Nidesh Chitrakar FS

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Nidesh Chitrakar
Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science
Bennington College '18

Reading Reviews

Ideas for Startups

This article is interesting because it talks about things which make sense, but which I hadn’t paid real attention to before. For instance, it talks about how people say they can’t come up with ideas, rather than saying that they don’t have any. Or how it mentions that most startups grow from environments with access to new technology and friends. Just few days ago while trying to get ideas for some businesses and products, I got into a conversation with my roommate and ideas started popping into our talk. It was really surprising how a simple conversation with someone with some shared interests sparked ideas.
It tells us that any initial idea to a startup should be treated as a question rather than a blueprint, because ideas develop and get refined over time and sometimes new things emerge from making questions. It also explains that to get good ideas, one needs to be working on some problems. In a sense, coming up with ideas to tackle the problem can certainly lead to great startups.
It also talks about considering what people want when looking for ideas. People often want luxury and new technology and making some luxury a commodity is a great way to make money. I like how the author suggests simplifying and remaking the technology and products of bigger companies can be a good startup.
The reality is that most startups these days, if not all, get acquired by bigger companies and the author clearly highlights that. The article suggests working on something where there is a competition between companies, otherwise it will not get sold.


The Messy Minds of Creative People

Like the title suggests, the article’s main point is that creative minds are “messy”. It talks about the creative process; it involves several emotions, skills, and behaviors. And these traits or characteristics often clash with one another, making creative people seem odd or weird. From past research on personality of creative people, the article identifies mainly three “super-factors” of personality that predict creativity – plasticity, divergence, and convergence.
It says that plasticity personality often include being energetic and extravert. Whereas, divergence personality include being non conformative, and having low conscientiousness. These people are supposedly independent thinkers. On the other hand, convergence personality include being precise and persistent, and having high conscientiousness.
The article also talks about two stages of creativity – generation and selection. Generation is basically idea production. Selection is evaluating, criticizing, and refining those selected ideas. The article mentions that plasticity and divergence are strongly linked to the generation stage of creativity. And convergence is linked to selection.
The article ends by highlighting the fact that creativity involves several stages and those who are capable of reaching the heights of creativity are the ones who have all the aforementioned traits and behaviors, and who are capable of interchanging between them depending on the situation and stage in the creative process.


Design Thinking

Tim Brown asserts the fact that innovation is powered by a complete understanding of the needs and desires of the people, and how they are executed or delivered. Consequently, he brings up “design thinking” as a methodology that inspires innovation with a human-centered design ethos. He defines it as a discipline that utilizes the designer’s awareness and techniques to identify the needs of the public with appropriate technology and create a business strategy that can be converted into a market opportunity. He points out that business leaders these days often look to innovation as a source of differentiation and competitive advantage.
The author suggests that innovation’s terrain is no longer just aimed at physical products, but it is gradually moving towards services, entertainments, and different forms of communication. He gives an example of how design thinking made a difference in improving the overall quality of patients’ and medical practitioners’ experiences in one of the largest health care providers, Kaiser Permanente. They tried to innovate a new system to make changes in nurses’ shift smoother and more efficient. The innovation team explored potential solutions through brainstorming and prototyping. By applying a human-centered design methodology, they were able to create a relatively small process innovation that produced an enormous impact.
Brown explains that prototypes should not be afforded lots of resources. He explains that the goal of prototype is to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea, and to identify new directions for further prototypes. The more complete the prototype appears, the less feedback it will get from its creators.
The author talks about three “spaces” that design projects must ultimately pass through – Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation.

  • Inspiration: motivate search for solutions/ideas
  • Ideation: generate, develop, and test those ideas
  • Implementation: make a path for the ideas to reach the market

Brown highlights the fact that breakthrough ideas are often inspired by a deep understanding of consumers’ lives. He gives examples of how Shimano, a Japanese manufacturer of bicycle components, used its consumer base’s insights to innovate a new category of bicycling – “Coasting”, how India’s Aravind Eye Care System built a systemic solution to a complex social and medical problem by understanding the problem of poverty and remoteness of its patients, and how Bank of America launched a new savings account service called “Keep the Change” that helped boom its business. These companies demonstrated that design thinking help identify certain aspects of human behavior and transform it into both customer benefit and business value.


