A small selection across domains
There's so much happening in the space of Virtual Reality (VR), that it's becoming hard to keep track. The ecosystem has progressed sufficiently that content creation is becoming a serious focus. Those with intent and resources are in the race to create engaging quality content. Headsets are now available by the dozens and at a range price points. VR is by no means a mainstream technology yet but it's getting there.
Here's a selection of VR companies and content that have been in the news lately. This selection is of course just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Some of these are accessible with nothing more than a smartphone, a downloadable app and a cheap VR headset. Often the app itself is free. Often content is also free, which is expected of any new content distribution platform keen on attracting users. Where devices and content are at a premium, they're for the early adopters willing to splurge north of $2000. Thanks to them, innovation continues to happen and technology continuously nudges past its limits.
At the intersection of design and technology
If you look at the development cycle of most products, design comes first and then the first iteration of the product is engineered to satisfy design requirements. What follows is testing, evaluation, re-design and re-engineering in an iterative fashion. There are of course two types of design: industrial design that deals with aspects of aesthetics, usability and ergonomics; engineering design that deals with product functionality, safety, maintenance, ease of manufacturing, and so on. Often these two disciplines are taken up by different teams and there's no common ground; at least, that's how historically people have been working.
Designers have for years been doing their primary work on pen and paper, doing concept sketches and perspectives. With computerization and associated tools, many designers have moved to the digital world, doing their designs with sophisticated object modeling and rendering. Yet, their focus has been on industrial design. Engineering design is left to engineers or at best considered at a later part of the development process. Some of this is changing in recent years.
A perspective from smart cars to smart refrigerators
Nowadays, we don't have to learn how to drive a vehicle well because there are systems in the car that take care of many things without our knowledge. We don't have to remember whether we have switched off the lights before leaving the house. The smart home automation system shall switch off the lights after detecting no sound or activity for some time.
Self-driving cars are the way to go in future. In future, people don't have to hire a chauffeur. You may just get into a car and tell it where to go. The car shall use GPS to find the optimal route and take you there, cruising through the traffic. You can get down from the car, and then the car will find an empty parking spot for itself. For the return, call the car from your smartphone to be at the entrance in five minutes. When you arrive at the entrance, the car will be waiting for you with a rear door open, playing your favourite music, while the appropriate temperature for your comfort has already been set. Awesome!
Examples, Tools, Practices
This is a continuation of an earlier article where I introduced Product Line Engineering (PLE) as a new engineering discipline. The idea is that it makes more sense to manage a line of products rather than a single one. There are many examples of this already happening in today's world.
General Motors does not develop individual cars. They have about 300 hierarchical subsystems and thousands of variant features. When these are combined in sensible ways, they end up with tens of thousands of product variants. In other words, each car is not built as a separate engineering artifact. Rather, they use common customizable building blocks to define and assemble a car. They do not develop but derive cars from such building blocks.
Highlighting the work of an Indian startup
A key area of focus in IEDF is to encourage engineers to innovate products for the Indian market, particularly the rural areas. Recent years have seen a lot of Indian startups but most of them are working on urban problems. The bulk of them focus on IT while the more immediate problems of rural India are ignored.
While IT can often be used as an enabler for social change, it has not yet been proven to reduce child labour, build better roads, supply clean water or facilitate transportation of goods. Realizing this, an Indian startup named Evomo is attempting to directly address the problem of rural transportation.