Thursday, June 6, 2013

What Does Awesome Product Mean?

What is the most awesome product you have ever encountered? Anything goes. I don't necessarily mean software or hardware or anything digital at all. If you believe it is a vacuum cleaner, great. Our instructions last night, as 50 of us lounged around the research labs at Intuit, were to form small groups and each present the most cool, fantastic, wonderful product we could think of. Then we were to pick the favorite of the lot. Next, small groups were to come together and report to the entire UX Speakeasy meetup on their findings.

Voices sometimes came out of the ceiling which was a bit disconcerting, but there was a logical explanation. We were too many to fit in one room so half of us were next door behind one way glass. From the observation room, half of us spied on (watched) the goings on of the other half, and contributed by speaking through the ceiling. From the front room all we could see was dark glass. Who knows what was really going on back there. The occasional thump against the glass gave no real clues.

Herding instinct tried to take over in the chosen products as most of the UX crowd chose mobile apps. Some of these apps were quite interesting, but I was somewhat disappointed that there wasn't more thinking outside the box. Nonetheless, there were a few fun surprises.

One member of my group loved his ancient music player. Dating from before the iPod, before iTunes, there was this little hand held device that did nothing but play music. It was called a Zune HD, made by Microsoft and definitely ancient (3-4 years old). Why was this device so awesome? Simplicity. All it did was play music. Period. No complicating phone or computer. And it was small. Unlike my monstrous Nexus 4, which I am having to regularly tell to STOP telling me things and sending me messages and notes and bings bongs and chirps. Once it took me three days to figure out why it kept randomly chirping at me and stop it.

Let's hear it for simplicity.

Then there was Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand received a loud round of "ooooohhh!!" and "ahhhhhh!!!" from the audience as we watched this nifty web site where you can put in how much money you have to spend and in return you get nifty displays showing how far you can go. Almost slipping under the radar, it caught my attention when the guy introducing the site to us said "All of our team had mobile apps. I went old school and brought my laptop. It paid off. I won".

(What does this have to say about the power of originality and standing out from the crowd?)

Perhaps my overall favorite of the evening came after the formal presentations. Someone showed me an app (yes, a mobile app) that measured your heart rate. Sounds ho hum until you play with it. You put your finger over the camera and a light shines out on your skin. The phone starts taking a reading and displays a live graph of your heart rate. The fun came when I challenged the device by holding my breath, jumping up and down, and engaging in deep and noisy heavy breathing. Not all at the same time.

Holding my breath confused it at first. The little graph quivered on a plateau for several seconds. Otherwise I managed to move my heart rate from the low 60s to close to 100 fairly easily.

I really wanted to take the phone away and sit in a corner and meditate for a while to see what would happen but other people wanted to play with it too.

On a more serious note, several members of the meetup organizing committee went out of their way to wear different shoes last night, in order to demonstrate that they had variety in their wardrobe. This in response to one of my previous posts where I took note of fashion choices among the attendees. I present the shoes - if you were at the event or know the committee members, can you identify them from their footwear?

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