Design for Action

In the past, design was a process that was applied only to physical products. But over time, it has evolved as companies started realizing that smart, effective design was behind the success of their products. It is imperative to understand that the design of an artifact’s “intervention”, that is, their introduction and implementation into the system, is even more important for success than the actual design of the artifact. The authors assert that tackling large-scale design changes can be intimidating, but by deconstructing it into two simultaneous challenges – the design of the artifact and the design of the artifact’s intervention – it can be made simpler and at the same time increase its chances of success.
Intervention design originated as a form of repetitive and rapid prototyping, which was introduced to better understand the consumers’ reactions to their products. This process helped guarantee success when the actual product got released because it took in feedback from the consumers to develop and shape the final product into the artifact that an average consumer would be delighted with.
The authors give an example of how Intercorp Group, one of Peru’s biggest corporations, used design thinking to transform Peru’s middle class economy. This company produced many artifacts including a leading-edge bank, an innovative school system, and adaptive businesses, which lead to the company’s success. But the authors also mention that the introduction of these artifacts into the status quo was equally important. Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor Jr., CEO of this corporation mapped out steps like deepening the skills of his management team, educating his people, partnering with local suppliers and businesses, etc. to approach his company’s goal clearly and steadily. This example shows that design thinking is not just limited to tangible products; it has the potential to be something even bigger when applied properly and innovatively.


What Is Strategy?

Michael E. Porter argues that any "competitive advantage" is lost, as companies have started to reject positioning to keep up with this dynamic market and changing technologies because rival companies can effortlessly mimic any market position. What they don't realize is that it is not the complete truth; these companies fall in this path leading to destruction because of their inability to distinguish between operational effectiveness and strategy. To gain productivity, quality, and speed, companies have started using a number of management tools and techniques including total quality management, benchmarking, time based competition, outsourcing, partnering, etc. The author points out that these techniques have resulted in operational improvements, however, they haven't resulted in sustainable profits. The author highlights the need for incorporating both operational effectiveness and strategy, to experience superior performances.
Operational effectiveness (OE) means performing similar activities better than rivals perform them. Whereas, strategic positioning means performing different activities from rivals' or performing similar activities in different ways. The author argues that competitors can quickly copy the techniques to gain operational effectiveness and so only very few companies have been successful in surviving for an extended period of time depending on just OE techniques. As rivals continue to imitate one another, the competition just becomes a race down a similar path where no one is the winner.
Michael Porter suggests deliberately choosing a different approach or different set of activities to carry out operations. By doing so, you make it more and more difficult for your rivals to imitate you and gain your market share. This also makes the company unique and different from the rest. However, the author asserts that simply choosing a competitive strategy does not eliminate imitation. In order to truly deter others from copying your strategy, you must also include trade-offs in your activities. Positioning trade-offs is very important to strategy as they create the need for proper choice and knowledge on the limitations of the company. It also makes copying strategy difficult for rivals by providing huge risks of hampering their existing activities.
The other thing the author writes about is how activities should "fit" and complement one another. Fit is fundamental in blocking out imitators and sustaining the competitive advantage. It is harder for a company to copy a set of interlocked activities than to copy certain individual activities. The author highlights that positions built on systems of activities fit together are far more sustainable. When there is a fit, good performance in one activity will have good results in other activities and is also true conversely.
The author highlights the role of a proper leadership in developing a clear strategy. It is imperative to make wise decisions when many forces and trade-offs are working against you. A proper leader must have a clear and intellectual framework to guide a strategy. They must also be able to distinguish between operational effectiveness and strategy. In the end, the author comes to the question - "what is strategy?", and he defines it as the creating unique and valuable positions, making trade-offs in competing, and creating fit among a company's activities.


The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy

Michael E. Porter believes that the job of a strategist is to understand and cope with competition. And that most managers are too narrow minded when defining competition. He states that there are more forces to competition than just rivalry between companies. He makes a list of five competitive forces that should be taken into account when forming a strategy.

