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Real Life Debugged » Developing Products

Tag-Archive for ◊ Developing Products ◊

I imagine kids on a Halloween scavenger hunt in the cemetery.  Each group’s crumpled paper reads, “Find and take pictures of headstones of the following people -”

Sitka Russian Cemegary Lisa Simone Copyright 2008

Dead person # 1.  Find the grave of a woman who was an avid Scuba diver, underwater photographer and author, and who looked like a million bucks without plastic surgery or Jimmy Choo shoes.

Watch the video of the tragic barrel racing event that took her life, and write down the name of the horse that skidded, rolled over and squashed  her flat.

Morbid, eh?  Well once again, technology is here to save the day.

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I wrote before about Siftables - the toys that think. Taco Lab Blog explores this kind of creative thinking from all angles including emerging technology, education, and product design with international perspective.

Some recent posts:

» Advice to kids interested in technology including the “basics” - take stuff apart!

» Technology-based art: “[H]ow artists use dynamic, interactive technologies to reveal the logic, structure, and beauty inherent in experimental, non-traditional applications.”

» Ideas and products based on gestural input (like the Siftables)

And the concept of Chinese Shanzhai and China’s tactics to slide into the gaping price gap between high cost American goods and the inexpensive American DIY (Do It Yourself) culture.

Taco Lab was founded by MIT grads who have a great mission:

We won’t give you a design that can’t be made, and we won’t build you a solution no one wants to use.

Subtitle: Another digression about talking with those silly customers

I had a discussion with a good friend the other day - we’d spent years fire-fighting embedded systems gone wrong. During many all-nighters and several 110-hour weeks, our deepening ire became sharply focused on the idiocy of using zillion-line industry standards as product requirements.

On that project, there was no “customer need” or requirements document. I’d never met a customer. That was 12 years ago. It hasn’t changed much, he admitted. Now, as it was then, buggy products are still late.

Then I was approached by a university to redo their senior design program. Cooool - I got to indoctrinate brand-new engineers to the entire industry-standard process: starting with customer needs and requirements. “Back away from the keyboard,” I told them. “TALK to the customer.” And you know what? They got it!

To my delight, my best teams delivered beyond the customers’ expectations, and one won a national design award for their work. (Their story is below)

If graduating engineers can do it, why can’t we?

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In the same issue of JackGanssle’s Embedded Muse newsletter where he reviewed my book, he let me rant on about the state of computer science/engineering education and its disconnect with industry needs.

He had mused in an earlier newsletter article when (and what type of) programming languages should be taught at the university level. He proposed banishing all such courses until Junior year so students can learn more about decision-making, methodologies and real design, rather than just cranking out code. His article struck a real nerve with me.

I blathered on for a bit, but apparently coherently enough that he decided to print my response.

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I was reading a post about the danger of cutting innovation efforts and R&D costs in this radically crappy economy - kinda like the farmers’ saying about not eating the seed corn. Seems a no-brainer to me that while forward-looking efforts might be optimized, long-term strategy and activities should not be compromised or curtailed.

You tech companies want a hint? Bag the next generation 140-button electronic gadget remote control that manages every electronic device in the house, washes your dishes, and vacuums the rug. Instead, gimmee a 15-button remote control in a fashionable color that doesn’t require me to turn on the lights to find the button to pause my DVD.

You want a rant? Here ya go.

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