Created by Canadian start-up Thalmic Labs, MYO may be a potential replacement to camera/movement tracking technologies. But what is MYO? MYO is an armband that detects gestures from muscle activity and motion sensing. The MYO armband uses Bluetooth connectivity to wirelessly pair with devices and send commands. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and an ARM processor, power the MYO armband. If the product lives up to expectations it could transform how we interact with digital technologies. Check out this video to see how MYO is expected to function:
Here are 5 reasons why I believe MYO could be a potential game changer:
1. It’s Non-Invasive
The MYO armband should be no different from wearing a watch (albeit higher on your arm). It’s not in front of your eyes, potentially getting in your way like Google’s Project Glass technology. My only concern regarding wear-ability is MYO’s “one size fits most” claim. I have thin arms, (a lucky problem to have in some instances) and can’t help but wonder if a MYO armband will fit looser and not function as well on my arm? Time will tell if Thalmic Labs may need to recreate the MYO armband in different sizes to guarantee optimal functionality.
2. Large Audience /Multi-Use Appeal
MYO can be used to interface with video games and for other entertainment purposes. It also has an educational application, enabling its user to sweep through PowerPoint presentations (without holding a remote or standing behind a computer) and circle data. In addition MYO can be used by runners and snowboarders for example to measure speed. MYO can also interact with devices to serve a mouse or remote type function. MYO’s large amount of uses, make this technology potentially accessible to a mass audience.
3. PC/MAC Compatibility
MYO will be fully compatible with PCs and MACs from launch, making it widely accessible. Thalmic Labs are also looking into offering Linux support.
4. It’s Affordable!
MYO is available for pre-order for $149 and can be shipped anywhere in the world for $10.
5. Open Source Development
Thalmic Labs have been smart enough to recognize that they will not be able to think of all the ways MYO could be used. As a result anyone can utilize MYO’s hardware to experiment, build and profit creating a MYO app.
I think MYO could potentially be very successful. However, getting the armband into the mass market before an established technology company releases something similar (e.g. Google’s Project Glass), will impact Thalmic Labs’ success. I would recommend Thalmic Labs partner with a large technology company for example Microsoft’s Kinect to greater increase the likelihood of this technology having a fast impact. Educational partnerships with schools, colleges and technology centers could further ensure a successful launch.
Want to be an early adopter of this gesture technology? Click here to preorder a MYO armband.
Posted in Change, Innovative Ideas, New Concepts, Technology | Tagged MYO, Thalmic labs | Leave a Comment »
Last year I wrote several posts on the results-only work environment concept and the benefits of this approach. To recap a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a management philosophy focused on employee results over presence. With ROWE employees are free to come and go as they please and do whatever they want, so long as work gets done and deadlines are met.
The ROWE concept is pioneered by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler from consulting group Culture RX. In 2008 Thompson and Ressler’s book on ROWE: “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” was named “The Year’s Best Book on Work-Life Balance” by Business Week. The concept has gathered acclaim from all over the world and Daniel Pink best selling author of Drive, describes ROWE as:
“One of the biggest ideas in talent in the last decade.”
Now Thompson and Ressler are back with a new book called “Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It” that shows how management can be reinvented. The book is described as “a results-only guide to taking control of work, not people.” In addition to Thompson and Ressler’s narratives on ROWE and management, the book also features case studies written by Culture RX’s clients illustrating how the ROWE concept can “make an organization more entrepreneurial, more connected with the broader industry trends, and more willing to take smart risks.” Indeed, organizations that have adopted ROWE have on average experienced increased engagement, a 35% increase in productivity and a 90% decrease in voluntary turnover. Here is a trailer that sums up what this book is all about:
Last year my blog posts on ROWE attracted the attention of Ressler and Thompson and I was asked to guest post on the Culture RX blog. Roll on a year and I am excited to have been asked to be a part of the book launch team for “Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It!” I received my copy of the book a few days ago, look for my review coming up soon. Meanwhile check out the first chapter and consider purchasing the book to readjust your thinking on work.
