The Extraordinaries

It is easy to make excuses about not doing volunteer work, but what excuse do you have not to do a little micro-volunteering?  The Extraordinaries is a group that helps everyday people do good, 35 seconds at a time.  Just go to their website or download their mobile app and get access to all sorts of small activities that will help others.  You can help a child out of extreme poverty by providing some worlds of encouragement, tag some photos for a local museum, or  help build a database of dog shelters.  Lots of the activities can be done right from your computer or phone.  Most take less then a minute.  You can do good on the bus, while waiting for take out, before going to bed, or in an otherwise unproductive meeting.  What is your excuse now?

I couldn't be more excited about this app if I had thought of it myself.

Barcode Plantage


German design student, Daniel A Becker, had created this great interpretation of a barcode reader.  Barcode Plantage is a barcode visualizer, programmed using Processing.  The program turns barcodes into coloured Bezier curves, complete with an auditory interpretation and definition of some of the number's meanings.  Prints of the barcodes are available for $7 each.

Takes All Types


Takes All Types is leveraging the power of Facebook to help with blood donations.  It's a Facebook application with a purpose.  Users register their blood type with Takes All Types and then notifications are sent to them when blood is needed in their areas.  This is one of the smartest Facebook apps I've seen.  It's raising awareness and building a blood donation network by using the enormous force of a social network.  If you are not a Facebook member, you can still register with Takes All Types to receive phone, text, email or fax alerts of blood shortages in your area.

Current State Concept


Check out this Current State concept that I worked on for Kaleidoscope's The Greener Grass project.  Current State is a conceptual mobile application used to monitor and control energy usage in your home.  The concept was inspired by our discussions about energy consumption and how to teach people to take responsibility and control over their energy usage.  The conceptual application allows users to set energy goals for themselves and then monitor how well they are meeting those goals.  Current State also gives users remote control over powered devices within their home.  Users can turn devices on or off, as well as setting up automatic timers to maximize their energy efficiency.

Quick Order


I stumbled across this Starbucks Quick Order application for the iPhone or iPod Touch.  I believe the application is just a concept, but I hope it becomes a reality.  Quick Order allows you to select your desired beverage using your phone, with detailed information such as size, type of milk, and any desired extras.  The application then produces a 2D barcode for you to scan yourself in the store to avoid the line.  You can save your favorite drinks for an even faster order process next time.  Quick Order also includes a Quick Pay feature, with a predefined amount of credit, to complete the process.  This application is well though out with great graphics and a nice overall Starbucks feel to it.  This concept was created by multimedia designer Phil Lu.

Floor Planner


If you are thinking about redecorating (or just rearranging) your house or apartment, you should definitely check out Floor Planner. It's very easy to use and has better graphics than most floor planning software I've seen.  The interface is straight forward.  You just drag and drop walls, windows and other architectural elements to represent your room and then add contents from the 300+ furniture elements menu. Double clicking on different aspects of the room allow you to enter or alter dimensions.  Oh, and it's free for personal use.  (Found through Apartment Therapy).

Starbucks + Apple = Pure Joy


When Apple and Starbucks first announced their iTunes partnership I was intrigued but not particularly excited.  I didn't really understand why I would want to interact with a Starbucks branded version of iTunes, even if they were giving me a free song.  But... I tried this out at a Starbucks on Friday, and I have to say it's pretty amazing.  Amazing enough that I almost forgot my coffee in the iTunes haze.  Why is it so amazing you ask?  Two reasons.  The first is that it was seamless to the point of being magical.  The second is that it was an inspiring example of location based content customization.

So, let's go back to seamless for a minute.  I walk into Starbucks, turn on my iPhone, click on the iTunes music store and voila, a Starbucks button appears at the bottom of my screen. Clicking on it allows me to not only to purchase Starbucks content, but also tells me the name of the song that I hear playing in the store.  I'm not sure why this seems so incredible in this day and age, but it does.

As I mentioned, the second thing that I found really inspiring about this experience was the adaptation of software based on my location.  Again, I'm not so sure why this is so rare these days when so many types of devices can tell where you are, but there are very few companies that are actually using your location to deliver customized content to your phone or computer.  Props to Starbucks for seeing an opportunity and doing something interesting.

Unfortunately this service is currently only available in New York and Seattle, but more Starbucks locations are scheduled to participate soon.

Adobe Labs Knowhow


I was teaching a Photoshop course last week and one of the students asked me if Adobe products have a roll-over help feature.  I said no, but I'm glad to find out that I was (mostly) wrong.  Adobe Labs is working on a feature called Knowhow.  It is currently only available in the English version of Illustrator CS3.  What it does is provide single-click contextual help.  Basically you just click on any tool you would like to know more about and it gives you access to not only Adobe help but also community based resources collected through  I think this is a hugely significant step for help menus.  Embracing the help and tutorials created by independent users will give people a reason to use the help menu in a program, instead of just going straight to Google.  (Found through urlgreyhot)



OoooOOo... I've just been playing with this demo of Photosynth.  It's fun and amazing on so many different levels.  The demo is a 3D reconstruction of St Mark's Square in Venice, made up of photos taken from Flikr.  The photos are arranged based on their spacial relationships, creating a virtual model that can be rotated and zoomed.  Graphics indicate where the picture was taken from and outline of other near by photos.  This demo was released almost a year ago by Microsoft Live Labs and featured at this year's TED conference. 

What is really amazing to me is how such large amounts of data can be so easily manipulated (accomplished partially by just focusing only on what is within the parameters of your screen).  For more about the technology and it's uses check out this video. (Thanks Mike!)