Archive for the 'Gadgets' Category

Microsoft’s HoloLens Brings the Digital World Off the Screen

February 9, 2016

In June of 2015, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Microsoft presented a demo (below) of what it is like to play Minecraft using HoloLens. The audience was amazed as the digitized world came off the screen and became an overlay on the real world.

Unlike the completely immersive experience of virtual reality, a la Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the HoloLens allows users to combine the physical world with an immersive virtual experience. Google Glass and other augmented reality efforts provide small “windows” on the real world while Microsoft is using holograms to create complete 3D virtual images. The HoloLens also runs all other Windows applications, allowing users not to have to rely on a screen.

Use cases for HoloLens go beyond gaming, as the technology finds a seamless space for the virtual and real worlds to meet, interact, and collaborate. As our BRITE ’16 speaker Scott Erickson, Senior Director of HoloLens, explains in an interview with The Verge, HoloLens provides users with “the ability to walk around, to overlay holographic information and make it contextual to physical objects that are in the [same] space.”


A very interesting aspect of the experience is precisely the capability to interact with others around you, both those who are using a holographic computer and those who aren’t. Cliff Kuang from Fast Company, explains that “Microsoft has already conducted hundreds of hours of user testing to figure out just how we might interact in this new hybrid reality. They’ve already come up with some very clever interactions, like making your gaze function as a mouse pointer.”

The only reported downside to HoloLens is that the field of vision for where holograms can appear is still limited.


In early 2016, Microsoft opened up applications for the HoloLens Development Edition, which will ship by the end of the first quarter of the year. With a price tag of $3000 for the kit, it is still unknown what the price of the consumer model will be.

In the meantime, Microsoft is using its Flagship store in NYC to allow developers and a few lucky curious to test the HoloLens.

Join us on March 7-8 for BRITE ’16 and see Microsoft’s Scott Erickson talk about HoloLens and the possibilities of a mixed reality world. Plus, when you register, you will have a chance to sign-up and visit the flagship store to experience the HoloLens yourself.



The Intuitive Future of Wearable Tech

August 3, 2015

Imagine not just watching a football game, but also feeling the impact athletes feel as they tackle each other. Sound far off? It’s not. The Alert Shirt, a combined effort of FOXTEL and We:eX, is “a fan jersey that uses wearable technology to take the experience into the physical world, allowing fans to feel what the players feel live as it happens during the game.”

Gartner forecasts that wearable devices will deliver $15.8 billion in worldwide revenue by 2020. Such devices have quickly become ingrained in our day-to-day lexicon, and wearable technologies are now transcending smart watches and fitness devices. While many manufacturers are focused on analyzing and delivering personal data as the value exchange for consumers, other companies are taking it a step further with a more experiential and intimate approach.

We:eX (Wearable Experiments), founded by fashion innovator and creator of the Alert Shirt, Billie Whitehouse, seeks to uphold the human experience and how it can work in concert with technology. “Too often have I seen another big, chunky watch. I call that the arm party.” She opted to produce products with a more personal, less obtrusive approach. Her first was Fundawear for Durex Australia, intimate apparel “that transfers touch for long distance couples….” The campaign won a Silver Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

When looking at the intersection of fashion and technology, Whitehouse saw a gap in the wearables landscape. “Statistics show we’re starting to forget to use touch as a form of communication in our daily lives because we’re so dependent on technology.” Whitehouse and her team design items to tap into the feeling of touch to create an emotional bridge between the digital and the physical space.

At Columbia Business School’s BRITE ’15 conference, Whitehouse elaborated on her wearables mission—to merge fashion and technology with a functional design aesthetic to elevate quality of life. Her products are compelling and entertaining with a practical twist, not only easing pain-points, but making life… well, fun.

A self-described “body architect,” Whitehouse explained that she dives into “the nooks and crannies, the softness and the movement of the body and how we integrate technology into that space.”

The 20-something entrepreneur has fashion and innovation in her DNA. Her mother founded the Whitehouse Institute of Design in New South Wales, Australia, which hosts Project Runway Australia. Together, they designed a curriculum notable for incorporating new innovations. In taking a deep look at the future of fashion early on, Whitehouse explained, “I was having the right conversations at the right time… and [looked at] how we use fabrics and fibers and technologies to invigorate fashion, to give it intelligence, to make sure everything you put on your back has a purpose.”

One of her newer creations is “Navigate,” a location-enabled jacket that does exactly as the name implies—helps people to navigate through the streets of cities like New York, Sydney and most recently Paris. As Whitehouse explains, “Wearable technology must be intuitive and seamless within our daily lives, enhancing our life experience while connecting us to other people and the world at large. Our new product is a major first step in the right direction.”

Watch Billie Whitehouse, keynote speaker at BRITE ’15.


Combining the Seemingly Incompatible: The MAC Case Competition

April 4, 2014

Combining the seemingly incompatible is an inspirational way to ideate.

On March 28, 2014 the Center on Global Brand Leadership, in collaboration with the Marketing Association of Columbia (MAC), hosted the 2nd annual MAC Case Competition. Twenty-eight MBA students from Columbia Business School were tasked with developing a hypothetical game-changing business strategy by conceptualizing a unique way to incorporate one of today’s hottest digital trends with a major brand, one that is seemingly incompatible with the trend itself.


