A New Class Of Consumer Products

I am curi­ous by nature, and each time I am going to buy a new prod­uct I always check if some­one has already hacked it in some way I may like.

I like the idea to extend the fea­ture set that the man­u­fac­turer has thought of when design­ing the product.

Truth is that this is pos­si­ble only with a lim­ited num­ber of prod­ucts. Often it’s also needed a good degree of ‘hack­ing’ skills not to brick your new toy.

Just think about what peo­ple has done with hacked Kin­dles, or WiFi routers or have a look at the Spacepi­rates Wiki to find some ideas.

Below you can have a look at a Kin­dle hacked to be a weather station.

Kindle Weather Display
Kin­dle Weather Display

I love this Kin­dle hack for two rea­sons. First it’s sim­ply gor­geous. Sec­ond it’s not built upon old hard­ware but Matthew built it from a brand new Kin­dle. I think this is just a clear exam­ple of what I am talk­ing about in this post.

Another thing I love about this is that you can bring new life to old stuff with­out the need to waste it. It’s like inject­ing a new soul to a dead body.

Unfor­tu­nately all elec­tron­ics out there is not designed to allow you to do this. The ques­tion is: why?

Short answer is that you will increase sup­port costs, you will need a new approach to war­ranty and you will have to deal with a whole new class of cus­tomer requests.

Well, so what?

Isn’t it about time to think about con­sumer prod­ucts in a dif­fer­ent way?

What if they were orig­i­nally designed to be aug­mented in their func­tion­al­ity from the very begin­ning? What if ven­dors open their inter­nals and pub­lish SDKs and HDKs for those who want to tin­ker the product?

I think each prod­uct should have an ecosys­tem around it. All prod­ucts must not be ‘fire and for­get’ products.

This kind of approach would be greatly ben­e­fi­cial to hard­ware man­u­fac­tur­ers. It will increase the prob­a­bil­ity of sell­ing the prod­uct and will cre­ate an inno­va­tion loop exter­nal to the com­pany. Sure, not all users are able today to hack their devices, and that’s why it’s just too com­plex. What if things were as sim­ple as installing a new app on their smartphone?

An idea for a startup

So, why don’t we think about a startup that can hack your old or new gad­gets for a fee?

Embed A Revolution!

I had the plea­sure to talk at the Bet­ter Embed­ded 2013 con­fer­ence a few weeks ago (Bet­ter Embed­ded) and actu­ally they were so keen to let me address the crowd with a keynote. I am still not sure why they did that but it seems they like me :-)

Once in a life­time I had the oppor­tu­nity to work on the pre­sen­ta­tion very early in advance and I think I was able to put together an inter­est­ing piece.

There are so many things that made this pre­sen­ta­tion spe­cial to me.

In ran­dom order:

  • The con­fer­ence was held in Flo­rence, where my mother was born. Actu­ally my mother was the first to be able to look at the pre­sen­ta­tion but, unfor­tu­nately, she passed away before she could see the fin­ished work.
  • Some of the char­ac­ters named in the pre­sen­ta­tions lived and made Flo­rence great in Mid­dle Ages and dur­ing Renaissance.
  • I think we really need a new (indus­trial) rev­o­lu­tion in this coun­try and we have all what we need in order to make it happen.
  • We also have all the tools we need to drive an effec­tive change.

I would be happy to give the same pre­sen­ta­tion to any­one who may be inter­ested. Get in touch and book a date :-)

In the mean­time, enjoy the slides!!

da Mentors! Our time for your startup.

A few weeks ago I was attend­ing just another event where the main topic was “Star­tups”. Same old faces, same old words, same old chit-​chat.

I fired up my iPad browser and searched for the terms “startup event” and this was what I got:

startup event google search
Google search for “startup event”

Have a look at the num­ber of results: 136 mil­lions!!! Yes, that’s right. 1.3.6. millions.

I am sure that there are valu­able events for star­tups in that list, and I am not try­ing to make an argu­ment about you attend­ing those events. What I would like to under­stand is what is the aver­age value that the star­tup­per brings home after attend­ing those events.

Are they of any value to him or it’s just dream­ing a dream?

Sure enough I don’t have the answer. Maybe you find the VC will­ing to invest in your startup, or the best tech part­ner on earth, or a good idea for your next startup. Maybe not.

