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McDonald's Hires Project Ara Design Team To Reinvent the Drinking Straw (fastcodesign.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: McDonald's has hired the creators of Google's Project Ara to reinvent the drinking straw. Their new invention, the "Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal" (STRAW for short), is a J-shaped device that allows the user to drink both layers of the company's dual-layer Chocolate Shamrock shake simultaneously, receiving an optimal mixture of chocolate and, um, shamrock. McDonald's announced the new product at a Facebook live event yesterday, which included a keynote by McDonald's Senior Director of Menu Innovation Darci Forrest, a Silicon-Valley-style panel moderated by Austin Evans, and interviews with engineers from NK Labs and JACE. Computational fluid dynamics simulations, 3D printing, and extensive real-world testing (drinking shakes) were required to get the design ready for its eventual unveiling. McDonald's is producing a limited first run of 2000 of the straws for distribution at restaurants across the U.S. "My first reaction was, that doesn't seem too hard. We could have a double straw -- one longer, one shorter. No problem," says Seth Newburg, principal engineer and managing partner at NK Labs, which teamed up with JACE Design on the STRAW. "Then we immediately thought, once you get halfway down, one straw is going to start sucking air... It's one of those things that seems so simple, but as we got into it there were a lot more issues exposed. It turned out to present quite a few engineering and scientific challenges." NK Labs and JACE Design were the two companies who also worked on Project Ara together, the Google initiative to build a phone with interchangeable modules for various components like cameras and batteries. Unfortunately, the plans for Project Ara were scrapped late last year.
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McDonald's Hires Project Ara Design Team To Reinvent the Drinking Straw

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  • My impressions... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @08:50PM (#53883127)

    First: That's incredibly stupid.

    Second: Oh, wait, they actually came up with a clever engineering solution to the problem presented to them.

    Third: Which would be far more efficiently dealt with by just blending the two drinks together from the start.

    Still, the design of the straw is kind of neat even if the reason for developing it is stupid.

    • Why go to so much effort, expense and time to design a straw for such a crappy, stupid drink?

      Why not just come up with a rational idea for a new drink that is homogeneous?

      They've created an unnecessary problem.

      • >Why go to so much effort, expense and time to design a straw for such a crappy, stupid drink?

        It's an advertising campaign, not an actual serious attempt at an engineering solution.

        And a real engineer may never even have heard of this until the ad campaign was released - after all, there's no way that straw actually does what it's presented as having been designed to do.

        It's actually very effective if you look at the real problem of 'how do we get people to pay attention to our ad campaign?', but that's

    • You probably get some color that is completely unappetizing if you mix brown (chocolate) with green (mint).
      • You probably get some color that is completely unappetizing if you mix brown (chocolate) with green (mint).

        Semi-liquid dog shit springs to mind.

    • I'm pretty sure it's a parody of the Apple ads because I don't see how this would work. The two holes in the straw are at fixed positions so you're still sucking in mostly one layer half the time, the second layer the other half, and you have no way to suck the rest of the drink once the top hole is exposed.

      I presume the problem is the two materials in the shake have a different density, so separate out even when mixed? The solution then is to eliminate that gravitational separation. Divide the cup in
    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      Mostly I'm thinking about the impending shareholder lawsuit: you guys spent how much f*$^ing money getting a high powered team of engineers to design a straw?!
    • Yeah, it is fantastic, I had two and produced myself a diarrhea in exactly the half hour after the second drink I calculated had to wait to help my body dispose of the bad hot dog I had eaten earlier in the night, in another chain. I was out of the restroom just in time before the morning janitor would try to open the restroom to vacate nightly laggers, even happy to reach the subway without any hurry.
  • This sucks (Score:5, Funny)

    by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @08:51PM (#53883137)
    I realize it is supposed to suck. The first topic that I can actually respond correctly to this way.
    • "Er... I dropped my straw on the floor, could I please have another one?"
      "Sure, here you go. Have a nice day!"
      "Err, sorry, no, I said 'straw', not 'straw', can I swap it please?"
      "Oh sorry, yeah sure, here have one of these"

      They came up with a (clever) gimmick, and the best name they could come up with was "straw".

  • Thanks for reminding me that it's time to make my once-a-year trip to the golden arches for the somewhat bizarre minty goodness that is the shamrock shake.

  • It sounds ridiculous, although . . .

    Then we immediately thought, once you get halfway down, one straw is going to start sucking air

    Sounds like McDonalds is sucking air, right enough!

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @09:07PM (#53883217) Homepage

    The new straw runs Windows IoT embedded on an ARM Cortex A53 with 1GB of RAM. The straw contains 2 Festo 334-T3 pressure regulators that update 64,000 times per second to maintain an even flow of chocolate and shamrock. The embedded 802.11N connectivity will inform McDonald's immediately when your drink is done so it can automatically charge your credit card for another.

