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This post is part of the Hands on Ground Robot Design series. See here for the full list of posts/topics https://robotsforroboticists.com/hands-on-ground-robot–drone-design-series Robot Size Decision After we have the list of system requirements we start with the design of the mechanical structure of the robot. In this case we decided that a wheeled robot would be […]
April 15, 2022 at 02:49PM

What about that iWatch? It’s about the Software!

I’ve seen commentary that it’s “disappointingly familiar”, i.e. it looks just like several other computer watches, like the Pebble or even the iPod Nano attached to a strap. Or that it’s Much Ado About Nothing. But I think that commentary misses the point, because it focuses just on the hardware. 

It’s true that the Apple Watch hardware, at first glance, is kind of boring. I am really sorry to have to say that because it does seem like some world class design went into it, especially the amazing collection of straps, one more beautiful than the next. But still, it looks like a little rectangular computer thing on my wrist. That’s the hardware.

The software on the other hand is a breakthrough. I haven’t played with it but I sense that it contains one new invention after another and it will set a whole new standard that others will definitely imitate. 

So my prediction: the Apple Watch is like the first iPhone. In retrospect a little clunky, maybe a little slow, maybe without the battery life you would like. But it is a foundation on which will set the standard for wearables for a long time.

Design Thinking vs. Lean Startup

Point

Solving Problems for Real World, Using Design – NYTimes.com:

While the projects had wildly different end products, they both had a similar starting point: focusing on how to ease people’s lives. And that is a central lesson at the school, which is pushing students to rethink the boundaries for many industries.

A fascinating article about the “Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford” also known as the D.School.

 Everyone knows that Design Thinking is great and the new hotness. I love great design, and am in awe of it when I see it or have it pointed out to me. Furthermore, I am blown away by Ideo, which is the famous industrial design company founded by David Kelly (what a mustache!), who is one of the founders of the D.School.

“The school challenges students to create, tinker and relentlessly test possible solutions on their users — and to repeat that cycle as many times as it takes — until they come up with solutions that people will actually use.”

… “That is how Mr. Kothari, a mechanical engineering graduate student, started his ramen project. He spent hours at local ramen shops watching and talking to patrons as they inevitably spilled broth and noodles. Together with a group of other D.school students, he built a prototype for a fat straw that would let patrons have their ramen and drink it, too”

(from the same article) 

This is the same philosophy taught at Olin College where I teach. At Olin we call it UOCD or User Oriented Collaborative Design. In fact at Olin there are numerous interesting courses that come at Design from many different perspectives.

Counterpoint

Now the courses that I myself have taught have been based on so-called Lean Startup and I use the excellent book by Eric Ries called The Lean Startup. The Lean Startup process receommends: 

“The Lean Startup provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers’ hands faster. The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup-how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere-and grow a business with maximum acceleration. It is a principled approach to new product development.” (from The Lean Startup)

As I was reading the New York Times column about the D.School, I wondered if the two approaches are different or the same, in conflict, or just two ways of saying the same thing.And as I am writing this long post, I still am not sure. The easy answer is they are two sides of the same coin. The provocative answer is that two highly acclaimed approaches are 180% opposite to each other.