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Apple’s Smart Smartwatch Play Strategy

When Apple unveiled the Apple Watch in Cupertino on Tuesday, the company left a few questions unanswered.

Chief among them: Why should consumers want a smartwatch?

Many had expected that Apple might answer that question by unveiling some magical new use case, the long-awaited raison d’être for watches that extend the phone’s functionality to your wrist.

Instead, Apple displayed many of the same features we’ve come to expect in smartwatches: notifications, directions, messaging, and health and fitness tracking, albeit in a much more attractive, usable and appealing interface.

And it essentially punted on the question of the “killer app” for smartwatches — the feature that will make them indispensable in people’s lives. Instead, wisely, Apple turned that job over to its developers, with the WatchKit development platform.

As it arguably did with the iPad before it and maybe even the smartphone and personal computer before that, Apple did the hard work of building a device with a well-considered and usable interface, and then handed developers that workable canvas on which to draw.

So far, the best use for an Android Wear watch is Google Now, and its third-party apps have been limited, at best. But if developers feel they can do more with a platform, history has shown that they will.

The Apple Watch itself is obviously very well thought out. It takes the smart step of repurposing the crown, or the little dial on the side of a watch, as a navigation tool. And design details are everywhere: the colored dot on the outside of the crown matches whatever band color you have chosen. The fitness tracking is comprehensive, activity-specific and attractively presented.

But I can’t think of a single feature demonstrated Tuesday that we haven’t seen somewhere in another smartwatch. And that’s what is so smart about Apple’s strategy.

In his presentation Tuesday, Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, pointed out a few things that might be possible when developers build apps that are deeply integrated into the watch. The one that garnered the most “oohs” and “aahs” was a Starwood app that will let you check into a hotel room and just wave your watch to open the door. Bypassing huge tourist check-in lines at hotels? Killer app, indeed.

Mr. Cook said a BMW app could display battery life on an electric vehicle and show you where it’s parked. (It’s fair to note that Google Now can currently show you where you’re parked.)

And although Apple didn’t say much about HomeKit, the company’s platform for connecting and controlling smart-home devices, Mr. Cook mentioned a couple of smart-home apps, as well.

When the iPad was introduced, it wasn’t immediately clear what you’d use it for. There were suggestions, of course, that it could be like a bigger smartphone for browsing the web, and that it might be a nicer way to, say, view photos. That led many people, including myself, to question who might actually need such a thing.

As it turned out, need was in the eye of the developers. In time, thanks to apps, the iPad became, variously, a second TV, an e-reader and a full-fledged browser, but also a portable typewriter, a musical instrument and music creation gadget, a video editing console and even occasionally a camera.

They were able to do this because the iPad worked: It’s a good device with a superior interface, great battery life and an instant tactile appeal. Tablets had existed before, but none were quite good enough to make developers want to embrace them.

The smartphone itself followed a similar path. When it was introduced, it was considered a portable computer that could also make calls. Its cutting-edge features were its multitouch screen and its ability to play music and browse the web.

No single person, most likely, realized it could eventually replace stand-alone digital cameras, kill off the landline, become a navigation device to challenge in-car systems, keep us in constant contact with friends and family, and ultimately become the most important, intimate gadget in many people’s lives. The software development kit for apps wasn’t even introduced until nearly a year after the phone’s release.

But once it was, it unleashed the flood of ideas that would make the iPhone indispensable. It was a good device, people loved it, and there were good reasons (including, of course, building profitable businesses) to come up with more ways to use it.

So it is with the watch.

Sonny Vu, founder and chief executive of Misfit Labs, which makes the Shine fitness tracker, told me once in an interview that we probably have no idea, yet, what the perfect reason is for a fitness tracker or a wearable device.

“What I believe is that there are probably one or two killer use cases for wearables that will be uncovered in the next two to four years,” he said. “Activity monitoring is not one of those.”

“So what are those one or two use cases? I don’t know,” Mr. Vu said. “But if we were to speak again in 2020, we would be saying, we didn’t even have X.”

Some developer, somewhere, is even now working on Idea X. Will it make smartwatches as indispensable as the smartphone, or even as well adopted as an expensive slate of glass with no obvious reason for use?

Time, so to speak, will tell.

8 million flower petals flooded the streets of a town in Costa Rica

Would you believe none of this involved CGI? The 8 million petals that rained down on a small town in Costa Rica is as real as it gets. This weird phenomena is part of Sony’s new 4k TV marketing campaign, in which they partnered up with ad agency McCann and photographer Nick Meek, to make the fantastical scene come to life.

Flooding a village with 8 million petals is no easy task. It took the team two weeks to collect the most vibrant, multi-coloured flower petals and leaves, eventually weighing 3.5 tons in total. A British special effects team was also brought in to create the volcanic eruptions and petal tsunamis that eventually covered the entire village.

And the reason for the exact number of petals? Because that’s the number of pixels on the 4K TV’s screen. The video was created to show the screen’s sharpness and clarity.

