Author Archive


How does one get employed at Kickstarter?

Are there any projects that have been denied by Kickstarter?

Are there any famous projects that have come out of Kickstarter?

Today in Brooklyn we visited the headquarters of Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a global crowd funding platform (much like Indiegogo) that is based in the United States. The platform serves as a Launchpad for somewhat smaller projects with costs between $500 and $500,000. These projects are divided into 15 different creative categories. Currently there are 77,000-78,000 funded projects on the site. At the Kickstarter office we were given a talk by John Dimatos. He told us about Kickstarter and how it has just become a “B-Corp” or “Benefit Corporation”. B-corps are companies that operate based on values instead of operating to gain profit. John told us that among Kickstarter’s values are honesty and transparency, and that no projects without these traits are allowed on Kickstarter. John also talked to us about the importance of a project’s long term potential and the importance of having a working prototype before crowdfunding. Additionally we were able to tell John about our products from the first project in this course get some advice on product management.

I found this talk to be somewhat repetitive (having had a talk on Indiegogo) but still insightful. Getting a better idea of how Kickstarter operated was informative in and of itself, but more importantly put Indiegogo into perspective. From what I can tell, Kickstarter seems like a fantastic place to either work or use as a crowdfunding platform. I was really impressed with the stress that the company seems to put on creativity and integrity. I was also unaware of the sheer scope of Kickstarter; I had no idea that so many projects have come out of the company and that they’ve grown so much in the last six years that a relocation was required to obtain more space. John Dimatos’ demeanor and physicality also made this visit quite enjoyable.



Do you see 3D printing becoming a viable production method for larger companies?

Is there anything that Shapeways really likes printing?

Are the majority of Shapeways orders art/design or technology/parts?

In Queens we visited the Shapeways factory. Shapeways is the leading 3D printing marketplace community; basically “the Etsy of 3D printing”. Shapeways gives anybody the ability to turn digital designs into real products. The company was started in the Netherlands in 2009-2010 before being incubated by Phillips and then breaking out on their own. Shapeways prints in over 55 different materials including nylon, gold, porcelain, ceramic, and steel. The facility produces large amounts of various products such as jewelry, figurines, camera parts, etc. At the factory we were given a tour by Eleanor, the community manager for Shapeways. She took us through the factory floor, first showing us were both high detail acrylic and nylon products get printed. Then we were taken to “break out” where nylon products are removed from the blocks of raw material in which they sit and cleaned. Following this we saw the dyeing and sorting areas of the floor, where products are coloured and sorted for shipment, before finally completing the tour.

This visit was really quite novel for me. It was really amazing to see not only such large 3D printers but such a large facility dedicated just to 3D printing. A few years ago I would have never expected 3D printing to be so accessible and on such a large scale. I also really enjoyed being able to see so many different kinds of 3D printed objects; I find anything 3D printed to be automatically really interesting. Additionally the visit gave me a bit more insight into the ease of 3D printing (or lack thereof) and how a start-up company like Shapeways can have a massive overhead budget compared to some smaller or software based start-ups.

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Office of Creative Research

What kinds of programs does the OCR make?

Does one have to be a computer wiz to work at the OCR?

Does the OCR ever get to make something for fun?

In Chinatown we visited the Office of Creative Research. The OCR is a two and a half year old, multidisciplinary research group of eight people that explores new ways of engaging and interacting with data. At the office, we were given a talk by Jer Thorp, a “data visualization guru”. Jer first spoke to us about some of the work the office has done for the Digital Crimes Unit at Microsoft. He showed us a program called Specimen Box made for those fighting cyber crime. The program is designed for monitoring botnets and gives the user the ability to visually analyze the data. It shows botnet traffic, botnet location and botnet traffic frequency. It also allows for a comparison of different botnets and the ability to graph this comparison. Jer also showed us a project based on analysis of the MoMA collection catalogue. The program allowed for queries on similarities in title, artist, etc. All of these projects were based on the idea that usefulness and visual appeal can both exist within the same program.

This visit was one of the most entertaining visits so far in New York. The second that Specimen Box was turned on, I was completely entranced (and I think many of my classmates were as well). The visuals on screen looked like something right out of a sci-fi film or video game. These visuals on a giant touchscreen that was in an old run down building in Chinatown gave the whole place a very cyberpunk feel. Aside from all of my aesthetic distractions, the visit was also very meaningful; it was really great to see people with unbelievable minds working on tools for benefiting the world instead of just working for money.

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Are there any products out there that were made with LittleBits?

Do you ever see this on the toy market?

Where did the idea for LittleBits come from?

Today we visited the offices of LittleBits. The LittleBits product is an electronics prototyping platform designed for DIY projects and learning electronics. The company produces electronic modules that can be used in projects without the need to wire, solder or program them. At the office, we were given a tour by Paul and Jordy, two of the earliest members of LittleBits. They gave us a tour around the office and showed us the layout and some of their projects. Teams with stations around the office include a web team, a product design and R+D team, a social media and marketing team, a sales team, a manufacturing team, a finance department and an engineering department. Some of the projects that we got to see include a LittleBits tram that runs the length of the office, an LED message board with a DSM module, a rock-paper-scissors robot, and a light powered car. We also were shown a museum table with examples of the various progressions of the LittleBits product.

I found this visit to be a bit nostalgic of some of the things that we have done at OCAD. Simply put, the office was a giant physical computing lab in my eyes. Looking at some of the modules the company produces and some of the possible ways to combine them made me think that this would be a great tool for learning electronics and that places like OCAD could probably find a good use for the kits. I also was reminded of one of the projects presented in physical computing; the rock-paper-scissors robot was eerily similar to Parth and Muda’s midterm project. All-in-all this visit was kinda cool, and it got my brain thinking a bit about the applications of this technology.

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Robert Stein

What exactly do you do?

Do you see books completely disappearing?

Do you ever see video games getting published on the same scale as books?

Robert Stein came in to give us a talk. Bob is the founder and co-founder of the Institute for the Future of the Book and founder of the Voyager Company. He specializes in the publishing of creative works. Bob spoke to us about how we can “look back to look forward”. For example, he stressed that the truth is complex, and referenced Wikipedia and how one can see the full truth by looking the edits history on the page. He also talked about how we are now in the collaborative age, and how exciting it can be; we now have the internet and it connects people allowing them to work together even if they aren’t physically together. Robert continued to talk about some of the past publication shifts. For example he brought up how he participated in producing the first film commentaries and some of the first e-books. Finally, he discussed the general future of books and how the publishing of expressive works is changing.

I thought that this talk was somewhat interesting. I personally always like to know about the history of certain technologies. I found this talk more practically useful than interesting. I think much of the concepts that Robert covered are very valuable. For example, the idea of finding a complex version of the truth instead of simply accepting a narrow version is a very important practice. I also found his points on the amazing nature and importance of the collaborative age quite relevant to us as a program. Additionally we saw a snip-it of “The Mother of all Demos” and I thought that this gave great insight into the development of publication. This talk will greatly affect the design process for the final publication for this course.


New York Times Research and Development

What does the R+D lab do?

How does one get a job at the lab?

How likely is it that these prototypes will ever make it to market?

Today we visited the research and development lab at the New York Times. There we were addressed by Noah Feehan, a maker in the R+D lab. Noah told us about the lab and what its purpose is. We were told that the lab looks beyond the current market and development cycle for products and instead looks at possible technologies that may emerge in three to five years. Within the lab we were shown various projects both for possible tech and for introspection within the New York Times. This included many programs that were built around streaming data such as a visual web showing article topic relations, and a global map showing current website traffic around the world. Many of these data streams were setup with a visual programming language that the R+D lab actually developed themselves called Streamtools. Noah also talked to us about the idea of semantic listening, and how transparency is important with such technologies.

I found this visit really interesting for a few reasons. I thought it was really unique to be able to look inside of the Times and see some of the ways that the corporation looks at itself. Primarily though I liked today because of the innovative technologies that we got to see in the lab. The listening conference table there was a great example. I think such a device would be a great thing to have in office and universities. I also found the introspective feed that runs there. The idea that one can see a real time feed of what they and their coworkers are looking at online is both really cool and incredibly useful as a designer. I look forward to seeing if these technologies do arrive on the market in the next few years.

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Studio [Y]

What exactly is Studio [Y]?

How does one become a fellow?

Is being a fellow at Studio [Y] enjoyable (is it a good use of one’s time?)

Today we visited Studio [Y]. Studio [Y] is an 8 month design fellowship program. There fellows spend the time working on personal innovation projects, participating in courses and participating in systems challenges. The course curriculum includes things like analytical thinking, critical thinking, design thinking and systems thinking. There is also a support system in place for the fellows to do their work. This includes group development teams, quest proposals, outside visitors, etc. As visitors we were part of what is referred to as a “community day”. As part of this we joined the fellows in small groups for what they call an “un-conference”, where free form topics are suggested and then completely unstructured discussions are held around those topics. I was in a group discussing the limits of mechanist academics and the benefits of alternative and experience based learning. We also talked about the growing divide between the current education system and one that is more ‘leaner oriented’.

I found this visit very enjoyable. I think that Studio [Y] is a great place and a good example of innovations in the post-secondary education field. I really enjoyed taking part in the “un-conference”. The discussion gave me some good insight into another’s perspective on the issue, but I really just liked that we were able to have a free form discussion around a very ephemeral and rich topic that wasn’t immediately related to my current academic career (sometimes freedom of topic choice can be quite a relief). I found this visit more beneficial from a personal standpoint than a professional one; I was able to pull more philosophical growth from this experience than professional growth (which is not a bad thing).


What is Push?

What are the difficulties with a start-up?

Where did the inspiration come from?

Today we visited Push inside of the MaRS discovery center. Push is a small start-up company operating from within the MaRS commons incubator. The incubator is home to multiple different start-ups of varying complexity. Within the commons, there are multiple different sections of tables, each one being the workspace of a different start-up company. With the MaRS commons Push started at Jolt, which is sort of a first phase section on the incubator and has now moved its workspace over to an area marked “Microsoft Ventures”, which was comprised of more developed start-ups. Push itself was founded around the design for an exercise monitor. The monitor would be placed on the arm (or other area) of a person’s body when exercising. Data is then read with an accelerometer and gyroscope from the monitor and run through a series of algorithms before being pushed to the user’s phone via Bluetooth. There this data can be used be the user and/or a personal trainer or training app to help monitor/improve the user’s workout experience.

I found this experience mildly interesting. Primarily it was nice to see what kinds of things go on in the MaRS center, but it was also an interesting insight into the start-up world. I did not realize that there were start-up forums such as the one that Push resides. I was under the impression that stat-ups would either work from the founders’ available space or in a small rented office or studio, but did not expect there to be places like Jolt. It was also a good insight into the scale of a start-up as Push has a single product and from what I could tell the product still has very few applications, but despite this Push seems to be developing well.


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