Avis will acquire Zipcar. The announcement was made earlier. This news is interesting for 2 main reasons: industry consolidation and mobile apps.
The travel industry is going through a process of consolidation. Avis’ move is part of a larger trend. In the past few weeks Priceline has acquired Kayak, and Expedia acquired trivago. Most of the travel/tourism companies you are likely to know are subsidiaries of an increasingly smaller group of companies. As long as the prices are competitive, there’s nothing wrong with any of this.
From a design perspective, I wonder if there will be any impact to the mobile experiences of Avis & Zipcar. I spent 6 months working on Avis’s mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone. During that time, I reviewed a number of other apps, just to oriente myself with the market and understand the industry framing and messaging.
Here’s the heuristic review I did 10 months ago of Zipcar’s Android app. At the time I was using a Droid Bionic, which has a qHD display, running Gingerbread 2.3.4. Fun times. I’ll start publishing the other reviews I did.
Recently I attended New York’s Maker Faire. The event is a platform for people who design and make a wide range of projects at home. My favorite project was a robot built from Lego’s and a motor that made pancakes (as someone who has struggled to master the pancake, this was no small thing). The event reminded me of my humble attempts to understanding technology.
As a kid, I was very curious with about technology. Armed with a screwdriver, I opened an Nintendo 64 controller, a Sony Playstation, a Sega Dreamcast, a Sony radio, a VCR, about 3 laptops, and 10 or so desktop’s. With the exception of the computers, there was very little for me to do once I opened these devices. Peeking inside helped me develop a level of comfort with the underlying hardware.
Maker Farie, and, more broadly, the Maker movement, provides a great creative space for folks who are interested in hardware. The community feels vibrant and very inclusive. It was great to see kids so excited about technology that helps them produce, rather than consume. It maybe time for me to start playing with my Arduino Uno again.
Last night I saw Radiolab @ BAM. The show, “In the Dark,” was really good. There was a mix of dance, creative visuals, and pre-recorded interviews that blended into a very fun night. During the show, the audience was asked to participate by holding an LED light with a battery. I’m not sure how many people participated, I can tell you it was an impressive sight. Imagine 300 or 400 mini-lights glowing in the darkness of a theater. It felt great.
Okay, Apple’s “Let’s Talk About the iPhone” isn’t really crashing the web, but it a number of tech sites seem to be overwhelmed by traffic. Of all the sites that were down, I thought the Ars Techninca’s take on Twitters’ Fail Whale concept a little odd.
I have received a number of emails from people who say they have received an email with a link to a folder on my server. It seems my server (which is hosted by dreamhost) has been hacked. I did not create or upload the mysterious nav.backup folder. I am waiting to hear back from dreamhost’s hacking helpdesk, but I’ve taken all other obvious measures. The folder has been deleted and I hope this hasn’t caused anyone too much trouble.
Interactivity 2010 has just ended and it went well. Interactivity is a reverse career fair where students present posters of their work to industry representatives. This year I managed the website and volunteered with the overall organization. I had great conversations with folks from Round Arch (the sponsors), IBM, IQ Interactive and Career Builder. I also had a really great time working on the design of my 1-minute presentation, and my poster (also below); I think they turned out really well.
Kent Lowry and Satyendra Nainwal, from Microsoft’s Office Design Group, stopped by this week and talked about User Experience (UX) work at Microsoft. Kent, in particular, gave a lecture on UX and talked about desirability, usability and usefulness. He also gave us some insight on the design process that resulted in the Ribbon UI. You can find more about Design at Microsoft here.
Yahoo! was on campus this week and they hosted 2 really cool events. The first was an information session on UX/ID/VD potions at Yahoo. Next, they gave us feedback on our portfolios, which was really helpful. Puja Verma, who is an interaction designer with Yahoo!, gave me some really awesome and practical advice. Check out Yahoo!’s Design Patterns and research projects.
Google was on campus this week and they held a number of events. There was an event dedicated to User Experience design, which was encouraging. Jenna Bilotta and Alex Cook, Georgia Tech alumni, led a discussion called the “12 things I wish I knew before my first job.” The were great and they gave us really practical points to consider. My favorite point was that “nothing is perfect,” though we may try to make it so (sigh).
James Canton, the renowned futurist and CEO of the Institute for Global Futures, gave a very interesting and inspiring lecture on campus today. The talk, which basically made projections about where technology will take us by 2035, covered a number topics such as Quantum Information Systems and Space Colonies.
He had some interesting comments on the necessary convergence of many disciplines (hooray for folks in interdisciplinary fields such as HCI) in order to solve some of the biggest issues we face today, such as energy demands and health care. My favorite part of the lecture was his overview of the Innovation Mindset, where he advocated for having the courage to create, experiment, collaborate and break the rules.