I’m a teetotal and I don’t have the faintest clue about drinking wine. However, I was intrigued by a new technology called Coravin. The problem that Coravin intends to solve is that once you uncork a wine bottle, and unless you finish the bottle in one go, the quality of the wine is likely to deteriorate. The technology that Coravin uses keeps the cork in the bottle, where it’s been since the bottle was sealed. As a result, you will be able to “pour glasses whenever you like, and know that instead of oxidizing, the remaining wine will continue to age naturally.”
These are the main components of the Coravin technology, which I took from the Coravin website:
Main learning point: Last year, Coravin decided to temporarily stop the sales of their product, after receiving reports of 13 wine bottles breaking under pressure, even resulting in a two chipped teeth and a cut that needed stitches … Coravin dealt with this serious issue by halting all sales, only resuming business as usual after it had sent a repair kit to all existing Corvin owners. I haven’t tested the technology myself, but I’m very excited about the idea behind Coravin as it provides a very innovative solution to a well-known and longstanding problem.
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I recently found out about Electronic Objects, “a computer made for art”. An Electric Object is effectively a wall-mounted device which comes without a mouse or a keyboard. It promises to bring “art from the Internet into your home”, and I can see that it will do exactly this:
- Designed for the home (1) – The problem that Electronic Objects are looking to solve is that of small devices not being great for properly experiencing art on the Internet. As Electronic Objects founder and CEO Jake Levine explained to TechCrunch recently: “The devices that we use to access the Internet (our tablets, our laptops, our phones, our computers), they’re designed not for contemplation, not to live in the background, not to be quiet or still, but to demand your attention and absorb you.” Reason why the Electric Object “01” is created in such way that users don’t have to worry about all the – utility and productivity related stuff – happening on their devices.
- Designed for the home (2) – In a recent Product Hunt podcast, Jake Levine mentioned how digital hasn’t yet made its full foray into people’s living rooms. There are products such as Nest which cater for the whole house or the kitchen, but the “Internet of Things” hasn’t quite made it into the living room yet. Electric Objects aims to provide a product which isn’t about utility but something that can become “a part of our lives fitting seamlessly into our familiar home and work environments” according to Jake Levine.
- Designed to fade away – On Electric Objects’ Kickstarter page it describes how the “01” has been designed to “fade away”, like a photograph or a painting. I like that the screen of Electric Objects 01 is effectively just a frame that you can stick onto your wall. There’s no keyboard, mouse or alerts, avatars, slideshows, feeds or docks. The frame is connect to your WiFi account, which means that you can directly control the artwork on the frame from your smartphone or any other device.
Main learning point: Electric Objects have created an exciting new product in this computer made for the display of art from the Internet. Their “01” computer is now available for pre-order and it will be interesting to see how many people will buy it to bring digital art into their living rooms. Separately, I’m keen to see how many product people and designers will start to concentrate more on the ‘living room’ as a place to create digital products for. Watch this space!
Fig. 1 – An Electric Object ‘in action’ – Taken from: http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/30/electric-objects-funding/
Fig. 2 – Electric Objects Founder and CTO in conversation with TechCrunch’s Anthony Ha – Taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLSPCqUuRM4
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The strap line of Product Hunt is “the best new products, everyday”. Product Hunt is a site dedicated to “sharing new, interesting products” and I found over the last few months that it does exactly what it says on the tin:
- A community around cool products – The main concept for the guys who started Product Hunt, Ryan Hoover and Nathan Bashaw, was to build a community for product people to share, discover, and discuss new products. Product Hunt is a crowdsourced site and is fully democratic in a sense that its members decide which products get featured and how they rank. For example, on 27 August, Monitorbook – which helps people to track things on the web – topped the list of products, with 466 votes (see Fig. 1 below).
- “Reddit for products” – On Product Hunt’s page on AngelList, it says “Reddit for products” which in my opinion is only a partially accurate representation of what Product Hunt is about. Yes, at the face of it, Product Hunt does have a lot in common with crowdsourced news site Reddit; people can submit links, upvote and comment. Even the list-type design of the site looks like Reddit’s. However, I find the design of the leaderboard type lists on Product Hunt much cleaner and easier to read than Reddit. I can see at glance which products got the most votes on any given day and I can delve into the related comments if I wish. It only takes a quick look at Reddit to establish that the design of their page feels a lot messier and crowded.
- Product discovery before everyone else does – One could easily argue that sites like TechCrunch already address the need for people to find out about new startups and new products. With Product Hunt, however, this process of product discovery is fully democratic and transparent. Anyone can submit a product to be featured on the site, which will then be curated by the Product Hunt community. I believe this process increases the chances of finding about cool new product ideas before ‘everyone else’ does (e.g. through TechCrunch or Engadget).
Main learning point: I’ve rapidly become a fan of Product Hunt, mainly because of two key reasons. Firstly, if you’re into finding about cool new products and startups, then Product Hunt should be an almost mandatory part of your day. Secondly, I really like how the content on Product Hunt is shaped democratically by a product-oriented community. If you haven’t done so already, please go and check out Product Hunt!
Fig. 1 – Screenshot of Product Hunt on 27 August 2014
Fig. 2 – Ryan Hoover explains about Product Hunt on This Week in Startups
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Even though it has yet to launch, I’m very intrigued by the design and promise of the Avegant Glyph. The “Glyph” is a new headset (see Fig. 1), set to launch in early 2015, which integrates Avegant’s core “virtual retina display” technology into a headset. Even though the design of the Avegant Glyph looks similar to the Oculus Rift, there are some specific features that make the Glyph stand out as a very different and interesting product:
- Real world experiences – Whereas the Oculus Rift lets users experience a virtual world, the Avegant Glyph concentrates more on the here and now. As Grant Martin, Avegant’s Head of Marketing and Product Development, explained to TechCrunch “the idea isn’t really to compete with Virtual Reality solutions, but rather to give people an option for a better screen-based entertainment experience wherever they happen to be”. The Glyph is intended as a mobile ear and eye headset, which people can use to watch films or to play games. It does display 3D content and has Bluetooth head-tracking technology which means that it could potentially be used for virtual type applications in the future.
- It’s all about the screen display – Even though I haven’t yet had a chance to play with the Glyph, I can imagine that its underlying retina display technology (see Fig. 2) will provide a whole new visual experience to users. The promise of this technology is “to transmit vivid, life-like images directly to the eye”. The optics which are part of Avegant’s technology focus the light rays directly on the user’s retina. It thus produces an perception of an image which is crystal clear, vivid and devoid of any pixel.
- Peripheral vision – The Glyph is designed to not completely block out the world around you and leave (some of) your peripheral vision intact. I’m keen, however, to see how much of my peripheral vision will be left intact once I put the visor down on a Glyph.
Main learning point: I can well imagine that the Avegant Glyph will be appealing to a whole new audience of users. Whereas the Oculus Rift is poised to attract an audience of gamers and people keen on virtual reality, the Glyph has the potential to reach out to more ‘everyday’ users who simply want a better visual experience than what they currently get on their smartphones or tablets.
It’s not that you’ll be able to easily blend into the crowd with your Glyph, but its main uses cases are likely to make it a lot more accessible and appealing to a wider audience. With an expected price point of around $500 it will be interesting to see what the uptake will be like, but I’d definitely love to get my hands on a Glyph when it comes out next year!
Fig. 1 – Avegant’s CEO Ed Tang and the Avegant Glyph – Taken from: http://hiconsumption.com/2014/01/avegant-glyph-virtual-reality-headset/
Fig. 2 – Outline of Avegant’s “Virtual Retinal Display” technology as used in the Glyph – Taken from: http://lifereallymatters.com/avegant-glyph-device-light-years-ahead-others/
Fig. 3 – Avegant Glyph Kickstarter video – Taken from: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/avegantglyph/a-mobile-personal-theater-with-built-in-premium-au
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The ‘iBeacon’ is Apple’s recent product which uses location-sensing technology to help extend location services within the iOS operating system. For example, with the help of an iBeacon an iOS device or other hardware can alert its (location based) apps when a user leaves or enters a certain location. Also, when a user is getting closer to a specific location (e.g. a store checkout) a user’s app can work out the proximity to that location.
Currently, a large number of devices still use latitude and longitude to work out a location. The iBeacon uses bluetooth signals instead. More specifically, the iBeacon works on Bluetooth Low Energy which means that the power used is considerably less compared to ‘traditional’ bluetooth signals.
The question arises how this location-based technology can best be used. Let’s look at some potential use cases:
- Enhancing your shopping experience – Companies like Sonic Notify and Estimote specialise in so-called “proximity based marketing”; people will get targeted alerts on their smartphones whenever they enter a certain area (see Fig. 1 below). Another great example in this respect is shopBeacon which can welcome a shopper when he/she enters a store and show the shopper location-specific deals, discounts, recommendations, and rewards, without the shopper having to remember to open the app. Equally, if a shopper likes a specific product in the app, shopBeacon can remind him/her when she enters the store that sells it (see Fig. 2 below).
- Linking digital content to the physical world – You won’t need an iBeacon every meter or so to figure out where a person is located. As explained in this great article in Wired, you can have a number of beacons quietly triangulating your position at distances anywhere from 100 feet down to just a few inches. This technology opens the door for a range of new digital experiences based on so-called “microlocation”. A good example is the “Bar Kick” pub in London where certain magazines will become available automatically and for free via Apple’s “Newsstand” as long as you’re in range of the pub’s iBeacon.
