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Hardware's Indie Market

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

 

In a recent Fast Company article, writer Kevin Purdy described his experience of owning a Pebble smartwatch; a device he says was “all it promised to be.”

And then, after one week of wearing it, his Pebble watch stopped working.

When he consulted the Pebble support forums, he saw a long list of complaints about delays and other bugs. Rather than getting angry at having invested in an imperfect product, he felt sympathy for the tiny Pebble team. Here was a young company “trying to sell a disruptive piece of near-future tech in an early-stage form, to customers who want both a revolution and a reliable product.”

Functionality flaws and design imperfections were almost inevitable considering the limited resources that would have been devoted to engineering and preparing Pebble for production. Despite increased access to production resources, hardware is still a tough market. What’s most intriguing is Purdy’s passive reaction to having spent money on something that broke after a week. It’s hard to imagine anyone letting Apple off so easily.

The world of commerce has no shortage of David vs. Goliath stories—craft brewers vs. Anheuser-Busch, organic co-ops vs. Whole Foods, independent bookstores vs. Amazon. Regardless of the industry, there is always a customer base willing to forgive inefficiencies and put up with moderate dissatisfaction simply because they believe in the product and admire the company for trying to establishing itself in a market towering with giants. The things people buy speak volumes about who they are and what their values are. In other words, as soon as someone figures out a way to enter a market with an alternative from the mainstream, there is a customer base eager to get its hands on something new, something different.

However, alternatives from the mainstream are not always an option for consumers. Consider the barriers a boutique automobile manufacturer would face in today’s market. And what about the airline industry? When someone as powerful as Richard Branson struggles to put more Virgin planes in the sky, you know that’s a tough market.

When it comes to hardware, Apple was—and mostly still is—the alternative, regardless of its size and profitability. Thanks to its marketing machine, most consumers don’t feel like they are buying a commodity, instead they are buying a work of passion. It can make you feel like you’re part of something important. This same sentiment is rooted in Purdy’s feelings toward Pebble. “I felt like part of a small, clever team,” he says.

Crowdfunding, if done right, has the potential to create a thriving market for indie hardware. Customers will take pride in wearing beta-versions, putting up with all of their flaws and bugs, just because they feel like their part of something unique. You might be the only person you know wearing a Pebble watch, but then you see somebody at a bar or on the bus wearing one and feel cool, knowing someone else in the world has the same values as you.

This could pose challenges to a company like Apple and their marketing deptartment at some point. But Apple never had any illusions about not being a huge, market-dominating company, which, in turn, poses a bigger challenge to younger hardware companies like Pebble. When the scrappy smallness of your company factors heavily into inspiring brand loyalty, how do you grow and compete without losing sight of what made people fall in love with your products in the first place?

What Purdy’s article points to is a sympathetic consumerism that is unique to burgeoning indie markets. Ultimately, there is enough room in the market for both cutting edge indie hardware and masterfully produced consumer devices. “The good news for Pebble,” says Purdy, “Is that it has shown that there’s a real market for a decidedly minimal black-and-white, uni-tasking watch, and it will have time to work out its issues and update before an iWatch or S-Watch arrives.”

Regardless of the size of the company, it’s all about end-user. In the indie marketplace, this is something that companies easily lose sight of in light of the countless other obstacles they face. Pebble has a great opportunity to set a standard and do what all-great companies do—keep customers happy and engaged.

As for me, I just placed an order for a Pebble watch over the weekend. I’m eager to check it out and see what the experience is like. Of course, there have been plenty of complaints of long wait-times, but Pebble says my watch “will ship in April-May 2013”. I’ll definitely share my thoughts on the device when it arrives.

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Dinner Dialogues: EP. 2 Part 4

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Mark Giles

“Disruptive innovation” is more than a catchphrase. It is the oncoming force that will shake up the status quo. With more connectivity, power and information than ever before, how will we adapt to change and where should we be looking? Listen in to technology insiders as they discuss the how technology is shifting the social and economic paradigms across the globe.

Guests Include: Shauna Causey, Stefan Weitz, Chris Pirillo, Skooks Pong, and Bill Baxter.

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SXSW Interactive: What's Next

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Aren Kaser

A little over a week ago I returned from SXSW, the massive interactive, film, and music festival that the city of Austin graciously tolerates every year. The Interactive portion—Synapse’s motivation for attending—was an amazing five days of conference sessions, keynotes, technology porn, parties, and advertising and marketing overload.  Through all of this, there emerged some very interesting trends that are sure to be keynote topics at next year’s festival.

Hardware, hardware, hardware 

Much has already been written about the democratization of hardware development via 3D printing and its role in allowing greater access to prototyping and iteration.

However, despite this increased accessibility to development-tools, successful hardware devices cannot be made in a vacuum or quickly prototyped and shipped off to production. Building on the renewed interest in hardware, the stage is now set to discuss how to bring innovators, inventors, designers, developers, and engineers together to bring full technology product ecosystems from idea to reality. SXSW Interactive can be the forum where the whole user-experience conversation includes how to leverage multiple like-minded partners and focus on a singular outcome to create breakthrough devices.

Self-Tracking

The impact of self-tracking technology on healthcare or “Health 3.0” will be massive, especially when devices can either be small enough to be unobtrusive or allow for greater comfort it can be incorporated into your clothing in a subtle way that doesn’t make you look like Tron when you wear it.

Some of the best healthcare-ish concepts and devices discussed at SXSW included:

Clothing with built in sensors, allowing for continuous breast cancer screening or loss of cell and tissue function. Public health tracking like the Asthmapolis asthma GPS device, as well as behavior mapping through location data, and video games for the elderly that help with focus and brain stimulation. Location biometrics

Probably the most interesting part of the growing culture of self-tracking is the amount of data on individuals that could be leveraged by governments, businesses, hospitals, employers, and theme parks to weave together a behavioral picture of a person, family, or group of like-minded customers.

Devices like smart phones send out location data every time they search for a signal. This information doesn’t just tell others where we go and what we do, it can also be used to identify us since our location and pattern is as unique or more so than our fingerprints, irises, or DNA. The same thing cannot be in two places at the same time, therefore location allows for accurate and reliable data. All of this data stays constant overtime and will lead to a collective intelligence, which will identify what we need to know before we ask by determining where we are located and telling us what to do next.

Experience driven design

Returning to the topic of hardware, this year’s SXSW included many discussions around user experience in the design of devices as well as software. Successful experience design and engineering relies on iteration instead of relying on a "recipe." Hardware and software engineers and developers will be pushed to better collaborate on projects that first define an experience and then design a system through feeling and action.

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Bezos Expeditions Recovers Apollo-1...

Posted by Scott Bright

Wow!  Congratulaitons to Bezos Expeditions!

March 28, 2012
"I'm excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we're making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor."

March 20, 2013
"We’re bringing home enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. The upcoming restoration will stabilize the hardware and prevent further corrosion. We want the hardware to tell its true story, including its 5,000 mile per hour re-entry and subsequent impact with the ocean surface. We’re excited to get this hardware on display where just maybe it will inspire something amazing."

 

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Levitating Computer Mouse

Posted by Mark Giles

KIBARDIN presents a new product: levitating wireless computer mouse. The Bat is a set that consists of a base - mouse pad and floating mouse with magnet ring. One of the goals of this product is to prevent and treat the contemporary disease Carpal tunnel syndrome (Median nerve dysfunction / entrapment). Мany active computer users can be prone to this ailment. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is pressure on the median nerve - the nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. It can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers.

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Pledge Your NikeFuel for March Madn...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Mark Giles

INTENSITY #COUNTS
Use your Nike+ products to turn your NikeFuel into a pledge of team pride.

Pledge here: http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/basketball/fuel-your-team

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Next Generation Gesture Control

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Jon Manning

An amazing new technology that allows you to control numerous electronic devices with the signals used to control the muscles in your arm!

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Palm-Reading Pay System

Posted by Mark Giles

Italian bank UniCredit formally unveiled a new palm reader-based commercial payments system this week. The palm reading POS system, called Papillon, was displayed to the public at the CeBit 2013 conference and is based on Fujitsu's PalmSecure technology. UniCredit has been testing Papillon since December 2012 in branches of the Italian Kiko makeup chain.

Papillon replaces conventional credit/debit card readers at the point of sale; instead of swiping a card, customers place their palm on a biometric reader for several seconds. UniCredit is also marketing the product as a mobile payment solution for non-brick and mortar retailers. Brazil's Banco Bradesco unveiled biometric ATMs last year as well.

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First Nike FuelBand Prototype

Posted by Mark Giles

In 2010, when Nike first began developing the FuelBand, a small, secret team of thirteen would run around the company’s campus testing early prototypes. "We actually created fabric covers that we could just pull over them," recalls Stefan Olander, Nike’s VP of digital sport, with a smile. "No one lost [them] at any bars either, so that was a good thing."

Olander’s team had been working on a number of related ideas for months, but it’d be years before the product would actually hit the market. Back in 2010, the FuelBand, the electronic wristband that enables users to track their activity, was far from the sleek, elegant product it is today. Then, as Olander relates to me in his office, it was nothing more than a colorful Velcro bracelet, inspired by the sweatbands athletes often wear on the field or court. "In 50 years, no one had done anything with the sweatband--with that real estate of the wrist," Olander says. "There must be something there."

Indeed, the release of the FuelBand is the culmination of Nike’s transformation into a digital powerhouse. "Nike has broken out of apparel and into tech, data, and services, which is so hard for any company to do," says Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. During my reporting for Fast Company's recent profile of Nike, which we just named the world’s Most Innovative Company, I learned the true story of the FuelBand’s creation. It’s a complicated tale, involving a number of players and partner companies. But the origins of the FuelBand--and some of its most memorable features--can be traced back to the first prototype Olander and his team showed CEO Mark Parker in 2010. Rarely do we gain access to such a specific, creative moment in corporate history.

In the course of my reporting, I saw a number of early FuelBand prototypes, from concepts designed for the leg or upper arm to ones with e-ink displays that resembled an Amazon Kindle screen. There were hundreds of prototypes imagined throughout the process, but two early and very basic mock-ups foreshadowed where the product was heading: one, which Olander showed me in his office, was a white leathery Velcro bracelet marked with green calculator-like numbers; the other, pictured above, is a black and bright green band that shows the product’s emphasis on stark color contrast.

"We had been talking for years about the wrist and the power of performance color--it’s actually a thing that Mark had been talking about for a long time," Olander recalls. "We thought, 'Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just go red to green?' This was like the first meeting we had with Mark, so we had these [prototypes] whipped up. We just went down to the lab, and we did some designs. We had them in red, yellow, and green, and we put them on under our shirts."

Then came their first pitch to Parker. "We pulled up [our sleeves] and revealed this," Olander says.

Parker’s reaction? He instantly saw it as a "smart" version of the already popular Livestrong bracelet. "The comparison I used was to that yellow band, which is incredibly simple. It’s about as simple as you can get," Parker recalls. "It’s essentially shaped like the FuelBand. I liked the simplicity: [It was] minimal, clean, intuitive as possible."

Adds Olander, "Mark is so consumer-driven that instinctively he said, 'Go do this now.' His first question was, 'How fast can you build this?'"

As we explained in our profile of Nike, the tale is a bit simplified if not straight up romanticized. But it was one of the first moments in the FuelBand’s development process, long before even the concept of NikeFuel was fully realized. (Back then, Nike was considering calling it "Nike Power," "Game Fuel," or "Power Fuel," according to Olander.) And just because Parker might’ve then approved a Velcro product, it was a long way from being built. "The head of engineering said, 'First of all, there are no color displays that are flexible; second, you would have to run around with a backpack with a car battery,'" Olander recalls. "When we sat down with our engineers and industrial designers, they gasped."

It was a start though. And the exploration of the concept led to 12 prototypes, which were culled down to roughly half that number before Nike got its outside partners involved, which included industrial design firm Astro Studios, interactive agency R/GA, and engineering companies Synapse and Whipsaw.

