#DEMO2012 TourWrist Proves We Need Structured Memory to Live in the Present

Now You Know Why TourWrist Is Not Just a Panorama Photo App

(Photo Credit: Rosefirerising on Flickr)

Written by Douglas Crets, Developer Evangelist and Editor, Microsoft BizSpark Program

TourWrist is an information translator that allows us to gain multiple layers of intelligence from an experience in the past, so that we can translate ourselves into the present.

Let me back up.

TourWrist won a million dollars in IDG public relations and media exposure for having a really great immersive panorama app, but they also won it because aesthetically and functionally they make memory make sense.  Business, marketing, travel, and relationships – even military intelligence – is all about memory.

Armstrong pulled off a beautiful app that offers great aesthetics, and he delivers a way to package memory into something we can easily articulate. When we talked at the event he said that having a way to organize memory into graphic mnemonic devices is going to be very, very important in the coming years.

I believe it. We are a distinctly unconscious folk, we humans. We are not very good at paying attention. We do that later. We’re really good about ripping the veil off the world. I would say that the past twenty years of information delivery has been about pummeling us with so much information that we know nothing of the experiences we are having. Information no longer organizes those experiences.

Welcome To The Beginning of a New Design Era

It has not happened yet, but I hope it does. Designers have always been cool, but they are going to be completely essential in the coming wave of “DIS-disorder apps” that I think are the new thing.

DEMO 2012 showed me two things: 1. We have had enough of all the information. 2. We need a carefully articulated voice, choice, and decision engine for our culture.

Even though a lot of entrepreneurs did not build flawless and well-executed design into their products, it is important, and design was the real theme of DEMO 2012. From HashTips, which helps you take your friend’s experiences and use them to make careful decisions about eating, entertainment and lifestyle instantaneously, to Hypemarks, which orders your media habits around your friends’ choices in a way that Facebook has completely missed, design is the unspoken desire of the app building and cloud server world.

Bring on the Curators

Consumers have the control. They have so much control because they live lives using information they do not have to order for themselves. They own the devices upon which their lives will be translated. So you have to create a life for them on their devices they understand. Solving that problem won Armstrong a cool million in soft money.

(Photo Courtesy of Demo Conference on Flickr)

My theory is that life is managed by a well-rehearsed habit of language, timing, and repetitive actions that produce the same, or nearly the same, result. Over time, we call this life. The media channels, fiscal channels and commodities we interact with all the time frame our thinking about those things, just as our thinking has made those things.

Technology disrupts those things, as newer and faster, or more efficient, or radically different parameters are set.

Design Manages Life and Design Restructures Chaos

DEMO entrepreneurs, whether they believe so or not, are trying to create a new culture. Entrepreneurs in general are the unpaid interns of our new lifestyles, and they are scrapping and fighting to get that honor recognized. That work takes tireless hours of passionate involvement. Their focus on disrupting the channels we have come to know as our real life is really about disrupting the ordered chaos that has become this epoch’s culture. Our culture has been formulated by megalithic media channels and very strong institutions that no longer look at authoratative in the light of massively scaled mobile devices. 

They are not simply trying to create a new app for the cloud. But they are addressing the solutions that were created by building the cloud — how do I take all of my separateness and disjointed life, which was disguised by my involvement in megalithic singular channels of content, institutions, and commodities, and translate it into sense? 

Make It Rain

(photo courtesy of Vilkskogen on Flickr, Creative Commons License)

The cloud is important, because the cloud is both the solution and the metaphor for the New Problem Set.  It allows developers to organize all those currently active cultural interactions we process every day – shopping, driving to work, parking our car, changing money, planning travel – and turn them into abstract objects on the web.

The reason you have to have great design is that an abstracted object is now not immediately understood in mechanical terms like language, sound, or smell. It’s a piece of code.

Like I said in one of my tweets, people buy from people they like. They invest in people they like. Your product has to be a person that someone likes.  Abstract code can instantaneously be delivered from the cloud into a meaningful cultural object. It can become likeable.

When that happens, you have managed the disruption.

Developers, Manage Your Code

 Managed code is a managed lifestyle. Articulated sub-layers of code packaged into meaningful cultural sense – like a good UI that makes the abstract mental action as clear as the physical action – means you are building a real product.

I think that when investors are looking for great products, they are of course looking for well-articulated encoded objects that come out of the database.

Travel Depends on a Kind of Foreplay to Create the Future

When I look at Georama, another DEMO Conference presenter, I am looking at a company that is trying to take all the existing APIs and data for travel and put them in a portal. But that’s not the problem that needs to be solved. A traveler likes going from one site to the next to find data and information about weather and hotel pricing.

When I went with a friend to Costa Rica, her sister joined us. As she prepared, she would take the screenshots of the weather being reported in San Jose and paste them on her Facebook page. I would work on Hipmunk and try to find the right prices. My friend bought the tickets. Yes, it was a three-person experience. But it was foreplay. Travel needs foreplay.

Why do we travel? We travel to get away from work. What does planning for travel do? It helps us prime the engine for the vacation. It’s the subtle, sexy experience of finding out something about a place we’ve never been.

But the Future is Really About the Past And The Work We Do To Create the Present and the Future – Enter Memory

We gently and seductively peel back the layers of information that we have kept in our head from the last time we saw someone, or were intimate with someone.

Will this be the right location to deepen our relationship? What is this pool feel like, compared to this pool? Can I imagine my friend lying with me while howler monkeys scream in the ceiba trees? Will she feel comfortable? Will she like the rocky beach that overlooks all of the Pacific Ocean? I play in mind what I want to have happen in the reality I have never experienced before.

And then, when the trip is over, all I have is my memory and my pictures that prompt my memory. I have the view of the Pacific Ocean.  I have the baby monkeys moving through the trees. I have the way my friend looked sitting on a horse moving towards the umber sunset descending behind the mountains.

Having this full-scale color experience to play back in front of me triggers so many memories and new narratives. Where did we get to from here?.

It’s about exploration.

Travel and Love are about the same things – so should the web or app experience be. Being with someone else is like being in a new country. John Donne has a wonderful poem about this. Yes, in his British Victorian mindset he likens passion for his lover to claiming an “undiscovered country” upon which he “plants” his flag.


We meet our lovers, our friends, our travel destination halfway. We have to search for them.

We when get there, we have arrived, but it is still incomplete. It is not complete until the memory has been created. We are constantly looking back to make sense, to create information, and to create a story.  

It Comes Back to Design

So, please developers, listen. Team up with great designers. Team up with people who understand how to articulate the invisible language of our interaction in the world.

When we have solved that problem, we are nearer to a disruption in how we live. Perhaps we really can live in the present.  

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