  • Any of the McDonald's employees out there able to step up and explain what was in the need-my-glasses press release this morning? We appear to have a CHOCOLATE Shamrock Shake this year....

  • This straws! ("Suck" was a banned word there...)

  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @09:42PM (#53883379)

    McDonald's doing a real commercial which is a parody of Apple's videos with Jony Ive.

    Now THAT takes courage. On top of that, their new Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal is a real innovation.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @09:57PM (#53883421)
    "black-and-tan" "Shamrock Shake"?
    Beyond tacky (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_and_Tans)
    Those who fail to remember history are destined to really piss some people off - in this case in Ireland.
    To some people it would be like having a joke of Ronald McDonald in blackface.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      It appears that the tacky "black and tan" bit is from the reporter here and not McDonalds.
      https://www.fastcodesign.com/3... [fastcodesign.com]
      It also appears they do remember history but are making an alt-right ethnic joke or something (what used to just be called being a prick)
  • by GrahamJ ( 241784 )
    Unfortunately? Project Ara was a ridiculous idea.
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Thursday February 16, 2017 @11:06PM (#53883697)
  • Why not mix the shake up in whatever proportion desired and just use a normal straw?

  • Lucky few? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by guises ( 2423402 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @01:12AM (#53884247)
    The video (which, by the way, was pretty decent for a commercial) says that only a "lucky few" get to experience the STRAW. ... What? What the hell is that? I was briefly sold on trying one of these out, but there's no way I'm going to trek to McDonalds and buy one of these shakes only to get stiffed on the one reason I was buying the shake in the first place. That's like buying a Happy Meal and not getting a toy. You just don't do it. That's a sad meal.

    I realize that the point of this is to generate buzz, but what's the point of buzz if you're going to follow it up with, "Ha ha, just kidding. We're not actually going to sell you the thing we're advertising."
    • I realize that the point of this is to generate buzz, but what's the point of buzz if you're going to follow it up with, "Ha ha, just kidding. We're not actually going to sell you the thing we're advertising."

      The thing they're advertising is the shake, and they'll absolutely sell it to you. Now, you may not be interested in buying it if you don't get to try the funky straw, but advertisers know that a lot of people who see their ads won't be interested in buying the product. But some will.

      And... would you ever have heard of this shake if it weren't for the straw? I wouldn't have. And neither, I'm sure, would many people who actually might be interested in a chocolate mint shake.

      This is pretty much the defini

  • As a non-US, non-CA, non-IE and non-McD denizen, I am still puzzled about the nature of this "shamrock" component of the drink even after reading the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org].

    And can someone explain to me why one would want to go to McD to buy sham-anything while the real thing is to be had for next to nothing, and probably better tasting?

  • Candlelight dinner at McDonalds? Anyone remember this one? [foxnews.com] I remember them trying to his out in the late 80's and my Mom and I just bust out laughing reading the table mats thinking "Is this a joke?"

    Or who can forget the "Make it Bacon!" campaign? They own the trademark. I can't find something to show it but McDonalds was test-driving a thing where you could add bacon to anything for a small extra fee. I used to be out on the road a lot and a buddy of mine and I rolled up to a McDonalds drive thru circ

  • Perhaps what would be truly innovative is to listen to Common F. Sense and make a shake by mixing up all the ingredients equally for humans to consume it the same way we've been doing for the last century.

    Boy, nothing quite like humans coming together to find solutions without problems. Talk about one of those jobs you leave off your resume...

    • Mixing the ingredients wouldn't make it look as purty.

      Someone else suggested a vertical divider to separate the flavours and two straws,

  • and to think, these engineers could have been spending their time doing something so mundane and pointless, like saving the world or improving everyday peoples' lives. Instead, the beneficent forward thinkers at McDonalds have showered upon them the blessing of using their extraordinary abilities and scarce resources to design a straw!
  • IMO the straw went downhill not due to a change in its own design but due to a change in the design of the paper wrapper which has become too tight to provide any fun. I long for a return of straw wrappers that are loose enough to remove one end and shoot it across the room or scrunch it up to make a caterpillar that would "grow" when drops of liquid were dropped on them. Ah, the good old days!

  • Norville: [to Amy] Now let me ask you a question: Would an imbecile come up with this?
    [shows Amy a picture of a circle]
    Norville: You know, for kids.

  • by maroberts ( 15852 )

    ...you could simply mix the two flavours together and use a standard straw, the only difference being the two level shake would be a single chocolaty color

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal