Robots In Rockville

Had some fun driving around this cool little Robot in Rockville Town Center.


I like to try out the latest gadgets. 


It’s funny people’s reactions when they see these. 


They’re still not quite sure what to make of these. 


Robots on the street.


Drones overhead.


Submersibles in the water.


Soon they will all be autonomous, ubiquitous, and essential.


And people will be the side attraction. 😉


(Source Video: Dossy Blumenthal)

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).  


Product development is both art and science and therein lay the foundations of their success or failure. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Worth The Squeeze

I like this saying that I heard.

“The juice has to be worth the squeeze.”


It’s a little like the corollary to “If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing right.”


Spending time and effort has to show commensurate results or why the heck are you doing it?


Probably always good to reevaluate where you’re getting the “most bang for the buck,” so you’re not “just spinning your wheels.”


With all the sayings about what we do and whether it’s really worth it, there is probably some good reason to be concerned about whether or not you spending your time productively or just acting insane, because: 

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”


Results matter–so make sure your achieving them or go do something else you enjoy and that’s ultimately worth the squeeze! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Teats Or Not

Bull

So I heard a new phrase from one of my colleagues recently…


He goes on about somebody (or something) being like “2 teats on a bull!”


I’ve always wanted to spend some serious time on a farm…but never really have had the opportunity to learn about that whole rural world, and I’m like what????


But I got it, and didn’t really like it. 


Sort of a harsh way to call someone out as a useless piece of [you know what]!


I’ve heard kids joke about “man boobs” and I sure you can guess what those unflattering things are on a male.


Too often, we write people off without giving them a real chance!


While perhaps, there can be useless appendages through genetics or illness, there are no fundamentally useless people (although maybe some can be troubled, dejected, in a bad fit, etc.).


More often, there are unflattering comments from others who don’t appreciate differences or see clearly what each person can “bring to the table.”


Let’s just say, if G-d created someone, there is reason and purpose to their lives, and we need to understand and appreciate them for their value. 


It may take (some) exploration, but everyone has strengths (as well as weaknesses–we’re all human) and we can find what each person is good at, cultivate it, and leverage it for the good. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Carol Von Canon)

Smartphone or Kitty Litter

Smartphone
Interesting…Bloomberg Businessweek ran a special anniversary issue with a countdown of the 85 most disruptive ideas (in the last 85 years), and guess where they think the smartphone fell in that?



#78!!! 



Right up there with the white board (#82) and good ‘ol high frequency trading (#80).



But not as important as get this…the corporate campus (#77), the VCR (#74), Kitty Litter (#73), Singapore, literally–{Uh, and how about Israel?} (#71), bottled water (#56), High-fructose corn syrup (#48), Air Jordan sneakers (#45), Napster (#43), and junk bonds (#7).



They ranked the smartphone so low in disruption, even after giving it a two-page spread with no less than 32 “things the smartphone killed” and they probably missed a few hundred!



There is no need to list everything the smartphone does for you, because you use these functions every moment of every day



To most people now, the smartphone is one of their most prized possessions and they don’t go anywhere without it and rarely do you see anyone not “on it.” (Uh, I know more than a few people who even dropped them in the toilet!)



Honestly, Businessweek…I think you missed the significance of the smartphone big time. 



Yeah maybe Starbucks (#68) and the Pill (#9) are competitors, but not as important or disruptive as Kitty Litter…shame on you!  😉



(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lonely Bob)

A Razor to Apple’s Throat

I love Razer’s Project Christine – a completely modular PC.

There is a stand and you simply attach the components you want: Central Processing Units (CPU), Graphic Processing Unit (GPU), Power Supply Unit (PSU), Solid-State Drive (SSD) storage, and so on.

By making the architecture open and plug and play–just jack in a new module– and change out whatever you want, whenever you want. Obsolescence be gone.

This is a challenge to pure standardization, and a way to make customization cost-effective.

The cooling is done with mineral oil that is pumped throughout from the bottom reservoir.

At the top, you see a module for a command center for adding operating systems, adjusting configurations and settings, or monitoring performance.

A subscription model is planned where for a annual fee you can get the latest and greatest upgrades.

Project Christine PC is the epitome of simple, useful, scalable and beautiful.

Watch out Apple, you have a Razor at your throat–it’s time to seriously up the innovation game. 😉

Why Memorize?

Why Memorize?

