Design Leaders

Design Leaders aren’t super-designers. Their role is NOT to ‘approve or disapprove’ other designers. Nor is it to dot the final pixel-perfect or sweat the final details to a design.

Many organizations make the common mistake of confusing design managers with design leaders. Design leaders touch upon the organization, and not just the design department. The role is strategic and needs to align with the organization’s strategy and plans.

C-suite Design Leaders who can take decisions

Organizations, in search for a competitive advantage over their counterparts, should have more visible acts of advocacy for design leadership. Hiring design leaders such as “Chief Design Officer” or similar C-suite Vice President design roles is a good start.

A successful design leader brings in a design harmony, patterns, frameworks, and guides across the organization. From the very deep core of visual and experience designs to brand messaging to treating people, a design leader has a meaningful impact. She can have a successful and meaningfully designed product, by working with the team, without herself ever opening Photoshop or Sketch. She might just be sketching on a napkin but she connects the dots and get the team to execute the best of designs.

Erstwhile Craftsman & Practitioner

One key measure of a successful design leader is her effective presentation skills. She should be able to talk with confidence and drive everyone involved towards a common goal. She should have good management skills and leverage the best of design managers. Finally, she should mentor and help more designers become leaders.

Marcin Treder said it beautifully, “Great design leaders are seasoned practitioners, ready to give up the craft.”

A design leader leads and drives discussions with the design team, management and beyond. She initiates dialogue, both good and bad, to achieve the common goal of producing good meaningful designs. She instills an inquisitive mood of asking “what” driving organizations to produce better-designed products. She is confident in leaving the “how” of designs to the designers and the team.

The Right Person

It is sad but many organizations try to bring in design leaders who are not designers but carved out of seasoned managers. Without design leaders, organizations cannot achieve good designs. Without a design leader, even the best designers will just be answering to the whims of managers to fulfill client and customer demands that might not be good in the long term.

A design leader continues to be actively involved in design disciplines, remain driven to design, coaches others, is a team player, always open-minded, is not afraid of change, and is always ready to give actionable feedback. Last, but not the least, a design leader is committed to integrating design and design thinking throughout the organization.

“Design leaders succeed by designing indirectly – through the work of their teams. The key task of a design leader is to become the worst designer on the team.” — Marcin Treder

Here are some good references for further reading;

Photo by Jehyun Sung.

3 Ways AI is Contributing to Businesses Success

Tech innovations like artificial intelligence are no longer the stuff of science-fiction. Thanks to advancements made in machine learning, we now have AI that can complete notoriously difficult university entrance exams 12 times faster than the average human. That’s just one example of how far this technology has come.

Luckily, access to these technologies isn’t restricted to a few elite individuals or organizations. Machine learning, AI, and automation are all set to revolutionize the way companies do business in the near future, and businesses of nearly all sizes can benefit.

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Free Lectures (videos) from Princeton on Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

You have definitely heard of Bitcoin and wanted to know all the details. Bitcoin is the first decentralized peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen. It was the first practical implementation and is currently the most prominent triple entry bookkeeping system in existence.

Here are a series of lectures from Princeton University on Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency. The lectures are technical and address some important questions about Bitcoin, such as:

How does Bitcoin work? What makes Bitcoin different? How secure are your Bitcoins? How anonymous are Bitcoin users? What determines the price of Bitcoins? Can cryptocurrencies be regulated? What might the future hold?

After this course, you’ll know everything you need to be able to separate fact from fiction when reading claims about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. You’ll have the conceptual foundations you need to engineer secure software that interacts with the Bitcoin network. And you’ll be able to integrate ideas from Bitcoin in your own projects.

Here are the 11 video lectures.

