Jun 172012

The other day I took a shopping trip to shenzen to see what I could find which would drum up some ideas for new products or just pick up some neat gadgets. Anyway my iphone’s power button broke a few weeks before and while it wasn’t a big deal I decided I would see if I could find someone to fix it. Lets just say that I feel confidant I could have asked anyone on the street in SZ to fix it and they would have been capable. For 100RMB (~$16 USD) The guy completely took apart my phone and fixed the problem reassembling it in less than 20 mins. Now I am no stranger to fixing my own electronics but phones are hit or miss with the success of of the new part installs.

My experience just added to my belief that china is crazy for all things apple. Here are a few examples I have seen.

Fake Apple Stores – These are all over the place at a level which is impossible to comprehend unless you see it. Think Multiple Stores on a single street all selling Fake, Gray market, or Black market Products. Although some of these provide a better customer service than real apple stores as they can fix anything you bring them for very low cost (I’ll get to this in a min)

iThis, iThat, Accessories – There are accessories for the accessories. If you ever want to talk about the concept of a saturated market iAccessories (atleast in china) is a great example. I can not understand any company wanting to get into this market. Yes, when the new iPhone comes out there will be a race to be the first, but barring any amazing innovation (like the amplifier I bought) people should stay away from going into this market.

iFixit Live – Perhaps the greatest thing about the shenzen markets is the ability to get anything fixed or modified on the spot. I was able to get a few things that had been bugging me taken care of quickly and for a very little bit of money. My favorite booth was the one with the below photos that honestly had every single component for every single apple product. I had the power buttons fixed on both my 4 and my 3GS and without leaving his booth he was able to fix the phones. I don’t know if these parts are OEM or not, but it doesn’t matter and is truly incredible. Also I needed to get my 3GS rooted to remove the baseband so I can use it in china, he was also able to do that for me without blinking an eye.

Over 30% of the products made by APPLE are being sold in china, that means that 11.1 Million iphones in the 4th quarter last year when into the country and the saturation of them is obvious, even in the smaller manufacturing towns that I spend quite a bit of my time.

Feb 212012

I have gotten a few emails over the last couple weeks which basically say.

I have been traveling like crazy.

As Sr. Product Engineer for Innovation First Labs, I am part of all aspects of Toy development. As part of that responsibility I need to be at our manufacturers in china many times each year. There are many reasons to be on the ground in asia, such as work closely with the factories to help us to cost engineer product down, when doing a full release of data for tooling, viewing and modifying first shots off of tooling, or to just oversee production lines are running smoothly.

As IFI’s toy business has grown so has the time required to interface with china operations, and in most cases being here face to face is a much more effective communication method than to skype or email.

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of announcing our new product line “Bobble Bots.” Bobble bots are a product which uses the characters from a fantastic online game called Moshi Monsters. They move around like Hexbug Nano’s but have a personality all their own. This line will be in stores in a couple weeks in the US and world wide over the next month or so, so the factories are buzzing getting ready. Additionally I was working on some new “Top Secret” products which will be on shelf for the fall of 2012.

After my 2 week trip in china, I spent 5 days at the New York Toy Show, where we were showing retailers both our new products which we were launching and some previews of the stuff coming up. It is a great opportunity for the toy industry to showcase what they have been working on and also to judge where toys are heading. If you want to check out some of the cool new toys coming for this holiday season, i recommend looking at http://www.thetoyspy.com/ as he does coverage from most companies at the event and is also a really nice guy.

For now I am back in the office, but my travel schedule hasn’t slowed down much. Hopefully I will be able to keep you posted along the way.

To all of those teams scrambling to finish their robots, don’t forget to breath. Take a step back, make a list of the things you still need to do and make sure you have what you need to continue the improvements on the way to your first event. Good Luck.

Jul 192011

I have spent more time then I thought I would in the past week reflecting on the event, how my team performed and the experience in general.

