Without the right. How to become the happiest designer on the planet?
Three months ago I designed a corporate website. Having good experience, I approached the task seriously: I conducted an audit of the industry, defined business goals, described the tasks of users and based on all this created a pleasant and convenient interface. But, despite all the efforts, my design was rejected. I got a long list of edits, I was upset and, in order not to write anything superfluous, closed the laptop and went to the street.
Fresh metropolitan air worked, and I began to understand what was wrong. The design was good, and the customer is quite adequate. The problem with which, as thousands of designers across the world found to be, was different.
At the start of my career, getting the list of edits, I immediately started editing layouts, and then sent them back. The result of such communication was the unfinished interfaces and dialogues of the following content:
– This is bullshit!
“But I did everything as you said!”
“You’re a designer.” I do not have to tell you what to do and how.
It was a long time before I realized that such conflicts are not related to the quality of the mock-ups and the client’s personality,because the level of my work grew year after year, new customers appeared, but similar dialogues still arose. Realizing that the matter is different, I looked at this situation from the side and saw what many are missing when working with a client.
Around the same time, I was reading a great book, Burn Your Portfolio, the author of which argued that networking and communications affect success no less than the quality of the work. These words together with personal experience made me look at the process of working with the client in a new way.
Putting myself in the client’s place, I understood something. He does not understand anything in design, but only waits for the wow-effect from our work, but when he gets static layouts, most of which consists of white space, he stops bewildered.
To avoid this, I from the very beginning explain to the customer that the essence of the designer’s work is not in the creation of special effects, but in solving business problems. The second thing that is important to mention – every visual solution is based not on the taste preferences of the designer, but on the understanding of the target audience of the service. Having fixed this in the beginning, the client will understand that designers are not descendants of great artists, but, at least, people using facts and logic. Realizing this, the customer will evaluate your work through the prism of business problems, rather than visual expectations.
After that, I stopped sending mock-ups by mail. The ideal option – a personal meeting or at least a call. The client will necessarily have questions that you need to answer reasonably, showing your preparedness. And if you are not there, then instead of well-reasoned answers, the client will make erroneous conclusions that will lead to your communication in the direction of small details, the discussion of which can drag on and distract you from the main goal.
I do not recommend sending a link to the prototype in InVision, because the ability to leave comments in one click will bring you a huge list of sometimes inadequate questions and again lead away from the main task.
An excellent option is video. Demonstrate the user’s main path from entering the service to the target result. The client will receive the expected wow-effect and immediately see how your solution simplifies the use of the product.
One more thing
Remember the beginning of the article. The client is not satisfied with the work, and the designer considers the reproaches unreasonable. Why is this happening? Why are two professionals in their business in conflict? Perhaps, because they simply do not understand each other? It could be.
The client does not understand the essence of the designer’s work, while the designer, when receiving strange questions, considers the client inadequate. As a result, two seemingly reasonable people are in conflict.
But such cases occur regularly. Remember the stories when long-term friendship collapses, couples disagree, business partners are judging, wars begin. Think about it when you do not get along well. It does not matter with whom. Maybe you, as a customer with a designer, just do not understand each other. Just do not hear. But this separates us from what we so strive for – happiness.
The walking dead: Is there life left in 4G mobile networks?
These days, 5G grabs all the hype and headlines, but 4G still has plenty more to give. It’s a good thing too, as operators have no choice but to sweat their assets
The switch from 3G to 4G was a big transformation for operators, but the next stage will be different. As Lester Thomas, chief systems architect at Vodafone, puts it: “4G’s technical term is LTE – long term evolution – so 4G was always designed to be something that would evolve.”
While 5G trials are ongoing and December 2017 saw the approval of the non-standalone 5G new radio specifications, 4G networks are still reaching maturity, and although some US and Asian operators are touting roll-outs as early as later this year or next, 5G networks are not expected to launch in the UK until 2020.
Research from mobile industry association GSMA, published in February this year, finds that in 2019, 10 years after launch, 4G will have the most connections (more than 3 billion) worldwide.
By 2025, there are expected to be 1.2 billion 5G connections globally, but 4G is still predicted to account for 53% of total mobile SIMs, compared to 29% today, and 5G will account for just 14%.
Estimates suggest 5G will cost tens or hundreds of billions for a network across the US or Europe. Operators have already sunk billions into 4G networks and need to squeeze the maximum return from them, which demands ongoing investment.
Howard Jones, head of network communications at EE, says: “Our 4G investment will continue right through to the middle of the next decade, both from a coverage perspective and from a capacity perspective.”
The company is focused on enhancing 4G in high-density places, rural areas with poor coverage and indoor spaces.
We can do it without 5G
Operators say many of the features associated with 5G, like large multiple input/multiple output (MIMO), beamforming and network slicing, can be achieved to some extent with 4G.
Network slicing allows a physical network to be divided into multiple virtual networks so the operator can provision the right “slice” depending on the requirements of the use case.
