Grobag® Egg™ Room Thermometer

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“The colour of the ‘egg’ changes to let you if the room temperature is too low, too high or just right, helping you maintain a safe sleeping environment for your baby. No need to put the light on to read a traditional thermometer!”
An interesting and rather useful ambient interface implementation. What are ambient interfaces? Tom Gross at Fraunhofer gives a good definition based on the work of Gross, Weiser and Brown:
“Ambient interfaces use the whole environment of the user for the interaction between the user and the system. They present digital information through subtle changes in the user’s physical environment such as variations of light, sounds, or movements. They capture natural interactions of the user with physical devices such as switches, buttons, or wheels and translate them into digital commands (Gross, 2002; Wisneski et al., 1998). Ambient interfaces go beyond the classical graphical user interface and do not consume real estate on the computer screen; they make user interaction with the system easier and more intuitive. Their properties of a calm technology (Weiser & Brown, 1996) are particular useful for situations, in which users want and need permanent background information without being disrupted in their foreground tasks.”
Despite just being a working proof of concept, the ambient interface we created called “Girls Ambient Room” has proven to be pretty popular despite little or know marketing on our part. I wonder how we will deal with all these new bits of information entering our environment. Instead of dealing with understanding the complexity of a screen based GUI will be now have to start learning how to read our environment? Hopefully we won’t have to learn to deal with more information but better information. Thinkingliving – egg thermometer.
Via Popgadget.


Delicious Days

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I’ve been spending far more time cooking these past months than I have ever in the past. Cooking and spending time in the kitchen is something we should all endeavor to do more of – it’s a great place to get together and share in what is often forgotten to be a fundamental activity among families. We all spend far too much time racing around between jobs and bringing home unhealthy “fast food”. My point is not about cooking but about a great site I found about cooking (very ungraceful segue I know).
When searching for a snack idea I came across the site Delicious Days. While I can attest that the recipes are wonderful, what really makes this site stand out is the beautiful photography. Ever article is supported by appropriate shots of food and process making you almost want to eat the screen. The design of the site supports the photography well too. There are problems but I won’t nit pick – it’s too good for that. Go check it out for yourself – Delicious Days.


Differentiation is Key to Success

“The introduction of the ultra-slim Motorola V3 clamshell mobile phone has helped Motorola sharpen its brand recognition, and the product is among the top-10 models in all the major handset markets, including China. Jim Wicks, vice president and director of the Consumer Experience Design group at Motorola, outlined Motorola’s latest design concepts during a recent interview with DigiTimes.”
Differentiation is key to success: Q&A with Motorola design director Jim Wicks


Lucky Plucky Pillow Poultry

A wonderful site full of truly special toys and crafts for children. Mahar Drygoods features products you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else – beautiful and interesting things I will likely feature more than once. Lucky Plucky is part pillow and part poultry and might make the perfect napping companion. I would watch out for the button eyes though as some kids have a knack for getting even the most securely fastened objects into their mouths. Created by Creature Co-op and available for $26.00US from Maha Drygoods.


Bacon Strips Bandages

More bacon. My daughter loves wearing colourful and fun bandaids. It has gotten to the point that every little bump she gets, and she gets allot of bumps, now requires a kiss and a bandaid to make it feel better. Though she has never tasted bacon and hopefully seldom ever will I am sure she would find these very fun. 15 7.6 cm x 2.5 cm bandages come in a 9.5 cm tall metal pocket tin which also contains a small plastic trinket to “help make even the ouchiest owies feel all better in no time.” From Sprout Home for $4.25US.


Dad Field Bag

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Do I really need a bag like this? Not really. My knapsack with a face cloth and towel would suffice. Would I buy one of these? Likely. Diaper bags in general seem like an unnecessary product category with functions that only slightly deviate from your everyday pack. But this often featured bag from Jack Spade is quite well designed, looks great, and adds a couple features that make it practical. The velcro closures which in other instances be a loud annoyance are absolutely a brilliant feature when you think about how you sometimes need to get inside your bag quickly. When someone is about to go pee you don’t have time to fiddle around with fancy buckles. The interior pockets are good for separating smelly stuff , from the non-smelly, and with the addition of a changing pad I no longer have to set down Camren with the worry of staining some shops expensive furniture. Style doesn’t come cheap as this bag with cost you $125.00US from Modern Seed.


