16 January 2007

ThingM: channelling boundless data into specific user experiences

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ThingM is a device studio “that lives at the intersections of ubiquitous computing, ambient intelligence, industrial design and materials science,” with the aim of “channel[ling] the boundless information of the Internet into specific experiences for users” (as the Examiner calls it).

Founded by Adaptive Path cofounder Mike Kuniavsky and Todd E. Kurt, ThingM “creates unique objects and experiences for consumers, institutions and corporations”.

Because they believe in “lightweight, agile, user-centered product development” (i.e. “focusing on users’ experiences first and technological details later”), ThingM creates Technology Sketches, “which are examples of early stage conceptual approaches to how a product might work, rather than actual fully-functional systems”. They then continue “to develop the ideas and technologies at the core of these sketches, so that the final products that use those ideas may not resemble what is in the sketch, but the sketch will have been an important part of the development process”.

The first one contains a video technology sketch of a smart wine rack.

“It’s designed to locate wines in a wine rack using RFIDs attached to bottles and to display which wines have been located using LED backlights behind the bottles. Collectors (or anyone with a large wine cellar) can use it to search through collections, track the location of specific bottles and manage inventory with a minimum of data entry. Linking bottles to networked databases can provide information that would otherwise be too time consuming or difficult to obtain (for example, the total value of a collection, or all the wine that is ready to drink).” […]

“As in many other situations, new technology cannot replace people, but it may be able to harness some of the collected knowledge to provide a better experience for those who don’t have the information at hand. Our goal in envisioning WineM was to make it easier for someone who owns more wine than they can keep track of to get more pleasure out of their collection – without hiring a sommelier or becoming one.”

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