Posted in Innovative Ideas, New Concepts, Organizational Culture, Results-Only Work Environment | Tagged Cali Ressler, Culture RX, Jody Thompson, ROWE, Why Managing Sucks | Leave a Comment »
Recreational space travel was once seen as accessible only to billionaires, yet today the emergence of a commercial space travel industry targeting a broader demographic has never been closer. With an anticipated launch as early as 2014, space travel reservations are already being taken by Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace.
Richard Branson had grown up dreaming of going space, yet as the years went by he observed that:
“NASA didn’t seem to be that interested in getting you and me into space.”
In 1990, ever the opportunistic entrepreneur Branson patented the name Virgin Galactic and began to investigate the feasibility of commercial space flights. In 2004 he licensed SpaceShipOne technology (the technology behind the first manned commercial vehicle to reach suborbital space) to create SpaceShipTwo. Double the size of its predecessor, SpaceShipTwo holds 2 pilots and 6 public participants (not called passengers due to legal reasons around the safety risks of space travel). To date Branson has spent over $200 million on turning his commercial space travel dream into a reality.
Virgin Galactic space travelers will fly out a spaceport in New Mexico. Branson anticipates that after arriving in space, travelers will be able to float around in the back cabin to experience about five minutes of weightlessness. The company is already taking reservations at $200,000 a ticket ($20,000 minimum deposit) or $1,000,000 to reserve an exclusive space flight for you and up to 5 friends. Here is Branson’s short video on Virgin Galactic:
Created in 1999 by a group of rocket engineers, XCOR Aerospace is setting out to become the “Southwest” of space travel. To date the start-up has spent over $45 million on developing a spaceship the Lynx that can operate like a commercial airliner. XCOR’s chief test pilot is “39 days in space” pilot commander Richard Searfoss.
XCOR aim to offer up to 4 flights a day, 6 days a week departing from Midland, TX. Some flights will be for space travelers, while other flights will carry space experiments and small satellites for deployment. Chief test pilot and former NASA astronaut Richard Searfoss describes XCOR’s positioning:
“We’re trying to position the Lynx adventure as kind of The Right Stuff experience.”
Like Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace flights will travel up to sub-orbit providing about 5 minutes of weightlessness. However, at this time due to safety concerns and given the prospect of space sickness, XCOR Aerospace travelers will not be able to float around the cabin. XCOR Aerospace are currently taking reservations for $95,000 a ticket. Check out this short video to learn more about their proposed experience:
As with any new industry it will take time for prices to come down enough for space travel to become accessible to the mass market. Nevertheless this is an exciting start to the creation of a commercial space travel industry.
But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Posted in Change, Industry Change, New Concepts | Tagged Richard Branson, Richard Searfoss, Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace | Leave a Comment »
A few years ago, Princeton PhD and Google CIO Douglas Merrill was enjoying some time by his pool when he received a phone call. The phone call was from his sister-in-law Vicki who was a single mom of 3, balancing full-time work and school. Vicki had called in a bind unable to afford new tires for her car. The expense was unanticipated and without new tires she would not have been able to get to work. Merrill lent her the money and asked what she would have done if it weren’t for him. Vicki responded that she would have got a payday loan. This one event led to the creation of an idea that would forever change Merrill’s career path.
Merrill considered it unfair that people with sub prime credit, who don’t have financially supportive relatives, have to resort to overpriced payday or pawn shop loans. Merrill gives the stats:
“According to the National Federation for Credit Counselors, 64% of Americans do not have a savings account of $1,000 or more to cover emergency expenses. About 17% are… able to borrow money from a family member. Unfortunately, that leaves the majority of Americans with no family to turn to, and no access to traditional credit. Unexpected expenses can push them over the edge of financial stability.”
Approximately 30 million Americans take out at least 1 payday or pawn shop loan each year to help cover unexpected expenses. These loans are essentially predatory debt, often with interest rates of over 600% hurting borrowers’ chances of regaining financial stability. Indeed payday loan payments are fee based resulting in a large number of payments that aren’t applied to the principal. In 2011 payday loan borrowers paid over $8 billion in fees.
Merrill saw a gap in the market to offer a form of credit with rates somewhere in between credit cards and payday loans. He created ZestCash (now ZestFinance) in 2010 to offer an alternative solution to payday and pawn shop loans for Americans who don’t qualify for credit cards, but may still be reliable borrowers if the traditional FICO credit assessment formula is rethought.
Merrill teamed up with Shawn Budde a senior executive for Capital One who was experienced in traditional underwriting. Together they set out to use big data to give what Merrill refers to as the “underbanked” access to lower cost credit, potentially saving this group billions of dollars in the long run.
Traditionally underwriting has utilized between 10-15 variables through logistic algorithms and or decision trees to decide whether or not to offer credit. By using big data, advanced mathematics and machine learning, ZestFinance goes beyond the traditional under writing approach, by analyzing thousands of potential credit variables (previously not examined) to assess fraud potential, default risk and long-term customer relationship potential. One previously unexamined variable which ZestFinance analyzes to determine willingness to pay, regards pre paid cell phones (popular among those with sub prime credit). A person’s willingness to keep their pre-paid phone number active, can correlate with the likelihood they will make payments on their loan.
Today ZestFinance offer loans of $300 to $800 through Spotloan for rates approximately 50% less than standard payday loans. Unlike payday loans every payment made by the borrower reduces the principal as well as paying down the interest.
ZestFinance hope to bring the “underbanked” back into the financial mainstream. Merrill argues that if they can get just 10% of payday loan customers to qualify for ZestFinance loans, they will help save that group of money conscious customers $800 million. The loans are not cheap, but are a more affordable alternative for those that don’t qualify for traditional credit or don’t have relatives to borrow funds from.
To learn more about Douglas Merrill’s “big idea” watch his TedX presentation below:
Posted in Industry Change, Innovative Ideas, New Concepts, Technology | Tagged Big Data, Douglas Merrill, Spotloan, ZestFinance | Leave a Comment »
To combat economic pressures as customers increasingly migrate online, retailers continue to look for ways to entice customers to their brick and mortar stores. One such approach has been the rise of in-store dining. Back in the 1900s many U.S. department stores ran restaurants within their department stores, many of which have stood the test of time. With online retail sales expected to increase by 16% by the end of this holiday season, retail locations are looking to add an experience to their physical stores that the online space can’t offer.
Tommy Bahamas is a flagship example of how lucrative in-store dining can be. The tropical shirt retailer’s 14 (and counting) island stores with restaurants generate 2.5 times the sales of their regular retail locations. Furthermore, the company’s restaurants generate approximately 12% of Tommy Bahamas’ total annual revenue of $452 million. In the company’s new fifth avenue store there is a restaurant on one floor and a bar on another, perfect for that shopping break. Also notable is Tommy Bahamas’ focus on quality, delicious offerings, in contrast to the sub-par food court offerings you would find in the average mall. Check out this commercial of their Myrtle Beach in-store restaurant:
The idea here is that the restaurant is an extension of your brand and the quality needs to be consistent with your retail offerings. CEO of Tommy Bahamas, Terry Pillow describes the reaction fellow CEOs have had to their restaurant-retail concept:
“Fellow CEOs are fascinated first of all that we have it and the second thing they’re fascinated about is that we run it ourselves.”
Indeed in the rise of the hybrid restaurant-retail concept, the trend is for the retailer to run their own restaurant, rather than having it as a concession. One of my favorite clothing retailers Urban Outfitters, have followed suit introducing restaurants into their two Terrain branded home and garden stores. These restaurants play on the popularity of farmers’ markets offering locally sourced food, to give customers a different experience and menu depending on the locale. Terrain’s president Wendy McDevitt acknowledges the lure of the retail-restaurant concept:
“The one thing you can’t get in the cyber world is the tactile experience, and that won’t go away. Food is becoming bigger in terms of entertainment value.”
The in-store restaurant concept is also a great way to increase the amount of time each customer spends in the store. McDevitt estimates that if customers typically spend up to 90 minutes browsing, this can double to 3 hours if stop for a glass of wine or lunch.
Other stores increasing their restaurant-retail offerings include Nordstrom, who are adding contemporary diners and espresso bars to their current eatery options and JC Penney who plan to add juice bars and coffee shops to hundreds of their stores over the next few years.
I think the in-store restaurant concept if executed well could be very successful for a number of retailers, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Posted in Business Success, Industry Change, Strategy | Tagged JC Penney, Nordstrom, Terrain, Tommy Bahamas, Urban Outfitters | Leave a Comment »