Five Crowdfunded Wearable Tech Devices to Watch

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We are witnessing — and taking part in — one of the largest shifts in product development of our time. Crowdfunding has completely reinvented what it means to create a product, reducing the time to market and bringing a more complex and innovative set of goods to the marketplace.

Even a cursory look through the popular crowdfunding platforms shows that there are some very interesting products being developed, very quickly, in the wearable tech arena. Here are five.

1. Fin: A ring that makes your hand a gesture based control for common actions (Funded, 4 days left)

Fin is a small ring, fitted for the thumb that turns your hand into a numeric keypad; it also uses gesture-based controls such as hand waving. It’s designed to be connected to smartphones, smart TVs, automobiles and home automation. One can imagine tech like this becoming commonplace for every day use. Plus, it has the very altruistic benefit of helping people with limited mobility or visual impairment.

2. Atlas: Nike Fit Band on steroids, with a Strava-like competitive facet (Mega-funded 18 days left)

As an owner of a Garmin, I was blown away that my device could figure out when I was doing freestyle versus breaststroke. Atlas makes this look like child’s play – it knows a bicep curl from a hammer curl, and even tells you if your form sucks. And, you can teach it new tricks (cross fitters, rejoice!). Oh, and it builds in a Strava-like community that lets you measure your activity against your friends.

3. Haloband: A wristband that controls your smartphone (Funded, pre-ordering now available on Indiegogo)

Perhaps the simplest on this list, Haloband could be a very common device in the very near future – because it is simple to use and can pretty immediately address common problems. An extension of your smartphone, it uses NFC (on NFC enabled phones) to perform tasks, without having to dig your phone out of a pocket or bag. These tasks could include switching songs on your media player, or even taking the place of your office pass card.

4. Atheer One: Google Glasses with a 3D angle (Funded)

Google Glass has spawned all kinds of me-toos. Antheer One does a better than average job of doing so. With a depth sensor, it gives a three dimensional immersive view. And, it combines what appears to be a more complex set of gesture-based controls. Watch the video, it’s hard not to see how these glasses are paving the way for immersive user experiences.

5. Angel: Blood Oxygen Sensor (Funded)

An open API will really give this product an interesting future. Yet, even off-the-shelf, Angel is pretty powerful. Worn on the wrist, it monitors pulse, temperature, activity and blood oxygen level. With funding, the company plans to transfer and integrate that data into smartphone apps, laptops and even treadmills. The device has great potential for not just athletes — who are the obvious first-users — but also for those with medical conditions that require regular monitoring.

http://vimeo.com/74271995

[Originally posted on the Proving Ground blog]

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Let’s Make it About Damn Good Content Again

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These are defining times for brands. Advancements in technology like interactive video, wearable tech and even 3D printing have rocked the status quo and are fundamentally changing what it means to interact with the world today. It’s the continuous nature of of these changes that are evolving the brand-consumer dynamic.

The brand on the shelf is merely one dimension. Companies have to be more, do more. To win market share, they can’t just out-school a competitor with advertising. Instead, brands have to be “relevant.” Who thought a word so benign would become so pervasive?

That little word means brands have a huge content marketing problem: social media, video content, infographics, articles, newsletters, mobile content, webinars, white papers, case studies, ebooks, testimonials, demos, branded content. And that’s not to mention the important role of data and analytics,  SEO and SEM, or even distribution strategy.

So complex is this issue that some agencies and brands have hired editorial directors from big publications to steer the content ship.

Still, as the recipients of this, it can be an assault to our sensibilities. While we’ve come to accept that brands are often a part of our content experience, it’s not always comfortable. For instance, as an avid runner, do I really want my trusted content coming from my favorite shoe company? I have mad love for my brandof choice, but maybe I’d prefer it from a less biased source.

Refocusing on Damn Good Content

Let’s think about just one aspect of content for a minute — the quality. A friend of mine, Josh Beane, is a producer. He started his career outside of the agency world where the only thing that made you successful was damn good work. He then dipped his toes in the agency world for a few years, then left to pursue more damn good work with his new company Idea Farmer. In the years that I’ve known him, he consistently demonstrates something — what matters is the content experience. Make it damn good and people will care. And they’ll come back.

