Making Toys Vs. Developing Software – Agile Hong Kong

Toys vs. Software - Agile Hong Kong (by cloneofsnake)

I almost missed Tuesday night’s Agile Hong Kong event – Toys vs. Software, Fight! Had to check the address and the map at a public terminal in MTR at the last minute!

Jonathan Buford, Managing and Technical Director at Advanced Design Labs, was there to talk about his experience in the toys development process… and how it’s similar / different from software development. He showed us a few of his past designs, one of which I’ve seen on TV commercials in the US. He also has a product that has just finished development and is being manufactured for the coming Chirstmas season. It was pretty interesting to learn about the specifics in creating new toys. In fact, it was so interesting that we kept asking questions about making toys and Jonathan had to ditched the entire 2nd half of his speech on software development! 🙂 This shouldn’t be surprising, as most of the people attending Agile’s events should have IT backgrounds and understand software development processes and project management. So we all had a good grasp on Jonathan’s explanation on the “critical path” in product development.

What really interested me was about the risks – R&D can completely go down the tube if no one is buying the idea. So, to minimize risk, they develop lots and create prototypes quickly. He mentioned Rapid Prototyping machines, saying that eventually users will be able to design and make the prototypes themselves. This is related to crowdsourcing and, so I asked him what was his take on “crowdsourcing toys design”. Jonathan thinks that we are heading toward the direction of “user generated products”, there are just 2 factors holding us back – 1) the design tools that Jonathan uses is quite advanced and the general public just don’t have the kind of access to these tools. He mentioned that Google SketchUp is pretty good, and may be some day soon, people can use that to design & make models. 2) is the manufacturing part – how do normal people connect to manufacturers? Obviously, he doesn’t know about, it has the entire 2nd part covered! I have heard about SketchUp when it was first bought by Google, I guess it is time for me to pay a visit and see if we can integrate its tools for crowdsourcing design.


Just another guy trying to beat the system and be released from the Matrix

Posted in events, hong kong, tech
2 comments on “Making Toys Vs. Developing Software – Agile Hong Kong
  1. Hi, thanks for coming to the talk, I’m glad that you found it interesting. Looking over, I think this is still just a step in the direction that I was talking about. Of course there are outlets like this that allow for something that mimics the mass production that is currently popular, but where I think things will go is something much more personal. One-off items that are made just for that user. I think that it will be a merging of making the design tools more simple with rapid prototyping costs coming down. Currently, a rapid prototype model cost is still too high and the machines are still not accessible enough that they would fit this, but it is heading in that direction with projects like

    Just like the current generation of netbooks having a fairly common hardware spec, I think the electronics will become more integrated and modularized, so that it is just a matter of picking the modules and designing a case around it.

  2. cloneofsnake says:

    hmm… I can imagine this happening in Hong Kong, tiny shops open up in every shopping arcade, a Rapid-Prototype machine makes individualized casings for standardized hardware – like netbooks or may be cell phones…

    The problem here is economy of scale… how well can this model work for the mass market… or even just the local market. I think this will give rise to many profitable small businesses in city like Hong Kong, Tokyo or New York… but it can’t become a behemoth of a business like Nokia or Toyota. Not that it need to though… that’s the whole point of individualized items. 🙂

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