On Tuesday, April 9, 2013, OLC attended NYTech’s monthly technology meetup held at NYU’s Skirball Theater. Ten presenters demoed in front of a packed auditorium: Bout, a photo-taking game you play with friends; Grand St., a new market and community for creative electronics. The way that consumer electronics are made, bought and sold is changing fundamentally, and we believe that a new era in electronics requires a new kind of store; Ketchup, a fun and awesome way to plan your social life; Dining Band, a device that helps the blind and the visually impaired; Next Caller, the easiest way to exchange information over the phone while never waiting on hold again; Power Clip, a compact unit that provides easy access to power in emergencies; Sunrise, a free, fast and beautiful calendar designed to make your life easier; TeuxDeux, a simple, designy to-do app; WunWun, an on-demand helper.
Dining Band presented first. A group of 11th graders presented their prototype under MOUSE, an elite team of thinkers and innovators building projects that address a social need. Dining Band is a temperature sensor and a vibration sensor to locate where food is on the plate. It is for the blind and the visually impaired. Every time a bite is taken and the hand returns to the plate, the device informs the user where the food is. The group went to Visions, an organization that serves the blind and the visually impaired to help them. The major challenge for the blind was eating, the group found out. They worked with design specialists to prototype and iterate the product. They came up with Dining Band. The problem was locating the food and the group felt that with this device, it would facilitate eating. The device goes on the wrist, like a watch and the group’s plan is to have it small enough that it is like a wristwatch and not at all intrusive.
Ketchup is a social planning application. According to Matt Campanelli, one of the co- founders of the app, there are about 70 social planning apps in the iTunes App Store, but none have traction. To start using Ketchup, the user logs in with Facebook and the dashboard is a table of activities. The user picks a Facebook friend to spend time with and the user picks an activity from a list. There’s no date involved. “We’re not about scheduling things,” Campanelli said. “We’re about agreement.” Activities that are sent are in grey, but intentions are the expected are in red. Events that users agree to are added to the table. Users also have the ability to break an agreement and “Flake Out.” Ketchup emphasizes every agreement on the dashboard as a mini contract.
Jim Babb introduced Bout, a photo-taking game “as fun as Apples to Apples and as cool as Instagram.” They provide the setup and Bout crowdsources the punch line. There are two ways of playing Bout. One is as the judge, the other, contender. “You play these roles asynchronously,” Babb said. The user picks the best photo out of the submissions—and there are only five to choose from. “The judge picks from the set of photos, which are anonymous. You don't know who sent them until you judge the winner.” There is also a feed, which is half social and half game. “You can play custom bouts and there are bouts for people without friends, which are Global Bouts.” Users can create custom groups as well. The game locks down at five submissions, which creates a sense of urgency. The feed also prioritizes the amount of Bout participants, placing bouts with one spot left at the top.
Next Caller is the world’s easiest way to share information over the phone. Next Caller is the world’s first centralized network that provides information to customer service. They use a secure API so that the agent knows the information of the Next Caller member when they call. The Next Caller members go straight to the customer service agent while non-members go through the standard hold queue. Next Caller is like PayPal for the phone and it is a low maintenance way to set up calls.
Sunrise is an iOS calendar. It is focused on trimming down the weekly view. Sunrise is focused on subsections—the little things. It has several options to connect with Google Calendar, LinkedIn and Facebook events. Just like the Facebook application, Sunrise lets users write on Facebook walls and made it seamless to create events. Users can view people attending the event and even access their LinkedIn profiles.
Grand St. is a new market for creative technology. It makes it easy to purchase new technology and concepts by highlighting new products every other day in great detail. Grand St. talks about using devices while creating original content and photos. Stories of independent electronics are created. When Grand St. sells a product, they do an overview and talks about design and why they love the product. Grand St. also has a working mobile site and their goal is to be a trusted site for people to purchase and discover new innovative technology products.
WunWun is an app that delivers what you need when you need it. Users make a request through the app—suggestion on-demand. They can then schedule it: Now or Later. The next step is choosing a location and finally, users press “Get” to receive the product. WunWun has dispatchers to deliver the request to agents who deliver the product to the user who requested it. When a helper gets a request, they contact the user and when it is confirmed, they bring the items to the user. WunWun is currently only on the iPhone and it is invite-only.
The Hack-of-the-Month went to Arduino, an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. It’s helping novice developers work with hardware. Breakfast Serial was also demoed. It is a library written in python. Using Breakfast Serial, users can easily code actions within five simple lines of code. Arudino uses an USB serial and it talks to the API through the computer and not through WiFi. Arduino is about enabling other people to make cool stuff.
TeuxDeux is a simple designy to-do app. It originated from a lunch conversation about an ideal to-do app—because there wasn’t one around at the time in 2009. TeuxDeux is a to- do app like an actual piece of paper. Users can rearrange lists for priority and they don’t have to rewrite the list when they don’t finish certain objectives. The objective is simply moved to the next day for completion. TeuxDeux has a very minimal interface and it is subscription based. It also carried a “Totally Someday” section for users with aspirations that they don’t have specific schedules for.
Powerclip is a compact unit that provides easy access to power in emergencies. The idea was born from designing for UNICEF to help girls in Uganda. During the development of the product, the Powerclip team (and the rest of the eastern seaboard) experienced Hurricane Sandy. They thought that it was a good time to think about what they could do for the city. The event helped the Powerclip team to create their process. They thought about the community that rises around energy resources and they thought it would be a good idea to try to work with that. The group revealed that batteries used in emergencies are usually not safe to use, nor are they intuitive. Powerclip has USB ports to charge phones and two parks that are covered with copper to ensure maximum current between the clip and the battery. They are looking to fit Powerclip in the automotive accessories industry and are looking for ways to recharge the car battery itself. The team added that they were guided by various disaster relief organizations while they were iterating the product.