  • Threat of entrants: Entrants is referred to the companies that are new to an industry, trying to gain market share. When entrants try to enter an industry, pressure to cut down prices, costs, and improve efficiency is placed on existing companies competing for that same industry. However, the preexisting companies have some advantages in the form of entry barriers, which basically make it difficult for the entrants to make an appearance in the first place. Hence, strategists must think of ideas to counter entrants that try to find ways around those barriers.
  • The power of suppliers: When suppliers are powerful, they hold all the leverage over companies and so, they have the power to squeeze the profit off industries. So it would be wise to request standardized components from suppliers as switching between suppliers becomes far easier.
  • The power of buyers: The buyers or customers have the power to force down the prices by playing competing companies off against one another. This can be mitigated if the companies implement high switching costs in their products so the customers don't hold leverage when demanding price cuts.
  • Threat of substitutes: Substitutes have the ability to lure away the customers. New materials may perform similar function and at the same time be more efficient and cost friendly. When a company finds and implements substitutes, other companies may suffer as a consequence. The author gives an example of how landline telecommunications have suffered as wireless cell phones have become mainstream.
  • Rivalry among existing competitors: This is the classic competing factor that is seen between companies. Due to rivalries, companies employ price discounting, advertising campaigns, new products, service improvements, etc. to gain buyers. Rivalry is destructive to the profitability most of the time as it is a war no one can win. However, a proper strategist can sometimes take steps to shift the nature of competition in a positive direction.

The author believes that a strategist can keep a company stable by considering all the five competitive forces. The five competitive forces provide a framework for identifying the most important industry developments and for anticipating their impact on industry attractiveness. These forces help reveal a company's strengths and weaknesses. The author defines strategy as building defenses against the competitive forces or finding a position in the industry where the forces are weakest. Ultimately, the strategist's goal is to reduce the share of profits that leak to suppliers, buyers, and substitutes or are sacrificed to deter entrants.


SWOT Analysis I: Looking Outside for Threats and Opportunities

In essence, strategy begins with goals and determining these goals is what makes a company successful. This article discusses about the strategic choices available to companies and the process of looking at or analyzing the inside and the outside of the company to formulate a strong strategy. This analysis is referred as SWOT which is an acronym for:

  • Strengths: factors that enable the company to succeed
  • Weaknesses factors that hold back the company to succeed
  • Opportunities factors that the company can capitalize to succeed
  • Threats factors or risks the company should focus on avoiding/mitigating

This article focus on the external analysis, that is, only on the threats and opportunities. It centers around this fact that every company is surrounded by customers, competitors, suppliers, technology, trends, and regulators. And all of them have some sort of impact on the company's profit potential.
The article talks about how lifestyle trends have a huge impact on companies. These trends force companies to reformulate their strategies. And therefore, it suggests that a company should study statistics, reports from think tanks, IDC, government agencies, etc. in order to stay ahead of any sudden change that may alter the industry drastically.
It also talks about the importance of customers in the functioning and survival of companies. It is true that every business exists solely by depending on customers. So, it is in every company's best interests to study their customers to form strategies. Since, customers are very large and diverse, it is very useful to group them by common features and analyzing which group could make the most profit. These groups may be simple factors like age, gender, race, income, location, and so on. This process is called market segmentation and this makes it easier to identify and meet the needs of customers.
Any company should understand the price sensitivity of customers. It should be aware of the relationship between price and customer demand. Basic economic principles tell us that higher the price, less the demand and lower the price, more the demand. This is based on the fact that only price is varied, not anything else. Predicting the response of customers to price change can be tricky but it can be made easier by means of focus study, questionnaires, and direct experiments in local markets.
It can be helpful in identifying the arena of competition, that is, defining your competitors. The article also mentions that emerging technology can be both a threat and an opportunity for companies. So a strategist should always aim to find a position that does not compromise the company's existing business when new technology emerge. Lastly, this article briefly talks about the five competitive forces that shape the strategy and suggests that every company should use resources to study and research the outer world for threats and opportunities that could affect them.