So when a three-person Nike team first flew to San Francisco, the basic idea of the FuelBand--especially its all-important color scheme--was more or less realized, though still very bare bones.

As Astro design EVP Kyle Swen recalls, "They had this concept of a tennis sweatband with an electronic watch--a real crude prototype." Not that his team or the other partners involved had it any easier trying to evolve the product. "Certainly when the engineers saw this, they were like, 'No fucking way,'" Swen says.

Says Olander, "It’s been so amazing to see this path of a crazy vision just resonating from this simplest idea."

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Hindenburg Mystery Solved 76 Years...

Posted by Mark Giles

The mystery of the Hindenburg disaster has finally been solved 76 years after the in-flight exposition occurred.

The cause of the May 6, 1937, incident that killed 35 of the 100 passengers and crew members on board was static electricity, says a team of experts who have been looking into the real trigger.

They say that after the ship flew into a thunderstorm a build up of hydrogen led to the explosion.

The iconic airship had reportedly become charged with static as a result of the electrical storm and broken wire or a sticking gas valve leaked the hydrogen into the ventilation shafts.

When ground crew members ran to take the landing ropes they effectively "earthed" the airship causing a spark.

The fire is believed to have started on the tail of the airship, igniting the leaking hydrogen.

Jem Stansfield, a British aeronautical engineer, and his team of researchers based at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, blew up and set fire to scale models of blimps more than 24m long to prove the real cause.

In a documentary that will be broadcast on Channel 4 in Britain on Thursday, Stanfield and other experts explain the sequence of events that triggered the explosion.

The researchers say their reason for conducting the experiments was to rule out theories ranging from a bomb planted by a terrorist to explosive properties in the paint used to coat the Hindenburg, the Independent reports.

The 245m German airship was preparing to land at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester Township, New Jersey, when it caught fire and quickly became engulfed in flames in front horrified onlookers.

Investigations conducted after the disaster deemed that a sudden spark had ignited leaking hydrogen gas in the airship.

However, investigators could not come to an agreement on what caused the spark, or the leaking gas.

Conspiracy theories began to spread that the Hindenburg had been wiped out by a bomb or that someone had shot down the airship from below.

Stansfield and his team were able to dispel those rumors after they recreated different scenarios with mini-replicas, studied archive footage of the disaster and collected eyewitness accounts.

‘I think you had massive distribution of hydrogen throughout the aft half of the ship; you had an ignition source pull down into the ship, and that whole back portion of the ship went up almost at once,’ said airship historian Dan Grossman.

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Skooks on GeekWire Podcast

Posted by Mark Giles

This week on the GeekWire radio show, we wrap ourselves in the world of wearable computing, talking about the current state of the art and where we’re headed from here.

Our guest in the studio is Skooks Pong, senior vice president of technology at Synapse, a product development and engineering firm in Seattle that has worked on wearable computing projects including the Nike FuelBand.

We also talk about the rumored Apple iWatch, and the privacy implications of having all these sensors in our lives, as highlighted recently by the 5 Point bar’s decision to ban Google Glasses even before they’re widely available to the public.

See this recent post by Pong on the topic of wearable computing. He writes, “The hardware resurgence, combined with an unprecedented interest in quantified self data, makes the market ripe for wearables. We now have the hardware and software technology to produce high-quality wearables that present our data in a convenient, easily digestible format, and this technology will continue to advance.”

For more background on wearable computing, see this recent post by our colleague Taylor Soper, featuring Artefact wearable technology designer Jennifer Darmour.

The wearable computing conversation starts in the second segment, at the 8:00 mark in the audio player above. We kick off the show with our weekly news roundup, including a discussion of Google’s expansion in the Seattle region, the discontinuation of Google Reader, and the debut of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and its advanced eye-tracking features.

Here are details on the Comcast Xfinity Watchathon, which we discuss in the third segment.

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Oreo Separating Machine Removes The...

Posted by Brent Bones

If you’re going to do something, do it right. This machine uses a CNC router bed, and Arduino RBBB, servo-powered grippers and a Dremel tool to completely decimate the cream of the Oreos cookie.

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Dinner Dialogues: EP. 2 Part 3

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Mark Giles

Technology connects us to each other and attaches us to devices. What is the most important part of that relationship? Is it about power, access or something else that’s intangible? Listen in on the conversation of technology insiders as they discuss the dynamics of our bonds with technology.

Guests Include: Shauna Causey, Stefan Weitz, Chris Pirillo, Skooks Pong, and Bill Baxter.

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Makerhaus Opens in Seattle

Posted by Scott Bright

Congratulations to our good friends Mike and Ellie who have just opened their fabulous new Makerhaus in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, WA.

Makerhaus is a new enterprise, focusing on Community, Entrepreneurship, Prototyping Services, and Education, or as they put it: "an incubator and facilitator for those creative minds who need access to professional tools and prototyping equipment to support their businesses and bring their own design ideas to life."

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A Toaster That Burns The Morning Ne...

Posted by Carrie Krueger

It’s commonplace to read a newspaper (or a smartphone) with breakfast. Chewing doesn’t require our full attention, after all, and all sorts of things were happening while we slept. But is there a more elegant way to combine our news and breakfast than dual wielding?

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Bionic Exoskeleton

Posted by Carmen Clement-Kirkos

I love when technology makes such a big positive impact on people's lives.

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Pairasight

Posted by Aren Kaser

Pairasight has completed work on its revolutionary prototype eyewear product. This eyewear device can stream 1080p HD video live from the users perspective, and allow that user to share their experiences with the world. The glasses connect to your smartphone to send an encoded stream to pairasight.com, where it can be save, or streamed by whomever you choose, allowing experiences to be shared in real time across the globe. Looks like Google isn't the only innovator competing in the face-worn device market.

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SXSW Interactive

Posted by Mark Giles

Synapse is at SXSW Interactive 2013 in Austin, TX! The festival runs March 8th-12th. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for live tweets of the events.

Learn more about SXSW Interactive here.

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Happy Tapper

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Mark Giles

Introducing our newest Synapster, the Happy Tapper. Follow the design, engineering, and manufacturing of the Happy Tapper robot through its five stages of product development: conceive, develop, realize, support, & party!

Learn more about the process at synapse.com/product-development-process.

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Kate Cummings Featured Engineer

Posted by Mark Giles

Kate Cummings, Electrical Program Lead here at Synapse, was interviewed for EE Web's Featured Engineer Community Spotlight!

How did you get into engineering and when did you start?
I wasn’t planning to go into engineering, but when I was looking at colleges in 2002 I found Olin College, which was then accepting students for their first class. I was interested in education and Olin’s mission was to create a better engineering education and produce engineers who wouldn’t just be good at math and physics, but would also have communication, innovation, and entrepreneurial skills to make them successful at real-world engineering challenges.

I was accepted into Olin’s inaugural class with a full scholarship and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help create a new college, even though I was doubtful that I wanted to be an engineer. I wound up liking engineering more than I expected, and I was lucky enough to get a job with Synapse straight out of school. It wasn’t a typical entry-level engineering job. In my first couple years at Synapse I worked on at least 10 different products and did everything from creating 6 prototype devices in 6 weeks for a trade show, to developing products that were going into high volume manufacturing in Asia.

What are your favorite hardware tools that you use?
I work on a lot of small, battery powered devices, so having good tools to monitor power consumption is essential. We use a USB connected multimeter and a Labview program to pull current consumption measurements off a device at up to 50k samples per second. From that data, we can differentiate things like when our processor is waking up and when it is asleep.

What is the hardest/trickiest bug you have ever fixed?
I think the most difficult problems to solve are the ones that are hard to reproduce and can’t easily be isolated as a hardware or a software problem. A couple years ago, a device I was working on had an issue where it stopped logging accelerometer data. Everyone working on the project, including the firmware team, assumed that it was a software bug. Eventually we figured out that the problem was actually mechanical in nature—there was a spring contact to the battery that was intermittently losing contact. This caused a small droop on the power supply rail and was setting off the accelerometer’s power on reset circuit. This caused the accelerometer to lose its configuration, which caused our firmware to stop accumulating accelerometer data.

What is on your bookshelf?
I don’t have many engineering books on my bookshelf. I use The Art of Electronics as a laptop stand and consult it occasionally, but I find most of the technical information I need on the internet. Recently, I’ve been reading about innovation—The Idea Factory, which is a book about the history of Bell Labs, and another book called Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.

What has been your favorite project?
One of the best products I’ve worked on was the Nike+ SportWatch GPS. It was fun to work on something that I can now go into a store and buy. Plus, as a runner, its something that I can use. Fitting GPS capability into a small, low power watch was a good challenge. I also had the chance to be involved in ramping up the production line and making sure the product could be manufactured in high volume.

Do you have an experiential story you would like to share?
We recently asked one of our interns to do some ESD testing but neglected to give him any advice on the proper procedure. He assumed that since the product was wrist-worn, he should have it on his arm while doing the testing and repeatedly shocked himself.

What are the non-technical skills that engineers need to learn?
In my experience a lot of engineers aren’t good at big-picture thinking—you can come up with the world’s best technical solution to a problem, but that doesn’t get you anywhere if you’re not working on the right problem. Communication is also incredibly important. Being able to write a clear email or presentation that explains an issue can keep a project on the rails, particularly when it involves multiple partners located all over the world.

What are you currently working on?
That’s top secret!

What challenges do you foresee in our industry?
I’d like to see us increase the number of women in electrical engineering. In 2010, only 12% of electrical engineer graduates were women.

What do you enjoy outside of electrical engineering?
I enjoy any activity that gets me outdoors and active—trail running, skiing, and rock climbing are a few of my favorites. On a recent project, I had to spend some time onsite at a contract manufacturer in China for prototype builds and I was able to add a long weekend of rock climbing on the beach in Thailand to the trip.

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Dinner Dialogues: EP. 2 Part 2

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Mark Giles

In the next 10 years, what is going to be the most radical change in technology? What are the trade-offs between the latest and greatest in gadgetry and privacy? Listen to technology insiders discuss where they think we are headed.

Guests Include: Shauna Causey, Stefan Weitz, Chris Pirillo, Skooks Pong, and Bill Baxter.

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Synapse Named 8th Coolest Company t...

Posted by Mark Giles

8. Synapse

Recognized as a company that uses breakthrough technologies to build state-of-the-art products in the fields of laboratory automation, medical devices, and consumer electronics, Synapse has emerged as a very cool place to work. In their newly remodeled office in downtown Seattle, employees enjoy a relaxed atmosphere that shuns cubicles and encourages open communication and collaboration. An indoor rock-climbing wall, plus foosball, and pool tables stand ready to provide interaction and healthy competition during brief downtimes—not to mention a fleet of Razor scooters and an arsenal of Lazer Tag guns. Aside from offering generous perks and benefits, Synapse is committed to preserving a cool corporate culture that emphasizes work/life balance and recognizes and rewards individual and team achievements.

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Pay With Your Palm

Posted by Kirstin Moline

Would you like to pay with cash? No.

Credit? No.

Biometric palm scan? Yes.

A new POS system that uses biometric palm scans rather than credit or debit card swipes. 

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Wear It: Technology's Next Big...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

When the first iPhone was released, it not only dramatically expanded the market for devices, it represented a mainstream adoption of technology as an integral presence in our lives.

That was six years ago, and nothing has been so transformative since. But we’re about to see it happen again in the form of wearable technology devices. 

The hardware resurgence, combined with an unprecedented interest in quantified self data, makes the market ripe for wearables. We now have the hardware and software technology to produce high-quality wearables that present our data in a convenient, easily digestible format, and this technology will continue to advance. This data is valuable because we generally have a better understanding of physiological measures—the average consumer understands the value of tracking activity. It’s incredible that we’re able to unlock data generated by our physical bodies. And that’s just the beginning of what the new generation of devices will be able to do.

