A screenshot of the app as displayed in the Apple App Store.

Apple has quietly launched an indoor positioning iOS app that lets building owners create interior maps of their structures using only an iPhone. The debut of the Indoor Survey App follows the introduction, a year ago, of Apple Maps Connect, which allows the owners of publicly accessible venues to submit their indoor digital mapping information to Apple to create floorplans. The latest app aims to make that functionality available more broadly. Explains the company: “By dropping ‘points’ on a map … you indicate your position within the venue as you walk through. As you do so, the Indoor Survey App measures the radio frequency (RF) signal data and combines it with an iPhone’s sensor data. The end result is indoor positioning without the need to install special hardware.” Currently the app requires a username and password to access, and it’s not clear when Apple plans to roll this out to the masses, if ever, or how much that access will cost. Apple isn’t alone in developing technology that can readily bring analog layouts into the digital world. Last fall Google debuted The Cartographer—a backpack fitted with simultaneous localization and mapping capabilities that allows it to generate interior floor plans in real time. Compared to Google’s device, however, an iPhone’s size and ubiquity suggests that Apple is seeking a broader market should the new app ever have wider availability.  [Gizmodo + The Verge + Tech Crunch]

Architects are using granular materials like rocks and stones as the basis for pour-in-place structural applications including walls, columns, and domes. [MIT Technology Review]

When fire ants are in distress, they link up to stay alive in the form of floating rafts or bridges, for example. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are exploring such collective behavior for the development of self-healing materials. Explains CityLab: “When the researchers pushed a raft of ants underwater, they sprang back up and returned to their original shape, like a solid. And when researchers dropped a penny into a wall of ants, the tiny critters unlinked their bodies to let the coin pass through and then relinked to fill the gap behind the coin, similar to liquid.” [CityLab]

Samuel Wilkinson

London designer Samuel Wilkinson, whose Plumen 001 lamp is now part of the official collection at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, recently debuted an outdoor installation featuring a canopy of 1,500 crystal lenses whose facets render it a kaleidoscope through which to view the sky above while refracting rainbows onto the sidewalk below. [Dezeen]

Small unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are becoming better navigators—and that’s key to their widespread adoption. [Quartz]

Jean Nouvel, Hon. FAIA, co-designed a swanky set of speakers for French manufacturer Amadeus. [Designboom]

Museums are bringing technology into their exhibits, primarily through gadgets and interactive displays. The Guggenheim is taking a different tact with the launch of its Azone Futures Market, which lets visitors virtually invest in future technology—making the digital tools as much subject matter as they are museum infrastructure. [Fast Company’s Co.Design]

These animal-shaped keys, dubbed the "zoolophone" (a play, of course, on the xylophone), could spell the future for design—like bridges that don't intensify noise from vehicles or better acoustics in concert halls—by allowing a specific shape to make a specific sound. [Gizmag]