SWOT Analysis II: Looking Inside for Strengths and Weaknesses

Having gone through the external analysis, this article looks at analyzing the internals of a company, that is, the strengths and weaknesses of the company. It mentions how knowledge of the inner world imparts a practical sense about what company goals and strategies are most feasible and promising. This article addresses three important areas in which a company's strengths and weaknesses should be evaluated: core competences and processes, financial condition, and management and culture.
Core competency refers to a company's expertise or skills in key areas that directly produce superior performance. It is always important to identify what a company's core competency is before moving on to forming strategies. Core competencies are the factors that either make or break the company. The article warns that being exceptionally good at something does not guarantee a strategic advantage; the company must be good at something that is valued by the customers. The article suggests assessing the company's core competencies through benchmarking, that is, rating one's own activities against those performed by rival companies or organizations that have best practices. This process can help identify opportunities to improve those core competencies. They highlight the strengths and weaknesses in the areas that matter the most.
Assessing the financial strength of one's company is often essential in implementing strategies. Some strategies can be very costly to implement. Therefore, strategists need to have a full understanding of the company's cash flows, access to outside capital, scheduled capital spending plans, and hurdle rate of new projects. They should also know the trend of the returns on assets and investments as they measure the profitability of strategies which they should aim to improve.
Having the strategy to adapt smoothly and quickly to shift in directions is a must for every successful company. This can be achieved only when the company's management and culture have certain characteristics. These are:

  • Managers are well respected and effective
  • People feel personally motivated to change
  • The organization is non-hierarchical
  • People are accustomed to collaborative work
  • There is a culture of accountability for results
  • Performance is rewarded

Doing the internal analysis is not an easy task and a company should not rely on a small group of people to do it for them. Their view-points are too narrow for their judgement to be accurate. Hence, the article suggests bringing together a group of people representing different activities in the organization and having them follow the nine-step process outlined in the article. This way, their collective judgement will be diverse enough to affect the general interest of the company.


The Design of Everyday Things

In the first chapter of his book, Don Norman explains the need of objects having designs that indicate how to use them without any signs. That a designer should aim for utility first, not beauty. He highlights two of the most important characteristics of good design:

  • Discoverability: Figuring out what actions are possible for a product and how to perform them
  • Understanding: Understanding the usage and controls of the products

The author points out the need for discoverability and understanding in every product and that products should be designed in such a way that there would be no need for instruction manuals, especially for simple products. The whole purpose of the design is lost if the device is confusing.
This chapter focuses on the interplay between technology and people to ensure that the products are understandable, usable, and meets the needs of the buyers. The products should also be enjoyable. When designing the product, attention must be paid to the entire experience, that is, from aesthetics to quality of interaction. The author also talks about three major areas of design: industrial (emphasizing form and material), interaction (emphasizing understandability and usability), and experience (emphasizing the emotional impact).
The author emphasizes on the fact that it is the responsibility of the designers to understand the people, rather than consumers understanding the design of the product. He highlights his experiences with different pieces of technology, like his watch, refrigerator, a hotel’s wash sink among many, and frustrations with their designs.
Norman insists that the solution to such design failures is simply human-centered design (HCD), that is, an approach that puts human needs, capabilities, and behavior ahead of aesthetic design to mitigate every problem with the final product. HCD, unlike the other three major areas of design, is a philosophy and set of procedures. Therefore, doing HCD within the rigid time, budget, and other constraints of industry can be a huge challenge.
Great designers produce pleasurable experiences. The author says that experience determines how fondly people remember their products, and therefore it is critical for designers to incorporate emotion and cognition in their designs.
The author presents five fundamental psychological concepts that give rise to discoverability:

  • Affordances: It refers to the relationship between a physical object and a person. The prevention of interaction can be referred to as anti-affordance. To be effective, both affordance and anti-affordance have to be discoverable. Visible affordances provide strong clues to the operations of things.
  • Signifiers: While affordances determine what actions are possible, signifiers communicate where the action should take place, that is, it gives some sign to the user. If an affordance or anti-affordance cannot be discovered, then a signifier must be present in order to give the user a sense of how to use or not use the product. Signifiers can either be natural, planned, or accidental.
  • Constraints
  • Mappings: It is the relationship between the elements of two sets of things. It is an important concept in the design and layout of controls and displays. A device is easy to use when the set of possible actions is visible, when the controls and displays exploit the advantage of spatial analogies.
  • Feedback: It simply means some way of letting the user know that the system is functioning. Feedback must be instantaneous and informative. Feedback has to be planned. All the actions must be confirmed in an unobtrusive manner and at the same time be prioritized.

