Sunday, February 10, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new

The new website

In an effort to create a "one-stop-shop" for everything about me, I have created a website uniting both this website as well as my previous portfolio website. All content contained on this blog has been copied over so please continue reading at the new website at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Innovation over evolution?

In the morning session on the 20th of June we were asked, among other things, in what you believe in. I answered with “innovation over evolution”: I think it is better to take a risk and constantly come up with new ideas, instead of playing it safe and incrementally improving the same concept over and over again. By constantly challenging yourself to think of new ideas you help to create an atmosphere of progress and competition for the best way to do something, instead of a world where everything is predictable and stays the same. Sure, you will fail more often if you choose for innovation over evolution, but when your innovation is a success, you are sure to get a lot of praise for it, and you will get the attention of people who didn’t know about you before.

Let’s take Microsoft as an example of how it should not be done. Under the leadership of Steve Ballmer, the growth of Microsoft has been stagnant, while other companies, like Google and Apple, have been able to eat away market share from Microsoft. How could this happen? It didn’t happen because Microsoft didn’t have enough money for research into new products. It didn’t happen because Microsoft doesn’t have enough talented people. It did however happen, because Microsoft doesn’t dare to be innovative anymore.  More strongly put, they are too arrogant to innovate.

One example of this attitude could be seen at the introduction of the iPhone. You can see the reaction of Microsoft’s current CEO, Steve Ballmer, here.  His first reaction to the new product from Apple is to laugh at it. Now, this might have been a logical reaction when the company in question is unknown, and has no credibility whatsoever. But Steve is actually laughing at a product from a company that, before the launch of the iPhone, already had a major success, in the personal audio players space, with the iPod. The very market that Microsoft isn’t doing too well at with their own Zune.
He defends their stance by saying that their current technology is already capable of doing what Apple came up with. I don’t know if you have ever owned a phone with Windows Mobile 6 on it, but it is in no way comparable to a contemporary smartphone. You might be able to surf the web on it, use it as your agenda or listen to music from it, but the experience is so slow and unpolished that you want to avoid performing these tasks at all costs.  Instead of taking the hint from Apple that smartphones might be the next big thing, Microsoft sat back, pleased at their own superiority. The result is a mobile phone market with an OS marketshare of 53% for Android/Google, 27% for iOS/Apple, and a mere one percent for Windows 7 Phone/Microsoft as can be seen from this report, because they were too late to the smartphone OS party to make an impact and still lack various features that users of competing mobile operating systems took for granted months ago.

So you will say, Microsoft must surely have learned its lesson, and will not make the same mistake again in the future, right? Wrong! Case in point? The iPad. With the success of the iPhone, Microsoft should have more than enough proof of the capability of Apple to come up with new and exciting devices that resonate well with the market. Instead, their response to the iPad was:
“It is a humorous world in how Microsoft is much more open than Apple,”  -Brandon Watson, the director of product management in the developer platform at Microsoft. The response of Microsoft is again to laugh at the product of their competitor, and ignore its strengths. The strength of the iPad is, next to the Apple logo on the back, its simplicity, and how smooth the user experience is. You could say that the closed platform is the advantage of the iPad, not something to make fun of. When people use a tablet, they don’t want lots of options to customize the device to their liking, opening it up to all kinds of bugs and irregularities. Instead, they want an easy, sleek device, a device that just works.

Now, I am by no means an Apple fanboy, and my stance on their innovation is that oftentimes they do not actually come up with the innovations themselves, but instead are able to spot all existing innovations and combine them in a product that offers a highly polished user experience. The article Innovation or Evolution? got me to see that there is a fine line between innovation and evolution. As the article mentions, “… is it innovative to see that millions of people enjoy their iPods and their cell phones and realize that a combination cell phone/music player would be of interest to potential customers?” You could argue both ways: yes, it is innovative, because instead of making a new MP3-player with a somewhat improved interface and more storage, you combine two existing concepts to create a new concept, a cell phone/music player combination. On the other hand you could say that it isn’t innovative, because the two concepts which form the basis of the new concept already existed, thus marking the new concept as evolution instead of revolution. The article even boldly states that “Every new product and service launched by companies around the world is not innovative by definition.I leave up to you to decide whether Apple is an innovative company, or whether indeed a new product from an existing company can be truly innovative.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Impact of Google...

For the course "Have Fun and Play!", we had to answer five questions about the impact of Google. Below are my answers:
  1. I started using google, when I was eight.
  2. In my study, google is very relevant, because it allows me to publish content on the web, collaborate with other students, and get near-instant access to useful information. 
  3. Together with youtube, google means the power to have an online identity, and for me personally the ability to generate and publish online content for Creative Technology.
  4. Once in a while, I wished Google had decent competition.
  5. All in all, Google provides me an opportunity to do almost everything online.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Helicopter Screensaver & Bouncing Creatures

Last Tuesday we had to present our screensaver for Motion & Modeling. Our group, consisting of Jelle Galgenbeld, Dmitri Kazachkov, and me, have developed a screensaver where a helicopter tries to take down soldiers on the ground. These soldiers in turn try to reach an anti-air gun, located at the opposite side of the screen. When all soldiers have manned this anti-air weaponry, it will shoot into the air, and when it hits the helicopter, it will spin down to the ground and explode, resetting the screensaver.