It’s when brands lean too hard on the advertising tactics they know that it goes wrong — uncomfortable overlaid ads, a blatant and awkward use of the brand, or even a redirection of content to suit their own purely selfish pursuits.

This is not to suggest that good, quality content and branding are mutually exclusive. Rather, if brands want to reap the benefits of excellent content and the people that it draws, they should accept the terms that content is built on.

Josh’s most recent project is a cooking show called Saucy. While his intention is to eventually make this platform open to brand integration, right now the effort is exclusively centered on building content that people love.

He found a dynamic and talented chef to host, filmed it beautifully, sourced great material and built a functional and attractive website to view it in. Many in the marketing world would consider the antithesis of how things are done. And that’s the point. Lead with damn good content…dammit. Make people love it. And then, let brands in. Go Like them on Facebook to follow the shows. You’ll be glad you did. Especially if you love food. And who doesn’t?

There is another example, albeit a lot less homegrown. Cupcake Wars on the Food Network has a guest judge on each episode that is invariably a brand. That guest judge is the one the contestants are designing their cupcakes for. Brands are then integrated into the construct of the content, so it’s not a distraction. And I almost always remember the brand that was profiled. And not in an icky way.

So get out there brands. And make some damn good content.

The Business of Creativity: An Interview with Heather Alhadeff, founder of Center Forward

At Midtown Alliance’s event this Thursday, July 25th, we will discuss the business of creativity. While it’s become a hot topic among notably big businesses such as Google and Apple, the concept is spreading. Organizations of all kinds, big and small, are beginning to realize the value of operationalizing creativity. Through this event, which I am helping to produce with Midtown Alliance, we’re hoping to take a little of the mystery out of it, and to create a conversation that gives our members a sense of what it means to be creative in their own businesses. Registration is now closed, but you can still read the interviews!

The following is an interview with one of the event’s three speakers. Heather Alhadeff is the founder of Center Forward, an Atlanta-based business focused on resolving complex land use and multi-modal transportation challenges.

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Heather, your company tackles these challenges through effective community involvement. To successfully integrate a collaborative process in the complex projects you tackle means that you do things a little bit differently. We would love to get your take on what role you think creativity has played in your business.

1. Let’s start with a little background on Center Forward. What made you decide to launch your company?

Through both my public and private sector work I am often asked to help with unique issues or complex projects that aren’t being resolved or implemented with traditional methods. The economic downturn has really changed the nature of the Planning, Architecture and Engineering world. The more urban and entailed projects now require a team of different individuals rather than just one large firm. Creative and inter-discipline thinking is more important than ever. Starting my own business means I can focus on providing those niche services at a lower cost, and I get to work on more Atlanta projects. The variety of work and the people I get to work with is phenomenal!

2. You have said that you see creativity in many, less visible aspects of your business — including communication. Can you speak a little to this? 

People think of city building as a process of just thinking and implementing efficient systems. However, the business of creating successful and vibrant places today has to do with providing an efficient thing (a building, street, etc.) and creating a better experience.

The process of designing solutions requires one to be an incredible listener of many different styles of communication and interaction. Accents, backgrounds, levels of education, experiences — they all shape the dialogue.  Different disciplines talk and think in opposing ways. Talking with an engineer, elected official, and citizen in the same room requires lots of communication dexterity.

Creative visuals are the fundamental way to overcome these varied mindsets and backgrounds. The Planning and Engineering industry, in my opinion, has done a dis-service to our cities and places by providing overly technical, un-readable visuals to the public. The confusion and frustration to the client, decision maker, or the public is often unnecessarily high.

I truly enjoy thinking of creative ways to display, communicate and ask questions. The experience is positive and you can get to resolution much faster. For the projects I work with, it is personally and professionally pleasing to see people’s faces understand and light up about improving the places they move around or live in.

3. What role do you think creativity has in innovation?

Innovation is absolutely only possible with creativity, which is the ability to see familiar things in a new way.

For fun, I took a left brain, right brain test. I wasn’t surprised at all to find that I have a 56-44% split. I see physical objects (buildings, streets, parks, etc.) and think about their purpose and effectiveness as well as the relationship and emotions generated between those things and the observer. People get frustrated with systems (transit, roads, shopping areas, buildings, restaurants, etc.) if maneuvering through it is frustrating. On the other hand, if the experience is efficient but mind numbing, humans react negatively as well. Everything is about ease and pleasantness.

Detroit solved congestion and made an efficient and huge highway and street system. But the design they chose had a huge cost over a long period of time. It sucked out the life or experience of the City, so everyone that could move. That highway system funded the growth of their suburbs at the cost of their beautiful city. Now they are bankrupt and that costs the whole nation.

Fundamental to people are the efficiency and experience. Creativity is ALL about the experience aspect. The cities that are doing well are focused on the experience just as much as providing the service.

The Business of Creativity: An Interview with Tim Habeger, PushPush Theater

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working with Atlanta’s Midtown Alliance on an event: The Business of Creativity. We plan to bring together three speakers from very different fields to talk about what role creativity plays in their organization. It’s a strategy that I expect will give our audience a diverse view of the topic and a chance to learn from businesses they may never interact with under normal circumstances.

In prep for this event, I interviewed one of our speakers, Tim Habeger, founder of Atlanta’s PushPush Theater. He provided a complete and extremely insightful commentary on creativity, living and working in Atlanta, entrepreneurship, and the technology-guided shifts in doing business that are forever changing the game for him — and nearly every organization.

The event is on the evening of Thursday, July 25th. If you’re interested in attending and are in the Midtown Atlanta area, drop me a line at scritchfield at gmail dot com.

Tim Habeger, PushPush Theatre
Image credit, Stacey Bode Photography

Tim, you’re the most obviously creative of all of our presenters — you operate PushPush Theater, which is an artist-run incubator of original stories by independent artists. You’re a writer, a storyteller, an actor and … a businessman.

Tell me what made you decide to create and launch PushPush Theater.

I had just moved from New York to Atlanta and was really surprised not to find continuing professional development programs for performing artists and filmmakers. Atlanta’s film and theater scene was growing but there was little to help our own creative artists keep up with the growth or help them have a bigger voice in how the changes would affect them. There were no seminars, professional workshops or affordable spaces necessary for R&D.

PushPush Film and Theater became an affordable place where creative artists could learn, try new approaches, take risks and develop original work for a growing market.

Today in Atlanta, nearly two decades later, Atlanta has several institutions whose main purpose is the continued professional development of emerging artists and administrators: The Metropolitan Foundation, WonderRoot, AFF 365, and C-4 among others are growing and with more of these organizations, we see the growth of world-class, original work being produced in the Atlanta area.

We believe a city’s creative environment doesn’t just magically get better — it improves with strategic planning and steady work.

How are things different now then when you started the theatre back in 2006?

The biggest difference I see is the increased connection between Atlanta and other cultural and business centers. We are more connected and as our “community” expands, so do our options. We face tougher challenges of the bigger field, but we also get new ideas and solutions — new ways to frame our challenges.

PushPush began its international exchange program over 10 years ago and this program has been the biggest asset to our company’s growth and improvement.

Were there any obstacles that forced you to pivot/course-correct along the way?

We have changed directions three times in our 17-year history. The first was from doing other people’s work to developing our own original work. We realized a prime definition of creativity is the evidence that our work is being imitated or copied by others. We changed from copying other artists’ work from New York and LA to establishing our own place as an original content incubator.

The second change was the development of personal planning. We went from an organization motivating its staff and associates to allowing individual planners to take responsibility for their own career paths. And through responsibility, exert a greater voice in the decisions that affected their own work.

The third major change was to get rid of our reliance on the old notion of theater as a place to show plays and films. We went digital — and mobile. We are currently in this phase that is marked by connectivity, relying on existing networks, and collaborative, open-source thinking.