But 4G networks can already support it, particularly through network functions virtualisation (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) which allow operators to “spin up” and move network capacity around. 5G adds the capability to the radio access network (RAN), to create slices at the edge for low-power applications where sensors have limited battery power or for a very low-latency, high bandwidth application like augmented reality.
“In essence, the way we’ve built the Emergency Services Network (ESN),” says Jones. “It behaves as though it’s a network slice, so it’s LTE, but it’s a fairly early look at what it would be like to have a 5G network where you had a dedicated slice for a particular customer, because we give them top priority on the network and a dedicated core network of their own.”
Further, operators such as Vodafone in the UK have already deployed massive MIMO and beamforming across its network, using multiple antennae to send and receive data more efficiently and boost capacity where lots of people connect to the network at the same time.
The company noted: “While building a full 5G network will take time and 5G isn’t expected to roll out globally until 2020, networks are already being enhanced to keep ahead of demand and bring some of the benefits much sooner.”
4G and 5G working together
Despite advances in 4G, capacity is likely to be the initial driver for implementing 5G. According to Cisco’s latest Visual Networking Index, in 2016, global mobile data traffic amounted to 7 exabytes per month.
In 2021, mobile data traffic worldwide is expected to reach 49 exabytes per month at a compound annual growth rate of 47%. GiffGaff expects global mobile data usage to increase by 720% by 2021, projecting data usage of “a staggering” 98.34 GB by 2025, per SIM, compared to just 1.26 GB in 2016.
To manage these demands and maintain customer experience, 5G will need to support billions of simultaneously connected devices and up to a million connections per square kilometre.
“5G, to some extent will be used to relieve capacity issues in densely populated areas. If you don’t have a lot of roadmap for 4G from a capacity perspective, 5G is the answer,” says Jones.
“The challenge, then, is getting enough users with their compatible devices onto those sites so that you see the benefit of that capacity, so you can shift the user from 4G to 5G, which means more 4G capacity for everybody else,” he says.
While data and network demands are rising, telco revenues for traditional services are flat-lining. Recent analysis from IHS Markit found that global telecom revenue grew just 1.1% in 2017, “despite unabated network usage.” The report noted that every region showed either revenue decline or low single-digit growth at most.
Clearly telcos need to find some radical new source of revenue, and 5G offers hope, although not everyone is convinced that the financials stack up yet.
At a Huawei mobile broadband event in November, BT CEO Gavin Patterson said: “We need to finish the job on 4G – we need to make sure we get return on investment, we need to make sure we truly get the use of mobile networks up.
“Then we need to build the use case for 5G – clearly the innovation is there but ultimately, as carriers, we have to make a significant investment and put capex down, and the business case for that still needs to be built in many ways.”
The transition from 3G to 4G was underpinned by going from poor internet experience to one that opened up the internet for mobile – the industry hasn’t found that push yet for 5G.
“5G will be a better experience, but it is opening up the verticals, particularly around the IoT, that will open up new revenue streams,” says Patterson. “Finding use cases is the biggest challenge we have at the moment.”
Ericsson forecasts that 5G will generate $1.3 trillion in business value by 2026, and mobile operators could benefit from an additional 34% bump in revenues. The biggest opportunities are seen to be in energy, manufacturing, public safety and healthcare, plus transportation, media and automotive.
Many are “critical” services, which rely on ultra-high reliability and availability (99.9999% availability is anticipated in 5G networks) and ultra-low latency (on a 4G network it’s typically about 50-100 milliseconds but on a 5G network it will be 1 millisecond or less).
“The differrence between 4G at a 100-millisecond delay and 5G at 1 millisecond is in the order of half a car length. Half a car length can mean the difference between life and death,” Kenneth Budka, senior partner at Bell Labs Consulting, said at the Brooklyn 5G Summit in April 2017.
As 5G is a service-oriented architecture (SOA), it can slice the network more easily to support unique use case requirements.
“You can support things that you can’t support today where 4G is like a single architecture,” says Thomas.
Jones at EE notes the potential in new areas too. “We have had a lot of interest from broadcasters looking at 4G to provide them with outside broadcast capabilities,” he says. “However, the nature of 4G means we can’t necessarily prioritise a single customer and provide a guaranteed SLA (service-level agreement).
“That changes with 5G. We can make promises on particular SLAs for a given time period if need be, so the impact of 5G on the broadcast industry could be significant.
“It takes a lot of investment to get there because you’ve got to have coverage,” he says. “But it could bring to life what 5G can do in terms of throughput capabilities and reliability.”
Many operators are also looking at the platform business model to boost revenue – that is, offering digital ecosystems connecting producers of goods and/or services with consumers and/or the platform-based IT architecture which supports these models.
The platform business model could be the potential “killer app” for 5G, says Thomas.
Research in 2017 from trade association TM Forum found that more than a third of communications service providers offer digital ecosystems or platform marketplaces already, and another 40% intend to within the next two years.
Vodafone, for example, offers an IoT platform for simple services, such as smart cities with end devices like smart lighting and waste management, with little networking requirement.
In the future, 5G will be needed to cope with the volume, variety and velocity of use cases, with applications from augmented and virtual reality to connected cars and digital health. Also, a central principle of platforms is that its applications keep evolving.
