Wednesday, January 13, 2010

CES Photos

A few photos from CES

The Que - A standout in the myriad of E-books. A very cool reader for digital files and news - crossover allowing you to read for both business and pleasure. It is made out of a shatterproof plastic. You can even write on it with your finger! However, it seems like an odd size, 8.5 x 11" - you almost need two hands to hold it. Had a great showing at CES.

Just the design of the entry to the Samsung was enough to distract this visitor for a good 10 minutes, staring in awe at the screens and the actual beauty technology sometimes brings to the world.

When I walked up to this car and said "why?" they said, that's why! It's a car that converts to a full-on gaming system. The four screens pop out and each player has their own sound system. I guess that's why. Thankfully, it's only one of a kind.

This is the Intel Health Guide 6000, a project I worked on during my tenure at Intel. It was exciting to finally see it on the market! It's meant to help people with chronic diseases track their health and allow clinicians to monitor care remotely.

Intel was also promoting its 2010 core processors and showing how much data they can process by bringing up real time information from a multitude of social media sites. It was also visually stunning.

On the other end of the spectrum were these retro-machines. They are capable of taking vinyl records and turning them into MP3's. Who knew?

Finally, at the Monster Awards and John Legend concert Friday night, the one and only Stevie Wonder showed up and played a tune for the crowd. Truly a highlight of the week.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Drinks with The Don (Norman that is)

Friday evening at the Computer Electronics Show was an industrial design gathering in yet another loud, crowded bar in Vegas. With my colleague Kevin Shankweiler at my side, we staunchly entered the networking event. While standing in line for drinks, we had a celebrity sighting. I pointed out Donald (Don?) Norman among the crowd. (Kevin checked for a photo on the iPhone, it was indeed him). We saw an opening and went to talk with him, assuming we'd have mere seconds.

He spent 5-10 minutes talking with us, though I will put a disclaimer up front that it was incredibly hard to hear in the bar and I may have mis-heard everything. Not being one for a detailed memory, three things stick with me about this conversation.

1) Donald Norman is convinced that the computer mouse is great the way it is
2) He doesn't believe in the future of neural interfaces
3) Donald Norman is not a believer in dreaming and using far fetched ideas as a means to innovative design

#2 was a result of #1. Somehow we got on the topic of using a mouse and DN pointed out that it is perfectly accurate for pointing, does it's job well and needs no improvement. My stance was that I have terrible repetitive stress pain and it seems we need to get well beyond the "sitting at the screen" phase eventually. Talented researchers and designers continue to look at creating a better mouse.

I then laughed off the mouse conversation realizing that before long, we'll have neural interfaces or brain-computer interfaces, and it won't matter. He replied in a way as to infer that this would never happen and I was crazy. A very brief Google search shows almost 2 million hits for "neural interface computer." The world of prosthetics making the most impressive strides as we speak. Emotiv has devices open for development. And there is an entire conference devoted to the subject. (Ornery readers might point out that there is a conference or two devoted to Santa Claus too, but I digress).

#3 - Don't be a dreamer. Our conversation wandered to ideation and "Minority Report" type technologies which he correctly noted have been around for awhile, just not mainstream. I talked about pushing the envelope, thinking about the fantastic as a far off goal and then reigning it in for today's reality. Without such idealism, the Wright Brothers would never have gotten off the ground, Bell's telephones never would have happened and DaVinci would have been sitting around eating pasta instead of dreaming up fantastical machines that inform our progress to this day. These inventors believed there was a better way.

So, Mr. Norman, I thank you for your fine company and appreciate the chance to engage in lively conversation! But I do believe in dreaming, and literally building not just a better mousetrap, but a better mouse.

Friday, January 8, 2010

CES Day 1

Before you arrive, everyone says, "CES is overwhelming, get ready." Well, I'm here to tell you, they are right. A friend who is with the press said there are about 110,00 people. That's bigger than many small towns. Bigger than many small towns put together. Wow.

Somehow, I managed to wander onto the right buses and into the right halls for speeches, badge pick up and exhibit shmoozing. Today's post will be an overview of interesting technologies and I hope to eventually go back and dig deeper into some of them.

Today's learnings:

Ford has come out with a technology called Sync. They worked with IDEO (so excited to hear design research cited in a keynote speech!) to design an in dash and on steering wheel system that connects to the internet. You can have your tweets read to you, make a call, get directions and play music at the touch of a digital interface. Pretty cool and they say it's smarter than the manual controls so you won't have your eyes off the road as long. I know how often I stare at my iPhone screen - I'm not convinced this won't cause more accidents instead of preventing them.

It's actually easier to take notes on the iPhone rather than pull out a laptop. I guess my texting has gotten more accurate.

I had a great meeting with a start up called RememberItNow! They are in Beta with a site that assists with medication compliance, one of my favorite topics and one where I have deep knowledge. We had a really rich conversation. Interested? You can try it now for free. The Jitterbug cell-phone, originally developed with a focus on the senior market is also adding a medication reminder call and a 24 hour nurse on call to their available services.

I was given a Zeo to test out which should be great. It's a device that you wear on your forehead and it connects to a bedside device and tracks your sleep. If you aren't sleeping well, it may be able to help you figure out why. One compelling feature allows you to set the alarm for a wake up time with a one hour window (within one hour of 6.30) and it will wait to wake you until you are in a light sleep, not a deep sleep so you don't end up suffering from that type of wake up for the rest of the day. It's now almost 1 a.m. and I'm too tired to set it up!

The folks at Wellcore are working on a fall-detection, motion capture device that hopes to surpass the Life Alert and other home safety systems. They claim an advanced accelerometer, reminders to put the device on (one of the biggest issues with similar systems) and a sleeker design. The technical pieces sound good, though my design degree doesn't allow me to say their design is at all more attractive than anything on the market. I talked to an employee about objects of desire and making the fall detection piece that seniors need to wear be more attractive - something I have a great interest in improving. He regaled me with a story about a collaboration with Cartier when he was working with a different company. They designed a beautiful device and only 10% of the customers (80% of whom were women) - purchased the beautifully designed reminder. So curious to know more about why that happened!

One final note: I noticed, with fascination and concern, that many larger exhibitors (Intel, Microsoft) were making use of what looked like live Facebook, Flickr and Twitter feeds. Whether or not they were live, it made me realize how very public and available our lives are. It's not just to our friends, but potentially anyone in the entire world. It's all out there. Seeing it on a 30 foot screen just makes it that much more frightening.

Other items of note: The Que - a reader for paperwork as well as digital media, very cool antique looking devices to transfer your LPs, CDs and cassettes to MP3s, a crazy ergonomic workstation and inductive, wireless charging by Fulton.