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Jonathan Pidgeon
Works at Empire5Design
Attended SAIT
Lives in Calgary, AB, Canada


Jonathan Pidgeon

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A glowing Google Glass review...
My two-week review of Google Glass: it all depends on the price

This week I gave five speeches while wearing it.
I passed through airports four times (two more in a couple of hours).
I let hundreds of people try my Google Glass.
I have barely taken it off since getting it other than to sleep.

Here's my review after having Google Glass for two weeks:

1. I will never live a day of my life from now on without it (or a competitor). It's that significant. 
2. The success of this totally depends on price. Each audience I asked at the end of my presentations "who would buy this?" As the price got down to $200 literally every hand went up. At $500 a few hands went up. This was consistent, whether talking with students, or more mainstream, older audiences.
3. Nearly everyone had an emotional outburst of "wow" or "amazing" or "that's crazy" or "stunning." 
4. At NextWeb 50 people surrounded me and wouldn't let me leave until they had a chance at trying them. I haven't seen that kind of product angst at a conference for a while. This happened to me all week long, it is just crazy.
5. Most of the privacy concerns I had before coming to Germany just didn't show up. I was shocked by how few negative reactions I got (only one, where an audience member said he wouldn't talk to me with them on). Funny, someone asked me to try them in a bathroom (I had them aimed up at that time and refused).
6. There is a total generational gap that I found. The older people said they would use them, probably, but were far more skeptical, or, at minimum, less passionate about the fact that these are the future, than the 13-21-year-olds I met.

So, let's cover the price, first of all. I bet that +Larry Page is considering two price points: something around $500, which would be very profitable. Or $200, which is about what the bill of materials costs. When you tear apart the glasses, like someone else did (I posted that to my Flipboard "Glasshole" magazine) you see a bunch of parts that aren't expensive. This has been designed for mass production. In other words, millions of units. The only way Google will get there is to price them under $300.

I wouldn't be shocked if Larry went very aggressive and priced them at $200. Why would Google do this? 

Easy: I'm now extremely addicted to Google services. My photos and videos automatically upload to Google+. Adding other services will soon be possible (I just got a Twitter photo app that is being developed by a third party) but turning on automatic uploads to other services will kill my batteries on both my phone and my glasses (which doesn't have much battery life anyway). So, I'm going to be resistant to adding Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Evernote, and Tumblr to my glasses. Especially when Google+ works darn well and is the default. 

Also, Google is forbidding advertising in apps. This is a HUGE shift for Google's business model. I believe Larry Page is moving Google from an advertising-based company to a commerce based company.

The first thing I tried that it failed on was "find me a Sushi restaurant." I'm sure that will get fixed soon and, Google could collect a micropayment anytime I complete a transaction like reserving a seat at a restaurant, or getting a book delivered to my house, or, telling something like Bloomingdales "get me these jeans." 

There is literally billions of dollars to be made with this new commerce-based system, rather than force us to sit and look at ads, the way Facebook and tons of other services do.

When you wear these glasses for two weeks you get the affordance is totally different and that having these on opens you up to a new commerce world. Why?

1. They are much more social than looking at a cell phone. Why? I don't need to look away from you to use Google, or get directions, or do other things. 
2. The voice works and works with nearly every one and in every situation. It's the first product that literally everyone could use it with voice. It's actually quite amazing, even though I know that the magic is that it expects to hear only a small number of things. "OK Glass, Take a Picture" works. "OK Glass, Take a Photo" doesn't. The Glass is forcing your voice commands to be a certain set of commands and no others will be considered. This makes accuracy crazy high, even if you have an accent.

I continue to be amazed with the camera. It totally changes photography and video. Why? I can capture moments. I counted how many seconds it takes to get my smartphone out of my pocket, open it up, find the camera app, wait for it to load, and then take a photo. Six to 12 seconds. With Google Glass? Less than one second. Every time. And I can use it without having hands free, like if I'm carrying groceries in from the car and my kids are doing something cute. 

