Category Archives: objects

Cross cultural vs culturally specific

I saw this headline this morning and first scratched my head.

Spice Phone

MWC 2008: Spice Movie Phone has a built-in optical disc drive

The question that everyone seemed to ask was why UMD? My guess, probably cause it was cheaper and easier than to license Sony’s proprietary UMD format, not to mention that UMD’s (and therefore this phone’s) future would be held hostage to Sony’s whim. What was more interesting than the question of why UMD was the question that none of the commentary picked up on.

It’s really unlikely that this Movie Phone from the Indian cellphone maker Spice would make it anywhere besides India, but it’s an amazing phone because of what it’s got on the back: an optical drive

I’m currently in the cultural human factors class taught by Judith Gregory at the Institute of design. This class provides tools and frameworks to allow designers to develop culturally aware products. A comment like the one above shrieks of cultural bias and technological adoration, assuming that since the west has moved on to SD, microSD and nanoSD (just kidding), that somehow a phone such as this would never work.

Rather than worry about the UMD aspect of this phone, my question would be how well this phone would sell in markets that might share similar characteristics to India (a large domestic film industry, manufacturing infrastructure. a large upcoming middle class and deep mobile penetration).

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Another example of permanence of objects (or lack thereof)

A adhoc pointer when needed, breaks apart and forms the all too familiar dry-erase marker – or is it the other way around?

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Permanence of objects

I was faced with a small challenge today. I had just walked back from the gym, listening on the way to a Ted Talk by Vilayanur Ramachandran on my Ipod. I got back to my apartment and realized I needed to jump into the shower. I was faced with two options – one, I could finish the talk and jump in or I could stop it, jump into the shower and continue the talk later but I was absolutely loving his presentation and didn’t like either of those options. So i tried to figure out how I could have my cake and eat it too.

There had to be a way for me to listen to my favorite podcasts in the shower.

I initially thought of a waterproof dock and spent 3-5 minutes looking it up on amazon but besides the fact that I had to wait three days to get them delivered, they were way too expensive. Then I hit upon a different idea. I decided to use a zip lock bag and rubber bands to create a waterproof casing for my Ipod. It worked wonderfully and I was able to listen to the brilliant presenters at Ted while in the shower.

Waterproof Ipod case

After I got out, I realized that there was something even more important that had happened. Instead of buying an expensive dock that would have a single function and purpose, I had come up with a product that was not permanent. As soon as the function of the ziplock bag and rubber band as a waterproof Ipod case was no longer needed, I could take it apart and reuse the components for other purposes.

The implications of this idea in a larger scale go beyond the idea of reuse and recyclability of products. Instead, it makes us ask the question about how we as innovators can use this principle to develop products that can be broken down and reassembled for various other purposes.