The White House Christmas Tree 2012 arrives at The White House by horse drawn carriage (Click Image To Enlarge)
On Friday, November 23, 2012, The White House Christmas Tree arrives by horse drawn carriage. The First Lady Michelle Obama is presented with the White House Christmas Tree, which will be displayed in the Blue Room of the White House, a tradition ince 1966. The White House Christmas tree is a 19-foot Fraser fir and was grown and harvested by Peak Farms in Jefferson, N.C., which is owned by Rusty and Beau Estes.
First Lady Michele Obama talks about the spirit of Christmas 2012 and how hundreds of volunteers participated in decorating The White House so that it sparkles during the Christmas holidays.
Time-lapse video of The White House Christmas Tree for 2012 being decorated.
First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes military families, including Gold Star and Blue Star parents, spouses and children, to the White House for the first viewing of the 2012 holiday decorations.
In this video, Bo the First Dog and Obama family pet inspects the White House decorations and Christmas Tree, including a paper mache statue of himself.
COMMENTARY: I hope you enjoyed The White House Christmas Tree 2012.
KENYA HARA, ART DIRECTOR FOR MUJI, WANTS TO RECONSIDER THE DOG HOUSE. THE CANINE WORLD WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.
We’ve all heard of dog houses, but you’ve probably never heard the phrase "dog architecture." This divide is something that Imprint Venture Lab and Kenya Hara, art director at Muji, want to change with their latest project, the aptly named Architecture for Dogs.
In the hands of a Redditor or a snarky Tumblr blog, the new website, full of high-concept dog dwellings, could be easy fodder for a joke. But for Hara, who doesn’t even claim to be a dog lover himself, reconsidering architecture from a dog’s point of view is a very pure way to rediscover “what architecture really means.”
Projects on the site challenge traditional notions of scale, perspective, and function, ranging from a variegated rug of aluminum tubes--a dog cooler for those hot summer days--to a pair of ramps for short-legged dogs, which double as a shared recliner for human and dog alike.
Muji's Architecture for dogs includes Hiroshi Naito's piece for Spitz is a way to amplify the cold tile effect on a hot summer day. The aluminum tubes can be filled with ice to create a conductive, cooling sensation (Click Image To Enlarge)
Muji's Architecture for Dogs includes this piece with ramps that lets dogs sit eye level with their owners, for more soul-stirring conversation (Click Image To Enlarge)
The projects are united with care. Each is crafted to a dog’s concerns. For instance, a hammock for Jack Russell Terriers isn’t just a hammock; it’s a hammock stretched from the owner’s clothing, meaning the dog can appreciate their smell while resting. A "mobile home" for Shibas looks like a stroller at first glance, then you realize its materials are meant to mimic the natural shade of a tree and the carriage has been designed to carry the dog as closely to the ground as possible, allowing its short legs to hop out at will.
Muji's Architecture for Dogs includes Torafu Architects’ Jack Russell hammock made from old clothing converted into a hammock. You can also substitute warmer clothing in the winter (Click Image To Enlarge)
Muji's Architectue for Dogs includes Toyo Ito's 'mobile home' or a 'doghouse for walks' for Shibas (Click Image To Enlarge)
Hara tells Co.Design.
“We chose dogs because it’s a universal topic. Wolves interacted with humans, and it changed the course of their history. Dogs are man-made creatures forced to cohabitate with humans, so architecture for dogs is a reasonable inquiry.”
Muji's Architecture for Dogs includes Shigeru Ban’s structure for Papillons made from used plastic wrap tubes that can transform from a maze to a bed to even a chair or a table for yourself (Click Image To Enlarge)
Muji's Architecture for Dogs include this MVRDV rocker dog house. The rocker bottom allows has less friction with the ground, so it can be dragged by the attached rope (Click Image To Enlarge)
Each design is downloadable as a free blueprint, and next year, the collection will be available in flatpack kit form.
Where exactly the project is headed is still uncertain. Is Architecture for Dogs a purely academic endeavor? Are people meant to actually build these pieces? Is it more a beacon for the pet industry? Is it a beacon for the architecture industry? Could the site possibly serve all these roles? We can’t say, but the overarching lesson is notable:
Dogs are a species made for humans, forced to live in houses also made for humans. With Architecture for Dogs, Hara has assembled a team of elite designers to reconsider the dog’s experience in an otherwise human world. And reconsidering dog-level design, in turn, is a means to allow humans to be more mindful of their own environments.
