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November 21, 2012

Connecting Physical Products to the Internet

Writing about web page

Say hello to Derek! Using some low-cost electronics and some simple programming, we have re-created some historic relics of Walsall's past - The Bayard's Colts and brought them into the year 2012.

Bayard Bayard Colts

Derek is a re-creation of a Demon head, one of a number of the Bayard's Colts that date back to the 16th century. Derek responds to a variety of different keywords on Twitter, making him an interactive demonstration of how functionality can be added to products by connecting them to the internet. This project brings together aspects of all three of the new International Institute for Product and Service Innovation’s technology theme areas - Polymer, Experience Led and Digital Innovation.

The project was part of a wider Visitor Experience project that Walsall Museum and local business Digital Native Academy were working on alongside Walsall Council and other stakeholders.

Through our expertise in IIPSI we first of all looked at how the Bayard's Colts could be made more accessible to younger audiences and identified that the use of technology could be really exciting and uncover new opportunities.

Firstly, the 3D model of the original Bayard’s Colt was created, then Computer Aided Design software was used to make the part hollow to take all of the necessary electronics. Once completed, the head was manufactured using one of the IIPSI’s Rapid Prototyping machines, which are available for use by West Midlands SMEs in the Technology Hall.

The next stage was to make Derek digitally enabled. This was achieved by using a low cost electronic prototyping board called an Arduino. A software programme was written to scan Twitter for mentions of the @IIPSIdemos username, and then respond to any commands which followed. Derek’s main party piece is to change the colour of his LED eyes on demand, but he will be developed over time to include sound, movement and to send his own Tweets.

Although this demonstrator is quite a fun idea and has been designed with the culture and heritage sectors in mind, it highlights other opportunities that exist for companies to develop new, more connected products. The inputs that Derek responds to come from Social Media, but exactly the same concept could be used to monitor the number of visitors to a trade stand or the temperature in different parts of an office building.

If you’d like to interact with Derek, then try sending some tweets to @IIPSIdemos and see if you can figure out the commands! Alternatively contact us to find out more or attend a rapid manufacture workshop for West Midlands small and medium sized businesses to find out how you can start using this technology now!

January 31, 2012

What is Experience Led Innovation?

Writing about What is Experience Led Innovation? from Experience Led Innovation at WMG

My colleague Carolyn Parkinson has written a good post to break down and explain what we mean by Experience Led Innovation. This is a big area of expertise for WMG, and will feature in our new funded project for SMEs running out of the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation. See below Carolyn's post.

"What is Experience Led Innovation?

Is this something new? Or a new way of saying something old? Why do we need to know about it?

Let’s start by talking about what we mean by this. Experience Led Innovation (ELI) is an approach to innovating which seeks to put the user’s experience at the centre of the process for all types of product and service innovation. Experience Led Innovation pulls together a number of approaches to innovating, including human factors engineering, participatory design, and experiential engineering.

Previous terminology which has been used includes User-Focussed Design, but personally I find this term somewhat limiting. Very often there is not one individual who represents the target of the innovation - but picturing this individual is a technique often encouraged in design and marketing contexts. A more rich and informative source of input for the innovation process is to better understand the experience of the users.

Why is this distinction important? People behave in unpredictable ways, and often do not interact with a product, service or environment in a logical or expected way. They have emotional responses to using products and environments. Look, sound, and feel all influence the way users experience and interact with an innovation. Very often their interaction with a product or service takes place at a subconscious level, so asking a user to articulate or predict their needs is less valuable than observing real experiences, emotions, and behaviours as a product is developed.

I am fortunate to work with an excellent team of researchers and knowledge transfer specialists in this area. From our perspective, the key features of Experience Led Innovation include:

  • Taking a cross-discipline approach to understanding user aspect of innovation – at WMG our team includes psychologists, engineers, computer scientists, marketers, ergonomists, and designers.
  • Accepting that technology innovation cannot occur in isolation from understanding real world user behaviour.
  • Participation and engagement with users early and often in the innovation cycle, closing the gap between post market data and early stage design requirements.

There are an enormous number of applications for this approach… but more of that later. In the mean-time find out more about Experience Led Innovation at the following links:

Experience Led Innovation at WMG, University of Warwick:"


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