Looking for Augmented Reality’s Purpose in Life

I’ve been thinking about Augmented Reality for a while now.  So far, my conclusion is this – it is very cool and not very useful.  I want to be wrong though.

I just watched the following cute video about Google Glass.  In theory it seems relevant, practical and cool.  In reality, I think that having information broadcast to my near field vision would make me distracted, annoyed and extremely eye-fatigued.

I’ve also seen others trying to use AR as an instructional manual, by overlaying an animation on top of the piece of equipment you are trying to setup.  Nice idea, but wouldn’t it be easier to set your phone or tablet down, and just play a video showing the instructional animations so that your hands are free for the actual setup?

I am still a fan of the technology – I just want to see the applications the REALLY make sense. I think there may be a huge potential within education… bringing non-digital textbooks to life.  On the entertainment side, I can see AR being used in a hybrid of video/real world games.  I’m sure there is more…


Rethinking Tradeshows

I’ve been thinking that many industry tradeshows need to be turned on their heads. At one time, they were necessary to showcase new products and meet new business partners.  But today, the majority of those activities are done everyday, online.  Shows have also been leveraged as branding and PR tools – but to me, if your not really showcasing anything new, that’s a waste of money.

The exciting events – the ones that attract real talent and innovation – are either providing super compelling experiences for their attendees (SXSW), or they are engaging on a whole other level (Comic-Con). This takes creative thinking from the show management to create real and memorable experiences for exhibitors, attendees and press.

What about reviving the dusty old tradeshows with themes? Manufacturing & design shows could host a show-wide competition to develop tools to improve lives in developing countries.  Show management could partner with companies like X Prize.  Imagine the exposure for both the show and the participating companies if you did this right…

Or, how about ditching the old outdated shows all together and using your budget on sponsorships for the interesting events like the Maker Faire.

Just some thoughts and rants for the day.  What do you think?

The Human Need for Connection and Ritual

I recently watched Alain de Botton’s Atheism 2.0 TED talk.  Though I personally don’t agree with his beliefs, I watched this through the lens of business applications.  He talks about his idea of Atheism that incorporates religious forms and traditions to satisfy our human need for connection, ritual and transcendence.

He identifies some compelling characteristics of organized religion that speak to some of our basic human needs.  As an organization, entrepreneur, advocate, teacher or parent, I think you can use some of these tools to teach, ignite passion and connect with your audience, whoever it may be.

  • Sermons – craft your messages/talks with the purpose of changing lives
  • Repetition – use repetition as a tool to reinforce your message
  • Calendar –  setup specific times of the year where you promote an idea
  • Speak Well – give attention to the quality of the delivery of your message
  • Physical Actions – accompany your ideas with a physical action
  • Art to Supports Ideas – use art and design to evoke emotion and communicate your ideas

A Beautiful User Guide or None At All

I started a mission to find some brilliantly designed user manuals. It’s a piece that is so often overlooked. Yet, this is a critical part of user experience for your product… a customer should, after all, be able to use the product that they purchased. Better yet, what if the user manual was something that inspired a greater level of loyalty and engagement from your customer?

One of the first articles I stumbled upon was about Steve Jobs. No surprise. Apple was the first company that I thought about when I started on this mission.  However, this article talks about the absence of a user manual. I didn’t realize it, but the iPad ships with no manual. Impressive: A high-tech, multi-function product designed with an interface intuitive enough that the user does not need a manual.

Ok… so maybe it’s a moot point. We don’t need better designed manuals, we need better designed products. Here’s a great (old) article about feature creep and pushing past that “Happy User Peak”.

That being said, I know there will still be a need for user manuals and guides, at least for a while. Well done videos are a great way to present some of this (See Apple examples). There are many web-based manuals and guides that are done well too (See a Mashable’s twitter Guide Book).  Interactive, multi-touch publishing for tablets will be a game changer in this area, mixing written instructions, animated diagrams and movies.

Now, back to my search for examples of well-designed printed user manuals.  I turned up this one… from the 1950’s.

From the original post: "You almost get the impression Olivetti decided to print a manual that people would actually want to keep and not throw away once they got used to their new typewriter. The whole thing could have been printed entirely in black, but pale greens, reds and turquoises pop up throughout, giving the manual a sense of luxury that elevates it from being just a utilitarian document."

And this one from Wario Ware (2007):

From the original post: "It’s laid out in part like a trashy tabloid, complete with a letter from the editor, and dramatic headline titles for each section. The entire thing is printed in full color as well, and the writing features some of the same dry humor which makes the game so fun to play."

Hopefully there are many more.  I just haven’t uncovered them yet.

The bottom line is that companies should treat their customers just as well as they treat their prospects… maybe even better.  The image below is too true too often (from another great article from the no-longer updated Creating Passionate Users blog).

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