menu

PSFK Talks To Mike Kuniavsky

PSFK Talks To Mike Kuniavsky
Advertising

Mike Kuniavsky is the co-founder of ThingM, a design and computing device studio that specializes in making products for everyday problem solving and self-expression.

Daniel Edmundson
  • 13 april 2010

Mike Kuniavsky is the co-founder of ThingM, a design and computing device studio that specializes in making products for everyday problem solving and self-expression. He also researches, designs and writes about people’s experiences at the intersection of technology and everyday life–both in books and on his blog, Orange Cone.

PSFK recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mike to discuss activity at ThingM and his new book, Smart Things.

What are you working on right now?

“Well, I finished my next book, ‘Smart Things,’ a couple of weeks ago. It’s a guide to ubiquitous computing user experience design for interaction and industrial designers.

I also just wrapped up a project for a major handset manufacturer in which we developed a set of tools for helping project managers, designers and engineers think about prototyping mobile user experiences in new ways. I can’t talk about it more than that, but this is the second company I’ve worked with on building tools to help development teams shift their perspectives on what is possible with ubiquitous computing and I’m excited to see the results.

My company, ThingM, is about to release two new ubicomp user experience protoyping products in the same vein as our BlinkM and BlinkM MaxM smart LEDs, and we’re updating our sequencer software to allow someone with virtually no electronics knowledge to program and control sequences of multiple standalone smart LEDs at once.

So, for example, a costume designer could add some of our smart LEDs to a costume and program them to fade between colors that match the rest of the set design. With a little bit of simple programming, those same LEDs could change their colors (say, when a scene changes) using no external control and only a simple switch. It’s a driverless USB to I2C converter that makes it very easy for virtually any device with a USB port to program or control our smart LEDs (or any other I2C device). The other product is going to be a surprise. We’ll announce it at Maker Faire in San Mateo in May.

We’re also working on a consumer-facing product that’s currently being protyped in northern Italy. We wanted to tap the deep industrial design model making experience of northern Italy and were quite lucky to get a chance to do so. We’re hoping to also announce it at the end of May.”

What has been the most interesting reaction to your project?

“In terms of the prototyping products my company makes, the most interesting reaction is how they keep selling and how they keep on being used by a wide range of people. Everyone from set designers to car modders to roboticists have been playing with them, though that’s only the small fraction of folks whose work we know about. As a micro OEM, we actually know only a little about how people use our products (which is an interesting to challenge to me as a user-centered designer).”

What projects, people or ideas are currently inspiring your thinking these days?

“I’ve had my head down in book writing for a while, so I may not be up on the latest cool ideas, but I think that there’s a really interesting trend in opening up data sources. Pachube works as a free data stream brokerage that sits on top of TCP/IP and HTTP to provide a kind of semantic resource location technology for small net-enabled devices that has been missing. This kind of data openness is being matched by things such as the US Governement’s open data initiative at data.gov.

The trend I see here is a combination of openly sharing data sources and streams and creating business models around making technology layers that make those data streams meaningful and valuable. Both Pachube and data.gov are a kind of search engine for data streams, rather than documents, which I think is a very powerful concept.”

What developing trend, idea or technology makes you most excited or hopeful for the future?

“I see increasingly more user-centered design methods across industries and companies, which I think is great. Creating technology outward from technological capabilities creates enormous waste. Engineers produce one technological artifact after another, and the organization they’re working for implicitly hopes that someone, somewhere will either want to buy it/use it or will figure out how to modify it so that it’s valuable. I think that’s an incredibly wasteful process and is probably responsible for billions of dollars wasted in production and for trash heaps full of useless tech. I am heartened to see that more companies are hiring user researchers and user-centered interaction designers, and changing their design processes to reward design that starts with people’s needs, rather than product managers’ powerpoints or technology spec sheets.”

Thanks Mike!

ThingM

Orange Cone

Advertising
Trending

How Indiegogo Is Becoming An Adult Product Destination

Retail
Home september 23, 2016

Watch This Fire Pit Dance Along To Your Favorite Song

Music City Fire is a system that is designed to flicker in time to ambient music

Automotive september 23, 2016

Slick GPS Navigator Gives Directions To Moped Riders

This small, round device attaches to a sideview mirror to display maps for safer traveling

Trending

Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Home september 23, 2016

A Clock That Beautifully Manages Your Information Overload

The wall-mounted timekeeper is made to help people maintain focus and stay up to date with their appointments

Arts & Culture september 23, 2016

Performance Piece Blends Dancers Into Folds Of Light

The work provides commentary on the increasing connection between programmed and analog dimensions

Related Expert

Julius Marchwicki

Auto, Mobile, Product Strategy, Digital, Inventor

Design & Architecture september 23, 2016

Design Firm Adapts Childhood Homes For Unemployed Young Adults

The studio has unveiled three prototypes of transformed living spaces for people forced to move back in with their families

Health september 23, 2016

These Chocolate Squares Claim To Reverse The Aging Process

A group of researchers from Cambridge University have developed a candy bar that promises to give you a youthful glow

Cities september 23, 2016

Food-Producing Architecture Competition Seeks To Better Feed Cities

A design challenge in Copenhagen highlights the need and beauty of urban farming

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed september 23, 2016

Productivity Expert: The Magic Of The Five-Hour Workday

Stephan Aarstol, Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, explains why the modern notion of office hours needs to evolve

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Health september 23, 2016

Wearable Monitors Sun Exposure To Prevent Sunburn

The clip monitors UV rays to make sure you're not receiving too much sunlight

Culture september 23, 2016

This Exhibition’s Crowning Jewel Is An 18k Gold-Plated Toilet

The piece, titled 'America,' is meant to raise questions about the country's wealth inequality

Culture september 23, 2016

Match Up With Dates On Tinder Based On Your Music Preferences

A new partnership with Spotify lets people pair up based on shared tastes in artists

Entertainment september 23, 2016

Capture, Cut Up, And Configure Your World In 360 Degrees

To meet a booming 360 and VR video-capturing industry, a multimedia software company bolstered its media editing suite for 360-video creation

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

Advertising september 23, 2016

Buy Movie Tickets Directly From Your Facebook Profile

The new feature is part of a campaign from Fandango to further imbed social media into the ticket vendor's digital presence

Asia september 23, 2016

Co-Working Space Brings The Calming Atmosphere Of Nature Indoors

An architectural firm in China has designed a new type of shared office that prioritizes the natural environment

Retail september 23, 2016

Live Beacon Simplifies Cloud Sharing For Businesses

The battery-powered device and smartphone app allow anyone to send location-specific content without the hassle of code or hardware

No search results found.