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Initial Impressions of Sphero 2.0: The Best and Worst of the Digital Age

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 10.15.29 AMLast night I picked up a Sphero 2.0 from the Apple Store as I needed to test it out for a client project. After about 5 minutes I remarked to my wife that, “This is exactly what’s good and bad about my job. On the one hand, I get to play with these neat kinds of toys and call it work. On the other hand, it’s a $129 dollar ball.”

Initially, I thought my 8 month old puppy would love it, as it was more interactive then her usual analog tennis ball, but she was terrified by the thing. My 3 girls however, were enamored right away.

I’ve been using it for about 24 hours now and the thing is remarkably fun. It is after all a Bluetooth controlled robotic ball. It has a range of about 50 feet and is surprisingly fast and nimble on the controls. When on, it activates a color changing LED that adds to the overall whimsy of the experience.

Update: I was remarking to a few folks at the office that I was surprised that it didn’t have a camera, as it can be hard to pilot around walls. One of our admins remarked that if it had a camera, people would use it for upskirt pics. Fair point.

Sphero comes with a ton of potential apps, including games that blend digital and real-world environments for seemingly unique gaming experiences, most of which I haven’t tested yet but will do so soon. The hardware and software platform are open source, making it ripe for experimenting with. As such, here are some of the things I’m going to attempt to try with it over the next few weeks. Read More…

A Deep Review Of My First 2 Months With Google Glass

All Your Face Are Belong To Us

All Your Face Are Belong To Us

I’ve recently been adopted into the Google Glass explorer program. I debated whether or not to accept the invitation, but ultimately felt it probably would be a good idea, if for no other reason than there may be something unexpected that came from using them for a bit. Having had the chance to play with Glass a few times prior to this, the experience left me rather nonplussed. Factoring in the $1,500 price tag, and my interest was marginal. Had work not agreed to cover the expense, I probably would have passed on the invite altogether.

I’ve been using Glass off and on now for about a month and its taken me that long to crystalize some of my opinions on the kit. While I can see the potential for the Glass platform, and new apps keep coming online every day, I don’t think it’s ready for prime time.

Setting expectations.
If you’re expecting Glass to be the future of replacing your phone or tablet, you’re going to be disappointed. Based on what you may see on the ‘net, Glass is not a great device for watching video, surfing the web, reading long text, etc. I don’t believe it was designed with those kinds of usages in mind.

Going in I expected Glass to be a kind of dual threat; acting as a kind of digital personal assistant bringing much more utility and value to the kinds of things that the notification screen on your phone does, and serving specific purposes when using applications developed for the platform. Sadly, it only does one of these things well (for now).

Be prepared to look like a tool.
I don’t mean this to be snarky, but it’s a reality of the device, and one that I believe limits its potential as a mass consumer device. Glass is viewed by most as 1,500 dollars of wearable pretentiousness. I spent a bit of time wearing it in various situations and doing so tends to provoke one of two actions: hostility or annoying curiosity. When I was wearing Glass while around others (not in an agency setting mind you, but out IRL) people would either ask you not to take their picture and try to stay out of your line of sight. That, or every Tom, Dick, and Harry (strangers no less) would walk up and ask to try them on. Read More…

Dispelling 4 Mythological Beliefs About Innovation

According to the ancient Greeks, Prometheus took pity on mankind. He walked among men and noticed that they were no longer as happy as they were when Kronos the Titan was their king. He saw them living in the dark and shivering in the cold because they had no light to help them see and no fire to help them stay warm.

So Prometheus stole a spark from Zeus’s own lightning and brought fire to mankind. It was the dawn of civilization and enabled mankind to flourish.

But while mankind was now off cooking steak and smelting bronze, things didn’t work out so hot for Prometheus himself. For his disobedience he was chained to a rock at the top of a mountain and every day a giant eagle would come tear out his liver and eat it. At night, his liver would regenerate and the ordeal would begin anew each day.

It’s an interesting time for all the digital Promethei, especially those working in marketing. After all, our jobs require that we bring new and unknown ideas to our clients with the hope of ‘futurizing’ their marketing mix to make it more effective. In the America that we live in, almost everyone has a smartphone in his or her pocket. A majority of Americans have high-speed web access, and the sheer number of digitally enabled things we interact with is greater than ever before. The internet of things is upon us. The power and ubiquity of the platforms and APIs available to any given development team means things can be created at a scale and speed that were impossible 5 years ago.

