It Takes Two (Percent)

by Jack Sommer

In a recent Adweek article, Jason Alan Snyder - an accomplished inventor - broke down why agencies are doing ok at inventing, but not necessarily at innovating. Snyder is also the Chief Technology Officer at Momentum Worldwide. He's authored many patents to successful inventions like the award-winning "Luci" product, an all-in-one solar lantern and flashlight. 

Snyder explains how the invention is the start and pure form of the idea. But the innovation, that comes in when you apply that same invention to make a difference in the business world, industry, or culture to make money. He simplifies it by saying, “Invention is seen as the conversion of money into ideas. Innovation is viewed as the conversion of ideas into money.”

Snyder says that he appreciates the agency projects he works on as they can feel both energizing and challenging, they have opened him up to opportunities that he may not have gotten otherwise. But in terms of innovation, he says, agencies can be quicker on their feet. They create the ideas, patent them, but then grow afraid to take the leap from there. 

Why is that? Take big companies for instance. If they have a monopoly on a certain product category or technology, they don't have incentive to push out those new technologies as soon as they're ready because they want to keep their profits coming in from their existing products. What ends up happening is they hold off pushing their new technology until it is too late and change to category is inevitable. For example - Kodak sitting on new digital camera technology, while they continued to make profits from film. And we all know how well that strategy worked out (badly!).

Agencies face a similar issue as these companies, even though they're not dealing with specific products in the same way. Instead, agencies have compensation systems that are about hitting certain revenue projections for their services, and may be reluctant to experiment with non-billable time to develop their own inventions and innovation strategies. Snyder remarks in the article that, "Agencies reward managers for making their numbers, not for building new businesses. Who wants to risk their bonus for an upstart technology that threatens the cash cows?"

So what's the solution? He says that we need to encourage taking these risks from the highest executive levels to support those experimental creative teams with budget and expertise. It could take as little as two percent of a company's own money towards innovative solutions for agencies to re-invent themselves. Now that makes the future of agencies feel bright.

Original article posted about on Adweek.

* Disclaimer: Jason Alan Snyder is represented by Sovrn State management.

One-Touch, No Hassle Lock

by Jack Sommer

Every so often you see an invention or device come along that seems so obvious and relevant that you're surprised it hasn't already been done. One of those examples recently came to our attention in the form of the TappLock, the first Internet of Things (IoT) smart fingerprint padlock.

Imagine no more hassle of finding your keys or remembering a numerical code. Instead, with Tapplock, you just put your finger on the center of the circular lock to open it at a world record rate of 0.8 seconds. The demand for this lightning fast product is in no short supply. It raised $230,000 on a campaign on Indiegogo earlier this year, which was over 500% of the original intended funding goal. It's created by Pishon Labs, a Canadian product development company.

If you're concerned about the security, you might feel more assured to know that the military uses the same AES 128-bit encryption that the lock does in order to protect their own secret documents. If someone tries to cut or break the lock, an alarm will go off and you'll be notified. You can, however, grant access to select people you know - from anywhere in the world - if you want to let them open it. This is achieved through the app the pairs with the lock, and can even be customized to control how long that person would have access to it and other details.

TappLock is also lightweight, water resistant, and even doubles as a portable phone charger so that you can simply plug into the bottom of the lock when you're on the move and power up. And you don't have to worry about the battery draining out, the lithium ion one they include lasts up to three years on one charge for the regular lock and six months for the cheaper Lite version. Their retail prices are $66 for the regular TappLock and $44 for the TappLock Lite. 

Pishon Labs are scheduled to complete the mobile app and finish mass production for the TappLock this month. They've already collected feedback and done product improvement, tested the reliability of the final design for manufacturability, and of course have completed funding. Next, product beta testing and quality assurance are scheduled to begin in June before the Tapplock's then finally will get shipped out in the Fall of this year.

Photo and animation via the Tapp Indiegogo page.

Spark Camp & The Future History Festival

by Jack Sommer

The makers of Spark Camp will be hosting The Future History Festival on May 7-8, 2016, in Baltimore, Maryland. We are happy to say that we will be in attendance.

As background, Spark Camp is known for re-inventing the typical conference setup and instead bringing important conversations to a more casual, interactive format. David Plotz, the former editor of Slate, has said that “[Spark Camp] is the only conference of any sort I attend, because it is the only one that has ever lit me up, puzzled me, excited me." The Fast Company has even proclaimed Spark Camp as the "ultimate summer camp for influencers."