Bacon and Egg Bib

While I don’t think I like the idea of promoting the eating of bacon, I do like buying unique well made items such as this. Handmade in Chicago (of all places), these bibs are washable as well as having a layer of clear vinyl for easy wiping. Available from Sprout Home for $16.00US. While you are there you might want to check out the neat wall decals that they have.


Time-outs: How to make them work

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One of the techniques we use when Catriona misbehaves are time-outs. Its a much ballyhooed, much negative it seems, discipline technique but generally I feel the way we use it makes it an effective tool. At least most of the time. Catriona is full emotion these days and seems to constantly push the boundaries of what we consider acceptable behavior. Taking her away from the place where she was “acting up”, letting her have a chance to cool down (and us), and discuss exactly what it is she is doing wrong seems to be effective to us. I really don’t see anything negative about it at all. She is never removed from us or sent to a dark place. Nor is she sent to her room.
Parent Center has Six strategies for making the most of time-outs which you might want to read, while Peter Haiman has a Case Against Time-out which offers a counter view. I think mostly about approach of which the Parent Center article seems to provide. The timer above is an Alessi Stainless Steel and Abs Kitchen Timer which might be an attractive tool to use to time the time-out.


Your Ability to Concentrate

I have always been somewhat of a day dreamer. I can remember being reprimanded by my elementary school teachers for sitting in class day dreaming – even today concentration and focus is still something I work on. If you add the additional challenges of lack of sleep brought on by a new born and all the distractions that being a parent brings, then having good focused time to work is even harder. I’m a big fan of the concepts of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience as told by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi so I thought perhaps this book by M. Sadhu might be a good try. I’ll let you know how it works out. You can purchase Concentration a Guide to Mental Mastery at Amazon.


Conversation Notes on User Experience Design

The context of the following mishmash of ideas was from a planned conversation in last nights design class. The talk was to serve as a sort of recap of some of the things we had been talking about.
“User experience simply refers to the way a product behaves and is used …. A positive user experience is one in which the goals of both the user and the organization that created the product are met. ” – Garrett
Designing user experiences – websites, software UI – replaces human to human interaction and bring whole new kinds of interaction not before possible.
People bring with them a lifetime of experience as to how they want to interact with your product. Your interface should fit their model of how they will interact with your product – you should not deviate from this drastically but gradually, if at all …
This should seem blatantly obvious, people should form the center of any design to be used by people … you need to strike a balance.
If we are paying attention we will notice patterns in our products that produce successful experiences … and we can notice and replicate these and other patterns … are we paying attention to the successful experiences we have in our everyday life.
There are challenges:
… challenges in how people perceive “spaces in their mind” … IA is more about peoples perception than machine readable categories (though they do need to be machine readable)
… visual design is perceived differently by different people … color, form, type, all may mean different things to different people. This is especially true across cultures.
How do we understand our customers?
Some companies obviously employ very deep research programs and there is allot of science involved.
But you and I are thinking small … were not Motorola or Coke …
It’s entirely possible if you employ a small team of very experienced designers to just jump right in. To rely on their experience to create good usable products. User research still needs to happen but we need to be quick .. agile.
Start from the middle and don’t get bogged down with process. Produce something and if you are small and fast enough you can react … react to the knowledge you learn from your future end users. Allot of development today allows for this nimbleness, though you may not see it in many companies today as they are still heavily vested in the large enterprise system mentality.
Otherwise it’s wise to not only start testing early but involve your users from the very beginning. You can do this at first in the most simple way possible … talking to your target. Getting to know them, their needs, their environment. Humanize your strategy by referring to real people every time you talk about your site or product …
Tools and techniques of basic user research.


