1. Artaic Tiles
Mass High Tech reports on a Boston based comapny called Artaic that is using pick and place robotics to automate the labor intensive process of laying out mosaics. Using their service you can provide an image which is pixelated and the pixelated image is recreated in tile. It is 8X faster than a human, fairly expensive (up to $225/sq.ft.), but looks great in the sample photos and could do wonders to revive an under practiced art.
2. Timbuk2 does carry on luggage
In the “so close, but yet so far away category”, Timbuk2 (manufacturers of fine customized bags) has started manufacturing roll aboard luggage. I love the company, but how can they not offer customized designs? Timbuk2 and checked luggage has chocolate meets peanut butter potential. Imagine how cool it would be to see your bag coming down the claim belt immediately and not have to double check the luggage tags? I’m sure it is more expensive to produce, but customization in this context would add significant value beyond aesthetics. Even some Zazzle-esqe embroidery options would go a long way.
3. Intuitive CAD on the way
The always enjoyable SolidSmack reported on the latest version of AutoDesk‘s adaptive sketch tools. They really are an amazing approximation of what industrial designers do and the folks at AutoDesk have taken a great deal of care building the software so it expands on traditional skills rather than forcing people to learn a whole new paradigm.
The really amazing aspect is that they are developing a 2D to 3D software package where the lines you sketch freehand can form the basis of a 3D surface model. A huge time saver and boon to the creative process.
If customization and personal fabrication are going to reach the mainstream it is going to happen because CAD tools make it easy for lay people to be designers. We aren’t there yet, but this is a great indication of how close we are:
4.RideMakerz faces off with Pixar
RideMakerz is like a boy focused Build-A-Bear and is launching a new virtual world/custom toy hybrid. Using their service you can build a car online and have it manufactured to your specifications OR you can go to one of their retail locations, build a physical car then play with a cyber version when you get home. Techcrunch has an article on the service and suggests that they will be in direct competition with Pixar’s “World of Cars“. I’ve had a chance to play with the Pixar version and I think the two companies can easily coexist. The Pixar/Cars aesthetic will skew a bit younger. RideMakerz uses real car brands and seems certain to appeal to an older segment of that audience. No matter what, it is cool to see the lines between physical and virtual continuing to blur.
5. Disney ToyMorrow: Toys of the Future
Continuing on the Disney theme, Disney Consumer Products has a team that focuses on the convergence of toys and digital media called “ToyMorrow”. This article in USA Today give a brief glimpse into what they are working on and how their creative process functions.
6. Custom Invitations – heated market
Pingg is a new entrant into the customized invitation market. I mentioned a company called MyPunchBowl in a previous post and their desire to offer a print on demand invitation service in the future. Pingg has already launched one complementing their “SurroundSend” web technology.
Their base designs are good, but seem to fall within a single design aesthetic consisting of a nice photograph/image paired with elegant typography. It is a fantastic start, but I hope they use their investment from Martha Stewart and others to increase the design options.
It seems like weddings would be a great avenue for companies like these. You could tie in registries, a pre-existing demand for web based and physical invites, and a market that isn’t super sensitive to price.
7. Influential Marketing Blog Reviews Flip Mino
Rohit Bhargava author of the Influential Marketing Blog weighs in on the ‘s customization strategy. He does a great job breaking it down the smart decision they have made. I think the for factors he mention are key components of any good customization service:
- Smart Partnership. Recognizing that users of Cafepress are already familiar with customizing their products, they chose to fulfill this feature with the right partner instead of trying to recreate everyone alone.
- Designer Models. Some people may want their new Flip Camera to have a personality, but not be into uploading their own image or doing a lot of work to get it. For them, Flip has partnered with several designers to offer ready made unique designs that you can choose from.
- Personalization. Of course, there are a large number of people who DO want to have their own look to their camera, and for them the ability to upload and use their own image is a big deal.
- Flat pricing. The final element to the strategy is not charging people a huge premium to do this. All the designs cost the same as a regular camera – so people are far more likely to do it.
I also recommend his presentation on the 25 basic types of blogging. It is a great taxonomy of blog posts.