Before the helicopter can shoot though, it first has to detect a soldier on the ground. The helicopter will then track this soldier, indicated by the red colour of the floodlight, continuously firing at him until he dies or reaches the anti-air equipment. All soldiers will keep on respawning until they reach the anti-air gun, so in the end the helicopter will always be brought down. To keep things interesting the soldiers get a random speed every time, so you never know in advance whether a soldier will reach the other side.

During our presentation, which you can find here, we have shown the different stages of the development of the screensaver we have been trough. The first step was to make a helicopter that flies from one side of the screen to the other side, and back again, since the helicopter is the most important element of our screensaver. After having accomplished this, we gave the helicopter the ability to shoot. In our first implementation of shooting, the helicopter started shooting at a fixed x-position, thus always hitting the same soldiers on the ground, who at that time were represented by blue balls that turn green when hit.

One step beyond that was to make the soldiers on the ground able to move, so the helicopter has live targets to shoot at. If a soldiers walks in the floodlight of the helicopter, the helicopter will target this man, indicated by a green orb around the soldier. Because we wanted to improve the floodlight, we made it able to actively track down the soldier that had walked trough it. This change causes the helicopter to follow a targeted victim and shoot at it until it dies or reaches the anti-air gun.

In the end we put all these development steps together, along with animations for the walking soldiers and animations for the flying & exploding helicopter and last but not least some atmospheric music: the Airwolf theme! I hope to be able to show these development steps by the end of the week.

Another thing we had to finish last week was the first end assignment for “Programming for CreaTe”, where we had to display our animal designed for the course 20 times, and they had to be able to bounce into each other. You can see my version on my portfolio website.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to work on my portfolio last week, so you will be updated on the improvements another time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's Alive!

For those of you wondering why there have been no updates for almost one month: don't worry, I'm still alive and I'm back to write about my experiences with the CreaTe programme. It's just that, since writing for this blog is not required anymore, for the course "We Create Identity" has ended, other tasks have taken priority over posting here. But because I think it is still valuable to update this blog once in a while, both for myself as well as for other people interested in the CreaTe programme, I will start doing so once again.

So, what have I been up to for the last couple of weeks?
Most importantly, we have gotten yet another timetable. The course "Web Technology" has ended, "Programming for CreaTe" has become more hardware-oriented (it is now about programming for the Arduino board instead of designing graphical applications, although we still use Processing), we are now producing a screensaver for "Motion & Modelling" instead of learning about mathematics, and last but not least, we have a new course: "Sketching for CreaTe".

In this course we practice sketching in perspective, and learn various techniques to get skilled in drawing and toning shapes. After we have successfully mastered these abilities, we will be able to use them in the development stage of products: in the end you can use sketching skills to test product designs on paper, before picking one and putting it into production.

In the meantime I have also been working on improvements for my portfolio website, but most of these are "behind the scenes": I'm working on a page where I can view all existing articles, edit them, and post new ones. For now I'm using phpMyAdmin to edit my articles (they are in a MySQL database), but this is far from efficient, so that is why I am creating a custom page.

Next week, I will update you on the screensaver project (the presentation of the final product is on Tuesday) and I hope I will finish improving my portfolio as well, so expect to read about the changes to it shortly. For now, have a nice weekend, and here is some funky music to start it off properly:

Tower of Power - Credit

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Essays for "We Create Identity" & "Web Technology"

I have completed my essay for We Create Identity, as well as for Web Technology. They both deal with how I experienced the subjects, as well as which decisions I made in the assignments we had to do for these courses. The essays can be found in my online portfolio: here is the "We Create Identity" essay, and here is the "Web Technology" essay.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bad, worse, worst

This Monday, we had to present our worst page, after which we would decide who has created the best worst site. You can find my worst page here. The first thing that you see when you go to my worst page is a loading screen, 'cause what it more annoying than waiting for something to load? As you get to the real deal, you are greeted by a flashing background, the atrocious Comic Sans font, a fake prize contest, and, if you still live in the 90's or adore advertisements, by some pop-ups, that ask for your confirmation when you try to close them.

The philosophy behind making a worst page is that by doing something as bad as possible, you will be able to do it in a very good way because of the lessons you learned from making this awfulness. While this may sound cool I'm not entirely sure about whether this works or not, but this can also be due to the fact that I like to make nice things instead of ugly things. Let's put this discussion aside for now though, because I would like to talk about the results: they were awesome!

Christopher Berg's worst page was the winner by a huge margin, and deservedly so, because his page takes the meaning of the word "annoying" to another level. The second place was for Duuk Baten's page, who used the principle "it is better to copy a good design than to come up with a crappy one yourself" to create a collage of worst pages from all CreaTe students. I do hope the philosophy has some truth to it, since we will end up with a lot of terrible portfolio's otherwise...