Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for September, 2010

Patent Analysis Website Provides Some Useful Visualization Tools

Posted by Plish on September 26, 2010

I was doing some patent searching the other day and came across this patent search/analysis tool at see-the-forest.com.

While the site has limited use for those who are not paid subscribers, what it does offer can still fit the bill for many situations.

The search engine does a decent job of finding patents, but what I really like are the graphical depictions of the data that’s mined.

I suggest you check out a great example of a sample search located here.  It looks at the evolution of the ‘car airbag chip’ patent -what types of patents were cited by it, and how it was cited by other patents.  Here’s another example of 100 patents that came up from searching with the term ‘nano’.  I like how even a basic search can give you some great ideas and perspectives on the overall landscape and how it’s changed and continues to change.  Clusters are pretty obvious as are inter-relations between patents.

If you register you are also provided a workbench area where you can see the details of the various patents and do some tweaking of searches and additional analyses.

I do suggest you check out their blog as there are more case studies depicted there.

If there’s one thing that I  don’t like,  it’s that I can’t grab patent numbers or text using ‘highlight, copy, paste’ to move info around.  It’s an interface thing that bugs me because it forces me to remember the info or click-through to the Google page and copy a number from there to do another search.  While I can export search results to Excel, and there are ways to do further searches on the workbench page, the ability to be able to ‘highlight and copy’  is something that would make this even cleaner to use.

All in all, a useful site and one that I’ve already gotten some value from. 

Check it out and let me know what you think of it.

Posted in Design, idea generation, Information Visualization, Innovation Tools, patents, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Do Beautiful Machines Make Beautiful Objects?

Posted by Plish on September 17, 2010

I have fond memories of my mother’s sewing machine.  It wasn’t antique, it would be more apropos to say it was ‘retro’.  Still, I remember popping open the various hatches and looking at how the mechanisms worked.  More than once I experimented with trying various stitches and created tangled messes of thread.

My mother, though she was extremely adept at using the machine, (and could spot machine-made embroidery a mile away) also sewed by hand and made embroidered pillows, shirts, ornamental towels, table cloths, and various other objects that sometimes were functional, but were always beautiful…

Sewing machines have  quite an intense history.  If you want to read about innovation, read about the development of sewing machines.  They’ve gone from being mechanical works of art, to technologically efficient machines.  Antique machines were powered by the sewer and created stitches that were relatively weak.  Modern, electric, motorized, programmable machines can make stronger and more complex stitches and do it with blazing speed and minimal human input.

In some ways it’s the old ‘human vs. machine’ battle, only in this case it’s more of a ‘human+machine vs. machine-human).    In other words, is the output obtained through using a person powered machine as beautiful as that from a pre-programmed machine? (As an aside, why don’t sewing machine makers put ‘accidents’ into their programs to make patterns less perfect?)

 Which brings us back to our first question and many more:

  • Does a beautiful machine (human or otherwise), contribute more effectively to the creation of more beautiful objects when those objects’ purpose is to convey beauty? 
  • Do emotional attachments, and the ability to express emotion through the mechanisms of a machine, create beauty more effectively than a programmed machine? 
  • Does emotional attachment to beautiful tools result in more beautiful creations?
  • Does emotional attachment to the creator of beauty render something more beautiful?
  • When a machine is more expensive, should it be more beautiful?
  • Are there lessons from early sewing machines that we should apply to products today?

What are your thoughts?

Posted in culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, innovation, invention, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Alone and Need Ideas? Try This Tool

Posted by Plish on September 10, 2010

There is something to be said for the dynamic that occurs when people can engage and bounce ideas off of each other.

Sometimes though, we need to come up with ideas on our own.  One great tool for this is the Reverse Dictionary.

The human mind is great at making connections between disparate concepts, at building off of metaphor.  A Reverse Dictionary provides idea fuel for the brain. 

The best way to learn about this is to try it yourself.   To get the ball rolling though, I’m going to walk through an example. 

Say I’m looking for a way to decrease problems in nursing homes.  I entered in three words on the main page: ‘loneliness, mistakes, illness’.  Three terms that define what many people in nursing homes go through. 

The results are here.  When I look at these 100 terms I see some  that are curious, others that I have no idea what they are, some that seem totally unrelated.  Those are the terms that I follow up with and investigate further.  I’ll list some of those here:

1. Iatrogenesis – A fancy way of saying adverse effects to treatments. Things like drug interactions, errors, negligence all fall under this term.  I thought it was fascinating that this is the first term in the list dealing with problems in nursing homes.

47. Toc H – I had no idea what this was so I looked it up here.  It’s an international charity movement started during World War I.  The fundamental beliefs of this organization are:  Fellowship (To Love Widely); Service (To Build Bravely); Fairmindedness (To Think Fairly); and the Kingdom of God (To Witness Humbly).  There’s something there to build upon.

69. Zero Defects – Speaks for itself.

33,53, 76, 94, 85. Redgrave, Radclyffe Hall, Finlandia Prize, Tom Courtney, Glen Ponder – All deal with the Arts.  Getting solutions to nursing home problems from the Arts?  I like it…

95. abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz – A string of letters, it doesn’t mean anything.  It’s confusing but it contains all the letters of the alphabet; it would mean something if it was reorganized and cleaned up.  It makes me think about gleaning useful information from elderly communication, of proper interpretation of symptoms, language and circumstances.

99. Indian Sex Stone –  “The American field archeologist’s term for a natural rock that is mistaken for an artifact, usually a preform or bola stone, in the field. Most such mistakes are made by inexperienced field crew members, who learn quickly not to make such errors.”  Wow… a lot to ponder here and it ties in with #5. 

100. Sam the Robot – “The only robot on Sesame Street. He always tries to do things right, and even insists that he is perfect, but he always does things wrong. Typical mistakes of his would be drawing a circle instead of a square or pouring coffee on the ground.”  Another Wow!  Are there Sam the Robots among the caretakers?  How do we deal with this type of psychological type?

Now that I have these concepts, I can delve into them further, learn more about them and let this information percolate in my conscious and  subconscious.  I can use these as metaphors for coming up with even more ideas for ways of addressing problems in nursing homes.

Now, give it a try yourself and let me know how it works!

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is Your Design S.I.M.P.L.E.? Take the Test

Posted by Plish on September 3, 2010


What is it?

Is it needed?

How do I know if a design is simple enough?

Here’s a ‘Simplicity Test’ for your designs. Judge your designed product or process against the following list. You can assign a numerical value to each category and rank the design and the ‘what ifs?’.

The design is S.I.M.P.L.E. if it embodies the following:

S – Sublime-ness
I – Implicit; The more that needs to be made explicit the further away from simple you’re going.
M – Mysterious; As in, filled with mystery – it makes you say "Wow!" "Why didn’t someone thinks this before?" "How does it work?"
P – Pleasing; To experience, it does what it’s supposed to- it’s experienced as what it’s supposed to be.
L – Longing; At best, it creates a sense of wanting to return to product/process/system. At worst, it doesn’t scare people from coming back.
E – Emotive; Brings forth positive emotions or doesn’t elicit negative emotions.

How would, what you consider great designs, stack up?

Posted in creativity, Design, innovation | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

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