'Jibo' Home Robot Launching Soon

Jibo is a domestic robot with a sophisticated set of sensors to interact with family members. Jibo is meant to be a domestic companion, and the creators show him interacting with young kids, adults, and older people too.

But Jibo is immobile. He can't move around on his own — I guess you're supposed to pick him up and move him to different rooms for different tasks. I think the overarching technology is cool (and smartly navigates a lot of constraints), but the idea that a user would unplug something to move it to a new room gives me pause.

Also, no mention of price on the Jibo site. Which is an additional concern of mine. I'm worried he'll be stuck in an uncanny valley between a toy (max price $300) and an important family tool (max price $1000?). I hope there are ongoing ways for the company to monetize beyond the purchase. Maybe they have some kind of payment integration that will let them take a small percentage of the ongoing transactions?

Research Snapshot: Better Negotiations through Social Perspective Taking

Research Snapshot: Better Negotiations through Social Perspective Taking

We all know that negotiation — the act of getting what you want when the other side wants the opposite — breeds anxiety and stress. Negotiating is analytical but also emotional and so requires people to understand their opposition, including their desires and their beliefs about the world. But how can we get that kind of deep understanding? How can we foster empathy on both sides of a negotiation? If we can foster more understanding, will we make negotiations less stressful and more satisfying? Does it improve the outcome?

Researchers at Stanford recently studied how to deepen a person's understanding of an opposing party, and how that affects the anxiety and satisfaction of a negotiation. The researchers created a simulation that worked like a computer game and then staged different interventions to determine the best way to foster "social perspective taking" (SPT), the technical term for viewing a situation from another point of view. See a thorough background on social perspective taking here: (Davis, 1996 - Amazon link).

The authors set up their study to take a piece of canonical negotiating advice — walk a mile in another's shoes — and worked to make that a part of preparing for a negotiation.

Software is eating the world, but...

"Software is eating the world", for sure. Those are words from Marc Andreessen- the Netscape founder (and now principal at A16Z, Andreessen Horotiwtz). To unpack this statement a little bit, the claim is that software will disrupt any and all industries, and that — in some real way — all problems are software problems. This idea has a lot of sway out in Silicon Valley, and proponets use the examples of software eating the hotel industry (airbnb), or software eating the taxi industry (uber), or software eating the grocery industry (instacart).


But here's a McKinsey Report (The social economy: unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, McKinsey Global Institute, 2012) that details how disruption will unfold. It won't be linear nor spread evenly across industries. Some industries will be relatively harder to disrupt, while others will be easier. The chart above outlines who much value is in each industry and how easy it will be to capture that value. In the Andreessenian terms above, software will be much slower to eat energy, food production, retail, and construction.

Appster - Habitual Dependence™

Appster is a company that rides the line between a mobile consultancy and a VC-driven arm. They are not order takers who turn an idea you have into an app: they do a lot more. And they take a stock in all (or maybe not all... can't precisely say based on their website) of the apps they help build. And then, since they're 'on your side' as an owner, they create:

  • the ux strategy
  • the business case(?)
  • the product roadmap, including what gets deferred to later releases
  • the marketing

It's a cool idea for a company. And they also got a TM on a cadence related design principle, which they call Habitual Dependence™ I think this is a TM'd version of the toothbrush rule for VC-related user-experience design.


Talking about advice to your future (or past) self...

We were discussing an idea at work today that resonates a lot with me. There is a collection of advice you'd give to your younger self. If I — 36 year-old Zach — was going to give 25 year-old Zach, or even 15 year-old Zach advice about living, work, love or business, what would I say?

What would you say to your younger self?

I feel like there's a deep insight about advice where the advice you give (and get) is very much influenced by the age of the giver


So I'd like to create a site to allow people to give and get great advice from people of all ages and cultures. I've got the URL youwillthankyou.com (and also ywty.co, pronounced "you too"). Not sure if we'll get it off the ground in 2014. But maybe. What would my future self say? He'd almost definitely say "do it!".

Research Snapshot: Measuring Vital Signs from Radio Signals

Research Snapshot: Measuring Vital Signs from Radio Signals

Fadel Adib and his colleagues work in the Wireless Lab at MIT (under Dr. Robert Miller). Most of their research utilizes different radio waves and using their reflection to determine the presence of people in an indoor space. But this year, they produced a much higher resolution — Vital Radio — that records respiration rate and heart rate. This is a huge advance for the internet of things and smart homes. Look ma’ no wires!

"In this paper, we ask whether it’s possible for smart homes to monitor our vital signs remotely – i.e., without requiring any physical contact with our bodies.” People can just relax in their homes — note that the technology used here does require they sit or lie down — as they normally would and the system generates highly accurate respiration rate and heart rate data.

The system is highly accurate, with average accuracy rates over 98%. The researchers used consumer grade chest-strap heart rate monitors as their ‘ground truth’ measurements. And their system can measure these signals at a distance of almost 25 feet (8m)!