From idea to product, no need to think small

We all heard about the possibilities the internet gives us. Power to the people, right? Well the story of the Glif is a perfect example of this.

Two guys, Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost came up with an idea for an iPhone 4 tripod mount. The final result does a little bit more that just being a tripod mount but you can judge that for yourself.

The basic thing that struck me was how they used the means at hand to it’s full capacity. They had an idea, worked it out as a computer model with free software (beta version of Rhinoceros 3D for Mac).
The model was sent to Shapeways in the Netherlands. Shapeways “printed” the 3D prototype and shipped it to New York. This process continues until the prototype was ready.

With a completed prototype they turned to Protomold, a manufacturing company, for an estimation of the cost and the number of products to break even in the manufacturing costs.
They did not got to a bank for the $10,000 they needed. Instead they turned to Kickstarter. Kickstarter provides means to get a creative idea funded without risk for either party. It’s all-or-nothing funding via crowdsourcing. To participate in the Glif project you donate your money and depending on the amount you donate you will get an honorable mention, the product when it’s fully funded or a 3D prototype. So for the two designers this meant that they would get funding and customers.
They needed $10,000 but the last time I checked they already collected $98,000.

This project might be exceptional but it does show how far you can get nowadays with a good idea and some ingenuity. You do not need the manpower just be inventive!

Resources used:
Glif – iPhone 4 Tripod Mount & Stand project on Kickstarter.com
An atom-based product, developed in bits article in The Economist
TheGlif.com

Popfly, mashups without writing code

Last Friday Microsoft announced a new mashup tool called Popfly. With this tool it’s possible to create web mashups by dragging and clicking. This online tool is simply amazing (see the screencast). For programmers it’s almost scary how easy mashup applications are being created. This way even my mother-in-law can build a mashup (just kidding mom).

 

Popfly has three key features. The mentioned mashup creator, a web page creator and last but not least Popfly Space.
Popfly Space is an online community where the mashup creators can meet and show their creations to each other.

 

The technology behind Popfly is Silverlight (formerly known as WPF/E). Silverlight is sometimes seen as the Flash “killer” app. Is it going to be a killer? I’m not sure but a competitor? Absolutely. Silverlight sure has the potential to become widely spread (via Microsoft update?). The only question is if the designer community is going to pick it up.
For the alpha-geek developers it has potential enough. CLR and DLR cross browser and cross platform. The choice of using your favorite programming language independent of the browser or platform. The first demos were already shown on the MIX 07 conference using C# in a browser on Mac OSX.

 

I watched the Popfly screencast and signed up but unfortunately there is a waiting list. Popfly is still an alpha release. Silverlight 1.0 is beta and Silverlight 1.1 (with the cross platform CLR and DLR) is still in alpha.

 

The Silverlight technology is still in a very early state of acceptance but with tools like the Popfly mashup creator it shouldn’t be a problem to convince a broader audience in using the new Silverlight technology.

Google Office, the next step …

I mentioned in my previous post “Google Office?” that Google was working on a webbased Office suite. Well they just made the next step …


Google launches Google Apps for Your Domain. The software bundle is aimed at small and midsize companies. The first release combines Google’s E-mail, calendar, and instant messaging with Web site creation software. It will be hosted in Google’s data center and branded with the customer domain name. Management tools for the IT pros included.



GoogleAppsForYourDomainServices.gif


Later this year Writely (word processor, compatible with MS Word) and Google Spreadsheets (compatible with MS Excel) will be added to this suite.
Collaboration features, like the ones in Google Spreadsheets, will be added to all applications. Also included APIs, directory-server integration, guaranteed performance levels


That’s the first step. Later this year, Google plans to add its Writely word processor and Google Spreadsheets to the suite, build online collaboration features that work across its applications, and market the whole package to large companies for a fee. Google will include IT-friendly features such as APIs, directory-server integration, guaranteed performance levels, and telephone tech support.
Source: Aaron Ricadela in InformationWeek


Although the services from Google are still patched together the applications are functional. In the article it’s even called “patchwork” and “Frankenstein software”. But I think that’s just FUD tactic. As we have seen with the evolving of Gmail it just takes time to mature and to integrate with the other services.


Another remarkable thing mentioned in Aaron’s article is that Google is “persuading” users to store more and more data online. Gmail with its 2Gb of mail storage, Picasa Web Albums the webbased photo storage and so on.


The trend for centralised online storage is something we will hear a lot about in the near future. With a couple of my colleagues we have been brainstorming about how we could facilitate this at our company for our customers but as longs as Google offers these services for free it’s very hard to make a solid business case.


In the meantime we will wait what the answer will be from Microsoft.

