Friday, 15 June 2012

The Level Skatepark Proposal

A little (not so actually) project I have been assisting on with Brighton and Hove Skateparks Association (BHSA) and Brighton Parks Authority. A new concept based on the contemporary ‘Snake Run,’ but with a twist:

The ‘King Cobra’ run – if you take a close look at the plan view – is akin to a curled up Cobra (see outline). The large 'Diamond' shaped bowl at the end of the snake run resembles the head of a King Cobra!

The fact remains that Brighton City has one of the largest Skateboarding/BMX populations per head in the UK; and has been waiting for this since both the ‘Cage’ and ‘Bath’ Skateparks closed in the late 70s and early 80s. No wonder the Skate community is behaving like an incensed Mongoose!!

Commissioning is due to begin in October, and launch May time next year!!!

Go for it Mongooses!!!! Click for tricks!!!!!
Inches, Not Yards.
When I entered the world of innovation, one of the most common things I would hear was that my peers wanted to do something new: like start a company or take an unconventional career path. 

That they needed ‘a great idea.' 

That surprised me a bit, especially living around an entrepreneurial city like Brighton UK; since most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas; they discover them!
In recent years the likes of Google, for example, did not begin as a brilliant superordinate vision; but as a project to improve library searches, followed by a series of small discoveries that unlocked a revolutionary business model. Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn’t begin with an ingenious idea. But they certainly discovered one.
Meanwhile, Pixar started as a hardware company that never found a market, and got into digitally animated movies by making a number of small bets on short films.  Twitter began as a side project within Odeo, a podcasting company that was going nowhere.  After asking employees for suggestions about what the company should do, Odeo founder Evan Williams gave Jack Dorsey, then an engineer, two weeks to develop a prototype for his short messaging idea.  People inside Odeo loved using it and Twitter was soon born.
The truth is, most entrepreneurs launch their companies without a brilliant idea and proceed to discover one, or if they do start with what they think is a superb idea, they quickly discover that it’s flawed and then rapidly adapt.
Of course, everyone wants to make big bets. But brilliant ideas are over-rated and people routinely bet big on ideas that aren’t solving the right problems, including Google Wave and WebVan.  Pixar storytellers must make thousands of little bets to develop a movie script, Hewlett Packard cofounder Bill Hewlett found that HP needed to make 100 small bets on products to identify six that could be breakthroughs.
Just as Twitter went from a small bet to a big one, small bets are affordable and achievable ways to learn about problems and opportunities, while big bets are for capitalizing upon them.
Seasoned entrepreneurs will tend to determine in advance what they are willing to lose, rather than calculating expected gains.  They don’t teach this in business school; just the opposite, in fact.  But the next new billion-dollar idea is virtually impossible to predict, even for a visionary like Mark Zuckerberg for much of Facebook’s early history.
Unlike some of the old guard venture firms who still seek to bet big on ideas before the entrepreneurs have proven they are actually solving user problems, Y Combinator, Lean Startups and the Customer Development model, as well as the way some ‘Super Angels’ invest, are predicated on small bet philosophies and affordable losses, while seeking to help entrepreneurs iterate as cheaply and quickly as possible to find valuable problems.
Expect great debates to come between these two camps on things like expected exit values: big bets versus little bets.  After all, the old VC mantra was to find the next billion-dollar idea.  “We’re out to hit singles and doubles,” angel investor Dave McClure has stated reflecting a shifting tide, “We’re not trying to hit a home run every time and strike [sic] out a lot.”  Traditional VCs privately chafe at this kind of talk.  But with the rise of Y Combinator, and DST’s recent announcement to invest $150,000 in every seed-stage Y Combinator company, everyone understands the game is changing.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Lots a Tooth? No Matter!

I thought this Mousey was chewing some gum, but turns out that green lump in its mouth is a fully-functional, bioengineered tooth, the result of "tooth regenerative therapy" research at Tokyo University .