Wearables that present us with quantified self data are already helping us to be more aware of our daily activities and positively affect our habits. Imagine what's possible beyond the ability to track your daily activity—we can use these devices to monitor insulin levels and blood sugar, which would be key for those with Diabetes; we can share this type of information with doctors to expedite diagnoses, determine causes of disease and identify allergic reaction triggers.

Wearables allow us to better integrate tech into the person, shifting the paradigm away from screens that command our attention. iPhones—smartphones in general—and our subsequent dependence on them, opened the door for a digital lifestyle. Many of these wearables, such as the FuelBand, aren’t about the technology at all; they are lifestyle products. They represent the next step in “smart” devices with their potential to make technology less obtrusive.

It's no coincidence that our demand for wearables is growing at a time when we’re also getting bored with smartphones. We want devices that provide a less obtrusive user experience, a seamless connection of technologies available all around us. As wearables evolve, we'll see more of these transformative applications become realities.

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Bendable, Stretchable Batteries for...

Posted by Mark Giles

With technologies maturing behind flexible OLED displays, bendable glass, and foldable batteries, it looks like the time is ripe for wearable computing form factors such as the much rumored Apple iWatch or the Samsung Altius Galaxy Watch. The latest battery innovation is for a new Lithium ion battery that not only can fold upon itself–which is great if you need to shape the battery into the wrist strap for a watch concept–but the batteries can bend and stretch. With the elasticity factor, these batteries should prove to be more resilience in wearable computing tech as manufacturers can now concern themselves less with the possibility of leaking batteries that not only can cause fire or explode, but is harmful to the environment.

According to a report on Slashgear, the battery technology was developed by physical chemist John Rogers and mechanical engineer Yonggang Huang. The elastic properties of this battery technology make it the perfect fit for new devices with novel form factors. Rather than bulky square or cylindrical battery cells that we’re accustomed to seeing today, these new batteries can be stretched and molded over surfaces to contour to the device or the wearer in the case of a wrist watch.

These batteries will also support wireless charging capabilities, which is now beginning to gain mainstream traction thanks to the popularity of the Nokia Lumia 920 and the Google Nexus 4. The batteries are rechargeable and will provide up to 8 or 9 hours of usage on a single charge. Additionally, the batteries can be stretched to about 300 percent of its normal size without affecting battery performance or functionality. Slashgear reports that the way the battery works is that it is made into a serpentine shape that gives it the ability to stretch:

The battery works via a process called “ordered unraveling,” which involves wavy interconnects that form a “S” shape, with a smaller “S” within the larger one. When the battery is stretched, the wavy pattern is pulled taunt and smooth, and then the secondary S is also pulled taunt and smooth, giving the battery its stretching ability.

These batteries can be a good fit for sensors on shoes that monitor the performance of athletes, as another example, or even wrist-made accessories like the Nike+ Fuelband or even the Jawbone Up.

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Get creative earning your Nike Fuel

Posted by Kirstin Moline

"Nike tapped artists, coaches and other original thinkers to celebrate the breadth of physical activity and serve up new ideas for earning your daily NikeFuel." Very cool. I bet there's some Synapsters that could come up with some creative ways to earn Fuel. 

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Smart 'Stickers'

Posted by Aren Kaser

Smart Stickers use BLE to let you find things by phone!

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Dinner Dialogues: Ep. 2 Part 1

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Mark Giles

What is it about technology that makes us easily forget it and can’t live without it? Technology insiders talk about the items that impact their daily routine and what they would miss should the zombie apocalypse strike.

Guests Include: Shauna Causey, Stefan Weitz, Chris Pirillo, Skooks Pong, and Bill Baxter.

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Twitter’s Surprising Solution to th...

Posted by Mark Giles

Here’s the current state of affairs in the industry. Engineers and designers typically sign an assignment agreement with their company. That agreement irrevocably gives that company ownership of any patents filed related to the employee’s work.

The agreements all read the same: The inventor agrees to “sell, assign, and transfer” to the company “all right, title, and interest” to their inventions. Once the agreement is signed, the company has control over the patents. In other words: The companies can use inventors’ patents however they want. This includes selling the patents to others — including patent trolls — to use them however they want.

But what if we could keep control of the patent in the hands of engineers and designers … the very people who created the innovations in the first place?

Since Twitter doesn’t want patents to impede the innovation of others, we developed a new type of patent agreement between an inventor and a company: the Innovator’s Patent Agreement, informally called the “IPA.”

In the current patent system, companies (or subsequent patent owners) can use patents offensively to restrict the activities of competitors in the marketplace. Or start up a monetization program just to extract license fees. Perhaps worst of all, companies can sell the patents to trolls — also called “patent monetizers” or “non-practicing entities” (NPEs) — whose main purpose is to sue others.

Many companies declare publicly that their patents are to be used only for defense, in case a competitor uses their patents against them. But they don’t put this declaration on paper, creating a tenuous “just trust us” relationship between employer and employee inventor. With the IPA approach, however, the inventor still agrees to assign the patent to the company –  and the company also makes some important promises in return.

A Promise Not to Sue Anyone Unless for a Defensive Purpose

To understand “defensive purpose” it helps to think about what it’s not: when someone sets up a company to extract patent licensing fees from others as a business strategy; or, when someone uses a patent to shut down a competitor who has not sued them or others.

A patent assigned under the IPA can still be used to defend the company against such legal threats. But the company is not empowered by itself under the IPA to start a patent war or try to shut out a competitor.

A Promise That the Promise Flows With the Patent

Patents can only be used as the original inventors intended, even if the patents were eventually sold to others.

The patents cannot be used offensively without the permission of the original inventors. And that permission can’t be obtained by bribing or threatening the inventors.

Inventors Are Empowered to Enforce Promises Made by the Company

Even if the company or a future buyer of the patent wants to renege on the promises of the IPA, the inventors can hold them accountable and grant licenses to others.

Suppose a company sells the patents to someone who decides to sue others offensively (in violation of the IPA); the inventors then have the ability to grant a license to the person or entity being sued. The license would thus protect the people being sued if the suit violated the promises in the IPA.

This approach is not limited to Twitter. We posted the legal language on GitHub and released it under Creative Commons license, so anyone can incorporate the promises of the IPA into their patent agreements.

Companies insisting their patent portfolios are used only for defensive purposes should consider formalizing that commitment with the IPA. (This is also great for recruiting and retaining talent.) And of course engineers or designers who care about how their patents are used in the marketplace should ask their companies to assign their inventions with the promises of the IPA.

With the IPA, inventors — companies and individuals — can be assured their patents will be used only as a shield. Not as a weapon.

Editor’s Note: Given the enormous influence of patents on technology and business — and complexity of the issues involved — Wired is running a special series of expert opinions on “the patent fix.” Some of these proposals also advocate specific solutions to the software patent problem to help move reform efforts forward.

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Re-Imagine Technology

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

On February 21st, 2013, Skooks Pong was invited to speak about the merits of transformative technology at the GreenBiz Forum in NYC .

Below is a transcript of the talk he gave.

Good morning.

 

I’m Skooks Pong, and I live and work in Seattle, Washington. I’m a self-taught engineer; all my life, I’ve been curious about how things are made and how things work. I like nothing more than tinkering to solve problems that make things better.

For the last 10 years, I’ve been at Synapse helping build an engineering team that thrives on solving hard problems to create amazing devices. You may have some of these devices in your pocket, or on your wrist--like this, the Nike FuelBand. But today, I’m going to show you two projects we are working on that leverage “off-the-shelf” technologies. Both projects brought these technologies together to help deliver much-needed solutions for waste treatment in Africa, and reliable energy in India.

The technologies used were designed for use in the developed world. However, when re-imagined and combined in a unique way, these simple, existing technologies provide low-cost, reliable answers to complex problems. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation approached Synapse with a challenge: Develop a system that can empty and process the millions of pit latrines used by families and communities throughout Africa. These unserviced latrines cause countless fatal and debilitating diseases.

To solve this problem, a sanitation system had to be developed that is:

Capable of extracting solid and liquid waste, including trash and any other items that end up in these pits. Compact and transportable. Cheap to operate, and easy to maintain. A closed loop system, meaning it needs to process everything on site.

How do we get a sewage extraction system onto a mobile cart that’s simple to use and cheap to operate?

After several months of brainstorming, and smelly trial-and-error experimentation, this is what we came up with.

Our Solution

 

A hose from the mobile unit is lowered into the pit and begins extracting the waste. The trash and debris get separated out into what we call the fryer basket. Next it goes through a typical grinder pump, commonly found in many industrial uses. Everything then goes into the de-watering tank, which separates liquids from solids. The liquids, which account for about 70% of what is pumped out of the pits, are treated on the spot, then returned as water suitable for construction and irrigation. Finally, the solids are pumped into the tank truck, and transported for proper disposal.

So what we’re looking at is a transformative solution that uses “off the shelf” vacuum and pump technology, including a fryer basket, that’s cheap and easy to build, operate and maintain. Again, we didn’t invent a revolutionary new concept, but rather, combined simple, existing technologies together in a way that delivered a life-changing solution.

Where else could we take this? We still have the solid waste that is not being treated on the spot. What other technologies are out there that could complete the process?

In Malaysia, there are mobile units that can turn human waste into compost. Imagine that solution combined with the system I just showed you. Then we’d have a viable solution for the more than the 1.1 billion people who live without modern sanitary facilities. A number that  is expected to grow to 2.4 billion by the year 2050. Right now,  there are 1.6 billion people worldwide without access to reliable electricity. Another 1 billion have unreliable access to any energy source. In India, underserved populations rely heavily on kerosene lanterns, like the one shown here, which are expensive and unhealthy.

Simpa Networks had an idea for solar units that were attached to a box - or meter - that could provide homes in rural India with their energy needs. So, similar to your Dish TV network, the solar panel is on the roof and connected to the box inside. But unlike your Dish TV box, this unit couldn’t be connected to a network, system or satellite.

How do we engineer a pay-as-you go system, without access to the internet, that can’t be hacked, and is easy to operate?

Our team started sifting through different encryption systems currently being used, and found that pay-as-you-go cell phones were a good model to build upon.

This is the interface for the Simpa Regulator. It's simple and intuitive to use, similar to the pay-as-you-go cell phones that are prevalent in India.

Our Solution

 

Once the unit is installed, families can pay for as much energy as they can afford at the time. They are then given a 10-digit code that they enter on their unit and voila - energy is unlocked. With each incremental payment, a percentage goes toward ownership of the system. Once that amount is reached, they are given a permanent unlock code, and the energy is theirs for the life of the device.

So, now they have clean LED lighting, and power to charge their cell phone. Instead of spending the $10 a week to burn kerosene – with its high operating costs, its many dangers to health and home, its poor quality light and noxious fumes – they are paying for clean energy, and will eventually become the owner of this valuable device. Again, we didn’t invent anything new, we took existing technology and applied it in a unique way.

Now... Think about the technology around you. Think about the technology you use everyday, in your offices and your stores, to give your company a competitive advantage. Think about the smartphone in your pocket, the iPad in your briefcase, the automated process in your factory.

What else can those technologies do? Can they be applied in a unique way to solve a problem and improve someone’s quality of life?

Let’s all start re-imagining...

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Legislative Day in Olympia

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Scott Bright

WTIA / Information Technology Coalition

For the last twenty years, the tech industry has been responsible for more than 60% of employment growth in Washington. 2012 saw over $2.9 billion generated in B&O tax revenue for the state, representing an increase of more than 300% since 1994 — four times the growth of the overall state economy during the same period. In fact, technology-related employment has increased by 119% over the past two decades, and now accounts for 27.5% of all jobs in the state.

