12 Tech Trends That Will Define 2012, Selected By Frog’s Design Minds | Co.Design: business + innovation + design

Sharing a good read on where the future of technology lies and how it will impact us:

[First posted on Feburary 15th 2012]

According to the Mayan calendar, 2012 will spell the end of the world. But while the Internet is playing host to various survival strategies, we at frog are thinking of other things that will shape culture this year. We surveyed frogs from across the globe and across disciplines to share their favorite tech trends that’ll crop up this year and what their impact would be on design, business, entertainment, and our daily routines. Without a doubt, this is shaping up to be a year of hyper-connected, highly personal, ultrasmart computing that, well, might just skip the computer altogether.
Here, our tech forecasters, drawing from their expertise in everything from strategy to engineering, make their predictions for 2012. Among them: moving beyond the computer interface toward voice and gesture recognition, building more intimacy into social networks, and the continued exploration of biomimicry.

Connected Cities
Chief Creative Officer Mark Rolston

In major cities today, cameras, sensors, and networks provide literal and statistical pictures of where people are and what they are doing at any given moment. Homes and buildings are represented not just by white and yellow page entries but by a growing mountain of data in online maps, social networks, merchant reviews, location services, Wikipedia, private websites, and more. People can learn about and even experience a place before ever setting foot in it. Our Austin studio recently hired a creative director from Brooklyn who used the fly-through experience in Google maps to get a feel for a neighborhood where he was home shopping. As this mountain of data becomes more accessible, we will find ourselves more connected with information, with each other, and with the city that surrounds us.

Taking Computers Out of Computing
Senior Principal Design Technologist Jared Ficklin, Executive Technology Director Robert Tuttle, and Assistant Vice President Marketing Adam Richardson

Voice recognition technology has finally hit its tipping point.
Interactions with technology are becoming conversational: We literally talk to them and they to us. Voice recognition is a key enabler of this. Apple’s Siri is the headliner, of course, but Ford has been employing Microsoft Sync–which also uses voice control extensively–in its cars for a few years. It’s being smart about offering it not just in its high–end models or Lincoln premium brand but in less expensive cars that appeal to younger buyers. It’s a great way to get a new generation engaged with the Ford brand.
Voice recognition technology has finally hit its tipping point of capability, and the stage is being set for a generation of users to start assuming voice control, just as touch control is now assumed for any screen. But the spoken word is only a fragment of any conversation. Computer vision–especially depth-sensing cameras–will be able to pick up nonverbal cues such as gesturing or body language that complete human communication. When voice and gesture comprehension are paired, humans will be able to address technology naturally, without command jargon. The tactical steps being taken in 2012 are to “design the human” as the primary interface device in support of that.

The Reductive Social Network: Technology Finally Gets Personal
Vice President of Business Development Nathan Weyer

Today’s technologies, products, and services do not adequately serve the human need for intimacy and personal connections. Although Facebook might have initially felt personal, it’s become one of the many social networks swamping us with digital data that we can’t possibly process. Our Internet personalities have evolved into amplified personas that aren’t truly us. The current fervor around cloud computing only exacerbates the problem: Now, my 10,000 digital photos are in the ether, but am I any more emotionally connected with them and sharing them with my three closest friends in a meaningful way? This is about culling from the terabytes and sharing with the single digits. In 2012, product companies will deliver new products that begin narrowing the social circle and capturing intimacy and authenticity.

Gadget Convergence Will Lead to Specialization
Creative Director Michael DiTullo

For the past decade we have been seeing a convergence of multiple pieces of hardware into fewer generalist devices. The smartphone is the almost perfect example of the convergent digital device as Swiss Army knife. It has absorbed much of the features of portable devices, like music and video consumption, digital photo and video capturing, email and calendar, and simple things like time keeping. I read countless blog posts proclaiming that dedicated devices, like the camera and the watch, will rapidly shrivel and die. Instead, I think new technologies will provide opportunities for them to get better. When users purchase a dedicated device, they are gravitating towards products with higher quality and better design to elevate their experience. It turns out that the convergent device is killing the commodity digital product while forcing everything else to improve. This is presenting companies and brands with an opportunity to do what designers love: Make things better!