Basically that little mouse (Jerry) lost a tooth and grew a new one in its place with the help of some scientists:
To create the new tooth, the researchers took epithelial cells and mesenchymal cells from a mouse embryo and cultivated them together in a collagen-based medium to create a tiny tooth bud. A mass of tissue that has the potential to develop into a tooth.
This mass of tissues was implanted in the spot where Jerry's old tooth used to be and after fifty days that mouse could nibble on cheese properly again. The new tooth grew to the same height as the surrounding ones, is just as hard, and has all the same blood vessels and nerves.
Researchers are hoping that this bioengineering process will one day make dentures and false teeth obsolete.

But when one considers the future of Bioethics in this context, the picture the late Rod Hull's 'Emu' says a lot:

I don't know about you, but the potential here gives me the creeps.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

What might be in the next 10 years

We are living in an extremely exciting time in terms of science and technology. Things that have always been considered science fiction are becoming normal day-to-day components of our lives. And while we have been seeing invention after breakthrough over and over in the last couple of decades, this next ten years is going to blow everything else out of the water.
The awesome thing about all these scientific discoveries it that they create technology that allows us to make more breakthroughs even faster. Our ability to innovate is increasing exponentially as the years go by. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this reality, here are 10 amazing innovations to different sectors of life. They should give you a pretty good idea of what changes will be made by 2020.

1) Bio Technology

Bionic Hand controlled by brain signals

Okay, it doesn’t let you crush rocks like you would think, BUT it does allow people without fingers to have fully functional hands that can pick up and handle delicate objects. It is completely controlled by the brain and requires no surgery. Touch Bionics, the company the produces the Pro Digits hand, is able to install the hand complete with “living skin,” a plastic covering resembling human skin, for under $50,000. A small price to pay for a new hand I think.

2) Architecture

Revolving Tower in Dubai

While Dubai is currently known for it’s ridiculous extravagance, developers in the region are building a tower that has fancy andextremely practical applications.
This beautiful building is going to be made of 59 independently rotating modules/floors so that inhabitants will have a constantly shifting view of the outside world. Each floor will rotate at approximately 6 meters per minute so that the inhabitants will not notice the movement. The independent rotations will also give the building an ever-changing exterior that can warp into very complex designs.
All of that aesthetic stuff is great and all, but the real innovation comes from the wind turbines built in between each floor. The resulting pollution-free energy will be enough to power the tower and several buildings in the surrounding area. Just Wow.

3) Computer Speed, Size and Usability


Most people tech-nerds know of Moore’s Law from 1965 (the number of transistors we are able to cheaply put in computer chips doubles every year, thereby doubling the speed).  However, most people don’t know that Moore, himself, came out and said his law will most likely fail finally in 2020 where the number of transistors we can put on chips will be limited by the laws of physics. Does this mean the exponential rise in computer processing speed will come to a halt in ten years?
Not a chance, says Jim Tully, chief of research for semi-conductors at Gartner. “The technology which will replace this is a bottom-up approach, where chips will be assembled using individual atoms or molecules, a type of nanotechnology.”
Ray Kurzweil, a well-respected Futurist, stated in 2008 that when this molecular computing technology comes out in 2020, computers will have the intellectual capability of human beings. You might want to digest that for a minute before moving onto the next section.

Size and Usability

That Macbook Air is pretty damn thin. So thin, in fact, that it makes you wonder if physical computers will even exist in 2020. Well according to developers at Intel, the keyboard and mouse surely won’t. Who needs QWERTY when you can control a computer with your mind?
“We’re trying to prove you can do interesting things with brain waves,” said Intel researcher Dean Pomerleau. “Eventually people may be willing to be more committed … to brain implants. Imagine being able to surf the Web with the power of your thoughts.”
Pomerleau and countless research groups around the world are working with brain scanning devices to map blood flow in the brain. They have found that when different individual focus on the same image, they have very similar patterns of blood flow in their brains. For example, oneBritish group announced that they could discern where subjects where in a computer generated virtual environment by looking at where blood flowed in their brains.