I've been telling people that this reminds me of the Apple II, which I unboxed with my dad back in 1977. It was expensive. It didn't do much. But I knew my life had changed in a big way and would just get better and better. Already this week I've gotten a new RSS app, the New York Times App, and a Twitter app. With many more on the way.

This is the most interesting new product since the iPhone and I don't say that lightly.

Yeah, we could say the camera isn't good in low light. We could say it doesn't have enough utility. It looks dorky. It freaks some people out (it's new, that will go away once they are in the market). 

But I don't care. This has changed my life. I will never live a day without it on. 

It is that significant. 

Now, Larry, find a way to make it $200 and you'll have a major hit on your hands.

(Attached are dozens of photos I shot over the past two weeks with it).
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Kickstarter's mascot should be a talking 3D-printed iPhone case with built-in dock and solar charging panels that doubles as a wallet and rechargeable bike light with optional open-firmware Raspberry Pi upgrade to interface with a designer Android app powering location-based retro arcade multiplayer social gaming.
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good insight
A year ago I got a Galaxy Nexus phone. I was really quite happy with it -- particularly the camera, upon which I became increasingly reliant to take impromptu but high-quality photos. (See -- not bad, I think!). The plain-Vanilla Android operating system was also a joy to use -- fast, powerful, and elegant. The phone itself was far from perfect -- it was made of cheap plastic and quickly took on a very battered, world-weary appearance -- but overall I had no regrets.

Then the phone's electrical system died, and I needed to get a new one. I'd been reading lots of ecstatic reviews about the new Nexus 4, so I bought that instead.

And I'm terribly sorry to say this, Google -- you've blown it. The Nexus 4 is a dud. After two days of using it, I went back for a refund. It's the first time I've ever been dissatisfied enough with a phone to do this.

Before explaining why I'm so dissatisfied, I should explain a bit about the Nexus Programme: every year Google partners with a mobile phone manufacturer to create a "Nexus" device, which is meant to set a high standard for Android phones, and show what they're capable of. It's their flagship. My model from last year was made by Samsung; this year's Nexus is made by LG.

Google and LG have done a lot right with this phone, for which they've received much justifiable praise. The industrial design is simply gorgeous: clean, slick, and elegant -- but with just enough warm and organic touches to make it a pleasure to hold. It's the first Android phone that can happily go up against the iPhone in the industrial design category.

Also, plain-vanilla Android 4.2 is an absolute joy to use. It's every bit as elegant and refined as the phone itself, and the UX/UI team in particular should be enormously proud of their work.

But aside from the industrial design and the OS, compared to last year's Galaxy Nexus, everything else about the Nexus 4 is worse.

The screen made an immediately poor impression on me. Its colours are dull, desaturated, and muddy-looking. Apparently some people prefer this more "naturalistic" look to the hyper-saturated colour profiles that AMOLED devices like the Galaxy are usually configured for. That's fine -- I have no problem with people who like their colours desaturated. If that's what you want, use a less saturated colour profile for your device. Don't build a device with a screen that's entirely incapable of displaying saturated colours. An emissive display ought to be able to capture the full gamut of human visual perception. The old Nexus Galaxy could; the new Nexus 4 cannot. That's a downgrade.

The next thing to make a poor impression was the data connectivity. Even when the phone had a strong high-speed signal, data only came through in blips and bloops, often timing out or pausing for minutes between data bursts. This made realtime applications such as chat systems unusable. Perhaps this was a problem with the network or a manufacturing error with the phone, but in any case it was thoroughly annoying.

The third thing to make a bad impression was the battery life. After 12 hours of infrequent, unenthusiastic use (due to the irritatingly muddy screen and poor data connectivity), the battery had gone from 100% to 9%. That's much worse battery life than I got with the old Galaxy Nexus. Again, perhaps this was just a bad apple from the manufacturing line, but it rankled.

