Help Gumulon win the SXSW People’s Choice Award

For one night only, Ace, our alien space-mining friend, gets to put down his pickaxe and hit the red carpet.

Yes, Gumulon, Stride’s chewing-controlled game, is a finalist in the People’s Choice Awards at SXSWi (a small, not widely discussed festival in America).

Tonight is Ace’s big night and, if you happen to be in Austin, he needs your help. If you’re heading to the ceremony download the voting app and choose Ace’s colour when the time comes:

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.makelight.visualvoting

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/visual-voting/id816176741?mt=8

Go on, what has a space-mining alien ever asked of you?

Monster[1]

SXSWi 2014 – 10 Interesting Things Spotted So Far

1. What it’s really like to live with Google Glass

IMG_7745

The Google Glass #GlassChat Meetup was lots of fun, and hugely eye opening. I gate crashed a meeting of Glass early adopters, or ‘Explorers’ as Google wants us to call them.

We discussed some of the amazing potential applications for glass, and the ways it’s being used already, by surgeons, film makers and travellers etc.

One idea that really stuck out was in emergency healthcare. Imagine if first aid kits contained a Glass device. Someone has a heart attack and needs CPR. The first-aider puts on Glass, connects to the emergency services via a hangout, and the paramedic on the other end sees what they can see, and literally shows them where they need to put their hands and what to do. It’s just one of many incredible potential applications.

But, the problems are still hard to ignore. Much of the backlash from the public has centered around Glass’ ability to take photos and films without the knowledge or consent of the people being filmed, raising fears about privacy. The ‘Explorers’ argued that we’re constantly being filmed on CCTV anyway, so what’s the difference? Well, I think there’s a massive difference between a camera mounted high up on a wall, and a camera mounted on the face of the person you’re trying to have a conversation with, but still.

Whether we like it or not, Glass and other devices like it are likely here to stay.

 

2. Understanding your genetic code costs a mere $99 and will change the way you live your life

23andme
Founder of 23andMe (and wife of Google founder Sergey Brin) Anne Wojcicki talked about the potential understanding your own genetic code has to revolutionise healthcare and the way you live your live. The $99 service can tell you what diseases and health issues you’re genetically predisposed to, and provide you with advice on how to avoid them. This is technology that has been talked about for quite a while, but it’s now finally here, and affordable to just about everyone.

However, they have recently suffered a massive setback, with health regulators in the US ruling that their analysis products do not have enough evidence to support their claims, and therefore forcing them to suspend their service. But, make no msitake, we're going to be seeing plenty more of this sort of thing.

3. SparkFun CEO Nathan Seidle shares some awesome ideas on computer interfaces for people with disabilities

We accidentally ended up having hotdogs with SparkFun CEO Nathan Seidle. SparkFun make and sell lots of incredibly useful parts that hackers all over the world use to build physical computing projects (many of our window projects at WK have been built using SparkFun parts). Over dinner he shared with us some great ideas for computer control interfaces for people paralysed from the neck down, including a type of interface users can control with their tongues.

Nathan also talked about some of his other favourite ideas he's seen people create with the products he sells. "It's artsists who are coming up with the most surprising and inspiring ideas" says Nathan.

4. ExtraSolar – Volunteers wanted to explore newly discovered planet

The gaming world is dominated by big AAA first-person shooter titles, that while impressive, tend not to be all that original. So it’s refreshing when you come across something completely different.

ExtraSolar is one such striking idea for an Alternative Reality Game. The game asks you to volunteer to help a NASA-like organisation exploring a fictional extra-terrestrial planet using robotic rover. Go sign up now and take part.
 

5. Forget wearables. Get ready for Embeddables.

While wearable technology is without doubt one of the biggest trends of SXSWi 2014, it’s embeddable technology that may make the biggest change to our lives.

Imagine if you had a taste sensor embedded in your tongue, that’s connected to your Nespresso coffee machine. You make a new coffee, and take a sip. Yuck – not so good. The sensor in your tongue senses your distaste, and analyses what was wrong with it. Then without you lifting a finger, it 'phones home' to the Nespresso factory, and creates you a new coffee blend, specifically blended to appeal to your tastes. Nespresso then send you a sample of your new personalised blend, and a discount coupon to buy more of it. Sounds scary? Perhaps, but it has less to do with science fiction that you might think.

