Rowan Wernham

Product designer & front end developer. Founder of Snapr.

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Under The Skin

Note - since writing this review I have seen the film a second time, I picked up a lot more and had quite a different response. Further updates coming soon.

I went into ‘Under The Skin’ not knowing much about it. I had seen the trailer which, among other things, includes a review - ‘We may finally have an heir to Kubrick’. I knew that the film was an adaptation of a novel, and featured Scarlett Johansen doing the rounds as a seductive alien in Scotland.

I came out not knowing exactly what to think. There are some brief, stunning, semi-abstract audio visual experiences; there are a lot of vérité scenes of Scarlett Johansen driving around in a van having stilted conversations with strangers; there are some striking and sparse nature scenes; and there are some guys driving round on motorcycles very fast.

On the whole it is cinematic but non-traditional in form, not entirely

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Cinematic depictions of AR

It seems inevitable that Augmented Reality will arrive in some shape or form - the experience of using computers keeps getting smaller and more mobile.

Remember when you had a PC tucked away in a dark room? One day we will remember hunching over laptops and staring into our phones in a similar way.

Here I have collected some clips that depict AR as a way to explore how people think things might play out.

Naturally Google’s commercial for Glass is an idealised vision with mostly helpful information overlays and hands free sharing of sunset videos (how else are you going to strum your ukelele…).

Glass competitor Meta has a slightly more fantastical version of the same thing, but they seem to be interested in targeting early adopters in the hacker / gamer market (mute the awful voice over):

I saw another concept clip recently (from Vuzix I think), but I am wondering if it has been

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The Cult of Smart Machines

Until I read Ray Kurzweil’s most recent book How to Create a Mind I was somewhat skeptical about the singularity movement.

I don’t doubt that Moore’s Law will hold true (computers will attain processing power to match the brain within our lifetime), but I have never encountered anything that convinced me people were making comparable progress in the field of programming AI.

Much suggests the opposite - that most AI is based on tricks, and not really comparable to human intelligence.

A lot of singularity literature leans heavily on Moore’s Law for validation, but is mostly wild speculation about what the future will look like when the curve goes vertical.

I’m a fan of that kind of thing too, but I’m happier consuming it in sci-fi novels & comic books (Read Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan!).


But in How to Create a Mind Kurzweil lays down a convincing

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Throwaway Product Ideas: Ratio

I am something of an information addict. I read for at least an hour before I get out of bed each morning, working my way through the top posts on Hacker News, aggregated content shared by my networks via / Digg, and sometimes when I get really desperate.. Mashable’s daily email.

I do this for no other reason than to kick my brain into gear (I’m not a morning person). I also often wake up at 5am / 6am unable to sleep and read for an hour there as well.

Then I read for 30 minutes or so while I have coffee - usually more substantial stuff, my current favourite being nsfwcorp, or one of several books I have in progress.

Thankfully by this stage I am clear to get through the day without feeling the need to procrastinate by reading tech blogs etc.

I might be something of an extreme case, but I think in general because mobile devices make it so accessible people are consuming more

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Device Form Factor & Social Cues

There are features of smartphones that come from their form factor.

They weren’t necessarily designed to be there, but patterns of use have emerged around them.

The most obvious example is when we turn our phones face down on the table whilst having coffee or drinks with friends.

Depending on the situation this gesture has varying levels - from putting the phone away completely while on a date, to having the phone out and face up when you are with friends but expecting a message.

It has been said that attention is the new currency, and here this really rings true - sometimes we want to show that we are giving more.

The above case - putting the phone face down - derives from the fact that the phone is a small flat device with a screen on one side.

How does this work as we think about the transition towards wearable computing - i.e. with Google Glass? As far as others can tell the

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Throwaway product ideas: Hybrid

There was a time when it seemed like most major cities would have consistent free wi-fi coverage - not from a centralised internet provider, but from all the people who had unsecured wi-fi networks.

It never really came to be.

Unlimited broadband plans became plans with caps, and people perhaps also became more conscious of the security risks of unsecured networks.

Since the NSA’s blanket internet surveillance has become big news there has been renewed interest in how we can properly decentralise internet infrastructure.

Mesh networks are exciting, but I wonder how feasible they are as a total replacement for the internet as we know it - can a mesh network match the data transfer rates and latency of the current net? I may be wrong but it seems unlikely.

The idea of Hybrid is to create a product that brings the best of both worlds together - a decentralised mesh network for

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Blog Archive: Understanding the Minimum Viable Product - Vine vs Loopcam

Note: After posting this (Feb ‘13) I felt a little bad about running down Loopcam’s product.

I know first hand how hard it is to get a consumer / social app right, and on many levels failed with my own attempts via Snapr (although haha we do have a v4.0 coming soon that looks really nice).

Vine remains a great product, and I reposted this because I think it’s worth highlighting.

The idea of a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ is a big thing in the startup world.

Its often understood as being a necessary form factor only because startups have limited resources and must prioritise.

This is true, but there are other things that are just as crucial about an MVP:

  • Limiting the amount of features you present to your users makes your product easier to understand. If people have a clear understanding of what your product does (and why they should use it) they find it easier to use, they talk to

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Blog Archive: Snap Together Computers

Note: Originally posted April ‘12.

Looking back on this idea I think it still needs a lot of work. But I was flicking through a magazine the other day and came across Dave Hakken’s Phonebloks Project.

Its neat to see that someone else had a similar idea, actually developed it, and got some glowing coverage in Forbes

Phonebloks by Dave Hakkens

Edit 2 - and now google also has an extremely interesting product along these lines!

I often think about the future of Apple computers. I am a self confessed apple fanboy - but what would I do if i was placed in charge of the company?

Thankfully thats never going to happen (and hopefully it never will happen to anyone who has done anything less than devote their entire life to the problem of industrial design + computing).

Also - as much as I believe in the capabilities of Tim Cook as CEO and the design skills of the Apple team I think the company’s world changing

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Blog Archive: Garbage In, Awesome Out

Note: The idea of developing text based interfaces that intelligently deal with idiosyncratic input & interpret structure from layout still appeals to me.

A lot of natural language interfaces focus on voice input, but I think its equally worth thinking about the ‘blank page’ and written input.

It’s also important to mention that I am not talking about ‘smart formatting’ - i.e. that irritating thing when word processors (the OSX notes app!) try & fail to create list styles automatically - you would always have the option to work in plain text, and toggle between structured & non structured views.

I should also mention that since writing this post I have cleaned up my task management / note taking habits a lot, now using Github Issues, Trello & Evernote.

Originally posted in May ‘12.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I do a lot of things in my email client (mac os x default)

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