Swype | Text Input for Screens

September 15, 2008

I have been looking into text input concepts for computing devices for many years. In particular for mobile devices, text input is slow and cumbersome. The founder of T9 now has started a new venture around a new text input method called Swype | Text Input for Screens. Presenting at TC50, they received quite a lot of attention. From the video, it seems to be a very fast way of text entry, but at the same time requires a lot of practice. Good news is that it works great with a stylus! It is unclear for which type of user this could be attractive at first. Would like to test it in combination with a Bamboo…


One day until Bamboo launch…

September 15, 2008

Tomorrow is a big day for me: the (re)launch of Bamboo! For months, I have been leading the activity to create a Bamboo software and service platform. What you will see tomorrow fits into the drive to make Bamboo a global consumer brand. It will be the first step in what hopefully becomes a major strategic process for the company. Have a look at the Bamboo website after Sept 16 and let me know what you think.

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?

Future design workspace

June 12, 2008


I stumbled upon this video, which paints an interesting scenario of how a designer’s workspace could look in the future. Notice the phyisical objects on the surface that are being used  seemsly into the digital space (except for the cup of coffee, or could you spill virtual coffee on the canvas?). Key elements in this video such as the large interactive surface (in this case based on Anoto-pen) and the multi-touch whiteboard are not new, but what’s nice is that all is shown in a balanced way (without putting to much emphasis on cool technology).   

Could Bamboo become the ‘Wii’ for computer interaction?

June 5, 2008

At Wacom, I am currently working on expanding the user experience of the Bamboo pen tablet. With innovative user interfacing and software development I am trying to open up a whole new world of working with your computer (and go beyond offering a hardware ‘accessory’). Today it struck me that the new direction for Bamboo is very much similar to what Nintendo did with their Wii… Here is why:

The Wii opens up a whole new audiencie to gaming. Now you do not have to be a fanatic gamer to have fun with friends and family. The way games are played relate to the physical world (you play tennis by moving your arms instead of pressing buttons). Also, you are not bothered by technology, it is just simple and works. And is it very social.  As a product, the Wii is basically an interface device (the controller is the key part). From branding point of view, Nintendo does not develop their own games (with exception of the first games), but they gain all the credit for the positive user experience (and not the gaimg companies).

With Bamboo, you do not have to be a graphic artist to express yourself in a playful and fun way. Drawing and writing with a pen is more intuitive than moving a mouse.  The missing piece of the puzzle (and that is what I am currently working on) is to transform software similar to what Wii has done with games. I feel that most software has become overly complex (you need a serious training before you can use Adobe Photoshop). By trying to bridge the virtual and physical world, I want to make the interaction much more simple. For instance, one of the applications that will come out is an online place that mimics your physical desktop and lets your organize your stuff just like moving papers around. Wacom does not have to become a software company but I think that the company should show the (software) industry that new innovative user interfaces could make your life much easier and interaction with a computer more fun (very similar to what Nintendo has shown to game developers).  

Obviously Wacom is not alone to recognize this paradigm shift (Apple is the poster child in simple and fun computer interaction). However, as a relative outsider it is much more easy to create something new and bold (compare what Apple did with iPhone vs Mac). The company should probably be more vocal about our ambition and claim its fair share (anybody knows that multi-pen interaction was developed by Wacom when Jeff Han was still at college?). It will be interesting to see how this continues!

Comments, thoughts, I would be interested in your feedback…!