It is hard for me to put into words the different emotions that this event brought on. If you would have asked be prior to the event if I felt that this would be a “life changer” the answer would have been without a doubt no. While looking back on it I believe that is exactly what happened.

Before I go into my personal reflections a de-brief for those who weren’t there is probably the right way to start.

The event was a build challenge where we had to build something to move a person. We decided early on that we wanted to “go big or go home” The latter turned out to be true. For my robot Folks, we attempted to build a 6foot x 8foot, 1000lb swerve drive with a playground on top. The fact that we were able to build this in 72 hours is still shocking to me. Although we finished our plan and were able to build a cool device we were lacking those extra few hours of tweaking required to make it a show stopper. We literally finished the wiring and fabrication as the time hit zero in a what hopefully will be some dramatic TV. Immediately following the completion we had to put our creations on trucks to go over to the public part of Red Bull creation. During this event we did a public showing of our semi-functional device and then immediately following the event cut our creation into pieces. We were told information which turned out to be false about them trashing creations that were not dealt with immediately. The P^3 (play powered pod) is gone but the front and back modules are in storage so we could re-build it, still a week later we are deciding the fate of the remains of our creation.

From a build point of view what we did could (and probably should) be considered a failure. We didn’t win or place and with such high expectations that we set for ourselves going into the event it is hard to look at it from any other perspective. On the flip side I got much more than a piece of hardware and some cash from the event. I learned that there are many communities beyond robotics that look at things the same way that we do. The cooperation and willingness to help between the teams was all there and many friends were made. Additionally the build allowed me to push myself in a way that I haven’t done in a long time (while FIRST robots are a challenge it is a different time period and different skill set). Josh from IEEE Spectrum Magazine was following us during the build and put together a nice video talking about the competition featuring us.

So as I eluded to I consider this event to be a life changer for me. For the longest time I have found myself to be stuck in a routine that doesn’t involve thinking creatively outside of work, or trying to personally improve myself. My whole life growing up I was constantly trying to push myself to be more than I am in many ways. I used to try to live outside of my comfort zone, because that is where you can explore your true potential. Too many people (myself included these past few years) are just satisfied with the status quo, accepting reality for what it is and not what it could be. This event was a wake up call, an eye opener, a kick in the pants, or whatever metaphor you would like, either way I am motivated now and feel great!

Christina and I have decided to try and continuously improve ourselves through learning new skills, working on new projects and making a conscious effort not to waste a moment of our lives. The first step for me was to cancel TV service to my house as I have wasted countless hours to mindless shows when I could have been building something or learning a new skill. Each month we are both going to try and teach each other something new though the completion of projects (which I will outline on this blog). I am truly excited for what the future holds, and I recommend everyone take a step back from their daily routine and evaluate if you are getting the most from your life and living up to your full potential.

Jun 172011

Team innovation thirst was selected and is going to comepete at the Redbull Creation contest July 7-10th in Brooklyn, NY.


What is Redbull Creation? well…..this….

My team is on of the 16 teams competing for our share of $10,000 in cash and $10,000 in tools. ¬†We¬†qualified for the contest through the creation of our “Pour Master Pro”

If you are in town please come out and support us at the Free public event.

Date: July 10, 2011
Location: McCarren Park, Brooklyn
Time: 3-7pm

Sep 192010

Sometimes i feel like we take technology for granted, given that we are a totally immersed tech culture. Today the Ravens are playing the Bengals and I live in Cowboy country so the game is not going to be on tv. I am not a direct tv or Verizon customer so my options used to be go to a bar or miss watching the game. Enter technology: A sister with a slingbox in the Ravens viewing market and my sprint HTC evo. I know that I could just watch the slingbox on my tv, but today Christina and I are heading out to the grapevine grapefest and I will be away from my computer. Sling Media now has an android app which can stream live to my phone. So today I am going to embark on a journey of technology awesomeness where I can see the game from wherever I am. Go Ravens!

What technology do you think is overly awesome?



Ravens logo