Monday, February 25, 2008

Community of Car Designers - What do they crave? What will they allow?

With a steady and powerful drum beat, companies and organizations are rallying behind distributed innovation to create products more powerful than most individual efforts could conceive.

Cuusoo/Elephant Design
Ponoko
MFG
Wikipedia
Top Coder
Mozilla
Threadless
istockphoto.com (Designer spotlight)

Some of these products are software, and that creation process has become largely well understood. It is the creation of more artistic products or even physical goods which has been more difficult for people to conceptualize until now. At Local Motors, we spend a lot - let me repeat A LOT - of time trying to get our arms around the specific aspects of designers' culture, and it has made for some great debate.

One area of distributed innovation that seems to have a direct impact on our community of designers is the market for distributed editing of images. Otherwise known as online image editing through Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), this concept is all at once quite simple and yet hugely powerful. It allows people with great content to mash up with people with great ideas and still others with great skill in order to make stunning images.

Take for example a photograph that is of a stormy sky, and then another of a green field, and then a deep lake, and then a misty mountain. put them all together in the mind of the right artist.......



































and....Voila!












This was actually from a series of works developed to advertise for an outdoor products company. Of course, when the original images were taken, none of the photographers had any idea they would go well or be used in such a creation. It was not until an artist came along and was inspired enough to place them together.

The same process ought to go on for cars and their body design.... At Local Motors, we are betting on it.

The big question however, is, "In what way will car designers want to share and adjust each other's images?" It is pretty clear that all designers enjoy feedback (praise and critique). But when it comes time to allowing a critic to take your design into his own hands and then make his changes directly on the "canvas" and redeploy that new design to the community, THAT is a challenging question.

I have heard those that argue such sharing will happen naturally, and still others who argue just as intensely that they would rather die then allow their image to be re-made by another. Who is right, we cannot say, but looking at some sites that offer the type of tools that could allow such an advanced form of collaboration can give us some idea as to the potential. The space is growing quickly.

http://a.viary.com - Leading site in terms of ideas and sharing between a wealth of image editing applications. Has its own community, however, which makes it much less attractive for inclusion in LM's business model.

http://www.splashup.com/ - They have a photo sharing feature between specific sites (picasa, flikr, etc), but it could potentially be a software suite that we could integrate into LM's site.

http://www.picnik.com/ Fun sense of team. I like it. They are based in Seattle. Microsoft heritage (ugh!). No voting on edited images like Aviary, but they are up and running. the downside here is that one must pay for the editor.

http://snipshot.com/ Free API so that we can put it on our own website! Limited editing tools it appears. Must pay for the editor.

http://lunapic.com/editor/ Definite Photo rating and voting features, but very MySpace focused. Interesting list of pre-loaded (human image) editing features. I like the way this would seem to work, especially if the same thing was created for car editing, but it would probably become quickly amateur (or not deep enough).

www.myimager.com - Seems pretty basic.

http://sxoop.com/ 2 person team. Have a program called PIXENATE. Go Irish! Seems I am scraping lower in the barrel.

So that is the lay of the land for now, more to follow as the site and alpha gain more traction.