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Episode Summary

In this episode of The Digital Life, we recount our favorite episodes of the past five years; With guests like Luke W, Soren Johnson, Brenda Brathwaite, David Gray, and a host of others, the ride has been a fun one so far. We'll continue our coverage of UX, design, tech and culture and look forward to the next 100.

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Episode Summary

In this episode of The Digital Life, Dirk Knemeyer discusses his recent tour of Asia and reflects on his experiences there including significant cultural differences, observations about the use of technology and significant factors from an economic perspective.

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Episode Summary

In this episode of The Digital Life, Dirk Knemeyer reflects on the unique cultural intersections of the first and third worlds in China, in his report from Asia.

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Episode Summary

The barriers to entry in product design are falling—from open source reference designs for jumpstarting your electric and mechanical engineering to crowdfunding your financing. In this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss the evolution of product design with Dragon Innovation CEO Scott Miller.

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Last week Microsoft announced that its legendary Internet Explorer browser would be riding off into the sunset. The browser, in its heyday, dominated the Web so thoroughly that it reached over 90% market share, raised the ire of the U.S. Department of Justice, and nearly led to the breakup of Microsoft.
What is the legacy of IE and what does its demise mean for Microsoft? Are the browser wars finally over? In this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss the end of the IE era and get a first report from Dirk Knemeyer from his trip to Asia to research technology and culture.

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Here are a few quotes from this week's discussion.

Jon on the use of Internet Explorer in healthcare environments:
One thing worth considering, especially for us as we deal with a lot of healthcare IT, is that the legacy of Internet Explorer is going to be felt for a very, very long time. I mean I’ve dealt with hospital systems that have been very reluctant to upgrade their browsers because of various security concerns. Everything’s working so they don’t want to make those upgrades. I think I’ve seen people still using Internet Explorer 7 in hospitals. To me that says that Internet Explorer, in some flavor, is going to be encountered by software developers, at least in the healthcare IT space for a while yet. It may be gone, but it’s certainly not going to be forgotten, at least not by us. 

Ben on Microsoft's new approach:
They’ve started to embrace things like more open web technologies, or at least interoperate with them. I think now you can see content publishers more freely publishing in a way that can be pushed to a Microsoft device just as easily as it can be be consumed on an Apple device. I think that’s great. I think even if they continue to focus mainly internally on their own hardware platforms, I think allowing the information and the data to flow in and out is a huge concession that they probably wouldn’t have made 10 years ago.

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Every year, the SXSW festival attracts the top tech companies looking to debut new products and services. In this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss some of the latest and greatest wearables and health centered products that debuted at the conference, with Boston mobile entrepreneur, Giuseppe Taibi, who made the annual pilgrimage to Austin.

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Here are a few quotes from this week's discussion.

Jon on the Pager app for doctor house calls:
I think technology gives us that leverage to make that house call possible again. Wow, that’s something I would definitely feel very good about. You mentioned that the CTO is a former CTO of Uber. You can imagine your house call app, where you’re arranging medical appointments the same way, maybe similar way that you arrange for a ride. That would be crazy. That would make going to the doctor a little bit easier or a lot easier, if it’s a little bit more on your own schedule.

Giuseppe on the Tinitell wearable for kids:
They call it the wrist phone and GPS tracker for kids. It’s something in the age range between let’s say maybe 5 and 10 years old. It’s a water resistant. This company is from Sweden, I should say.

They developed this water resistant phone, which actually has a speaker and the parents have an app and the app allows the parents to do a couple of things, which is extremely important. One is from the GPS to know where your kids are. B, they can decide who your kids can talk to. I think they have maximum like 10 contacts, maybe 12, but is a rugged kind of device, so the kids can just really play freely and not to be worried about damaging a potentially expensive smartphone for example.

Plus the smart phone is really getting in the way. This is kind of colorful and fun. It just seems like a really great idea, which is not going to be threatened by the Apple Watch.

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Episode Summary

Is South by Southwest the big tent tech revival for the American creative class? As knowledge workers make their annual pilgrimage to Austin this week to participate in a giant festival filled with the latest in technology, music and film, it's worth asking if conferences like this one are the 21st century's communities of engagement.

As traditional organizations, civil and religious alike, like Lions Club International and Rotary International, churches, and even unions lose membership, there is a need for new structures to organize and engage people in meaningful ways, especially those in the creative class.

Witness the rise of the conference, the unconference, the meetup and the ascendancy of the professional group as one of the primary binding elements of our society — at least for those involved in the information economy. In this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss this phenomenon examined through the lens of the popular SXSW festival.

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Here are a few quotes from this week's discussion.

Jon on the rise of professional organizations as social groups:
Right now in the United States and probably around the world as well, there are a lot of organization types that were part of previous generation’s social fabric. You have your civic organizations like the Lions or the Rotary Club. Then you’ve got your religious organizations like your churches. Then you have other organizations around professional work like unions that really brought people together and organize them around common interests.

With the diffuse and entrepreneurial aspects of some of the kinds of tech that we’re involved with, plus just the general working style where collaboration can be done across many miles or where it can be done virtually or pretty much anywhere you like. All of these things have made those kinds of connecting organizations a little bit, let’s say, irrelevant to these creative class types that are likely to show up at South By Southwest.

To get to my point, these professional organizations that we see whether it’s something a little bit more vague like the festivals of South By or something more specific like the Interaction Design Association which is one of the prominent organizations in our industry of software. People are finding their “second home,” their larger community in these professional groups that also have personal interest built in to them.

We could go on and on about how these mechanisms are cropping up. You’ve got meetups. You can be involved in meetups for just about any sort of professional or tech hobbyist interest. I find it interesting that the underlying fabric of professional technologists that the social fabric is being connected by these professional groups now and the creative class of 2000s and 2010 are being slowly organized into these relevant groups that … Who knows what they’re capable of and where are they going to push things, but they’re starting to organize people in a way that they can relate to each other.

Dirk on the growth and change of SXSW:
What’s incredible how much it’s changed. South By interactive was … The first time I spoke there, I think it was 2004 or maybe 2005. It was the conference for designers. There certainly weren’t business people there, and product managers and engineers were at a minimum. At the time, it was so relatively small. It was definitely growing. It was in the thousands, not hundreds, but it was sort of like the place for the cool design types to hang out and watching that evolve. From the first time I spoke there, I spoke every year through like maybe 2008 or 2007, I don’t remember, but each year, it was growing bigger and bigger, and then toward the end of that is when the business has started to show up.

Because the attendees of South By were sort of like design, cool influencers, the businesses said, “Oh hey, we should use this as a launch event. We should use this as a marketing platform because there’s a lot of hip and influential people here.” Once that started happening and most notably with Twitter’s big coming out party, a lot of people grokked that that was a pretty good idea. From there, it just went nuts. Now, it’s like … This is an overstatement of course, but the whole tech world kind of descends on it. There’s people who 10 years ago or five, six, seven years ago, they wouldn’t have even known what South By was and now they’re like, “Oh yeah, I’m going for the annual pilgrimage.” It’s just totally, totally changed in a really remarkable way. I don’t know. It’s probably cool for some people, but I definitely miss the days when it was this smaller thing for certain community basically and now it’s just broaden into like all things tech.

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Episode Summary

At Apple's big unveiling on Monday, we got a better look at the Apple Watch, what the company hopes will be its next category-busting tech product. At the event, Apple also announced HBO NOW, fulfilling the dreams of cord-cutters everywhere; ResearchKit, the open source health study software; and the next generation of its CarPlay system, rolling out with 40 new autos next year. In this episode of The Digital Life, we consider whether Apple has jumped the shark with its new Watch, the implications of CarPlay for the rolling tech boxes that used to be just transportation, and the promise of ResearchKit for the medical research community.

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Here are a few quotes from this week's discussion.

Jon on the unclear use case for the Apple Watch:
I think the problem that I have with the Apple Watch or at least my initial difficulty with it stems from the fact that I don’t see a clear use case where it’s either replacing something I have with something better and amazing or just the design that’s making me salivate and making it a must have.

With all of Apple’s prior products and I mean all of them, there is always those two things in combination that gave me the impetus to buy. When the iPod first came on the scene, the incredible ability to put your entire music collection into your pocket, for me as a fan of music, that was a big deal. It really took that Walkman if you’re a Gen-Xer growing up in the 80s, you had your yellow Walkman by your side. It replaced that with something so incredible that you could only dream about it, having access to your entire music collection. Fine, that’s the iPod.

The iPad on the other hand starts replacing things like your television, your laptop if you’re in an entertainment mode. It replaces your sketchpad. It replaces a lot of things. It also just has this must-have feeling to it and it created an entire product category. You could say the iPhone sort of combines all of those things into one.

I’m still trying to figure out what the Apple Watch like where that would fit in my life. I’m certainly a lover of watches as jewelry and as objects d’art. I can really appreciate a fine watch when I see it and wear it occasionally at an important event or something. It looks flashy, but beyond that, I’m probably not as much a quantified selfer as some of the other folks in the studio. I’m really struggling because I want to want it, but I can’t want it. If you know what I mean.

Dirk on the decline of Apple as an innovative product powerhouse:
I’m sure from a financial perspective, they’re still going to keep selling products hand over fist, but what we’re seeing is the real erosion of their position as the leader. Five to ten years ago whenever I would be in a meeting with a potential client, not everyone, but most of them ostensibly, they’d say, “We want to be like Apple. We want our stuff to be like Apple stuff.”

Those days are going fast and there’s no sign of them coming back. At the same time, we’re seeing really interesting new things from Amazon, from Google, from some other companies. The things that are more likely to draw attention aren’t coming from Apple. They’re coming from other places which is concerning.

I expect the next big thing to come from, frankly, Amazon or Google. I think those are the two big ones, but ironically with the watch … Jon, you and I saw over the weekend there’s a new startup doing a digital watch called Runcible and that thing is really cool. If I want a digital watch, I’m getting that thing. That’s what I’m excited about. They’ve completely outflanked Apple by better understanding the market, better understanding this moment in time. It’s just all very troubling. I don’t know.

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Episode Summary

The age of bio-inspired technology is upon us. Whether it's DNA as data storage, transparent displays based on mollusk shells, or surveillance robots modeled after swarming bees, the possibilities abound for natural systems to serve as patterns for the products of the future. In this episode of The Digital Life, we consider the evolution of the designer as technologist and engineer in conjunction with the ever expanding importance of bio-inspired technologies.

Here are a few quotes from this week's discussion.

Jon on the evolution of the design field:
When I see the evolution of the design field broadly, I feel like there’s a lot of opportunities that have not yet even been identified in terms of roles to play within organizations. From my perspective I do think that you’re correct about assuming that the engineering and technology part of it are going to play an extremely important part. I also think there’s going to be a lot of hybrid roles that we’re going to see come into being over the next decade or so. For example, I’m sure that in synthetic biology there’s going to be a whole realm of software that handles the manipulation of genes in the digital environment and models that prior to actual deployment on creating these artificial organisms. I just think this opens up a lot of other categories where design could play a role, but I think technology, as you said, will also be a dominant force there.

Dirk on the interfaceless experience of bio-inspired tech:
Nature is the best technology of all. The more that we can learn from it, the more advanced the things that we’ll be able to build to extend ourselves will be. The other thing, I think, for listeners of this show that might be particularly relevant is having data storage and DNA is part of what’s going to be an increasingly growing trend which is basically interfaceless experiences.

If we assume that those path of data storage storing within our own genes basically is optimal, there’s no place for user experience in there. There will need to be a user interface, of course, but at that level it will be a system level of here’s the physical interface between the being and the computing stuff that shoves the data in.

This is a whole category for which there is no need for UX, there is no need for UI, at least in the ways that we think about them and at least in the ways that employ a whole bunch of people currently.

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Episode Summary

Will 2015 be a breakout year for digital health testing? It's still a little early to tell, but the news this week was good for advocates of mHealth and personalized medicine.

23andMe received FDA approval to provide screening for Bloom Syndrome, a rare gene disorder indicative of a predisposition to develop cancer. At Columbia University, research engineers developed an inexpensive HIV test that can be conducted using a smartphone. And, "tricorder" mHealth darling Scanadu entered the testing phase for its Scanaflo iPhone-ready urinalysis strip.

In this episode of The Digital Life, we discuss these latest achievements in digital health diagnostics and explore the future of mHealth.

Here are a few quotes from this week's discussion.

Jon on the smart phone as health intermediary:
This idea of the smart phone as the intermediary between you and the health system, or as kind of this tool that could help the health system scale in more robust fashion, I didn’t really buy into that argument before. Because a lot of the mHealth solutions that I’ve seen, while interesting, just didn’t have that completeness I guess. With all these diagnostic tools becoming available at such an inexpensive price point, I can kind of see now the potential there for the smart phone or the mobile device to really be a center for managing health in a way that — when you just say digital health, I don’t know if it really captures that — but it’s almost like all of these test and dongles and urinalysis strips that sort of plug into the phone like it made for me a lot more real that possibility. I think that’s what I’m reacting to in part and then of course just the maybe we can call it the shiny new object syndrome, but it’s got me really excited about the space in general.

Dirk on the unintended consequences of making your genome open source:
The problem is unintended consequences, right? We live in the United States. We will live very comfortably and safely so it seems yeah, open source your genome, why not? What could possibly happen? I mean history has shown us that when one group can get its foot on the throat of another group it will. The question is how far have we evolved? If we remove ourself from this wealthy, stable culture, will things still be safe? Will we still have the same sort of protections and civilization and rationality that most of us enjoy? If history is a guide, you know there’s a pretty decent indication that we won’t. Once you’ve open sourced your genome and it’s out there, I think it’s really no problem in the world we live in today, but in 150 years, what impact might that have on your descendants given changes in the world? It’s just such an unknown.

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