9 Innovative Products: Designers Of Things Conference - InformationWeek

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9/24/2014
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Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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9 Innovative Products: Designers Of Things Conference

Wearable, 3D printing, and Internet of Things technologies are in their infancy. But these products show that design can satisfy both the head and the heart.
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At the first Designers of Things conference in San Francisco Tuesday, Richard Thompson, business development manager with Freescale Semiconductor, acknowledged that companies entering the wearable market have reached unknown territory.

"What will sell?" Thompson asked. "I have no idea."

Designers of Things aims to explore emerging wearable, 3D printing, and Internet of Things technologies, with an emphasis on design and fabrication. These are areas of considerable interest and innovation at the moment, in addition to uncertainty.

Thompson considers Apple's plan to launch the Apple Watch next year a bellwether event. "If Apple comes into the market, yes, they will take a large share of the market," he said. "But they probably will grow the market."

Whether the Apple Watch turns out to be a triumph, a failure, or something in between, there's no turning back. Computing devices and sensors keep getting smaller and more power-efficient. Cloud services and wireless networking continue to proliferate. And software touches more and more of our objects, even as it redefines the processes by which our objects get made.

Freescale hopes that aspiring product designers will build upon its wearables reference platform (WaRP), an open source hardware and software platform that's similar to Arduino and BeagleBone Black, but tuned to the size and power requirements of wearable devices.

During the conference keynote, Gadi Amit, founder and principal designer of San Francisco-based NewDealDesign, made his case for viewing these distinct technological trends -- wearables, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things -- through the lens of design.

"The biggest problem we have today is how do we connect humanely with each other and how do we create objects that are relevant for us, that substantiate our emotional needs without alienating us from the environment," said Amit.

"If we're not doing that well, we get this," Amit continued, standing beneath the projected image of a man wearing Google Glass. "There is a problem here," he said, referring to the social stigma and hostility that Glass wearers sometimes confront.

Amit also argued that smart devices are not smart enough because they tend to deluge us with data. "Filtering data, I think, is the biggest challenge for software and UI designers," he said.

In short, we have the technology, but we're still figuring out how to deliver it in an appealing, functional way. "Design needs to be driven not only by IQ, but by EQ," said Amit.

What follows are some product prototypes that received the Cool Idea! Award from custom parts maker Proto Labs, one of the conference sponsors. They demonstrate that design can satisfy both the head and the heart.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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psalazar993
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psalazar993,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/7/2014 | 11:17:22 AM
Re: Floome
That was my first thought also, this would be a valuable tool for enforcment officers. Also, in Washington State a judge will order an offender to rent a breathalizer and have it mounted on the cars column to disable the ability to start their car. I wonder if this breathalizer would be able to due the same. In addition the other unit is temperature sensitive, is this new breathalizer tempature- sensitive? Pam Salazar
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 10:46:12 AM
First generation
In my opinion Apple Watch is more like iPad - it's a kind of "mature prototype" to test the market maturity and response to the new product. For me, I will keep my finger crossed and wait for its next generation instead of paying for it now.:-)
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/29/2014 | 7:59:45 AM
Re: PowerPurse and Go-Anywhere-Wheelchair
I guess the question then is how does a company prevent individuals for doing stupid things with their products?  For the most part I would think that a company selling a breathalyzer plug in for a cell phone would be unware of the user's BAC until they get sued because their product was part of some drinking game.   How does a tech company insulate themselves from those types of actions?
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2014 | 11:16:01 AM
auto-selfie
Impressive innovations. But the Auto-selfie device kind of kills the purpose of a selfie in my opinion. The art of taking selfie is balanced on a line between being a formal photo and a photo which is too casual to be interesting. It involves testing different angles which flatter you and the person/thing involved.  It invites your own imagination to play a role. Having an auto-selfie machine do that takes away all the fun.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2014 | 4:51:15 AM
Re: Computerized products without the computer
@David: The only problem is that the number of gadgets we carry are increasing. People would at most carry a smartphone, a watch and a necklace. If this happens I can see traditional accesory companies merging with IT companies to extend their businesses.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2014 | 4:46:41 AM
Smart Doors
I really don't see the benefits of having a smartphone enabled door. You can install an array of sensors for half the price of the smart door which will detect your car and open the door for you. Having the ability to open your garage door from anywhere in the world seems like a nice idea, but really you would not even use this app/technology when you are away on vacation.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2014 | 4:42:54 AM
Re: Floome
@PedroGonzales: Probably yes. Most people would not be using that except parents and cops. This kind of technology has its own forms of abuses, however I don't think the percentage of abuse will overpower the percentage of use.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2014 | 1:30:29 AM
Re: Floome
I think all these devices are all great ideas.  I really liked the charger.  Too bad, they don't have it in smaller versions.  Would cops use the breathalizer when they stop people who are drinking under the influence?
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
9/26/2014 | 4:37:57 PM
Floome
According to the Floome's website you can reserve it for free. Even though I don't drink, I already reserved mine. I could give it to some of my friends, In any case, I wonder how many people who do drink will get it.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
9/26/2014 | 2:14:35 PM
Re: PowerPurse and Go-Anywhere-Wheelchair
@SachinEE, your idea about a smartphone powered wheel chair may be nice. Eventually it'll be used in hospitals where nurses can monitor the patient on their PDA (or any other monitoring device) where the person bound to the wheelchair has went. They can also track the vitals of the person. IOT has a lot of uses in healthcare.
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