In the lead up to the upcoming Beijing Design Week, Mobile Monday (MoMo) Beijing yesterday presented an event titled “When Technology Meets Design, it’s Life”. Although for many of the tech geeks out there, awesome technology and sophisticated algorithms are cool, but the reality is, unless you can successfully give the market something usable, it won’t sell. This means giving customers a seamless and magical user experience. The most obvious example of great product design and hence a hot selling product is of course Apple. MoMo believes that well designed technology enhances your life.

Imagine A Day Made of Glass

Opening the talks, Orange Labs and the official organizer of MoMo, presented what the future will look like with “A Day Made of Glass”. For example, from the moment you wake up and brush your teeth in the mirror you can be checking your email and weather to see what you should prepare to wear for the day. When your kids arrive home, they can post their latest digital photos on the fridge and manipulate them. When at a business meeting, instead of taking an iPad around, you can just take a roll-up screen, lay it on the table and use your fingers to run through your 3D models.

Making User Experience Natural with Frogdesign

From Frogdesign, Peter Lin from the Shanghai office showcased how they create awesome user experiences for their clients’ customers. Their client Intel, asked what are some unique ways they can use their processing chips in digital signs in retail and public environments. Frogdesign then set out to explore possibilities in the retail space. They discovered that retail shopping currently is often not very friendly or natural. Especially in Asia, you have a pushy salesperson often standing over your shoulder or following you around the shop as if that would make you buy something. They also realized that people like to interact with a table display of a product where they could touch and feel it. So the product they put into prototype was two 7 foot tall vertical screen panels bound together like a book. The right panel is a 70 inch high resolution LCD panel. As a curious consumer steps up to the display, a tiny camera embedded in the top recognizes the person’s height and gender and can overlay information on the screen that appears as though it is pointing to items of the shelves behind. This “augmented reality” display may highlight clothing in the person’s size, for example, or items that are on sale. This gives consumers a more interactive and natural user experience.

Say Yes, Be Obvious and Tell a Story

To give us a break and some entertainment, Beijing Improv, a theatrical improvisation group showed how idea generation and great design are linked. Much like coming up with a great product and selling it, the keys to great improvisation are to always say ‘yes’ and be open to new ideas.  The second is to be obvious about something so people just get it. The third, is to tell a great story that people buy into. I think more of these kinds of playful exercises are needed at events in China; otherwise people fall asleep or just stare into their mobile phone.

Chinese innovation inspired by culture

China is better known for imitation than innovation but some designers are looking to break that stigma. One Hunan University design student created Line Phone, a mobile phone that is inspired by the simplicity and sophistication of Chinese culture and calligraphy. Gang previously wrote about this product and it also received international acclaim for outstanding design in many tech blogs around the world. Basically the rectangular phone utilizes the sides to control scrolling and things like volume. Although just a concept, you can even join the phones together to create a larger pad or tv.

Move Matter with Your Mind!

One of the most interesting, innovative and actually commercial products was Neurosky’s series of toys. Like a sci-fi movie, they have brought the theory of mind control to reality. For example, one toy that I played with is called Mindflex. You first attach a headset of sensors to your heard and ears, then concentrate to generate brainwaves to control a fan which blows a ball into the air. The aim is to move the ball through hoops and a tube. I did pretty well for a first go! It feels really bizarre but also intuitive to use your mind to make things move! Tony, the GM of Neurosky China says the aim of the game is to train you to focus. There are of course limitless applications for mind control, but some of the already available applications are education, health and entertainment. I’m waiting the Star Wars toy that I can just use my mind to create a light sabre ! Check out our Facebook page to see me in action!

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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1 Comment

  1. I’ve never, ever seen any REAL businessperson ever take an iPad to a ‘business meeting’. For business the thing is simply a reading toy and has no real use. 

    iPad is a ‘reader for posers’ and nothing more.  For business it serves zero function whatsoever – unless you like to make fart noises in board meetings.  It has no video output so can’t connect to a projector.  It can’t even run PowerPoint anyway.  It has no pen so you can’t take notes – sometime a few business people actually like to take notes in meetings.  So a sheet of paper and a pen is far more powerful than an iPad.

    So if something is going to be a tool for the future, maybe it should do something that people in the future might actually find useful – instead of just browsing, tweeting and making fart noises.

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