Latest Entries »

It’s interesting to watch your home town evolve and change over time. Having grown up in Kitchener-Waterloo, I’ve watched the transition from small industrial businesses to a technology start-up culture.  The regional economic development organizations have been working really hard on building a new economy foundation.

Now that a tech culture has been established, the regional planners are now working on cultivating a more vibrant arts culture. One motivation behind this is to create a community that attracts technology talent by providing a vibrant cultural environment if they ever have a chance to leave their offices.

My personal view is that “The Arts” are a critical component for success in technology companies and “Technology” is a critical component for growth in the creative community.  Back in 1987, people thought I was weird because I was studying computer science AND fine arts. I repeatedly had to explain to people the interdependence between the two fields.  The only way to teach people about how art and technology interconnect was to demonstrate it through exhibits and experiential events.  With the help of the University of Waterloo Creative Arts Board, I organized a series of displays and events across campus to demonstrate the importance of combining skills from “The Arts” with “The Tech”.  The result was “Arts and Technology Week” – an entire week of events across campus that demonstrated how essential creative skills are in the technology sector and how technology is used in the Arts.

The “Arts and Technology Week” featured a visual exhibit of technical materials that required artistic skills for design and communication as well as digital visual art that was produced using technology. We were running SIGGRAPH computer animation videos in the Math building and showcasing electronic musician performances in the Campus Centre.  We even had people come together at a local art gallery for an art “experience” where people used a wide variety of instruments to create sound which was then broadcast out into space.   Events were running across campus non-stop throughout the entire week.

But the moment that really changed my life was when I stumbled upon an interview on Much Music with two fellows from a company called Mandala Systems.  Vincent John Vincent and Francis MacDougall had created a system that took your video image, digitized it and merged it into a graphic scene on a screen in front of you. As you moved, of course your video image moved and the interaction of your image with objects in the graphic display triggered a midi synthesizer sound. This was my light-bulb A-Ha moment where I found my passion for Interactive Digital Display and all the wonderful experiences and solutions you could create.

I had to invite them to “Arts and Tech Week”.  I managed to find  their phone number in Toronto. In the pre-WWW days, I’m not really sure how I managed to do that.  When I asked Vincent if he would consider coming to the University of Waterloo to showcase their technology, I discovered that both him and Francis were from UW. Vincent was a Psychology major and Francis was in Computer Science. Vincent was looking for someone who could help him interact with a computer without any attached devices and one day, he found Francis and thus began the creation of their Interactive Digital Display company, now known as GestureTek,  They are the inventors of the Kinect Camera which has been sold to Microsoft and now part of  XBOX ONE.

Back in 1987, over 500 people came out to the UW Fed Hall to see Vincent John Vincent and his band and their Virtual Reality performance. Vincent was the world’s first Virtual Reality performer.

Fast forward to TEDxWaterloo in 2011 and Vincent came back to deliver a talk about “Body, Mind and Spirit” and balancing our humanity and technology.  His TEDx talk contains a lot of information about the importance of designing technology for humans.

GestureTek is just one example of how essential it is to combine “The Arts” and “Technology” to push the envelop of innovation and create new business models and opportunities. They have been working in this world for almost 30 years and a lot of vision and communication was required to build a sustainable and innovative company.  What impresses me the most about their evolution is that it was certainly an Arts-led initiative. When I refer to “The Arts”, I am including the full spectrum of the humanities disciplines. The success and innovation at GestureTek has its roots in Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology as well as the creative arts.  The design of the technology and the success of the business strategy was closely related to the importance of the experience for the humans.  What a novel concept! Build solutions based on natural human movement.

Today, this type of design expertise is labeled “UX” for user experience design. Many people think of UX as a cosmetic superficial component because they imagine it to be about how something looks on a screen. It is so much more. It is about the type of experience the human has when using the technology to try to accomplish something.  Frankly, it is about your customer. Your customer experience is extremely dependent on how you design your product.  Steve Jobs was meticulous about ensuring the experience that humans had with the Apple products was exquisite.

The REAP (Research Entrepreneurs Accelerating Prosperity) initiative that I have been working on at the University of Waterloo happens to focus on the Interactive Digital Display business vertical, but the underlying research is exploring how to design new business models now that we have this type of technology out in the market.  We look at existing technology and explore how we can create new business models and solutions for a wide variety target markets.

This long-winded story comes back home to the work that needs to be done to build the economy of Waterloo Region. We have created a support network of experienced business experts to help build technology companies.  Now it’s time to consciously raise awareness of the importance of the human factors in the design of this technology if we want to fill the region with sustainable new businesses.  It’s also time to look at the creative skills we have in this community and find ways to use technology to develop a sustainable ecosystem for them to be able to make a sustainable living.  Time to facilitate collaboration between Arts and Technology people and bridge the gap between them through education and communication.

 

 

 

Canada has created a lot of support for new start up businesses and helping them to flourish and grow rapidly. University of Waterloo has established a program that explores the concept of how ideas are created and formulated before they become start up projects.

The Research Entrepreneurs Accelerating Prosperity (REAP) program is an Arts led, private/public funded program that has been created to provide undergraduate students paid work experiences to research how to take existing Interactive Digital Display technologies and blend them with content to create new market opportunities.

This concept of Seeding an Idea is an intriguing approach to develop an entrepreneurial spirit and cultivate business skills while students are still in their undergraduate years.

