Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dumb Prototypes are Brilliant

Prototyping for Elmo's Monster Maker iPhone App. from IDEO on Vimeo.

Low resolution prototypes are the bomb.  The quicker you can turn your ideas into something other folks can experience the better.

Here some of my old colleagues from IDEO are demoing their idea for a dancing Elmo iPhone app.  This is a classic example of "puppet show" prototyping.  All they did was have an idea, make an iPhone cut out and press record.  Brilliant.  You could have coded the whole thing and made it 5% more realistic.  But it wouldn't have been more fun.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And the X Prize goes to...a gas powered car!

Edison 2 X-Prize from Johnny St.Ours on Vimeo.

Electric cars have their good points.  And plenty of bad ones.  The conviction of many that they are a panacea for global warming is infuriating.  Only 27% of the US's carbon emissions come from the transportation sector, and cars are just a portion of that.  The embodied energy of batteries is HUGE.  Their efficiency and energy density leaves much to be desired.  Plus I'm just bothered by people who believe in silver bullet solutions to complex problems.

So it put a smile on my face when I read today that the winner of the Progressive Automotive X Prize was an aerodynamic, light weight, low power, gasoline car.  Not electric.  Not Hybrid.  Light weight and low power are the classic formula for fuel efficient vehicles like the Nuovo Fiat 500 and Morris Mini of the 1950s.  But there's a special place in my heart for the Citroen 2CV, the "umbrella on four wheels," which was designed in the 1930s, but released after WWII.  The design brief was for a car that could carry 4 peasants and 220lbs of farm goods at 37mph and get 78mpg.  That's right, 78mpg.  In a way, its sad that we are only shooting for 100mpg, almost 80 years later.  Many, Saul Griffith among them, think that its not nearly enough

Hats off to the Edison 2 team and their 250cc wonder.  Less is indeed more.  As the Edison folks themselves say, "There are only two absolute virtues.  The first is light weight. The second is aerodynamic drag.  Everything else is a desperate compromise."


Monday, September 13, 2010

The Wildness and Vulnerability in Me

My teacher, friend and sometimes colleague Michael Barry shared this amazing mini documentary about Shinya Kimura with me.  I love Shinya's post-apocalyptic junk yard aesthetic.  These bikes look like they are cobbled together just enough to take their speed runs at Bonneville.  They feel utterly functional, like they are predetermined by the intersection of the tools you have in your shop and the parts that are lying around. But they're really delicate aesthetic exercises in authenticity; imaginary relics of a parallel hot rod universe.

I loved the way he said "A motorcycle is more than art, its something that brings out my instincts, the wildness and vulnerability in me."  He has taken the visual language of speed on a budget, and distilled out only the emotions.  I'm sure these bikes are fast enough to scare you.  But ultimately they are about the sounds, smells and feelings of speed, not speed itself.  Wildness indeed!

 Custom Bobber Chopper 2 - Hoon

Friday, September 10, 2010

Experiences Make Technology Matter

I was really taken aback by the Apple Facetime commercials that have been running lately.  They don't tout the technological superiority or long list of features that the iPhone 4 has.  They show people connecting.  Sure they are connecting because they have a bunch of cool technology.  But the technology is not what matters.  What matters is how people feel when they have an amazing experience.

This video about open source eye tracking technology feels much the same to me.  Eye tracking technology has been around for a while now.  And it is kind of cool in and of itself.  But what is even cooler is to witness the experience that an artist with ALS has when he is able to create again.  Its so inspiring, in fact, that people are investing their sweat equity to make it happen.

All good design is experience design.

check out the video here.