The author also presents a sixth concept, one which promote understanding, that is:

  • Conceptual Models: It is a simplified explanation of how something works. It needn’t be accurate, as long as it is useful. A good conceptual model allows the consumers to predict the effects of their actions.
  • System Image: The combined information, through experience, training, and instruction, that is available to us is called the system image. The system image of a product should be coherent and complete for it to be easily operable.

The challenge to making a great design is recruiting the right people for the job. A great design requires great designers, great management, and people from different disciplines with different goals and priorities. It is equally important to understand the view-point of the consumers when making a design. Good designs should also incorporate just the right amount of technology and spatial awareness. The challenge is to use the principles of HCD to produce positive results, products that meet the needs and create pleasurable experiences.


Experience Prototyping

The authors express the need of designers to stretch the limits of prototyping tools to explore and communicate what it would be like to interact with their products. They bring up the term – Experience Prototyping – which essentially is a form of prototyping that enables design members, users, and clients to gain first-hand appreciation of existing or future conditions through active engagement with prototypes. Prototyping as a design practice has become a key innovation in innovation. And experience prototyping allows the designers to design their products in such a way that the consumers will develop a positive experience when using them. The authors highlight the fact that information becomes more vivid and engaging when it resonates with personal experience.
Buchenau and Suri have identified three different kinds of activities within the design and development process where experience prototyping is valuable:

  • Understanding existing user experiences and context: It seeks to understand what the contextual, physical, temporal, sensory, social and cognitive factors the designers must consider. Not only that, it also helps identify the essential factors that their designs must preserve.
  • Exploring and evaluating design ideas: Its main purpose is to facilitate the exploration of possible solutions and directing the design team towards a more informed development of the user experience and the tangible components which create it. It produces answers and feedback to the designer on the possible solutions to their designs.
  • Communicating ideas to an audience: This is done to let a client, a design colleague, or a user understand the design of the product by directly experiencing it. The main purpose of this activity is to make the product look compelling. It also helps establish a common shared point of view.

Experience prototyping, according to the authors, is all about developing an attitude and language to solve design problems. It should not be regarded as the creation of a formalized toolkit or set of techniques. This is something that should become an established and well-supported tradition within design practice. One great advantage of experience prototyping is that it requires a “hybrid” and overlapping skill-sets such that it is not exclusive to any single design discipline. This also helps promote low-tech methods to solve design problems.
It is unclear how experience prototyping can be best utilized to gain the most successful results. Designers using this form of prototyping may run into problems like clients becoming attached to early prototypes, and not getting enough point of views on their products. It is sometimes wise to lean by observation rather than firsthand experience. Therefore, it is essential to think of experience prototyping as something complementary to other design methods. It says that no matter how good we are promoting empathy, we can never be other people. And so, designers should always have multiple prototypes with experience prototyping being one of the many approaches that designers should consider.


Business Model Generation

The article discusses nine “Building Blocks” of a business model:

