- Pantone unveils its color of the year for 2017 - it's called Greenery: a "refreshing and revitalizing shade, Greenery is symbolic of new beginnings" - it seems like brands are recognizing a hunger for optimism in the face of ongoing bad news and a general pessimism about the entirety of 2016.
- Seasoned tech reporter Walt Mossberg says that current consumer tech trends are putting form too far ahead of functionality, and creating inferior (if good looking) user experiences. We think the rise of power derived from being a platform is a piece of this bad-for-user puzzle, with the big tech companies content to make devices that intentionally do not play well with others, seeking to own the whole tech ecosystem of the end user. This leads to lots of clumsy and frustrating work arounds, turning the promise of greater convenience via technology into an annoying chore. So if you want to get ahead as a tech company building consumer products maybe take the bolder stance of being generous with your customers and making things that work for their needs first and foremost, even if it cuts into your product ecosystem opportunities.
- An interesting interview with Astro Teller, talking Google X, moonshot projects, and what can/should kill ambitious endeavors. Google has been trimming back a lot of these big-opportunity, high technical risk blue sky projects in the last year. We will see if that trend continues as they tighten up spending overall.
- From Backchannel: a little behind the scenes at Pebble's downward trajectory that led to selling, and canceling crowdfunded products that seemed promising - but will never ship.
- Costs are falling, deployments are increasing for soft robotics: machines with flexible, conforming, non-marring grippers and actuators. It's an area of innovation that we've been involved with for awhile - much of the tech has spun out of research labs at MIT and Harvard, the Boston area has become a bit of a hub for robots of the squishy variety.
- Big tech companies are focusing on how to get you out of brick-and-mortar retail as fast as possible, and without human cashiers. This past week saw stories on Panasonic's efforts, as well as a slick video from Amazon of a (theoretically) quick and seamless way to get in and get out of their stores. What is a gain of convenience could also be a loss of privacy, with more specific sales data linked & stored to identifying info. Future data breaches for big retailers could lead to even more damaging PR events.
- Post-election there has been a great deal of talk about filter bubbles - Wired suggests that our future blindspots might come from our butler-like bots that listen to our requests and serve up information, news and feedback, but maybe only what we, or they, want us to hear.
- Connected children's toys may be a little too connected - allegedly eavesdropping on conversations and sending that info to a software company known for its government contracts in defense and intelligence sectors. If that doesn't get your thinky-face emoji sense tingling, we don't know what will. Maybe go with some wooden toys for this year's holiday season gifting.
Roadmapping the Future:
- Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times writes about the decline of gadgets, at least when we define gadgets as consumer electronics widgets. The rise of the do-almost-everything smartphone, enabled by massive strides in miniaturization means we don't need nearly the same amount of discrete products to do the handful of jobs traditionally left to gadgets (record sound, take a video, take a picture, make a call, send an email etc.). From the perspective of reduced carbon and e-waste, this at least has the potential to be a very good thing - we are doing more with fewer products. What the article seems to miss is that there has been, and continues to be huge growth when it comes to adding 'gadgets' or instrumentation/IoT-type products for commercial and industrial applications. In our opinion and experience, the single-function gadget isn't dying, it's just gone professional.