6. Leetcoin lets you make Bitcoin wagers on multiplayer gaming

Leetcoin is a platform for computer game players to raise the stakes when competing against each other, by making wagers with Bitcoin. Leetcoin think it’s going to create a new breed to professional computer game players, almost like professional athletes in sports. £50 large game, Dom?

7. Poetry meets architecture, technology and Interaction design

The #PoetTech guys are taking poetry out of it’s usual surrounds, and using sound projection technology from MIT to give people new, unusual and immersive ways to experience poetry. Take the Poetry Drone, for example.

8. The future of sports can be found in data

Super sophisticated activity sensors with 1000s of different data points, are changing the way professional athletes are playings sports. In the race for better performance, measuring everything that goes on during the game is potentially very powerful in understanding what’s going on, where your team might be going wrong, and even do things like prevent injuries before they happen. But with all this data pouring in, the real challenge is in making sense of it, and utilising it in a meaningful way.

9. How technology is making the world simpler as it gets more complex

Wired magazine’s Cliff Kuang explained in his talk about the future of user experience design for the ‘post screen world’, as things get more and more complex, the need for simplicity becomes ever greater. But we can get there with greater contextual awareness in our apps, as sensors become smarter providing more information to the app about where the user is and what they’re doing. Some of this exists already. Take Google Now, for example. But expect more of it.

 
 
10. Cinder is taking creative technology to the next level

Creative coding framework Cinder is become more and more powerful, and this combined with the new generation of graphics chips that are in todays computers, are allowing creative coders to very rapidly create some astonishingly sophisticated projects.

SXSW: Day one

Luke Tipping writes:

Day one was fantastic. A great start to SXSW. Rather than dashing from talk to talk we decided to do one thing well and get stuck into a workshop. The workshop was titled 'Making More of Ourselves – Sensory and Multimodal UX'. It was taken by the brilliant Alastair Somerville from Acuity Design.

It was an activity-based session about challenging our tendency to default to designing purely visual interfaces, instead asking us to consider using other senses. Alastair talked about how it’s actually other senses – like touch, smell and hearing – that are key to designing the future of multimodal user experiences for wearable technologies.

First up was an exercise in haptics. In our team we were asked to communicate a simple message using only touch. Here’s W+K's Will asking Marshall Page (Tech Initiatives Manager at Nike) what time the store closes using only his hands.

Marshall1

Turns out it’s actually really difficult to communicate with touch on the hand because hands are massively overloaded with sensory input. That’s why the US army is in fact designing haptic direction systems that communicate by vibrating on the individual's back.

Next up was an exercise in gesture, supposedly the next chapter in interface design. See Leap Motion, etc. The interesting thing about gesture is that, like words. it's a language riddled with cultural and universality issues. (Think about how better at it the Italians are than us). So Alastair asked us to explore this by looking at well-known symbols and trying to translate them into body language.

Gestures1

Lastly we did an exercise in sensory augmentation. Alastair talked about how we have nine senses yet current wearables in the market ignore the majority of them:

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Taste
  4. Smell
  5. Touch
  6. Balance and acceleration
  7. Temperature
  8. Kinesthetic sense
  9. Pain

In the past Alastair worked on using fragrance to help direct the visually impaired. We tried apps like Heare, that help the visually impaired to see with sound, and the Scenti app that wakes you up with the smell of bacon.

So all quite profound, really. How else could you communicate with people beyond the visual? What does your brand's front door feel like? How might a vibrating basket handle help people find the products they want in your store? How might smell reward your customers for a desired business outcome? 

More tomorrow.

Gumulon shortlisted for SXSW Interactive Awards

IA-Awards-for-Web

Gumulon, the intergalactic, chew-controlled mobile game we created for Stridge gum, has been shortlisted for the SXSW Interactive Awards. Gumulon made it into a list of five finalists in the Experimental category, which highlights "cutting-edge and trend-setting works pushing the envelope and challenging our perceptions of what’s possible". As you can imagine, we're geeking out over here. 

6a00d8341c823e53ef019103966264970c-400wi

We're Texas-bound again in a few weeks' time, so be sure to tune in here for a lowdown on the good, the bad and the Barley of interactive, the pretty ugly of design and let's face it, quite a bit of BBQ talk. 