Conventional thinking might lead people to believe that creativity in its purist form is for people in the arts. Nancy Nersessian from Georgia Tech will likely talk about why she believes this isn’t true. I’d love to hear your take on what you think creativity means, and whom it belongs to.

 Richard Florida writes about the rise of the creative class — the newest, largest segment of society that sees its job as coming up with new approaches, solutions and ways of seeing the world. I think this is true, and cannot possibly be seen as merely an artistic phenomenon.

Computer programmers, marketing people, business strategists and others face the same challenges as screen writers and other artists who create worlds out of thin air. They rely on inspiration and ideas for their own success.

Lately, there is a big intersection where cultural artists and other creative people overlap. They are coming up with new ways to create work-models and approaches. They are creating new ways to assess the value of work and to define terms like “community” and “scope.”

Hopefully the arts will become more viable and sustainable through this, and non-artistic organizations will become more creative, original and fluid.

The outcomes of the changing dialogue are good for all those willing to continue their development. The changes will also strike fear into those who see change as threatening to their way of life. But like it or not, we live in the greatest period of change the world may have ever seen.

What role has technology played in what you do — especially right now, when social media, crowdsourcing, on-demand and online communities are so ubiquitous.

At every step of PushPush’s evolvement, the changes we’ve made have been prompted by the way our people use technology — both our audiences and our artists. The Internet and its social media have changed the way we create.

We founded PushPush in the 20th century as a bricks-and-mortar operation with a hierarchical infrastructure.

As for the bricks-and-mortar notion, we believe that artistic organizations can only maintain their own space with heavy subsidies, or by compromising their integrity and/or simply producing low-end marketable sweets for the masses.

Regarding the hierarchical notion, film and theater have mainly valued the “auteur-theory,” that argues for a single leader — nearly always a white male — to lead the rest with his artistic vision for nearly every aspect of a creative project. For generations, we justified the lack of diversity in a variety of ways, and held tight to the belief that things were changing.

In 2001, we found ourselves in a new century and for the first time more of our audiences were online than were not. They had access to information and choices. The person of the year was “Me.” More and more, we all had an immediate, connected, informed and active network of creative partners that wanted a stake in the results of their work.

We quickly moved from a small, local organization that served live, local audiences to one of the first theaters to bring digital technology into our programming on a daily basis. In ten short years, we have helped to develop 30 hybrid productions, 250 short films and 10 features, five of which have worldwide distribution.

Our bare-bones style and our mission to be an incubator of new ideas were helped enormously with the introduction of affordable HD digital technology. This affordability has also met well with our desire to be inclusive and diverse.

The technology changed our operating model which in turn, brought down the auteur, opening the door to more diverse voices and that has resulted in more work and a wider audience.

Social media has made the change possible allowing us to have active, daily partnerships with global partners and to share our work affordably, quickly and without the pressure of a large price tag.

Atlanta has received a lot of attention lately for brining movie filming to the area. What has it been like to have launched and grown your career in Atlanta?

I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of ups and downs in the film industry in Georgia. My first major production was ABC’s Breaking Away television series in 1979 and since that time, we have been through union struggles, economic declines and industry booms — and somehow ending with our current situation where tax credits and a world class infrastructure has made Atlanta a go-to city for the film industry.

I went to film and theater grad school in Georgia and I feel better now than at any point in the past three decades. We sit on a major challenge and opportunity. And that is whether we want to invest in Atlanta as a center of unique culture – whether we want to be the creative voice, or continue to produce work created elsewhere.

Atlanta has a younger cultural scene than most other cities and we are changing faster than nearly any comparable city in the United States. We have a unique opportunity to invest in our own creative voices that can speak to the world about the biggest issues of our time.

It’s going to take courage. Moving forward from the oft-told stories of civil rights and the civil war. Moving forward from southern stereotypes and backward humor and using our unique experiences to tackle the current issues.

What project(s) are you working on right now?

PushPush is currently producing a follow up to our biggest production to date, SeeThrough, an interactive audience experience involving over 30 of Atlanta’s most promising visual artists. SeeThrough also includes a performance event and 10 of Atlanta’s new musical groups.