We're sure that The Future History Festival will reflect that same spirit, with a theme focused on the exploration of today's world from the perspective of the future. It may also be evident by the interesting lineup of guest speakers, entertainment, workshops, exhibitions, art exhibits, blind group date suppers, and a prom-like celebration. Here's a quick look select featured speakers from the superstar lineup:

  • Nancy Spector, Deputy Director of the Guggenheim
  • Melissa Bell, VP of Growth at Vox Media
  • Rodney Gibbs, Chief Innovation Officer of the Texas Tribune
  • Anna Tauzin, Senior Marketing Manager for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Services, National Restaurant Association
  • Maria Popova, Founder and Editor in Chief of Brain Pickings
  • Glynn Washington, Host of Snap Judgement Podcast

We're very excited to attend and will plan to recap it all next week!

No More Raising Hands

by Jack Sommer

Pigeonhole Live is a handy service platform for events, which enables Q+A, opinion polling, and remote access agenda complete with speaker profile's. It has been around for around five years now, devised by students from The National University of Singapore. To use it, an organization drives people to the Pigeonhole URL (optimized for mobile) and provides a unique event code for its audience members to log in. Once there, they can anonymously post questions and vote on polls. The Pigeonhole website states that they've done more than 4000 events in over 40 countries, with over a million votes cast across them. 

Last Thursday, we saw the Pigeonhole service in use at the American Institute Of Graphic Arts (AIGA) event for In The House with Tumblr and Pinterest at The New School in Manhattan. The event was part of an ongoing NY/SF HYPERLINKED initiative "that explores the unique ways New York and San Francisco are shaping design and technology as told by the people who build it." Representing New York was a Creative Director from Tumblr, Zack Sultan. From San Francisco was a Lead Designer from Pinterest, Scott Tong. 

Jonathan Lee, a design lead on the Material Design team at Google, was the moderator. He had questions written down on his own - but he also leaned on the crowd for more questions via the Pigeonhole web app. AIGA opted for the Q+A option this event, so after going to the Pigeonhole site, you were able to ask a question and were also able to vote on questions from other people that you wanted to see answered. No app is required to use Pigeonhole, you just go to the URL, which is a lot easier and more welcoming to participate in. And it's no wonder AIGA selected this tool to use this for their event - the UI and branding of the site is both thoughtfully presented and beautifully designed.

With his phone out, the moderator smoothly checked and asked the top questions voted up by the audience. The system of voting helps the service standout from people just asking questions using hashtags on Twitter or being chosen at random from the moderator. We see this as an improved way for everyone to get involved. It opens the door for a more democratic way of picking out what the most relevant or interesting questions are.

Being that the questions are anonymous, it also allows users to ask more bold questions than they might out loud in-person or with digitally their Twitter handle. For example, at this event, a question was raised about Tumblr's relationship and perspective on the porn on their site. That may have been something that someone may have otherwise not asked - but someone did, and it turned out to be one of the most voted questions. There's also an option for an Admin to sort through the anonymous questions and screen for inappropriate questions (or, not).

One advantage of Twitter hashtags are that they spread the word to those who aren't already there (which, of course, is valuable too). Pigeonhole is more inclusive, which could also be beneficial if you want the contents of the event to be more exclusive or private. The service uses technology in a way that is helpful and interactive, without being too distracting from the event itself. People are likely to drift away to their phones briefly anyway, so it might as well be something that keeps them in the event and perhaps even makes them more excited about it. Seems like a win-win to us. 

Small & Cheap, But BIG Personality

by Jack Sommer

Hilton may be launching a new offering to attract younger travelers, which may compete directly with Airbnb. This comes as particularly interesting news since Hilton is the biggest hospitality company in the world, and this seems like they are seemingly trying to catch up to the world of anti-establishment hotels that Airbnb created. Chris Nassetta, CEO of Hilton, confirmed that the company has been exploring a new approach that would offer smaller and cheaper places to stay in big cities.

This experimental strategy from Hilton would be geared towards a younger age bracket of travelers who don't want to deal with high prices, complex processes, or fancy room setups. Global research company Stay Wyse predicts that travel spending from younger people is going to increase over the next five years by over $100 billion. When you combine that with the undeniable growth from Airbnb and other low cost low service hotels, this seems like a smart business decision.