  • Customer Segments: Customers are the heart of every business model and customer segments define the different groups of people who the company aims to reach and serve. A business model may have multiple customer segments depending on the different needs and common properties of customers. It is important for any company to identify which customer segment to tend to.
  • Value Proposition: It is one of the key factors for customers choosing one company over another. It describes bundles of products and services that prove to be valuable to specific customer segments. Value propositions may be something innovative or new. Or it can also be services similar to ones provided by other companies but with some added features.
  • Channels: In essence, it is the manner in which a company communicates with its customer segments. Its main purpose is to get a better understanding of customer experience and to deliver value propositions, and to provide customer support.
  • Customer Relationships: This block describes the relationship that a company establishes with specific customer segments. Customer relationships are made in order to acquire new customers, satisfy current customers, and to boost the sales of products.
  • Revenue Streams: Each customer segments have a possibility of generating revenue for the company. This block describes the revenue that the company generates from each customer segment. a business model can have two types of revenue streams – transaction and recurring revenues. Transaction revenues are those from one-time customer payments whereas Recurring revenues are from ongoing payments and post-purchase payments.
  • Key Resources: These resources can be physical, financial, intellectual, or human. They allow companies to create value propositions, and maintain and develop customer segments, and earn revenues.
  • Key Activities: This block describes the most important actions that a company must take to operate successfully. They have the same impact as key resources, that is, they help create value propositions, and maintain relationships with customer segments, and earn revenues.
  • Key Partnerships: This block describes the partnerships and networks that a company makes. These networks are made to optimize business models, reduce risk, or to acquire resources. The partnerships can be strategic, coopetition, joint-ventures, or buyer-supplier.
  • Cost Structure: It describes the most important costs incurred while operating under a particular business model. Delivering value proposition, maintaining relationships, and the process of generating revenue all incur cost. And these costs can be calculated by defining key resources, activities, and partnerships.

Rhino Traces

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Business/Product/Service Ideas

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality in Education (Immersive Learning)

Type: Private and worker-owned

This company would develop and research virtual and augmented reality technologies. It will develop wearable headsets that can display the wearer augmented reality. This will be used inside classrooms and this technology is targeted at high-schools, colleges, and universities. This device's aim is to provide students a new dimension to understand the content that is being taught in their institutions. Augmented reality is a relatively new technology that is raw. It has also not been adopted by the majority of the people yet. This company will capitalize on that fact to gain market share. It also gives the company a fair and level playing ground as the market for this technology is still not captured.
This device can be compared to a "3D interactive projector". The students will wear the headsets and the instructor will control what is being displayed infront of them. This is especially useful in classes that require the students to visualize what is being taught, for instance, in classes like science, visual arts, architecture, engineering. The students will see a 3D projection of models that they can interact with and explore. Example, in Chemistry, students can use the device to study molecular structures, in architecture, students can study and interact with 3D models of projects, or in mathematics, where students are required to visualize figures in 3 dimensions.
To promote this technology, the company will partner with top educational institutes and provide them the devices and technology for free in return for testing and endorsing it. This will allow the company to gain brand recognition as well as more investment if the product is indeed exceptional.
The company will host a website that developers and educational content providers can use to create and sell their own content. The company will also organize free workshops and invite instructors and officials from schools and colleges to learn more about using this device.

Strengths
+ New technology
+ Promotes creativity and learning
+ Good customer service and feedback
+ Recycling older devices as newer ones are developed and released
+ Partially worker owned
Weaknesses
- Cost of the devices
- Significant front-end time committing familiarizing the students and instructors with this technology
- Measuring the learning outcome from the technology
- Relatively small company at start; low brand value and recognition
- Lack of programs and applications, content, etc. during the initial roll-out of the technology
Opportunities
+ Huge untapped market
+ Effective tool to harness student engagement
+ Educational research
+ Instructional potential
+ Personalization of learning
+ Can have purposes other than educational. Businesses/corporations can utilize this technology for their meetings, conferences, presentations, prototyping, etc.
Threats
- New entrants
- Big companies like Microsoft, Google, Oculus VR, etc. who are working on similar technology