While the merits of a growing, vibrant tech industry benefit everyone, the Washington Technology Industry Association’s (WTIA) “IT Coalition” is hard at work to ensure the contributions of our industry are not taken for granted. http://www.washingtontechnology.org/advocacy/coalition.aspx

As a co-founder of Synapse Product Development, one the coalition’s eight establishing firms, I had the opportunity to join several other local business leaders, and lobbyists, in Olympia. We met with members of the state legislature to deliver this poignant message: Despite substantial tax revenue generated by R&D incentive programs, state leaders have not made the necessary investments to ensure continued growth and vitality of the tech industry.

Several factors need to be addressed, not the least of which is Washington State’s non-compulsory stance on funding for higher education. That’s right, our government is not required by law to provide any funding for education beyond K-12. Nevertheless, in 2007 funding for universities represented 11% of the state budget ($3.581 million). In 2009, however, that number fell to 10%, and is currently an even smaller 9% of the overall budget. To put that into perspective, ten years ago state funding accounted for 70% of all state school budgets (UW, WSU, WWU, Evergreen, CWU, EWU, etc); only 30% was covered by tuition. Today, merely 36% of tuition cost is funded by the state, leaving students to make up the staggering 64% difference.

More alarming is Washington’s rank nationwide: 37th in high school graduation rates, and 38th in bachelor’s degrees per capita. Equally shocking is the failure rate of Washington 10th graders. Take for instance 2011, when 25% failed algebra, 20% failed geometry, and 37% failed biology.

Because the Washington State Legislature only creates a new budget once every two years—during a brief period from January to March—now is the opportunity to make a difference. By speaking with lawmakers, we sought to increase our industry’s prospects for success, which contributes to the state economy via job creation and personal income growth.

Here are the steps we proposed:

Increase the ability of our higher education systems to produce qualified candidates for high-tech jobs by restoring lost funding, and prioritizing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) degrees. Improve the talent pipeline by enhancing the effectiveness of our K-12 system, and making the skill of computer science available to every high school student. Create a more fertile business environment to attract new technology companies by supporting university tech transfer commercialization efforts. Focus state revenue policy on growth in the tech sector, with tax policies that encourage investment and R&D.

The Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County further reinforced this message in their recently published annual Economic Forecast. It contains an article titled “Local tech sector key to sustaining regional economic growth,” adding emphasis to the timeliness of this endeavor.

See the full report, including a nice photo of Thomas Wu in the Synapse Seattle lab, here: http://edc-seaking.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/enterpriseSeattle-1-11-13-4c-low-res.pdf

Finally, here are four of the interesting ideas that surfaced during our visit:

Differential tuition programs that allow in-demand degrees to cost more. (Last year, UW turned away 75% of their qualified candidates for computer science degree programs.) State-assisted recruiting programs for tech industry talent to bridge the talent gap and help tech businesses find out-of-state engineers. Ear-marked funding for higher education that correlates with specific metrics (i.e. the number of STEM-related degrees issued per year) Marketing campaign spoofing the 1996 TV movie: Mars Needs Women—Washington Needs Engineers! (OK, I made this last one up.)

With budget shortfalls affecting everything from transportation, to basic human services, it’s clear there is not enough money to go around. Nonetheless, I was heartened to see hard-working, dedicated people collaborating on creative solutions to these problems.

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Nikon Small World Photomicrographer...

Posted by Lynn Isaacson

Check out these photos of tiny things taken through a microscope!

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Where PD is Headed: Kickstarting Pr...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

In the last post in our series on crowdfunding, we're focusing on what lies ahead in product development and what happens after a device has been manufactured. This is what we at Synapse have been calling 'Support, but as technology evolves at an exponential rate, so do the needs of this segment... and so does our definition of 'Support.'
Once a device is released, the focus switches into full customer service mode. We saw a high-profile example of this last week with reports of the issues Pebble Watch has been experiencing since its launch just a week prior. Of course, intensive quality control during manufacturing helps to mitigate these types of issues. Regardless, once a product is live, the focus is on managing that product and the holistic customer experience.

Today, many products, and certainly the great ones, operate as part of an ecosystem. These devices require much more maintenance than the tweaking of minor issues related to the device. Rather, the devices must perform optimally as part of a larger system. Nike's line of digital products (FuelBand, Nike+ Connect software, etc) is a great example of a technology ecosystem that is giving us just a taste of what this will look like. Will crowdfunding become an advanced enough platform to support the development of this new era of technologies? I can't wait to see.

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International CES 2013: A Look Ahea...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Scott Bright

Having finally had the opportunity to gather my thoughts around the annual pilgrimage I make to Las Vegas each January, I found it slightly humorous to see this year’s International CES yet again billed officially as the “biggest ever!”  Turns out, it was true. Again. If you’ve never been to see such a spectacle, I think it might be difficult to really visualize what two-million square feet with over 150,000 attendees looks, feels and smells like, so let’s just agree that “big” is hardly a sufficient adjective and move along with what was interesting. 

Contrary to previous years in which my time was largely spent at “off-floor” meetings with vendors, partners, clients and prospects, this year my goal was to soak in the totality of the show and look for interesting perspectives from which to consider the coming year’s technology innovations and the trends affecting our market.

Here’s my top three:

CONNECTED DEVICES & THE CLOUD

It may very well be that 2013 becomes known in retrospect as the year of connectivity.  From Big Data to Personal AI, it seems that anything and everything is (or will soon be) “connected” in some way to everything else.   Calling it the ‘Internet of Devices’, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) forecast “400+ million connected CE devices will be sold in 2013.”  From ‘lifestyle’ connected devices like the Nest thermostat to washing machines that send text messages and refrigerators that play YouTube, brands such as LG, Panasonic and Samsung were all pitching devices that “talk to each other and talk to you”. 

Smart-home automation and security systems also loomed large, with an ever-increasing emphasis on energy conservation and smart-grid interfaces from the likes of GE, Reliant Energy and many others. 

As much as real-time connectivity has impacted technology, it also impacts social norms and markets.  Newly present at CES was an innovator’s hall featuring new startups and entrepreneurial ventures – businesses which in the past would have been solely the purview of Venture Capital and Angel Investor funding now reaching directly for the mainstream because of the recent phenomena of crowd-funding, and crowd-source data.

As well, I had the opportunity to attend some panel discussions this year.

Highlights related to this topic included:

“Privacy & Security in the Cloud” (a discussion of data rights, security and privacy)
“Cloud Computing & Implications for Consumer Tech” (non-local processing, AI, data access)
“How the Cloud is Changing Hardware” (online storage, services integrated with devices. Google, iCloud, Onlive, Office 365)

As a final example of the disruptive power of such devices, I attended an interesting discussion titled “The Battle for the Mobile Wallet” in which it was said that 2013 will be “the year of the mobile payment.”  It seems there are suddenly a lot of players in this space from the big guys like Google, Intuit, MC/Visa, Isis, and Paypal to smaller startups like Square, Astro Payments, MobiWeb, Moneto, Paywizard & others.

UI & I/O

A second unifying theme of this year’s show brought together innovations in user interface and display technologies.  Companies such as Cube26, Nuance Communications, Logitech, SoftKinetic, Omek Interactive were showing everything from advanced concepts to newly released products sporting Voice, Gesture and Touch interfaces.  Think Xbox Kinect meets HAL 9000… coming soon to your living room and your car. 

By far, the coolest ‘tactile’ innovation at the show this year was an “inflatable membrane for Tactus.  Here’s the whitepaper for more info.

Following last year’s screen size trends, handheld devices this year fill every almost niche: phones have become as big as tablets and the tiniest media player devices all have touchscreen UIs.  As well, I saw several dedicated mobile platforms with screaming graphics processing for handheld FPS gaming… These are not your father’s Game Boy, not by a long shot!

Interface was a big feature in the automotive arena also. Traditionally a market which is slow to adopt new technologies, the automotive segment seems to be finally entering the modern age of UI with in-dash apps for Facebook & Google, control of the car from your mobile phone as well as voice control.  GM, Kia, Kenwood, Toyota, Audi, Ford all had a presence at the show.  

For the last several years, home screen entertainment has been forecasting the end of the TV era, hastened by streaming, mobile, and lots of other options.  Perhaps it might be more proper to think about this change as the end of the “broadcast monopoly” era?  I saw lots of business model innovation & hybridization: Netflix & YouTube now producing content like HBO, while ‘pipeline providers’ (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, T-Mobile, etc) continue their decline into being marginalized and commoditized.  All this despite the ever present hoopla over bigger & thinner TVs with features like 4K Ultra HD, OLED, 3D & motion-sensing UI…

Two coolest innovations: Haier’s eye-controlled TV (above) and InteraXon’s Muse (thought controlled computer interface).

DIGITAL HEALTH & EDUCATION

The makings for a “perfect storm” are definitely brewing out there in the health and medical technology world.  The availability of commoditized, cheap sensors along with smart-networked mobile platforms has given birth to the “quantified-self” movement.  As well, economic and demographic realities of health care today are putting ever-increasing emphasis on preventative care and aging-in-place methodologies.  These are some of the forces driving the success of Nike’s Fuelband as well as the exploding number of other devices now coming to the market. 

However, you don’t need to go to CES to see what I’m talking about – just head over to the local Apple store, where nearly 40 square feet of prime retail shelf space is given over to the following items:

• Pocketfinder personal GPS locator
• Tagg GPS dog tracker
• Fitbit One & Zip physical activity sensors
• iPING personal putting coach & app
• Wahoo Fitness bluetooth HRM chest strap
• Scosche Rhythm HRM armband
• Jawbone Up activity & sleep sensor
• Pear Training HRM 
• Adidas MiCoach bluetooth HRM & Speed Cell activity sensor
• Nike+ sports sensor & Fuelband
• Withings baby monitor & blood pressure monitor & wireless scale      
• Lark Life activity & sleep sensors
• iBGStar blood glucose sensor
• iHealth wireless blood pressure wrist monitor

Interesting sessions in this ‘mini-CES’ section included:

“Digital Health: Retailing’s Next Frontier?”  iphone cardiac monitor, smart shirt HRM, ‘connected’ Rx Bottle caps, non-prescription health & fitness monitoring.

“Creating mass market for digital health devices”  - still in embryonic stage, requires ecosystem to flourish.  (Qualcom, HealthSpot, WellDoc)

“The Transformation of Play: How 15 years of “smart toys” has changed children’s play” – From dolls to dolls with linked online worlds, from blocks to programmable blocks!  Experiences that merge the physical, imagination, and virtual environments.  Lego Mindstorms 3 and 3D systems Cubify printer.

Two coolest innovations:

Our very own Asthmapolis geospatial/temporal asthma management
Dexcom continuous Glucose monitoring

BEST MOMENT IN SHOW

After showing off some neat flexible OLED prototype displays that could be rolled and folded, Bill Clinton took the stage for Samsung, noting “when I was in the oval office cellphones weighed five pounds and there were about fifty websites on the internet!” His quick speech focused on the potential for communications technologies to bring benefit to the developing world.  His examples included banking by cell phone in Haiti, the social-media-fed “Arab Spring” revolutions, and crowd-sourced data to help validate Global Warming science.

Honorable Mention (2nd best moment of the show)
Steve Ballmer on stage for Qualcom…followed by Big Bird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Incredible Paper Sculpture

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Lynn Isaacson

Li Hongbo demonstrates how his amazing paper sculptures work!

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Synapse Partner Nike Name No.1 Most...

Posted by Brian Barr

A new article in Fast Company crowns Nike innovation king of 2013 for their FuelBand, naming Synapse as a strategic partner for the breakthrough development of it's curved lithium ion battery.

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Smith I/O Recon Goggles

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Marco Micheletti

Interesting and compelling video for the product, but not as flashy as it could be.  What if it was a real HUD display with the lenses laminated with a see through LCD/OLED type display built into the lens stack up.  Now that would be way cooler.  Still, it will be interesting to see where this product will go.

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The Hardware Renaissance Is Here

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Aren Kaser

Check out Skooks talking about how software can’t provide a full user experience alone, it needs some great hardware to run on. Crowdfunding has ushered in a hardware renaissance, allowing great ideas to get the financing needed.

