Ingreedy: Cake Technology

Ingreedy are a start-up with a novel product idea: selling glass jars filled with just the right ingredients to make tasty baked goods at home.

The central idea is smart: outsourcing production to the customer adds value, making for an interactive post-purchase experience where there would otherwise be none, while the nice packaging helps too.

Ingreedy Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Ingreedy Logo
Ingreedy’s Logo

Ingreedy co-founder Samuel Cox classes himself as a maker of things and has done all sorts of cool things. His interests “wrap around inventing new and diverse approaches to the way we use, play and explore creative & interactive technology” – although in this instance, the technology is cake.

But rather than being an inert jar of cereals,  I think Ingreedy Jars represent the culture of Makerdom: those increasingly vocal hobbyists who are using the web to share their tips, tricks, hacks and designs.

Etsy is a good example of the kind of commerce that the web has enabled for the crafts market, while Instructables provides ‘recipes’ for people make useful stuff themselves. Rules of production are shifting further with costs of 3D printers coming down, and the likes of Makerbot taking on a high-street presence. I think Ingreedy takes elements from each of these, and makes them accessible through their choice of medium.

Ingreedy Jars are available in four different mixtures: Rocky Road; Brownies; Chocolate Chip Shortbread and Oaty Raisin Cookies, costing £12.00 each. Orders placed in November will ship in time for Xmas.

Black Milk: Star Wars Fashion Line

Fashion label Black Milk have produced a line of Star Wars themed leggings and swimsuits. Why is this interesting? They initially released R2D2 and C3PO swimsuits without permission from George Lucas, so to have returned with a full line of legitimate merchandise means they must have impressed the Dark Lord. I have no idea how…

A New Kind of Business Card

Question: How do you share that great idea of yours while keeping your intellectual property secure? Answer: You use a non-disclosure agreement.

Beer: tool of the trade

But NDAs are way too formal for the modern entrepreneur, who is more likely to meet a potential partner or investor at a conference, in a coffee shop, or over a beer than arrange to meet at the lawyers.

In an informal situation, the most common business exchange is probably handing someone your business card. I’ve been thinking about this, so in the spirit of sharing ideas, here’s what I’ve come up with:

What if your business card could unlock new conversations?

On the understanding that a signed non-disclosure agreement allows for a far smoother flow of communication in the exchange of business ideas, my business card design offers the ability to turn a casual conversation into a pitch scenario, but without the formality.

Take a look at this mockup I created for MOO Cards, who sadly weren’t interested in the exclusive ownership rights!

Click the image to see in fullscreen

My design is a perforated piece of card designed to be ripped in half:

  • One half lists the usual business card details
  • One half has space for a signature against the statement:
    “I hereby agree to treat your idea as confidential in a bond of trust”
    (or whatever)

Each party keeps one half of the card in this interactive business exchange. Not legally airtight, of course, but still an innovative means of quickly forming trust with a potential partner.

So then, anyone out there want to help turn this design into a reality?

Music is the Virus

Airborne, a potentially disruptive start-up in the music sector, hopes to “cure the music industry of its sickness” with their upcoming launch.

Their cloud-based music sharing platform places fans and artists in direct symbiosis. It’s an interesting model, so take a look:

Beyond all the virus metaphors (they even go so far as to call songs ‘strains’)  the core idea is quite simple:

  1. Cut out traditional distributors
  2. Enable artists to monetise via a system of micropayments
  3. Give fans distribution rights instead, and empower them to share as much as possible, thus helping to secure further micropayments

It’s a model that I think could work particularly well for electronic music, whose artists tend to release one track or remix at a time, as opposed to a band who might release one album a year. Airborne will work best when artists can trickle content to their audience to keep them subscribed.

Looking on SoundCloud, my current favourite producer/DJ has 3,934 followers, which would net $3,934 per month on Airborne. Give those early adopting, high-class listeners some viral functionality and the impetus to share with friends and that figure could easily grow to $10,000/month – a healthy supplement to any unsigned musician, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Airborne have an interesting blog, The Music Industry is Sick, which looks at the challenges faced by listeners, musicians and labels today. In an ecology where artists need their stuff streamed four million times just to reach minimum wage, it’s platforms like Airborne that’ll help the system fix itself.

Strategy Bot: An Experiment in Social A.I.

In this post I’ll introduce you to my new pet project: an experiment in Twitter automation. The Strategy Bot (pictured) is ‘programmed’ to select & retweet key digital media resources, case studies or news items that provoke a higher understanding of the formation of good digital strategy.

Strategy Bot
He thinks, therefore he tweets.