Rein in the Clouds!
Senior Vice President, Engineering Mark VandenBrink and Executive Strategy Director Abby Godee

We’re rapidly moving into a technology space where mobility is becoming less about a set of devices and more about the pervasive mist of data that we all generate with every interaction on the Internet. Managing, securing, and understanding this data will play a huge part in technology over the next few years. Moreover, making that data comprehensible to the consumer is key. The question has never really been, Is this possible? but rather, When will we have an ecosystem of compelling and useful devices and services that will integrate seamlessly into people’s lives? We think that time is finally arriving in 2012.

Reputation-Enhanced Lending and Trading Goes Mainstream
Assistant Vice President, Strategy Tim Morey

The recession, coupled with the rise of the so-called sharing economy, has the early-adopter community abuzz with notions about the end of consumption. Companies like Airbnb and Zimride, which allow people to open their homes or cars to sharing or loaning for a fee, are cited as examples of new ways of using and exchanging goods and services. But the really interesting trend here is that new forms of trust are being enabled by social networking technology. We all joined Facebook and LinkedIn to stay in touch with colleagues and friends, but the upshot of mass adoption is that we can check up on virtually everyone we come across. Individuals who have never met or interacted are using social networks to validate one another. If I’m just selling something to you on Craigslist, it doesn’t really matter to me whether you’re a good or bad person: I take the cash, you take goods, and that’s it. But if I’m renting something to you, trust becomes critical. I want to know that you are not a crook, a thief, or just a generally unpleasant person.
New forms of trust are being enabled by social networking.
By linking person-to-person transactions to social networks, we are reducing the need for cash deposits and other financial remedies to the bad-egg problem. While logging in to third-party websites using your Facebook identity is now commonplace, we are beginning to see person-to-person exchanges making use of social networks to broker trust. For example, before you stay at someone’s spare bedroom via Airbnb, you have to sign in with your profile. I recently rented someone’s house in Toronto for a few days, and between our respective social networks, we found enough friends, relatives, and colleagues in common for him to lend me the property with confidence. In 2012, this reputation-enhanced lending and trading will become mainstream. We will lease, barter, and trade with relative strangers, banking on their reputations and connections.

Low-End Mobile Innovation
Strategy Director Ravi Chhatpar

Smartphones will make significant inroads into an entirely new segment: the lower end of the mass market and the “base of the pyramid.” Huawei’s sub-$100 Android smartphone has already had significant success in Kenya, and major manufacturers are quickly following suit across Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and South America. These cellphones will not be notable for hardware innovations, as they’re stripped-down versions of their more expensive and feature-packed brethren. However, they’ll be notable for the fact that an eager population will be discovering the world of mobile technology and apps for the first time. This population is filled with experimenters, tinkerers, and developers who will unleash a new world of apps that address their own needs and pain points–those that have gone ignored by the companies catering to the top end of the market.

Interaction Becomes Gestural
Senior Principal Design Technologist Jared Ficklin

User interaction with technology is going above the glass. You no longer need an explicit tool or even direct manipulation to drive a user interface. With the ability of technology, like Microsoft Kinect, to see users’ movements in space, gestures are being added to traditional methods in new layers of interaction. Designing with this in mind requires new thinking about dexterity, ergonomics, and whether someone might feel silly or offensive with certain gestures. We are so involved in this space right now that we’ve had to move our design technologists’ desks to create enough room for all the hand-waving movements.
Flourishing Commerce in the Post-PC Era
Assistant Vice President of Financial Services, Innovation Strategy Group Toshi Mogi

The post-PC channels for commerce have come of age, and consumers will continue to migrate over to mobile, tablet, smart TVs, and game console platforms to conduct their business. Financial-services firms would be wise to ready themselves for this dramatic change in customer behavior and expectations. We will likely see firms convert their successful web experience to a more streamlined mobile and tablet capability. But as consumers’ experiences with these rapidly evolving post-PC platforms mature, they will expect much more. The post-PC platform affords mobility, portability, payment capabilities, video and collaboration, location awareness, natural language processing, gestures, and so on. Clever firms will wield this fresh and evolving palette to craft engaging experiences in the real and virtual worlds. The aim will be to drive customer delight, loyalty, and engagement.