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Don't Be a Schmo: What to Get...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Martine Stillman

Valentine's Day is on Thursday this year!  (It's on February 14th every year oddly enough.)  This list is intended to help you be a hero (not a schmo) to the special lady (or gentleman) in your life.  Don't be a schmo!  Read on!

The Card:

Clearly, the most important component of Valentine's Day is the card.  Downtown, your best options are Papyrus (across the street in Pacific place on the third floor) or Fireworks (across the street and down one block at Westlake Center.)  There's a Hallmark Store on Westlake Square, but that's at the bottom of the awesomeness list.  You will need to go before the 12th to get anything decent.  Obviously, the best present is allllllways the heartfelt sentiments you write inside the card.  Do try not to go with the classic "Love, Bob".  At least a "I heart your pot roast.  Love, Bob."  Cool?  Feel free to embellish with sonnets of Shakespeare or quotes by Rilke, but at least try and work your own feelings in there a little.  That is the point.  (Yes, I know it's painful.  It's like ripping off a bandaid, just do it.)

The Classics:

Valentine's Day has the classic trifecta of chocolates, flowers, and jewelry. You work six blocks from the Pike Place Market, home to some of the world's most beautiful and reasonably priced flowers. There is NO excuse. Three dozen pink tulips might be the best $25 you spend all year. For chocolates, go to either the Dilettante Cafe inside Westlake Center or the Chocolate Box on Pine between 2nd and 1st.  Another great option is chocolate cupcakes from Trophy Cupcake, which has a pop-up shop on the third floor of Pacific Place near the escalators.  Delicious AND adorable!  If you're looking for jewelry, go to Fireworks, snag a sales lady, describe your ladyfriend, hand over the credit card, go home a hero. These are classic, but safe options.  For more adventurous gifts, read on!  Also Fran's Chocolates is now open on first avenue and Union.

The Improvements:

Tickets!  I'm a huge fan of tickets as gifts. Experiences and dates out can be the best gifts.  Some tips: if possible, get the tickets in person and put them in an envelope with a bow.  So much more special than printed-off-the-internet (yes, I know this is not logical, but trust me.)  These tickets should not necessarily be for Feb. 14th.  (She/he won't have planned an outfit.)  They should be for sometime between Feb. 14th and March 14th.  Also, accept with grace that these tickets also mean shelling out for a nice dinner before or drinks and dessert after.  Try and do this with panache and already have the place picked out, potentially with <gasp> reservations?  Your date will be impressed.  (And no, this does not mean you are off the hook for a Valentine's card.  Card is critical.)

This year there are some excellent options for tickets:

Cirque du Soleil!  They're here and they're performing at Marymoor Park.  Both of you definitely want to go, it's special.  www.cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna  File this under expensive but worth it. 5th Avenue Theatre: they do musicals, and the 5th Ave is a special theatre all of which is guaranteed to make your Valentine feel special.  They're currently doing the Music Man which is a classic but not necessarily the most exciting.  After that they're showing Grey Gardens which I think sounds better:  http://www.5thavenue.org/show/external/grey-gardens I have a friend who swears that the best couples therapy is tickets to Teatro Zinzanni.  http://dreams.zinzanni.org/  Bonus: dinner is included.  Also expensive but totally worth it. The Atomic Bombshells Burlesque is doing a show at the Triple Door.  The Triple Door is a wonderful date venue similar to dinner theatre, you can have dinner and drinks brought to your table.  Note: burlesque is a wonderfully fun activity, but people do get mostly naked so if she/he's not into that, for the love of Pete go see a G-rated movie.  http://www.thetripledoor.net/Calendar/Events/February-2013/The-Atomic-Bombshells--J-ADORE!-A-Burlesque-Valent.aspx?date=2013-02-15

Gifts!  There are lots of wonderful gifts for your valentine:

Shoes: may seem odd, but giving shoes is always a good choice, her shoe size should be fairly clear (go with a 7 if it's not) and if you get her something cute from Nordstrom and she doesn't like it, she can return it.  It's like a really classy gift card.  There's also something that says I-thought-extra and I-think-you're-cute about giving shoes.  For bonus points, get a cute and tiny card from Fireworks and tuck it into the laces of the shoe. Anything from Antropologie, other than clothes.  Good options: a beautiful journal, some lovely candles, fun jewelry, anything with a bird on it...Anthro is on 5th between Pike and Pine, directly around the block from us. Heart shaped everything!  http://www.designsponge.com/2013/02/hearts.html Anything handmade that says "I was thinking of you and I made this" is liable to be a hit.  I know crafting probably isn't your thing, but you can always reach out for help!  I hear Lynn is into jewelry making, I hear Fredward has more woodworking tools than you can shake a stick at.  Stephen Hess can teach you to use the laser cutter.

The usual do-not-gives apply, except technology gets an extra nay on Valentine's Day.  Super non-romantic.  Books ditto, unless it's love poems or Like Water for Chocolate.  Let me know if you have specific questions and/or want to tell me no-really-your-wife-really-wants-an-Android-phone (no she doesn't, she wants a mushy card.)  Good luck!

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Skooks Pong Fast Company Article

Posted by Mark Giles

Check out our VP of Technology, Skooks Pong, in this insightful article from Fast Company about the growing pains of crowdfunding product development through platforms like Kickstarter!

Kickstarter began as a platform to fund creative artistic projects, but devices like the Pebble watch have turned the spotlight on hardware--and not without problems.

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Robo Hands and Online Collaboration

Posted by Carmen Clement-Kirkos

This is a feel-good story - would love to see more stories like this in the news!

 

 

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Use gravity for light

Posted by Keith Kemp

GravityLight uses a new simple approach to storing energy and creating illumination for the 1.5 billion people who have no reliable connection to electricity and who have traditionaly burned kerosene for light at night. At an expected cost of less than $5 GravityLight is a realistic alternative to kerosene which is expensive and has a large impact on peoples health and the environment. Simply lifting a weight allows the GravityLight to generate light for 30 minutes as it descends downward.

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Lost in Translation: Kickstarting P...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

 

Of all the elements to product development, a crowfunded product team is likely to know the least about the manufacturing process. And that's why it's the fourth part in our Kickstarting Product Development series.

This week, Fast Company profiled Kickstarter-funded project Twine in their article, This Is Why Your Kickstarter Project Is Late. The trials and tribulations the company went through were primarily manufacturing-based. Scaling, quality and miscommunications were thorns in their sides.

As part of making the strategic hire, someone on staff should be ready to dive into managing the manufacturing process. This means being on the ground - whether it be in Denver or Hong Kong. It entails ensuring that the product coming off the line meets the integrity of the design and does not become compromised once the runs are scaled up to meet demand. And the most important element of them all - keeping open lines of communications to effectively address the (likely many) issues along the way.

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3D Printable Replacement Human Orga...

Posted by Scott Bright

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland in collaboration with stem cell technology company Roslin Cellab reported today the first successful demonstration of 3D-printing technology to build structures using human embryonic stem cell cultures.  

"As stem cells can become any organ in the body, being able to quickly produce them could result in 3D-printed organs specifically tailored to a patient’s body."

 

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The Strategic Hire: Kickstarting Pr...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

So once you have your idea and you’ve reached your funding goal, it’s time to start developing your product. Last week in our Kickstarter series, we touched on the five stages of the product development process: conceive, develop, realize, support and retire. Today’s tip, number three, comes right before the development phase: make a strategic hire to ensure that the development process, and beyond, is carried out successfully.

While engineers are vital, of course, so are organized, authoritative manager-types that can oversee each phase of the development process helping the team stay on track and meet each goal on time. This hire needs to have a sound understanding of engineering and the steps necessary to make the process as seamless as possible and eliminate any causes for inefficiency along the way. A fundamental element to the product development process is ensuring the quality and reliability of the products created. Having a person in place to manage not only the production, but the testing phases, is crucial to successfully bringing innovation to market.

Kickstarter projects have struggled to meet their goals, with 84 percent of the top-funded projects shipping late. With someone in place that can manage all of the project operations, these delays can be minimized, if not avoided all together.

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Pep Talk

Posted by Dane Weitmann

Everyone should watch this.

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Know Thy Product Development Proces...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

The second tip on what it takes to deliver a product in our Kickstarter series zeros in on the product development process, something we here at Synapse know very well-from concept to creation and beyond.

Crowdfunded projects begin with a great idea, often conceived by great product designers. Once the idea is in place, it's a full-on race to get the funding. And then it happens. The Pebble watch hit its Kickstarter goal in two hours, and within six days was the most well-funded project on the platform with more than 60,000 people pledging over $10,000. Suddenly, the small Pebble staff went from planning on building 1,000 smart watches in the Bay Area, to needing to mass-produce and ship 85,000 watches to eager customers.

As with many of these crowdfunded devices, a crash course in product development ensues. For any company in this position, a familiarity with the entire process will go a long way in ensuring a successful product launch. Synapse has broken down the product development into five stages:

Conceive: What's most interesting of these crowdfunded projects is that they are being conceived by individuals and relying on the public to validate the market

Develop: And once they achieve their funding goals, the development process goes into motion - validating the engineering and design, which requires room to tinker and improve

Realize: Production begins and it's important to ensure that the product can be made to scale to demand

Support: "Shipocalypse," as many crowdfunding teams refer to it, fulfilling orders requires more than licking stamps

Retire: It’s the end of the product’s lifecycle. Time to start working on the next version.

In the coming weeks, we will be unveiling a detailed overview of the product development process on our website. But for now, here is a nice visual representation of the five stages, from concept-to-market.

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Jewelry Fabricated from Computer Si...

Posted by Lynn Isaacson

Nervous System is a generative design studio that works at the intersection of science, art, and technology. We create using a novel process that employs computer simulation to generate designs and digital fabrication to realize products. Drawing inspiration from natural phenomena, we write computer programs based on processes and patterns found in nature and use those programs to create unique and affordable art, jewelry, and housewares.

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Free Online MIT Course on Electrici...

Posted by Mark Giles

8.02 is the second semester of the MIT introductory physics sequence. Passing the online version of this course will guarantee you an MITx certificate of mastery. The course is on electricity and magnetism which are at the heart of Maxwell's equations. We will study electric fields, magnetic fields, electromagnetic forces, conductors and dielectrics, electromagnetic waves, and the nature of light. This online version follows the MIT on-campus class as it was given by the renowned Professor Walter Lewin in the spring of 2002, and includes his video lectures and problem solving sessions.

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Thinking Beyond the Device: Kicksta...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

We're taking a look at our first tip on what it takes to deliver a product in our Kickstarter series.

Today, consumers want to fall in love with more than the device, they want to fall in love with the brand. This requires much more than just delivering a great gadget. For the new crowdfunded products that are budding to market, many will realize quickly that they must think beyond bringing to market their well-designed device. It's about having a pipeline of product ideas to see through from concept to creation in order to stay relevant in today's fast-paced consumer market.

There's no doubt that this next year will be crowdfunding's coming of age - now that it's here, it must figure out its place among the hardware giants that lead the market and influence consumer preferences. Will Apple introduce a smart watch, eclipsing the Pebble Watch altogether? Is Pebble Watch working on a second version that will leverage quantified self technologies (as Nilay Patel longed for in his review).

Ultimately, these companies will be focused on lining up funding for the next product and thinking about future investors is certainly motivation to make sure they are moving towards brand love from the onset.

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The Shape of Being

Posted by Bill Marty

37th Annual University of Washington Faculty Lecture

The Shape of Being:
Technology Design, Human Values
and the Future

By Dr. Batya Friedman

Thursday, February 7, 2013, 7 p.m.
Kane Hall, Room 130

The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in the Walker-Ames Room in Kane Hall.

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DARPA's 1.8-gigapixel cam tout...