1. Intro to Crypto and Cryptocurrencies

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Education Centers should think like big businesses when it comes to technology

Education centers, especially higher education centers, should take technology cues from the nation’s leading businesses. To be successful, the latest technology has to be leveraged to improve attendance, garner new students, retain current students, and improve the student’s overall experience. The following shows how big businesses are driving sales and gaining new customers, and how education centers can follow suit:

Leverage Data Visualization Software

The nation’s largest organizations understand the power of business intelligence, which is why they invest in data analytics and visualization software. Colleges, especially small technical schools, can benefit from using industry-leading software, such as Tableau or Microsoft Power BI. For a detailed comparison of these solutions, check out – Power BI vs Tableau. Comparing them is essential to learning which system provides the most benefit for a particular institution.

Basically, these programs incorporate all the big data collected from spreadsheets, storyboards, and other software. It then places it in a user-friendly space where it can be analyzed and interpreted by anyone. The benefits are immeasurable. It can help schools identify successful student traits, advertise more effectively, and reveal opportunities previously unseen.

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New and Interesting Augmented Reality (ARKit) Apps for iPhones and iPads

Robert Scoble published a list of ARKit Apps (Augmented Reality). I found it interesting and listing it here, in no particular order, for the records. You need an ARKit-enabled iPhone or iPad to play with these apps.

  1. Sketchfab – drop 3D objects near you.
  2. Orb – pull out basic shapes and then sculpt, rotate, and paint them to create your own Orbs.
  3. PuzzlAR: World Tour -puzzle game.
  4. Holo – see the quality of holograms.
  5. Army of Robots – you must destroy the robots that are invading your REAL WORLD.
  6. Paint Space AR – draw in the air with all sorts of brushes and colors.
  7. Math Ninja AR – get kids involved in learning math.
  8. World Brush – paint with brushes on the world around you.
  9. Follow Me Dragon – Say hi to your new dragon! He breathes fire, does tricks, and follows you anywhere you go!
  10. Insight Heart – explore the human heart; rotate and scale the high-resolution heart floating in front of you.
  11. Monster Park – Dino World – Would you like to make a hilarious photo with dinosaurs, those who ruled the Earth long time ago?
  12. Nitro Nation – For those who live life 1/4 mile at a time, Nitro Nation is the most addictive drag racing game!
  13. aCen – a target shooting game.
  14. Fitness AR – explore your Strava bike rides and runs in augmented reality.
  15. powARdup – a fast-paced arcade survival game.
  16. Magic Sudoku – aim this app at a sudoku board game and it’ll solve it for you.
  17. Dronetopolis – Fly a virtual drone around.
  18. Dance Reality – Learn to dance in AR.
  19. My Very Hungry Caterpillar – caterpillar game.
  20. Conduct AR – a train game.
  21. Color BlastAR – find the paint buckets and treasure chests hidden in your room and start blasting life-sized zombies with color.
  22. AR Runner – gets you to run around.
  23. Splitter Critters – Split the world with a swipe of your finger and then rearrange it to guide critters back to their spaceship.
  24. ARrived – The player assumes the role of a deity who must lead followers through key decisions and interacts with real environment in order to guide them reach prosperity and to all kinds of crazy stuff.
  25. GIPHY World: AR GIFs+Stickers – Get ready to fill the world around you with GIFs & stickers in glorious AR powered 3D!
  26. AR Sports Basketball – basketball game.
  27. AR-Basketball – basketball game.
  28. Drive Ahead! Minigolf – Minigolf.
  29. Mammoth Mini Golf AR – a wacky caveman themed world of mini golf right into your home.
  30. Stack AR – Stack up the blocks as high as you can.
  31. CARROT Weather – a crazy-powerful weather app that delivers hilariously twisted forecasts.
  32. Zombie Gunship Revenant – zombie shooter where you take control of a heavily-armed helicopter gunship and obliterate zombies from the sky.
  33. Pigeon Panic – run haphazardly into large flocks of pigeons.
  34. Phantogeist – first person shooter game.
  35. The Machines – bring an AR battlefield to life in front of your eyes.
  36. YuME: Alice’s Dream – a story about a dream within a dream – story, puzzles, games.
  37. Domino World – create incredible virtual domino courses quickly and easily in the world around you, using an assortment of tiles, props and toys.
  38. shARk – lets sharks enter your world and swim with you.
  39. Twilight Pioneers:Dragon ARena – a story about a dragon soul controller fighting with the Dark Lord.
  40. AR Balloons – pop Balloons in augmented reality.
  41. Knightfall – places you into the world of Knights Templar as they seek to defend the city of Acre from an invadaing army.
  42. The Box – every day you get new functionality.
  43. Mancala FS5 – a board game.

How product designers use Big Data Science to make durable products?

Two years ago, a self-driving Car was launched by Google. However, it was only a few minutes later that it blew brains of the people by stopping in the middle of the street when it confronted a woman seated in a wheelchair while she was chasing a running duck with her broomstick. The car took a halt till the road became clear and then started making an advanced contribution to the worldwide traffic safety.

The products have been evolved into smart and intelligent devices with embedded systems that are connected on the broader level, reshaping the product design, radically, on the whole. As the car stopped in the middle, this particular information has been sent to all the Google car by which no car will ever make a mistake when someone in a wheelchair comes across the street chasing a duck with a stick.

Another example that displays the advancement of product design is the changing design of smart thermostats. Designed to control the home devices by transmitting the individual data of the house to the manufacturers, these intelligent machines will be connected to a network that autonomously optimizes through coordination. The data that has been streamed on the location, environment, and operation will be sent to the makers who process it and then make upgraded products that eliminate all the errors.

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DD-WRT, VPN and Apple Airport Routers

Apple’s Airport Extreme and Express are brilliant at what they do. They are secure, yet easy to setup and maintain. Well, you do not need to maintain them – they tend to just keep working. It makes it super easy for an Apple product eco-system to co-exist without much hassle and fuss.

Airport Wireless

After many Linksys and D-Link Wi-Fi Routers, I started with the first generation Airpot Express and upgraded to the first Airport Time Capsule when it was released in 2008. The time capsule (Airport Extreme with Time Machine enabled Drive) lasted for 5 years and the Airport Express, a little over 6 years. Our current Home Network Setup is powered by an Airport Extreme and few Airport Expresses.

However, the apple routers are limited in their functionality. I wanted a VPN sitting in between the Internet and my home network without disturbing my original setup. I also wanted to have the option to turn the VPN OFF/ON quickly as and when I needed. I researched for a bit and settled on a cheap flashable wi-fi router – Asus RT-N18U. I flashed the Asus router with DD-WRT.

There are other Open Source Router firmwares which are equally good. I chose DD-WRT, as I find it easier, and have used it earlier. Some other alternatives you might want to try are – Tomato, OpenWRT, Gargoyle, etc.

I’m not very technical but I can understand technology, and knows a thing or two about how things work. So, I chose simpler setups and things that just works. My current setup works for now.

DD-WRT

DD-WRT is a Linux based alternative OpenSource firmware suitable for a great variety of WLAN routers and embedded systems. The main emphasis lies on providing the easiest possible handling while at the same time supporting a great number of functionalities within the framework of the respective hardware platform used.

Flashing a router and installation of DD-WRT is pretty straight forward. The most important part is to choose the right firmware for the router, making sure that the router is supported by DD-WRT. Following the instructions on the installation should be good enough.

Once all installed and running, here are few basic setting recommendations suggested by industry experts.

  • Change the default network from something like 192.168.1.1 to 192.168.xx.xx of your choice.
  • Broadcast the SSID but secure it with WPA2 with AES. If you’re not worried about backward compatibility, you can disable TKIP.
  • Of course, change your Admin password from the default to something better.
  • Always have a backup of your settings. It tends to be useful.

Services – VPN, NAS, the bells and whistles

The features and functionalities of DD-WRT are humongous. Pick the ones you want to use and you can ignore the others to their default/disabled state. If you have signed up for a VPN, which are much needed these days than ever, read-up on their OpenVPN (better than the other protocols so far) documentation for DD-WRT and set it up.

I really liked the simplicity of ExpressVPN, and it just worked for me. If you are shopping for one, most of the VPN Providers have a trial period – from 2 days to a week, or even sometimes a month. A 2-day trial should be enough for you to make a choice. I once got a good deal on CactusVPN and I subscribe to their VPN + SmartDNS.

Try out other good VPN providers – VyprRVPN, NordVPN, IPVanish, Buffered, Anonymizer, Private Internet Access, Tor Guard, Slick VPN, MullVad, Black VPN, Smart VPN, Private VPN, etc. You can also filter through an exhaustive list of VPN Providers or swing by That One Privacy Site to do a thorough research that fits your requirements. More VPN reviews can be found on TheBestVPN.

DD-WRT Router + Apple Airport

Finally, I combined the two worlds – the DD-WRT Router facing the Internet and the Apple Airport Extreme managing the Home Network.

Internet

Setup the DD-WRT Router to face the internet – set up your PPPoE, tethering or the IP that your Internet Service Provider gave you. Enable DHCP so that the DD-WRT router can act as the DHCP Server. You can set up additional options such as the firewall, ad-blocker, access restrictions etc. Make sure the Internet and everything else is working here perfectly. Leave the Wi-Fi enabled and working to get back to it, just in case, your primary Apple Router fails or just to debug/edit settings to the DD-WRT router. This also decouples the harsh Internet from your home network.

Apple Airport Router

This is your primary network where all your devices are connected. As the Internet is now taken care by the DD-WRT router, we have to just plug in the Airport Router’s LAN to the LAN network of the DD-WRT Router.

Play around with the Airport Router settings of your choices. However, here are few key important setups that the Apple Airport Router needs to make it working in this setup;

  1. In the Internet tab, connect using DHCP so it gets its unique IP from the DD-WRT Router. You can change the DNS server either here or in the DD-WRT router. I kept it at the DD-WRT Router.
  2. Now, Create a wireless network with the settings of your choice.
  3. For the most important part, turn the Router Mode Off (Bridge Mode). We’re not routing anything with the Apple Airport but merely managing the Wireless Internet Network.

Of course, with Apple rumored to be abandoning the router business, in future, you can just plug off the Apple Router part and move to your DD-WRT router as the primary network manager.

Oinam Home Network

That’s it. You can now have the flexibility, security of a DD-WRT Router and Wireless Network managed by an Apple Router to easily and consistently connect all your devices. All your devices, from phones to laptops to the connected TV, can connect to the Internet encapsulated via a VPN. I’m still experimenting and will continue to play with my setup. The current setup has been running for a year or so, without any issues.

Artificial Intelligence, Facial Recognition, and … Fish?

UI Faces

If you are a tech-savvy, ecologically-minded entrepreneur, then have we got news for you. Artificial Intelligence is capable of many things, and responsible for many more things than the average person may want to know about. You may already be aware that artificial intelligence is used in those dazzling fast facial recognition searches so often featured in police procedurals. Face and body recognition are a controversial, daily reality around the world.

Fish Recognition

Now, as reported in The Guardian, the non-profit environmental group Nature Conservancy is seeking interested parties to create fish recognition algorithms. Similar to the facial recognition algorithms which pick out unique facial features from amidst a crowd, the hoped-for smart program will identify specific kinds of protected fish. If successful, this software will assist inspectors and honest fishing vessels alike, drastically cutting down on inspection times while enhancing accuracy. For those actively engaging in illegal fishing, however, the news will be less good.

Real Problems In Need of Real Solutions

fish-recognition

Illegal fishing costs the world economy an estimated $20 billion a year. Like many of the problems that artificial intelligence is being called upon to address, this one is big, literally too big for human minds and eyes to handle on their own. Smart computers can help, and smart computer programmers can help make those smart computers.

For more information, including details on the machine learning contests, visit Kaggle’s site – The Nature Conservancy Fisheries Monitoring.

Artificial Intelligence: Elon Musk, Neural Lace and the Apocalypse

If it was anyone besides Elon Musk expressing sincere concerns regarding the threat of Artificial Intelligence achieving the singularity within the next five to ten years, the sentiment may be dismissed with a recommendation to stop watching reruns of Battlestar Galactica.

However, Elon Musk isn’t just anyone. He’s not even just any genius. He’s founded SpaceX, OpenAI, Tesla, SolarCity and X.com (which eventually became Paypal). So, when celebrated technologist Musk advises that care should be taken with regards to AI, elaborating that “with artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon,” it’s worthwhile to stop and listen. Musk identifies several concerns about humanity and AI’s interconnected future;

  • In the wrong hands, AI could become a tool for governments and individuals (including “evil dictators”) in the pursuit of power and could contribute to bad ends, such as oppression and war.
  • If robots become too “human-like” in appearance, they may be used for deception.
  • Leading AI companies are overconfident in their ability to “shape and control the digital superintelligences,” and may fail to “prevent bad ones from escaping into the internet.”

So, how does Musk intend to prevent a future where an AI administrator of a company computer network – a Master Control Program (MCP) – plans to pwn the Pentagon and the Kremlin?

Elon Musk

Musk’s solution is more Cylon than Tron: the creation of an “AI – human symbiote” using neural lace. The lace would constitute a digital layer that taps into certain neurons, most likely entering through arteries and veins. Once infused with the digital layer, limitations to the thinking part of the human mind (the cerebral cortex) would be lifted; and hybrids would be able to think both in the virtual place within their brain as well as on the cloud, free of bandwidth constraints. Ultimately, in merging humanity with AI, and creating a “neural link between your cortex and your digital extension of yourself,” technology would be democratized.

However, if worse comes to worse, the neural lace may make it easier to file paperless requests with our robot overlords.

Partnership on Artifical Intelligence to Benefit People and Society

Of all the modern demands on Artificial Intelligence, “open the pod bay doors” is arguably the most infamous. Years after Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, you can ask your own pocket AI. Unlike Siri, HAL 9000, the fictional AI who kept the pod bay doors closed, is a revealing reflection of humanity’s anxieties regarding technology created in one’s own image.  

Perhaps the same shared, underlying unease that caused HAL’s misbehavior to still resonate to this day is partly behind Google, DeepMind, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM banding together to police the development and implementation of AI.  Notably absent are OpenAI (Elon Musk’s research project) and Apple. The group’s chosen name, “Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society,” is fairly self-explanatory, if not clunky and slightly sinister. As stated on the Partnership’s website, the group was formed to leverage the “great promise” of AI “for raising the quality of people’s lives” and addressing “important global challenges such as climate change, food, inequality, health, and education.” However, many of the Partnership’s stated goals seem geared towards shaping the future public attitude towards AI via knowledge and reassurance.

  • Advance public understanding of artificial intelligence.
  • Create standards for future research.
  • Support best practices.
  • Create open discussion.

Further, some of the Partnership’s eight tenets listed on its website almost directly address public concerns regarding AI and its logical conclusion, robot uprising. In general, the tenets involve the following principles:

  1. As many people as possible should be benefited and empowered by AI.
  2. The public should be involved in the development of AI.
  3. Development will be held accountable to “a broad rage of stakeholders.”
  4. Research and development should be conducted with transparency, and systems’ reasoning should be equally transparent, but also explainable.
  5. Development will seek public feedback and address public questions.

The Partnership’s formation, as well as its focus on transparency, public involvement, and ethics, is notably near to the White House’s series of workshops and groups on AI’s risks and benefits. The government’s workshops addressed complex policy, safety and security questions, and also revealed fears that jobs will be lost to AI, and behavior will be unpredictable and uncontrolled.

One must wonder whether the Partnership is less an exercise in selflessness than a strategic maneuvering to control the AI conversation.  Arguably, presenting solutions via the Partnership would potentially discourage government regulation, and in so doing avoid regulatory speed bumps to company growth.