Mitigating the Weaknesses and Threats
The company would offer the devices in a monthly installment plan in order to spread the cost over a period of time and make it easier for institutions to acquire them. The company will also offer an "upgrade plan" where institutions can pay a small additional fee with their installments so when new versions of the technology are developed and released, the company would offer to replace their old devices with the newer versions. This strategy would also enable the company to collect and recycle the old devices.
As with every new company, settling into the market and gaining brand value will be a tough challenge. But with the right management and strategy, this company could gain endorsements from various reputed institutions. This would allow the company to expand in a good rate. Getting back feedback from those institutions on the impact of the devices (in the form of surveys and observation) would enable the company to assess the potential or the learning outcome of the device. Extensive prototyping and research will be done to determine what the best practice for the devices would be.
To encourage development of content, the company would offer compensation to developers and will open a market where developers can sell their content (provided that they meet the standards).
The company would also attempt to standardize the ecosystem (the devices and software) so as to deter new entrants from encroaching the market. When they are truly standardized, the competitors will face huge difficulties to reach or maintain that level. The company could also partner with industries to limit the quality and supply to new entrants. Offering the devices in lucrative (for both the company and the consumers) packages would be another strategy to fend off competition from existing companies as well as new entrants.


Virtual Studios

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Virtual Reality is poised to be our new medium for education and dissemination of information. VR represents the highest form of learning, essentially because you are immersed in the task and actually doing it. The most obvious immediate applications for virtual reality are found in the gaming community. Millions of people already spend countless hours immersed in virtual worlds, and making these virtual worlds more “real” or “realistic” will only be that much more attractive. Despite the complaints that games are huge distractions for youth, there is tremendous educational potential in games. Technology is changing, and education will have to adapt to maintain student interest and prepare students for the digital world. VR technology is readily accessible to the public these days, with the only things needed to experience virtual reality are a smart phone and a headset. The headsets are becoming increasingly popular with the likes of Google releasing fairly simple and inexpensive versions. Research has shown some ways how VR gaming can benefit education:

  • Greater collaboration and social integration
  • Making new experiences possible
  • Increased student motivation
  • New rewards with a focus on positive stimulation
  • Inspiring creative learning

This company will focus on creating the games and content which carry educational value. To fully understand the potential of VR gaming for education, the company will work with educational institutions to test and deliver working prototypes of games. Getting feedback from educational instructors and students will be tremendous help in guiding the company towards suitable types of games which would carry educational value and which would attract the interest of the students.
One such game I have in mind, is re-creating the Roman Empire world in a role-playing game. Historic events would be played out and the player will have the opportunity to explore and learn about the Roman Empire as well as learn the skillsets and personalities of political leaders like Julius Caesar by taking their roles, and even learning what it means to run a city or empire. This game will be made for smartphones and can be globally accessible through the app markets.
Virtual Reality also present students with learning through simulations. Games that involve physics can help students understand how the world works. Video games have the capabilities to test puzzle solving skills, critical thinking, spatial thinking, reasoning, and many other skills. When implemented with virtual reality, students are presented with a platform for cognitive development.
This company will build games specifically with educational value. These games are targeted for children aged 10-14 since that is the age when children develop interests in certain fields and their cognitive skills.

In Short

The company will seek to develop educational games on the virtual reality platform aimed at a target audience of 10-14 years. It will promote immersive and interactive learning and take advantage of the latest development in technology.

Competitive Analysis

Currently there is a huge market for Virtual Reality gaming, especially for education. Game developers haven't yet started making educational games for this platform. So this gives our company an advantage.

Strengths
+ Immersive learning
+ Promotes creativity and learning
+ Good customer service and feedback
+ Easily accessible through app markets; many people already have smartphones
+ Virtual reality devices becoming more common and cheaper
Weaknesses
- Significant front-end time committing familiarizing the students and instructors with the games
- Measuring the actual learning outcome from the games
- Relatively small company at start; lack of acceptance from institutions
- Virtual reality isolates students from the real world
Opportunities
+ Huge market
+ Effective tool to harness student engagement
+ Educational research
+ Instructional potential
+ Personalization of learning
Threats
- New entrants
- Companies creating similar games for similar target audience but for other platforms
- Negative feedback by parents on the impact of the game on the performance of students

The target market of 10-14 year olds is not very important to our competitors. Companies that are making VR games are targeting people of all age groups and are not centered towards an educational purpose.
The acceptance of these games by parents and institutions will play a major role in our company entering the market.
New research has shown that games in fact help children develop certain skills which help them learn more progressively and creatively. This can help our company to appeal to the public and enter the market.
Game makers who make educational games for platforms other that Virtual Reality can hinder us from being a success.
There is a high investment cost to this company as Virtual Reality is a new platform that many people aren’t well acquainted with; the amount of attention and funding generated by this technology is momentous. Also this company requires very skilled personnel and help from educational experts in making the games.