W+K @ SXSWi part three: “The Good, The Bad & The Barley” – Interactive’s View

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 22.41.52

Terrible picture, great talk: Rushkoff was a real highlight

Graeme
Douglas, Head of Interactive & Innovation, and Luke Tipping, Senior
Interactive Creative, write:

The genius of SXSW is its innate ability to
shrug off any criticism of it with a quick ‘well, you chose the talks, son –
deal with it’. And with seemingly thousands on offer (maybe it was hundreds,
but you get the point) half the battle in Austin is navigating the different
points-of-view on offer and working out what’s going to be genuinely
useful/different/provocative versus less interesting than a non-BBQ
based meal. The titles can give you a little guidance but even the finest headlines can often mask some pretty lame content. (‘What Can We Learn
From The Unabomber’ was predictably good whereas ‘It’s Reddit’s Web, We Just
Live In It’ was disappointingly banal and one-sided). The seemingly arbitrary
‘difficulty’ scale the organizers attach to each piece of content is equally
useless (we all want the difficult stuff, right?).

The only guidance we can
proffer for future visitors is:

– Avoid talks by agencies (aside from W+K,
ahem). Chances are you’ll know more

– Avoid anything purporting to have the
definitive answer to something, especially if delivered list format (‘ten ways
to create a viral!’)

– Avoid anything with advertising in its
title (more on that in a bit)

– Go see the big hitters (like Douglas Rushkoff who was there to talk about 'Present Shock', his new book, the thrust of which is "that we no longer have a sense of a future, of goals, of direction at all. We have a completely new relationship to time; we live in an always-on “now,” where the priorities of this moment seem to be everything" – well worth a read). These guys – the rock stars – are invariably better prepared, and invest more inwhat they present. It's not a bulletproof strategy, but it's a decent bet.

– Go weird (like Tony D says): the more
esoteric, oblique and, frankly, random, the better

Perhaps as valuable as the scheduled panels
(or, arguably, more so) are the conversations and connections around the edges;
the people you meet randomly at an informal hackathon, the chats that happen
over a weak American beer as you compete to spot the try-hard Barleys rocking Google
Glass*. Hackney Council, with Tech City – yeah, Old Street roundabout – put up a
good show (ably assisted our chums at Mother London) with Hackney House, a
pop-up showcase of some of the interesting things, ideas and people currently
bubbling up from that digital enclave in East London. OneDotZero, MakieLab, BERG, and the
inimitable Daniel Hirschmann were amongst some of the speakers dropping a bit
of Shoreditch on Austin.

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 22.38.11

Just an honest adman, wearing a prototype set of arduino-powered hackable sunglasses at Hackney House.

The other issue, and we're acutely aware of the irony in even raising this, is the rise of the admen in Austin. They're (we're?) everywhere. A few years ago, our presence was limited to those that had a specific interest in emerging tech and its implications. Not now. Everyone tips up for what is in danger of becoming Cannes, TX. The reason is probably straightforward: tech and emerging platforms are now everyone's issue, not just half a dozen geeks in the corner. We've popped over the tipping point in the last couple of years where everyone involved in the brand communication game actually does give a shit about this stuff, or at least recognises the importance of it.

What happens from here on in is anyone's guess; but what is certain is SXSW need to do something to manage the tide – they're not going to be able to stem the march of Madison Avenue and Soho (nor would they want to, given the $ that it brings with it), but it can't be at the expense of what makes Austin special, interesting and weird. This can't become an 'advertising' conference. As soon as that happens, it's dead. Plus, France already does one Mad Men conference very well (at least, depending on your point of view).

Ultimately SXSW is what you make it; choice
paralysis is your biggest enemy, an ability to read the room, and confidently
stroll out of a lame panel within the first five minutes is your greatest ally. The challenge is to ensure you’re in
credit when it comes to balancing the good vs. bad panels when you reflect on
the event en route home. Sprinkle that with a handful of interesting conversations with new people you'd like to work with, and you're not far off something really worthwhile.

And I think we just about achieved that.

///

But what of the chat? Whilst the diversity
and breadth of the event means it’s hard to properly pin it down, there was one
theme evident that was pretty hard to avoid.

SXSW 2013 was the year of hardware. A shift
to the real world. Where hype about software was matched with Vines, instagrams
and hashtags about uniquely interactive physical objects.

Nope. Software hasn’t gone away. It’s just
left it’s glass slab home in favour of eating into other objects. Objects more
natural and useful because their apps are invisible and embedded.

