At the annual circus of gadgetry known as CES, Google announced their entry into stand-alone video-screen smart home devices similar to Amazon's Echo Show. Google has partnered with JBL, Sony, Lenovo and LG to put out a handful of devices, some of which come with privacy measures like physical camera blockers and the ability to cut power to their onboard microphones. In related news, more details have emerged about Facebook's approach, called Portal.
- As startups have made agile and iterative product development processes the norm (like beta testing with paying customers, their large, established competitors have been slowly absorbing those lessons and following suit. Along those lines, iRobot is rolling out a beta program for customers with the latest generation of Roombas. Practices like these demand a certain level of tech-savvy (and frustration tolerance) that we're guessing maps pretty well to what their research tells them about their customers but is still an unusual tactic for a mass-market consumer product company.
- Behind virtually every high-tech hardware device are women workers contributing to product and process improvements without recognition, frequently with meager pay, and under difficult or dangerous conditions.
Up in the Air:
- Faine Greenwood has been cataloging the various flavors of drone "crashmas" failures, where modern-day Icarus-types overestimate their piloting abilities, losing track of them, maiming family members, or summarily destroying them through run of the mill high-speed crashes.
- China's government is cracking down on cryptocurrency mining, trying to shift energy utilization to more essential activities.
- A fascinating read from The Wall Street Journal on how mega-corporations like Unilever misunderstood consumer behaviors in response to globalization: “The more things globalize, the more people want to affiliate with everything that is local. This has led to unbelievable fragmentation.” The company has been working to become more nimble and nuanced, creating their own localized products to stave off micro-brands-turned household names (like Halo Top ice cream) and regional favorites that have superior cultural fluency, better matching needs and desires of specific places and populations.
- The guy who writes this newsletter wrote up some thoughts on work done in 2017 (at CLEAR design lab and elsewhere), and projects planned for 2018.