Posted by Mark Giles

Designed to be used with UAVs like the Predator, the ARGUS-IS (which stands for Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance - Imaging System) can spot a six-inch object within a ten square mile radius from 20,000 feet in the air. As shown in the clip after the break, the high-res cam doesn't quite reveal facial features, but you can spot details like a bird flying around a building and the color of someone's clothes.

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The Problems Of Today Will Be Solve...

Posted by Mark Giles

StudentRND inspires students to work on tech projects in their spare time.

For younger folks who really love technology and the idea of hacking things with others, there is a place for them. Just a few years ago, you probably wouldn’t be able to say that. These days, a Seattle-based company called StudentRND has a program that gives high school kids a place to be as creative as they want to be, with others that want the same thing. It’s like space camp, but it’s not a one-time thing by any stretch of the imagination.

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New Papercraft Stop-Motion Music Vi...

Posted by Lynn Isaacson

Sit back, turn up the volume and set this video to full-screen. Behold the lastest stop motion music video from animation duo Katarzyna Kijek and Przemysław Adamski for Japanese singer-songwriter Shugo Tokumaru. The video was launched just this morning courtesy of Pitchfork and features a brilliant, continuous parade of what must be thousands of cut paper and foam core silhouettes set to Tokumaru’s quirky track Katachi.

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High-Speed Robot Hand

Posted by Lynn Isaacson

Ishikawa Komuro Lab's high-speed robot hand performing impressive acts of dexterity and skillful manipulation.

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Anamorphic Sculptures

Posted by Lynn Isaacson

The Skewed, Anamorphic Sculptures and Engineered Illusions of Jonty Hurwitz. These are just incredible, check out the frog!

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Well Done Stuff: Sony Xperia Z

Posted by Lynn Isaacson

Check out this very well made Sony mobile Smartphone with 13mp camera!

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Twitter launches Vine video sharing...

Posted by Mark Giles

In an effort to compete with the increasingly crowded mobile video space (Echograph, Cinemagram, Lightt), Twitter announced it's own offering: Vine. It's available now for free on iPhone and iPod touch, and allows the capture of quick, looping videos.

"Today, we’re introducing Vine: a mobile service that lets you capture and share short looping videos. Like Tweets, the brevity of videos on Vine (6 seconds or less) inspires creativity. Now that you can easily capture motion and sound, we look forward to seeing what you create."

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Kickstarting Product Development

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

Kickstarter just had its breakout year with more than $320 million pledged in 2012, triple the amount raised the previous year. There is no doubt that the crowdfunding movement is here, and it will impact the world of product realization.

This breakout year hasn’t been without its growing pains. Of the top 50 funded projects, 84 percent of them failed to ship on time. Many of the hardware ideas struggle during the product development cycle once they’ve blown past their funding goal. Pebble watch, the most successful product to come out of Kickstarter yet, only shipped today after a four-month delay.

The next wildly successful crowdfunded product is just around the corner. Whether you’re the one with the idea or the one interested enough in the idea to help fund it, having knowledge of the product development process goes a long way in ensuring a successful launch. The total product development process is incredibly complex—more complex than most would assume. Check back here in the coming days to see Synapse’s 5 Tips for Kickstarting Product Development as well as a more in-depth breakdown of what it takes to deliver a product from concept to market.

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Winners Of 2013 UW Science & Te...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Brian Barr

Our Senior VP of Technology, Skooks Pong, served as a judge at last night's 2013 Science & Technology Showcase at the University of Washington. There were 21 entrepreneurial teams competing total. Here are this year's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners...

1st place ($1000): InsuLenz

InsuLenz is developing “smart” polymer contact lenses for real-time sensing of blood glucose levels and responsive insulin dosing. Our technology addresses three major gaps in current monitoring and delivery methods. First, our contact lenses will combine glucose monitoring and insulin delivery on one platform. Second, our sensing and administration methods are needle free. Third, by using an ocular platform, we will directly address secondary indications, such as diabetic retinopathy. By removing the need for multiple invasive and expensive systems, our technology will improve patient adherence and reduce the associated costs. Our approach fundamentally changes the way patients receive insulin, and by developing a disruptive technology we will capture significant market share by reimagining the field of diabetes care.

2nd place ($500): iHome3D

iHome3D is a prototype iPhone application that enables users to quickly and easily capture and model their home in minutes. In order to do this the user captures video from around the house in a structured manner. The app then combines data from the camera and motion sensors, along with some basic user interaction to create a virtual tour, floor plan layout and 3D model of the scene. The app generates results in real-time and runs on a commodity smartphone, without the need for any special equipment.

3rd place ($300): CellFocus
Cell-Focus aims to improve global health through the use of a cost-effective attachment which allows a cell phone camera to function as a microscope. By leveraging the recent convergence of affordable consumer electronics available in cell phones, Cell -Focus hopes to combat diseases in developing regions through the use of a low-cost mobile phone based microscope. Our device is simple, durable, cost-effective (1$/unit production cost), and works with any modern cell phone.

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The Optimus Prime of Apartments

Posted by Ian Graves

This guy built a totally rad transforming apartment using only 420 square feet! Check out the video on Gizmodo! 

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5 Dangerous Things (you should let...

Posted by Stephen Kreiger

Gever Tulley explains why a little danger is good for kids -- and their parents.

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Going where no hot tub has gone bef...

Posted by Elias Samia

From the cold reaches of the Netherlands, we get the HotTug, a wood-fired hot tub you can take out on the water:

It is ideal for carefree fun and relaxation on the water, moving or stationary, ready to take you to idyllic spots for a visit or a swim.  Frank de Bruyn: “It’s much more than a boat, it’s a vessel with different options. When the tug is filled, there is only a narrow rim between you and the water, making you feel at one with your surroundings.”

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Solowheel - Gyroscopically balanced...

Posted by Scott Bright

At last week's 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of meeting Shane Chen of Camas, WA based Inventist.com  I'd first heard of Inventist back in 2003 (but didn't know it) when I saw this youtube video for his first invention, the Aquaskipper. Well, he's been busy since (as you can see on the inventist website) but I came home with the absolute coolest, must-have product from the entire show: (Wired Magazine's "most dangerous object in the office") The Solowheel

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Custom sound for your electric vehi...

Posted by Skooks Pong

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into requiring a minum sound for EV's. Can you say sound apps for your car?

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American ingenuity

Posted by Skooks Pong

Great article on what the USA accomplised when focused and all pulling in the same direction. Imagine what we could do now if we could get the same alignment.

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Heartwarming use of 3-D Printing

Posted by Carmen Clement-Kirkos

I love it when science and engineering can have such a direct impact on the quality of someone's life.

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"World's Lightest Electri...

Posted by Bret Richmond

This was passed along from Chris Stipe, a ME professor at Seattle U.  One of his former students is working on an electric skateboard, with a super-compact drivetrain and energy storage.  They refer to it as "the world's lightest electric vehicle."

They've reached 5X their goal on Kickstarter.

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WSU uses Moon rock to make parts wi...

Posted by Ray Nicoli

Imagine landing on the moon or Mars, putting rocks through a 3-D printer and making something useful – like a needed wrench or replacement part.

Why carry a part to the moon when you can just make it when you get there?

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Redwood Talks About Bezos' Air...

Posted by Aren Kaser

Redwood, our VP of Engineering, gave an overview of Jeff Bezos' mobile phone air bag protection patent in the Sunday Seattle Times.

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2012 What to Get Your Lady Friend G...

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Martine Stillman

Hello Synapsters and friends of Synapse

Every year I publish a gift guide containing the best bets for shopping for the lady in your life.  The 2012 edition has arrived.  As always, I am available for individual consultations and can be paid in chocolate.

 

 

Things NOT to get your ladyfriend: Anything electronic (unless explicitly requested.) Socks/scarves (she has enough of this stuff.) Athleticwear/outdoors stuff/anything from REI (unless explicitly requested.  Yes, I know this is what YOU would like for Christmas.) A toaster/vacuum/anything indicating she needs to bone up on her domestic skillz

 

Things to get your ladyfriend:

Can be obtained within 5 minutes of Synapse

Lush is a great place to get inspired, don’t be overwhelmed by the smell:

http://www.lushusa.com/Stardust-Gift/03809,en_US,pd.html?start=6&cgid=pi... http://www.lushusa.com/12-Days-of-Christmas/03813,en_US,pd.html?start=1&... J. Crew is a great place to pick up a good sweater.  Don’t cheap out, do the cashmere.

For younger ladies, this in bright purple: http://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/sweaters/jcrewcashmere/PRDOVR~53268... For the more mature set, basic black v-neck: http://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/sweaters/jcrewcashmere/PRDOVR~29660... Anything in a Tiffany blue box will thrill any lady.

A good option to thank a lady for staying with you (hopefully) forever, the Infinity Necklace: http://www.tiffany.com/Shopping/Item.aspx?fromGrid=1&sku=GRP06365&mcat=1... Fireworks is such a gem.  Amazing jewelry and creative gifts.  It’s hard not to pick a winner, when in doubt, find a nice saleslady, tell them all about your wife and walk out a hero.  For example:

http://www.fireworksgallery.net/store/UN-N082TQ!URBNN/Turquoise+Lotus+Ne... or http://www.fireworksgallery.net/store/430085!DOGE/Silver+Make+a+Wish+Nec... Of course, Anthropologie is right around the corner and if you can’t find a gift there, I wash my hands of you.  So many lovely things.

http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/25454943.jsp Nordstrom has the best return policy around and women LOVE getting shoes.  Even if you have no idea the size or even what she likes, because the return policy is so good, it’s like getting a gift card but classier!  YES.  This is a winner for under-the-tree joy quotient.

For the younger set: http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/toms-metallic-linen-slip-on-women/3167111?or... More mature but not boring: http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/yosi-samra-foldable-ballet-flat/3408365?orig... If she’s domestically inclined:

2012’s smash domestic books are the Smitten Kitchen cookbook: http://www.amazon.com/The-Smitten-Kitchen-Cookbook-Perelman/dp/030759565... And the Young House Love décor book: http://www.amazon.com/Young-House-Love-Paint-Update/dp/1579654789/ref=sr...

Chances are she already reads one of the blogs that fostered these, and they both just came out so she definitely doesn’t already them, Accoutrements and jewelry from the interwebs:

Anything from Rifle Paper Co:

http://riflepaperco.com/item/Botanical_Journal_BLUE/265 http://riflepaperco.com/item/Antoinette_Social_Stationery_Set/287/c7 For the more dramatic or younger lady:

https://givengoods.co/shop/brand/mata-traders/product/chaise-bracelet  (All gifts from Given Goods gives back in some way, you can graph how much good you’ve done!) Etsy

Sweet and sentimental, get this personalized with your initials and just remember to hold out your arms when she swoons.  http://www.etsy.com/listing/116283282/personalized-ceramic-dish-wood-grain Monogrammed!  Girls love monogrammed things!  This year, a monogrammed iPhone case is the way to go.  These will need express shipping at this point, but is worth it.  She either wants the grey and teal ikat: http://www.etsy.com/listing/104689644/iphone-5-and-44s-tough-case-monogram Or the chevron but in GREY, with either a pink or yellow or turquoise monogram.  GREY chevrons everyone: http://www.etsy.com/listing/109314406/iphone-5-case-monogram-iphone-5-case Have to put in at least one local artist, but I love all this lady’s jewelry: http://www.etsy.com/shop/RachaelRyen?ref=seller_info Especially these: http://www.etsy.com/listing/109489581/22k-gold-vermeil-bezel-set-framed-...

 

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Increased Flexibility Via Manufactu...

Posted by Brian Thorngate

Like everyone else, I was surprised when Tim Cook—CEO of Apple, the world’s most profitable company—announced that they were investing $100 million to manufacture the new Mac’s in the United States next year. Though he cited corporate responsibility as the primary reason, Apple is just one of a growing number of companies looking for more manufacturing options in the face of rising labor costs in China, increased consumer demand for quality, and a hyper-competitive market for innovative products.

