Wired has an interesting article on the use of glow in the dark paint on roadways. It seems like an ingenious way to cut power consumption for street lights. I’m not entirely sure I really get the point of the temperature sensitive warnings though. The road getting icy when cold is generally common sense. It seems like it would be better if cars were just required to display outside temperature and perhaps have an audible alarm when it drops below freezing. The cost of this in a modern car would be relatively low as the electronics needed are all cheap. The added benefit would be both a visible (dashboard light) and audible (tone) warning.
Simple ideas can change things.
PCWorld has a pretty interesting story on Microsoft’s R&D efforts. While Microsoft is viewed as an old technology company they aren’t done innovating. In many ways they remind me of AT&T in the Bell Labs days. It’s very possible some of the best research of the day is being done there, and we quite possibly won’t realize it for years to come, and will do so in some derived way.
The research and innovation methods of companies is always interesting. Big companies who invest big bucks with little guarantee of a payoff are the most interesting. We rarely hear/see much about them though.
Building a new product is always fun. You draft ideas, generate wireframes, mockups, prototypes, you build your app, you tweak it, you release it. In the case of software and web applications you also get to update it and make it better. If it’s hardware, you work on a 2nd revision to be sold a year later to people who didn’t adopt early (jab at early adopters).
One of the most interesting things is how users actually use the product you make, if they use it at all. Do they use it a little or a lot? Do they use it as intended? Do they find things missing? To robust for their taste? Or do they just find uses and modifications that all the engineers involved never in a million years would have contemplated?