Clever Hack for Mobile User Studies

For less than $100 you too can whip together a pocket cam rig to film test users of your mobile app and spot trouble areas. From the Artefact blog:

Staring over your participant’s shoulder isn’t creating the most natural situation when testing user experiences. You get less than ideal viewing angles, participants can’t get into a flow and it’s hard to get good video of it all. So how do you get around that? I’ll introduce to you a few key pieces of hardware and software that can make your life a little easier. Maybe even the coolest researcher in your department, in less than an hour.

Cheap POV video for mobile phone studies

Moving Sale

The two year Finnish adventure is coming to a close so the wheels are in motion to pack up the Helsinki apartment and ship things back to California. Not everything though.

I put together a list of things to sell, mostly appliances, with several big ticket items such as a big screen TV and a drier and lots of ceiling lights. I need them through to the end of May but on around May 25th they will be available for pickup.

Click through to http://bit.ly/StuffForSale and let me know if anything interests you or if you have questions about anything by leaving a comment below.

WVIL Concept Camera

Flickr’s Camera Finder tells us that the traditional point-and-shoot cameras are on the way out while, as a whole, camera phones are on the way in. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have in your pocket. What if one were to go with this trend and merge what’s best about a digital SLR with the best things on a mobile phone?

Seattle-based Artefact rethink the camera phone form factor into one that combines the high quality features of a DSLR (interchanging lens, focus, aperture control) with the flexibility of a modern, touchscreen phone (connected, programmable, flexible UI). Just a design concept at this point but something this is a production version of hacks that we’re already seeing in the wild.

WVIL – Wireless Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens

More Coverage:

The Future of the Camera – Richard MacManus at ReadWriteWeb
A Glimpse at the Future of Photography After Cameras Die – Fast Company

It’s not that bad

The inevitable layoffs announced today at Nokia (where I work) were not as bad as expected. The trick of how to keep the Symbian development teams churning away when you’ve already announced that you’ll be ramping it down was solved by shifting a block of 3,000 employees over to Accenture where they can continue to work or re-deploy their talents on to other Accenture projects.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop did an great job on Finnish TV this evening easing worries, popping conspiracy theory bubbles, and boosting confidence. The entire 20-minute interview is on the YLE site. YLE is the state-funded broadcast network, similar to Japan’s NHK or the BBC in the UK.

Addressing dead on the nagging concern Symbian engineers had about future employment is a brilliant tactical move. This takes the wind out of Finnish employees and press who were bracing for bad news or worse, something suspiciously too optimistic. This keeps the teams’ eye on the ball which is to ship 150 million devices, not look for work elsewhere.

Finns love to rally around stories of the bleakness and unfairness of life. This is something Jim Jarmusch nailed in his 1991 movie Night on Earth clipped below. I encourage you to watch both parts if you want to get an insight into Finnish culture.

Back in 1997, when Apple was $4 a share, the CEO at the time, Gil Amelio, left journalists unsatisfied with his half-answers to their burning questions.  It took Apple years to find it’s way again and only then, with the return of their iconic co-founder. Hopefully Mr. Elop’s transparency and directness will shortcut the process for Nokia’s return.

First Crowd-Sourced Car Company

Rally Fighter, the firsts crowd-sourced car

I just listened to a TWiST interview with John “Jay” Rogers, President and CEO of Local Motors, a Southern California company that has set up a platform for a vibrant community of car enthusiasts to share and vote on each other’s car designs. There first car, the Rally Fighter, is coming off the line and already has waiting list of back-orders. Several highlights from the interview:

– Local Motors taps into a passionate audience, “Everyone thinks they are right when it comes to cars.” It’s easy to spin up a passionate thread about a new design. The value-add of the Local Motors company is that they vet the designs and pick and chose which ones to incorporate “Not a crowd-designed car, it’s a car who’s design came from the crowd.” After a year, they have over 70,000 Creative Commons licensed designs.

– Jay paraphrases Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, described the automobile industry as a glass full of rocks. The large auto companies are the rocks and Local Motors is a niche car company that acts as sand between the rocks. There is room for a company, that is building specialty cars on spec, to be profitable with small production runs.

– Jay is good friends with the founders of Threadless (a crowd-sourced t-shirt company) and his company is built on the same model. Many of the designers in the Local Motors community come from the automotive industry which only productizes a handful of designs each year. Imagine Local Motors as a company that sifts through the best of the rest to come up with winning designs that may not meet the large scale appeal of a Ford or Toyota but still be something “game-changing.” They also provide budding transportation design students a platform to showcase their portfolio.

– Local Motors’ mission statement, We will create game-changing cars with an unprecedented level of customer service. What this means in practice is that the process of delivery and manufacturing is transparent and hands on. You not only put together your custom order, you are also asked to come to the factory and actually build your car. All designs, down to the CAD drawings and build instructions are online for review and customization.

– The US Department of Transportation allows you to drive cars that you build yourself (and register as a “Specialty Constructed Vehicle”) which is why, included in the $60k cost of delivery of their first car, the  is two long weekends at the “micro-factory” learning how to build your car and putting it together with the Local Motors team. You not only get a car, you learn, from the inside out, how your car is put together.

Local Motors Build Experience

– The Local Motors model is working so well, that they have branched out. Reebok commissioned the community to design a shoe (winning design below). During the interview, Jay mentioned that they are thinking of opening up the community to other things that need to be designed and built.

Reebok Rally Fighter

So what does a crowd-sourced automobile look like? Here’s a video of their first car, the Rally Fighter, in action.

Related Info:

In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits – Wired.com
Quirky: A Crowd-Sourced Way to Produce Your Designs –  article in Fast Company about another crowd-sourcing industrial design community

Speed Climbing Eiger

I first read about Eiger in Jon Krakauer’s book, Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains in which he writes,

The problem with climbing the North Face of the Eiger is that in addition to getting up 6,000 vertical feet of crumbling limestone and black ice, one must climb over some formidable mythology. The trickiest moves on any climb are the mental ones, the psychological gymnastics that keep terror in check, and the Eiger’s grim aura is intimidating enough to rattle anyone’s poise.

With that in mind, take a look at the video below which shows Ueli Steck, a swiss climber, running up Eiger in two hours and forty-seven minutes!

– via kottke.org

More Sellouts from the Archives

Part of the joys of packing (I’m due to move back to California from Helsinki at the end of May) is you go through stuff and figure out what you can pitch. Last night I ran across a trove of old clippings that I never got around to scanning in and adding to my old Big Sell Out site. Big Sell Out was one of the first web sites built when I was living in Tokyo. It was a collection of scans of mostly American actors and sports celebrities advertising (usually awkwardly) for Japanese products.

The whole experience of American movie stars earning some extra cash from a Japanese sponsor was famously portrayed by Bill Murry in the movie, Lost in Translation.

Anyway, a few months back I ran across an old digital backup of the images and put them up again. Last night, I spend a couple of hours scanning these new images in and have added them to the Celebrity Endorsement archive for you, dear reader.

Added to the collection are never before seen scans of Dan Akroyd, Mr. Bean, Mariah Carey, Geroge Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brett Favre, Mike Piazza, Scottie Pippen, Brad Pitt, Meg Ryan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods, and ZZ Top.

Enjoy.

Eco-friendly module housing from Finland

4Nature is a Finnish company that makes modular homes that are easy to construct, giving people in disaster zones long term shelter, getting them out of tents or other short term shelters. A 55-square meter house can be built by three people in 48 hours using simple tools without electricity. I met Mikael Arpiainen, the CEO of 4Nature, several months back and he explained to me the concept and the good work they were doing for the people of Haiti and refugee camps in Africa. Shortly after the earthquake in Japan, I reached him via email and he sent on some more information about his company which I summarize below.

55 sq. meter home made of 3 modules

The idea is to start with a basic “module” of 18-square meters which can be combined with other modules to make any structure you need. Pieces can be added on or removed easily and because the modules are built ahead of time in quantities, they are cheap and easy to ship and handle. It’s like Lego. Once a shelter is no longer needed, they can be disassembled and re-used again and again, cutting down on waste and saving on the initial investment.

The structures are designed to be built quickly, without the need of a foundation. They can be built on corkscrew like pillars so the height of the home can be adjusted as necessary. The philosophy behind these homes is that they can be built by anyone so that people begin to rebuild their lives and help each other while helping themselves and not have to wait for specialized crews. The point is to get people back on their feet and out of temporary shelters and into homes that they can call their own so they can begin to re-build their lives.

These homes are not trailer homes like the ones that were provided for the Kobe earthquake victims. These are simple but durable structures that can support long term occupancy. They are built to withstand hurricane force winds, are flame retardant, and are built to be comfortable in all seasons.

Other points from the 4Nature web site below:

  • Most affordable long-term residency solution available on the market
  • Easy to assemble – a standard house can be erected without any machinery
  • Extremely short building time – significant savings in building costs
  • Inhabitants can move in the same day – optimal for crisis situations
  • Reusable – Can be assembled and disassembled several times
  • Adaptable to any need – private house, hospital, school, office, warehouse..
  • Fireproof, water-resistant, resistant to insects and termites
  • Withstands winds of up to 100 mph, up to 8.9 Richter earthquakes
  • Built out of environmentally friendly materials
  • Easy installation of solar panels and other amenities

4Nature says they have over 50 units at the factory ready to go today and can begin ramping up production if large orders are necessary. Pricing from the factory starts at 2,500 euros for their basic 18 square meter home. If anyone reading this is interested in contacting 4Nature, please visit their website or leave a comment below and I will pass on your contact details.

As the search and rescue operations wind down, it’s vital to get the survivors out of the tents, cars, and gymnasiums where they have been living and into places where they have privacy so they can get their life together again. These homes by 4Nature are one way to do it.

UPDATE: According to this article (in Japanese) there are still only 36 units of temporary housing have been built in the three weeks since the earthquake.