A British pet parrot has forged a bond with his owner's Alexa, playing music and ordering tasty treats from the virtual assistant developed by tech giant Amazon.Rocco, a rescue African Grey, made international headlines when The Times of London reported that he's bought ice cream and strawberries from Alexa (though the device's parental lock feature prevents these items from actually showing up at the door). Owner Marion Wischnewski adopted Rocco from the animal sanctuary she volunteers with after the bird's frequent cussing scared away potential adoptive parrot parents. African Greys are known for their ability to precisely mimic sounds, natural and mechanical, often very loudly. While Rocco's now famous, YouTube offers plenty of looks into greys and their relationships with voice-activated devices. Below is a 2017 clip of Petra making fart sounds at Alexa then asking her for a peanut: While Alexa might be the perfect machine companion for birds like Rocco, (this author, a former African Grey fosterer, speaks from personal experience), the future of smart home technology almost demands that we'll see more pet-machine bonds in years to come.
Stacked for Success
Renzo Piano completes offices for Kum & Go in Des Moines, Iowa
Renzo Piano Building Workshop has officially completed the much-anticipated Krause Gateway Center in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. As the new headquarters for Midwestern convenience store chain Kum & Go, the six-story building features an open and transparent design that resembles a glass pagoda. RPBW designed the 160,000-square-foot structure in collaboration with Iowa-based firm OPN Architects. Construction wrapped up late last year on the project site, situated on the north end of the city’s famous Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Thanks to its floor-to-ceiling glass facade, the Krause Gateway Center provides 360-degree views of the city and the art garden below, while housing offices for 800 Kum & Go and Krause Group employees. It also includes a two-story underground parking garage, a fitness center, large meeting rooms, and a dedicated art space. The focal point of the modern design is its sun-soaked interior lobby, created with a warm and welcoming atmosphere for visitors and workers alike. Sustainability, accessibility, and engagement with art are key elements of the Krause Gateway Center's overall design. The curtain wall exterior allows ample daylight into the office space while the elongated overhangs that divide the floors shade the interior and control temperature. An outdoor terrace and a green roof populated with sculptures offer breathing spaces for employees to access during the day. In addition to the unique, people-centric design, the building takes up just 25 percent of the project site, where over 100 trees and various landscape furniture dot the landscape for further public use. In the near future, RPBW will build out a café for the building’s Grand Avenue lobby entrance along with exterior seating.