4) Cars and Fuel

There are tons of different fuel-types for the “automobiles of tomorrow” but the only kind that seems to have any realistic chance of actually being used by the masses in the next ten years is electric. We still can’t figure out how to make hydrogen fuel cells efficient, safe and practical and hybrids/deisal cars are yesterday’s news. Fossil fuels are so 2009…
Picture 4
This is the Tesla Model S sedan for the modest price of $57,000 (very good for a luxury, electric car).
Besides the sexy curves, you get 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge depending on the battery size you choose. And another small detail, it goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds while seating 7 people.
So despite all of the automaker’s best attempts at making alternative-fuel cars so hideous that no one would ever buy them, it looks like market competition will soon push some very attractive and efficient cars onto the market.

5) How We Interact With the World

The way in which we interact with the outside world has changed SO much since the introduction of the internet, smart phones, etc. In the very near future, another huge jump will be made: integrating the information on the internet with our surroundings.
By that I mean being able to look at a building, product or place and immediately seeing information about the subject on our devices and eventually just with our eyes.
If you’re still confused as to what I mean, check out the earliest innovation of this concept, Goggles by Google. This app allows you to take a picture of whatever you are looking at and instantly receive info about it on your Android phone.
Like the video says, Goggle is only scratching at the surface of this technology. Kurzweil says that “By 2020 we’ll routinely have pop ups in our visual field of view that give us background about the people and places that we’re looking at.” Your memory and the vast information bank of the internet will be one at all times.
Until we can do this with a chip in our brain, a new device has come out that overlays video onto our normal vision using special glasses. It’s called the Vuzix display Wrap 920AR and it goes on sale soon for around $800.

6) Energy

Picture 11Solar energy will soon leave fossil fuels and inefficient wind farms in the dust. According to Kurzweil, “the cost per watt of solar energy is coming down rapidly and the total amount of solar energy is growing exponentially. It has in fact been doubling every two years for the past  20 years and is now only eight doublings away from meeting all of the world’s energy needs.”
Emerging technology from a company called Sandia is making the reality that much closer:
Sandia’s solar cells are made of 100 times less material than the current top solar cells while operating at the same efficiency. Since the biggest hurdle in the path of solar power is the expensive and large nature of solar panels, these new microscopic cells will make a huge difference. For example, current panels are massive and require large motors to move them to track the sun. Sandia’s cells, on the other hand, would only need to be moved a fraction of a millimeter to track the sun efficiently while weighing next to nothing.
Even more amazing, they can be suspended in liquids and printed on flexible materials, allowing the cells to be places on any surface. What if your entire car was covered in these powerhouses? Bye bye, Chevron.

7) Health

Picture 12While we still can’t cure the common cold, custom-made organs are just around the corner.
A company called Organovo has developed the first commercial 3-D bio printer that builds custom organs cell-by-cell. Each individual cell is based upon sample cells from the body of the customer. Organovo reports that veins and arteries will be available in 5 years, and more complex organs like hearts and livers in 10.
On a more general note, nanotechnology is revolutionizing the health world. The awesome combination of a higher understanding of how DNA works and the ability to create very small cellular parts is painting a very bright future for medicine.
Scientists are finding specific sequences of DNA that code for conditions like schizophrenia, autism and even aging. The cures are actually in sight.

8) Success and Popularity Accessibility

By that, I mean the ability of a Joe Nobody to come from nowhere and suddenly gain recognition and become a well known someone. The internet has been continually leveling the playing field so that you don’t need million in capital or marketing to get your ideas, creations and business into the spotlight.
10 year-olds are making thousands off their viral YouTube videos. Anyone with a business idea can start a website and get going for little to no capital. Even Twitter (which I am not a big fan of) can launch people into the spotlight if they can work the system in the right way.
Many people are getting huge jobs because companies are seeing how well their content does on the web. For example, Fede Alvarez, a director from Uruguay, recently had this short film go viral and was offered $30 million from a Hollywood company to direct a film for them.
The internet is the perfect tool for capitalism, entrepreneurship, and dreaming. Whatever you can dream up, you can make possible on the World Wide Web.