Muji's Architecture for Dogs includes Kazuyo Sejima’s piece for the Bichon Frise. When they climb inside, the dog completes the structure’s shape (Click Image To Enlarge)
Muji's Architecture for Dogs includes a Aterier Bow-Wow created series of ramps for the Dachshund. It’s a means for the dog to gain elevation without straining its long body (Click Image To Enlarge)
COMMENTARY: From the look of the smiles on these spoiled rotten pooches, I would say that Kenya Hara is on the right track with his Architecture for Dogs. As a lover of dogs, I would certainly buy some of these doggie creations. They are not only beautiful and functional, but could be considered doggie art pieces, that would embellish the home. The dogs certainly appear to love them, so I strongly recommend he begin building those kits. I have a feeling Kenya and the designers will do quite well. The worldwide pet market did over $60 billion in sales in 2011 alone. We're not just talking dog food, collars and leaches, either. Pet owners spend hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of dollars on merchandise for their dogs (and cats, too). Architecture for Dogs shows what can be done to spoil pooches even more.
If you see this dog coming for you, run. Thanks to his extensive training--and customized body armor that can cost upwards of $30,000--he's bulletproof, can hear through concrete, and can record high-def video of missions, even in the dead of night.
Since the moment it was revealed that the "nation's most courageous dog" served alongside the 80 Navy SEALs who took out Osama bin Laden, America's fascination with war dogs has hit a fevered pitch. And while the heart-tugging photos of these four-legged heroes are worth a look, so is the high-tech gear that helps them do their job.
Last year, the military spent $86,000 on four tactical vests to outfit Navy Seal dogs. The SEALs hired Winnipeg, Canada-based contractor K9 Storm to gear up their four-legged, canine partners, which it has used in battle since World War I. K9 Storm’s flagship product is the $20,000-$30,000 Intruder, an upgradeable version of their doggie armor (you can check out the full catalogue here). The tactical body armor is wired with a collapsible video arm, two-way audio, and other attachable gadgets.
"Various special ops units use the vest, including those in current headlines," says Mike Herstik, a consultant with International K-9, who has trained dogs from Israeli bomb-sniffing units to the Navy SEALSs. "It is much more than just body armor."
The big idea behind the armor add-ons boils down to a simple one: the key to any healthy relationship is communication. Each dog is assigned one human handler. To operate efficiently in a tactical situation, they need to be connected.
So how much high-tech connectivity does a dog get for $30,000 anyway?
Using a high-def camera mounted on the dog's back, handlers can see what the dog sees, using handheld monitors. Jim Slater, who cofounded K9 Storm with his wife Glori, says footage is stable because the entire module is sewn into the vest. With unpredictable light conditions, like middle-of-the-night missions, the camera adjusts automatically to night vision. The lens is protected by impact-resistant shielding. And since we're talking about SEALs notorious for amphibious assaults, the system is waterproof.
In Abbottabad, the patented load-bearing harness would have enabled a Navy SEAL handler to rappel from the helicopter with his dog strapped to his body. Once in the compound, the dog could run ahead to scout as the handler issued commands through an integrated microphone and speaker in the armor. The proprietary speaker system enables handlers to relay commands at low levels to the dog. "Handlers need to see and hear how their dog is responding," said Slater. "In a tactical situation, every second counts." The encrypted signal from dog to handler penetrates fortified barriers like concrete, steel-fortified ships, and tunnels. That translates to standard operating ranges up to four football fields.
The armor itself protects against shots from 9mm and .45 magnum handguns. Slater is a veteran police dog trainer and built the first vest after a prison riot. He realized he wore full riot gear, while his K9 partner, Olaf, was basically naked. So he started making vests. The weave technology catches bullets or ice picks like a mitt wrapping around a baseball; knives and sharpened screw drivers wielded by prisoners require tighter weaves.
Keeping the armor strong, but light, is a priority. "Every gram counts for our clients. So we prefer advanced fibers and innovative textiles," said Slater. "The entire communication module is 20 ounces." The average armor weighs between three to seven pounds, depending on the size of the dog and the level of protection.
They’ve even gone stealth. A silent hardware system prevents any metal to metal contact--you won't hear any jangling or see any reflective give-aways. K9 took the average 150-gram V-ring and developed a 5-gram version made of a Kevlar, poly-propylene, and nylon fiber blend. "It’s actually stronger, rated to 2,500 pounds. Completely silent, and ultralight," said Slater.
