Geek R and D

Andy in carbonite 3d print

Here’s the slides from my Reasons To Be Creative elevator pitch. As usual, they don’t make a massive amount of sense without context but you’ll get the general idea. Have to say, this is one of the toughest things I’ve done. That time limit is brutal, particularly if, like me, you’re more comfortable talking around a subject rather than delivering it concisely.

The point I’m mostly making here is that structured learning just doesn’t work for me, and I think it’s almost impossible in your busy work day. Basically, unless you’re a student or very well established in your field, having extended periods of research just simply won’t happen if you try to make a project out of it. However, it’s SO vital to the growth and motivation of creatively-minded teams of all disciplines, that you really must make it a central part of your culture, and the way I’ve always found to work best is to encourage people to indulge their passions.

Many of the speakers at RTBC talked about the importance of play and exploration and I think this is something we only do when we are genuinely interested in achieving something. For my 4 year old, that normally involves beating his brother at something (or with something more often than not). For me, it’s doing geeky cool – I mean come on, who wouldn’t want a model of themselves in carbonite amirite?

It amazes me that, with a little bit of pissing about, I can achieve things like this:

Andy in carbonite 3d print

…and the lessons that we’ve learned to get there mean the team have a fully rounded understanding of both the theory and practice of 3d printing, which we can, in future, utilise for the benefit of our clients.

Thanks to those that caught it. I’m going to be expanding on some of these themes at my Designer’s Fiesta talk later this month if you’re London based.

oh, the Kinect video will probably be missing from the slideshare, you can find it here.


Innovation versus copyright

It’s been hard to avoid the piracy debate this week with the SOPA/PIPA blackouts. Once again, the sheer amount of misinformation is staggering. This was summed up for me this morning by an ill-judged article on tmz which not only breaks Godwin’s law but also basic common sense. The claim that “Both ISPs and search engines are profiting from the raping and pillaging of the content creation businesses” is, assuming it’s not grade A link-trolling (oops I’ve fallen for it haven’t I), tea-party-esque insanity. What most angers me about this article though, and similar responses to the blackout, is the lack of positive vision provided by the incumbent companies who have had ample opportunity to innovate through the cultural changes in media consumption.

In replying to a facebook thread about the article, I wrote this:

“Can we stencil this on the CEOs of all these media companies: “For the millionth time, build a better bloody service.”

People do not value individual pieces of content anymore, but they do, massively, value service provision. Instead of wasting all this time bringing about legislation to restrict innovation that will do nothing less than help bring your business models into the 21st century, just build a better service. There is a massive appetite for the consumption of digital content at a fair price, delivered on demand without restriction so that it can be used on all of the amazing toys from the future that we all own these days.”

See Steam for more details.

The way to get through this “crisis” for rights holders, artists (and I am a signed musician whose work is all over the torrent networks myself) and media distributors is to innovate our way through it, providing a service with value. If the mediacos spent the same amount of money and effort on research and product development as they allegedly do on lobbying and lawsuits, they would find that they have a motivated consumer, eager to spend what little disposable income they have in the current economic climate on quality entertainment, delivered swiftly and conveniently. This has ALWAYS been the promise of the digital revolution and it makes me very sad that we are 15 years into it and are still bitching about our goddamn percentages instead of building better worlds.

TEDx Talk

So here it is finally, my talk for TEDx Teeside. Looking back on it now I naturally wish that I’d applied some judicious personal editing and kept a slightly tighter focus. That said, this talk covers quite a lot of ground and has formed the basis of most of the last 6 months of my work at Sky. In this respect alone, I have a lot to talk about and this normally takes the form of a conversation rather than a lecture. Nonetheless, it’s been a privilage to be involved in the TEDx programme and to share a little of why I remain, despite the struggles and challenges, optimistic and excited about my industry.

To clarify a few points: The title for the talk was actually “Research and Creativity in the Corporate Media Environment”. I suspect the editor has mixed up the title with the Hillel Cooperman TED talk on Lego which they showed that evening at Teeside and to which I refer at the end.

The Kinect work that I showed was mostly done by other people, with the exception of the Sky News explorer which was coded by Jason Langdon in my team. I am indebted to the entire OpenKinect community for their excellent groundwork and for the two engaging examples (and apologies that I couldn’t get the model to work – the kids earlier in the day flipped for it though!), and to USC’s MxR Lab for the FAAST toolkit which we used to power a number of the demos. We await the official Microsoft SDK with baited breath.

Lastly, I could really use a decent stylist and sorry for the shot of my bum…occupational hazard ;o)

View the talk in full at Vimeo.

I am actually developing this talk a little further at the moment so if any readers are interested in me speaking at their conference or organisation in the future, please get in touch.