BumpTop Prototype

At Lifehacker I came across this prototype of a new virtual desktop called BumpTop. It’s a prototype, it’s new but it looks so familiar and it “feels” natural. It brings piling and all of it’s related features to your computer desktop.


desktop1-small.jpg desktop2-small.jpg


I like the thoughts behind Desktop Zen -a completely empty desktop- but I don’t see it working for me. Although I hate to admit it, I have piles at home and piles at work. It doesn’t look all to organized, its not a clean desk but it works for me. So I can’t wait to have this BumpTop available to rearrange my computer desktop.


The prototype uses a pen and a touch screen to perform the actions on the desktop. But I don’t see why these actions could not be performed with a mouse and a normal screen. 


features-small.jpg


The features of BumpTop are numerous, loosely arranging the documents, sorting piles, viewing the documents in the piles and it’s even possible to fold the documents. It’s incredible!


Watch the video and judge for yourself.





 


Project page:
http://honeybrown.ca/BumpTop 
Detailed information:
Keepin’ It Real: Pushing the Desktop Metaphor with Physics, Piles and the Pen (pdf, 2.4 MB)

Google Office?

Just a couple of months ago Google bought Writely, an online collaborative word processor. And now Google Labs is working on Google Spreadsheet!


Google Spreadsheet is still in a “Limited Test” state. Meaning you have to sign up and hope you are one of the happy few 😉 to try it out.
Already available is a small tour that describes the new features:


tour1_232x121.gif



  • Creating spreadsheets

    • Create basic spreadsheets from scratch.
    • Upload your spreadsheet files.
    • Familiar desktop feel makes editing a breeze.

>tour2_232x147.gif



  • Share spreadsheets

    • Choose who can access your spreadsheets.
    • Share documents instantly.
    • Edit with others in real time.

>tour3_232x139.gif



  • Storing spreadsheets

    • Edit from any Internet connected browser.
    • Online storage and auto-save.
    • Save and export copies in CSV, XLS or HTML.

I can’t say he anouncement of Google Spreadsheet was unexpected. Actually it’s just the next logical step. Microsoft announced Office Live and in the mean time Google works on it’s own Google Office Suite.


A list of Micrsoft Office applications and their Google counterpart:

























Microsoft Google
Word Writely
Excel Google Spreadsheet
Powerpoint waiting for the announcement …
Outlook Gmail + Google Calendar
OneNote Google Notebook
Visio ???

<sidetrack>SketchUp is a 3D moddeling tool and a recent Google acquisition. SketchUp in combination with Google Earth is another nice mashup sample. Build a 3D model of your dreamhouse and place it on the map in Google Earth. Smart move Google!</sidetrack>


And the list of applications fighting for marketshare continues. Healthy competition is a good thing, it keeps them alert.


I guess Microsoft is still more focused on the upcoming release of Vista but as soon as Vista is shipped they will put their full focus on webapplications. I can only say it’s going to be interesting …

Apple and Nike an ultimate MashUp

I first heard the word mashup at the MIX06 conference. Mashup (web application hybrid) as trend was mentioned at several sessions. These mashups use and combine webservices to create new applications. The programmableweb has a nice overview of some of these combinations in a matrix.
According to Wikipedia a mashup is also a musical genre. This genre uses parts of other songs to create new songs.


So basically combining stuff is not really new and if you look around you see it happening over and over again. Another good sample -and a very succesfull one- is the Senseo created by Philips and Douwe Egberts. But Nike and Apple take it to the next level.


Apple and Nike introduced the Nike+iPod Sportkit. The kit contains a sensor that fits in the special running shoe and a receiver for the iPod.


How To use Nike + iPod


The receiver collects the data from the sensor in the shoe. While running the data is processed and the info can be heard on the iPod headphones. At home the information stored on the iPod can be synchronized with iTunes to the Nike+ website. On this website it is possible to see your progression but you can also compare your results with other runners worldwide.


Now I didn’t post this so that the Nike+iPod gets extra attention. No it’s merely because it’s a great sample of a MashUp. Nike also worked together with Philips on the MP3Run. The MP3Run is a combination of a MP3 player and a shoe sensor. I think the MP3Run is to much proprietary and to little mashup.


Gestalt theory - reificationWhat strikes me on the Nike+iPod Sportkit is the added value it brings to the “independent” objects. It’s just bigger then the sum of its parts.
A running shoe with a sensor becomes an information source. An mp3 player with a receiver becomes a data collection device. The default software takes care of data-synchronisation to the server. The result is a complete running experience.


As I see it mashups are not exclusive for webservices. It’s a modern mindset. A mashup is innovation through combination. It requires thinking outside the box to create that unique combination.


Once the combination is made it’s just a starting point for your imagination. As I was watching the intro on the Nike+ website I was wondering how long it would take before other vendors would use the iPod interface to store data. These are the things that popped up in my mind …



  • Heartbeat monitor for runners
  • Heartbeat monitor for people with hart problems
  • Store information from bloodtests (diabetes patients)
  • Bycicle-trip information
  • GeoTracking information 

Fore the vendors that might read this post feel free to use the ideas but don’t forget me 😉


Now put your mind to work and make that killer combination …