Running into an article about high-tech audio speakers isn’t what you’d expect when browsing ArcticStartup, but as an audiophile I just couldn’t resist the temptation of covering the beautiful piece of equipment every casual music lover would dream to have in their living room. Uploud Audio’s UA1 is a next gen speaker with a double design trump card: softly furry and esthetic looks fused into a passive hifi speaker with obviously euphoria-inducing effects.
You can tell entrepreneurial buzz is picking up in Helsinki when Finland's top design hotels are catering to local entrepreneurs, much like the new Klaus K Entrepreneurial Innovation Award that will be given out at Slush this year. It makes sense for the family run hotel as more startups are looking for beds when flying in partners and to host events, much like Jolla's Sailfish launch party, which was held at the hotel.
BIMobject may be operating in a small niche, but now they've become the intersection between architects and manufacturers at the early concept stage. BIM stands for building information modeling, and is now the standard way for architects to virtually represent their drawings.
Architects are good at putting the walls up and creating functional living spaces but their models would be empty without furniture, fixtures, and all the little things that can wow a client. This is where BIMobject comes in. They've created a platform where manufacturers can upload virtual representations of their products, which architects can select to use in their modeling.
Metro, the basic design principle behind the Windows 7 Phone, looks strikingly different when compared to other smartphone UI's. The clean lines, wide negative space, and strong typography offer a different perspective to the bubbly apps presented to iOS and Android users. Creating seamless interactions between apps and their operating system is important for a developer to build immersing apps and take the most advantage of the phone's "language" of gestures. Here we're going to cover exactly what Metro consists of (and it's more than just squares, semi-lightweight font, and white-space).
Ever since Nokia announced their decision to join Microsoft in their smart phone strategy numerous sites and people have been writing about the ups and downs of the agreement. However, most if not all of these people are outside the company. Adam Greenfield is a former Nokia designer who worked at the company for 2 years. Since he left, he hasn't touched on Nokia in his blog posts, but this changed a few days ago. He wrote a lengthy post on his observations and thoughts about the company.
It's a fascinating read. Not only for the fact that he has written it as a former employee, but as a designer - a perspective of development Nokia has been publicly questioned to lack when compared to other key players in the industry.
Bloglovin', the Stockholm based startup that is making reading RSS feeds easier, has redesigned their site and added a bunch of improvements while doing so. Mattias Swenson, an active player in the Nordic startup scene and a co-founder of Bloglovin', got in touch with us and told us about the improvement. Mattias told us that the facelift was mainly done for usablity purposes and I have to agree, the new site looks a lot better and intuitive. The layout of the new site can be seen at the end of this post.
Thinglink, a Finnish born service, has gone through a heavy redesign and landed in a private beta as a whole new service. What was before a product code that linked real world object via web to each other is now a conversational product catalog and platform.
The invitation-only beta officially launched on April 22nd at the Milan Furniture Fair with 10 design brands including Arabia Finland, Design Eero Aarnio, Fokus Fabrik, Helsinki Design Week, Iittala, Harri Koskinen, Martela, Selki Station, Ilmari Tapiovaara Design and Woodnotes. The service was also developed in cooperation with many of these Finnish design brands.
Those of use who remember thinglink.org as a product code service are up for a surprise when they enter the new site. The upgrade that launched in Milan added a whole new dimension to the Thinglink we knew as well as changed the .org into .com. Thinglink.com is a global catalog for design that enables designers, brands, and design enthusiasts to connect and converse on the web.
Sfeed, an Estonian startup, is capitalizing on the popularity and dynamics of Twitter by introducing a service that let's you follow a stream of updates that center around physical objects that people like be it a sofa, a designer watch or a Blade Runner movie (Yes, I 'Sfeeded' all of the above). Accordingly, the service is called a shopping microblog.
In a similar fashion to Twitter, in Sfeed you can follow people and instead of status updates you then see the objects they have 'sfeeded' in your home stream. When you find a person with a similar taste to yours you can follow them and start receiving all their 'sfeeded' objects which in effect are likely to be stuff you like as well. Once you have chosen to like (sfeed) a few objects, the service starts to understand to recommend more objects to you based on what you have liked in the past. Simple, but quite powerful and addictive as I have come to find out.
To add products you need to add an easy-to-use bookmarlet to your bookmark toolbar. Once you see an interesting item while visiting an online store just click the bookmarklet and it highlights the item, add it's name and the service automatically adds it to your Sfeed feed. The bookmarklet can be added to most common browsers, namely Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera. I added an item from a tiny Finnish t-shirt store, Puoti.fi. It worked nicely without any problems, so either Sfeed guys have already an agreement with the small store, or they add everybody and get a commission only from the bigger ones like Amazon before they get to the small ones.
You can also create sets (see my set below) and build your set on top of say a photo of your living room. This way you can immediately see whether the objects you have chosen to the set fit in your living room interior. Nifty! Similarly you can post a link of your own sets to Twitter, Facebook, all the other usual suspects or embed an html snippet to your website.
Since the service is build around physical things that are sold in stores, it's not such a stretch to figure out possible business models for the service, which can go from commission to advertising and everything in between as long as there is enought traffic. As hinted above, currently Sfeed's chosen method of monetization is referral sales commission (there is a link to a store that carries the item in question right next to it). That said, a sfeed like service isn't very hard for a service like Fruugo to copy and direct the traffic to their partner merchants, which is a natural consequency of Sfeed being such a simple, clever and easy to implement service. Sfeed was build on Amazon Web Services and financed by a round of seed funding in 2008. Then again, there's always ton of quirky little sites and products that Fruugo or might not be able to get or want to get in their selection, and it actually seems that the two work together quite nicely. Although, I doubt it whether Sfeed will ever get a commission from Fruugo, as Fruugo itself is asking a commission from its merchants.
All said, I very much enjoyed using the service and will make sure to visit again to find more aspirational things I would like to see in my living room.
MySites, a Finnish service that was featured in and sponsored the first ArcticEvening almost a year ago, has redesigned and repositioned itself in the market. Mysites was previously known as a place to store all your files. Some even thought, after showcasing the service in the ArcticEvening, that they are going head on with Facebook and Myspace. The new slogan, which clarifies the mission of the company significantly, is "the world's first social operating system".
The advantages of repositioning themselves are significant, although it remains to be seen just how much there is demand for a service of this sort. Referring to existing concepts is rational and does not require the possible user too much thought to see the value in the service. Better yet, the service has redesigned its website to support this goal and in doing so, has dropped the cartoonish look it still had some time ago.
Once you arrive at the website, it does not hit you with a ton of information like it did before. What's even more enjoyable is the view after the sign in to the service - the design is calm and soothing as a Buddhist temple. I think Ramine's team has done an excellent job with the redesign and repositioning. Now it's all up to the marketing and sales on how to build traction and cashflow, something that the service still lacks as its 100% free. Nevertheless, it's easy to imagine the ways in which this sort of a service can be commercialised.
Furthermore, I noticed a Facebook status update from Ramine that might be telling something of their plans for 2009. Ramine working on an investment can only mean so many things. We're still to find out more about the details, but hopefully we'll be hearing some news in the coming weeks.