What’s driving the shift from bits to
atoms? Education. Yep the mobile phone is bright and hyper connected but today
the objects it connects to are still quite dumb. The next chapter in the
Internet Of Things an is increase in the intelligence of the objects that
mobile phones connect to.

Medication caps that text you if you forget
to take your pills. A fork that sets your alarm off when you eat too fast.
David Rose at MIT called these ‘enchanted objects’. This year we’ll all be
asking how we can embed sensors like GPS, accelerometers, RFID, image capture or
the Social Graph into our products to magic them an IQ boost. 

As well as objects Chris Risdon of Adaptive
Path reminded us that sensors can be used to create more personlised interactions
with people in service design too. ‘Handy’ said Steve Yankovich, eBay’s Head Of
Technology, because ‘if we know that a high value customer is in the shop then
we want to give them a bigger hug.’ Lookout soon for geofenced storefronts that
recognise you through your digital wallet.

Other hardware highlights this year
included 3D printer scanners, gesture control, OUYA, intrinsic wearable
technologies and the aforementioned Barley accoutrement du jour, Google Glass.

Bre Pettis, CEO of 3D printing company
MakerBot showcased the MakerBot Digitizer. Which he believes will help his
company shift from being a producer of 3D printers to being at the heart of a
digital reproduction ecosystem. Scanning means no longer will we have to be a
CAD design pro to print in 3D. Using our smartphone we just need to scan the
object we want to reproduce (steal). Remember what happened when somebody made
it easy to copy songs in the music industry? Ahoy there Printer Pirates.

Leapmotion was the most tweeted about
start-up at SXSW. A small, $79 USB device launching in May allows people to
control their computers using hand gestures in mid air. It’s able to sense
individual finger movements for fine manipulation of objects and apps on screen.
As a piece of hardware Leapmotion’s role in the world is to get rid of software
altogether. Today software layers present us with a series of complex elements
and choices for how to navigate a digital environment. This is driven by the
need to interact with a mouse, trackpad, keyboard, or glass panel. Leapmotion flips the bird to that. As Golden Krishna at Samsung said ‘the best interface
is no interface’.

Julie Uhrman, CEO of open-source gaming
platform OUYA, discussed how her hardware console would 'open up the world of
TV gaming'. ‘All great games deserve the TV screen’ she said. Which is why she
built OUYA to be open-source. To attract some of the most innovative and
popular gaming developers who have been designing for tablet and mobile more
recently. Super Hexagon on my 32”? Yes please.

Ouya_Console

Olivier Bau from Disney Labs was a
highlight at the festival. He demonstrated the next era of wearable
technologies. No not hardware that you wear on your skin but hardware that you
wear underneath it. Taking inspiration from comic books his philosophy is that
‘the best superpowers are invisible’. That’s why he’s created a wearable device
that interrupts the body’s electrical current with different frequencies to
create a wide-ranging set of movement. Frequencies that guide your fingers to
play Stairway To Heaven on the guitar for example.

Ray Kurzweil is coming for
you, Mr. Page.

Then on the penultimate day Timothy Jordan
of Google took to the stage to demonstrate the most worrying technology I’ve seen
since the invention of social media; Google Glass. He says that ‘by bringing
technology closer it weirdly gets out of the way’. I say ‘LolKatz in my eyes
ain’t out of the way mate’. For every layer of overlaid we become more distant
from the underlaid. ‘Google Glass please remove that homeless person from my sight’,
‘Google Glass please make that river look more clean’. No. I don’t want to see
the problems of the real world and other eco systems brushed under the
augmented Google carpet. They need to be seen with our own two eyes.

Thankfully the final talk at SXSW was about
seeing beyond the banjo-laden launch video from time to time. As the SXSWi verteran and all-round legend Bruce Sterling
so brilliantly put it ‘every deployment of technology isn’t necessarily an
advance. Remember that technology does not always make it better. There are
still people sleeping in a cardboard box in Silicon Valley’.

What’s all this  got to do with hardware? Well our hunch is
that hardware’s hard. Harder than software. There’s more to an atom than a
drag, a swipe and a pinch. You can smell it, lick it and trip over it. Atoms
are expensive and constrained compared to bits. They require energy and more
atoms to be arranged and duplicated. Which means the risk is higher. Not just
to the bottom line but to the betterment of humanity too.

So as Tony D said, before we start
building, making and printing things, before the Wow Factor, let’s ask
ourselves, where’s the betterment? 