We are also creating a new work, Worth, about how we perceive time in our daily lives. Based on some of the newest ideas in physics and biology, Worth is about how we create truly new ideas and how we can act on this creative thinking. This is a follow up to our last touring partnership with LA’s Padua Writers Group and Berlin’s Ballhaus Ost.

Our biggest project right now is GRFX (pronounced “graphics”), funded by The National Endowment for the Arts’ New Media Program. This project is a serialized television story about a struggling comic book company. GRFX hopes to provide a new way to distribute original Atlanta work on a global scale as well as serving as a world-class discussion of creativity itself.

The Creativity Race

At Band, we talk a lot about a few key symptoms of the changing media consumption landscape – buying behavior, media snacking, participation. But one that the industry buzzes about, yet proves to be more than a small challenge to marketers, is the race for creativity.

We are in the constant race to be more clever, prettier or more convincing. Not that advertising hasn’t always been that way. But with more channels for reaching people, an increased disinterest from the public in traditional formats, and a micro-speck of the attention span of 15 years ago, we stand in a place where creativity has absolutely NEVER been more important.

Consider the Old Spice campaign. Most times, I’d argue that campaigns like this really only have life in “our world” – the world of agencies. For example, Subservient Chicken has long been heralded as a groundbreaking viral phenom. It’s won countless awards and appeared in an obnoxious amount of agency presentations. Yet, I’d challenge you to match this awe from the general public. I’ve met plenty of their “target demo” who’ve never even heard of it. Old Spice, however, broke the mold. It was CREATIVE. Not just in concept, but in delivery. It wasn’t just a clever commercial – they took that interest and drove it all over the place. YouTube became its new home. And it is now the new Holy Grail of viral marketing – because everyone from my boyfriend to my 12-year old son know and love this campaign. My son even asked for me to buy him Old Spice bodywash. But it wasn’t a pure accident. Paid media drove views and delivered new opportunities to get even more creative – like with their 24-hour “ask the Old Spice Guy a question” bit.

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(Skittles TV ad – via youtube.com/SKITTLESbrand)

Step away from Old Spice and we have an industry of people that are in a desperate fight to be just this creative. It’s a race. A frenzied one. In the fight to be seen, we’ve witnessed the rise of the “bizarre advertising” category. The bar it pushes? How strange it can be! (This MUST attract tweens and teens! Right?) Now, Skittles probably has the corner on this market. But, the reality is that it doesn’t always work. Especially post-Skittles. Everyone else just feels like a copycat. Being “boldly strange” doesn’t automatically translate into fanship and sales. The fact is these brands are hoping to “go viral.” But they’re really only acting weird.

To win, your creative idea has to be inexorably linked to WHO YOU ARE. Beyond that, it must function in that non-linear way that draws people from all corners of their media habits.

Creativity isn’t just about how shocking your idea is, how bright and sparkly – but how it connections with an audience. And the elements you bring to a campaign that matches the overarching sentiment. We have all of this amazing technology and all of these incredible platforms for communication. We’re talking about a slew of portable devices now, not just mobile phones. Plus, interactive TVs; technology adapted experiential marketing; LBS; and new and more interactive web experiences. Marketing needs to get creative in delivery and adaptability – not just in how brightly it sparkles.

The No Right Brain Left Behind Initiative

Last week, Band Digital joined “No Right Brain Left Behind” (NRBLB) – an initiative led by some of the brightest minds in the industry to solve the creativity crisis in U.S. schools. The challenge was issued to the creative community during Social Media Week to come up with ideas that will help bring creativity back into the classroom. Because creativity is what breeds innovation. And innovation is our future.

Agencies and companies from around the world took part. It was ideation in warp speed. In the end, Band came up with a single, powerful idea: the Creativity Bee. A Creativity Bee would leverage the familiarity of already-popular school events such as spelling and math bees and science fairs, but serve to highlight and celebrate a new value in education: creative thinking.

Read more about Creativity+Bee here.

But enough about our idea. Yes this is a competition, and we want your vote. But in the end, the best idea doesn’t just win a contest – it solves a crisis in our schools. There are a lot of smart and well thought out ideas on the website. We encourage you to check them out and vote for the ideas that you think do it best.