Then, the same night, I looked at this video from TED:


And that was, some­how, illu­mi­nat­ing. You should have a look at it, but if you don’t have time just jump to 9.30 and lean back for a cou­ple of minutes.

“Bring your shovel!”

I picked up the phone imme­di­ately and called Max, my part­ner at MU Invest­ments, and said straight away: “Look, we have to do some­thing for star­tups. I mean, some­thing valu­able for star­tups far away from what we do with MU Invest­ments. Some­thing free!”. He’s crazy enough not even to ask what. The reply was “Let’s do it!”. A few days later Marco also jumped on board and here we are with da Men­tors!.

da Mentors!

What’s da Mentors!?

It’s quite sim­ple. Each of us will give away four hours of his time to star­tups who need pro­fes­sional help.

If you need a review of your pitch, a mas­sage to your busi­ness plan, sug­ges­tion on your web site or appli­ca­tion usabil­ity or any­thing else that you think we may help with, just call us and we will try to help you to our best.

Best thing? It’s free. We are doing this on a pro bono basis.

The for­mat is quite simple:

  • You have five min­utes to deliver your pitch and explain on what you need help.
  • You will get two hours of our time to actively work together on your issue.
  • You will spend one week doing your homeworks.
  • You will get an extra two hours of our time to fin­ish your work.

This is it. Plain, sim­ple and free.

We also would like this to spread. If you want to dupli­cate the for­mat, please do it. If you want to be a men­tor with us, drop us a line and we will be happy to have you. If you want to extend it, you are free to do it.

You will be able to find da Men­tors! pretty much everywhere:

Have a look and let me know what you think about it!

Killed By Bad Presentations? React!

Powerpoint

Raise you hand if you have ever been almost killed by a bor­ing presentation.

Yes, I think that almost every­body out there has had some expe­ri­ence with this.

Truth is that bor­ing and bad archi­tected pre­sen­ta­tions are just part of the prob­lem, at least accord­ing to my per­sonal point of view. I have done a lot of pub­lic speak­ing recently and, you know what, it’s get­ting bor­ing at least.

I def­i­nitely hate the sce­nario where I am con­fined behind a podium and I am sup­posed to be the sub­ject mat­ter expert about some­thing while the peo­ple is sit­ting in the room lis­ten­ing to me. Worse is that their only option to inter­act with me is the usual ‘Do you have any ques­tions?’ at the end of the speech. There is no inter­ac­tion, no real time feed­back, and no option to adapt the con­tent of your speech to the audi­ence reactions.

Yes, that may be really scar­ing for most speaker. Most of them feel really com­fort­able being con­fined in the bor­ders of their slides. Think for a sec­ond at the poten­tial­ity of a sce­nario where you can dis­trib­ute in real-​time addi­tional con­tent to you audi­ence, make the envi­ron­ment react to what you are pre­sent­ing while not being con­fined behind a podium but being part of the audi­ence itself.

If we go for­ward we could even image to trans­form a speech in a par­tic­i­pated event where every­body gives his con­tri­bu­tion to the con­tent, maybe with just a ‘like’.

At the very same time while you speak you see a lot of peo­ple using their note­books, tablets, phone and you are sure that there may be a con­tinue flow of twit­ter, or Face­book sta­tuses being posted.

I think there is a lot of unex­pressed poten­tial in deliv­er­ing con­tent and sto­ries to peo­ple. It’s time to take action and build some­thing exciting!

Over the course of time I have dis­cov­ered that it’s much more excit­ing to work on some­thing new with other peo­ple, and that’s why I am call­ing for help and contributions.

I would like to form a group of peo­ple work­ing on new and cre­ative ways to deliver con­tent and sto­ries. Give a new set of tools to dig­i­tal sto­ry­telling. All what will be pro­duced will be licensed with a Cre­ative Com­mons License and made pub­licly avail­able. At the very same time soft­ware will be dis­trib­uted with a good Open Source license.

I already have a few ideas to build upon and a few bricks to use:

  • Use Microsoft Kinect Sen­sor or you web­cam to con­trol your presentation.
  • Arduino to con­trol lights, sounds and other phys­i­cal ele­ments in the room.
  • node.js to make the pre­sen­ta­tion inter­act with peo­ple in the audi­ence, col­lect rel time feed­back, and dis­trib­ute extra content.
  • Col­lect­ing social net­works feed­back in real-​time and dis­play it in a way that is mean­ing­ful to the speech.
  • a lot more…

So, if you are inter­ested in this drop me a line at js email
and let’s see how we can move on to build some­thing exciting.