If these had been the only problems, then I would've simply gotten the phone replaced, thinking that maybe I could learn to live with the poor screen, if the network and battery issues were improved. Then I tested the camera, side-by-side with my old Galaxy Nexus (which had a few minutes of battery life, although it could no longer charge). This turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back. The camera was definitively worse. In a photo of brick chimneys against the sky, the built-in over-sharpening made the chimneys stand out as though they'd been placed against a greenscreen; meanwhile, the built-in de-noising filters caused the grout lines to smear together with the bricks. The quality of the camera wasn't  abysmal -- I would've been quite pleased to get this from a camera phone, three years ago. But in a world where Apple has been advancing the state of the art for camera phones by a fairly phenomenal degree, it was just absolutely unacceptable to see the camera quality sliding backwards.

So I took the phone back to the shop and exchanged it for a Samsung Galaxy S3, because there weren't any more old Galaxy Nexuses in stock.

In comparison to the Nexus 4, the Galaxy S3 looks ugly and feels like a cheap chit of plastic. It's Samsung-ified OS is an absolute horror: every single they have done to "improve" the user experience makes it uglier and more confusing to use. (I understand why they do this: they want to enhance the distinctiveness of their brand. This is the exact same thought process that causes perfectly good dogs to try to enhance the distinctiveness of their brand by rolling around in shit. Seriously: Samsung needs to fire everyone who customises their flavours of Android, and just use the off-the-shelf latest OS. The corporate fat-cats who presumably run Samsung need to understand that this is one of the few times when they cut a bunch of jobs, buy themselves a yacht or three, and the world will thank them for it.) I'll be rooting it and installing stock Android 4.2 at the first opportunity I get.

But these complaints aside: the data connectivity is better, the battery life is at least twice as good as the Nexus 4, the screen is fantastic, and the camera is great. And those functional things ultimately matter much more than nice industrial design.

Google, I'm rooting for you, I really am. I think Android is a great OS, and I understand what you're trying to do with the Nexus program. But please: don't let a Nexus from one year be a regression from previous years -- not by ANY metric. The screen gamut should be larger while consuming fewer watts per lumen. The camera should be better in terms of TRUE resolution -- there are very good ways to quantify this, which have nothing to do with megapixels, by the way -- noise, light sensitivity, colour accuracy, etc. The battery should last longer. The data latency should be lower. If you allow yourselves to compromise on any of these points, then you will NOT be successfully competing with Apple.

So this year's Nexus is a near-miss -- but a miss nonetheless. I look forward to seeing what you come up next year. Don't screw it up again!
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Jonathan Pidgeon

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Game of Thrones Wallpaper = win.

1. When does season three start?
2. Which season had a better ending in your opinion: one or two? Why?
(spoiler alert). 

more wallpapers 
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Jonathan Pidgeon

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Donating my Xbox

Today I donated my Xbox 360 Elite to Goodwill. It represented a time in my life as a developer that I'm not overly proud about living.

I worked for a couple years designing games at Microsoft. It is honestly difficult to say the exact group I was in since the organization was hit regularly by massive reorgs and general management failure.

This was the era right before Kinect and there was an effort underway to broaden the audience to extend beyond the 'big black boy box' brand that so defined the original Xbox. Ultimately, the anemic outcome of this great leap forward was a handful of resource starved trivia games and gameshows. But the dream of bringing socially positive games to more people really appealed to me.

I was an outsider. When I used a console, it was likely to be one built by Nintendo. My design direction tended towards non-violence and cuter, gender neutral designs. I really enjoyed (and to this day still do) original mechanics and will trade cutscenes for gameplay in a heartbeat. Strategy over button mashing! My earliest influences stem from the Amiga and early PC titles, not the regurgitation of a roller coaster known as Halo.

The capital of the console ecosystem
In many ways, a gig at Microsoft was a career peak for many developers I worked with. Since childhood, they had played console games, worked at console companies and then finally made it to the platform mothership from which all their life's work was originally born. The repeated mantra was "The things we do here will impact millions." The unsaid subtext was "millions of Gamers just like us."

It was also a cultural hub. You worked there because you were a gamer. People boasted about epic Gamer Scores and joked about staying up multiple days straight in order to beat the latest release. The men were hardcore. The management was hardcore. The women were doubly hardcore. To succeed politically in a viciously political organization, you lived the brand.

You got the sense the pre-Xbox, gamers as bros was a subculture within the nerdy hobby of games. Over two console generations, a highly cynical marketing team spent billions with no hope of immediate payback to shift the market. Nintendo was slandered as a kids platform, not a leading light. Xbox put machismo, ultra-violence and chimpboys with backwards caps in the spotlight. Wedge, wedge, wedge. Gamers were handed a pre-packaged group identity via the propaganda machine of a mega corporation. For those raised post-Xbox, this workplace was the unquestioned birthplace, the Mecca. Dude. They made Halo.

Cognitive dissonance
I'm okay with not fitting in. Over many years I've gotten comfortable being an alien floating in a sea of Others. There weren't a lot of computer-loving digital makers in rural Maine in the 80s. I spend most of my days dreaming of an intricate systemic future where things are better. It is a state of constantly being half a second out of phase with the rest of the world.

Still it was a challenge being in an group that knew intellectually they had to reach out to new people while at the same time knowing in their heart of hearts that just adding more barrels to a shotgun was the fastest path to gamer glory. Talking with others in the larger organization would yield a sympathetic look. "Someone has to deal with those non-gamers. Sorry it has to be you. Bro."

I am not actually a bro. Don't tell anyone.

We made adorable hand-drawn prototypes and watched them climb through the ranks only to be shot dead by Elder Management that found cuteness instinctually revolting.

Correct games
There is a form to modern console games. If you've played the recent Bioshock Infinite, you can see the full glory of the vision.

First there is a world rendered in lush 3D. This justifies the hardware.

Next are intermittent dollops of plot. These are voice acted because it is a quality signal. They feature intricately modeled characters on a virtual stage. This gives the arc narrative momentum and lets you know you've finished something meaningful.

Filling out the gaps in the 7-12 hours ride are moments of rote game play with all possible feedback knobs tuned to 11. Blood, brains, impact. Innovation is located at 11.2. This makes you feel something visceral.

Each element of this form is refined to a most perfect formula. There are crate-raised critics who make subtle distinctions between the 52 historical shades of grey. There are documents and research. If you are a creative working at or within a publisher, your higher purpose is to judge games based off their adherence to the form. The game is a product and consistency, much like that found in McDonalds fries, results in repeat purchases. You are someone with taste.

You police the act of creation. It is a job. It is a set of orders that come from above. It is your childhood dream.

Away, away
I no longer work at Microsoft. Instead, I started up Spry Fox and spend my dreamy days making odd little games. They barely have plots. They focus on player agency and more often than not sport cute 2D graphics. Very few can be won. None come in boxes. We don't even need to spend billions to get people to play them.

I'm driven by ideals that fit poorly with a highly gated console monoculture: What if games can connect people? What if they can improve the world? What if they bring happiness and joy to our lives?

Hardcore gamers, women, men, children, families, people that play no other games...they play these personal, quirky games of ours. Yeah...we impact tens of millions. Deep down, I'm not sure if any of them are people like me.

So far, none of these games have been released on the Xbox. There's little economic or cultural fit with the artificially propped up tribe residing in that cloistered warren.

So goodbye, big black box. I never really liked what you stood for.

take care,
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A nice summary of web based IDEs.
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Jonathan Pidgeon changed his profile photo.

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Twitter is the Benjamin Button of startups.

Born out of wisdom and insight in our daily social behaviour, completely changing the way we communicate. Soon grown into a heroic Atlas, holding up the world of third-party developers on its shoulders, thriving as the platform rises along with thousands of apps and services transforming the experience. Dusk approaches when Twitter sheds its desire to leave a mark on humanity and finds itself destined to die as a single-feature web-based MVP. A sparkle in a developer's eye.
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I have a feeling that stole everyone who was actively using Google+
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reddit growth, the early days
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Calgary, AB, Canada
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    Computer Technology, 2005 - 2007
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