"Stories" is the title of the next session, and it it's made of stories of entrepreneurship, innovation, activism, exploration.
First Rafi Haladjan. He's
been an Internet entrepreneur for a long time, and previously a Minitel
entrepreneur (who remembers the Minitel?). Now, he's a rabbit
entrepreneurs. No, he doesn't raise rabbits, he connects them: his
company, Violet, produces the wi-fi enabled Nabaztag, a rabbit-shaped electronic pet.
I have one that every morning at 8 gives me the weather forecast for
the day, pulling it wirelessly from the Internet (I'm curious why they
decided to create an electronic rabbit rather that, say, an electronic
Running notes: A few developments converged into the Nabaztag. Talking teddy bears, for example. Visions of connected/smart homes. Etc.
Rafi and his colleagues were convinced that this house of the future would happen someday, but how to get there? Violet's approach:
- Make cheap stuff, so that people can start making decision and buy
- Don't make it too useful (useful stuff is boring), make it about interpersonal, connectivity
- Design matters
- Make it simple
- Bring a new image of technology
- Use open standards, eploit existing content.
- Empower the user
- Build a community to provide services and help generate killer applications.
Violet's first product was the DAL "emotional lamp",
an internet-connected lamp that would change color accoding to
variables such as the traffic on your commute highway, or that could
receive love SMS that prompted it to turn red and start pulsating.
In 2005 they launched the Nabaztag. Why a rabbit? Rafi has more answers than I asked for: We wanted to make a statement: "If you can connect a rabbit, you can connect everything"; there was randomly a rabbit on my desk the day we discussed that; we wanted to show that this was not only about functions but also emotions; rabbits have ears which are simple to move (antennas, signals); rabbits don't have any known psychology; rabbits multiply; etc.
Nabaztag has light on its chest that can display information in color-code; it can play music; can translate into speech any written speech; it "understands" (you can give simple orders verbally); and it can detect other objects because its nose is a RFID reader. It's connected to a server, so adding apps on the server is enough to have the Nabaztag to react.
What it is generally used for, is to give weather reports and others; read RSS feed headers and Facebook updates; play podcast and web radios; give alerts if you receive e-mail (people can send your Nabaztag messages and make it dance at a distance) or as wake-up calls; it can be connected to other Nabaztags (when you move the ear of yours it moves the ear of the connected other remotely), and there are applications created by users. It's an ambient information device, passing on to you things that are "good to know" but not worth the effort.
App with books by French publisher Gallimard Jeunesse (see picture): book has a RFID tag, the kid can swap the book in front of the rabbit's nose, and the Nabaztag "reads" the story aloud (pulling it wirelessly from the web). Hit the button on the head, and it stops. It's a way to make things alive and interactive without changing their original form.
Next: Ztamps, RFID tags disguised as stamps, that can be activated for the purpose chosen by the buyers.
Kevin Kelly once evaluated that there are 8'000 to 10'000 objects/items in a normal household. Only a few are connected today, the phone and the computer and the TV and the Nabaztag. Rafi wants to connect all the others.
What else? Nespresso. All know the ad with George Clooney, many know the Nespresso coffee capsules.
On Monday in Lausanne, just half an hour from the venue of the LIFT
conference, Nespresso opened its flagship store, a temple to celebrate
coffee and the coffee capsule and the design coffee machine. Nespresso,
owned by multinational corporation Nestlé, has been a huge success. But
it didn't happen overnight. Eric Favre
is the man who came up with the idea in 1975. He's no longer with
Nestlé. He tells about touring Italy with his wife Anna Maria and finding the perfect espresso at Sant'Eustachio Bar in Rome, by barista Eugenio. Why was Eugenio's espress better? Was it the machine, the water, the coffee. Yes, all important things, but it turned out that the secret was actually an involuntary hack:
Eugenio was convinced hat his machine did not work well, so he
continuously raised and pulled down the lever arm: without knowing it,
Eugenio was sucking up and inject air into its machine. That was the
"eureka" moment for Favre: espresso is air + water + coffee, where air
is crucial to extract the aroma from the coffee.
Nestlé created the Nespresso company in 1985. Company ran through lots of form factors for the capsule. Then Favre turned to the nature of the espresso, a viril drink that's often drank by women (the Nespresso logo is made of two stilettos, one upside-down).
In 1990, Favre leaves Nestlé but keeps working through his own company Monodor on the invention, patenting a second-generation capsule that Nespresso then implemented since 1994.
Favre thinks of himself as an inventor, rather than an innovator. His new project: the Tpresso, doing the same for tea. Since the invention of the teabag in 1940s, there has been basically no change in the tea form and use.
Last Sunday the Serbian citizens went to vote to elect their new
president. They choose Boris Tadic, a pro-European, forward-looking
politician, against radical nationalist Tomislav Nikolic, whose program
was to turn Serbia back into an authoritarian state. Part of this happy
result was certainyl due to Radio B92 in Belgrade and to its bloggers
and community. One of them is the next speaker, Jasmina Tesanovic.
She's a political activist, writer, publisher and filmmaker -- and
incidentally the wife of previous speaker Bruce Sterling -- and she
talks about the intersection of activism, gender and blogging in the troubled Balkan region, going back to the overturn of Serbian strongman Milosevic in the late 1990s. She compares
What the South Africans called "truth and reconciliation" process, in Serbia didn't happen, "we still live in denial". She talks about the hate mail she receives because of her blogging. Her blog is also used as platform for non-bloggers, such as feminist groups. It will take more than laptops and software to transform Serbia.
The session (which I've been moderating) ends with two "open stage" short speeches, chosen by the LIFT attendees.
Noel Hidalgo talks about "the luck of seven". On 7-7-7 (7 July 2007) he departed New York for a tour of the world, wich he describes as "an open-source journey documenting free culture, social innovators and global change".
He travelled for 7 month (so, he's just back) through the 7 continents,
visiting the 7 wonders of the world, on 7777 USD (roughly) which he
raised through his blog (as advance on the price of a children's book
that he plans to write), couch-surfing
(sleeping at the place of people me met through his blog), documenting
the journey through stories, photos and videos. "As I wandered the
Earth, my broad shoulders bore seven topics of freedom: free
culture; free and open-source software communities; couchsurfers,
bloggers, fellow travelers and vloggers; agents of progressive social
change; unconfrences, coworking and meetups; happenstance, and climate
I asked him to give me a single picture that would summarize his trip. He sent me this one:
In front of one of the seven wonders of the world. The horse's name is Michael Jackson.
(btw, Noel is also the guy appearing -- pre-beard -- on the cover of the "Tips for conference bloggers" that Ethan Zuckerman and me wrote last year.)
Finally, Markus Peschl talks about the influence of perception in innovation.