One example of a micro-hotel property that has followed this approach is citizenM - who currently has locations in New York, Amsterdam, Glasglow, London, Paris, and Rotterdam. They focus on slim rooms with big windows, soft bed, and a TV. There's no extraneous furniture, like a desk. The New York Times even called this decision about the space in their rooms to be "smart rather than confining." They create a stylishly designed communal lobby and cafe experience featuring modern art, free WiFi, and self service food, which makes for a comfortable remote working space.

citizenM, photographed by urbanpixxles

citizenM, photographed by urbanpixxles

The citizenM brand prides itself on having the self-service check in and express check out be extremely fast and digitized. Having this ease and self-service gives them room to implement staff in different ways. Instead of bellhops to carry your bags, they have ambassadors - who act more like a friendly local - working at all hours who help you navigate the city and find out what to do and see. But if you don't go up and ask, they'll let you relax and go about your business. 

When you book with Airbnb, you get a similar experience. You get a welcoming host who takes pride in providing a comfortable and personal stay in their home as they want to be highly rated. We hope that Hilton will take note of these successful approaches from both citizenM and Airbnb and make sure that their offering is not only smaller and cheaper, but also add an element of personality to their offering. Architecting a brand new experience is key to success.

Originally posted about by Bloomberg.

Sony's new Future Lab Programs takes an interative approach at SXSW

by Jack Sommer

A couple of weeks ago, Sony announced a new R&D division called the "Future Lab Programs." The goal of it is to bring more of an openness and communication with society throughout the development phases. So instead of waiting to show people the product until it's finished, Sony is sharing the prototypes at earlier stages so they can utilize feedback into their process throughout. And at SXSW this past week, they followed up on that promise with their first unveiling of their new "Concept N" product.

In a recent article of ours, we talked about the series of Amazon Echo and Alexa gadgets, which are voice assistants and bluetooth speakers. The "N" is also a voice assistant, with a hidden camera even included, but instead of a speaker it's a neckband. Engadget even called it an "Amazon Echo you wear around your neck."

A neckband? Yes, not the most typical choice. The idea is to wear the skinny and slick neckband, which uses open speakers to hear and respond to voice commands (just say "Listen up, Arc!"). There are optional headphones, but they are just a matter of preference - or perhaps a matter of where you are when using it. There's no swiping or tapping on it, just voice. It can also inform you on things such as the weather, news, events, info on restaurants near you, and so forth. In terms of the camera, you just tell it to "Take a picture" and the hidden capturing ability will appear. 

Now, it has to be re-addressed that this again is a prototype and not the final version. It's an interesting start and direction for Sony, maybe even more so in terms of the R&D program itself than the product. It will be noteworthy to see how having such an open dialogue about products, with the customers who may be buying the devices, will influence the trajectory and end result of those very tools. 

We are excited to see more companies continue to experiment in the world of voice, as we think it's an important next step in the world of technology and IoT. 

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 11.17.05 AM.png

Originally posted about on Wareable.

Design, Technology, Marketing, & Pigeons?

by Jack Sommer

Twitter and the London Design Festival hosted a competition last year called #PoweredByTweets which was divided into a set of two challenges. One was to "solve a problem" and the other to "create something beautiful." All the submissions had to utilize the Twitter platform.

Pierre DuQuesnoy and Mark Daniels, who work for the global agency Digitas Lbi, submitted an idea and ended up winning the contest. What they proposed was to attach tiny monitoring packs to racer pigeons that would measure the levels of atmosphere where they flew to. 

Digitas Lbi then joined forces with Plume Labs, a UK based company trying to improve how people monitor air pollution, to turn the idea to a reality. Asthma UK has also been offering additional information on air pollution issues to the public in conjunction with the project.

The inspiration for the idea came from pigeons being used in the past to transport war messages and capture aerial photography. DuQuesnoy says that “Most of the time when we talk about pollution people think about Beijing or other places, but there are some days in the year when pollution was higher and more toxic in London than Beijing, that’s the reality.” 

Very light small backpack were placed on carrier pigeons this week, each pack containing sensors monitoring ozone, volatile compounds, and oxygen dioxide. As the birds flew around, tweets were sent out about the pollution levels in particular areas (and you could even tweet the @PigeonAir account to request the details your own immediate surroundings). 

Of course this issue itself is important on its own, and we're glad they're tackling it. Duquesnoy said that, “Air pollution isn’t sexy and people don’t engage with it. So the heart of our idea was to make air pollution more accessible and relevant." The design was, of course, a big part of that - from the photography and video to the packaging and presentation. It wasn't lost on us that the colors of the designs were similar to the hues from the pigeon's feathers and that the illustrations were done in a mid-century like style with those bright tones shining through.

The campaign only lasted a few days but has already raised pollution awareness in London and around the world. It also broke through to a digital audience who might not have paid as much attention to the problem otherwise. All in, we think it was surely a successful effort.

Originally posted about on Gizmodo.

Amazon IoT Family: Alexa Has New Sisters!

by Jack Sommer

To put it simply, the Amazon Echo is a bluetooth speaker and voice-activated assistant. First unveiled in 2014, the device connects to WiFi and responds to prompts after you verbally acknowledge "Alexa" (who controls the hub). It's like talking with Siri for your iPhone, but you don't have to hold your phone up in front of your face. Instead, the Echo has "far field" range - up to 20-25 feet - so that it can hear you say a command from across the room. 

This past week, Alexa got some new sisters-in-tech beyond the initial Echo. The Tap is a re-chargeable portable version of the Echo. It has all the same features but you can take it on the go, unlike its older Echo sister, and connect it to the WiFi on your phone. One key difference is that it requires a literal tap to activate the voice recognition. 

The other new sister is the shorter Echo Dot, which is a hockey puck sized version of the Echo that can also connect to your speakers. It connects through bluetooth or a cable and allows your speaker system to amplify the sounds transmitting from the device. A big draw for some people about the Echo Dot is that they can connect it to their existing speakers. The Alexa can update your stereo system with all its connected-tech capabilities. 

The Alexa family has tons of great features. What we love most of all is how the devices can connect to purchase things instantly from your Amazon account. This will take impulse shopping to a whole new level, so think before you speak (or buy). Amazon sure understands capitalism - you can even pay with your credit card now, too. 

Alexa can also play music (through Prime and other third party vendors like Spotify or Pandora), answer questions ("How Old is Bernie Sanders?"), tell you what upcoming appointments you have through Google Calendar, or check the weather. Other seamless third party integrations that have come along are ordering rides from Uber or pizza from Domino's. 

We're excited about voice as a control method in your home, for all of the features mentioned above, and the potential to control elements like lights and temperature through verbal commands. It likely won't dominate the controls of the home, but rather work alongside manual (flipping a switch) and touch (using your mobile device). Amazon may have created itself a solid place in the race with Apple and Google for control of the IoT connected home ecosystem.

The Echo goes for $200, the Tap for $130, and the Echo Dot for $90. In our office, we're going to give the Tap a try since we like the portability and price. 

Originally posted about on Gizmodo and video by TechCore.

The Art For Tomorrow - Upcoming Events, March 2016

by Jack Sommer

The New York Times is hosting a discussion about the future of museums and galleries through the Art For Tomorrow conference on March 12-15 in Doha, Qatar. Specifically, they're going to look at the issue of digitalization and how brick-and-mortar art institutions may look to re-invent themselves for a new generation.

We find this particularly exciting as the art world seems to continue to lag behind many industries in its adoption and integration of new technology. Sure, there are bright spots, like Artsy, who recognize digital content as a way to educate a wider general audience and reach more buyers. But most museums and galleries have done very little to take advantage of social media like leveraging curators (or gallery directors) and featuring them in videos about the art.

Here are some of the big names and featured institutions for the upcoming conference:

  • Jeff Koons and Marina Abramovic are among the artists and keynote speakers
  • V&A Museum London - Martin Roth - Director
  • MOCA LA - Jeffery Deitch - Curator, Gallerist, and Former Director
  • Qatar Museums - Sheikha Al Mayassa - Chairperson
  • M+ Museum, Hong Kong - Aric Chen, Curator of Design & Architecture
  • Art Basel - Marc Spiegler, Global Director

We probably won't be in Doha in March, but we will be following the coverage of the conference and are hoping to see some visionary points of view. If you're on that side of the world, then you can register here.

Marcel Broodthaers - Upcoming Art Event for March 2016 (NYC)

by Jack Sommer

Marcel Broodthaers doesn't have the most usual story in the world of art.

While today the Internet seems to put more pressure on artists to succeed and make an impact at a young age, Broodthaers didn't get into his true calling - or at least his most commercially successful one - until he was 40 years old. He started out as a poet for 20 years, but it didn't work out well for him. It seemed unfortunate to him at the time, but fortunately for the rest of us it allowed him to move into a new field.

It was 1964 when he fully switched from poetry into visual arts. At Broodthaers' first showcase he marked the transition by taking a bunch of his copies of what was his most recent poetry book at the time, and combined them together in plaster for a sculpture piece. This is an example of a characteristic of Broodthaers work where he would constantly just use what he had around him - whether it be the aforementioned poetry books, wine bottles, buckets, magazine clippings or tons of other objects most people would never give second thought to be considered art. He would find a way to bring them together or put them in a new context. 

Over the next twelve years of his time in his newfound creative era, before he passed away in 1976, Broodthaers would work across painting, film, and printmaking as well. 

He even opened his own museum from '68-'72, entitled the Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles that was a traveling museum. It was more than just a place to show his work, it was also a statement about the responsibility and status of museums in general. It ended up being one of his most well-known and successful ideas.

The age at which he made his transition, 40, is an important number for another reason as well. Today in 2016, 40 years after he passed away in 1976, MOMA is doing a retrospective of his work. On display will be over 200 works from Broodthaers across all the different mediums. It just opened and will be up for only a few month period (through May 15), so why not check it off your list early and see it in March. 

More information can be found on MOMA's website.

House of Pane, Life of Ease

by Jack Sommer

A big part of IoT and integration of technology into our homes is not about inventing a lot of completely new products to do so, but rather finding ways to bring them into the objects and hardware we already use. Well, one thing you'll find in most people's homes and apartments is windows. And they may be one of the next steps in making us more connected in how we live.

In an article from Mashable last month, Stephanie Walden wrote about the future of windows as it relates to our digitally connected life. 

Here are some of the predictions she made:

  • Windows will go from being static objects to also acting as screens that present information, communicate with the rest of your home, and display visuals.
  • People interact (with their windows) just like their phones and other touch screen technology. The role of a TV could also be replaced or added to.
  • Gesture commands will likely be introduced, similar to software like the Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect, where users could simply motion with their wrist for the blinds to open.
  • Heat-sensors embedded that would physically open or close the windows automatically depending on temperature preferences in the home set ahead of time. You'll be able to control them from another world or another country. 
  • Get alerts on your phone if your windows are opened while you aren't home.
  • The light coming into the home can be automatically adjusted (in how much comes through the windows) depending on outside conditions and personal preferences.
  • On a sustainable energy level, windows could take in enough energy in order to power the building or larger structure that they are part of. A solar concentrator would go over a window but not block the ability to see through. The technology for this has already been developed by researchers at Michigan State University
  • Curtains and blinds could act as a chameleon and change color to match that of the room that they're in. Temperature could be factored in to customization as well.
  • There are some companies and products already developing these ideas, such as SONTE, but it seems they are still in early stages and the costs are often too high to be integrated into most homes.

We're excited to see these window prototypes develop and how the user experience will evolve. The touch and gestural abilities will surely progress in the coming years, and we believe voice will be a strong contender as well. Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon), and Voice (Google) are all examples that illustrate the potential. It may be that all these control mechanisms may become complimentary options instead of competitive choices.

Somfy Systems

Somfy Systems

Originally posted about on Mashable.

VSCO Is Leading The Curatorial Charge

by Jack Sommer

While museums and galleries are still the major leaders in the world of curation, the process is also becoming more democratized. The internet and technology is allowing more brands and individuals, to build their own ways to curate, collect, and present art. One company, who is focused on photography in particular, is leading the way in the field. Their name is VSCO (pronounced "viss-kow").

VSCO is most popularly known as an app for people use in editing their iPhone photos. Users can choose from a diverse range of filters, some free and some paid, that they can use to enhance their photos. The VSCO company started in 2012 by releasing this very app, as well as packages of filters for photo editing programs on computers. Both have remained a key part of their services. However, they have also been steadily expanding to more of a focus around their community. 

For a while now users have had their own "" URL's which their photos they published on the app would go up at the URL as well. Here's what's different with their ecosystem compared to other social networks - VSCO doesn't deal with numbers. No likes or comments. They don't show your number of followers or how many people you're following (they do allow you to follow people, but just for your viewing pleasure). It's about the art.

VSCO is more than just an app, they are an art and tech company empowering artists through tools and connection. 

Beyond the technological aspects, they are trying to keep moving in a direction more and more about community and people. Especially so in the worlds of curation and collections. One of their first steps in this process started in February of 2014 when VSCO launched their Map and Image Search feature, which has allowed people to discover images in the context of locations around the world. 

This past summer, they also allowed people to curate their own collections and they unveiled the opportunity for people to republish photos from other people. This has also opened up the field for brands to curate their own collections. VSCO has been doing this on their own with their company Journal and Collection pages for a while now, but this allows everyone to become more involved. Recently, they also launched a "VSCO Originals" feature where they are releasing different editorials of themed series where people can view the collections through a page on the VSCO site that feels like a highly curated digital magazine.

We really enjoy and appreciate the clean and minimal look of these collections, and how VSCO highlights their own content and the quality photography of their users in a very organic, natural, and subtle way.


Maple Creates A Feast For The Eyes & Stomach

by Jack Sommer

Few restaurants understand the importance of design and delivery quite as well as Maple.

That's because Maple may not be a restaurant, at least in the traditional sense. They operate out of private commercial kitchens and only fill orders that customers request directly from the Maple mobile/web app. The unusual decision has allowed them to exclusively focus on a visually appetizing digital experience and superior delivery order service.

Their approach seems to have paid off. Approaching ten months after their launch, Maple has been cycling past food-delivery competition in New York City. We find ourselves tempted from their delicious photographs, excellent UI, and quick ordering process. 

“Restaurants aren’t set up to do delivery well. They don’t have the budget or time to think about packaging or putting technology together to route the orders intelligently,” co-founder Caleb Merkl told WIRED in an article last year. “For us, everything we do is about how to make some part of delivery better.” It was started by Merkl and co-founder Akshay Navle, but the big draw for initial press and some customers has also been the oversight and backing (financially, verbally) from legendary chef David Chang. 

A display of ingredients from each dish are presented like this for every option.

A display of ingredients from each dish are presented like this for every option.

The visual brand identity for Maple is minimalist, and still impactful. Their physical packaging has a bold yellow color system with the brown-shades of bags and containers. The color palette has become a recognizable trademark.

Yelllow was a rebellious answer to the usual all-green approach that so many food entities use to show how fresh their ingredients are. Merkl told The Fast Company that yellow "conveys a tastiness, a comfort, and also isn’t used by many people. If this business is successful, it’s important to be distinct." 

Not only is the packaging just pleasing to the eye, but it physically was also tested through conditions such as heat, rain, and amount of proper container space to keep the food from moving too much. The branding was done by a former assistant creative director of MOMA.

There's no reason why all restaurants shouldn't be putting this much effort into their identity, packaging, and customer experience setup. In an interview with The Fast Company last year, Chang made a remark that sums it up pretty well: "If I got this for delivery, I’d be like, 'Holy fuck!'"

We second that sentiment, and say "Keep it coming."

Photos thanks to Maple.

IoT's Future: Hopeful and Secure

by Jack Sommer

There's been an interesting trend in the age of technology. There's a pattern seen with the web first, and more recently with social media. People start very open, active, and public on these mediums. The sites and apps we use do indeed hold a lot of personal information about us. As people realize this, they begin to manage their web usage and social media profiles in a more judicious and private matter.

We expect a similar behavior being taken in the world of IoT development and integration. We need to be cognizant of risks. That's why we're encouraged by companies involved in the IoT space like the folks over at Dojo Labs who have created a "glowing rock" that connects to all the different IoT connected devices in your home and monitors them for any suspicious activity. It automatically blocks them and alerts you to any issues that arise. The people behind the company come from backgrounds in government intelligence groups. They're thinking of it ahead of time so we don't need to ourselves.

We are so excited about how IoT may magically improve our quality of life in the future and plan to watch companies like Dojo Labs who may help us keep our privacy in check.

A Prototype For The Future Of Connected Work

by Jack Sommer

We're excited to see prototypes ushering in a new era of connected accessories that will integrate into our lives to make the transitions between work and play more seamless, and allow freelancers or remote workers to operate with ease no matter their location.

The DEVIDE is a new product of luggage for work. It is an invention from a recent graduate of the London Royal College of Art, Rami Santala, which he did for his final project at school. The product is a hybrid laptop carrier, backpack, and desk.

  • Hold laptop while  on the move
  • Wear like a backpack.
  • Angled typing stand
  • Privacy screen
  • Built-in bluetooth sensor
  • Kill computer windows that distract
  • Automatically opens only work apps needed
  • Simultaneously track hours

"I am hoping for the user to feel some sort of ownership of the space where they set it up," Santala told The Fast Company in an interview last summer. "Work itself needs regularity, consistency. You need to get into the right mood." As much as it's meant for work though, another goal of Santala for it is for DEVIDE to help people stay away from work after they finish by keeping it contained within when they're using the setup.

The reality of work today isn't a place, it's a state of mind.

Currently, it's still just a prototype that Santala designed for his graduate show. He wants to continue to work on it, but so far it's not available for purchase. More information about the device can be seen in the video below. It shows demonstrations of how it folds in and out, the way it operates as a stand, and more insight into the product itself. We hope that he's able to figure out how to make it a reality for people to own.

The original article was published on The Fast Company.

Caution: Adults At Play

by Jack Sommer

Why is it that so many work offices try to drive out the very thing that can provide such strong inspiration for good ideas? Lighten up and start playing at your company.

Of course not every office space needs to have a 24/7 arcade or a ping pong table, but how much of one's time in corporate settings are made to only be focused 100% on "serious" work? Most of it? All of it? How conducive is this to generating new ways of thinking about a problem an employee is trying to solve? Wouldn't it help them to solve problems by having their brain remain active in other ways?

Serious Play is a new workshop and consulting business by Lego, the world's biggest toy empire, and is headed by CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp. Basically, special lego sets are brought in for group exercises in an office space. The program even gets executives involved as a way to help them find or express more ideas. Knudstorp is someone who thinks more play needs to be enforced in our workspaces. "If you play, you learn in a deeper way. The problem is that some people can view it as a little bit self-indulgent and believe learning should be dull and boring," Knudstorp told the Huffington Post in a recent interview.

An increase in play can also lead people to put out more experimental or risky ideas. It's easier for employees to work together during these times as well. The head of Lego Foundation, Hanne Rasmussen, adds that "the world of work would be transformed in the future if all young people were encouraged to be more creative." Serious Play is only a part of what is hopefully a shift in the culture towards a more balanced ecosystem in our workspaces, which would only be beneficial to everyone. 

So drop the serious side and play nicely. Frankly, it's unproductive not to. 

Originally posted about on The Huffington Post.

Step Away From The Wristband

by Jack Sommer

Why is it that wristbands are still the defacto form for health and fitness monitoring? Let's step away from wristbands and explore alternate product forms that provide better monitoring, style, and user experience.

Over the recent years, wearables have exploded — particularly wristbands. Devices like Fitbit and Jawbone came up from smaller companies, and then giants like Apple and Microsoft even got involved (with the Apple Watch and Microsoft Band, respectively). And with technology overall evolving so rapidly and performing more high-level tasks than ever before, it's easy to always just trust that a device or software is doing its job. But what if they're not always completely on the mark?

While these devices have been shown to give solid general analyzations of your health data, they are not necessarily ideal at specifics yet. In an article from last summer by the MIT Technology Review, the author Rachel Metz did a test. She wore an Apple Watch and Microsoft Band while she rode her bike to work and back. Metz, who is also their senior editor in Silicon Valley, even wore another Bluetooth chest strap (a Polar H7). The data she got back from all three was not so similar. The highest difference noted was between the Apple Watch and the chest trap, which were up to 77 BPM off from each other at certain points. The calories burned also had a varying range by as much as 40 calories in total difference.

Wristbands need to improve and become more accurate, especially when they're looking at such important parts of our life as sleep and heart rate. Eventually, the hope is that these devices will be able to accurately and closely keep a constant eye on even serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Frightening episodes like seizures could also be measured and be used to alert another person of what's going on. Doctors could even be impacted by how in-depth they can stay alert to problems with their patients by keeping an eye on their condition in a way that is only currently able to be done while someone is actively in a hospital. The devices, upon analyzation, could also improve the levels of feedback and suggestions they are also able to give through the software.

They may be good enough for getting the general consensus of your activity levels, but the level at which they're able to go in-depth is not totally clear.

"While the wrist seems like a great place to start with sensing on the body, and we’re used to adorning it with watches and jewelry, it’s tricky to make a comfortable, good-­looking device that can stand up to all kinds of daily abuse," says the author, Rachel Metz. Our wrists also vary in size, amount of hair, sweat output, and even tattoos. 

What's the solution? We need to steer away from what we're wearing on our wrists and start integrating this technology more into what's around us. One level would be incorporation into larger garments that would allow for sensors to collect from a larger area of data. Even on another level, incorporating the technology into elements around us like our chairs would be an even more natural user experience process. The time has come to look beyond the wrist. 

Originally written about on the MIT Technology Review.

Museum Marks Its Scent

by Jack Sommer

Ever wanted to combine the smells of scents around you? It's not quite as simple as putting two food ingredients or sounds together. But thanks to the new MOFAD exhibit, it's a possibility. You may not recognize the MOFAD acronym as much as you do other established names like MOMA, but that's because it's a new establishment. It stands for the Museum of Food and Drink, and this is their first exhibit. "Flavor: Making It And Faking It" includes a smell synthesizer in the museum's Brooklyn space that brings the scent combination ability to reality. You can play sounds on the synthesizer just like you would with music notes.

A Philadelphia research lab, The Monell Chemical Senses Center, was where the technology for the machine got it's start. The museum wanted to figure out a way to have the experience be educational, interactive, and entertaining. The center's senior flavor chemist, Jack Fastag, worked with the MOFAD to develop it. They needed it to be not too expensive to build and easy to change details of the system. 

There are big buttons to make the process happen, intriguing to both adults and kids alike. There were up to twenty chosen in total. Methodically chosen, some were good smells and ones people would know already (such as coconut) but also some not-so-pleasant ones ("cheesy vomit" doesn't sound too great, does it?). Some of the other flavors include:

  • Popcorn
  • Hazelnut
  • Coriander Seed
  • Whiff of smoke
  • Nail polish remover
  • Candy banana

One of the odd combination possibilities that they describe can happen is when you mix the smells of "old, cold coffee, stale grounds in a soggy filter at the end of the day" with a skunk-like "furfuryl mercaptan" scent and the result is a fresh-roast coffee smell. Fastag, the chemist, includes some suggestions of combinations for visitors of the museum to try - but they're also supposed to try some on their own too. Out of this, they can see the designed combinations as well as create their own. 

We know how certain smells are built into establishments such as movie theaters (popcorn) or an M&M store (chocolate). What if the smell synthesizer was adapted to serve and work in environments (installations, events, or spaces) like a fashion event having the scent of an ocean during the showing of a resort-themed collection.

The exhibit, titled "Flavor: Making It And Faking It" will be up until February 28th. Originally posted about on Popular Science.

A Thoughtful Approach To Criticism

by Jack Sommer

There are certain words that get a harsh rep. "Criticism" is one of them. Often, people think of criticism as negative. They take offense to being offered it. However, the word doesn't have to be deemed that way. In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, author Roberto Verganti wrote about this issue. How criticism is less about bringing down ideas, but rather improving them. You take in multiple points of view, question your assumptions, analyze the contrasting elements, and brainstorm new interpretations of the topic at hand. 

"This is a significant departure from the ideation processes of the past decade, which treat criticism as undesirable—something that stifles creativity. Whereas ideation suggests deferring judgment, the art of criticism innovates through judgment," says Verganti. He gives several specific examples, one being the case of Nest and the story with their founders. Initially, one of the partners proposed an idea for a "Smart Home" and the other dismissed it. However, instead of them letting the dialogue halt there, a different solution was able to be reached after more discussion. They decided to narrow their brand and attention, to start off, on just a thermostat. And it has paid off, with Nest growing very popular. This would have never happened without criticism.

Both people and companies alike should not only be unafraid of criticism, but instead embrace it. We should all want to have our ideas be criticized while we're developing them so they can became stronger and more refined. And the manner and tone of how you deliver the message often makes all the difference. You catch more bees with honey...

The full-length original article can be found on Harvard Business Review.

Lasers Able To Cool Water

by Jack Sommer

When you imagine lasers interacting with objects, what comes to mind? Most likely you envision them cutting through their path with their strength and heat. However, researchers at the University of Washington (UW) recently discovered a way for a laser beam to reduce the temperature of water rather than heat them up. The UW scientists team was led by Peter Pauzauskie, an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

In the immediate short term, we could see changes in the implementation of microprocessors. In the more long term, we could see it revolutionizing the industry of refrigeration. And who knows, maybe it could assist in helping address global warming by cooling our oceans?

Originally discussed on Clapway based on information from a study released this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.