out

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

Gummy erasers and eraser shields are good enough for old-school industrial designers. Laypeople using regular erasers, however, may grow frustrated with how ordinary erasers wear into a pebble shape, making precision erasing impossible.

Japanese designer Hideo Kanbara has thought of this, and come up with an eraser called the Kadokeshi, which always presents a sharp corner:

Kanbara's design was selected for the MoMA's "Humble Masterpieces" exhibit back in 2004.

You might reason that it gets tricky to hold onto once it shrinks. Well, manufacturer Kokuyo also makes this "stick" version that comes with a dispensing handle:

Image: Masayuki Takabatake

Image: Masayuki Takabatake

I learned about the Kadokeshi over at Masayuki Takabatake's B-LABO site.

Unusual Japanese Desktop Objects from "Stationery Research Site" B-LABO

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

Self-proclaimed Stationery King Masayuki Takabatake runs B-LABO, a "stationery research site" out of Japan that covers all manner of unusual desktop implements. Take a look at this nutty multifunctional ruler, manufacturer unknown:

Or this ballpoint pen that comes with a mecha action figure:

Or this odd pair of shredder scissors that can apparently be used to destroy both documents and CDs.

In this photo, you can see the little scoring point between the two wheels.

The idea is that you pop a CD onto the nub then rotate it. I'm guessing you can then pop the core out, so no one can load the CD?

From Takabatake's Instagram, this Ninipie highlighter with a little friend:

"Through this site, I would like to spread information to many people so that they can use stationery more enjoyably," Takabatake writes. "I would like to disseminate miscellaneous information based on various interests, focusing on stationery and topics using stationery."

If you're looking for unusual forms, dig through B-LABO or Takabatake's Instagram, you're bound to find something you've never seen before.

Ecologic's Combination Paper-and-Plastic Eco Bottles

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

A company called Ecologic Brands has developed a unique two-part bottle that they reckon is more sustainable than standard plastic bottles. Their Eco Bottle consists of an inner liner of plastic, and that's the bit that actually holds the liquid. The form and outer shell are composed of a paper-like fiber material made from 100% recycled cardboard and newspapers.

Why go to the trouble? The company says producing a bottle in this fashion uses 60% less plastic than if it was monomaterial. They also point out that less than 10% of plastic is actually recycled--those grim statistics come from the EPA--but 90% of fiber-based paper products are recycled. The thinking is that the Eco Bottle stands a better chance of going back into the system, whether wholly or partially.

However, effectively recycling an Eco Bottle relies on an engaged consumer who is willing to put in a little elbow grease. Here are the steps required to break the bottle down:

1. Pop it open When the bottle is empty, use your thumbs to pop open the side of the outer shell along the seam. The outer shell can be recycled with paper and cardboard in curbside and drop-off recycling programs.2. Take the two pieces apart. Remove the pouch from inside the molded fiber shell. Rinse the pouch and allow it to dry. The inner pouch and spout are #4 LDPE plastic and can be recycled with plastic grocery bags at local retailers' bins.3. Recycle it! The dosing cap is #5 PP plastic. Recycling for this type of plastic is not yet widespread, so check with your local recycling center to see if they accept #5 plastics. Also look for Preserve Gimme 5 bins, which accept #5 plastics, and are available at most Whole Foods Markets. Preserve makes great new products from recycled #5 plastic. For more information on the Preserve Gimme 5 program, visit http://www.preserveproducts.com/recycling/gimme5.html. If #5 recycling is not available in your area, the cap may be disposed of in your regular garbage bin.

That doesn't sound like a lot of work to me--but I live in a county where people still throw soda bottles and fast food wrappers out of their truck windows, littering our rural roads. I don't know how to convince people with that mentality to take extra steps to recycle.

Still, the Eco Bottle could be a gamechanger, particularly in institutions where recycling can be monitored and enforced. And it ought be well successful in more enlightened countries where roadside litter is a distant memory.

Industrial Design is Booming in the New Year — Here Are Seven Open Positions from the Coroflot Job Board

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

It's a new year and a fresh start for studios and in-house design departments – the Coroflot design job board is brimming with new opportunities – now is the moment to put yourself out there! Here are seven amazing positions for Industrial Designers that were posted just this week...

Photo by Jo Szczepanska

1. Senior Industrial Designer THRIVE Atlanta, GA

"...seeking an experienced Senior Industrial Designer with 8+ years experience. An impressive individual who'll bring creativity, passion, people skills, and the ability to lead creative teams in an inspiring way."

