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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…

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…

Youngest Person to Receive a Bioengineered Organ Dies

Writing for The Verge, Katie Drummond details the heartbreaking story of Hannah Warren, who was the youngest patient to receive a bioengineered transplant.

Hanna Warren

In an announcement posted online Monday, the Children’s Hospital of Illinois — where Hannah underwent a groundbreaking windpipe implant — confirmed the sad turn of events. “Although regenerative medicine remains in the early stages for pediatric patients, progress is being made,” the statement reads. “Hannah, and the physicians caring for her, helped advance this area of medical practice which is only at its very beginning stages.”

As the father of 3 girls, I read this with a mix of both sadness and hope. On the one hand, the tragic death of a child is excruciatingly painful for any parent. One of life’s true nightmares. On the other, Hannah’s bravery and contribution to science brings us one step closer to a medical future where organs can be manufactured and replaced, saving countless number s of potential lives.

My prayers go out to the Warren family.

Breaking Pharma’s Web 1.0 Addiction

“We can break the cycle of blandness. We can jam up the assembly line that spits out one dull, lookalike piece of crap after another. We can say, ‘Why not do something with artistic integrity and ideological courage?’”
–  Tibor Kalman

“Click here to learn more.”
– 
 Pharma

As I am often want to do, last week I spent the better part of a day poking around the internet looking at the general scale, scope, and style of what’s being deployed online for the industry. Part of this was research for gathering up content to be included in the social and mobile wiki, and part of it was because I’m curious as to what the ‘State of Pharma Web Design’ is for 2013. Needless to say, the picture is pretty bleak.

To say I’m baffled by this is an understatement. The industry as a whole seems entirely focused on innovation. This is good. I ‘listened’ into the #ePharma stream on Twitter, and there was an enormous appetite for social, mobile, gaming and other emerging trends. This is also good.  But when does innovation become about adopting latest generation thinking across the entirety of the digital medium, rather than just being relegated to the exploration of new platforms and channels?

Which brings me back to my web searches. The state of design in the industry today is abysmal. A-BIZ-MAL. It’s not just the design and user experience, which is bad enough, but the structure, layout, and production values. All of which are state of the art – if you were reading this post in 1999.

Just take a look at the websites of the top selling brands in pharma right now.

Read More…