Remote Collaboration
Executive Creative Director Holger Hampf

If you do business between multiple locations via phone and video, you may have experienced your fair share of frustrations: dropped calls, poor reception, and interrupted video streams are standard. Given the demand for more connectivity between both people and places, it feels like technology is far behind in addressing the need to work efficiently and with the same “directness” of talking to a person in the same room. We are so far away from a high-def experience that we may want to reconsider sending a smoke signal. Make no mistake, technology is moving fast, as shown by the popularity of Skyping with friends and family across continents. Unfortunately, the truth is that most of our conversations across distances are far from perfect and no fun at all. We need creative collaboration between design and technology to rethink these experiences so that they are more fulfilling and “direct” activities in our lives.

Biomimicry
Consulting Editor Reena Jana

We’ll see increasing numbers of scientists, technologists, architects, corporations, and even governments looking to biomimicry–designing objects and systems based on or inspired by patterns in nature–as an efficient innovation strategy. Why? Often, nature can provide examples of energy-saving, environmentally friendly solutions to a variety of technological challenges. These solutions have also been “tested” via billions of years of informal R&D–by animals, plants, insects, and other participants in the natural world who have come up with ways of harvesting water from fog, for example, or possess sleek forms that are more aerodynamic than traditional man-made ones. While biomimicry has been an emerging field for some time, in 2012 influential thinkers will begin to apply biomimetic principles on a larger scale, including the planning of new cities and the updating of urban infrastructures. In addition, since more case studies are now available, experts will also begin exploring the pitfalls of biomimicry and share best practices.

Reshape: Humans Are Analogue
Frog Founder Hartmut Esslinger

The way of design is only achievable via creative model-making and prototyping by the designer. Tools, both real and virtual, connect our mind with the real world. However, tools also define how we shape things: Tools’ limitations enhance our deep involvement with them and the materials, and honing our skills ultimately leads to mastership. The curse of “easy” digital tools is to become complacent after relative early “successes.” This can lead to mediocrity and a loss of creative excellence. Like the new “polystyrene slates” of many new electronic products, where excellence is defined by how well the corners are shaped (a re-run of 1950s boxy design), our modern-day digital design software is the cause for zillions of repetitive and bland products. Charlie Chaplin’s classic film of mechanized dehumanization, Modern Times, is a déjà vu of our current state.

[The above is adapted from frog’s Design Mind; Images: Marino Bocelli, Pictureguy, Fedor Selivanov, Ruslav Semichev, and Mikhail hoboton Popov via Shutterstock]
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Inspiring Malaysia youths – One Young World 2011 report

[First posted on 5th April 2012]

Chanced upon this while doing some reading and searching about youths in Malaysia. An inspiring report on the youths in Malaysia, showcasing 100 projects these youths have initiated that impacted a total number of 147,936 people. The Impact report addresses the participation of young people in tackling pressing issues and creating positive impact in their respective communities.
For those of us who always think youths today, especially those from Malaysia have done nothing but indulge in the drunken offsprings of daydreaming, look no further than this to grasp an extent of the very passion for life and thirst to do good in all the inspiring projects catalouge here. Limitless possibilities abound!

Among some of those that caught my attention are
– Teach for Malaysia. a project to address education inequality
– Youth Jam, initiated by a girl from Penang
– Chow Kit Kita, cleaning up the Chow Kit community
– 50+1, a travel project initiated by youths and volunteers to create a guidebook
Also in the book, are the voices of the youths on some general issues that is captured in verbatims today, and a very interesting survey done on 500 youths on challenges and aspirations among youths today.
Look to these projects if you are in search of finding out some of the key influencers among the youths today, how we can connect with the youths of today, support them, live in their challenges. Be inspired.
Read all about it here. One Young World report [Report currently unavailable]

The New gTLDS and its Impact to Your Brand

[First posted on 26th March 2013]

Background:
For more than 25 years now, the world has been familiar with generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and country code TLDs (ccTLDs). gTLDs refer to Internet domains with general address extensions such as, ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.edu’ and ‘.gov’ addresses, while ccTLDs refers to a country code for extensions such as ‘.my’for Malaysia or ’.us’ for United States.
Charged with these domains is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization that oversees Internet domain assignments.

