This year I attended my first SXSW Interactive. It was, in a word, overwhelming. However, even as a freshman, I did manage to find a few good hacks...
This year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was the biggest one yet - attendance-wise and number of exhibitors. There were tens of thousands of square feet to cover and lots of meetings to schedule, so it felt pretty darn big to me. We were there to spend some quality time with our clients at UFC and Sony and get a first-hand look at all the new electronics and gadgetry, of course.
Here's a quick look at what stood out.
Everyone’s excited about tablets!
There are a ton of new ones. Some from larger names, like the Samsung Galaxy or the Blackberry PlayBook, some from smaller names like Acer and AOC.
The jury seems split on the perfect size. Some like the larger size (10 – 12”) since they have big screens and are perfect for around the house. Others like the more portable 7” size. And the 4-5” tablet/smartphones seem to confuse a lot of people in terms of the purpose and whether it’s really all that different from a smartphone. I spent some time playing around with the Galaxy and liked it. To me, it seems easier to tote around than an iPad.
The Perfect TV
It seems like the manufacturers have no idea what anyone wants in the perfect TV so they’re trying a bunch of different things to see what sticks.
Connected / Smart TVs — Sony’s and Samsung’s connected TVs were big hits and everyone is excited about the potential but I wonder how people will end up using the smart functionality in real life.
Thinner and Sleeker — Some of the new TVs are super, super thin and mega huge.
3D — Despite slow adoption, everyone is still plugging away at 3D TVs. The prediction is (and I agree) that until they manage to do away with the glasses, people are not going to be buying these in huge numbers. Despite my best efforts, I was not able to find a 3D TV that didn’t make me feel car sick.
TV Everywhere — Beyond just the manufacturers, it’s all about having access to TV on every device, in any situation.
Electronics are getting “smarter.” Cars that teach you how to brake better to save electricity. Washers that text you when the cycle is complete. Gadgets that update you to where your dog has wandered off to. Bands and widgets that track how you’re sleeping. I really liked all the smart appliances but again, wonder how people will use the functionality in their real lives. Lots of cool ideas here, we’ll see what pans out.
Gadgets Need Accessories
A big surprise for me was the number of booths (there were whole sections dedicated to accessories) that just showed the latest accessories for your gadgets — sleeves, skins, speakers, battery extenders, holographic external keyboards, etc.
But CES wasn’t just about seeing all the latest electronics. We had several productive meetings with existing and prospective clients. We'll continue working with Sony as they roll out their marketing plan for 2011. We’re forging new relationships with UFC departments, bringing some proactive sponsorship ideas their way that leverage the new and improved UFC.com. And finally, we’ve been asked to put together some proposals for a few new clients.
All in all, a successful and somewhat exhausting few days.
Everyday at Odopod, we're challenged with a huge spectrum of client needs. We get to dive deep into their businesses and create innovative work for some amazing brands. But there are some ideas that we just don't get to make. Some skills that we just don't get to use. So we decided to turn inward, develop our own ideas and make things.
For two glorious days, Odopod shut down to work exclusively on projects of our own devising - and for those 48 hours, it was all invention...
Here's how it all went down:
A few weeks before Hack Days we put out a call for project submissions to our entire studio with only one rule: describe your idea in less than 100 words. At the end of the call, we selected eight projects to prototype.
We split up into small teams comprised of all disciplines - everyone participated, bringing a unique set of skills to the table. People soldered and sketched, filmed and photographed, coded and glued. There were acts of physical computing, drafts of architectural plans, and a ton of work we don't see everyday.
It was hard work, but well worth it. Here's a quick overview of the prototypes we created:
In the spirit of making things, we're closing up our doors this Thursday and Friday to work on Odopod Hack Day projects. These are the projects and ideas that we've always wanted to create. For two days, we'll do what we want. No clients. No messing around - and in the next few weeks we'll share the results...
If you don't know Planningness, here's the short version: it's two days of provocative sessions led by industry brains, followed by hands-on audience activities. Learning, then doing. This year it was held simultaneously in Brooklyn and Denver.
During my two days in Denver, certain themes emerged: ideas I'll probably be pre-occupied with over the next few months and years.
(This is meant as a Cliff's Notes view - check out the individual presentations as they're posted here to get the full story.)
So, recurring ideas:
Driving groups to participate is an increasingly crucial skill
Definitely the most pervasive topic at Planningness, popping up across many sessions. Mike Arauz (Undercurrent) put it most poignantly: "We will be judged by our ability to engage networks."
Len Kendall (The3six5 project) offered his learnings on creating participation - with the frank reminder that because we do this in the service of brands, we're starting from a disadvantage. And John Winsor took us through his ongoing adventure building Victors & Spoils, as he braves change and turns the disruptive power of crowdsourcing on our own industry.
Agencies need more scientists
I'm not talking about the usual marketing pseudo-science, shallow research and half-baked venn diagrams. This is real science, the stuff that thrilled you as an 8-year-old. A session by Craig Elston and Ethan Decker of Integer Group showed us to how to hack people (well, nudge them at least) using behavioral economics and cognitive psychology. Meanwhile, Stamen showed off their gorgeously-geeky, math-and-data-driven take on storytelling.
Planning is splintering into many wildly-differing roles
The aftermath of digital is conjuring an endless variety of alternate reality versions of both planners and strategists: from specialists to generalists, from crowd-wranglers to curators and beyond. And in my chats with the folks sitting around me I'd say that the audience was made up of people who do very different jobs under the same (couple of) titles.
Whether this is a good thing or a danger, I don't know yet.
We're at our best when we embrace change
We are an industry in the midst of change - technological, cultural and economic. Which brings me back to the closing Q&A by John Winsor - one person who seems entirely at home in the chaos - during which he answered the audience, over and over: "That's a good question. I don't know. We're gonna have to try it and see what happens."
In other words, it's a fun time to be doing this. Get excited and make things.
We may not have been champions of the 2010 Design Dodgeball Tournament against the likes of IDEO, Frog, Method, fuseproject and others... but at least we had style. If you're good at dodgeball, consider working here. We're recruiting.
Associate Technical Director, Boris Pique shares his experiences attending and speaking at this year's FITC San Francisco.
FITC had its first FlashintheCan conference in Toronto in 2002 and has since grown to become one of the most important events of its kind. What initially started as a Flash-only conference has expanded over the years to include sessions about other relevant technologies such as Processing and openFrameworks just to name a few. Even if the event is a Flash conference at its core, the broader breadth of topics is, in my opinion, a welcome approach since it’s undeniable that technologies other than Flash are better suited for certain types of work.
Odopod Designer, Linzi Bergmann shares her experiences from this year's FITC San Francisco.
I am super excited that FITC came to San Francisco this year. The conference was smaller and more intimate than FITC Toronto, so you were able talk with and learn from the speakers on a more personal level. There were some key themes that continued to stand out throughout all of the presentations and an overwhelming amount of awesome content, topics and speakers. Here are some of my highlights from this year.
FITC just announced its San Francisco lineup - full of inspirational speakers from all over the world including Odopod's Associate Technical Director, Boris Pique. FITC comes to San Francisco August 17-19 with Boris' talk, "Innovation through Collaboration," being held on the 19th at 12:30.
For the full schedule visit FITC San Francisco. See you there!