Check out the full image gallery here.

‘Mad Men’ Enlists the Graphics Guru Milton Glaser

We saw this on the NYTimes and felt it was a cool merger of popular entertainment and graphic design history. Check it out:

IN the world of “Mad Men,” whose seventh season begins on April 13 on AMC, one of the central dramatic devices is the client meeting, the scene where the advertising gurus and the people who pay them gather in their glassed-office agora to wrestle over the nature of commerce, persuasion, art and desire.

On a recent morning in a townhouse office on East 32nd Street in Manhattan, reality was treading closely, and somewhat strangely, in fiction’s footsteps. The client sitting in the conference room, waiting for his real-life ad man, was the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner. And the ad man was not just another bright, creative type from the art department. It wasMilton Glaser, who — probably more than any graphic designer of his generation — forged the sophisticated, exuberant advertising look of the late 1960s, the time “Mad Men” is now traversing, and whose work to publicize the show’s new season will begin appearing next week on buses and billboards around the country.

“I can’t believe this is the first time we’re meeting, after all your work,” said Mr. Weiner, shaking Mr. Glaser’s hand. “Hi. I guess I’m the client.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

Raw Induction: high-style Qi technology

As Qi technology (wireless charging for mobile devices) continues to grow in popularity, it was only a matter of time until someone created the first ‘high-end’ Qi device. The first iteration is called Raw Induction – a concrete and cork composite device with an elegant look that can charge 3 devices at once.

According to the Raw Induction website, the device was built with a minimalist, wire-free approach as an antidote to the clutter that surrounds the multiple devices we use everyday.

Right now the Raw Induction will run you about $500 – a price that reflects the artistic design as much as the technology and materials. If you’ve got the cash and are looking for a functional, aesthetic piece, this might be the thing for you.

For more information about the Raw Induction, check out their website. Already have one? Tell us about it in the comments section below!


The best ads of 2014 (so far)

We left 2013 with a top-10 list of great ads from the year. It looks like 2014 is starting off just as strong, with 7 ads we found among the most creative of the bunch. Take a look at the clips below and let us know what you think. We’ll keep you posted on the best of the ad world as it comes.’s “Booking Epic”

Libero Football Magazine “Lunch with your Father-in-Law”

Libero Football Magazine “The Ab Machine”

Ikea “The Social Catalogue”

IBIS Expedition “The Ultimate Sleep at the Devil’s Mountain”

Dove “SELFIE” (short version)

Nokia “#PassItOn”

Cadbury “Code& Fabric& Electronics& Chocolate”


Intel unveils RealSense hardware and software line (Pre-CES)

The takeaway at today’s Intel press event? At this early stage (you know, before the event actually starts), all signs point to the RealSense product line – a number of hardware and software products that “make interaction with technology simple, more natural and immersive,” according Intel’s own words. The first product bearing the compound name is the RealSense 3D camera. Intel describes the product as, “the world’s first integrated 3D depth and 2D camera module that helps devices ‘see’ depth much like the human eye.”

The camera does full-color 1080p and on-board sensing for gesture and face detection, the latter of which apparently helps it “understand emotions.” It also recognizes foregrounds and backgrounds, can 3D scan and can make augmented reality that much better. The RealSense 3D camera is set to be integrated into a number of diverse devices, including tablets, ultrabooks, notebooks and All in ones, from top companies like Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo and NEC come the second half of this year.

We’ll apparently be seeing seven such devices demoed today, from Dell, Lenovo and Asus.


Inside the Design of the New Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball

If you haven’t seen the new Ball yet, it’s quite a sight. The image here doesn’t do it justice – be sure to check in on TV or, better yet, drop by NYC tonight and check it out. The ‘new’ Ball has a ‘crystal coating’ and puts a new spin on it’s old glory. Here’s a little more information about this iconic american tradition.

The History

The ball drop has been a New Year’s Eve tradition in Times Square for over a hundred years, but only in the last decade or so has the ball itself become such a technological marvel. When former New York Times owner Adolph Ochs first organized the event atop the newspaper’s headquarters in 1907, the ball was made of iron and wood, weighed 700 pounds, and was covered with 100 lightbulbs. Over the years, it’s evolved beyond its iron origins in incredible ways. It got a lightweight aluminum frame in 1955 and computer controls (as well as rhinestones for more sparkle) in 1995. By the time the new millennium came around, it looked pretty steam punk.

The Design

The ball that sits atop the building today is the fifth generation, and it’s straight up space-age. Unveiled in 2008, the 12-foot-wide geodesic sphere weighed 11,875 pounds and featured 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs encased in 2,688 individually sculpted Waterford crystals that vary in length from 4 ¾ inches to 5 ¾ inches. This year, those crystals were completely redesigned and replaced, giving the ball a sleek and somehow more serene appearance. “The Gift of Imagination” is the theme that ties it all together, and it’s not hard to see why.

For more information about the design, production and installation of this incredible creation, check out the full article on Gizmodo here.

Happy New Year!!