Of course, the primary reason companies like Apple outsourced in the first place was cost. However, as China and surrounding Asian countries became more entrenched in manufacturing, they also grew and developed a workforce with a skill sets and cost models that rendered the U.S. practically irrelevant. Not only was manufacturing in the U.S. too expensive by comparison, the U.S. also lacked a workforce capable of building the electronics devices our consumers fell in love with. To that, Cook’s (and Apple’s) answer is "it's not a matter of bringing it back, but of starting it here.” In short, it’s in their best interest to invest in new manufacturing options because flexibility is a key advantage against a tenuous global economy.

For many businesses, especially makers of electronics, “flexibility” has become a determining factor in the development of new strategic manufacturing processes. That alone has the potential to revolutionize the entire industry. Ultimately, there are several benefits, but the primary drivers are added value and quality control of design. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Added Value:

Risk mitigation Managed capital investments Ability to respond to diverse and changing consumer / client demand Rapid product and market shifts Ability to scale volumes up, down and to the right size for supporting demand

Quality of Design Enables:

DFx feedback in the iterations of original design leads to standardization (efficiencies) Long-term cost-down path through planned iterations Ability to increase (and decrease) scale Upfront design path for rapid product generations Satisfy the “hunger for the next must have feature” Incorporate rapid prototyping and lean processes into designs

While there is no set recipe for aligning a product with a manufacturer or manufacturing region, having diverse options allows stronger market and customer support.  One clear driver of increased flexibility in manufacturing strategies is investment in thorough design processes.  Combined with the right long-term partnerships, design expertise links product value with the dynamic market conditions to support consumer demands.

Click Here For a Further Synapse Perspective: 
Synapse CMO Chris Massot On Product Design And Better Manufacturing

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USC doctoral student unravels ‘tin...

Posted by Aren Kaser

Whiskers explained! Americans love their electronics, and millions will undoubtedly receive everything from flat-screen TVs and e-readers to video games and coffee makers this holiday season. Over time, even the best of these devices inexplicably stop working...

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Jeff Bezos's 10,000 Year Clock

Posted by Keith Kemp

Amazon founder and CEO explains why he has invested at least $42 million building a clock which is designed to last for the next 10,000 years.

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Product Engineering Design Can Brin...

Posted by Addison Callaghan

After years of offshore production, General Electric is moving much of its far-flung appliance-manufacturing operations back home. It is not alone. An exploration of the startling, sustainable, just-getting-started return of industry to the United States. 

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Freehand Lasercutting

Posted by Mac Justice

"Constructable is an interactive drafting table that produces precise physical output in every step. Users interact by drafting directly on the workpiece using a hand-held laser pointer. The system tracks the pointer, beautifies its path, and implements its effect by cutting the workpiece using a fast high-powered laser cutter."

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Synapse & Technology

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Skooks Pong

Had a great time participating in filming a new Seattle web series called Dinner Dialogues (youtube.com/dinnerdialogues). Alongside other notables, such as Microsoft's director of search Stefan Weitz, Shauna Causey VP of Marketing for the consumer website (Decide.com), Chris Pirillo, Tech blogger and gadget reviewer (chris.pirillo.com), and Bill Baxter CTO at BuddyTV (buddytv.com). We talked about our predictions for the future of technology and the positive impact it can have in the world.

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Common Threads

Posted by Jake Sprouse

Don't buy what we don't need. Repair: Fix stuff that still has life in it. Reuse: Share. Then, only when you've exhausted those options, recycle.

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A Bridge Supported Only By Helium B...

Posted by Jason Covey

At Tatton Park’s third biennial, French artist Olivier Grossetete installed an Up-esque piece of installation art.

Tatton Park is a 16th-century estate on a piece of land in Northwest England that’s been inhabited since the Iron Age. This fall, the park hosted its third biennial, which gathers emerging artists around cerebral topics like myth and memory. This year’s theme--flight--had artists painting decommissioned jetliners and crashing fake UFOs on the estate’s 2,000 acres.

French installation artist Olivier Grossetete took a less direct approach, building a bridge to nowhere called Pont de Singe ("Monkey Bridge"). Grossetete employed three helium balloons--similar to those used to take weather measurements--to create the installation, which sits in the midst of Tatton’s Japanese Garden.

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Disney creates a juggling robot

Posted by Ray Nicoli

The happiest place on Earth has taught one of its humanoid robotic subordinates (for now) to play catch and juggle with willing human participants in an impressive display of creepy animatronic autonomy. Thanks to Disney, mankind has just slipped several minutes closer to its imminent enslavement by robotic overlords of the future.

 

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Coolest Lego contraption ever

Posted by Brent Bones

I love Lego's and the many things you can do with them. However, this is (so far) the coolest ever IMO.

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GoldieBlox: Engineering toys for gi...

Posted by Keith Kemp

GoldieBlox is a toy company founded by Debbie Sterling, a female engineer from Standford University. Her mission is to create fun toys which develop spatial skills and teach basic engineering principles. By designing construction toys with a female perspective she aims to appeal to a broader audience of children and parents who previoulsy considered engineering a "boys club." By challenging this stereotype, she hopes to inspire more girls like herself to become engineers. www.goldieblox.com

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3D Print... Yourself!

Posted by Zebrick Roach

On November 24th, Eye of Gyre, an art exhibition space in Tokyo's Harajuku neighborhood, is pulling the sheets off of their 3D Shashin-kan. Literally translated as "3D Picture Space," it's what they're calling the world's first 3D-printing photo booth.

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!0th Anniversary Party Pics

Posted by Aren Kaser

Check out the pictures from our !0th Anniversary Party November, 9, 2012. Lot's of fun was had by all!

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Rock a Mo!

Posted by Ray Nicoli

A great way to raise awareness fo men's health.  A great talk.  

http://www.ted.com/talks/adam_garone_healthier_men_one_moustache_at_a_ti...

http://us.movember.com/team/452625 - We have until December 9th to raise money.  Team SynapsMo is currently ranked #50 out of over 12,000 teams in the US.

With a background in web and mobile marketing, Australian native Adam Garone's career took a left turn in 2003 when his brother challenged him to grow out a moustache. The two wondered if they could bring the moustache back in vogue and, in the process, raise awareness for men's health along with money for prostate cancer research. Thus began the Movember movement. Garone serves as CEO.
The Movember challenge is simple: men begin November 1st clean shaven and, for the next 30 days, grow out their moustaches while seeking out sponsorship for their efforts. The proceeds go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation as well as Livestrong. In 2011, Movember raised $126 million in 14 countries.

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Pee-Powered Generator

Posted by Addison Callaghan

What have you built lately? 14-year-olds Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and 15-year-old Bello Eniola have created a urine powered generator.

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Little-By-Little, “Made In The U.S....

Posted by Chris Massot

Product engineering design can bring manufacturing back home.

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Ian Rocking the R&D 100 Booth

Posted by Aren Kaser

Ian and Dylan were on site in Orlando for the R&D 100 Award ceremony this last week.

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Synapse Takes Halloween Seriously!

Posted by Aren Kaser

King 5 Halloween Photo gallery with Synapse

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3D Printing BIG Stuff

Posted by Bill Marty

These UW ME students won a design competition with their large 3D printer that eats plastic milk jugs to build composting toilets, boats, and other cool stuff.  

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The "Smart" Highway

Posted by Sean McBeath

So this Dutch dude looked at the road and said, "I can do better than that." And this is what he came up with...

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BioLite Stove

Posted by Joe Horrell

A cool intersection of ideas in an incredibly sleek and well-designed device.  Tackles health issues due to smoke inhalation from cooking, resource issues for cooking fuels, and provides charging for electronics in places where electricity is scarce...

 

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Computer Simulates Galaxy History

Posted by Addison Callaghan

This cosmological simulation follows the development of a single disk galaxy over about 13.5 billion years, from shortly after the Big Bang to the present time.

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Cardboard Bicycle

Posted by Ryan Frederick

An Israeli inventor has created what might be the first ever commercially-sold cardboard bicycle.
The prototype is called the ERB and at just $9 to produce, it could bring simple, green transportation to the masses at a fraction of the typical cost.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/izhar-gafni-has-invented-the-first-cardbo...

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Fremont Bridge Bike Counters

Posted by Addison Callaghan

Bill couldn't help but notice these new counters that track bicycle users across the Fremont Bridge while he was en route to work... on a bike!

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Babolat Play & Connect

Posted by Scott Bright

Babolat's upcoming Play & Connect racket will include sensors that measure things like service speed, hit power, and ball spin. The racket  will send data wirelessly to a computer and smartphone, analyze technique, and collect game statistics.

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Red Tie

Posted by Martine Stillman

Still wondering about red tie?  See the link below for a pro tip!  (courtesy of Brent Bones).

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Human-Powered Helicopter Challenge

Posted by Mac Justice

The Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competiton is a contest created by the American Helicopter Society with a $250,000 prize offered by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. A winning helicopter has to fly for 1 minute, reach an altitude of 3 meters, and remain in a 10 meter square. The prize has gone unclaimed for 32 years!

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Slow Motion Lightning

Posted by Stephen Kreiger

Watch amazing footage of a lightning strike captured at 7,207 frames per second!

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Mixology meets engineering

Posted by Skooks Pong

For those who are looking for precise engineering driven mixology here you go...

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Something known + Something in hand

Posted by Skooks Pong

It may not seem as secure at first glance but your PIN code + ATM card (something physical) is significantly more secure than your username and complcated password. 

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Synapster in USA Today

Posted by Martine Stillman

I volunteer with a group called IGNITE which was featured in USA Today for their efforts to encourage young women to pursue careers in engineering and technology.  See the video for an in-depth look at what we do. See the article for a quote from me showing my rebellious streak.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/15/teaching-for-future-steering-girls-science/1630391/

 

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Bound & Snagged

Posted by Mac Ward

My latest stop motion film. Who says PMs aren't creative?

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Scott on Advice for Start-ups

Posted by Aren Kaser

Scott gives some great advice to NW tech companies as part of the WTIA's NW Tech Perspectives video series.

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Tesla Coil Nerf Gun

Posted by Brent Bones

Two things that are always cool: Tesla coils and Nerf guns. One thing that's cooler than those two things: a freaking Tesla coil Nerf gun.

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Gnarboard - Gnarly Electric Skatebo...

Posted by Scott Bright

Joshua Tulberg of Gnarboards, LLC

 

 

Dual-wheel drive (4WD optional) for increased traction and reduce braking distances.

High current LiPo's recharge in 2 hours and can deliver up to 400 amps continuously for a top speed of 28 mph and nearly 20 miles of range.

 

 

Innovative hand throttle

 

See Kickstarter Project Page

 

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Halloween Costumes for Adults- Made...

Posted by Christina Roy

Once you get past the ripe old age of 10, picking out a halloween costume seems to require a lot more mental capacity. Lucky for us, we can now use our addiction to smartphones to create interactive costumes that will either impress or scare the living daylights out of anyone we meet this October 31st. Turns out, all you need is an iPhone or an Android... and some duct tape. 

 

 

 

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Beau Gunderson! I know that guy!

Posted by Sean McBeath

Don't tick him off, because he never forgets anything and can run faster than you. And he's got the genome sampling to prove it...

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Synapse Wins 2012 Tech Impact Award

Posted by Aren Kaser

Hooray! Synapse took first place in Seattle Business Magazine's 2012 Tech Impact Awards in the IT Services category. This is the second time this year Synapse has been honored by Seattle Business Magazine. For photos from the event, visit Synapse's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/synapseproductdevelopment

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Voice activated popcorn shooter

Posted by Brent Bones

The Popinator creates a fun and super cool way to eat your popcorn.

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Modified Macbook Pro Power Adapter

Posted by Addison Callaghan

Fred modified his MCP adapter to fit the new retina model as well as the older model. - "I did it because it seemed like the obvious solution, and because I thought that it was absurd that Apple had made such a near-sighted design decision In moving to the Magsafe 2. I also kinda hate dongles and adaptors. The universal solution is much nicer.

