Monday, February 20, 2017

E-mail Arithmetic

Without question, e-mail has revolutionized the world. It has changed the way we communicate, work, and interact with each other. It has accelerated innovation and collaboration and has helped to cross-breed ideas from all over the world almost instantaneously. Over time it has come a long way. We are no longer given a random string of letters and numbers or limited to only accessing our e-mails through an ISP portal. We can choose a username that reflects our own personal brand and that best reflects our personal or business needs; most of us can access our e-mail through any web browser; and the technology itself has evolved so that e-mails are also a media-rich experience. No longer are we limited to just text. We can embed images, sounds and videos to further supplement our digital messages.

But, alas, e-mail as we know it is far from perfect.

I have several pet peeves but the one I'm going to focus on is the mailing list. These lists can be either opt-in or simply created by an admin to provide an easy way to communicate with a bunch of people at once without having to search for individual e-mail addresses. While this has made it very convenient for mass communication, it also funnels the message into one stream and it can be difficult to branch off into sub-conversations or even private ones.

What usually happens is that in addition to saving the address of the mailing list, we also need to save everyone's personal e-mail address. All of these extra addresses lead to confusion that can ultimately lead to someone receiving an e-mail they weren't supposed to see or even worse, a time sensitive e-mail not getting to someone.

I believe the solution lies in the ability to introduce a tagging function to enterprise e-mail solutions. Similar tagging or labeling is already available through GMail and other services but its convenience is only worth it for those who go through the hassle of organizing all of their contacts into their respective buckets (I'm one of those OCD types). Moving forward we need a solution that is faster and can provide communication flexibility. If I had a million dollars, this is how I would do it .

v.1 New User tagging - The new system would work on an enterprise platform and allow for the migration of old accounts while adding new ones. When a user is added to the system, they will all get the option of being tagged by the admin. These tags will reflect specific departments or responsibilities within the company. So, for example, if a QA Engineer was hired in the Boston office, they might receive the tags of "first name", "last name", "QA", "Software", and "Boston". So, using this initial tagging system, the arithmetic for v.1 would therefore be very straightforward. For example, if I wanted to contact all of the software engineers in the company, we could write out the e-mail address The e-mail system would be smart enough to know that any user that has been tagged with "software" should get this e-mail.

v.2 Advanced Arithmetic - Once the initial tagging is in place, the next goal is to be able to manipulate these tags so that you can reach super-groups and sub-groups. For example, if we wanted to throw a surprise party for John of the software group, we would be able to type in or "Software" minus "John". In other words, we subtracted John from the software group to come up with a unique dynamic list. Or, lets pretend that Marcella from HR should also be invited. We can then say This includes Marcella with the rest of the group.

v.3 Self-Management - In the third version of the system, a web-based interface will be introduced that will allow users to manage their online identity. Some tags could only be managed by the admin but others could be added by the user. So, maybe you would like to create tags for "softball", "foodies" or some other social group, you can do that here.

The admin aspect of "Self-Management" would include options for certain power users not to be removed from certain groups or the ability to black list someone from specific sub groups. For example, if upper management wanted to create a "" sub-group, the "board" tag could be identified as one that only the admin can add or remove.

v.4 Smart Labeling - In the next version of the system, the software starts to learn the users and develop tags based on content and or contacts. By analyzing e-mail content, the system could then suggest possible interest tags. This type of solution would require indexing but if a user is uncomfortable with that, they can opt-out.

If I had a million dollars, that's how I would redo the email mailing list experience.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Workout training mirror

When it comes to exercise, I'm relatively casual but I do enjoy a good calorie-burning, cardio, weight-training workout. When I first started to hit the gym regularly, I was annoyed by all of the mirrors. I didn't know what the purpose was. Of course, after a few days, it becomes pretty obvious. A workout mirror can help you observe, critique and adjust your workout so that you can maintain proper form and thus get the most out of your workout while preventing any sort of injury to yourself. The mirrors in conjunction with user guides and visual aides help ensure as good of a workout experience as possible.