2. Product Designer (Motorcycle Gear) Icon Motosports Portland, OR

"Love motorcycles? Icon Motosports, located in Portland Oregon, is looking for a talented Product Designer to join our industry-leading motorcycle equipment design team."

3. Design Intern for Summer 2021 3M Minnesota

"3M provides eligible interns completing an in-person assignment with temporary housing and round-trip travel reimbursement in accordance with current policy."

4. Industrial Designer (CMF Focus) Tactile Boston, MA

"During the current global COVID-19 pandemic, we're mostly working remotely. So initially, we're looking for a remote Industrial Designer with core strengths in graphics and color, materials, and finish (CMF) development, but as conditions improve the position will eventually work on-site in our Boston studio."

5. Color Designer Black Diamond Equipment Salt Lake City, UT | Onsite or Remote Possible

"The color designer analyzes emerging color trends, stays current with outdoor sports color trends and strategies, and develops a perspective for product color at Black Diamond."

6. Industrial Designer(LSD) Lifestyledesign Santa Barbara, CA | Onsite or Remote Possible

"Exciting projects and great clients await you here at Lifestyledesign in sunny Santa Barbara, CA.We are looking for a designer with a proven track record of success to become a part of our diverse, creative team."

7. Senior Industrial Designer Mertz Design Cincinnati, OH

"The position will require inventive hands-on design and strong communication skills with clients and peers. ... Self-motivation with a passion for all-things design; and an eagerness to grow beyond your current skillset."

Get started at Coroflot today: Employers — Post your design job. Designers — Create your design portfolio.

Next Best Thing to Driving Bucky Fuller's Dymaxion: Oscar Mayer Seeking Wienermobile Drivers

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

Buckminster Fuller unveiled his Dymaxion car at the 1933 World's Fair. Just three years later, Oscar Mayer's nephew Carl designed the Wienermobile. Coincidence?

By Starysatyr - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Okay, maybe I'm stretching. Bottom line, though, is you'll never get to drive a Dymaxion; the only surviving prototype is in a museum in Reno. But there is a chance you can drive the Wienermobile--and get paid for it.

By Jonathunder - Own work, GFDL 1.2

Yes, Oscar Mayer, which currently has six of these vehicles on U.S. roads, is looking for an unspecified amount of drivers--er, navigators:

Have you always dreamed of working with hot dogs? Well, look no further. All of your hot dog dreams just came true. We could say "drivers wanted," but what we really mean is WIENERMOBILE navigators ready to deliver unlimited joy to thousands of people every single day.

It's a one-year, full-time gig that promises you'll be "a mini-celebrity in small towns and big cities through event appearances and media interviews, and being the driver of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile."

All you need to apply is a college degree (it doesn't say it must be in Industrial Design, but it doesn't not say it must be in Industrial Design) and a driver's license.

You can apply here. (And if that doesn't work out, check out the Coroflot Job Boards.)

The Latest Job-Stealing Robot: A Package Retrieving Shelf Climber Means You Can Fire the Forklift Guy

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

To maximize space, warehouses need shelves that soar far above human reach. Humans driving forklifts are needed to retrieve high packages. Forklifts require a certain amount of operating room, which limits how narrow you can make the aisles, which in turn limits the amount of shelves you can install.

A robotics company called BionicHive reckons they have the solution. They've designed and built the SqUID, this cute little climbing 'bot that never shows up drunk nor posts problematic social media posts that don't align with your company's values.

Here's how it works:

And here's the value-add:

Added bonus: With those wheels, this thing will never attend any riots in public buildings with staircases in the front.

Saudi Crown Prince Unveils Plans for City Shaped Like a 100-Mile Straight Line

Core 77 - 3 hours 9 min ago

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been working on Neom, a new city he plans to build from scratch in the northwestern corner of the kingdom. While a startup city is already an unusual idea, so too is the shape they're going with: MBS has announced that the city will be a 170km (105 mile) straight line.

Colloquially referred to as "The Line," this vision of Neom will apparently consist of a series of repeating modules. Each module will be a self-contained neighborhood with all necessities reachable in a five-minute walk. Cars and streets will exist only on a sublevel, leaving the surface level walkable and green. Furthermore, MBS says traversing the entire city will take 20 minutes, presumably via the Hyperloop-like craft illustrated in a second sublevel.