I am look­ing for­ward to hear­ing from you!

P.S. No, you don’t really need to be a magi­cian to do this.

Have a look at this: Marco Tem­pest — The elec­tric rise and fall of Nicola Tesla

Photo Credit: Mike Licht, Notion​sCap​i​tal​.com

Nokia Lumia 800. First impressions.

Nokia Lumia 800

I have been look­ing at the Nokia Lumia 800 for a while and, finally, I decided to give it a try.

Here my list of likes and dis­likes after two weeks of inten­sive use.

Likes

I like the fact that the imple­men­ta­tion of the Metro UI has been really designed and extended deep into the UX design. To me it really looks clean and light. The side effect is that you may have more strict guide­lines when devel­op­ing appli­ca­tions. Basi­cally all the appli­ca­tions looks and behave the same in terms of User Inter­face and User Expe­ri­ence. Non bad in prin­ci­ple, but maybe annoy­ing for those devel­op­ers who want to bring in some­thing different.

I love the typog­ra­phy of the User Inter­face. Per­sonal thing, but I do really love it.

The phone is really respon­sive, and fast. From this point of view I am not miss­ing the iPhone at all.

The dis­play is really, really good, and mate­ri­als and fin­ish­ing are fan­tas­tic. I got the blue one but I think I would pre­fer a black one. Rea­son is the bezel would look part of the body of the phone and that should look great.

Con­tact merge from Out­look, Gmail, Twit­ter, Face­book, and other social net­works is great, even if it can get messy in the long run. I am just dis­play­ing my con­tacts from Out­look after hav­ing had all for a cou­ple of days.

The cam­era is fan­tas­tic for pic­tures and not as great for videos.

From an appli­ca­tion stand­point the mar­ket is very well pop­u­lated, at least for my needs. I have found all the core appli­ca­tions I use on my iPhone.

And now the dis­likes. As always they will be much more than the likes since I tend to focus more on what I don’t like.

Dis­likes

I feel that the screen is some­times over pop­u­lated. Com­par­ing the mes­sag­ing appli­ca­tion on the Lumia and on the iPhone you will have much more con­trols and but­tons on the Lumia. All the but­tons on the last raw share the same size and there is no empha­sis on the send button

Upgrad­ing the phone to the lat­est soft­ware ver­sion has been a pain. I work on a Mac and I had to run the upgrade process through the Zune soft­ware on a Win­dows vir­tual machine. Long and very annoy­ing process.

Bat­tery life is a seri­ous issue, at least for my uti­liza­tion pro­file. With WiFi, push e-​mail, and back­ground appli­ca­tion I can hardly make one day with the device. Dis­abling every­thing and acti­vat­ing the bat­tery saver options in the set­tings menu will let me go home at night with 40% bat­tery life on the phone.

Audio qual­ity in voice call is not as good as in the iPhone. The max­i­mum vol­ume is very low and i found that the sounds was brighter on an iPhone.

Some appli­ca­tions have their own search but­ton, and I always con­fuse that with the search but­ton on the bezel, Yes, maybe it’s just me get­ting old.

It seems that I can­not trim the vol­ume of the sound in the alarm appli­ca­tion. I hate this, and I hate how ven­dors put so lit­tle atten­tion to the most used appli­ca­tion in every phone.

I think that the iPhone vir­tual key­board is still bet­ter on the iPhone. I am not as fast as I am on the iPhone on the Lumia. Maybe I will need some more time to get used to the differences.

I also had some issues with cer­tifi­cates from my Exchange server when run­ning the con­nec­tion over WiFi at the office. This is a weird issue, but I had not seen this on my iPhone.

Some of the appli­ca­tions I installed (Foursquare, Twit­ter, Face­book) are not as respon­sive as their equiv­a­lent on the iPhone. Yes, I know about Twit­ter and Face­book inte­gra­tion, but I just wanted to make a com­par­i­son between the two dif­fer­ent implementations.

Con­clu­sion

I would say that the Nokia Lumia 800 is a very good phone, and it may play as a sub­sti­tute of my iPhone. I am com­pletely sat­is­fied with the oper­at­ing sys­tem and I like many of the fea­tures of the new UI/​UX. From that point of view noth­ing will make me want­ing to switch back to the iPhone.