Latest development:
On 20 June 2011 ICANN’s Board of Directors approved a plan to increase the number of generic top-level domains (new gTLDs) for brands and organizations which will include:
Brand: examples; .samsung, .malaysiaairlines, .honda
Generic: examples; .music, .casino, .car, .charity, .media, .photo, .design
Geographic: examples; .sydney, .hongkong, .singapore, .china, .paris
Why this? Well, as more people head online and more companies develop web-based offerings, demand for internet real-estate is likely to soar, and gTLDs are seen as being an answer to internet saturation.
The majority of catchy, memorable and simple domain names have already been registered long ago in the current pool, and many have significant commercial value today.

How will this move impact Brands?
1. Brand protection:
There is a possibility that businesses will feel anxious over this move as they will have to spend an excessive amount of money to register domains across all new gTLDs in order to protect their Brands from being cybersquatted.
But there’s good news. This time around, ICANN has put in place some safeguard measures where applicants for a Brand gTLD will undergo a rigorous application process that considers applicants’ existing trademarks.
There are certain cases where it is recommended for a Brand to register its second-level domains in new gTLDs. We’re referring specifically to category or geographical-term gTLDs. For example, a major automotive like Honda will likely find it beneficial to register Honda.auto as well as other domains like Honda.Penang, to use as dedicated sites for their local sales centres, or to redirect users to Honda.com.my. Of course, it will not be necessary for Honda to register all the domains. In essence, companies should determine which are applicable to their business and to decide which domains to register as well as to develop a strategy on how to use them.
2. User personalization:
Companies that acquire new gTLDs are able to provide personalized domain names to their customers to use as customized portals. Let’s take the Honda example again. Imagine Honda allows its car owners to store information on service updates on .HondaHistory. Honda could give John Doe the domain name JohnDoe.HondaHistory, where he could have direct access to all of his stored information without having to navigate through the Honda.com.my homepage to log in. Honda could even send John information about upcoming service reminders or new launches to his personalized email John@JohnDoe.HondaHistory
Such personalization concepts may change the way how companies engage with their customers in the future as users may be expecting Brands to provide a more customized experience.
3. Impact on Search:
Will the new gTLDs impact search engine rankings? Some say that it will because search engines deliver the most relevant and authoritative results. So if companies are aggressively acquiring new gTLDs and publicizing them, search engines will adjust their rankings and will give weight to the new gTLDs. Others argue that the new gTLDs will not help with search engine optimization and also will not create a big enough impact to significantly tip the scale.
The fact is search engines guard their algorithms jealously, so there is no way of knowing how or even whether, they will adjust them to account for new gTLDs. That said, established Brands that have spent much in search engine optimization to achieve the high search engine rankings they currently enjoy should at least employ a conservative strategy of redirecting their new gTLDs to their existing sites. Alternatively, Brands can start using the new gTLDs to host campaign microsites until it becomes clear how search engines will adjust their ranking algorithms to these new domains.

In summary:
Will the new gTLDs have any real impact on a Brand? (Remember the failure of .asia and .mobi?) Probably not in the immediate future. It will take years for the new gTLDs to become viable for companies like how the .com and .net did for them. It will take time for the new gTLD policies to be worked out and automated. However, we expect community-driven domains like .music, .sports and .film to become more available and accessible in the future.

Sources:
What new gTLDs mean for your brand
http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/30884.asp
Will new gTLDs impact search?
http://dot-nxt.com/2011/08/09/impact-on-search
9 Things You Need to Know About ICANN’s New Top Level Domains
http://mashable.com/2011/06/20/new-gtld-faq/

Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising

[First posted on 26th March 2012]

Sharing this tumblr blog which is akin to a big needle that bursts the false sense of security bubble agency folks created for themselves. Humour aside, it calls for us to take a step back, look at campaigns in whole and see beyond the brief to consider the value exchange we are creating.

After all, if it’s experiences we are chasing after, it should be human enough to live up to 3 traits – simple, meaningful and real-time.

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