Product Reviews

Product reviews, about things I have, well actually used.

Wasara Paper Goods. Elegant Green Design.

A few months ago, my friend Regina gave me a set of Wasara paper coffee cups as part of a birthday gift. I hate to say it but I have never used them. As a matter of fact, I put them in the cupboard and forgot they were there until today when I was looking for something else and found them. The fact that I haven’t used them, is a shame, because they were designed to be used now, in the present moment, and unlike traditional cups and other dinnerwares, they are disposable and their purpose is temporary.

Wasara believes that the experience of an object is determined by the form, texture, the way something fits in your hand, the ease of use, the way an object makes you smile. They also believe that this kind of experience shouldn’t be relegated to expensive dinnerware and can be applied to something as simple as a paper plate.

The plates, cups and bowls, have a sensuous organic feel to them. They are not only pleasant to look at but the feel great in your hand. Rigid and light, they don’t feel like traditional paper plates, there is a specific sense of elegance to the simple shapes and forms that heightens the experience of using them. Wasara uses a Japanese design principle known as “Shakkei”, which aims to integrate the landscape as seen through a window, and transformed into part of the interior. This represents the spirit of living in harmony with nature.

The underlying spirit of Wasara products is the legacy of aesthetic values that stems from Japan’s time-honored traditions of craft and skill in design and manufacturing. In addition Wasara feels it is important to create objects in an Earth conscious way, so as to have as little impact on the environment as possible. Because of this all Wasara products are produced with 100% renewable tree-free materials, using bamboo, and bagasse (a by-product of the sugar cane industry). By replacing wood pulp with these rapidly renewable non wood materials, Wasara is creating a well designed green product.

The New Dining Chairs Have Arrived.

After just 3 weeks of waiting for the Herman Miller sale to start, and the chairs to be shipped, our Eames Molded Chairs with Eiffel Tower bases arrived this afternoon. I wish I had ordered two more. These look stunning at the dining room table, but I have to say I wish I had two more. Unfortunately for now, they are going to have to wait. Ultimately this post is a product review, or I should say a first impressions review since I haven’t the chairs long enough to give a detailed product review. So here it is, first impressions of the new chairs.

They look stunning. The chrome base of complex interlocking geometry supporting the high density plastic seat. The intensity in the color of the red chairs is just outstanding. The photos did not do it justice. The color is a deep red-orange that is just so saturated. The seats are comfortable with good back support, and the light texture in the plastic helps keep you from sliding. One noticeable improvement over the original fiberglass chairs from the late 40’s through the 1960’s is the weight.  The new chairs feel so light, and in fact weigh in at just around 5 pounds thanks to the Injection-molded batch-dyed polypropylene; and chrome-plated steel base. I have to say I am really happy with the way they look with the table, and rest of the home. These chairs are a perfect match in color and style for our place. The only question now is, do I get green or sparrow gray for the next two.

Eye-Fi SD Cards For Your Digital Camera

If you are the kind of person that likes to share your digital photos and you don’t have an Eye-Fi card yet, you are missing out.  I bought one a couple months back, and I love it.

The Eye-Fi card is a wireless memory card. It looks and stores media just like a regular SD/SDHC card, and it fits into any camera that supports the SD format. On top of that, the Eye-Fi card has built-in Wi-Fi that uses your wireless network to effortlessly transfer photos and videos via  WiFi to your computer. The card allows up to 32 networks which can be added to the system, so you are not bound to using just your home network.

Set up of the card is simple. During the quick set-up, I was asked to customize where I wanted my photos sent. Then the Eye-Fi software allowed me to choose not only my computer, but gave me more than 25 photo sharing sites that I can send to as well. (Flickr,Fotoki, Facebook, Twitter, MobileMe, YouTube, Webshots, Snapfish, Picasa, Typepad, DotPhoto, Costco, PhotoBucket, Ritz, Walmart, Kodak, Walgreens etc.) Allowing me to instantly upload images to social networking sites or order prints through partners that print hard copies. During set up, you can customize not just where media is being sent, but how you want it organized. You can preset album names, tags, descriptions, and even privacy preferences on certain sharing sites.

The card I am using is the Eye-Fi Pro which allows me to hit any open Wifi Hot spot like McDonalds, or Starbucks for instance, and it allows me to set up Wifi networks for places that I go to on a frequent basis that have free WiFi which is great. It also has RAW support and an 8 gig capacity which is a must. at 150 bucks the cost is a bit more, but I think it is worth it. The entry-level cards don’t have hot spot access which sort of limits the card functionality. It’s not that hard to plug your camera in and download the photos if you are at home.

One thing I have been playing with and plan to use on the Trip to France this spring is the Geotagging feature. When used with iPhoto, it sorts the images into locations where they were shot. So if you are wanting to put together a travel log with your photos, it organizes them for you. Photos imported into iPhoto can be made into a photobook, and since they’re automatically geotagged, inserting a map of your trip is just one click away.
My only real gripe witht he card right now is limited camera compatibility. While Eye-Fi is making headway and adding new cameras all the time, This card doesn’t work with my Lumix, or EP1 so I am having to use it with an older Canon point and shoot that is not my favorite camera to work with. Hopefully as this product gains traction in the market, Eye-Fi will get all camera brands on the compatibilty list.

At CES Eye-Fi announced  new Eye-Fi software, available for download to all Eye-Fi users at the end of January, features improvements on existing popular Eye-Fi software functionality as well as brand new sharing capabilities. By popular demand: viewing photo & video uploads by date with a nifty calendar and viewing uploaded items in large format. New & improved: republishing items to different sharing sites (eg upload to Flickr, then to Facebook); creating a batch from multiple sources (eg a few Eye-Fi’s items, your photo library, any folder on your hard drive…). The website has little info about the software now, so I’ll be curious in a couple of weeks to see the full feature set.

Tobi.com’s Augmented Reality Dressing Room

Fashion apparel website Tobi.com recently launched an augmented reality dressing room for their customers, allowing them to “try on” the clothing directly from the website and then save and share their fashion choices on the social networks Facebook through the “Fashionista Augmented Reality Application“. This is all done through the use of Flash based augmented reality programming, motion capture, and real-time personalization.

The developers behind this application are RichRelevance, a leading provider of next-generation personalization and product recommendation tools for enterprise-class eCommerce sites, like Sears.com, BassPro.com and Walmart.com, and Zugara which is a leading interactive marketing company that focuses on emerging media and technology. Zugara is also a member of the Augmented Reality industry’s “AR Consortium”.

Zugara introduced the first version of this application in June 2009, with their Youtube video example. Recently Tobi began using a customized version of this application for their customers. Tobi’s version is interesting in that not only does this application open up the doors to allow users to interact directly with the merchandise, but shoppers can also take a picture of themselves and their favorite looks by motioning over the camera icon within the Fashionista interface. The image can be saved and emailed to a friend for feedback, or easily uploaded directly to Facebook, where it is published to the shopper’s profile. A shopper’s friends will then see the image in their news and live feeds and be able to comment on it immediately.

“friends still play an important role in influencing consumer decisions. more than eighty-three percent of online shoppers said they are interested in sharing information about their purchases with people they know, while 74 percent are influenced by the opinions of others in their decision to buy the product in the first place. Zugara and RichRelevance are excited to give retailers a new way to connect shoppers with their peers, and make the online shopping experience more like the offline: social, personal and engaging.” said Zugara CEO Matthew Szymczyk

According to the press release, Fashionista creates a totally individualized and engaging customer experience from three core components of emerging media, technology, and eCommerce:

  • Augmented Reality combines real-world and computer-generated data where computer graphics or objects are blended into real-time footage. With Fashionista, images of  clothing are merged with live video of the shopper.
  • Motion Capture recognizes and records an individual’s movements and integrates them into an on-screen model. With Fashionista, hand motions enable the user to virtually navigate backward or forward on-screen to select clothing, indicate preference, and take a photo.
  • Personalized Clothing Recommendations deliver a highly engaging and individualized shopping experience based on the current shopper’s session as well as “wisdom of the crowds.” With Fashionista, a stream of recommendations that leverages multiple recommendation types is displayed and updated based on immediate user feedback on preference.

“My time leading R&D at Amazon confirmed the importance of continually innovating the customer experience,” said David Selinger, CEO of RichRelevance. “Apparel retailers are leading the charge when it comes to social media and online shopping, but they can’t afford to hold steady and stop investing in their shoppers. Fashionista is the next step in eCommerce: part ‘Webcam Social Shopper,’ part brand experience, part social tool, and totally integrated on RichRelevance’s personalized product recommendations platform to deliver measurable ROI.”

This is one of the first examples of Augmented Reality that I have seen that truly takes advantage of the overall experience. After spending a couple of hours playing with the site, application, and Facebook app, I see a ton of potential in this, and I am rather surprised that other online retail giants like Amazon and Zappos haven’t taken full advantage of this yet. Not only does this apply to online clothing retailers, but this has the potential to be applied to other hard goods as well. As the ubiquity of webcam deployment, and the adaptation of augmented reality for mobile devices continues to grow I see this kind of application really taking off. More over if done correctly this is the kind of application that has the potential to build brand buzz, from the cool factor that goes with it, and its hooks into social and viral networking.

Fashionista is available on the RichRelevance enRICH Personalization Platform and utilizes existing product data feeds and images. The application is built in Flash to provide users a seamless experience with no additional plug-ins and allows retailers to track the tool’s performance using existing analytics.