I started with a little machining, however the metal plug end is so small that it’s pretty hard to grab with the vice. I removed a little material, but after a couple dicey passes (and sliiightly mashing the plug) I resorted to doing it by hand. With a file. It isn’t pretty, and it took forever, but it does work. It’s a little sloppy in the original Magsafe jack, but it charges no problem in both."

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How many IDs does it take to screw...

Posted by Mac Ward

15 industrial designers at Apple vs 300 at Samsung. Holy cow!

 

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Jackson Pollock Simulator

Posted by Addison Callaghan

Check out this really cool web app that allows you to paint like Jackson Pollock! Check for $140 million not guaranteed.

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iPad Typewriter

Posted by Skooks Pong

Mixing old and new technology.

 

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Flexible Wire Lithium Battery

Posted by Scott Bright

LG Chem Announces Flexible Wire Battery in Journal Advanced Materials: Korean battery maker LG Chem demonstrates a prototype "wire battery" technology incorporating a hollow spiral anode structure made of carbon nanotube yarn generating ~3.5V at 1 mAh/cm.

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3D Touchscreen Buttons

Posted by Stephen Kreiger

Tactus Technology has developed a microfluidics-based haptics technology that allows touchscreen devices to present real, physical buttons by transforming the screen surface in 3D. When the buttons are no longer needed, they recede into the screen, becoming completely flat and invisible.

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The first hour of your day

Posted by Ryan Frederick

What do successful people do with the first hour of their day? Here are a few different approaches to start your day productively.

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The Humble Pallet's Role in th...

Posted by Skooks Pong

An interesting article on the pallet. How something so unnoticed plays  such a big role in diesign and global commerce.

 

 

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University of Tokyo Robotic Janken...

Posted by Scott Bright

Students at the University of Tokyo have developed a robotic hand that can beat humans at rock-paper-scissors 100% of the time. The trick: it’s really, really good at cheating.

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How to Be Creative

Posted by Addison Callaghan

Creativity can seem like magic. We look at people like Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan, and we conclude that they must possess supernatural powers denied to mere mortals like us, gifts that allow them to imagine what has never existed before. They're "creative types." We're not.

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Pics from the SF Party

Posted by Aren Kaser

Check out the great photos from our San Francisco Office Launch Party Aug. 9! A great night to connect with our partners and clients in the Bay Area.

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Leadership+Design Studio

Posted by Aren Kaser

Synapse recently sponsored 20 high school students and about 15 educators who were trained in design thinking and creative problem-solving over a 5 day Leadership+Design Studio event. Leading is Learning is a laboratory dedicated to developing 21st century teachers and learners. Our own Pam Darvirris did a wonderful job as a guest speaker on ideation.

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Protecting Bees

Posted by Skooks Pong

Bees are often a nuisance, but they play a vital role in our environment.

Interesting article on how the state is trying to come up with a solution to protect them from a proposed new highway.

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Map of The Future of Emerging Techn...

Posted by Addison Callaghan

Can speculation about the future of technology serve as a measuring stick for what we create today? That’s the idea behind Envisioning Technology's massive infographic, which maps the future of emerging technologies on a loose timeline between now and 2040.

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Synapse San Francisco To Host Offic...

Posted by Addison Callaghan

Synapse San Francisco is hosting "We're Here To Play" on August 9, an office launch party to celebrate its inaugural year in the Bay Area. Synapse SF, which opened November 2011, has enabled the Seattle-based firm to work more closely with its clients and partners in the Bay Area and be a key engineering resource for Silicon Valley and beyond.

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Artwork of Ryan 'Henry' W...

Posted by Larry Kulesa

Local Seattle artist Ryan Ward has a quirky way about him.  His art is very colorful and playful.  Definitely works for me.

A great Seattle interactive Google map of his artwork can be found here: http://goo.gl/maps/SsFdh.

Our youngest daughter and I had a wonderful time searching the city for Ryan's artwork.  It was a great way to spend a Saturday.

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Synapse Office Olympics!

Posted by Addison Callaghan

The Official Synapse Office Olympics are underway and boy are they exciting! Check out these pictures of the games so far!

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Lightning Photograph

Posted by Skooks Pong

Great 11 minute exposure capturing a lightning storm at Bryce Canyon

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Trees that never decay(ed)

Posted by Addison Callaghan

After trees evolved from earlier plants, Fungi had no way of decomposing the new material. Trees would simply accumulate on the forest floor, never rotting... for 50 million years...

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Hacking the Landscape

Posted by Demi Raven

Neat workshop...

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FuelBand Saved My Life!

Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
, Wall of Cool at Synapse Product Development
Posted by Marco Micheletti

While doing some slicing and dicing in the kitchen with a Wusthof santuko (very sharp, yikes) I noticed that I had somehow gouged the over mold of my Fuelband with slightly errant cutting motion.  See the attached photos.  Without the Fuelband on I would have likely taken that gouge out of my wrist and probably would have bled to death right there in the middle of my kitchen.  Thanks Fuelband for saving my life!

Lesson: don't leave home without your Fuelband.  I am pretty sure Scott B also has a story of his Fuelband saving his life.

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Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis ser...

Posted by Marco Micheletti

To promote their new movie – “The Campaign” – actors Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis blazed into a Seattle cafe to stump for votes in their faux election campaign.

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Update from Fortune Brainstorm Tech...

Posted by Aren Kaser

Synapse CEO and co-founder Scott Bright has been in Aspen, CO this week attending the 2012 Fortune Brainstorm Tech Conference. He's been keeping us posted with daily updates on what's been happening there. Of particular interest to Synapse was today's panel discussion "Design Matters – The Role of Design in New Business Models", which featured, among others, Doreen Lorenzo, president of Synapse partner frog design.

The discussion began with the moderator, Brian O'Keefe, assistant managing editor of Fortune, asking participants to briefly respond to the question: “From where does good design come?”. The responses were as varied as they were fascinating.

Doreen Lorenzo: Good design comes from understanding for whom you are designing and working to solve their problems.  Many of Frog’s customers don’t know their own customers well enough, and today the consumer should be an active participant in the process of designing products and services, called it ‘the cult of me’ phenomenon.

Tony Fadell (CEO, co-founder Nest): Good design comes from frustration.  Finding something that doesn’t work and asking ‘why not?’ Fadell also noted that good design is in the DNA of an organization--that’s why Apple will continue to produce good design without Steve Jobs.

Yves Behar, Chief Creative Officer, Jawbone; Founder and Chief Designer, Fuseproject: I don’t believe in so called ‘Design Thinking’.  Good design is not about the outside finish or appearance. It is about how everything inside is integrated. Customers will never know what they want ahead of time.   Most companies are ‘siloed’ and incapable of cross-group collaboration to achieve focus on good design, thus the need for external design consultancies (like Fuseproject).  Don’t blame the lack of good design on design school – blame it on design companies' inability to efficiently integrate their talent into the greater mission of the organization.  Good design groups need ‘T-shaped people’ with deep vertical niche competence as well as broadly reaching ability to connect and work across disciplines. 

Behar added that whereas most companies bring in new talent and then try to shape them to fit the org, it would be better for organizations to allow their new people to change the group by adding something new to it. This particularly resonated with me considering Synapse's "Culture Organic" philosophy has been fundamental to our success and has played a crucial role as we've grown from 50 people to well over 200 in less than two years.

Rebekah Cox, Product Design Manager, Quora: Good design starts with choosing which problem to solve.  Quora decided to focus on the Social Q&A platform for this reason – its about the questions.

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Olympic Fever Grips Synapse

Posted by Addison Callaghan

Geekwire just featured Synapse in a column about Office Olympics!

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Bicycle Superhighways

Posted by Skooks Pong

Commuters Pedal to Work on Their Very Own Superhighway. A great example of when you create an alternative to commuting in car that is truly easier, saves time and makes you feel better can be successful. Now if Seattle just had a few less hills or moving bike lanes...

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Synapse Helping Asthmapolis Tackle...

Posted by Aren Kaser

Synapse client Asthmapolis just got FDA-clearance and we've got a release about the work we've been doing with them, congrats Asthmapolis!

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HP Announces new Cloud

Posted by Brian McFarlane

HP Explains How It’s “Doing That Cloud Thing”

As a believer that talking about something as a white fluffy object does not make it a good or bad thing, but just confuses the issues for people who are already plenty confused - I think it is finally time that HP announces their Cloud offering.

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Synapse Office Olympics in Bloomber...

Posted by Aren Kaser

Synapse is hosting an Office Olympics competition starting Aug. 2nd! More on that soon, in the meantime, check out this article about it in Bloomberg Businessweek.

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iPhone Cup Amplifier

Posted by Mac Ward

Too many people still don't know this, but cups make great iPhone amplifiers when you need to share some music with a friend.

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Baseball at the speed of Light?

Posted by Addison Callaghan

What happens when you pitch a baseball travelling at 90% the speed of light? Rad things. XKCD does the math so you don't have to!

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Some real driving skills

Posted by Skooks Pong

10 sets of tires and some real car handling skills.

Think of the logistics of getting access to all these public spaces.

http://smartautocar.com/gymkhana-5-ken-block-goes-through-san-francisco/

"The fifth edition of the classic series of videos and much smoky tire destruction, Gymkhana, has already come to the Internet. This time with many more drift, many more jumps, many more stunts and of course much more smoke and many more tires.

In fact, this fifth part was so demanding on tire production equipment spending 40 tires recording these 5 minutes and some crazy automotive action.
The location for the recording of the video this time were the streets of San Francisco, which were closed by segment during the 4 day-long recordings. And if the truth is that we also strange those old days when everything was recorded Gymkhana once, in a single run. Or at least that’s what it seemed. Because while the video is clearly dramatic and do not deny that we liked, such abrupt changes of locations we kill the passion and full-throated cry of many shots that were made (we may be wrong, but that’s the feeling that leaves us .)
Finally, Ken Block, who is sponsored by Ford, runs in a Ford Fiesta with AWD and 650 hp of power, so there really is no wonder because it spent 20 pairs of tires. By the way, Travis Pastrana does a cameo on his motorcycle, to add a little more fun to video and other mobile obstacle to driftear Ken around."

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Synapse in Latest ANSYS Advantage M...

Posted by Aren Kaser

Bert Buxton, Senior Electrical Engineer in our Seattle office has an article in the latest issue of ANSYS Advantage Magazine about how we use the ANSYS software to evaluate antenna designs through human body modeling. Its pretty cool stuff!

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Nike+ Fuelband "ICE"

Posted by Addison Callaghan

Following it's successful launch earlier this year, the first new colorway of the Nike+ FuelBand will become available next month in select locations in US and UK. The new "ICE" design gives a glimpse at the inner workings and technology powering the awesome bands. 

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Countdown to Mars Rover Touchdown:...

Posted by Addison Callaghan

NASA video discusses the seven minute landing window the Curiosity rover will face and explains how it will get from space to the Martian surface.

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Happy Tau Day!

Posted by Nikolaus Wittenstein

June 28 is Tau Day, where we celebrate the circle constant! Feel free to eat a couple pies.

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Mario Post-It Stop Action Art

Posted by Martine Stillman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAue4hnH8-A

Someone has a lot of time, brilliance and love of Mario...

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Synapse Celebrates 10th Year Annive...

Posted by Aren Kaser

It is amazing to think how much has transpired over the past ten years; starting as a four person, self-funded start-up working out of a basement - growing to a two hundred person team that does “amazing stuff” and wins third place for Best Work Place in Washington for large companies last week from Seattle Business Magazine! 

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How to High Five... And Do Other St...

Posted by Addison Callaghan

Just in case some people didn't know, A proper high five is highly scientific, and if incorrectly done, can result in major awkward situations... Like the world ending. Also, there are better ways of treating jellyfish stings.

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