- Seamlessly connecting all your devices – Perhaps this use case is one that it’s a bit further down the line, but one can envisage iBeacons facilitating a smooth linking of all your gadgets and accounts. Gone will be the days of having to use lots of different logins, passwords or WiFi credentials. Instead, iBeacons will automatically pick your device and link to your account.
Main learning point: Personally, I find the iBeacon one of the most interesting and promising innovations that I’ve seen in a while. It might take some time but I do believe that these beacons will transform they way we do everyday things such as shopping, using public transport or connecting with other devices. I can foresee a range of new applications popping up, all making content and interactions a lot more targeted, contextual and personalised.
Fig. 1 – Promo video of Estimote Bluetooth Smart Beacon by Beacon
Fig. 2 – Promo video of “shopBeacon” by Shopkick
Fig. 3 – “iBeacon Demystified” – CapTech Webinar on 3rd March ’14 by CapTech
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I remain fascinated by everything that’s happening in the wearable technology space. I wrote about this space earlier, looking at companies such as Jawbone and Airstrip. With the annual Consumer Electronics Show (‘CES’) just behind us, I thought it would be good to look at some wearable trends to keep an eye on in 2014:
- Gaming – The Oculus Rift is the first product that comes to mind when I think about wearable innovations in the gaming space. Rumoured to launch in Summer this year, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset which can be used for 3D gaming. This headset is all about ‘immersive technology’, which means that users can interact with games, being able to move your head in whichever way you’d like – just like in normal life (see Fig. 1 below).
- Fitness – Products such as Fitbit and Nike’s Fuelband are already quite mainstream. One doesn’t have to be a clairvoyant to predict that this trend of using wearable technology to measure fitness levels and daily activity is going to continue in 2014. Smartwatches such as Pebble (see Fig. 2 below) are definitely going to reinforce this trend.
- Audio & Photo – It might sound a bit spooky – and I’m unsure of some of the legal consequences involved – but soon we could all be recording audio or taking pictures without other people even being aware. Small wearable devices such as Kapture and Narrative (see Fig. 3 below) help users to record audio or take pictures respectively on the go. Most of these devices already integrate fully with smartphones so that for example all the pictures that you take whilst you’re running are automatically organised or stored on your phone.
Main learning point: Wearable technology will no doubt continue to develop further in 2014. It will be interesting to see how the various wearable devices out there will integrate with each other (think the “internet of things”) and what new use cases will materialise (think areas such as healthcare, time management and finance).
Fig. 1 – Testing the Oculus Rift developer kit (taken from: http://www.youtube.com/user/testedcom)
Fig. 2 – Review of the Pebble Smartwatch by Engadget (taken from: http://www.youtube.com/user/engadget)
Fig. 3 – Narrative Clip promo clip (taken from: http://vimeo.com/getnarrative)
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I was really intrigued when I found out about Tile, an app that helps users find their lost items. People talk a lot about the “Internet of Things” and Tile is a tangible example of this concept. So what is Tile?
- A small hardware device – A “Tile” is a small white device that you can easily attach to any items that you wish to track (e.g. a laptop, a wallet or a bicycle – see Fig. 1). With its GPS-like functionality users can track their items through their Tiles. Tiles doesn’t have to be recharged and they come with a built-in speaker so that you can hear whenever you’re getting closer to the item that you’re looking for.
- An app to go with the device – The main idea behind the Tile app on your phone is to make it easier to find your Tile(s). For example, the app remembers where it last saw your Tile or you can use the app to ring a specific Tile to find out where you’ve left it. Also, the app lets users turn on a range view when they are within 100-150 feet of a Tile. This view will help you figuring out whether you’re getting closer (or not) to the Tile that you’re looking for (see Fig. 2).
- A community of Tile users – A user’s ability to retrieve their valuables through Tile will largely depend on the wider network of Tile users. The idea is to create a distributed network of Tile users who all receive an alert in case a fellow Tile user marks one of his items as lost. It sounds like the team at Tile aren’t initially highlighting this functionality, arguing (quite rightly) that users don’t need a whole community to hunt down the set of keys that they might have lost in the house.
Main learning point: Tile is the latest exponent in a recent trend involving connected objects, where the device is connected to an app that the user can control. The main proposition is a simple but an appealing one; helping you to find your lost items. I can see Tile becoming a success and building up a group of loyal users fairly quickly.
However, I believe that Tile’s success rate will depend largely on two factors: price and community. A Tile is currently priced at $25 which could pose a bit of a financial hurdle to users. Secondly, for a user to get the most out if his Tile, the presence of an ‘alert’ Tile user community is critical. I guess that’s the question I’m curious to find about the most: how many people will soon be tagging their personal items through Tile?
Fig. 1 – Tile’s small device that helps you track real-world items
Fig. 2 – The app lets users turn on a range view to work out if they’re getting closer to their Tile Related links for further learning: