All posts in “Technology”

The New Wave of 3D Printing

Karly Gaffney is a Manager on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

I hadn’t paid much attention to 3D printing until the productions started applying to me and I could see the uses making sense in real-world situations. With each new article I read, my reactions have gone from “that’s neat” to “holy crap, they can do that?” Today, I’d love to get my hands on one.

For the benefit of any readers who aren’t entirely familiar with 3D printing, here’s a quick overview: A 3D printer produces three dimensional solid objects from a digital model through what’s called ‘additive processes’ which essentially means the printer is laying down successive layers of material to create the final product.

As I dug deeper, I was surprised to learn that 3D printing has been around since the 1980s, but early examples were large, expensive and had many limitations. Fast forward thirty years, today we’re seeing 3D printed guitars, ultrasounds and the ability to turn yourself into an action figure via 3D printing.  The projects I love the most are the ones that both provide a service while making the technology relatable and accessible.

Companies like the two I’ve highlighted below have taken 3D printing from an obscure technology and turned it into an affordable offering that consumers can relate to (and want to have in their home.)

3D Printing Photo Booth

The 3D Photo Booth was produced by the team at PARTY (Tokyo) and essentially it was this very cool pop-up store that allows people to be mapped in HD 3D and then printed out as little mini-me versions (between 10cm and 20cm tall) in full colour creating a semi-realistic 3D printed version of yourself to take home.

The great thing about this concept is that the consumer only pays $250 for the service, which is really reasonable considering what you’re getting.  If I had access to something like this I’d want to use a memorable travel photo like standing on top of Machu Picchu or summiting Kilimanjaro (neither of which I’ve done, but they’re on the list)

Crayon Creatures

Now this beats the heck out of hanging a drawing on the fridge for a few weeks until it loses its luster. The brains behind Crayon Creatures is Spanish designer Bernat Cuni, who is offering a service that takes your child’s drawings and transforms them into a digital model that can be 3D printed in full colour sandstone material. Below is an example of one of his prints (I’m already plotting the theft of my nephew’s drawings the next time we visit.)

Would you get a family photo 3D-printed for your home or invest in a 3D-print of your child’s drawing? Have you seen any other cool 3D-printing concepts that made you stop and consider trying it out yourself?

 

The Joy Of Discovery: A Good Starting Point in Planning Social Media Strategy

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

I come across a lot of business owners and marketers who are wondering how to tackle social media. I spoke last week to a group of women business owners at the Go for The Greens Business Development Conference at Walt Disney World last week, and next week I’m talking to a group of SME’s at The Financial Executives International Conference, “Leading Economic Growth” next week in Toronto. What I hear, is that while most companies instinctively know that they need to address social media in some way, it is still hard to know where to start.

In the immediate term, social media may or may not have an important impact on your business. It’s when you start looking at long term trends, and at the deep impact that social media is having on our fundamental communications infrastructure, that you start realizing that love it or hate it, you cannot ignore potential depth of social media on the way your clients and customers are going to live in the future, and interact with your business.

This is the place to start. Take the time to figure out how social media could potentially impact your clients and customers, as they connect and interact with your brand, products and services. How can you leverage this social interaction to move your business objectives forward?

We call this process “Discovery”. During our Discovery sessions with clients, we go through a number of exercises to look at this problem from a variety of perspectives- but one of the exercises I love the most, is called an “environmental scan”, where we go look at how the future could impact the client’s business, from a variety of different perspectives (demographic, technological, regulatory etc.). Discovery has become a key part of our planning process.

A 2012 comScore report, “Canada Digital Future in Focus” states “Social is quickly moving from a supporting role to a key pillar in monetizing digital.” It sounds like a platitude, until you start looking at the numbers.

According to the research in the report, Canadians on the whole spend an average 45 hours of time online a month, and lead the world in online engagement. Time spent on social networking has now surpassed the time spent on any other category of activity online. If you look at younger demographics, the 18-24 age range, you can see the strongest surge of time spent on social media quarter over quarter. Viewers under 35 also account for 57% of all videos viewed online. Smart phone penetration has reached 45 percent of the Canadian market.  If you’re not familiar with the report, I urge you to download it, and take a quick browse through.

The pace of change is wild. As a business owner or marketer, where do you start?

At the moment, according to a recent US based survey on “Social Software and Big Data Analytics in Business” by Mzinga, Teradata Aster, and The Center for Complexity in Business on how companies are using social media, 64% of companies are using it for marketing/brand experience, 47% for customer experience/service/support, 39% for employee collaboration and 27% for sales.

Those areas are likely baseline areas to get right first, and to use as a starting point to develop meaningful measures of success, that map to your business, and to your strategic business objectives.

In the same survey, 77% of companies said that they currently DO NOT measure the ROI of their social media programs, and 49% say they are not using social media to its full potential.

We are all only at the very beginning of all this. Engage in the “Joy of Discovery”, to make a sensible and manageable start to tackling long term planning, and determe what measures of success are going to be right for the future of your business. It’s a challenge for all organizations to determine what level of investment in social media is appropriate, but the question is no longer a “should I”, but is moving to a “how should I”.

The Connected Evolution

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at Social Media Group.

Smart Washing Machine

Historically, connecting to the Internet has always been on computers, but over the last five years connectivity is no longer confined to a desktop or laptop – all thanks to the evolution of “smart devices”. Smart, or connected devices are changing how people create, consume, share, and control the content in their life.

Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in January provided preview of the new direction of major electronics manufacturers, and how they plan to design devices that not only provide value by leveraging smart capabilities, but also solve problems in an intuitive way. According to the GSMA and a post at RedWriteWeb, 90% of TVs at CES, 70% of automotive devices, 44% of health devices, and 30% of cameras were Internet connected.

Of all connected devices at CES, 30% were from the “home lifestyle” category, which includes TVs, refrigerators, and even washing machines!

GSMA Stats

What it means for the living room

The potential benefits of having so many connected home devices are mind boggling, but this post covers how these changes could affect the current family living room.

Smart phones changed the way we use our mobile devices. They provided easier and more efficient access to music, games, social media, and communication tools like instant messaging and the almighty email. Most people I know, even the highly skeptical, never looked back after upgrading to a smart phone (be it Android, iPhone, or Blackberry).

A similar principal applies to the connected TVs showcased at CES – picture many of the benefits that a smart phone brings, and apply it to your living room on a screen 10 times bigger. Older TV owners can still rejoice that set top boxes like ROKU, Boxee, or AppleTV, and game consoles such as Xbox can be used to turn any TV into some form of Connected TV.

1. Social TV

People love to talk about TV with friends, which make social elements an integral feature for all connected devices. Social components should be integrated seamlessly when possible. One main problem is that unlike smart phones, TVs are “shared screens” – making it even more important to utilize social privacy elements. Michelle, a colleague here at Social Media Group recently shared her thoughts on The Rise of SocialTV here.

2. Apps

Apps have been integral part of making smart phones the awesome devices they are today. They provide a never-ending supply of new content to learn from or play with. The same is true for TV. Having access to apps will let users control what additional features, games or widgets they want to use, ultimately leading to a more controllable, and enjoyable viewing experience.

3. Custom Streaming

Continuing on the DVR trend, connected TVs will also allow viewers to choose what they want to watch, and when. As content producers continue to align their service offerings to support a streaming model, more people will continue to cut or cancel their cable/satellite bills. Netflix and Hulu have also helped push the streaming model to the mainstream. This is one of the largest game changing features of Connected TV – user control.

Internet Connectivity is no longer a feature that is limited to the top of the line TV models – it’s now a requirement. TV manufacturers have to rethink what a TV is, which includes how to leverage Internet capabilities, but more importantly the overall user experience that allows TVs to interact with traditional computers, smart phones, and tablets.

The Ecosystem Approach

Many major TV manufacturers lost money last year, Sony included. Samsung was fortunate to only incur reduced profit margins. The root causes were eroding retail prices, and sluggish consumer demand. The time has come where device manufacturers have to become content suppliers in order to maintain profitability and survive, which essentially means more ecosystems.

Molly Wood from CNET recently wrote her thoughts on what a connected device ecosystem really means:

A perfectly constructed ecosystem turns a smart phone, a tablet, or even a TV into a symphony of interoperable, always-on, one-stop-shopping gadget glory. No device is just a device, anymore. Now, every device is a platform, and everything works together perfectly

Love it or hate it, Apple pioneered the closed ecosystem with iTunes and iDevices. The closed ecosystem means more consumers are locked in – essentially raising the costs to switch to a different platform. Their strategy is paying off too, which is evident in their recent first-quarter record profit announcement.  Rumors also suggest that Apple is making a big play into the TV market, a move that will definitely shake things up.

Samsung and Microsoft also have the right idea. Samsung has made major moves this year to create an ecosystem that will compete head on with Apple. Their TVs will work seamlessly with both their Tablets and popular (record breaking) smart phones. Microsoft’s new Metro UI will ensure Windows 8 devices, Windows Phones, and Xbox will all share a universal user experience and content repositories. Let’s not forget about Microsoft Kinect, which could bring a Minority Report type experience to your living room!

We’re moving into an all out clash of the TV titans for 2012. Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung will likely continue to fight over patents and designs, while advancing product capabilities, and refining their service offerings.

Clash of Titans - Apple vs Smasung

To Sum it Up

A huge influx in the variety and quantity of connected products are coming directly to consumers, but the true benefit of these changes really comes down to implementation.

Only time will tell if these products solve more problems than they make, but the awesome part is that this is one of the few circumstances where you can literally sit on the couch and enjoy the changes!