More and more articles of clothing and accessories, items we wear on a daily basis, are produced with the ability to gather personal data, and connect us and the collected data to the digital world. With this “wearables” trend, brands are now challenged to create more robust brand experiences.

Students had three hours to develop a positioning for Unilever or one of its brands by integrating the wearables trend and new consumer expectations for information access and interconnectivity.

To judge the competition, the Center on Global Brand Leadership invited Marissa Freeman, VP of Global Advertising at HP and founder of Bee Raw, and Fabian Pfortmüller, Co-founder of Holstee and Founder of Sandbox. Both are experts at understanding trends and using them to create innovative strategies for their businesses. The winning team, Hasbleidy Castaneda ‘15, Nate Champion ‘15, Melissa Gavin ‘15, and Emmy Vallandingham ‘15, developed The Water Band, an extension of Unilever’s Save Water, Save the World initiative.

The Water Band would be a wristband with the goal of reducing shower time. The team explained that it’s great for environmentally-conscious individuals. “Shortening a shower by 2 minutes can result in 4600 gallons of water saved per year,” shared the students. When wearing Water Band, the consumer would be alerted when their shower is running long.

They developed this idea to align with Unilever’s sustainability platform to provide value to its consumers, and to promote a sense of community and mutual responsibility amongst its stakeholders

Two teams tied for second place with The Bobby-Bit, a bobby pin that captures environmental data for a customizable action plan–using Unilever brands– for taking care of skin and hair based on environmental triggers; and Dove For Me, a system that uses wearables to capture environmental and physical data from individuals (e.g. activity, climate, location, vitamin deficiencies, hydration, etc.) to enhance and personalize Dove skin and hair care products at home.


The Case Competition experience was rewarding for the judges and the students alike, Marissa Freeman commented “I was astounded by the level of strategic insight, the thoroughness of the foundational data and the professional manner in which the cases were presented.  It would have been impressive if they had 4 days to do it, let alone 4 hours.  In my mind, they were all winners.”

While Sheera Hopkins ’14, from MAC, explained that participating in “The Case Competition was a great experience where I had the opportunity to put into practice many of the ideas and frameworks I had learned my first year at CBS. Even though it was only a one-day exercise, it helped prepare me for my summer internship.”

The Center on Global Brand Leadership looks forward to hosting the 3rd annual Case Competition in the spring of 2015 at Columbia Business School.


3D Printing Puts the Means of Production in Your Hands

September 16, 2013

Bre Pettis, founder and CEO of MakerBot, sums up the company’s mission as “creating tools for creative explorers to change the world.” The Brooklyn-based 3D printer manufacturer, founded in 2009, has quickly made a name for itself in five short years. Along with drumming up press coverage in high-profile publications such as Fast Company, it was also recently acquired by industry peer Stratasys for $400 million.


So, what exactly does MakerBot bring to the table? 3D printing capabilities have been around in some form for years with, e.g., laser cutters. What Pettis saw was a real need for a machine that not only produced physical objects from strands of melted plastic filament, but also provided a functionality that’s attainable for individual consumers – a major challenge as 3D printers have largely been the size of refrigerators and used for commercial purposes only.

Pettis took this obstacle in stride. A self-described “tinkerer,” he developed a passion for technology and problem solving at a young age. In a PJA Radio interview, Pettis says, “Because I was around programmers and hackers who were my heroes as a kid, when I was playing Wizardry, I learned [how to change the game]. I feel like I got a real leg up by having access to that technology. It’s a similar thing with the kids of today who grow up with MakerBots – [they] are just going to be able to manifest ideas that other kids won’t be able to.” Armed with an unconventional approach, Pettis, alongside some of the brightest engineers in the space, set about to bring to market a unique printer that prioritizes affordability and accessibility. Able to fit on a standard office desk and with a price point beginning at roughly $1400, MakerBot’s “Replicator” was a hit among engineers, researchers and designers. With over 13,000 MakerBot Desktop 3D Printers sold through to date, the company’s market share has steadily grown since 2009, from 16% to 21.6%.

Despite how both the company and the nascent 3D printing industry have evolved in the last few years, MakerBot continues to emphasize the community-driven approach it was founded on. In 2008, even before debuting their first Replicator prototype, Pettis and colleague Zach Hoeken launched, a hub specifically created to crowd source and share digital designs for hardware and software. In doing so, MakerBot preserves and celebrates openness of the industry, allowing entry to all innovative minds.

The cloud site now houses nearly 100,000 designs, ranging from simple toys and models to truly game-changing technology. In fact, MakerBot’s technology earlier this year enabled a South African man who lost several fingers in an accident to co-develop a 3-D printed prosthesis with a prop designer in Bellingham, Washington. News of the project spread and resulted in the pair developing a prosthesis for children with amniotic band syndrome (a condition in which they are born without hands) – at a fraction of the typical $10,000 price tag. Pettis points to this as what he predicts will be many real-world, transformative applications for 3D printing. “Literally, by owning the means of production, you are making some impossible things possible.”

Visit PJA Radio’s “The Unconventionals” to learn more about how Bre Pettis is innovating the 3D printing industry.


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