Google’s Going RoboCop
In a post I wrote a month ago, I predicted what Google’s moonshot program was all about:
What Google Is Secretly Working On at Google[x] by Sean Everett on Humanizing Technology
Yesterday, it seems that prediction was verified to the public:
Google Acquires Seven Robot Companies, Wants Big Role in Robotics
Yes, Google is trying to build a machine indistinguishable from a human being. They acquired a bunch of hardware and software, they have autonomous movement working through self-driving cars, intelligent vision working through Google Glass, and 300 million pattern recognizers being built with Kurzweil’s team.
They have every component and engineer you need to build a robot.
But they’re missing the one piece that will make it, as Jony Ive and Steve Jobs say, friendly. They’re missing the soul. They’re missing the cop in RoboCop.
When we set out to build StoryApp, we made a friendly wooden robot named Kiiy. Kiiy is the anthropomorphized version of a soul.
It understands human emotion and reacts empathetically.
Pixar’s Toy Talk discovered that kids want to have a conversation with their iPad app. Even adults use Siri more to have a funny, unexpected conversation than to use it as an emotionless personal assistant.
Google has the smartest engineers on the planet. But they employ zero storytellers, the native programming language of humanity.
If Google wants to build a machine indistinguishable from a human being, they should be spending every last dime on human experience and interaction. Not how to walk a robot from one end of the room to the other.
We had an insight last week that could make it a reality today. Its simplicity astounded even us and the result is magical. Sadly I can’t implement it. At least not yet. Maybe someday.
As I’ve often found, good things, sometimes, take time. And there’s always time for quality. Because people just don’t have the willpower (http://ift.tt/11QegMka.com/Ho…) to go that Last 3% (http://ift.tt/11QegMka.com/Th…).
How To Grow Your Business A…
Yesterday a blog post written by a current Y Combinator chap made the rounds through the Twitter-verse, being shared by most of the Valley:
The Only Way to Grow Huge
In it, the author argues that the only way to grow incredibly fast and large is to make an incredible product.
This is news to the Valley?
I can’t for the life of me understand why this was such a watershed moment in blogging. Why Paul Graham and Michael Arrington thought it was so revolutionary it deserved sharing.
Lets forget for a moment that it’s the most obvious thing on the planet (uh yah, if your food doesn’t taste good no one will want to eat it), and remember that Steve Jobs and Jony Ive have been saying this for a decade.
Nevermind that quality is the only thing that matters both in relationships and products.
Lets all pretend that our goal was to make a shitty product as fast as possible and try to reverse engineer things to throw crappy MVPs against the wall and hope they stick.
Oh wait. Yah, that’s how most of the technology world has worked for a long time.
I guess we took a page out of Apple’s playbook when we started making apps. That’s why we spent hours dissecting quality from a number of angles. The Adam & Luna blog, my old Seanversations podcast, and even our own thoughts, drawings, tweets, and storyboards are riddled with the concept of quality over speed.
I never thought we were alone in this quest. Yesterday’s post and its virality proved to me that most people don’t inherently care about quality for quality’s sake. Even the makers. They only care about it as secondary to “growing huge”.
I sit here and shake my head. It’s like Jony Ive famously said about Apple (I’m paraphrasing from memory):
We’re not here to make money. I know that may sound flippant. But we truly believe that if we make incredible products and we’re operationally competent, we will make money.
Now, compare that quote to the blog post.
Most people aren’t in it for the love of the game. Most aren’t in it to execute at a level of quality so high that it rivals NASA’s only 17 bugs in millions of lines of code. Most people don’t have the willpower to go The Last 3%.
But I think you do.
When someone tells you, “We can’t do that”, what they’re actually telling you is that it’s going to be extremely hard.
If you’ve read any story about creating the original iPhone, people will tell you it was two and a half years of everything being brand new and everything being extremely hard. They thought about trashing it countless times because it was so damn difficult. The best engineers and artists in the world didn’t think even they could pull it off. And here was this company that had been making computing devices for decades!
It’s supposed to be hard folks. That’s the only test there is for knowing you’re operating in unchartered territory. If it was easy, then there would be plenty of competition and everyone would be doing it. Mapping the connectome of the human brain is ridiculously hard. 100x harder than mapping the genome. And yet, they’re doing it.
Don’t listen to the ones who mumble about growth or money or blah, blah, blah.
If you build it, they won’t come. If you build quality, they just might.
It is the one area that no one will be able to compete with you on. Make your products sing, inside and outside, and you’ll show the world what you’re capable of.
Do it with zero resources and you’ll not just show the world, but yourself, that you can do anything, anything, that you want in this world.
Lilly Ghalichi x Anil Arjan…
I don’t talk about http://ift.tt/1eLwCUn much on here, but we set up an appearance by Lilly Ghalichi from Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset at Anil Arjandas’s London store opening and wanted to show you all what it was like to be there:
WatchAnish x Anil Arjandas - London Boutique Opening
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Minimalist designers try their darndest to remove them. But users want the feeling of safety related to physically turning their devices off.
