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Posts Tagged ‘Book’

The Future of Virtual Puppeteering and Grandparenting

April 24th, 2010

OK, so I’m still (likely?) many years away from being a grandparent, but if you can’t apply Business Innovation and Creativity to the future grand-parenting skills, then you’re not really trying…

One of my students at UC Berkeley brought up an interesting experiment by Nokia with the artists from Sesame Street.  An article on this can be read here. The experiment has taken place at Nokia’s Palo Alto research center and at first seems far-fetched.

Are you a fan of the science-fiction writer, Neil Stephensen?  Have you read Snow Crash? (virtual reality and the internet at its best)  Cryptonomicom (long but mathematically pleasing)?

My favorite Stephensen book is The Diamond Age, written in 1995. In this story, Stephensen imagines devices not too far off from the iPad, but with a little more communications built in. In the story, a young girl Nell is given a special book by her father, which she becomes quite attached to. The book reads to her and has motion photos and video embedded in it (think iPad).

“Once upon a time,” said a woman’s voice [from the book], “there was a little girl named Elizabeth who liked to sit in the bower of her grandfather’s garden and read story-books.” The voice was soft, meant just for her, with an expensive Victorian accent.”

After some time, the book becomes personalized to Nell, using her name and the name of her belongings and life – and it interacts with her in strange and magical ways. It turns out that the book is animatronically controlled by an actor (or puppeteer) located in China and selected to be young Nell’s guide. The puppeteer does more than TEACH young Nell, by showing up in her life and revealing emotional stories and lessons she gets into the head of Nell and alters her persona.

A quick pause her, as Puppeteering is not all that new to me. As a teenager in Leonia, New Jersey, I created my own puppet show for the local schools and summer camp program, then took the show “on the road”, paying part of my education at Brown University as a puppeteer.  So, I’ve Bert-and-Ernied with the best of them. :>)  Let it not be said that I am ONE DIMENSIONAL entrepreneur-turned venture capitalist-turned-educator-turned-musician-turned-mentor –> there is of course the puppetry.  In 1990, as an Apple employee interested in advanced technologies I worked with Apple’s ATG (Advanced Technology Group) to prepare a speech on “Virtual Puppetry”for a conference on virtual reality.

The device created by Nokia and Sesame Street is an interesting technological combination of virtual puppeteering, distance learning and edu-tainment.  The device allows a child to learn a story, interact with a distant person (grandparent, parent, friend, Chinese puppeteer?), and interact with Sesame Street characters, like Elmo.   Although physically clumsy in its current format, Nokia has essentially brought the concept of Neil Stephensen’s Diamond Age living book to life.

This has several amazing consequences.  Picture, 5 years from now an advance book version of the colorful iPad that is more interactive – a reader can flip thin pages (each interactive, connected via internet and created in virtual ink) to simulate the experience of a real book. Built into the book is a camera that can read the facial expressions of the reader… built into the book is a virtual connection to live people and experts around the world. The book becomes a living communication and learning device that brings to the world literally to the reader and INTERACTS in real time with the needs of the reader.

Apply this to Wikipedia to create the worlds most interactive encyclopedia, apply this to early childhood learning, apply this to games, apply this to sports, entertainment, and research.

Technology is only a few years away from inexpensive paper-thin, computer screens combined with the power of global communication (think: Skype) over internet, we are now just a few short years away from Neil Stephensen’s seemingly incredible dream of virtual puppetry in 1995.

I’d like to her your thoughts on this vision. I’d like to hear Neal’s thoughts on this !


Jack's Notebook – excellent book on creative problem solving

September 6th, 2009

jacksnotebook Just finished reading Jack’s Notebook by Gregg Fraley.

Fraley is a Creativity and Innovation expert currently residing in the UK and he’s worked with companies and insitutions globally on creative problem solving over the past 20+ years. His blog is a regular read among the creative community.

“Novel” approach to teaching

Fraley’s really done something innovative with this book, that is remiscent of Who Moved My Cheese or The One Minute Manager, told in story format – but with a twist in this case.  The book takes the form of a novel, which makes it fun to follow along, using a combination of a hidden “love story” and story about how a start-up concept is born.  While it’s not exactly a high-tech startup, the creation of a graphic design shop is likely to hit a chord with many readers:  we’ve all dreamed at some point in our life about how nice it would be to own the home-town restaurant, boutique or graphic studio.  Maybe that’s small potatoes for some conquer-the-world types, but in this case it nicely illustrates the subject matter.

The true subject matter of the book is the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process, which was designed at SUNY Buffalo over 50 years ago, and has survived the test of time with many creative professional world-wide.  The book walks the reader through CPS by using the main characters and their problems/challenges to demostrate the process.  And, it does this several times by wrapping around various problem/solution themes throughout the book.  I like the positive spin that Fraley put on main characters too – they seem to lift from a “fog” in the early chapters (“what is my life really about”) to much greater clarity and purpose.

Is this stuff usable?

My own experience with CPS process goes back over 20 years – I was first introduced to it by my Dad – who was a highly-creative type that thought exposing his son to the annual “Creative Problem Solving Institute” (held by Creative Education Foundation) might be a good idea…so in 1976 I attended my first CPSI event and took the “SpringBoard” entry which coupled me with other newbies and walked us through the CPS process over 3 1/2 days in a group setting.  Since that time, I’ve used that process over and over in my life – like the time I had to launch a series of CD-ROM/software products for Apple, the brainstorming I led with the Yahoo original team, the approach re-branding our venture capital firm in 2002 and even last month the brainstorming I led at a senior team offsite with one of my clients, Les Concierges.  I’ve used the process on problems I encountered at Harvard Business School. And,  I’ve even used this stuff at home to figure out better ways of relating to my children.

Creative Problem Solving – step by step guide

Jack’s Notebook allows someone unfamiliar with the process of CPS to see it in practice, while enjoying some fun reading. Each chapters prologue highlights the key principles that will be included in that chapter, and the back of the book contains a layout of the entire CPS process, step-by-step…a great tool.jacksnotebook2

We’ll be reading, discussing Jack’s Notebook within my course at UC Berkeley (in fact, Gregg Fraley will be joining us via Skype from his home in UK on September 16), and students will be placed in teams and asked to use the CPS process on a specific life/business problem.  With a combination of Engineering and MBA students in the class, the outcome of this process should be VERY INTERESTING.  More on that in a future blog…