The experience economy… extended to the death

July 25, 2008

We know that many consumers are increasing looking for special experiences and thrills. But I was really suprised to read that in Korea you can experience what it would be to die… These ‘well-dying’ courses are to “encourage them to assess their priorities in life and as a suicide prevention measure” according the Financial Times.

“…Will completed, they collect their funeral portraits – participants are asked to pose on the way in – and enter the “death experience room”, a large, dark space containing a series of open coffins and decorated with posters of famous bygones such as Ronald Reagan, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Lee Byung-chull, Samsung’s founder. In front of an altar covered with flowers and his funeral portrait, Mr Ko instructs his trainees to choose a coffin, put on a traditional hemp death robe and then read out their wills one-by-one. Next, it is time to be buried. Participants lie down in their coffins, while a man wearing the outfit of a traditional Korean death messenger places a flower on each person’s chest. Funeral attendants place lids on the coffins, banging each corner several times with a mallet. Dirt is thrown down on the lid, as loud as stones on a tile roof. The attendants leave the hall for five minutes – but it seemed like 30 minutes to those taking part…”

About 50,000 people have taken part since 2004. There are even large corporates that send their staff to these cources. Those who completed the course “…become more considerate and attach greater value to life…” according to the report.

How about sending reckless drivers or work-aholic managers to a course like this? Or setting up a course in prison life for would-be criminals (did I hear ‘guantanamo bay’ adventure land for derailed presidents)? This could be a huge market opportunity!


Digital paper coming to a newsstand near you…

July 25, 2008

The New York Times reports that Esquire magazine will use E Ink display on its front cover for its 75 year anniversary edition in September. The cover will flash “the 21st century starts now”.  Only 100,000  of the 720,000 edition will have a display. I guess it will be a collectors item before it hits the shelfs…

E Ink will most likely use a segmented display. The text will be hard-wired on a PCB that is than covered with a layer of E Ink material. This means that the text can not be changed or updated. It is merely flashing on and off.  This solution has been available for years and has been introduced in products ranging from watches to bill boards. However, integration with a magazine introduces different problems, notably the battery. It is reported that the publisher of Esquire (Hearst, which is also shareholder of E Ink Corp) had to invest a significant amount to develop a special battery. Also, the display will be assembled with the paper magazine by hand and transported in refrigurated trucks to save the battery from dying out too quickly.  After 90 days, the display will stop flashing, but I guess by that time you will have finished the magazine anyway…

Web Tablet For $200 (Crowdsourced)

July 23, 2008

Techcrunch is asking its readers to help building a Web Tablet For $200

It basically a web-computing device for on your couch. Something like an Iphone with a bigger screen. Or a tablet PC but than plain, simple and much cheaper.

There is a long history of attempts to make a web computing come true, starting in the 90s with Go Pen Computer, wireless monitors in 00’s or recent products by Nokia (N810) or Pepper. Wacom’s Cintiq12 could even be considered here, although it is targeted for design-related work.

So why has it been so difficult to build a device for which there seems significant demand (within days, Techcrunch received hundreds of responses of people that want to buy it now)?  One of the biggest factors is that technology has not been ready for an affordable price point (yet?). Display and battery are the biggest issues. On top comes the user interface (how to surf the web without keyboard, for instance), although with Iphone a pure touch interface might be more acceptable now than it was a few years ago.

Will Techcrunch community succeed where others failed? They will run into the same hardware issues (display and battery). Typically, a $200 device may have a bill-of-material of let’s say $65. That seems pretty aggressive considering the size of the display.  But maybe they could strech this budget by allowing for a higher device price (up to $400) and lower margings (community works for free)?

It will be interesting to see how they will organize such an initiative. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for many people that will need to be coordinated. Also, how does decision making work in such a community? Does anybody have some examples or ideas of how this could work?