Instantly Obsolete

DMI Design/Management Thinking 24: Little ‘i’ Innovation

I was in Portland last week to speak at DMI’s Design/Management Thinking Conference — Balancing Extremes: Tensions in Design. The two-day event, at the stunning Gerding Theatre, offered focused presentations, discussions, and interactive sessions with leading business and design leaders.

The program kicked off with John Hoke and Angela Snow, Nike’s VP of Global Design and Global Director of Creative Operations, who spoke about how tension in design fuels Nike’s breakthrough innovations. Thier big, bold keynote was peppered with high-energy videos featuring cutting-edge products and triumphal sports moments.

I immediately followed with my own session, Little ‘i’ Innovation, in which I proposed that committing to incremental improvements and pivoting on adjacent innovations are as critical to business success as the big breakthroughs ideas. It was a fitting juxtaposition. I was however compelled to employee the multi-talented Justin Timberlake to help me make my point.

A big thank you to the DMI and the conference organizers with a nod to co-chair Josh Levine of Great Monday.

Planning-ness 2012: Connected Personal Objects

Last week, David Bliss and I presented at the 2012 Planning-ness Conference.

For those that haven’t had a chance to attend, Planning-ness is described as an “un-conference” for creative thinkers who want to get their hands dirty. Each session is half teach and half workshop where participants put the presented ideas into action. This year a two-day, two-track event was hosted at the Annenberg Community Beach House in sunny Santa Monica.

In our session, we mapped the ever expanding Internet of Things landscape, broke down the “anatomy” of connected objects, and described how personal connected objects have the ability to encourage new behaviors, even increase human potential.

After which we gave the following assignment:

Think of a personal object. Imagine how you might embed sensors, log interesting data and connect it to the Internet for analysis. Consider what insights this new information would bring to light and what behaviors, or ideas those could inspire.

All of the participants embraced the challenge with passion and enthusiasm — generating ideas that sparked imagination, laughter and smart thinking for where the Internet of Things may go.

Check out the results of the work session here.

Future Spotting at CES

Pictured above:
Fig 1: Our client, Sony, had an impressive showing.
Fig 2: The new G-Shock with Bluetooth.
Fig 3: The Chambers, by Rza.
Fig 4: Polaroid’s Android camera.
Fig 5: Justin Bieber-bot with Tosy’s mRobo.

I went looking for the future in Las Vegas. From the moment I walked into the first hall of the Consumer Electronics Show I was adrift in a sea of 3D TVs, bedazzled iPhone cases, iPad wannabes and a myriad of lifestyle headphones. “Beats” by Dre have been popular for some time, but have you heard about “Street” by 50? Or, “Soul” by Ludacris? Perhaps you’ve heard of “Chambers” by Rza? Then there was the candy colored assortment from iWave, iLuv and Nixon. One thing is clear — lifestyle headphones are more than a fleeting fad.

We Like to Watch
By sheer quantity, you’d probably surmise that the future is all about TV. Ultra-thin and ultra-big — one was 84 inches! 3D in every flavor — including the new kind with no glasses required. (Speaking of glasses, I saw a TV that up to four people could all simultaneously watch different programs by wearing special glasses with built-in earbuds. I didn’t try it, but I can tell you that without the glasses it could possibly cause seizures).

The 4K and 8K TVs that offer four to eight times the pixel resolution were certainly impressive. Sadly, it may only be an alternate future in which the broadcast industry supports these formats.

For me, TVs that boasted facial recognition and took voice commands showed the most promise. I’m ready to ditch my many remotes and own a TV that knows what volume I like it set at and can pull up my favorite show, based on a verbal description.

“Hey TV, play that episode of 30 Rock when Jack talks to his TV.”

The Evolution of Things
It was the adaption of existing products that did the most to suggest future possibilities. For example, the Bluetooth G-Shock watch that communicates with your phone, Motorola’s smart fitness watch that collects both biometric and telemetric data, or Polaroid’s “smart camera” that runs on Android. There was also a swath of home electronics designed to allow users to control and monitor products and systems via their smartphones — from lights, to security systems, to thermostats, to washing machines and even dog collars. Personally, I loved the Swiss Army knife equipped with a 1-terrabyte drive, demonstrating that even our most basic survival tools are quickly adapting.

“Scissors, saw, sewing needle, screwdriver, bottle-opener, toothpick, all six seasons of Lost and my entire music collection, right here on this handy little pocket knife.”

Meaning in a Mass of Memes
CES does more to surface prevailing trends than to point toward future states. There were loads of replicated ideas, all played out with subtle differences in their form-factor, feature and styling. However, when you looked closely, clues to our future certainly emerged. For me, it was in the things that weren’t prevalent:

Entertainment without interactivity: We may be looking for deeper immersion, but we still love passive entertainment experiences.

Devices without boundaries: With sensors, apps and access to the cloud, smartphones are becoming smart everything.

Control without a GUI: Be it by voice, facial recognition or gesture, natural human interfaces offer wonderful new possibilities.

In my view, the natural human interfaces foreshadow the most interesting future possibilities — suggesting that the emotive connections digital technology can create are far more important than the electronic devices that deliver them.

NYT’s Interactive Mirror (and Kinect Hack)

The R&D team at The New York Times designed and prototyped this interactive mirror they call Reveal. It displays news media content as well as personal health and lifestyle data — all controlled through voice and gestural in-puts (or “natural user interfaces”).

More here on Reveal and the NYT R&D Lab.

Hello Future — So Glad You Could Make It

I’ve seen my share of childhood science fiction come to reality, and it never gets old.

I knew that Jaron Lanier was working at Mircosoft Research on applications for the Kinect device, however, I was unaware of the output from their Sensors and Devices Group — a part of the Computer-Mediated Living research area. The team produced the “HoloDesk” (video above), a system that combines a special optical display and the Kinect camera to create an experience that replicates realistic physical interactions with virtual 3D objects.

The demo is intriguing. And adjacent possible, astounding.

Internet of Things Say Hello to Model S

It’s true Tesla is a client, but that’s far from the only reason I love ’em.

In a large part it’s because they behave much more a lot like a Silicon Valley software company then an automotive manufacture. And, in addition to weaning us from our costly dependence on oil, Tesla on a mission to create the most connecting car. Ever.

Based on the videos from this Engadget post, it looks like there on track to do just that.

Sure, there’s that sexy 17-inch touchscreen in-dash display. That along with a full Webkit browser operates everything from the climate and navigation to the cloud-connected entertainment system. However, it’s the demo of the native app above that’s really got me ready to burn the $50K+ hole in my pocket when it rolls into full production in 2012.

Touch Me, I’m Creative

At this year’s MAX conference, Adobe announced their Touch Apps — a new family of touch screen applications designed to enable creative professionals to use their mobile tablets to create and present their ideas.

Inspired by Creative Suite, including the industry standard image-editor Photoshop, the Touch Apps are designed to work with both finger and stylus input.

Perhaps it’s time to get a room?

The Museum Of Obsolete Objects

Let us not forget those fallen appliances, tools and gadgets and relive those bygone times by taking a visit to The Museum of Obsolete Objects.

A really nicely designed YouTube site cataloging some of our finer obsolete technologies. And it seemed very fitting post for a blog titled Instantly Obsolete.

Danger, Everywhere!

Danger, Everywhere!

The Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Atomic Age, the Jet Age, the Space Age and the Information Age — every technological era has brought about profound effects on socioeconomic and cultural conditions. They’ve reshaped human behavior and reset reality.

But, before the full effects of each of these technological developments have taken hold and fully permeated the collective understanding, people and businesses undoubtedly found themselves navigating a strange “in-between” time — a time where future visions are uncomfortably mingled with legacy artifacts and pre-existing expectations.

Today, in the Connected Age, technological innovations are bringing about seismic shifts in our reality every day. The dust is far from settled, and perhaps, it never will be. For businesses and brands this uncertain and unpredictable landscape is rot with danger. Red herrings, pitfalls and fruitless dead-ends surround us, while opportunity is elusive.

But fear not, Larry Johnson (Odopod’s Associate Director of Strategy) and I have been hard at work cataloging the common mistakes, collecting helpful techniques and distilling best practices to survive and thrive in today’s in-between times. We’ve compiled them neatly, into a presentation of course, and would love the opportunity to share them with you, our industry friends and peers at SXSW 2012.

But we need your help. Please vote for our SXSW session : Danger is Everywhere: Illuminating common pitfalls of marketing’s in-between times and take a peek at some example slides here.

This preview is just a taste of what’s to come. We promise to keep it short, sweet and useful so send us a vote and we’ll see you there.

35 Years of Innovation

The Apple Tree

I have sampled many fruits from ‘The Apple Tree‘. Many, delicious and sweet. And few, under ripe and a tad sour.


I'm Guthrie Dolin. I'm a seasoned creative director, connector of dots, marketing strategist and insatiable entrepreneur. I’m Principal and Director of Brand and Strategy at Odopod in San Francisco.

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