Of course, these systems don't come cheap--and it's the dogs themselves that are the real investment. The Navy’s first Master Military Working Dog Trainer (a trainer of other dog trainers), Luis Reyes emailed from Afghanistan: "There are many products that help MWDs [military work dogs] and many are ‘cool’ but not necessary. No amount of money can replace the life of a canine that saves the precious lives of our troops in harm's way."
Although new tech is the buzz, what put K9 Storm on the map is dedication to customization. Its mainstay dog armor is the more-affordable $2,000-$3,000 base model. Each vest they make is custom sized for the dog. "The fit has to be perfect or it will flop around," said Slater. That hinders mobility, or worse, can cause injury.
Clients can measure dogs themselves, or Slater will fly out for dog fittings. They’ve done 15-pound West Highland Terriers--which look like playful white puffballs but were bred to scare badgers out of holes, and are helpful in drug raids with confined spaces like air ducts. On the other end are St. Bernards, which push 240 pounds.
K9's client list spans 15 countries, from China to Switzerland. Buyers include SWAT teams, police and corrections agencies, security firms, search and rescue units, and border patrols. Slater and 12 employees spent years developing a proprietary computer-assisted design program to translate measurements into accurate patterns, which are hand sewn. However, it's as much a tech company as it is an armor manufacturer.
The next phase of development includes plans for remote-delivery systems and enhanced accessory functionality. They describe a system that would help dogs transport medical supplies, walkie-talkies, or water into constricted areas like rubble. They're also planning new appendages like air-level quality meters for mines.
No word on mounting mini heat-seeking missiles just yet. So, for now, bad guys will only have to tussle with highly-trained fangs exerting 700 pounds of pressure per square inch.
COMMENTARY: I thought that only our combat soldiers wore kevlar protective chest and body armor and the latest electronic gadgetry. That's what I call a combat ready robo dog. Got to protect these incredibly intelligent and brave animals who put their life on the line catching bad guys. They are worth every bit of that $30,000. I love them dogs, and every terrorist and and jihadist out there, beware punks--the U.S. Navy SEAL Robo Dogs are on your trail.
Go U.S. Navy SEALS, SEAL Team 6 and the Robo Dogs!!
Chico, in Osaka, Japan, might be the world's first haute-design pet store conceived with the dog's experience in mind.
If you read our site regularly, you know there are two ways to our heart: modern design and furry animals. It’s only natural, then, that anything that combines the two makes us so giddy we could punch ourselves. Case in point: Chico, a shop in Japan for minimalist doggies.
The place is designed by Osaka-based Atelier Kuu, and what makes it great -- and different from most chichi pet stores out there -- is that it's conceived with the dog's, not just the owner's, experience in mind. (Oh, quit your groaning. So some of us think dogs deserve to be treated like people. So the $#%& what?)
The space is inspired by a dog house, hence the pitched-roof silhouette echoed every which way, whether over the main counter (above) or in the product displays (below).
A tunnel -- also shaped like a dog house -- travels from the store to an outdoor dog run, where Fido can romp around and drool shamelessly while his owners shop for important canine accoutrements.
Back-lighting and crisp white walls and warm wood floors give the store enough design cred to make the humans drool, too.
Avalon Ventures prides itself on making successful bets in diverse areas that other investors overlook.
Avalon’s tech team made an early-stage investment in Zynga Game Network Inc. two years before the social-gaming Gold Rush of 2010 began.
And several years ago, the firm’s biotechnology and life sciences team backed companies working on treatments for “orphan diseases,” an area that received little attention at the time but which is now a high priority for companies like GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Pfizer Inc.
Now Avalon is gearing up for another move into uncharted waters: investing in the business of keeping dogs and cats healthy.
Managing Director Jay Lichter calls it “a new paradigm,” and one that will pay off.
“I recently asked a room full of people, ‘How many of you have spent a thousand dollars or more on your pet’s health in the past year?’ At least half the people raised their hands,” Lichter said. “Currently, there’s no one else in this space doing investing. There is quite a large number of opportunities out there.”
The following table offers a breakdown of the sales of the U.S. pet industry for 2009 and the estimated breakdown for 201
Live Animal Purch
Grooming & Boarding
Totals: $45.5 $47.7
U.S. Pet Industry Expenditure since 19949
Estimated Expenditure U.S. Pet Industry Next Five Years
Consumer Spending on Veterinary Services (In Billions)
Avalon has already found one. The firm earlier this month backed Aratana Inc. - which is working on pharmaceuticals for dogs and cats – alongside MPM Capital in a $20 million funding round.