@graemedouglas / @luketipping

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 22.45.05

BBQ, well nice.

 

 

*Glass will be amazing, we're sure.

W+K @ SXSWi part two: “A Virgin’s Take on SXSW” – creative’s perspective

Logo
W+K London ECD and Global Partner Tony Davidson writes:

Yep, I’m slow to the game.  This was my first SXSW.  Seems like I’m not the only one, as the plane
is full of admen trying to discover the secret formula for keeping our business
alive.  

What would I glean from this tech festival
that crosses with film and music?

My first impression was of lots of people
bumping into each other as they walked between talks, heads down, glued to their
shiny rectangular interfaces.  Once
seated inside the auditoriums tweeting, blogging, emailing, working and sending
messages to friends and loved ones became the main event, whilst simultaneously
listening to the lectures. I had intended to join the people in this ritual in
order to let my comrades back home instantly know what was going on, but as the
talks progressed I realised that a more rounded opinion once I had a little
time to reflect on what I’ve seen might be a better option. You remember reflection?
That thing that we don’t seem to have much time for in this increasingly fast-paced world of ours.  As Bruce Sterling pointed
out in his fine closing remarks, we should take time to think about what we are
killing as this obsession for new technology surges ever forwards.

Several reoccurring themes came up during
the week.  What is good design? being one
of them.  Josh Clark, Principal of Global
Moxie, argued that tech designers were too quickly designing for the interface
as we know it, rather than thinking about the actual problem and solving it in
whatever way was most appropriate. 

Why build an app for locking your car that
requires several interactions when it could be designed so you don’t even have to
think about it?  The best technology
becomes second nature and hopefully invisible. 
The ability of tiny sensors to enable this kind of thinking formed a
large part of the talk and it is amazing to hear how people are already using
these to make our lives better: a tyre that can sense when it needs to inflate
itself, a pill that reminds you that you’ve taken it.  

 Tony Fadell, formerly of Apple and founder of
Nest, and Hosain Rahman of
Jawbone talked
about ‘Breaking the mould with meaningful design’. They argued that good design
should touch every part of the process: the product, the packaging, the
interface, the marketing, the customer service and anything else you can think
of.  Clearly meaningful design got left
behind in the ‘Great Tech Rush’ of the past few years.  Well now it’s time for designers to reclaim
their rightful place alongside the geeks as equals.  Going round the trade show, there is still a
sense that people are so busy making stuff they are not baking good design
principles in at the start of the process. 
Meaningful design is not a new concept. Apple products may have finally opened the
mainstream's eyes to the possibility of form and function working in harmony across
every aspect of a business, but back in the 1980s Dieter Rams, famed for his
work with Braun, became concerned by the increase in “an impenetrable confusion
of forms, colours and noises”. As a result he penned what some refer to as the
‘Ten Commandments of Good Design’. 
Clearly Jonathan Ives took note. 
I think every tech company should have these printed large on their
walls as they still apply to every aspect of design.

Tony1

It’s not easy to achieve all of these.  As Fadell said, “Simple is really hard to do”.
But as designers at the forefront of technology we should be setting examples,
even if it means delaying product releases, or not making as much profit.

One of Ram's principles was that ‘Good
design is environmentally-friendly’. 
It’s easy to get seduced by the magic of technology. Clearly the talk on
Leap Motion technology had the audience buzzing; the ability to mould objects
out of thin air and then print them in 3D is mind-blowing, but wouldn’t it be
even more amazing if you could reverse this process so there was no waste? 

Tony2

It would seem that the tech industry isn’t
the only one that needs to bake in good design at the beginning.  The food industry uses cutting-edge
technology to make their products more addictive and so maximise profits at the
expense of their consumers’ health.  Michael
Moss, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the New York Times
talked about his latest book ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat’ which uncovers many of the
disturbing truths behind this industry and how they have been sweeping the
issue under the carpet for years. 

As a dreamer, I appreciated Astro Teller’s talk
about the philosophy behind Google X’s 
‘Moonshot’ thinking.  But what’s
different is that these folks aren’t just dreaming of big hairy audacious goals,
they are executing them as well. This is a place where “Responsible irresponsibility is required”, a place where failure is not only accepted, it’s
positively encouraged in order to get to a greater goal. 

I would love to have heard about some of the
projects and their biggest failures, but was not to be, as they only like to
talk about stuff that makes it to market. 

One of the biggest ‘Moonshot thinkers’ in
the world took centre stage on Saturday. 
Having co-founded Paypal, Elon Musk is currently the non-exec chairman
and principal shareholder of SolarCity, which he helped create; the Founder, CEO
and chief designer of Tesla cars; as well as the Founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, through which he is planning trips to Mars and other planets. His simple philosophy of
‘Dream big and pay the bills along the way’ has led to extraordinary
results.  What came across was his single-minded
determination combined with humility: “I’d like to die on Mars, but not during
the landing”.

Tony3

Tony4

It was good to see the counter argument
against technology even if it was based on the writings of killer Ted
Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. David Skrbina, a senior lecturer in
philosophy at the university of Michigan and long term pen pal of Kaczynski, has
recently published a book of his writings. 
Peter Ludlow, a philosophy professor at Northwestern University, argued
on behalf of technology in what was a healthy debate.

The crowd-sourcing debate goes on. Scott
Belsky, Co-Founder and CEO of Behance, a creative portfolio platform, is a
strong believer in quality, not quantity. 
Meritocracy is his goal, where the truly talented become visible and can
therefore be contacted directly by brands, clients and collaborators. He questioned
whether the crowd is a great judge and was more in favour of the credible mass
than the critical mass when it comes to rating work.

He was also critical of the ‘long tail’,
saying that it is causing isolated areas where there is only one kind of person.  He believes it is when different creative
disciplines cross over that true innovation happens. (This theme recurred in a
number of the talks.) His final plea was for attribution to all parties
involved in projects so that you can clearly see who has done what.

He also had some useful tips when hiring,
gleaned from the mistakes that he made on his journey with Behance: hire on
initiative rather than experience and hire people that are motivated by solving
problems, not money.

So what did I learn at SXSW? There are some
super-smart folks down here who make cool shit, some of which will transform
our lives.  And yet whilst the tech
industry may be leading the way, it is still making the same mistakes that other
industries have done before: designing products that are not useful, diverting
to the traditional media of the interface rather than ‘walking in stupid’ every
time there is a new problem to solve, working in isolation from other creative
disciplines, failing to value great storytelling. To this point it was interesting
to note that the most engaging talks I attended came from writers.  And I’m not talking about writers who only
write code. Douglas Rushkoff and Bruce Sterling gave two of the most emotionally
engaging talks. In the advertising business the rush to jump on the tech train
has resulted in great writing taking a back seat.  Well, guess what? Storytellers – like designers,
you need pull up a chair and sit alongside the geeks.  We all need to work together to make a
fundamental shift. We all have a responsibility to make sure that what we
design is something we actually need, something that truly enhances our lives.

Top tips:

Think big.

Be prepared to fail.

Make good design part of every touch point.

Ask yourself – is your product hurting or
helping society and the environment?

Build diverse teams to solve problems

Hire great writers, both coders and storytellers.

Book a hotel that isn’t a 25 minute cab
ride away.

And most importantly, stay weird.

– Tony D

W+K @ SXSWi part one: “Pretty Ugly” – design’s perspective

Wieden + Kennedy London Head of Design Craft Guy Featherstone writes:

48 hours after six days at SXSW and finally my brain is stabilising, I can now reflect on what was a whirlwind of interesting, inspiring, noisy, pretty, ugly seminars and presentations.

Having only come to this event for the first time this year, and from a design position, the majority of conversations/debates and talks that I was primarily attracted to, were coming from areas of design development, tech innovation, entrepreneurship and culture.

Many of the seminars and panels I attended were positively informative, sharing of new ideas and future ambitions, combined with innovative technologies with thinking and theories for tomorrow as well as today. These ideas were, mostly, pretty engaging and sometimes delightful, though mostly presented in an ugly way. I don’t necessarily mean painful KeyNote slide transitions, poor Powerpoint compositions or even atrocious typography; I mean the story telling. As you’d expect, the majority of sessions introduced you to innovative product development and scientific creations, combined with interesting theories about future technologies, human behaviour and the relevance of engagement. Much of this was highly inspiring, though a consistent thread which I felt was often lightly skipped over, or missed entirely when presenting these stories, was the process. How you get to ideas, the findings, the failings, the learnings, the all-important prototyping stories, these nuggets are for me the richest, most powerful and inspiring values when telling a story about creations.

Three pretty examples that stood out for me were:

A fully integrated, well-informed product design session chaired by the infamous Tony Fadell (from Nest) and Husain Rahman (from Jawbone) with questions from Wired’s Scott Diadich, ‘Breaking the mold of meaningful design’. This was an interesting seminar that covered many topics stemming from the function and the implementation of form, the values of simplicity, purity, art and accessibility. Fadell talked of ‘design architecture touching every part within the process’, the importance of design that challenges both software and hardware development, ‘breaking the mold’ by challenging the traditional rules of design.

Once again, I only wish that Fadell and Rahman had exposed the audience to more stories behind the process, the problems that themselves and their teams faced when developing the Nest thermostat and the UP wristband. #designtech

A session I was super-excited about attending was ‘Leap Motion and The Disappearing User Interface’, developed by David Holz and Michael Buckwald. From the moment I saw the Air Harp video that did the rounds recently, I’ve been keen to learn more about the potential of this tech and also have a play with it myself.  Yes, the ability to control our digital environments the same way we control our real environments is upon us. The guys discussed many things centred around the future potential of Leap Motion, and the biggest thing holding back computers and technology being how we use them. The film below shows David Holz demonstrating some super-quick 3D modelling with real actions. No gestures, no sign language needed; just pure intuition: a playful, very human, cool-looking tool. I can't wait to see what developers now do with this piece of kit. Watch out #leapmotion

 

Last of the pretty:

The most prolific case of copyright infringement ever, Kim Dotcom spoke via a Skype panel hosted by Wired’s contributing editor Charles Graber. The Megaupload founder Skyped into a theatre hall (surprisingly only half-full) of people from his New Zealand abode last Tuesday afternoon. Naturally, it wasn’t design that attracted me to this epic moment but rather the politics, innovation and curiosity of what projects and ventures Kim might now be pursuing. He talked at length about his case, the FBI and his extradition back home to the United States. This was combined with his views on privacy, piracy and the grey area that is the future of digital. His face was projected onto the wall above the stage within the auditorium like a comedy sketch from the 1980s. Kim had considered every detail of his image. He was beautifully art directed, dressed entirely in black, against a black back drop, occasionally wiping his brow with a black hand towel. He talked with humility, eloquence and the occasional burst of random humour about his arrest last January and the seizure of all his assets, including his many cars, along with the priceless vanity licence plates that read MAFIA, HACKER, GUILTY, etc. A super-smart guy with a great sense of humour that will no doubt have a film scripted about him very soon. #skypekim

(Please excuse my rather loud snigger at the front end of this video). 

 

Some ugly:

An area I found to be unconsidered on many levels was designing and development with little or no measure of sustainability. This should be a fundamental design value when creating ideas and products for tomorrow, the future and beyond. We’re all living in a noisy time, a disruptive time, a time of daily deaths, a time when we should all be ever more responsible about what it is we do, what it is we
create, and how reinforced the longevity of it is. If we continue to ignore this value within the process of design and innovation, we are only contributing to an already polluted visual world with negative environmental effects. 

If it’s not simple, benefiting our lives and generally adding strength and value, then it’s pointless. If it’s complicated, slow, non-intuitive and lazy in its design values, once again it’s going to be messy and noisy. All ideas and creations should be relevant, not cool, in order to transcend time and be
positively effective.

Another ugly would be the glorious WWW. I was hoping to hear someone people talk about this but unfortunately it was never raised in any of the sessions I attended.

We have to simplify and craft with a more purist approach; this medium, this hub, this world, is messy and grotesquely ugly.

I reach out to you: let's all try and lift this messy nonsense, cleanse and eradicate the global epidemic that is the skeuomorphic disease. This, combined with other poor design qualities, is becoming a visual pollutant to this environment. No more, to those glossy, sticky, wet-looking buttons, those torn edges on digital calendars. We should re-educate, reduce and craft a simpler way of presenting things like interfaces, buttons and actions on-screen. Together let’s create more harmony, more happiness and general enjoyment for our eyes.

Last of the uglies would have to be 6th Avenue, Austin TX any time after 2am during SXSW 2013. Words can’t describe some of the sights you see.

Now that my ugly rant is done I’d like to conclude.

My cherry-popping SXSW 2013 experience was mostly pretty. Lots of very interesting theory patterns, movements and technologies to inform betterness, all topped off with some enormous Texas blue sky when exiting the conference halls each day.

🙂

#hatemyemoticon 

– Guy