The feeling is like leaving your house with the TV on. It just doesn’t feel right. People just aren’t comfortable with an invisible design approach (i.e., having the software switch the power off automatically if it’s not being used).
Apple actually made this mistake when they created the square iPod Nano. There was no way to turn the power off. You just had to wait and hope. A software update after launch fixed the issue because Apple does, in fact, listen to their customers.
On the iPhone there are only 3 sets of buttons. The power button, the volume buttons, and the home button. People want the action of turning it on or off whenever they choose, they also want the safety of being able to mute an incoming phone call, and they need to be able to navigate “home” as quickly as possible. You could, theoretically make all of these buttons software buttons, but when it comes to the “fiddle factor” (http://ift.tt/11QegMka.com/Fi…), the mute switch takes the cake.
Does your product suffer from a power button customer problem? It’s only a problem that will develop after reducing a countless number of times. It’s more likely that you have a clutter problem rather than an over-reduction problem.
Cars are all designed pretty much the same. And even though none of them started with cup holders the designers realized that people needed a place to hold their cups whilst driving. It’s standard customer development stuff.
But here we are about to jump head first into 2014 and no cars have the one thing that people need a place for more than cups.
The entire car driving community is forced to use cup holders to hold their $1000 gold iPhones.
C’mon guys this isn’t rocket science. Even Tesla, founded by a guy who’s making freaking ROCKETS missed phone holders but spent millions of man hours on door openers that protrude when a human walks up to it.
Don’t these oversight piss you off?
I honestly feel like I’m taking crazy pills these days. I’ve spoken with 100 people from the biggest and baddest to smallest and nimblest technology companies and even though none have a lack of grand vision, most lack a dedication to basic block and tackling when it comes to these “cup holder” issues.
I urge you to take a hard look at your product and your company to find these oversights and not rest until they’re rectified.
Your human customers will thank you.
Forced Versus Exploratory L…
Pretty much any educational curriculum is forced learning. There’s a set path where a teacher rams facts, figures, and processes down your throat. It’s about memorization.
Granted, some things are best learned this way, like plumbing. But other things, like building a mobile app that people want to use can’t be taught that way.
In order to figure it out you need something different. You need exploratory learning. That’s what the Internet with blog posts enables. That’s why Treehouse, Code School, Khan Academy and Coursera are doing so well.
It allows you to explore whatever you want as deep as you want for as long as you want. The only downside is that you have to be determined to keep going because there’s no teacher or negative discretion applied if you don’t finish.
It would be great to go to a school that just offered total exploration. You had expert teachers at your disposal for when you got stuck but for the most part you just go in whatever direction your curiosities lied.
There are a few new age programs that have created math prodigies and incredible test scores in only a few months after implementation.
The economy of the 21st century will be driven and controlled by these exploratory learners. Get your child prepared and encourage it. With this skill, he or she will be able to do anything with a little bit of hard work.
Jony Ive, the SVP Design at Apple, has always tried to add a “fiddle factor” to his industrial designs. It started in his first internship when he was commissioned to make a pen but added a clickable top and continued throughout his career at Apple on the blue translucent iMac with the handle on top.
In both cases, adding those features served no functional purpose. At least not related to the product in question. You didn’t need to click the pen to get it to work and you didn’t need to pick up a computer to use it.
But there was a more important function that Sir Ive intuitively understood about making products more human. He made them touchable. And therefore, less scary.
Fancy that. Something that served no purpose other than to make it more friendly for the human being who’s using it.
I’d argue that this feature, the one that supposedly served no purpose, was arguably one of the most important. It’s what sets a product apart from all others.
Not knowing any of this, we set out on a same path when building StoryApp (http://georiot.co/1MAe). We wanted the simplest way to communicate friendliness, but also have it not be superfluous. Now that I realize Jony added elements that did not add function, I understand how much harder a proposition it was for us to try and do both.
In short, we were trying to create form AND function in the same package. This is why we spent 9 months in research and development.
What came out the other end? A wooden robotic friend named Kiiy, who’s animated face showed emotion when you touched it. It also functioned as the record button, create new story button, and social sharing button. Kiiy is the glue that ties the story of Adam & Luna to our product StoryApp to our brand representing overcoming struggles.
It’s a smiling, happy face. You can’t get much more human than that.
We’ve been working on a version 2 that doubles down on Kiiy, on human emotion, and on your voice. But that will come later.
In the meantime, as you build your own products, take the hard road less traveled. Push things toward innovation and try things that no one has ever tried before. It might work, it might fail, but in either case you’re going to learn a heck of a lot more than just fast following competitors.
And if you need to chat about it, Kiiy’s not more than a touch away.
What’s Harder: Creating So…
Is it more difficult to build a product starting completely from scratch, knowing nothing about what you’re even going to make, or to take an existing product and make it better?
Is it harder to build a house the first time or to gut a room and remodel it?
Is it harder to build Facebook or build the news feed a few years later?
Is it harder to build Instagram or build 15-second videos after Vine launches?