Aratana, which has not yet disclosed what types of diseases it will target, aims to license human medicines for use in pets, a less daunting project than taking a drug company from the idea stage to Phase II trials. Lichter said the approval process for such therapeutics is shorter, as the medicines in question will have already passed certain regulatory hurdles. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration has less stringent standards for pet medications than it does for human treatments.
“I don’t start from the ‘Eureka!’ idea,” Lichter said. “I’m going to start from a human product that’s late in development. I license it. It makes economic sense. I’m looking for compounds that are currently in human development, and have shown efficacy in at least two species.”
In biotech investing, VCs are used to spending eight years and tens of millions of dollars to get from an idea to Phase II testing. By contrast, an animal health product should take three years and about $5 million, Lichter said.
For later-stage biotech companies, the landscape is approximately 20 large, public pharma and device companies circling around 2,000 start-ups, Lichter said. Animal health is more like 12 large companies being served by five or six start-ups, he said.
Risky? Probably. “But if I don’t take big chances, as a venture capitalist how am I any different than a large corporation?” Lichter said.
“As a fund, we’ve always been in areas before other people. That’s what makes us money. We’ve always been one step ahead.”
COMMENTARY: I have considerable experience in the U.S. pet industry, and the numbers are very impressive. U.S. pet veterinary and OTC medicines are a $22 billion to $23 billion industry. I can understand Avalon Ventures interest in the pet health care. Here are some interesting U.S. pet ownership and demographics:
In 2006, nearly half of pet owners, or 49.7%, considered their pets to be family members.
There are more than 72 million pet dogs in the U.S. and nearly 82 million pet cats.
The average veterinary expenditure per household for all pets was $366 in 2006.
Among horse-owning households, 61.1% had at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2006, an increase of 11.9% from 2001.
U.S. Pet Market
According to market researcher Packaged Facts, the U.S. pet market grew to $53 billion in 2009 (this is higher than Pet Franchise Industry) and overall sales are expected to continue to increase over the next few years.
“U.S. Pet Market Outlook 2010-2011: Tapping into Post-Recession Pet Parent Spending” projects U.S. pet market retail sales and trends overall and for four core categories: veterinary services, pet food, nonfood pet supplies and nonmedical pet services. The report found that sales of all pet products and services rose 5 percent in 2009 to $53 billion, with sales of veterinary services increasing the most to $18.40 billion. Moreover, pent-up pet owner demand for products and services that both enhance pet health and pamper animalcompanions will begin to kick in during 2010, according to the report.
“The pet market has fared well overall despite the recession, and Packaged Facts attributes this performance to a number of factors that will also be integral to its even better performance in 2010 and 2011,” said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. “Chief among these factors is the human-animal bond, which is an excellent insulator against recessionary cutbacks, and the ‘pet parent’ sentiment has never been higher.”
Packaged Facts projects total retail sales to increase to $55.78 billion in 2010 and to $59.28 billion in 2011, and to continue to rise to $72 billion by 2014. Still, the report noted that most economists predict a slow recovery.
“As a consequence, no pet market participant can afford to sit back during 2010 or to ignorerecessionary effects on consumer shopping patterns that could linger for years,” the report stated.
According to the 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, 63% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 71.1 millions homes
As of 2006, 77% of dog owners and 52% of cat owners gave their pets medications or drugs, up from 50% and 32% in 2000, respectively
Estimated 2008 Sales within the U.S. Market. For 2008, it estimated that $43.4 billion will be spent on our pets in the U.S. (see breakdown below):
Live animal purchases
Pet Services: grooming & boarding
Actual Sales within the U.S. Market in 2007. In 2007, $41.2 billion was spent on our pets in the U.S. (see breakdown below):
Live animal purchases
Pet Services: grooming & boarding
Pet Insurance Snapshot
In the U.S. alone, over 10.0 billion dollars were spent on pet medications in 2007. – NPR, Morning Edition.
Total worldwide sales of animal medicines was $19.2 billion in 2008, up 7.2 percent over sales the previous year – British research firm Vetnosis Ltd.
Avalon Venture's experience in bioscience certainly qualifies them to pursue a strategy of acquiring therapeutic medicines in stage II trials, that could be adapted for use in pets, is a good strategy.