Bat­tery life and audio qual­ity are a no go for me. Audio qual­ity may be a pure Nokia issue not depend­ing on the OS itself. Bat­tery life may be more OS related.

These two things are crit­i­cal to me and for this rea­son I will go back to the iPhone for the time being.

My e-​mail Management Policy

e-mailI notice that peo­ple is always sur­prised when I tell them about the way I man­age my e-​mail messages.

These are the rules I fol­low for my work related e-​mail:

  • I don’t use any kind of tax­on­omy to archive my mes­sages. I have just one folder called “Archive” where I move all the mes­sages that I may con­sider use­ful in the future. I trust search enough to be sure to find every­thing I want in a timely man­ner. Truth is that you will never be able to find what you want when you need it even with the most detailed tax­on­omy you can imag­ine. It’s also true that man­ag­ing a com­plex tax­on­omy is really time consuming.
  • Impor­tant to notice that there are very few mes­sages that I keep in there. I tend to delete every­thing that is not mean­ing­ful to me for some reason.
  • I am the Gen­eral Man­ager in the Milan stu­dio in frog design and I ask all the peo­ple in here not to copy me on every e-​mail they send. I trust every­body is a pro­fes­sional and that they can do their work. If there is an issue on some­thing, pick up the phone or just reach my desk.
  • I have just another impor­tant folder called “ACP” that is an acronym for “Ad Culum Parandi” (Thanks to @agaved for the name he sug­gested dur­ing the old times in 3). In that folder I archive stuff that may be crit­i­cal to save one of the most impor­tant things in my body. I’ll let you guess what it is.
  • I check my mes­sage one every two hours and I have dis­able noti­fi­ca­tions. If there is some­thing really urgent it should come through my phone or via a visit to my desk. Every­thing else can def­i­nitely wait for two hours.
  • I am a big fan of Three Sen­tences and I use that rule every time I can.

These are my basic rules. More could be writ­ten on how I man­age the con­tent. Maybe another post in the future will be worth writing.

Do you have other rules? What are they?

Leave your com­ments. I will be happy to read.

Your Mobile Phone Is A Chameleon

chameleonIn recent times I have been fas­ci­nated by the amount of new appli­ca­tions, and hard­ware, that allows your mobile phone to become aug­mented in its functionalities.

Music has been one of the first areas where this become a reality.

With iRig you may turn you iPhone or iPad in a music stu­dio. Just select the soft­ware mod­eled amp and effects and you are ready.

You can turn your iPhone in a POS accept­ing credit card with Square.

You can have a Geiger counter using a probe con­nected to your iPhone (here), or just sim­ply use your phone cam­era to do it. (here)

You can mea­sure dis­tances using echoes (here).

There are dozens of appli­ca­tion to check your heart rate using the mobile phone cam­era and flash, and one of your fingers.

Your phone can be used as a baby mon­i­tor, or a spy device if you like.

And these are just the appli­ca­tions I can remem­ber right now. There are hundreds!

As I was writ­ing in my pre­vi­ous post I think this is def­i­nitely a new area we should look at for inno­va­tion in mobile.

It shows how the envi­ron­ment around you can be con­nected to your mobile phones in ways that we could not imag­ine a few years ago. Cur­rent smart­phones have so many sen­sors that we have just started to scratched the surface.

The inter­est­ing point is around tech­nol­ogy. I am sure that engi­neers were not think­ing about a dis­tance mea­sure­ment device when they place a mike and a speaker in your mobile phone. There will always be some­one who will try to push the hard­ware and soft­ware to new lim­its. This already hap­pened in the past with SMS, and the new hard­ware and soft­ware now avail­able have just made that world closer to peo­ple will­ing to explore and innovate.

For sure you will not just place phone calls with your mobile. Not anymore.

Why Mobile Is So Important

Last week I had the chance to attend a big con­fer­ence, and i was sit­ting in front of hun­dreds of peo­ple look­ing at them while they were lis­ten­ing at the speakers.

I always use these events as oppor­tu­ni­ties to observe peo­ple, and what they do. I am not work­ing for a mobile telco oper­a­tor any­more but my pas­sion and love for mobile has not (yet) left me.

Every­body was sit­ting there in front of device screen. Lot of mobile phones, lot of tablets, few PCs.