In this process, we have been fortunate enough to meet and watch some really smart people and agencies. We met Literacy Head, a group that has selflessly worked to put together a bi-weekly online magazine that connects literacy and the visual arts. Check out their submission, The Creative Schools Movement. We also stumbled into Longbow and Swan, who put together a terrific blog post on NRBLB and whom also submitted three great ideas to NRBLB.

You don’t have to be a NRBLB team member to take part in the movement. Get out and vote! Make these ideas a reality. The top three ideas will be recognized and then put to pilot in 2010 and 2011.

 

The Must-Have Apps of 2010

As 2010 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the ways I’ve spent the year plugged into technology. The apps I’ve used bubble to the surface of my mind –tweeting, maneuvering traffic jams, snapping artsy photos, staying on top of appointments … countless hours of Angry Birds. This prompted me to wonder: how has the agency been using apps? And so this blog was born – The Must Have Apps of 2010.

To get started, I sent a cattle call email; a near fail as the response was massive. My solution was to bucket responses to make this a smidge easier to digest. Note that the panel of contributors include: Max Weinstein Bacal, Kennice Halloran, Todd Levy, Paul Murray, Julie Adams, Tod Rathbone, Tony Long and Kevin French – a really fun cross-section of the agency.

Now, not all of these apps were necessarily launched in 2010, but they rose high for the panel in terms of usage this year. Most of them are mobile, and most of them are iPhone and iPad. But there are some mentions that cross platforms and the desktop. Conspicuous in their absence … check-in apps (hmmmm).
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  • ShakeItPhoto: it’s Polaroid for the iPhone – and Kennice’s most used app (over Facebook and Twitter).
  • AmpliTube: Tony Long says, “Excellent guitar amp modeling app. It’s expensive and requires an external piece of kit, but if you can tell the difference between a 4×12 Celestion loaded cabinet and a 4×12 Peavey loaded cabinet – and can show all work – there is no substitute.”
  • Bloom: intuitive music machine from the mind of Brian Eno.
  • Hipstamatic: the funky, instantly-artsy camera app.

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  • Flight Track Pro: “So you know when you’ll really get there,” says Paul.
  • Trapster: Speed trap alerts for the leadfooted among us.
  • Taxi Magic: Tod Rathbone says it’s really magic.
  • TripIt Pro – Per Kevin, TripIt is “travel made more enjoyable than a TSA pat down.”

 

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  • Genius Scan: Todd Levy says it “basically turns your iPhone into a document scanner with the ability to crop and merge images to a PDF suitable for mailing.”
  • Ustream Live Broadcaster: an easy way to broadcast live video straight from your iPhone to the web and beyond.
  • 37Signals Suite (web apps): get all four productivity tools from 37singals for the price of two.
  • Ego: all of your Google analytics reports into one app.
  • Evernote: notes anywhere, anytime, any device.
  • Dropbox: no need for big email transfers, just drop it in Dropbox.
  • Dragon Dictation: Typing is just so 90s.

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  • Tag Reader: per Paul, there are scads out there, but “Microsoft’s likely to win the QR-reader wars.”
  • Groupon – but of course.
  • PriceCheck – bar code scanner
  • Stickybits – gaining a lot of traction lately, it won favor from a couple on our panel.

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A great list of Tony Long’s must-have dev apps.

  • Tower: An awesome repo GUI Git; you’ll never go back to the command line (Mac only)
  • Firebug: Behind the scenes of web sites, must-have plug-in for Firefox and now Chrome.
  • OmniGraffle & Omni Outliner: The pro versions of these are superb brainstorming and note-taking tools. (Mac only)
  • VMWare Fusion – the virtual machine that lets me run Windows 7 on my Mac. Really sails with 4gigs of RAM.

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  • ZipCar: Kennice says with this app she can “book and manage (extend) a reservation from my phone which has been great when I book hourly and go over. It’s also great to be able to use the phone like a key…”
  • Mint: Become constantly aware of how little you make, and how flagrantly you spend it.