“With a 4G network it was almost like a compromise between bandwidth, latency and cost,” says Thomas. “But 5G, because it has the network slicing and the service-oriented approach, you can tailor the network for each different use cases on the same shared network platform.”
TM Forum’s report concludes that while 5G may not necessarily be critical to the success of platform business models, platforms combined with IoT will be essential to 5G and unlocking new IoT revenue streams that 4G can’t, through combining higher bandwidth with network slicing.
Agility Robotics Raises $8 Million for Commercial Bipedal Robots
Playground Global leads a sizeable round with the goal of turning walking robots into useful tools
Today, Agility Robotics is announcing US $8 million in Series A funding “to accelerate product, technology, and business development.” Leading the round is Playground Global, founded by Android co-creator and ex-Google Robotics head Andy Rubin, and also joining in is Sony Innovation Fund.
We don’t write about funding rounds all that often, but this could be the first robotics company to get such a significant amount of VC funding to develop a realistic commercial bipedal robot. There are certainly other well-funded companies working on bipeds, including Boston Dynamics and Schaft. But while it’s not that clear what commercial applications these companies are targeting, Agility Robotics is very specifically and deliberately working on a legged robot that can make deliveries.
From the press release:
Agility Robotics is solving the mobility problem faced by mobile robots, to allow machines to work with humans, for humans, and around humans. Robotic legged locomotion will enable a major transformation of our world, with applications in logistics and package delivery for fast and inexpensive 24/7 service, in-home robots for telepresence and assistance, and real-time data collection and mapping of human and natural environments. Walking robots will one day be a common sight, much like the automobile, and with similar impact on our society. Agility Robotics will be a leader in this transformative change.
“We wanted to focus on solving mobility in areas where wheeled platforms can’t reach (i.e., stairs, curbs, etc) and legged systems are best suited to address—opening up opportunities to solve the last 100 feet rather than the last mile” —Bruce Leak, Playground Global
“One day” is the key phrase there—Agility Robotics isn’t making a commercial robot yet. What we’ve seen from Agility and Cassie so far is just the start, and the robot is still (for now) essentially a research platform. But the company says Cassie has an enormous amount of practical potential. This is where $8 million could make a huge difference, by enabling the Albany, Ore.-based company to help make its technology into more of a useful commercial prototype.
To get some perspective from the folks who decided to pour a big pile of money into Agility, we spoke with Bruce Leak, co-founder of Playground Global, via email.
IEEE Spectrum: Legged locomotion outside of a research lab is still very challenging for bipedal robots. What convinced you that now is the right time to invest in a company developing a bipedal robot for commercial applications?
Bruce Leak: Agility’s architecture is radically different than conventional bipedal systems. Jonathan and his team have dedicated over a decade of research to understand the fundamental principles of animal morphology and locomotion behavior to design an energy-efficient bipedal system. They’ve designed their legged platform with manufacturability, scalability, and energy-efficiency in mind and have demonstrated step change improvements in terms of cost, performance, and power compared to conventional bipedal robots.
There are a few other companies working on bipedal robots, including Schaft and Boston Dynamics. What do you feel sets Agility Robotics apart from these companies?
Boston Dynamics and Schaft have designed really impressive machines but they rely on active control and high-powered actuation, which comes at the expense of significant power consumption. Agility has developed a novel architecture that leverages passive dynamics and mechanically embodies a “spring-mass model” to achieve human-like gait dynamics. The combination of implementing passive dynamics in hardware and mechanical springs to store and release energy when necessary via actuation lets them achieve superior energy efficiency compared to state-of-the-art bipedal systems.
What kind of impact do you hope that legged robots will have on society?
A lot of companies are focusing their development efforts on automating wheeled platforms. We wanted to focus on solving mobility in areas where wheeled platforms can’t reach (i.e., stairs, curbs, etc) and legged systems are best suited to address—opening up opportunities to solve the last 100 feet rather than the last mile.
Bruce’s comments here emphasize the potential commercial aspects of Cassie. For real world robots, you want something that you can build many of, something relatively affordable, and something that you can use efficiently in terms of energy consumption as well as cost and hassle to maintain. You also want to be solving a well-defined and unique problem—road vehicles have the last mile problem well covered, but as Bruce says, that last 100 feet (or even last 10 feet) is not constrained at all, and can be very complicated, but it’s necessary if you want to deliver things to customer who aren’t home.
Delivery, we hope, is just the first step for a commercial Cassie, as Agility’s press release suggests:
Agility Robotics will work to address a variety of vertical markets that can be impacted by this technology, implementing market-specific configurations for size, scale, number of legs, sensing, manipulation, and other market-specific engineering choices.
I’m imaging a herd of tiny little Cassies sized so that they can deliver one cupcake apiece, but that may just be because I could really go for a cupcake right now, and because it would be adorable. Seriously though, we’re excited to see how Agility decides to add sensing and especially manipulation to their robots—even with $8 million, useful autonomy is still a hard problem, but we’re confident that they’ll make it happen.