Something I’ve learned recently is that nearly everyone in the technology community believes it’s more difficult to improve a product by adding new features than to build a product from scratch.
I think that’s absolutely bananas.
Only people who have never gone through a year and a half of work to build not just a product, but a company around it, will understand the amount of sheer work and willpower that takes.
But, and here’s the caveat, unless you build the next Snapchat, Instagram or Tumblr, nobody will care.
Most startups these days take the easy route. They raise capital. They go through accelerators. Very few have the willpower to build something from scratch the old fashioned way. Very few recruit people to work on a dream with them using no compensation but inspiration, motivation, and perspiration.
Very few focus on the harder medium — mobile — and attempt to build something that has the biggest market size possible.
Instead, most folks go to work for a big company, and work on a product that’s already been built using a large team and deep pockets. Most don’t even work on the entire product, but rather just one feature of that product. Something like email notifications, or improving user acquisition from paid search and unpaid viral channels.
Compared to building an entire product and company from scratch, that’s laughably easy. Especially when you have hundreds of millions of rows of data at your disposal to analyze and millions of users to talk to.
But again, the technology industry will not value anything you do on your own. Because most have never done it, and therefore don’t understand the subtleties of what it takes.
If you want to be successful in this industry, go to work on things that are a result of survivorship bias. Go work on products that are already successful, on products that are already growing. Ride that tide and let it lift your own boat. You will get credit for doing amazing work even if you do the worst possible job.
But do not, I repeat, do not build anything on your own. That’s not the way to win the hearts and minds of the people. Unless you do the impossible and are one of the 0.0001% of people with success stories.
Take the easy road. Learn less. Do less. Take credit for prior successes. Don’t treat people with kindness. Don’t have creative ideas, just fast follow.
Jobs, Newton, Edison, Ford, Disney, Lincoln. This is how they achieved greatness.
Oh wait. No. No that’s not right at all.
Don’t listen to a word of the naysayers. Follow the actions of the innovators.
It’s the simplest test in the world. The people who talk, never do. And the people who do, only care about doing it incredibly well.
You have a choice. Talk, or do?
The Real Meaning of Thanksg…
It’s not about turkey, or pilgrims and Indians, or even being thankful for things. It’s also not about spending time with family.
Wait, you’re might be asking what else is there?
Shopping of course.
The themed commercials on television, the Black Friday sales that start on Thursday, and the marketing campaigns leveraging the holiday. Macy’s thanksgiving day parade? Take a wild guess why they do it.
You can take away the power of these businesses by not falling for it. By staying at home, turning off the TV, and being around those you love.
Quality time that doesn’t involve shopping. Only spending. Spending quality time with family.
Dividing Time Into Itself
Ever since I was a young boy, I’d look at the time on the VCR underneath the TV. Or I’d look at the time on the microwave. And I’d divide the first number into the second.
For example, if the time was 8:36. I would reduce it to 2:9 because 4 goes into the first number twice and 4 goes into the second number 9 times.
I just did it not 30 seconds ago in my own kitchen. I’ve been doing it every time I see the time since I was maybe 5 years old. Anywhere there’s a digital clock, I try to reduce it. 12:12? That’s too easy. 9:15? Now we’re talking. Gotta love them 3s, son.
It’s a little crazy, I know. But I think I’m realizing how it impacts my work life. Whenever I look at a digital interface or product mechanics, I look at it through the same lens. How can I reduce this to its core elements and have something simpler and more elegant come out the other side.
I have to imagine it stemmed from all my math training, but I was doing it before I ever studied it. I think it was just the way I was built.
It makes me wonder, though. What other strange peccadillos do other people have that they’ve never talked about. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that you have one, but you’ve never told anyone. I’d also wager that if you think about it long or hard enough, you’ll find it manifesting itself in other areas of your life.
I have no clue what this small thing is, but I think if you’ve chosen your fascination and your career correctly, then it will repeat itself there as well.
Or maybe I’m totally looney tooned out and there’s a straight jacket with my name on it. I don’t know.
But what I do know is that the philosophical underpinnings of “dividing time into itself”, of the weight that those words carry, has a significance beyond my comprehension.
Maybe we’re all trying to find a bit more time in our lives to do the things we want to do. Or maybe it just means that we’re all given the same amount of time and it’s up to us to recognize it and just enjoy it.
The only thing I know for certain is that while most of society, magazines, and E Television prompts you to dress the same and be the same, in fact the best part about you are these strange qualities. These things that make you uniquely you, that no other human being on this planet has, and how you use those to your advantage.
If there’s one constant in life it’s that girls with curly hair envy those with straight. And girls with straight hair envy those with curls. Recognize that you have qualities that others would kill for, even while you’d kill to have someone else’s qualities.
Forget about being skinnier, taller, faster, smarter. Just be happy with the gifts that you already have. Guaranteed there are more than a few people out there who worship you for them.
So even if you can’t divide time into itself, maybe you can multiply relationships with strangers. That’s a quality I’d like to have.