Here's the pitch video. It's four minutes long, but if you're short on time, skip ahead to 1:47:

You can see more details here.

Package Lockers Aside, a New Porch Object Emerges: Walmart's HomeValet Smart Box

Core 77 - Tue, 2021-01-19 09:02

No one's yet nailed the design of an anti-package-theft porch locker and dominated that market. While they continue to grow in popularity, the designs are all over the map.

However, it seems we'll soon see a second object on suburban porches, and this one will have a standardized design. Walmart, whose home delivery grocery service has thrived during the pandemic, sees their growth limited by the need for customers to coordinate delivery times for receiving; the deliveryperson can't just leave a package of organic kale on your stoop to wilt in the sun. Thus Walmart has partnered with HomeValet, a delivery logistics firm, to utilize and distribute that company's Smart Box.

The Smart Box is essentially a locking cooler with built-in refrigeration for three interior compartments, which can all be set to different temperatures. Customers order groceries via app; a deliveryperson shows up, unlocks the Box via an app, drops off the goods and locks the Box; customers then unlock it and retrieve the goods at their leisure.

As a supposed bonus, Homevalet claims that a UV-C light inside the box will disinfect the contents, but this is likely more gimmicky than practical; UV disinfection only works via line-of-sight, so goods obscured behind other goods would not be disinfected.

As for what prevents a package thief from simply hauling the whole thing off, HomeValet states that the Box "has an anchor point for securing it to the ground with a stake, chain, or whatever security methods work for you. However, the size and weight of the Smart Box make it difficult to remove." Hmm.

Walmart's thinking is that the Smart Box will enable 24-7 grocery delivery without the need for someone to be home, which they anticipate will be a big draw. And HomeValet adds that the box could be used for package deliveries as well, though it's unclear if these would be Walmart-only, or if other delivery services would be given access to the Box.

Pleasingly for hackers, the Smart Box will be an IoT object.

Walmart will begin trialing the Smart Box this spring, starting with their hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas.

Design for Selfish People? Miniature Speakers That Clip Onto Your Eyeglasses

Core 77 - Tue, 2021-01-19 09:02

Pre-pandemic I was at an airport in New York, and a 20something sat down next to me with headphones on--but not on. Instead he had them around his neck and with the earcups turned up, blasting his music so that the entire terminal could "enjoy" it.

I found this stunningly rude, but I think it's where we're headed as a society. Case in point are these JBuds Frames by JLab Audio, just unveiled at CES. They're essentially portable Bluetooth speakers that clip to the side of your eyeglasses.

At just $50, they're bound to be attractive to those seeking inexpensive ways to express themselves while disturbing others. For their part, JLab claims that "Their open-ear design features appropriately sized 16mm drivers that produce sound perfect for personal use, without being heard by those close by," and, well, I'll believe it when I see and don't hear it.

To be fair to the company, their rationale for this product is that it "allows the wearer to be acutely aware of their surroundings while listening to audio content in any activity," which I fully support, particularly if you live in a city. I just have a bad feeling that that's not how these are going to be used.

Creating Art by Intentionally Fed-Ex'ing Fragile Glass Boxes

Core 77 - Tue, 2021-01-19 09:02

Art handlers exist to safely transport works of fine art, ensuring no damage comes to them in transit. L.A.-based artist Walead Beshty, however, does not need art handlers.

That's because Beshty creates the pieces of his "Transparencies" series by relying on shipping damage. Beshty records the dimensions of FedEx's various shipping boxes, then creates boxes of laminated glass that will fit into the boxes precisely. Dropping them off at the shipping center, they are not art. But once they've made their way through FedEx's system of conveyor belts and moving vehicles, they arrive at the gallery randomly cracked, and Beshty has a finished piece.

Bonus: Shipping them from one gallery to another results in yet more cracks, as if the piece has evolved. "The result is that the object is constantly changing," Beshty told Musee Magazine. "Every time the work is shipped it goes through a material transformation."

via Kottke

The Opposite of Mercedes' Hyperscreen: The Heavily Analog Dashboards of Rally Cars

Core 77 - Tue, 2021-01-19 09:02

Following the news of Mercedes' gigantic Hyperscreen, a dashboard-width touchscreen, Core77 readers sounded off with unanimous disdain:

- "Am I the only one who thinks that replacing tactile controls with touch screens in cars is one of the worst design trends of all time?" --TJ Ward- "We never had a car with a screen until recently, a 2020 Kia Sportage. It's super distracting trying to navigate the screens while driving. most of the time I just shut it off in frustration." --Juan Cano- "You also can't leave your finger on a button and press it several times with a touch-screen like you can a tactile control...even the slightest touch on the screen will "press" the button. I hate the touchscreen controls in many situations." --Zach Wheeler - "Not to mention the greasy finger paintings that will be left all over the dash." --Anthony Locascio- One quoted Autocar's take on touchscreens: "Items such as choosing a music track on Spotify took up to 20 seconds. We just don't have any way of understanding the impact of that on safety in the real world." --Ray Jepson

I'm with you; one reason I chose my current car is that it had an actual volume control knob and minimal touchscreen controls. Plus, who wants an entire dashboard that can disappear due to a technical glitch?

Then I got to thinking: What's the opposite of Mercedes' Hyperscreen? Then I saw this footage of a Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux that's making the rounds:

The footage outside the windshield didn't interest me that much--but the dashboard did. I'll screenshot and lighten it for you, for visibility's sake:

It's pretty bad-ass. Granted there are some screens to display crucial information, but every cabin-operated mechanical function of the car (I'm assuming by the icons, I sure can't read the lettering) has a physical button, and some have attendant red and green lights.

If you look at other rally car interiors, you'll see there's a preference for analog/physical.

Granted you've got a navigator to press some of those buttons, and the layouts could use a little design help (button shapes, sizes, color-coding, etc.), but it's telling that in high-pressure situations where safety and reliability counts, rally drivers aren't going for touchscreens.

Japanese Delivery Trucks Modified to Race in the Dakar Rally

Core 77 - Tue, 2021-01-19 09:02

The Dakar Rally, currently being hosted in Saudi Arabia, is a grueling off-road race conducted over thousands of kilometers.

The race's Mad Max vibe is conferred by both the punishing, sandy terrain, and the wide variety of vehicle types allowed: Cars, motorcycles, quads (single-rider four-wheelers), UTVs (side-by-side four-wheelers) and trucks all spend nearly two weeks racing for the finish line.

The truck category is perhaps the strangest, particularly to Americans. You won't see any Ford Raptors or Jeep Gladiators here; instead the class is dominated by a Russian company you've never heard of, Kamaz, whose heavy-duty Master truck puts out 1,150 horsepower from a 13-liter six-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Kamaz Master team has won 14 out of the last 18 races.

Kamaz Master - By Petr Magera from Russia - Eduard Nikolaev (KAMAZ-Master) in Moscow, CC BY 2.0

There is, however, a plucky and much smaller competitor in the truck category that's worth watching. Hino, a subsidiary of Toyota known for producing delivery trucks, consistently dominates the Under 10-Liter truck class, winning that category for the last 11 years in a row.

Hino typically fields two trucks in the race, collectively known as "Little Monsters": Car 1 is based on the Hino 500, a/k/a the Hino Ranger, an ultra-reliable delivery truck that quietly executes humble tasks all around the world, most commonly in Asia. The truck has been upgraded for the race with 8.9-liter straight-six turbo diesel putting out 740 horsepower--and carrying a 760-liter (200 gallon) fuel tank.

Hino's Car 2 has the same mechanical specs as Car 1 but is based on the Hino 600 North American body style, with the added difference of an automatic transmission.

Each truck travels with a 3-person crew: A driver, a navigator and a mechanic (puzzlingly referred to as the "company navigator") for in-the-field repairs. While the drivers and navigators typically come from motorsports lineage, the mechanics are recruited from Hino's dealerships in Japan, which provide their best-of-the-best for consideration. Notably and unusually, for both motorsports and patriarchal Japanese society, Car 2's on-board mechanic last year was a female, Mayumi Kezuka.

Additionally, the trucks are serviced and repaired at the bivouac points by support trucks loaded up with over a dozen mechanics and support crew.

Due to COVID, for this year's Dakar Rally--which is currently underway--Hino made the decision to downsize the amount of people they could send, meaning the support staff has been halved and Car 2 will not be racing. So it's just Car 1, crewed by Teruhito Sugawara, Hirokazu Somemiya and Yuji Mochizuki. As of today they're once again in first place in the Under 10-Liter class, leading their nearest competitor--driving a Mercedes-Benz Unimog--by a comfortable 31 hours.

You can keep track of the team's current progress here.

If you want to see some fun action from last year's race, when both cars were competing, check out the videos below. You also get a good look at the behind-the-scenes: