“The Mother of All Demos is a name given retrospectively to Douglas Englbart’s December 9, 1968 […] The live demonstration featured the introduction of a complete computer hardware and software system called the oN-Line System or more commonly, NLS. The 90-minute presentation essentially demonstrated almost all the fundamental elements of modern personal computing: windows, hypertext, graphics, efficient navigation and command input, video conferencing, the computer mouse, word processing, dynamic file linking, revisions control, and a collaborative real-time editor (collaborative work). Engelbart’s presentation was the first to publicly demonstrate all these elements in a single system. The demonstration was highly influential and spawned similar projects at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s. The underlying technologies influenced both the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows graphical user interface operating systems in the 1980s and 1990s.” – The Mother of All Demos, Wikipedia.
Compelling demonstrations can make all the difference when introducing emerging technologies. There is no slideware or paper substitute for the kind of revelations, quality insights, and lasting emotions that we all get when experiencing things live and first hand. On the research side, interactive demonstrations have become invaluable tools that expose and test concepts. Moreover, they prompt invaluable feedback by questioning, validating, unveiling unsuspected items as well as winning hearts and minds to further advance a cause.
Those are some of the reasons why I prioritize demo development and my research process involves activities such as field trips and ethnographic insights captured in environments like the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago and open-door showcases at renowned institutions like Fermilab. Successful science exhibits make complex topics approachable and engaging. They are carefully designed with craftsmanship pride to be perceived as astute, immersive and to appeal to our brain’s intuition and intellect.
The above graphic features quotes from Albert Einstein and Nicholas Negroponte on the left, coupled with Salvador Dalí and Arthur C. Clarke on the right. I created that poster’s first version a few years ago and became my reference framework for prototyping and demonstration since. The photographs are courtesy of Wikipedia. Here are further insights on what these quotes mean to me:
1.- DEMO OR DIE – The introduction of inventions and diffusion of innovations relies on effectively conveying clear and concise value. Interacting with engaging demonstrations can be best supported by well thought out whiteboarding sessions. This communication strategy works best when allowing dynamic conversations instead of long agendas packed with presentation monologues. Most people can talk about the many times when they were either overwhelmed, underwhelmed or just bored to death by slideware… and became suspicious of hype. Note that we all deal with an unfavorable Signal-to-Noise (S/N) ratio in today’s information rich environment and, therefore, compete for customers and/or users’ undivided attention. Once again, memorable hands-on demonstrations can make all the difference.
2.- GROW TO LOOK LIKE THE PORTRAIT – High tech is a fast paced industry. One can be left wondering if the technology, toolset, application and/or overall system being discussed will grow and scale as needed beyond day one. There can also be concerns around maturity levels, roadmapping options and future proofing when working with emerging technologies. Demos can be used to convey a tangible vision based on attainable end-goals. They can also be used for what-if-analysis, sunny and rainy day scenarios (which can include full lifecycle and stress tests) and plot plausible journeys to go from A to B and any steps in between. Helping everyone come to terms with what lays ahead is key to defining product strategies and planning decisions “to grow to look like the portrait.”
3.- EXPLAIN IT SIMPLY – Apparently unavoidable jargon and well intended technical kumbaya can become easily entangled. Complex explanations suffer from information overload. Convoluted narratives pleasing the presenter’s ego can make unclear what specific problem or pain point he/she solving, and what the sought after benefits and priorities are. When “less is more” it definitely pays to define a vantage point, zoom out, distill fundamentals and synthesize the essence. Knowing your audience and getting the job done in the clearest and most effective terms possible means striking a balance and staying away from oversimplifying or complicating matters. This is an iterative exercise that often demands more time, effort and reviews than the usual information dump. We also need to be able to step-zoom to deliver the next level of detail and to conduct deep dives… without incurring information overload. Humanizing technology, storytelling techniques and ease of information visualization are key to developing a coherent narrative.
“The meaning of a communication is defined by the Change and Affect it creates for the audience. Stories are concerned with transformation. In stories something Changes to create an emotion […] The Change has to resonate with the Audience to generate an Affect; a feeling, a reaction or an insight […] We shall consider these two defining characteristics of narrative to clarify the purpose of any communication […] Change and Affect create meaning. – “Crackle and Fizz. Essential Communication and Pitching Skills for Scientists.” – Caroline van den Brul. Imperial College Press.
4..- IT’S MAGIC – This is all about the so called X-FACTOR: an unsuspected quality making something be different and special in unequivocal terms. To be more precise, the X-FACTOR’s experience can be broken down as follows:
- SURPRISE FACTOR – this relies on managing perceptions and the discovery process, the tipping point being delivered by a timely and unsuspected clever twist and a defining punch line – the “aha” moment.
- WOW FACTOR – high impact, impressive, awe-inspiring outcome, benefits and results that can be easily understood and embraced – the “I didn’t know we could do that” and “I want to know more” moment.
- COOL FACTOR – elegant sophistication and grace, clear object of desire – the “I want that” moment, this being most demos’ ultimate Call-To-Action (CTA.)
The art and science behind the above is known as “affective design.” Techniques such as perceptual learning and emotional intelligence in design (emotional design in short) are applied in Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) to foster pleasant ease of use, drive further engagement and productive usage in the process. Widespread digitalization and the advent of wearables make HCI commonplace, which is influencing product design.
The above is a demo’s “full disclosure” chart, which breaks down what’s real and what’s not. This is needed because vaporware can be an issue of concern.
1.- PRIOR ART – In the above example, a given percentage of the demonstration system involved known technologies, some from third party partners.
2.- STATE OF THE ART – The greatest and latest features, cutting edge delivered by technologies that are available today.
3.- FUTURE ART – A sneak preview of new features and capabilities that are planned, undergoing development and/or committed, but not yet available.
4.- ART OF THE POSSIBLE – Proof of Concept illustrating experimentation results and potential, bleeding edge capabilities that are not yet committed.
By the way, vaporware is the result of positioning 3 and 4 as part of 2. Avoiding unpleasant misunderstands prompts the need for disclosing these four different maturity levels. Note that one graphic applies to a comprehensive demonstration system encompassing those four aspects and their relative weight.
One other thought, there is a difference between incremental and disruptive innovation. The first delivers improved qualities such as better performance in A/B comparison testing as an example, “A” being prior art and “B” state of the art. Most would agree on defining disruptive innovations as game changers which deliver unique capabilities that clearly supersede legacy and conventional systems. That alone renders “A” obsolete. A/B comparison testing leads to discussions on the difference between Present Mode of Operations (PMO) and Future Mode of Operations (FMO.)
“Humanists must be educated with a deep appreciation of modern science. Scientists and engineers must be steeped in humanistic learning. And all learning must be linked with a broad concern for the complex effects of technology on our evolving culture.” – Jerome B. Wiesner.
“Bell Laboratories (also known as Bell Labs and formerly known as AT&T Bell Laboratories and Bell Telephone Laboratories) is the research and development subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent. The historic laboratory originated in the late 19th century as the Volta Laboratory and Bureau created by Alexander Graham Bell […] Researchers working at Bell Labs are credited with the development of radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, the charge-coupled device (CCD), information theory, the UNIX operating system, the C programming language, S programming language and the C++ programming language. Eight Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work completed at Bell Laboratories.” – Wikipedia.
“More than 32,000 active patents, more than 3,000 obtained in 2013, 14,900 pending applications […] recognized by Thomson Reuters as a Top 100 Global Innovator.”– Alcatel-Lucent.
I recently received a letter from Craig A. Thompson, Senior Vice President with Alcatel-Lucent’s Intellectual Property Group letting me know about my third patent, which called for a celebration. See below “Method and Apparatus To Enhance Security…” as well as the other inventions that I am involved in.
I would just like to share that I am very proud to team up with some of the best professionals in the high tech industry and, moreover, to get to work in an environment that inspires innovation.
As I am writing this, I cannot help thinking that I am fortunate enough to benefit from a culture where we are:
- embracing diverse workstyles to get the job done
- promoting independent thinking while fostering teamwork
- crediting everyone’s efforts and celebrating individual and collective achievements.
My experience is that this also leads to plenty of opportunities to discover, explore and create new things, most of which happen to be about solving and improving everyday things, the kind of stuff that is not necessarily subject to formal patents ; )
Method and Apparatus To Enhance Security And/Or Surveillance Information in A Communications Network. “Existing video surveillance security approaches enhanced with suitable functionality of the telecommunications wireless network are provided. Security personnel are equipped with hand-held devices capable of recording video, photos, audio, and text. This data is geo-tagged and time-stamped by the application and uploaded to the telecommunications network and stored in the network. As such, the geo-tagged, time-stamped information is immediately available to other investigators who are in the same geographic vicinity through access controls administered by a secure social network. The information may also be accessible from remote locations via the internet. All wireless and Internet communications may be protected using end-to-end secure transport layer communications protocols.” – United States US8775816.
Multicasting High-Definition Video Content To Consumer Storage. “Example embodiments provide methods of delivering content from a content provider to a plurality of users connected to a network. In one embodiment, an indication of available content items is received at a content management server from a content provider. An indication of the available content items is provided from the content management server to the plurality of users. The content items include at least one of programming content items and advertisement content items. A content item is selected from among the available content items for delivery. A group of users from among the plurality of users is determined to receive the selected content item. The selected content item is caused to be transmitted to the group of users via multicast streams.” – Japan JP5525619 and Korea KR101353103.
A Method And Apparatus For Secure Payment Using A Network Connectable Device. “An apparatus and method for completing a payment transaction using a network-connectable device is disclosed. When a payer initiates a payment transaction to a vendor using the network connectable device, a unique identifier and current geolocation of the network-connectable device are sent to a payment server together with a server payment transaction message containing information about the payment transaction. The payment server compares the geolocation with the vendor location and one or more predetermined locations associated with the payer, for example, a home or workplace. Upon a successful comparison, the payment retrieves a third party payment record from a mapping database and uses it to complete the payment transaction with a third party payment processing system.”
Cross-Domain Privacy Management Service For Social Networking Sites. “A cross-domain privacy management service for social networking sites is implemented in a communication system including a user platform operably connected to an application platform. The application platform accesses one or more social networking sites on behalf of a user to obtain indicia of privacy settings of the user and displays the privacy settings via a graphical user interface accessible to the user independent of the social networking sites. The user may interact with graphical icons via the graphical user interface to change privacy settings of one or more impacted sites, and the user changes are communicated to the social networking sites via the application platform on behalf of the user.”
“An innovator in a general sense, is a person or an organization who is one of the first to introduce into reality something better than before. That often opens up a new area for others and achieves an innovation.” – Wikipedia.
“Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.” – Wikipedia.
Most typically, those whose inventions become adopted and leveraged by others are the ones who get to be called innovators. So, innovation delivers a sense of usefulness and practicality beyond creativeness and inventiveness. Innovation also implies novelty, this means being a first in a given category or jumpstarting a new category altogether.
Some experts concurred on bullet proofing what innovation was all about by asking for evidence of a successful commercialization. However, there are a couple of issues with that. First, many of today’s innovations happen in the open source’s new brave world and, second, there are quite a few interesting things going on in not-for-profit domains. Additionally, some novelties happen to be ahead of their time and most would still think of their creators as true innovations. Furthermore, we would need to talk about those that got early adopters but did not get to cross the chasm to paraphrase Geoffrey A. More.
My preference is to look at this matter by assessing [a] whether a given item is a first, [b] if it makes a substantial difference when compared to what exists and  if it is leveraged by others and to what extent, even if they don’t happen to be the intended target users, which then becomes an accidental innovation.
Moreover, there are two ways for a new item to make a substantial enough difference: [b.1] a dramatic improvement in usability, technical and/or business performance, which qualifies as an incremental innovation, or [b.2] a game changer that delivers something that’s unique, something that we would not entertain doing without, which qualifies as a disruptive innovation.
Anyway, in case you wondered why this blog’s title. I think that there are many people who are not necessarily innovators, yet they are fans of: freedom, creative thinking, thought provoking and forward looking concepts, risk taking and the entrepreneurial spirit that challenges, bends, breaks, displaces and even creates new rules.
However, I’m not certain about a word that exists in the English language to galvanize this community. Otherwise, please let me know. In the meantime, I am proposing innovarista for anyone devoted to practicing, researching, evangelizing or, to put it simply, anyone interested in the invention and innovation phenomenon with passion.