And I was think­ing: wow, mobile is there, really!

Some of them were tak­ing pic­tures, oth­ers were record­ing the dif­fer­ent speak­ers, some were send­ing sta­tus updates to Twit­ter or Face­book, or just read­ing e-​mails dur­ing bor­ing talks.

I knew I had to make a very short com­ment on a keynote and I just decided to tell this peo­ple why I think mobile is so important.

Your mobile is always with you

Can you think of any other con­sumer elec­tron­ics device which spends more time with you? My mobile phone actu­ally is spend­ing with me much more time than my wife. Think about that, and real­ize that your user is there .

The user has time while in mobil­ity

Time is a scarce resource. Just think about the time you spend on your phone to kill time while wait­ing for something.

The mobile phone deliv­ers emo­tions

Isn’t that true? Think about it. Did you ever receive a mes­sage like this “Beat­rice is here! Both mom and baby are doing fine”, “I think we need a break. I’ll call you”, “We won the deal! great job”. Pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, they are emotions.

Objects can now talk to your mobile phone

Today, more than ever in the past, object are able to talk with your mobile. Bar­codes, QR Code, NFC, pic­tures are just a few of the meth­ods the real world can use to con­nect with your phone. This is a new dimen­sion, and an impor­tant one.

You are always con­nected to the net

Well, ok, most of the times.

You mobile phone has many sen­sors

GPS, gyro­scope, cam­era, and micro­phone are just some of the many ways your phone can col­lect data from you and the envi­ron­ment around you.

Would you add some­thing to this list? Please, feel free to leave a com­ment if so.

Innovation In Cooking Pans

Just think about innovation.

Thermometer Pan

If we look at the def­i­n­i­tion of inno­va­tion on Merriam-​Webster online dic­tio­nary, here is what we get:

  1. : the intro­duc­tion of some­thing new.
  2. : a new idea, method, or device.

It’s quite sim­ple, isn’t it.

Some­how when we think about inno­va­tion we always think to some sci­en­tist work­ing in his lab full of expen­sive equip­ment. We feel like inno­va­tion is not sim­ple at all.

Yes­ter­day night I was cook­ing some past. I do like cook­ing and I have a few cook­ing pans on fire. One to boil water for pasta, another with some eggs in it, and the last one fry­ing some bacon for Car­bonara pasta.

I was cook­ing on autopi­lot and when bacon was ready I did not notice the han­dle was too close to the other pan and got very, very hot.

I hurt myself, noth­ing serious.

The main pur­pose of the han­dle on the cook­ing pan is to avoid these kind of prob­lems, but it did not work since the han­dle was too close to another source of heat, the other cook­ing pan.

The orig­i­nal han­dle con­cept works for the major­ity of uses, but it could not avoid me to get hurt by heat. Since its orig­i­nal design, it did not change much. There are some fancy cook­ing pans with ther­mome­ter on the han­dle to check food tem­per­a­ture, but that’s more related to the food than to the safety of the user.

Yes, you know that han­dles can get hot and you should always use some­thing to han­dle those pans. This is a ratio­nal thought. You have to think about it and not always you think, spe­cially when you have three pans run­ning at the same time.

There can be inno­va­tion in cook­ing pans? Obvi­ously, yes.

We can think of:

  • Hav­ing pans made of effi­cient mate­r­ial that will opti­mize energy spending.
  • Dif­fer­ent shape of pans for dif­fer­ent food type.
  • New non­stick material.
  • Method to make cook­ing faster and better.

As you see, there is lot of room for inno­va­tion in pans. Most of the things I have writ­ten will take a lot of effort into development.

I was just think­ing about an easy one.

I was just won­der­ing why nobody has ever thought of hav­ing han­dles that can change color if they heat.

The usual nice look­ing black if every­thing is fine. Yel­low if it’s hot, but still man­age­able, and red if it’s really hot.

Any­way, Car­bonara pasta was great.

The Future Of Product Design In A Connected World

Salone del Mobile

We will hold a spe­cial event at our Milan stu­dio dur­ing the Salone del Mobile week.

Hol­ger Hampf and Max Bur­ton, both Exec­u­tive Cre­ative Direc­tors at frog design, will give a speach on the future of prod­uct design in a con­nected world.

If you have some spare time, want to meet illu­mi­nated peo­ple and enjoy great food then join us on Fri­day April 15th.