Another useful workout tool is my mobile phone. One use is obvious - I'm glad to have music and podcasts at my disposal to block out the lunking that could occur at any gym - but the most important use for me is that it holds my workout applications which, thanks to smartphone technology, have become an easy-to-have mobile supplement. These apps guide me through my workout and each exercise step-by-step. They provide instructions on how to execute the exercise and pictures on how to do it properly. Some apps even provide short instructional video clips. Needless to say, this is very useful for an amateur exercise buff like myself.

So, one day while working out, I got to thinking...instead of looking over at my iPod between every set, what if there was a way to display this information right in front of you on the mirror. I mean, you're already looking at it for proper form so what if the information that can be shared on your app can also be shared on your gym mirror? Well...if I had a million dollars...this is the way I would do it.

v.1 - Touch Screen Mirrors
This step would be the simplest lowest cost implementation. It would not require any new materials, just simply, a modification of existing materials. We would start with basic workout mirrors and within it (or on it), at a comfortable height for your average gym-goer, we would install iPads or some other tablet that the user can then manipulate to search and view specific exercises or workouts. A user would step up and search for their favorite exercise or advice on a specific workout routine and then step through the instructions. Depending on what application the gym decided to use, the app would then run through the exercise through pictures or video.

        1.1 - Networking between exercise stations - Using existing networking technology, all exercise stations could be linked wirelessly and all of them can access your information from a central database where your workout logs are being kept. So, for example, I might be in station A working out biceps and triceps, I log my workout and then move on to station C, in a different part of the gym, where I could log my workout. At the end of the day, you can lookup your workout, estimated burnt calories, etc. To make it an even more interactive experience, you can ask the proprietary program to suggest a workout and in between every exercise, the software can map out where the next station in your workout is.

          1.2 - ID Card Activation - Gym membership cards will be fitted with a chip that can help each machine identify who the user is. Of course, gym cards that already have this technology for check-in purposes can repurpose the technology.

v.2 - Hologram layer on Mirror
Version 1 is important for setting up the culture shift to a more tech-friendly workout experience. In order to improve the workout experience and maximize results, the pictures or video instructions outlined above would now become more of a life-size hologram that the user could stand in front of to better emulate in order to get a better workout. Now, when standing in front of the mirror you are not only looking at your own reflection but a hologram that is helping you keep proper form and a healthy pace.

Accomplishing this would require a whole new mirror system for gyms. The mirrors would have to have the same touchpad functionality in v.1 but also the ability to project holograms inside the mirror. The user would then line-up directly in-front of the hologram and do the workout with it.

         2.1 - User detecting Mirror - To improve efficiency of mirror real estate, the mirror would have to not be limited to one user per panel. Ideally, the mirrors can be setup to detect when someone is in front of it and at a distance. So, for example, if you are at the free weight section of the gym, someone in the foreground might be doing tricep kickbacks and they would get a hologram guide. Behind them, someone might be doing curls and they should also be able to get a hologram, albeit one that is sized accordingly and doesn't interfere with the user in the foreground.

         2.2 - User Specific Hologram - This would be an expansion on an already existing idea that can be seen in game and virtual reality systems. The idea of an avatar. A user can either define an avatar or have one defined for them. This would be dependent on the culture of the gym itself. The way I see it, the avatars can be based on; existing self, ideal self or fantasy self

         2.3 - Correction Hologram - Once you have your avatar hologram that is able to sync up and match your physical self, the next version of the technology should be able to correct your form. Imagine standing face to face with your hologram and if you slouch too much, bend your elbows too much or commit any other foul, that part of your hologram would pulse to let you know that you're out of form. Once you corrected, the pulsing part of the hologram would go back to normal

v.3 - WiFi workout
Version 3 starts to move towards a more integrated gym experience. One that knows where you are, what you're doing, what your goals are and what's the best way to achieve it. The key to achieving this is having a gym smart enough to work with you.

Every exercise machine, cardiovascular machine and even dumbbell will have to be networked. The moment that you lay hands on any of this equipment, it knows and it starts to record the work you're doing. That data is then logged and compared to a historical log as well as keeping a running log for the current session.