G-d, I remember as a kid in school having to memorize everything for every class–that was the humdrum life for a schoolchild.

Vocabulary words, grammar rules, multiplication tables, algebraic and geometric equations, scientific formulas, historical events, famous quotes, states and capitals, presidents, QWERTY keys, and more.

It was stuff it in, spit it out, and basically forget it.

This seemed the only way to make room for ever more things to memorize and test out.

In a way, you really had to memorize everything, because going to a reference library and having to look up on the stacks of endless shelves or microfiche machines was a pain in the you know what.

Alternatively, the home dictionary, theasarus, and encyclopeda were indispensible, but limited, slow, dated, and annoying.

But as the universe of knowledge exploded, became ever more specialized, and the Internet was born, looking something up was a cinch and often necessary.

All of a sudden, memorization was out and critical thinking was in.

That’s a good thing, especially if you don’t want people who are simple repositories of stale information, but rather those who can question, analyze, and solve problems.

Albert Einstein said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

But an interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal by an old school teacher questions that logic.

David Bonagura Jr. proposes that critical thinking and analysis “is impossible without first acquiring rock-solid knowledge of the foundational elements upon which the pyramid of cognition rests.”

He says, “Memorization is the most effective means to build that foundation.”

As a kid, I hated memorization and thought it was a waste of time, but looking back I find that more things stayed in that little head of mine than I had thought.

I find myself relying on those foundations everyday…in writing, speaking, calculating, and even remembering a important story, principle, saying or even song lyrics.

These come out in my work–things that I thought were long lost and forgotten, but are part of my thinking, skills, and truly create a foundation for me to analyze situations and solve problems.

In fact, I wish I knew more and retained it all, but short-term memory be damned.

We can’t depend on the Internet for all the answers–in fact, someday, it may not be there working for us all, when we need it.

We must have core knowledge that is vital for life and survival and these are slowly being lost and eroded as we depend on the Internet to be our alternate brains.

No, memorizing for memorization’s sake is a waste of time, but building a foundation of critical skills has merits.

Who decides what is critical and worthwhile is a whole other matter to address.

And are we building human automatons full of worthless information that is no longer relevant to today’s lifestyles and problems or are we teaching what’s really important and useful to the human psche, soul, and evolution.

Creativity, critical thinking, and self-expression are vital skills to our ability to solve problems, but these can’t exist in a vacuum of valuable brain matter and content.

It’s great to have a readily available reference of world information at the tips of our fingertips online, but unless you want to sound (and act) like an idiot, you better actually know something too. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chapendra)

Wheelchair Complexity

Wheelchair Complexity

So my approach to enterprise architecture, product design, and customer service, as many of you know, is plan and simple, User-centric!

Innovating, building things, servicing customers, and communicating needs to be done in a way that is useful and usable–not overly complex and ridiculous.

The other day, I saw a good example of a product that was not very user-centric.

It was a type of wheelchair, pictured here in blue.

And as you can see it is taking 2 men and a lady quite a bit of effort to manipulate this chair.

This little girl standing off to the side is sort of watching amusingly and in amazement.

What is ironic is that the wheelchair is supposed to be made for helping disabled people.

Yet, here the wheelchair can’t even be simply opened/closed without a handful of healthy people pulling and pushing on the various bars, levers, and other pieces.

If only Apple could build a wheelchair–it would be simple and intuitive and only take one finger to do everything, including play iTunes in the background. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Describing Meal Time

Dietary_guidelinesjpg

The USDA released their new dietary guidelines yesterday (2 June). 

