Author Archive

Parsons @ PETLab

Parsons was a refreshing visit to a gaming company. The punk rock theme was really interesting, and I think that this take on video games would bring in a wider audience of attention. They made games raising awareness for women’s rights and the Red Cross. They introduced us to their game- Metagame, which is similar to Cards Against Humanity in mechanics except it propels freedom of expression in its improvised subject definitions. They gave us the words punk rock, and asked us to pick which of each cards in our hand that could be punk rock in an unconventional sense (DIY sense). Someone would read out their card and why it could be considered punk rock.

They changed up the pace a bit- we got to make our own mini games. I like the fact that the two prepared a sheet of guidelines for us. One side gave ideas for themes on subversion. One idea particular jumped off the page at me for some unknown reason: school. I guess because it’s the biggest factor in my life at the moment to the point where it feels like it’s the only factor. To make our game I took a really simple idea, and some fake money to bet with. My group ended up creating a game on buying assignments called Pass/Fail.

Through this game they forced us to think outside of the box, even outside of any rules. I feel that this aspect of the game being without borders made it more fun and spontaneous.

One point they made which I especially agree with Colleen when she said “games aren’t good for presenting a lot of facts”. Considering these people had made games for change, I could see why their approach to creating games would work for getting a message across rather than presenting facts. Their suggestion was to model the system, not the data. I think other game making companies need to keep this in mind, especially when making an educational or games for change type game.



Shapeways is a 3D printing company. This was an amazing opportunity to see behind the factory doors into the heart of this company. Prior to this visit, I had no idea how far 3D printing has come and the possibilities that comes with it. Shapeways had several different kinds of printers, some which cost $1,000,000. Seeing these machines work was really fascinating. In terms of single color plastic printing, they combine as many different products as possible into one 3D printed tray. The negative spaces of the designs are filled with wax particles, so they may be warmed and melted away from the models. Some of these models are dip dyed to the desired color. Shapeways takes orders from everyone and also generously offered us a student discount. The customer uploads their design, and the Shapeways team evaluates it for printability. The 3D printers do have some limits, as most can only print to 0.2 mm thin. Batches can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over 24 hours to print.

I can easily see the advantages 3D printing would have for prototyping products or any other designs. I was really inspired by visiting this company. I was impressed that they were experimenting and developing 3D printing in ceramic. Seeing professional, high grade 3D printers at work was especially neat. The process looks technical yet at the same time, logical. I never knew there were so many methods to 3D printing. I really liked how we got to see the process from the start to finish with an up close and personal view in the factory.

Office of Creative Research


This office worked in dealing with security matters, specifically bots. Bots are essentially spam but also have the ability to make more of themselves, so they have become a huge problem in internet security. Anything with a computer chip and a wireless connection can be infected, even if the connection isn’t directly going online, it can talk to a device that is online and use their connection to spread more bots.

Jer Thorp and his team developed different ways of analyzing data from these bots. More interestingly, they created a way to not only visualize the data but to represent data as audio. When Jer and his team make a graph of data, they use color code and line patterns to represent the varying data. When presented with a large amount of data, it becomes more difficult to see outliers or changes in the erratic patterns of the data visualization. This is the reason that they have developed methods of listening to the data. The methods they demonstrated to us played a tone when a certain number of interaction occurred with a particular spam bot. I thought it was interesting that once in a while it would name the city that the data was coming from. To aid interaction with the data representations, Jer used a Microsoft touchscreen monitor similar to a Smartboard. This seemed to increase the effectiveness of the data representations while making it easier for the user these with direct, gesture based interactions.

Little Bits


Today we got the opportunity to see how Little Bits operates as a company. I like the format and the overall feel of the company. The departments seemed to be organized and had privacy, yet they had windows and halls which made it feel like an open workspace. The workers seemed to feel comfortable working and communicating with each other. This seemed so important because of the diverse kinds of departments Paul had showed us, from manufacturing to designing, to audio, research, funding and others.

They have a voting system for new products, if they receive 1000 votes they will be made. They had a neat little physical representation of this using Little Bits to move each product sticker up the wall on a track. The ones closer to the top were closer to the 1000 votes mark. I noticed a similarity between this system and their automated tram which travelled along on a ceiling track from the kitchen to the other side of the building.  I was also impressed with the automated alarm system, which was a system triggered to open the curtains and play a loud tune from a horn. This system was very unique and I imagine, effective. I especially like the fact that it seemed like a normal alternative for a typical alarm clock. For people who can’t sleep with the sun lighting up the room, I think this would be effective and it’s also really fun.


Push is a start up company that makes a wearable fitness monitor for pro athletes. The product is an ingenious band that athletes wear around their arm while working out. The product is made with flex sensors that measure the muscle’s movement. This data is gathered using algorithms and displayed on a mobile app in an intuitive way.

Push utilized several avenues to propel their business into success. They campaigned their concept and product using crowdfunding through Indiegogo. They eventually found Jolt, a company which helps entrepreneurs realize their business. These methods of generating product awareness were a factor in the success of this great company.

While I appreciate the inventiveness and success of the company Push, I see a greater meaning to their product. I believe that this product can also be successful in the medical industry. Many people have to train just like athletes do when doing physiotherapy.

Bob Stein Lecture

Bob Stein reinforced the point that Noah Feehan made at New York Times about the importance of analyzing interaction with their articling system. He said we need to look at the past in order to grow and succeed in the future. Bob Stein also said that a better understanding of history equals a better future. He introduced us to a powerful concept that truth is several information gathered from a collective of people. This is used when competing ideas are presented. The digital age, where information is accessed by all, allows the age of the collective, where everyone contributes. More people are included in this conversation of truths, changing age old standards into a flexible, contributable wealth of knowledge with websites like Wikipedia.

Bob Stein also introduced us to the Mother of all Demos, a revolutionary operating system with a format and applications like none seen before. This OS used many different kinds of user input that hadn’t been used together creating the powerful format we use today. The Mother of all Demos enabled people to do many of the same tasks, such as video-conferencing, and document editing. Even the mouse we use today was first unveiled at the Mother of all Demos in 1968. I found this demonstration especially fascinating because I’d often wondered how exactly we got to computers today from the archaic computers from decades ago.

The debate the class had had some interesting topics. I agree with the observance that technology should be available specially designed for non-adept people, many of whom may be part of the older generation. I perceived today’s interface as simplistic, so I had not imagined how it could be complex for an older generation. I did notice this when visiting my grandmother, who has long been able to use her email. However when sending an email on a tablet, she cannot recognize the same symbols used to send emails. From this I can guess that she can’t identify new or similar symbols as easily, which is understandable since the tablet is filled with them. I can also see why many people spite change in general so much. I know for sure that large words would be more useful to her on her tablet, though that would be ugly in today’s design standards and so would never be done. Hopefully we can change this, and develop ways we can help older generations and let them enjoy the freedom the internet offers- after all, they are our biggest population and we will join them someday.

New York Times

New York Times Research and Development

How do you gain readers?

How do you sustain your relationship with current readers?

How do you deal with the digital age as a newspaper company?
Noah Freehan was our guide on this tour of projects he had been working on and helped develop at New York Times R & D lab. The first project he showed us was a map of semantics accessed from the Times’ articling system. Noah told us how these articles were important because they are a slice of history recorded from the last 120 years. These articles don’t only contain facts from the past but also capture the culture at the time such as language used, topics and issues discussed. The map connected the articles through topics and tags developed for each topic and article. The purpose of this map was to examine the audience and determine the areas that most interested them. This kind of data representation used in this way is a tool for the New York Times to interpret the interests of the audience using the articling tag system.

The R & D department had several other projects which processed data from the audience who accessed the Times daily articles. These projects experimented with different ways of collecting this data and also visually representing it. One global model compiled user data such as rss feeds, and their location to represent the audience and what topic they were looking at on the NY Times website. This model had three modes which represented information in different ways. A few of these projects tracked buzzwords that users would use or search for to signal a trend in interest. This is how the company obtained the data to stay relevant to today’s society.

I was very impressed with the Times’ innovative efforts to identify and capture their audience using data collected electronically. This answer my questions about how an old established newspaper company is adapting to the digital age and obsolete qualities of the newspaper. It turns out that the New York Times had actually harnessed the power of the internet and data together to maintain their success. When I first heard that we were visiting New York Times I was skeptical, though their innovative ways of using and gathering data and also preserving data proves them as a worthy business leader in the future.

Noah showed us a few experimental projects. One was the Sound Table, which had a central microphone to record sound, and several touch sensitive strips on the surface which when touched, triggered a 60 second recording of the previous 30 seconds of conversation and the proceeding 30 seconds of conversation. This Sound Table displayed the text results on a monitor in normal conversation form. What was really interesting was the way the computer algorithm worked to capture buzzwords that the user said based on how important the particular word seemed in the context of the sentence. This AI almost replicates human recognition of language. These “watchwords” were underlined in bold to signal some kind of significance for the user to interpret.

Indie GoGo


Success rate?

What are negative consequences/threats to the business?

How will the business grow?

Indiegogo is an innovative crowdfunding platform in that anyone can raise money for anything they like. The most important thing that Stan told us about Indiegogo is that it is a platform for a company to raise awareness of their product/concept, get consumer feedback, and find investors and contributors. This makes it possible for inexperienced or accidental entrepreneurs to create a business and get valuable feedback. An example he gave us was one for an electric bike. The creator hadn’t considered crowdfunding at all. When he introduced his bike to the community, the response was amazing. He raised millions of dollars. This proves that Indiegogo is a valuable tool for companies, especially start ups. The site lets the creator of the product talk to their investors in such a flexible way that allows them to get feedback that they need. One thing Stan pointed out that was very important is that your customers may use your product in a way that it wasn’t quite intended. Based on this and other similar feedback regarding product modifications, the company has an advantage over others on the market who may use focus groups or random user testing. These results can greatly improve the popularity of a product.

Another thing Stan told us was that investment partners and companies may shoot down your idea for being too radical. The case of the Muse headband was especially intriguing. No one wanted to invest in this radical telepathically poured beer idea. When the creator put this idea on Indiegogo, they gained interest and investments and more importantly, respect for their product. With numbers and figures to back up their product, they returned to the same investors and received the partnerships they needed. Stan had answered that the success rate of posters on Indiegogo varied. The frequency of undelivered goals is low, and yet the amount of delayed goals is high.

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