"Innovation" entries

Innovation requires a new mind-set: The O’Reilly Radar Podcast

Tim O'Reilly and Carl Bass discuss the future of making things, and Astro Teller on Google X's approach to solving big problems.

Editor’s note: you can subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast through iTunes, SoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

I recently lamented the lag in innovation in relation to the speed of technological advancements — do we really need a connected toaster that will sell itself if neglected? Subsequently, I had a conversation with Josh Clark that made me rethink that position; Clark pointed out that play is an important aspect of innovation, and that such whimsical creations as drum pants could ultimately lead to more profound innovations.

In the first segment of this podcast episode, Tim O’Reilly and Autodesk CEO Carl Bass have a wide-ranging discussion about the future of making things. Bass notes that innovation tends to start by “looking at the rear window”:

“The first naïve response is to take a new technology and do the old thing with it. It takes a while until you can start reimagining things…the first thing that you need is this new tool set in software, hardware, and materials, but the more important thing — and the more difficult thing, obviously — is a new mind-set. How are you going to think about this problem differently? How are you going to reimagine what you can do? That’s the exciting part.”

Read more…

Comments: 3
Four short links: 4 August 2014

Four short links: 4 August 2014

Web Spreadsheet, Correlated Novelty, A/B Ethics, and Replicated Data Structures

  1. EtherCalcopen source web-based spreadsheet.
  2. Dynamics of Correlated Novelties (Nature) — paper on “the adjacent possible”. Here we propose a simple mathematical model that mimics the process of exploring a physical, biological, or conceptual space that enlarges whenever a novelty occurs. The model, a generalization of Polya’s urn, predicts statistical laws for the rate at which novelties happen (Heaps’ law) and for the probability distribution on the space explored (Zipf’s law), as well as signatures of the process by which one novelty sets the stage for another. (via Steven Strogatz)
  3. On The Media Interview with OKCupid CEO — relevant to the debate on ethics of A/B tests. I preferred this to Tim Carmody’s rant.
  4. CRDTs as Alternative to APIswhen using CRDTs to tie your system together, you don’t need to resort to using impoverished representations that simply never come anywhere near the representational power of the data structures you use in your programs at runtime. See also this paper on Convergent and Commutative Replicated Data Types.
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Four short links: 23 April 2014

Four short links: 23 April 2014

Mobile UX, Ideation Tools, Causal Consistency, and Intellectual Ventures Patent Fail

  1. Samsung UX (Scribd) — little shop of self-catalogued UX horrors, courtesy discovery in a lawsuit. Dated (Android G1 as competition) but rewarding to see there are signs of self-awareness in the companies that inflict unusability on the world.
  2. Tools for Ideation and Problem Solving (Dan Lockton) — comprehensive and analytical take on different systems for ideas and solutions.
  3. Don’t Settle for Eventual Consistency (ACM) — proposes “causal consistency”, prototyped in COPS and Eiger from Princeton.
  4. Intellectual Ventures Loses Patent Case (Ars Technica) — The Capital One case ended last Wednesday, when a Virginia federal judge threw out the two IV patents that remained in the case. It’s the first IV patent case seen through to a judgment, and it ended in a total loss for the patent-holding giant: both patents were invalidated, one on multiple grounds.
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Four short links: 17 April 2014

Four short links: 17 April 2014

Foresight and Innovation, Artificial Intelligence, Consumer IoT, and Gender Disparity


  1. Playbook for Strategic Foresight & Innovation — MANY pages of framework and exercises. Good for what it is, but also as a model for how to disseminate your ideas and frame for the world to consume.
  2. Why I’m a Crabby Patty About AI and Cognitive Science (Fredrik Deboer) — huzzah! the current lack of progress in artificial intelligence is not a problem of insufficient processing power. Talking about progress in artificial intelligence by talking about increasing processor power is simply a non sequitur. If we knew the problems to be solved by more powerful processors, we’d already have solved some of the central questions!
  3. Four Types of Consumer Internet of Things Things (BERG London) — nice frame for the different needs of the different types of products and services.
  4. We Can Do Bettera visualisation of the gender disparity in engineering teams in the tech industry.
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Disposable architecture?

Technology is now outpacing innovation, fostering a culture of disposability.

I’ve noticed a number of faint signals recently pointing to a general shift in the speed of technology and the repercussions it’s having on the products we’re seeing come to market. This recent Tweet from Tom Scott got me really thinking about it:

Scott’s comment brought me back to a recent conversation I had with Princeton architecture student Alastair Stokes. I’d asked Stokes whether the technology challenges of designing a building to last 100+ years are more difficult today than they were in, say, 1900 — or if it’s as difficult, just different. He said the challenges might be more difficult today, but regardless, maybe technology is changing the solution: we shouldn’t try to design buildings today to last 100 years, but design them so they’ll last for, say, 20 years and then be replaced. Read more…

Comments: 3
Four short links: 10 March 2014

Four short links: 10 March 2014

Wolfram Language, Historic Innovation, SF Culture Wars, and Privacy's Death

  1. Wolfram Language — a broad attempt to integrate types, operations, and databases along with deployment, parallelism, and real-time I/O. The demo video is impressive, not just in execution but in ambition. Healthy skepticism still necessary.
  2. Maury, Innovation, and Change (Cory Ondrejka) — amazing historical story of open data, analysis, visualisation, and change. In the mid-1800’s, over the course of 15 years, a disabled Lieutenant changed the US Navy and the world. He did it by finding space to maneuver (as a trouble maker exiled to the Navy Depot), demonstrating value with his early publications, and creating a massive network effect by establishing the Naval Observatory as the clearing house for Navigational data. 150 years before Web 2.0, he built a valuable service around common APIs and aggregated data by distributing it freely to the people who needed it.
  3. Commuter Shuttle and 21-Hayes EB Bus Stop Observations (Vimeo) — timelapse of 6:15AM to 9:15AM at an SF bus stop Worth watching if you’re outside SF and wondering what they’re talking about when the locals rage against SF becoming a bedroom community for Valley workers.
  4. A Day of Speaking Truth to Power (Quinn Norton) — It was a room that had written off privacy as an archaic structure. I tried to push back, not only by pointing out this was the opening days of networked life, and so custom hadn’t caught up yet, but also by recommending danah boyd’s new book It’s Complicated repeatedly. To claim “people trade privacy for free email therefore privacy is dead” is like 1800s sweatshop owners claiming “people trade long hours in unpleasant conditions for miserable pay therefore human rights are dead”. Report of privacy’s death are greatly exaggerated.
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Four short links: 5 March 2014

Four short links: 5 March 2014

Cheap Gesture Sensor, Ignorance as Strength, Android Malware Resistance, and Security Talks

  1. $1 Gesture-Recognizing Device (GigaOm) — the AllSee is the size of a quarter, harvests RF for power, and detects the variations in signal strength caused by gestures.
  2. A Conversation with Sydney BrennerThe thing is to have no discipline at all. Biology got its main success by the importation of physicists that came into the field not knowing any biology and I think today that’s very important. I strongly believe that the only way to encourage innovation is to give it to the young. The young have a great advantage in that they are ignorant. Because I think ignorance in science is very important. If you’re like me and you know too much you can’t try new things. I always work in fields of which I’m totally ignorant.
  3. Android Almost Impenetrable to Malware — multiple layers of defence, including signatures of known-bad systems found in the wild, necessary to retain an “open” marketplace vs Apple’s lock-down.
  4. TrustyCon (YouTube) — video of the speakers at the conference that was set up by speakers who withdrew from the RSA conference. (via BoingBoing)
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Bluetooth Low Energy: what do we do with you?

Why the dearth of imagination — we need to get beyond different flavors of spyware.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” as Jeff Hammerbacher said. And it’s not just data analysts: it’s creeping into every aspect of technology, including hardware.

One of the more exciting developments of the past year is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Unfortunately, the application that I’ve seen discussed most frequently is user tracking: devices in stores can use the BLE device in your cell phone to tell exactly where you’re standing, what you’re looking at, and target ads, offer you deals, send over salespeople, and so on.

Color me uninterested. I don’t really care about the spyware: if Needless Markup wants to know what I’m looking at, they can send someone out on the floor to look. But I am dismayed by the lack of imagination around what we can do with BLE. Read more…

Comments: 4
Four short links: 14 January 2014

Four short links: 14 January 2014

Web Design, SF History of Hate, USB Fauxkeyboard, and Git Tutorials

  1. LayoutIt — drag-and-drop design using Bootstrap components. These tools are proliferating, as the standard design frameworks like Bootstrap make them possible. There’s unsustainable complexity in building web sites today, which means something will give: the web will lose to something, the technology forming the web will iterate, or the tools for the web will improve.
  2. How Silicon Valley Became The Man — I’m fascinated by the sudden spike in anti-corporate tension in SF. This interview gives me some useful vocabulary: New Communalists and the New Left. And two more books to read …
  3. USB Rubber Ducky — USB dongle that pretends to be a keyboard and types out your text REALLY fast. (via Root a Mac in 10s or Less)
  4. Simple Git Workflow is Simple — Atlassian producing videos on how to use git, good starting point for new code drones.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 23 October 2013

Four short links: 23 October 2013

The Rational Pregnancy, Arts Innovation, Driverless Cars, and Frolicking Robots

  1. Expecting Better — an economist runs the numbers on the actual consequences of various lifestyle choices during pregnancy. (via sciblogs)
  2. Business as Usual in the Innovation Industry — the only thing worse than business plan contests for startups is innovation wankfests for small arts groups. [T]he vast majority of small and mid-sized arts organizations are not broken so much as they are in a constant state of precarity that could largely be addressed by reliable funding streams to support general operations and less onerous grant application processes that would allow them to focus more on delivering services and less on raising money. Hear! (via Courtney Johnston)
  3. Driverless Cars Are Further Away Than You Think (MIT Technology Review) — nice roundup of potential benefits. experiments involving modified road vehicles conducted by Volvo and others in 2011 suggest that having vehicles travel in high-speed automated “platoons,” thereby reducing aerodynamic drag, could lower fuel consumption by 20 percent. And an engineering study published last year concluded that automation could theoretically allow nearly four times as many cars to travel on a given stretch of highway.
  4. Portraits of Robots at Work and Play (The Atlantic) — photo-essay that is full of boggle. (via BoingBoing)
Comment: 1