Compounding the situation further is that you can’t flip through Wired or Inc. or Fast Company without reading pages upon pages about the ever-changing landscape of start-ups and internet-based businesses that are reshaping the American economy. The tech business is booming. Being a wild success with a tech idea is becoming the new American Dream and everyone fantasizes about becoming the next great digital titan.

But this has created a Jekyll and Hyde(1) type of situation. In one sense, it’s been empowering. Marketers are embracing new ideas and experimentation with a zeal that hasn’t seen since the early days of the web. Digital innovation is now coveted and the internet is no longer seen as an inferior medium compared to others. Additionally, clients are gaining a greater appetite for ‘new’ and “differentiating’ ideas and the willingness to try things may be at an all time high.

But.

As if they weren’t undervalued enough already, strategy and planning are becoming increasingly viewed as unnecessary, and clients are shifting from defining the objectives for a brand to defining the tactical imperatives of a brand. For example, it’s no longer ‘obtaining new customers’ or ‘getting a patient to stop missing every third dose’, it’s ‘build an app”, or ‘use Shazaam.’ This type of behavior isn’t new, but it does seem to be getting more commonplace with every passing day.

The problem isn’t so much the extensive tactical requests, but the inherent implication that because it’s supposed to be innovative, thinking isn’t necessary, success is easy, and poor design doesn’t matter. Mythologies have evolved with clients about what innovation is and how it happens, some of them so fanciful, they might as well come with wings and a tail. It’s time to dispel those myths and hopefully do so in such a way that we can all stop feeling like our livers are being eaten. Read More…

Deciphering Google’s Calico Cat

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 9.48.30 AM
Once again, Google is getting back into the health business. After shutting down its previously failed healthcare venture, Google Health in June of 2011, it’s tossing its preverbal hat back into the ring with the launch of the oddly named Calico.

 From the Larry Page’s G+ page: “I’m excited to announce Calico, a new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases.”

Here’s what we do know. Art Levinson, Chairman and former CEO of Genentech will head up Calico. Art also sits on the board of Apple and won’t be giving up any of his day jobs to run this project. That in and of itself should tell you how much emphasis Calico will carry with everyone mentioned in the press release. Beyond that, the actual details about the program are non-existent. That Google is orchestrating on an all out media blitz promoting a program that’s only oddly named vaporware at this point is a curious one indeed.

One little tidbit, buried in Larry’s G+ page is that Bill Maris, Managing Partner of Google Ventures, brought the project to life. My guess is that Calico isn’t so much a new line of business for Google, but a VC fund to invest in other start-ups.

Time magazine took the hyperbole to an extreme, labeling the venture “Google vs. Death.” If you’re hoping to read the article, which is locked behind Time’s pay wall, for some of the details of the venture, nay, ANY details about the venture, don’t waste your time. There aren’t any.

There’s a lot of work going on in the tech sector to extend life and slow down aging. Google probably sees two routes to success here. One way might be to diversify their core business by being the lead investors in the companies most likely to drive the next wave of technological innovation for healthcare in the U.S. It could be immensely profitable if it pans out. Google certainly has the cash flow to make some educated guesses, even if they never do turn a profit.

But Google is in the information business. More specifically, selling information it has about you. As the saying goes, “when something online is free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” Google Health was an attempt to encourage users to upload all kinds of data about their health and wellness. With that data, Google would more effectively be able identify you and your physical and emotional state of being as a means of selling advertising to brands, with that targeting coming at a premium price. The bad news for Google was that it never took off.

Whatever Google’s thinking with Calico, you have to believe the targeting ability of for tracking a users health and wellness as a means of delivering more effective ads will eventually enter the consideration set. It is their core business after all.

But that day is probably a long was off. We’ve seen Google products arrive with much pomp and circumstance only to die a quiet death. Google Wave anyone? Buzz? eBay has s ton of Nexus Q’s available on the cheap. Calico, for now, is much ado about nothing, but we’ll see what the next announcement brings us in terms of details. Hopefully it will be more than just a funny name.