Some context… I will typically have the odd side project on the go at any one time. Recent examples have included:

  • Recategorising all my RSS feeds for mobile, web & iPad
  • Linking up Instapaper / ReaditLater / Pinboard & Twitter
  • Testing Facebook ads to see if I can drive Twitter followers
  • Playing with XFBML, the new Follow button and Google +1
  • Sketching people’s Twitter avatars with my new stylus

All of the above would be worthy of a blog post, and that might happen for a couple of them, but there’s been one project I’ve been thinking about for a while that I reckon just needs to be shared, because, dear reader, I need your help!

I’ve been interested in getting the most out of Twitter for a while, and I’ve been certain there is some utility among the network’s parasites: the lowly twitterbot. I’d love to perform an autopsy on one to see how they really work, as there are some excellent cases of these automata being actually quite useful or cool. For example:

  • Spotibot – @replies suggested music based on your requests
  • Wikipediabot – random links to Wikipedia pages every hour
  • Easy Joke – RT’s with “that’s what she said” on certain phrases

There are loads more listed on the Twitter Fan Wiki, and of course there are millions of spambots that behave in similar ways. But I wanted to make something that would be primarily useful to me, and that others might enjoy too.

The idea arose from the need to detect, share and archive truly excellent links, without cluttering my personal Twitter feed. Did you know you can automatically add Twitter links to Pinboard for archiving? It’s a bloody useful way to passively log the stuff that’s held your attention. And did you know you can create a self-hosted archive of all your tweets? I use Tweetnest to this end, where I’ve been logging my personal tweets here. Try searching for something!

Mr. Strategy Bot is just another way to add useful stuff to my own personal content library. But throughout the course of his life, I’d like him to be useful to everyone. Or at least, everyone that works in digital media (you gotta have a niche). So how should I automate him to this end?

In my attempts to pin down what makes these robots work, I found a number of approaches, typically making use of Twitterfeed (a pretty blunt RSS syndication tool) or the Twitter API (way over my head). I needed something that would let me ‘scrape’ the top links from a list of Twitter users, and automatically RT the top five links.

I have totally failed in my attempts, even after a whole evening spent in the depths of Yahoo! Pipes. For now, I’ve had to settle on the manual way. Yep, I’m manually RT’ing the links until I find a better solution, five a day, with a bit of prose each time to help round out his character.

I will continue to research means of automating his behaviour, as I think the idea of one’s own personal virtual pet social robot is a really powerful idea. Wouldn’t you agree?

[box]Please leave a comment if you can help create virtual life! Let’s give this guy his own A.I. existence out in the digital ether.[/box]

In the meantime, you should follow him on Twitter here.
He’s programmed to follow back!

Anyone for Tonsil Tennis?

This is pretty cool I guess. The idea is that your partner “helps you” to play a video game by letting you snog them in different ways (while you’re looking at a computer screen and therefore not really paying attention).

It’s a bit gross, but it’s still a novel idea, so have a look:

What’s the mechanic here?

The Kiss Controller interface has two components: a customized headset that functions as a sensor receiver and a magnet that provides sensor input. The user affixes a magnet to his/ her tongue with Fixodent. Magnetic field sensors are attached to the end of the headset and positioned in front of the mouth. As the user moves her tongue, this creates varying magnetic fields that are used to control games.

We demonstrate the Kiss Controller bowling game. One person has a magnet on his/her tongue and the other person wears the headset. While they kiss, the person who has the magnet on his/her tongue, controls the direction and speed of the bowling ball for 20 seconds. The goals of this game are to guide the ball so that it maintains an average position in the center of the alley and to increase the speed of the ball by moving the tongue faster while kissing.

And what’s the point?

I literally do not know. If I were the developers I’d have focused on highlighting their innovative technique to use the tongue as an input device: it’s the most dexterous muscle in the body and it’s use is often one of the few remaining facilities among paralytics.

Can’t this be a remote control for wheelchairs or similar, rather than a Wii Sports ripoff? Come on guys…

More details here: Kiss Controller.

Question Time #4

Question: Me, my friend and I are going on an epic journey to Monaco in a car we bought for £200 and we have no idea about how a car actually works. What should we bring with us to stop us from sitting on the side of the road for 4 days. But we only have a budget of maybe £10?

I probably should have asked Halfords but you said 'Ask me anything!' So I did.
DMJ
Answer:

In four days the two things that are most likely to happen are a puncture or some kind of leak in the radiator, resulting in overheating. Fortunately for you, there are spray kits that will fix both of these problems.

For the puncture I would recommend Holts Tyreweld. For the radiator I would recommend Bars Leak Radiator Sealer. You can get hold of both for less than £15. If you have reservations about shelling out this much then I would seriously reconsider the logic of visiting somewhere as expensive as Monaco.