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Archive for the ‘New Concepts’ Category

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.

Pinterest _ Search results for MYO gesture

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.

My Recommendation

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. 

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Why Managing Sucks - Launch TeamLast 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!” Check out the first chapter today and consider purchasing the book to readjust your thinking on work.

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Rocket Science | Flickr - Photo Sharing!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.

Virgin Galactic

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:

XCOR Aerospace

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.

Pinterest _ Search results for xcor aerospaceXCOR 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.

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E. 38th St and Mass Ave. | Flickr - Photo Sharing!-1A 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.

Close to the Hollywood Sign | Flickr - Photo Sharing!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:

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If you’ve been to any popular tourist spot, chances are someone on your Facebook friends list has too. After all what frequent Facebook user hasn’t seen a friend’s vacation snap shots of somewhere they themselves have been at some point? Frequently people posts pictures in front of popular tourist haunts such as the Statue of Liberty, Buckingham Palace, with Mickey and Minnie at a Disney theme park or even with that Times Square cowboy. Perhaps such pictures are even better shots than yours. Maybe your Facebook friend had better weather; which lets face it is very possible with the Buckingham Palace example. With so many people having similar vacation experiences, which are now more visible than ever before, it may be harder than ever to have bragging rights when it comes to travel.

An article in the July 23, 2012 edition of Fortune Magazine, suggests that there is a growing trend of one of a kind travel experiences. The article claims that a growing number of companies in the travel industry are starting to offer travel experiences that go beyond generic tourist spots. Here are some company examples:

Frommer’s Remix: this successful travel guide company now offers itinerary creation based on destination preference and interests. Users even receive a custom-made book containing maps to the different activities based on the hotel they are staying at.

An AirBnB option in France, image courtesy of Pinterest

AirBnB: back in May I featured a blog post on AirBnB, a San Francisco start-up, which offers a wide variety of things to rent. The website’s diverse offerings include interesting places to stay and unique activities. There’s an experience for almost any budget. You can go on a street food tour of London with locals or go to an urban rooftop farm in New York or an architecture exhibition in Munich; the options when you think outside the box are endless.

Fortnighter: New York company Fortnighter utilizes the talents of over 100 freelance travel writers’ local knowledge to create custom itineraries based on a user’s interests and preferences. This company custom designs trips of any length and can even help you decide where to go. Here is an example:

“One client asked the company to structure a three-week road trip through New Zealand. He had heard of caves full of mesmerizing glowworms but didn’t know any details, so Fortnighter’s writer did the research, tracked down an outfitter to escort him through the caves, and found hotels for 10 stops along the way.”

Essentially the company creates customized vacations based on local knowledge to save people hours of research.

One&Only Resorts, image courtesy of Pinterest

One&Only Resorts: One&Only Resorts is an upscale hotel company that tries to create memories by surprising its guests. The company’s concept is based on details, if a guest mentions a favorite food or song, the company will find a way to surprise them accordingly, perhaps by playing that song at dinner and serving that favorite food item. Essentially this concept reminds me of creating magical moments, something I did in my days as a Disney cast member.

Based on a True Story: An option for the millionaires out there, Based on a True Story organizes just a few dream come true trips each year. Here is the description of what they offer:

“We take our clients to the most secluded, untouched and awe-inspiring locations on earth and create… a magic-carpet-ride of exclusive experiences…  all in utter privacy. A travel experience that is individually created and truly yours alone. Our holidays provide strategic and seamless discovery, encompassing an eclectic range of incredible events and activities enriched by exceptional private chefs, slick logistics and utterly exclusive and authentic accommodation.”

One group of past clients were enjoying a bonfire after a South African safari, only to be surprised by Zulu tribes people performing a battle and drum performance. Based on a True Story trips include a professional photographer who helps to create a book of the once in a lifetime experience.

What do you think of the growing trend of experiential vacations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Making the bed is definitely a daily chore for many of us. However, this task may become redundant in the future, for purchasers of OHEA’s “smart bed”.

Spanish company OHEA; have created a bed that literally makes itself. The video below previews the smart bed:

As you can see from the video the smart bed is very streamlined and simple and looks like a piece of Ikea furniture.

How it works

The bed is equipped with a device that triggers 3 seconds after an occupant has gotten out of bed. In just 50 seconds the side arms of the bed open up and a roller bed making mechanism is activated. To avoid the annoyance of having your bed remade every time you get up during the night, the device can also be set manually, to only make the bed when a “go” button is pressed on a remote control. For safety purposes the device will not function while any pressure is applied.

Target audience

The target audience for this product is ultimately any one looking to save a few minutes a day by eliminating this chore. However, the user that can benefit most from this technology is anyone who for health reasons cannot easily bend and make their bed.

Smart bed options

The smart bed is currently available in 5 different sizes. At this point in time the smart bed is not compatible with regular bedding. Each smart bed comes with two sets of smart bed compatible bedding.  The company anticipates having a broader variety of bedding options in the future. Certainly at this time the bed is very simple and given its lack of multiple pillows and blankets, it looks like the simplest kind of bed to make manually. As the technology progresses, this is inevitably likely to change.

The smart bed’s U.S. release date and pricing has not yet been announced. However, the company is accepting queries on their website, where you can also learn more about this innovative product that could revamp your morning routine. 

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Recently on an outing with friends, our group split up into two groups for a short period of time. Not long after we tried to arrange by cell phone to meet for dinner at a restaurant one of the groups had found. Unfortunately, trying to give directions when neither group knew the area well enough to know exactly where they were, in relation to the other group’s location, was challenging even for a group of MBA students. After a lot of time wasted wandering around we were all reunited, only to find out our two original locations had originally only been a block or two apart. Yes, seriously! If only we had, had Mapfia, it wouldn’t have been so complicated.

Mapfia is a smart phone application that enables its users to share their real-time locations on a map. In the case given above instead of calling and describing our locations, we could have used the Mapfia app to see one another’s locations on a grid, to get real-time directions instantaneously. Indeed, Mapfia was even created in order to eradicate situations like the one I described above. Mapfia was founded by a team of engineers, who frustrated with giving directions on the phone, set out to make navigation and location sharing simple and secure. The video below shows how the technology works:

Mapfia could also come in useful for business people. For example, realtors could use the application to help direct their clients to a house viewing.

While many location-sharing applications raise privacy concerns, this does not appear to be the case with Mapfia. For security purposes Mapfia users only share location information for the duration of the phone call. Once one party hangs up the phone the other no longer has access to their real-time location.

I think the Mapfia application has great potential, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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