New Uses for New Products

Have you ever brushed your teeth with baking soda? Well, so have a lot of other people- and that’s just the beginning.

“The real power of technology is not that it can make the old processes work better, but that it enables organizations to break old rules and create new ways of working” – Hammer and Champy (1993): Regineering the Corporation

With an ever increasing number of people interacting online, people are beginning to realize that some new products destined for one purpose are better suited for another. This is what happened with baking soda: multiple uses have been discovered that have nothing to do with its original purpose.

Digital:Convergence’s scanning device :CueCat allows users to scan a barcode on a page in a magazine (with a :CueCat scanner) and they are carried to the corresponding webpage. Until recently, that is. Some unscrupulous individuals have altered the functionality of the :CueCat scanner. With slight modifications and a connection to the Internet, CueCat can be used for a variety of tasks- from updating your CD collection to posting items for sale on eBay (more applications at ).

Endeavors Technology has recently released a P2P file swapping software; Magi (available at /news/ipaq.htm) for wireless devices: it was originally developed for another company hoping to market it to medical professionals by allowing them to share medical information over a wireless network.

Seti@Home has found a new use for spare cycle time on millions of PCs across the globe. PCs that were just sitting there eighteen months ago, can now form a part of the worlds largest supercomputer and participate in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Other “new uses” for new products include Handspring’s modules that allow a PDA to be transformed into just about anything from a Global Positioning System to an MP3 player. Apple is repositioning its G4s as the “Digital Hub” for the home. The list is practically endless.

While it’s great to have someone come up with new products for you, it would be even better to make them yourself. Development kits are great for software programs; but for products? For products we could find our own new uses, either by combining modules, like a Lego play set, or by simply printing them out.

Three-dimensional printers have been used for prototyping in industrial applications for quite some time ( The problem is that they are generally very expensive- around $60,000. Like every piece of technology, this price has been dropping. You can have your own 3-D printer for the low, low price of $10,995 from Light Machines. This price will continue to drop.

A three-dimensional home printer would allow us to design and manufacture our own creations. With the ability to prototype our own products, we could always get the product that we wanted- and if we didnĂ•t like it, we could remake it. This topic was touched on in a recent article in Wired- MIT Media Lab’s Personal Fabrication Project.

Why on earth would I want an all-in-one mega PDA-MP3-TELEPHONE-GPS-CD player device, when I can make fifteen different devices for different occasions? I guess when we begin to think of products not in terms of products, but more in terms of playlists that can be arranged and re-arranged, we will realize a new use for almost everything. Including baking soda.

Until next time- Happy Mixing!
Jason Ball

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