When does a prototype become a product?

Designers sketching on whiteboard, ideating session, ux design concepting, web desing, user experience design

This is an awesome NYT story that came out awhile ago about about Johnny Lee of wiimote hacking fame. He talks about why he promotes his work via YouTube instead of publishing papers or commercializing his work. For him, it’s about creating impact on the human condition over the immediate income that could be realized from making a product of his work. Money quote:

Mr. Lee encourages innovators to ask themselves, “Would providing 80 percent of the capability at 1 percent of the cost be valuable to someone?” (quote from NYT, link from TED conference)

If you are an entrepreneur or product manager, that the type of razor focus to use when determining your product roadmap. Entrepreneurs must find the slice of addressable market by creating a small, quickly created product people will pay for because it provides value in a straightforward way. For project managers, it’s knowing what upcoming enhancements maximize return while being done with minimal effort from technology, business, marketing or other teams.

Johnny Lee thinkers until he builds something up to that threshold, then releases it. He sets the threshold very low, so it’s achievable by the non-technical using readily available products. Heck, his $60 wiimote whiteboard hack has been assembled by 5th graders in California in 4 one hour sessions!

Ben, Leslie and I had our cat bobbing and weaving in about 90 minutes after a one day Thinkering with the Ardiuno session at IIT led by Anijo Mathew. Here’s that video:

Now that our space is nearly finished, our first order of business is to setup a WiiMote Whiteboard and get our feet wet with reality and the primitive modeling of ubiquity. We’ll be blogging the results of our efforts here, with photos and video.

Man, I hope we whup those 5th graders.

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