9) Robots

The first decade of the 21st century has been a remarkable time for innovation in robotics. While we’re still far away from having bots helping around the house or doing our construction, big strides have been made towards that future.
Recently a robot was able to teach itself human facial expressions by randomly contorting its face and receiving feedback on what resembled real expressions.
Here’s another robot called BigDog that came out a couple of years ago, but if you haven’t seen the video, you really should. It’s a 4-legged robot that can navigate difficult terrain and correct its balance when shoved. If you can’t watch the whole video, at least fast-forward to 1:50 where the robot can be seen running and jumping.
And finally here is the bipedal version of BigDog that walks heel-to-toe just like humans do. Again, it can regain balance when shoved.

10) Clothing

Nanotechnology in Clothing

Nano-fibres will make garments tremendously more comfortable and durable. “By this process the textile products can be made more attractive, strong and responsive to customers’ choice.”
Fiber-based nanogenerators will build up electrical energy in clothing from physical movement, ultrasonic waves and even blood flow. “If we can combine many of these fibers in double or triple layers in clothing, we could provide a flexible, foldable and wearable power source that, for example, would allow people to generate their own electrical current while walking.”
- Extremely hydrophobic (water-resistant) nanofilaments allow for completelywaterproof clothing. It can be submerged in water for two months and still remain dry to the touch. “The water comes to rest on the top of the nanofilaments like a fakir sitting on a bed of nails.” (Whatever that means…)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

How Your Shoe Can Secretly Help You Text

Technology and etiquette don’t move in lockstep. Just because it’s possible to whip out your smartphone and connect from anywhere doesn’t mean you should. Text during a meeting and you risk offending your boss, e-mail during family dinner and you risk displeasing your spouse, peruse your MP3 collection during a football and you risk missing that goal.

A new device being developed by engineers in Germany, however, promises to liberate smartphone addicts from the strictures of social opprobrium, making it easier to work their devices sneakily under the noses of those who might judge them for it. The gadget is called ShoeSense. It’s a motion sensor that, indeed, mounts on a shoe. Facing upward, it allows a user to control his phone through hand gestures performed at midriff level, even when the phone is still stored away in his pocket. Pinch index finger and thumb together and move your hand slightly forward to answer the phone or hang up, touch one hand to the other forearm to send a prewritten text, hold out a number of fingers to communicate whom on your speed-dial list to send it to. A person using ShoeSense looks a bit like a theremin player.
If the ShoeSense user is sitting at a desk, however, or a conference table, he looks as if he’s not doing anything at all and instead paying you his undivided attention—even as, sub rosa, he’s semaphoring his phone to send out a text about happy hour. “It is quite discreet,” says Gilles Bailly, a computer scientist at Technische Universität Berlin and Deutsche Telekom (DTE) who is one of ShoeSense’s creators. “Say you are in a meeting, you want to indicate that you are going to be late. You’ve already defined the gesture for this, and you perform the gesture under the table. The system on your shoe can recognize it, and nobody at the meeting knows that you performed the gesture.”

ShoeSense is still a long way from showing up in your next pair of Nikes. Bailly’s lab is still tinkering with it. Still, bosses might prepare for its eventual arrival—perhaps by installing glass conference tables or by asking that, during meetings, people keep their hands where everyone can see them.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Mary Meeker @ WEB2.0 SUMMIT


It is fascinating, and I would say important analysis for anyone in the technological innovation game!

Dr Mary Meeker - one of my 'fave' trend analysts - is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Mary focuses on emerging technology trends and companies, co-authoring industry-defining books, where her reports are read worldwide.

Dubbed 'The Queen of the Net,' Mary has covered companies that have created more than 200,000 jobs over the past 25 years while the companies increased their collective market value by more than $900 billion: Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Adobe, Intuit, Electronic Arts, Activision, Yahoo!,, eBay,, Google and Alibaba.

But it was her talk at WEB2.0 Summit on 'Internet Trends' that stands out most. I think this is  a must-must-must view video-seminar.

The reason? The statistics are shocking in terms of not only how fast and innovatively the internet has changed over the last 2-to-3 years (site innovation, design, architecture, applications, content, hardware and human Interfaces); but also in terms of the changes in the geographic location and demographics of end USERS (where, who and how the net is being used). 

Please click here to see Mary's video

Also click here to see 'Slideshare' of presentation.