The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 15 April 2016

Image: Andrea Wyner

Made in Milan

With the weekend almost upon us many visitors to this year’s Salone del Mobile design fair (on until Sunday) have finally had a chance to take stock of what’s on show and muse on the fair as a whole – and there’s an ebullient mood in Milan. Plenty of brands that have never previously visited, or not done so in years, found themselves drawn in by the excitement: Scandi shelving pro String, London-based cashmere brand Oyuna and Danish firm &Tradition are among those to debut or return after a long absence. China’s slow economic growth has refocused the design industry on its core European markets and although official visitor numbers haven’t been released yet, we’re expecting the European contingent to creep up as markets including Germany, the UK and Italy begin to reach for their wallets again. Despite an annual tussle with earlier-in-the-calendar shows such as IMM Cologne, Maison et Objet in Paris and the Stockholm Furniture Fair, Milan has shown why it’s still sitting pretty at the top of the pile when it comes to design shows. For our picks of the finest from the fair look out for our films and slideshows on monocle.com.

Robo phone home

This could be the perfect gift for the person who has everything: Sharp’s new RoBoHon. Primarily a mobile phone in the guise of a talking bipedal robot, this new gizmo was shown as a prototype last year. Some wondered if it would ever make it to market but here it is. Designed by one of Japan’s leading robot scientists, Tomotaka Takahashi, the pint-sized machine is 19.5cm high with a 5cm screen in its back. It can walk, dance, take photographs and read incoming emails as well as project videos and adjust its conversation according to its owner’s preferences. At ¥198,000 (€1,600) it’s not cheap but Sharp is expecting to manufacture 5,000 per month; the ad for the phone has already been viewed about four million times on YouTube. Online preorders opened yesterday in Japan with overseas plans still to be decided.

Image: iStock

Diverse dinner

In Tallahassee, Florida, local leaders are testing the effect of southern hospitality as a way to improve urban life. Late last year the town organised The Longest Table, an outdoor dinner for 400 in downtown Tallahassee with the goal of strengthening bonds between diverse groups. The Longest Table will return this summer but organisers are planning a city-wide event. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to get involved in hosting or attending an iteration of The Longest Table on a single day in June, following two cardinal rules: conversations must be community focused and participants at the table must be diverse.

Image: Calgary Airport Authority

Puppy love

Airports can be stressful places, especially at peak hours when there seems to be endless queues: there’s one for security, another for boarding and yet more queues for customs and baggage. For some relief, Calgary International Airport – known for its [superb hospitality] (https://monocle.com/magazine/issues/90/come-fly-with-me/) – is turning to man’s best friend. As of Monday, waiting travellers can play with dogs, which will roam pre-boarding areas with their handlers. “We hope our furry friends bring a smile to the faces of our passengers,” says Peggy Blacklock, the airport’s manager of service quality. “Some have already singled out a favourite pooch and we’re developing trading cards for each dog so people can collect them as they go.”

From Monocle 24

Image: Ann Oro

How to choose a new UN secretary general?

The race to succeed Ban Ki-moon has begun in earnest but exactly how will that person be selected?

From Monocle Films

Taxi!

Hail a cab from a Tokyo taxi firm whose white-gloved drivers arrive with immaculate manners, spotless cars and carrying real pride in their work.

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