Saturday 28 March 2015


Alexander Gallé is Partner and Creative Director at GALLÉ - a design and branding studio focused on luxury, entertainment and fashion brands - and one of Europe's leading design studios in the luxury brands online sector. Gallé's portfolio includes websites, online ads and e-commerce solutions for Yves Saint Laurent, Asprey, Fabergé, Garrard, Dior Beauty, Marchesa, Corum Timepieces, Boucheron, Jimmy Choo, MCM, Twentieth Century Fox, Buena Vista International, Miramax, Metropolitan Hotel, Marbella Club, Hotel Casadelmar, Lebua Hotels and Resorts and many leading hotels around the world. Gallé led the re-branding strategy for Corum Timepieces in 2006 and art directed their Unlock and Conquer ad campaigns in 2007. Later in that year, Gallé's studio also launched Artipolis, the social network for art and design professionals. Gallé combines 15 years of design and art direction with in-depth knowledge of the commercial and strategic aspects of the internet and Web 2.0.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Smart Luxury

This essay was published in Luxury Briefing in February 2015

Smart luxury
by Alexander Gallé
10 February 2015 

We're now 15 years into the 21st century.  It's worth taking a moment to think about the expectations we have from this century, or at least the next 15 years or so.  Luxury and the future have in common that thinking about them highlights our aspirations to an ideal life.

The year 2000 was in itself a huge future landmark for decades prior to it, a year into which we projected our wildest dreams.  Colonies on the moon and household robots in the year 2000 were pretty much guaranteed, back in the 70s.

Since then, however, many people seem to have become rather shortsighted about their expectations for the future.  Henry Ford once said: "If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses".  Today, it seems that many people would just ask for faster internet connections.  

Just as an automobile is categorically different from a faster horse, so the internet will soon be categorically different from just "faster connections".

In 15 years' time, the bandwidth used by internet connections between objects will completely dwarf the connections between people.  The internet of things is just in its infancy, so if you can remember the explosion in internet functionality that started in the late 90s you should get an idea of the scope of things to come in that domain.

The level of artificial intelligence that will be embedded in those connected objects will be off the charts by today's standards.  Self-driving cars are already safer and more accurate than humans, today.  Give the system a few years to upgrade and you'll have AI drivers picking you up from one side of town within seconds of you ordering one, driving through the city at a steady 100mph, all the while coming no closer than 2 feet from any other car or person, and dropping you off just a couple of minutes later on the other side of town.

The great news for our industry is that intelligence in objects and services is exactly what luxury is about.  The idea of creating an intelligent user experience - one that combines the efficiency of the machine with the soulfulness of human interaction - is one of our main aspirations, whether we're designing new cars or new hotels.  So far, it's the tech sector that has learned from the luxury sector, as demonstrated by Apple's rise from near bankruptcy in the late 90s to the world's number one company in 2012, or Tesla's rise from an electric car company to one of the world's best cars.  It's now time for the luxury sector to learn from companies like Apple and Tesla, and take the users' aspirations a few steps further.

Monday 12 January 2015

Intelligent swarms

This essay was published in Luxury Briefing in January 2015

Intelligent swarms
by Alexander Gallé
12 January 2015 

The rise of Tesla over the last couple of years has brought with it an increased awareness of what some people call 'smart factories': factories where most human labour is replaced by multi-purpose robots that are aware of certain variables that inform them of one another's activity and where they amend their own activity accordingly.

I've discussed the rise of smart companies before, citing Fabergé as an example of a luxury-sector company that could vacate its premises and set up shop within 24 hours in another location, because its entire production chain has been digitised – with every stone coded from the moment it leaves the mine to the moment it is sold. The knowledge, which is the core of the company, is held in the cloud. Tesla takes this a step further by having much of the work itself performed by multi-purpose robots that operate directly from this knowledge bank and feed their own knowledge back into it. The factory, as a whole, acts like a big, self-optimising machine.

So, what is the next step for this method of production? In two words: intelligent swarms.

Limitations have existed for a long time in robotics. One of the big hurdles was communication between the robots that would enable fluid interaction and self-organising systems. Another was robots' freedom of movement. Simply put, getting robots from A to B without bumping into things, crashing into each other or losing their balance was always quite tricky. Furthermore, until now, the idea of them flying always seemed near impossible.

However, with the amount of progress made in quadcopter flying technology, flying them has now turned out to be the most logical option. Just as flocks of starlings can fly in huge groups (called "murmurations") without knocking each other out, so too can quadcopter robots now fly in very close-knit formations without hitting each other, moving in space as a group without the limitations of physical terrain.

What's more, each quadcopter robot can be assigned a small part of a complex task that is to be completed by the robot swarm as a whole. Since one quadcopter is very much like another, the swarm can then be re-organised in very flexible ways to optimise its performance. For example, let's say that you’d like a group of robots to build a large structure, like a house. The freedom of movement of the robots would be a big issue to solve: how do you get the robots to go back and forth from the bricks deposit to the wall they are building on the third floor? With quadcopter technology, these issues are no longer relevant: the quadcopters just fly to and from the deposits, each one performing its small task over and over until the bigger task is complete. The swarm redirects its efforts as and when the work is done in some places and still to be completed in others. The swarm may be made up of thousands of small, flying robots performing individual actions, but it "thinks" as one.

We tend to think of industrial robots as relatively large things, which is how they have been until now. However, the larger they are, the narrower their purpose, the less flexible they are the less intelligent. The swarm approach allows for a "many small hands make big things" solution to a much wider range of complex tasks, just like bees making honey.