         3.1 - Web based Portal - An online home where you can review your data and update your goals. This web-based portal will be integrated into all gym systems so you can see basic club info, take care of your account and see your workout history. Here you can define what your goals are and what the time frame is to achieve those goals.

In addition, you can now create your own workout which will then be available for you at the gym. You can create an order of exercises or have the site suggest a workout to help achieve possible goals.

         3.2 - Partners - With this online information, your web portal can recommend dietary and leisurely experiences that supplement your workout. This would allow the club owner to work with local restaurants and companies to cross-sell business that would benefit the user.

If I had a million dollars, that is how I would re-do the gym experience.

Saturday, June 2, 2012



If I had a million dollars (or more), I would invest it immediately. Not in stocks or commodities but ideas. My ideas.

I spend much of the waking day brainstorming solutions to my everyday problems or allowing myself to pursue whimsical fantasies that I feel that others would enjoy as well. Everytime I do so, I wish that I had the financial backing to pursue real life first drafts of these projects and get feedback from users as we together turn ideas and dreams into reality.

While my hope is to ultimately be able to do that, in the mean time I could jot the ideas down digitally and share them with the world via this blog. My goal is to get feedback (good and bad) to help me refine my creative process and challenge me to continue to develop new ideas.

I welcome challengers, collaborators, partners and fellow dreamers. Please leave your feedback and lets turn this blog into our sandbox of ideas and lets hope that one day, one of our ideas can become a reality.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Clickable Cinema

Films are one of the world's greatest forms of entertainment. Every year, millions of people spend billions of dollars watching films at cinemas, on mobile devices, in cars, planes, at home, etc. They have proven to be one of the greatest forms of escapism for the human race. They take us to other times, other planets or sometimes just provide a mirror on ourselves.

They also present some of the stunning landscapes and styles that we've ever seen. Films can dictate a trend, put you in the shotgun seat of a new car or provide a sneak peek for an upcoming hot tourist destination. In this way, movies can also be a major economic motivator.

I would like to bridge the gap even further between what's on screen and our purchasing impulse by introducing a style of showing films where everything on screen is clickable. Literally, everything and everyone. I believe that you should be able to click on a landscape, an article of clothing, an actor and get an immediate bio of that actor or a link to where to buy the sweater they're wearing, the lamp in the room or tickets to where the film is being filmed. If I had a million dollars, this is how I would do it.

v. 1
I would see the first phase being a track that ran in the background of every movie you saw. At any point you can pause the film and see a list of major elements that are onscreen at that moment. This might include who the actors are, where the scene is being filmed, and links to some highlighted elements on the set.

Upon pressing pause a panel would come up on the right hand side of the screen with text and pertinent info.

v. 1.2
Soon after phase 1, I would introduce the ability to click on the items in the pause menu. So, if you click on an actor's name, it would take you to their IMDB page or if you click on the location, it will take you to an Orbitz page with up-to-the-minute ticketing options, if you click on a sweater a character is wearing, the online shop that carries that line comes up.

To streamline the process and make it as least obtrusive as possible, a "cart" option can hold your clicks. When ready to purchase, a back-end link between your Clickable Cinema account and your Credit Card will make this transaction seamless.

An option would also be introduced to keep the right hand menu on at all times while the movie was running. It would dynamically update as the movie played.

v. 2
Instead of having to pause a film, you can simply click on any element on the screen while the movie is running. Clicking on any object will then add it to your cart or pause the movie and take you to where you can own or make that part of the movie your own. You can find out where to buy articles of clothing that characters are wearing, furniture pieces that are in the movie, etc.

v. 3
The final element of this rollout would be to socialize the experience. If something isn't clickable, users can make it clickable by submitting ideas to a database. Users can also add their own factoids about the locations, actors, etc of where the movie is taking place. Almost like a fan-based virtual commentary to the film.

Integrating all of this functionality with current Social Media channels could further socialize and share the movie watching experience. However, I see it being ideally executed within the vacuum of the movie itself. For example, if you're watching Batman, your thoughts, interests, etc. are only shared with other viewers of that movie and not necessarily with the whole world.