And while there is no surprise in the recommendations that we eat more fruits and vegetables; what was refreshing was the new imagery for conveying the information.
Gone is the Food Pyramid and in is the Food Plate. 
This new visualization overall makes a lot more sense since:
1) As the Wall Street Journal stated today (3 June 2011), “People don’t eat off a pyramid, they eat off a plate.”  In other words, this is something we can relate to at meal times.  
2) The plate here is used like a pie chart to easily show what portion of our meals should come from each food category. For example, you can clearly see that fruits and veggies makes up a full half of the plate. (Boy, I’m sure there are a lot of smiling moms and dads out there today, saying I told you so!) Also the role of protein in a healthy diet is reaffirmed with almost a full quadrant itself. 
I am not sure why this initiative, according to the WSJ, cost about $2.9 million and three years to accomplish, since the representation seems fairly straight forward (unless some of that went to modifying the nutritional guidelines themselves).
In any case, I think we can all be glad they got rid of the 2005 version of the food pyramid that “left many baffled” as to what they were trying to say.
Still even in this new visualization, there are confusing aspects, for example:
1) Greater than a Pie–The Dairy piece is separate and off to the right of the plate. I would imagine that this is supposed to represent something like a glass of milk, but it is odd in this picture, since it takes away from the pie chart presentation of the plate where theoretically all the food groups on the “pie plate” would add up to 100%.  Here, however, the Dairy plate (or glass) is off to the side, so we have something like 120% total–confusing!
2) Missing Percentages–The actual recommended percentages are not noted in the diagram. This type of information had previously been provided in the 1992 Food Pyramid through the recommended servings. Where did they go?  I would suggest they annotate the pie slices for each food group with the actual recommended percentages, so that we have the imagery of the slices, but also have a target number to go with. Helpful, if you are counting your calories (and food types) on a diet. 
In short, information visualization can be as important as the information itself–with information, having quality data is critical or else you have “garbage in, garbage out.”  Similarly, with information visualization, you can take perfectly good information and portray it poorly and confuse the heck out of folks–in essence making the resulting information into potential garbage again. 
This is why efforts such as the Choose MyPlate are important to help us communicate important information effectively to people, in this case so they can eat and live healthier lives. 
I think the new Food Plate is generally effective at presenting the information and I support this effort wholly, but I’m still looking forward to version 3.1.

>Information-Free Is Invaluable

>

Tree-of-knowledge

At first I admit it, I didn’t really get Google; I mean what is this G-o-o-g-l-e and the shtick about “doing search”?

But the writing was on the wall all along with their incredible mission statement of: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

So search is the just the beginning of a long list of now amazingly valuable Google properties and services (now valued with a market capitalization of almost $169 Billion):

– Search (Google Search, Google Search Appliance, Google Desktop)
– Cloud Computing (Google Apps Engine, Google Storage for Developers, Chrome Notebooks)
– Advertising Technology (Adwords, AdSense, DoubleClick)
– Website Analytics (Google Analytics)
– Operating Systems (Chrome OS, Android, Honeycomb)
– Web Browser (Google Chrome)
– Productivity Software (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Apps Suite)
– Social Computing (Google Wave, Google Talk, Orkut, Buzz)
– News Aggregator (Google News, Google Reader)
– Translation (Google Translate)
– Telecommunication (Google Voice)
– Clean Energy (Google Energy)
– Geospatial (Google Maps, Google Earth)
– Video (YouTube)
– Photos (Picassa)
– Electronic Books (Google Books)
– Blogs (Blogger)

What Google seems to intuitively get is that their free powerful web services creates invaluable consumer market share and mind share–like a honey pot. Once the consumer comes on board–like good little bees, they are ripe for companies to reach out to via advertising for all and every sort of product and service under the sun. And according to 1998 revenue breakdown, as much as 99% of Google’s revenue is associated with advertising!

Google is brilliant and successful for a number of reasons:

1) Google is consumer-oriented and knows how to attract the crowd with free services, and they let others (the advertisers) concern themselves with monetizing them.
2) Google is incredibly innovative and provides the breath and depth of technology services (from cloud to productivity to search to video) that consumers need and that are easy for them to use.
3) Google is information rich, but they share this broadly and freely with everyone. While some have complained about the privacy implications of this information bounty; so far, Google seems to have managed to maintain a healthy balance of information privacy and publicity.
4) Google values their people, as their “owners manual” reads: “our employees…are everything. We will reward them and treat them well.” And to help retain their talent, Google just gave their employees a 10% raise in January.
5) Google wants to be a force for good–their creed is “Don’t be evil.” They state in their manual: “We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served- as shareholders and in all other ways–by a company that does good things for the world, even if we forgo some short-term gains.”

Do not underestimate Google–as the Wall Street Journal, 23-24 April, 2011 summarizes today, they are not a conventional company.

At the end of the day, if Google is successful in their business of making information universally accessible and useful, then we are talking about making an invaluable difference in the lives of humanity–where information builds on itself, and knowledge–like the Tree of Knowledge in the Book of Genesis–is alive and constantly growing for all to benefit from in our Garden of Eden, we call Earth.

(Source Picture: Honeybird)