This is also an opportunity to explore the concept of creative innovation that is required within organizations to identify new market opportunities for existing technologies. The speed to market is significantly increased if you can identify new opportunities for existing products that leads to new ways to use the technology and new problems that can be solved for customers.

Many companies are currently exploring ways to incorporate innovation into their existing operational processes. The REAP program uses techniques such as Thinkering (similar to design thinking) to push the envelop of technology through “What If” exploration and sharing ideas as a group. Studying this model helps to understand how to bring this type of innovation into business cultures.

Cheers to a Creative Year

Gaia’s Strength

For me, the passion to paint and play with bright primary colours comes from deep within my solar plexus and bubbles out into vague visual impressions. As I push the brush around the canvas, the outside worldly distractions fade and all I feel is the movement of the lines. There is a point where there is not choice but to paint. The colours tend to come from the energy of the subject or idea that I’m focused on. Often the image captures a moment in time with all the emotion and feeling contained within it.

I love painting with oils because of the vibrancy of the colour and the smooth flow of the brush across the canvas. They give me the freedom that I need to be spontaneous in capturing the fleeting wisps of an elusive impression that I’m trying to pin down on the canvas. The best paintings have all come from a glimpse of an abstract image that flutters through my mind leaving me with only the gesture of the line behind the idea. The colours and movement of the brush strokes all come from the meditative space of chopping wood and carrying water, detaching from the judgement of the image and not really looking at the whole until it is done. I have no choice but to trust the subconscious to lead the brush to where it needs to be.

Life’s path has led me through a career in technology that pushed painting to the back of the closet in favour of “earning a living”. While I have done many creative technology projects, colour was still missing from the formula. Originally, I had a goal of a career in digital art, but it is only now that the technology and tools have matured to the point where art has significant commercial value in a world hungry for content. My newest goal is to raise the profile and value of the unique creative skills of artists while merging the two aspects of my persona into one consistent path.

And now, as we move from 2012 into 2013, I am overjoyed to find I am finally where I need to be, integrating arts and technology to create new business models and career opportunities. My small contribution to making a difference in our world.  Visit http://www.REAPWaterloo.ca to see what I’m working on lately.

Power to the People

An image has power. From the roots of the 60′s struggles to make a difference in the world, we now have the technology that enables the general masses to have a voice. The Gutenberg Press put the power of knowledge in the hands of the people because it made it affordable for them to read news from beyond their physical boundaries and making it accessible and affordable. Social Media takes that a step forwards and enables people to SPEAK UP and be heard beyond their physical boundaries affordably.

When a moving photo of an Amazon Chief and tribe was posted showing the elderly chief in tears over the Belo Monte Damn construction in Brazil, a WAVE of response rose up from around the globe to cry out against the tragedy of corporate greed destroying a part of the earth.

And then came the joyous announcement that the Brazilian court has ruled that the project risks damaging fish stocks in the Xingu River and therefore has halted the project. Perhaps this still feeds into the greed of the fishing corporations, but at least it saves a part of our precious planet: http://amazonwatch.org/news/2011/0929-brazilian-judge-halts-belo-monte-dam-construction

The fact that ONE IMAGE can spread so rapidly and widely around the globe and mobilize people to raise their voices is truly incredible. The fact that we have technology that is available to support this is a wonderful advancement for the globe. The fact that people actually SPOKE UP to save this dam is inspirational.

I’m blown away by the power of one PHOTO to raise awareness beyond geographical and language boundaries and cut through the noise to reach people who care. One image of a native elder crying spoke volumes. We knew what was at stake. Sure, maybe he just got some dust in his eyes and was wiping it out, but that doesn’t matter. The caption and the medium used to transmit it mobilized the masses to speak and act. One river has been saved.

I am extremely excited to think about what can be achieved with the technology that we have now and will have in the future. I’ve watched the progress now for over 25 years and it has been slow… but as people learn how to use digital media for communications beyond words, I’m hoping that we’ll have a wave of good positive vibes spreading out across the globe to make things happen :-)

Power to the People… through digital communications :-)

For me, the passion to paint and play with bright primary colours comes from deep within my solar plexus and bubbles out into vague visual impressions. As I push the brush around the canvas, the outside worldly distractions fade and all I feel is the movement of the lines. There is a point where there is not choice but to paint. The colours tend to come from the energy of the subject or idea that I’m focused on. Often the image captures a moment in time with all the emotion and feeling contained within it.

I love painting with oils because of the vibrancy of the colour and the smooth flow of the brush across the canvas. They give me the freedom that I need to be spontaneous in capturing the fleeting wisps of an elusive impression that I’m trying to pin down on the canvas. The best paintings have all come from a glimpse of an abstract image that flutters through my mind leaving me with only the gesture of the line behind the idea. The colours and movement of the brush strokes all come from the meditative space of chopping wood and carrying water, detaching from the judgement of the image and not really looking at the whole until it is done. I have no choice but to trust the subconscious to lead the brush to where it needs to be.

Life’s path has led me through a career in technology that pushed painting to the back of the closet in favour of “earning a living”. While I have done many creative technology projects, colour was still missing from the formula. Originally, I had a goal of a career in digital art, but it is only now that the technology and tools have matured to the point where art has significant commercial value in a world hungry for content. My newest goal is to raise the profile and value of the unique creative skills of artists while merging the two aspects of my persona into one consistent path.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 740 other followers