IDEO.org Inspiration day at San Francisco

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The day started off early with some amazing blue bottle cappuccino with Rubayat Khan, Minnie Bredouw and Danny Alexander, before diving in to a wealth of experiential learning with some of the newest technology and health services in the city of San Francisco.

The first stop was Studio Dental, a mobile dental service, set up in an independent trailer, targeting some of the busiest people in the world. Studio dental, started off by Dr. Sarah Creighton is a two month old service that recognizes that a number of San Franciscans have tremendously busy lives and that going to the dentist, although deemed important, was falling through the cracks for far too many people. The solution- bring the dentist to them! A brilliantly designed interior, optimizing on the use of space and focusing on the patients experience, with wi-if, on demand movies, health related videos and of course a very experienced dentist, promises patients high quality dental care in a delightfully convenient way. Two months in the running, Studio Dental is already completely booked with appointments.

Our next encounter was with Square. Square, the device, is a brilliantly simple piece of plug-in technology that allows any iDevice to be converted into a credit/debit card terminal, allowing the user to easily accept card payments at the point of sales. On first glance, both the device and the accompanying app seem to be the most simple and brilliantly designed pieces of technology you can think off, but on talking to a member of the support team, we learnt just how much has gone into getting that design right. In fact, the team at square don’t really seem to be aiming for the right design, just a perpetually better design!

Number three was an organization called One Medical. In a country where getting an appointment with the doctor can take weeks, One Medical promises same day appointments to all its patients! The admin team takes, care of all the hassle that goes with healthcare such as insurance matters, payment details, membership issues, etc. so that when a patient walks in, the doctor can have a long meaningful engagement with the patient.

Other interesting services that we came across (and actively experienced) were Lyft and Uber- two competing cab calling applications that are taking the taxi industry by storm. Both are mobile applications that allow a user to see and summon nearby Uber/Lyft cab drivers. For the passengers, the service costs less than traditional cab fare, but for the drivers it seems to be a much more lucrative job than driving regular cabs. The way I see it, the application itself is just a virtual marketplace for local transportation, connecting demand and supply for transportation through an uber simple, easy to use solution.

Towards the end of the day, Danny introduced us to Romo. Romo is a robot that you can teach to accomplish a number of tasks. It’s essentially an iPhone attached to a body with caterpillar tracks, but the best part about it really no is the personality of the app itself. Romo is personified as a young child robot that wants to be a race car and he needs you to train him! Two minutes of interaction and we hadn’t all completely forgotten that Romo was essentially a computer program- he really did feel like a real live being that you really wanted to help.

Our final inspiration also tied in well with the inspiration from Romo. Andrew Evans, a product designer at IDEO and magician put on a great show for the members of IDEO, mesmerizing us all with new twists on the classic acts of ball and cup, linking rings and levitation. By the end of it he had really driven home the point, that magic, like great design is as much about concealing the boring mechanics of delivery and getting your audience to focus on the truly remarkable moments of the experience. It’s about getting people to forget that someone is working on their teeth in the middle of the road and instead get them to think about what they can do with the extra three hours that they gained in their day because of Studio dental! It’s about getting people to stop fretting about the security of their transactions and focus on unwrapping their new purchase! It’s about falling in love with Romo and his wide expressive eyes and forgetting that they’re just calibrating hardware through a piece of code! At the end of the day, great design is about guiding people to see the magic that they might have otherwise missed.

Ahmed Abu Bakr
Business Development and Innovation

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