Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rapid Prototyping The Stupid(?) Way

There's an article floating around called "Rapid prototyping the Google X way". It highlights Tom Chi of Google talking about how his team mocked up some prototypes of Google glass. It's bad advice and a terrible philosophy.

The philosophy is flawed because it prioritizes the prototyping process itself - not the product. Instead of thinking 'how fast can we get a working prototype', they should be thinking, 'what is the fastest way to explore and test the most important part(s) of our product'. If Tom's 2 hour Google Glass prototype concept is taken to the automotive space, then one would conclude that having a car made of pizza boxes and powered by hamsters is a great way to prototype cars.

A better way to think of the prototype process is to identify the most important part(s) of your product, why it's important and how can we explore it effectively. If Tom and his team had this philosophy, instead of his team wasting time hooking up their Google glass to computers and playing with screens, they would have thought:

  1. Q: What is the most important part of our product? A: It's wearable computing.

  2. Q: What is the most important part of wearable computing? A: People need to actually tolerate (at worst) or love (at best) wearing it.

If they had thought about it in this way, instead of playing with software and simulating HUD's, they would have been down at the corner store buying up as many sunglasses as possible. Then they'd be playing with how far they can push wearing glasses in all sorts of different ways. They would have made their insight about weight distribution faster and spent less time on parts that didn't really matter (software and HUDs).

Don't follow Tom's advice on prototyping. Don't make rapid prototyping an end onto itself. Don't prototype the (Stupid?) Google X way.