Success Anchored in Function AND Beauty

Just a saying from Dr. Ferry Porsche (as in Porsche cars) that I liked:


“It has always been a principal of our company that function and beauty are inseparable.”


If you can make something useful and attractive–you have a real winner!


Companies like Porsche and Apple get it (many, many others are clueless).ย ย 


Product development is both art and science and therein lay the foundations of their success or failure. ๐Ÿ˜‰


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Innovation Infertility

The 7 Skinny Cows

Many of you may have probably the seen the movie, “Children of Men,”–it is themed around a time in the future when women are infertile (because of pathology, pollution, drugs, or whatever) and the world is in chaos–for what is life without children to carry on?

Fortunately, in the movie, after 18 years, one woman does get pregnant and bears a child and there is hope in the scientific community for a resurgence of humankind.

Unfortunately, we are now in a similar period of technology, where big innovation of yesterday has come grinding to a miserable saunter.

When the biggest news leaking out of superstar innovator, Apple is the potential for an iWatch–uh, not exactly earth shattering, we know we are in innovator’s hell!

And vendors from Apple to Samsung and Sony trying to come out with some sort of voice activated television–again, who doesn’t hate the TV clicker, but really this is not going to revolutionize our entertainment center days.

With hundreds of thousands of apps available for everything from social networking, eCommerce, gaming, and more, it seems like there are more copycat apps then anything else coming out these days–where’s the real wow factor?

Microsoft can’t find it’s way in a mobile world, the mighty Intel has been supplanted by ARM with mobile chips, Marissa Mayer is trying to figure out how to remake the jump for joy, Yahoo, relevant again, as are the Vanderhook brothers and Justin Timberlake trying to do for MySpace.

With the overemphasis on the form factor making bigger and smaller sizes and shapes for computing devices, we seesaw between iPod Classics and Nanos and between iPads and Minis. But where are the great functional enhancements? Yeah, ask Siri.

Similarly in computing architecture, we have latched unto cloud computing as the next great savior of IT-mankind, ignoring the repackaging again of the mainframe into a cool new computing model again, and relegating the prior go-to architecture of distributed computing as the evil twin. Sure, we can save some bucks until the pendulum swings back toward more decentralization and agility again.

In social computing, with Facebook what can you say–it’s got a billion users, but virtually not a single one would pay a dime to use it. If not for marketers scooping up our personal information online and advertisers annoying us with their flashing and protruding pop-ups, we continue to trade privacy for connectedness, until we lose too much of ourselves to identity thieves and snooping sources, and we fall back clamoring for more protection.

In security, we are getting clobbered by cyber intrusions, cyber espionage, and cyber attacks–everyday! We can’t seem to figure out the rules of cyberspace or how to protect ourselves in it. We can’t even find enough qualified people to fight the cyber fight.

I was surprised that even magazine, Fast Company, which prides itself on finding the next great innovation out there, states this month (April 2013), “Growing uncertainty in tech is creating chaos for startups, consumers, and investors…nobody has a non-obvious new social business model that can scale.”

As in the movie, Children of Men, we are suffering from an infertility of innovation–whether from burnout, a focus on short-term profit instead of long-term R&D investments, declining scores in STEM, or a lack of leadership–we are waiting for the next pregnancy so we can have hope again, but are disappointed that so many are false positives or overhyped prophets.

One of the things, I am most excited about is Google Glass and their concept of augmented reality, but the glasses are geeky and will need to be package in a lot more eloquent solution to really be practical in our futures.

The next great thing will come–life is a great cycle–but as in the Bible with 7 fat cows and 7 skinny cows, leading to the great famine in Egypt, we are now seeing lots of skinny cows walking around and it is darn scary. ๐Ÿ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Better A Rock Than A Pebble

Pebble is coming out with a Smartwatch that connects via wireless Bluetooth to either iPhone or Android devices.

It can be used for getting messages, including from Twitter and Facebook, as well as for caller id, music controls, GPS, and more.

And you can download more apps from the watch app store.

Pebble uses a high resolution ePaper display technology, has a vibrating motor, microprocessor, accelerometer, and the battery can run for up to 7 days.

It has been crowdfunded through Kickstarter website and has since April sold, pre-order, approximately 85,000 watches at a $115 pop.

While I like the idea of being able to get information in more convenient form factors whether as a watch, glasses (like Google is working on) or other device configuration, I think the Pebble has a way to go in terms of it’s particular design.

Honestly. the Pebble looks cheap and chincy to me. The device looks too plasticy. The colors seem more geared towards kids.

Additionally, the screen looks way too small to be very useful except for the most basic alerts, but maybe this is all to make lighter and more mobile.

I plan to wait for something a little more substantial and with a larger screen.

A ruggedized version would be especially appealing including water, shock, and dust resistant and so on.

Perhaps the crowdfunding model has worked for this smartwatch for people looking to get the latest technology or even make a fast buck, but I think a little more crowdsourcing, in terms of customer requirements and feedback, would make an even better product for all.

iGlasses, Your Next Smartphone

Yesterday, a hyped-up video came out by Google on Project Glass.

Basically this is Star Trek-type glasses that provide everything that’s on your smartphone plus some augmented reality, where real world sensation is augmented with computer-generated information.

The video shows the glasses integrated with functionality for email/messaging/phones calls, photos/videos, music, reminders, weather, maps/directions, transportation updates, and more.

Aside from the integration into the glasses themselves, they really didn’t demonstrate any major new technologies–and was sort of disappointing actually.

It reminds of Google+, which came out and didn’t add anything much new over FaceBook, and hence hasn’t really caught on–copycatting just isn’t enough in the high-tech industry, where real innovation is what’s valued.

While I like the idea of more and better ways of getting the types of information and functionality that’s on your smartphone, I really don’t think glasses is the way to go.

Frankly, after having LASIK surgery more than 12 years ago, I am so happy not to have to wear those obtrusive frames on my face anymore, and I certainly wouldn’t want to go back.

I would envision having these functions either built microscopically into contact lens or projected by mini-wearable cameras in front of you as a true reality overlay–and I think Minority Report thought of that one first.

The only way that I would even consider wearing glasses for this was if Apple made them and called them iGlasses. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Shalom Rotundus

Rotundus, the rolling robot, was designed by the European Space Agency for exploration of distant planets like Mars and Mercury, but now it has found its way into many earthly avocations.
This Groundbot has “eyes” on either side of its roly-poly robotic body and has a unique internal pendulum for maneuvering around.
Currently, Rotundus is deployed for sentry duty at SAAB auto manufacturing plants.
However, as you can see in the video, it can also function comfortably in a home environment as a quasi baby-sitter for the kids.
Already, we see robots in Japan providing service to people from servers in restaurants to caretakers for the elderly.
I appreciated the interview with the CTO at Rotundus who shares his vision for robots that “provide not only security, but also pleasure to people.”
Rotundus is a great example of how robots can come in virtually any way, shape or form.
The key is that robots leverage the best of automation and innovation to help ordinary people do things simpler, easier, and more convenient than ever before.