Technology as an Enabler to Experience

During one of my last design classes (they are more me having a one sided conversation) I tried to reinforce the idea of technology as an enabler to customers/users/peoples goals, objectives, and desired experience. So often technology drives the experience irrespective of what people actually want in a product. A company launches a new internal email system not based on what people want or can use but on what features the particular vendor is selling. This leads to allot of internal dissatisfaction which is often expressed either through frustration or simply lost productivity.
It is a very common approach in Taiwan and one which is very hard to break free from. Companies need to make money and selling a system based on a feature set is much easier than more qualitative measurements. I don’t necessarily have the answers but Taiwan being the copy and remix culture that it is, I bet if someone created a successful product following a customer centered approach (in practice not in theory) than others would copy.
Some large companies who make physical devices are doing this but it has yet to filter down to smaller and medium sized enterprises.
Tonight I will quickly introduce an interview with Jim Wicks, the Vice President and Director of Motorola’s Consumer Experience Design, as he has some great ideas on the subject. I find Taiwan students and business managers always tend to appreciate the advice of an outside expert, so perhaps his voice will add some credence to the idea.
Weaving Design into Motorola’s Fabric
Jim Wicks
“We are a technology leader. However, a big change in mobile devices has been to move from being technology-driven to being technology-enabled. This means things are driven by consumers’ needs, wants, and desires. Consumers don’t say, “Hey, I want a (blank).” They don’t talk about technology in terms of what they want to do. They talk about what their objective is or what their desired experience is.”
“The product is the brand. You build brand in our industry through the product and the experience. Those manifestations are tangible evidence of that change. It shapes what people internally and externally think about the company.”
“However, you could also create a product that succeeds by accident and not realize it. You could make a mistake by not building on a successful product or not being able to repeat a success. There’s a lot of things that can happen that show a product doesn’t really change the culture of a company or change the company. But a product can really bring a lot to the table to enable other things to happen that really do mean the company is changing.”
Find the patterns of your successful experience and iterate.
“The intention isn’t to trump functionality. Our products are highly functional. …
If you look at what most people are doing with their devices and what they say they care about most, you would offer functionality that addresses those primary uses really well. Plus you would create something that ‘meets their style,’ something that they see as an object of personal expression that they feel very good about, proud about, and comfortable with carrying around.
I think of it more as a balancing rather than a trumping of functionality.”
“It’s like when someone says, “Are you going to invest in design or usability?” I’m respond with, “Well, that’s the same thing.” Design is always about synthesis–synthesis of market needs, technology trends, and business needs.”
The full interview is available the Institute of Design | Strategy Conference website.


Garlic Ribs

This is an old recipe from back home I pulled out last night. It has it’s origins on a country farm where introductions to Asian food come from readers digest and the sides of instant rice.
Though it is a tad salty and perhaps not for those worried about their waistline I do I think it tastes great. Importantly, it is extremely easy.
I’ve changed it a bit to match what is available and done here in Taiwan (ie. I have no oven here).
1st) Cook the ribs. I bought precut short ribs – a bit more expensive but I don’t have the time to cut them myself. I boiled them to speed up the process and then finished cooking them in my large wok with about 2 tablespoons of crushed garlic.
2nd) Make Sauce.

  • 20oz of regular coke (600ml)
  • ~ 4 garlic buds. I used about 6 + tablespoons of crushed garlic, it was a bit much but I love garlic
  • ~ 1 cup brown sugar. I used a bit less than a cup
  • ~ 1/2 cup of soya sauce. You have to watch this as I find it makes it salty
  • 4 tblsp of corn starch
  • ~ 2 tblsp vinegar

Whisk ingredients.
3) Combine sauce, ribs, in large wok and bring to a boil for 20 minutes. Stir often. Cook covered slowly for another 30 minutes or longer. Start your other ingredients for the meal- rice and veggies.


My Daughters First Paintings

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These are some Catriona’s first attempts at painting with a brush (she’s 2 1/2). She picks and mixes the colours, I clean up the mess.
I like to try different things with her. This time we would make sounds to accompany certain brush strokes. It’s fun and silly. Higher res. here.
To create these paintings we are using a Crayola Painting Set much like this but with a little bit of daddy voodoo to make the colors stand out. I can confirm that it does wash out.


Travel Art Portfolio

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Catriona is as much a fan of specialized bags as I am. She has bags for school, for her dolls, for her kitchen set, and for going out hiking. At 2 1/2 she is well on her way to being an Imelda Marcos of bags. It doesn’t help that most of her toys come with some kind of carrying case which I think is not such a bad idea except for all the excess plastic around the house. This travel art portfolio is a neat idea for our budding artist. “Ideal for travel, car trips or creative activities, the tote includes twelve pieces of colored chalk, three extra large crayons, three colored pencils, a chalkboard and a 50-page notebook.” She will like this I think. $32.00US from uncommon goods.
Found via swissmiss who is featuring all kinds of wonderful items for children lately.