Narrative Description of the Business

Virtual Studios is a company that focuses on developing educational games for Virtual Reality platform. These games will be in the form of mobile games/apps with the devices required to run them simply being a smartphone (majority of the population already possess smartphones and people have already become accustomed to using or interacting with mobile devices) and a VR headset (the headsets can be inexpensive). The target audience for this company are students in the age group of 10-14 years and their parents, as well as VR device makers. VR is quickly becoming one of the most anticipated platforms for media consumption and it has a lot of potential for education and entertainment. VR represents the highest form of learning, essentially because you are immersed in the task and actually doing it. It also helps develop critical thinking and cognitive skills, which is what this company is aiming to trigger with its games.

Examples of games:

Space exploration – to be able to drift in space and see planets, stars, and galactic systems, to look at constellations, to walk on certain planets, to interact with space physics. Mini-games such as looking around and identifying planets and stars, naming constellations, carrying out experiments such as throwing items in vacuum and in different gravitational fields. Encourages wannabe astronauts and young science students to look up astronomy, to get better visuals and feel of space, to grasp the fundamental laws of physics in space.

Prehistoric exploration – to be able to go back 100 million years into the Mesozoic Era and to explore prehistoric rainforests filled with reptiles, dinosaurs, early mammals, and wild plants. This game will have different modes and challenges to it. Players can choose to openly explore the vast jungle. They can also take up challenges like finding specific creatures, collecting a list of plant samples, following creatures back to their nests. Gives opportunities for those interested in paleontology, prehistoric nature to get an interactive feel and immersive experience of a very old geological time.

The games will cost $5 each and will be available to download through app markets for smartphones. In addition, the company will also be offering “lite” versions of the games which the customers can download for free. These lite games are intended to give the customers a look and feel of the games before they make the purchase. What sets the lite and full games apart are that customers will not be able to save their progress and there will be limited content in the lite versions.
Currently, developers have not started making educational content or games for the VR platform. This gives the company an advantage in getting into the market.
The primary product that this company will invest its time in is developing original educational games for mobile devices. It will do so by collaborating with VR device makers, educational experts and institutions. It will also seek out institutions and research firms to test the games and give feedback.
This company will be a brand new company competing for a new market. It will promote immersive and interactive learning and take advantage of the latest development in technology.
The company will be based in the United States, preferably in California. This area is where the tech boom is happening and it would seem fit to have a game company that is making games for a new and revolutionary platform located there.


Useful Links

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Hybrid Farm

Type: Worker-owned

This business would start out as a small and private company. The aim is to gradually expand and get more workers, infrastructure, and market in the process. It would start out with a small hybrid farm – one with fishery and poultry. The business would be based on an artificially made pond (for the fishery) with a poultry farm placed over it. This way, land usage would be minimized and at the same time provide the fishery with food in the form of poultry wastes, that is, the poultry wastes would be collected and used as a source to generate food for the fishes. A system will be established where the water flow and quality will be maintained. Both poultry production and processing wastes have value as nutrient inputs to fish. The fish would be fed supplemental nutrients as well. The benefit of this is, residue in the water that is collected can also be used as fertilizer in local agricultural farms. Resources are not wasted much and this creates an efficient work system. It results in maximum and diversified farm output with minimum financial and labour costs.
This venture has many business possibilities. One could collect and sell the eggs, incubate the eggs and sell the chicks, raise the chicks for a poultry meat farm, sell fishes.
The business will be predominantly worker-owned, with some capital coming from banks and investment companies. It will seek to employ local farmers, creating local employment opportunities. It will also encourage employees to put in more effort and investment in the business.


Efficient Water Use Technology

Type: Private

This company would research and develop more efficient plumbing systems, mainly focusing on ways to limit water use and help conserve water. Due to over-extraction of water, many cities and countries face water shortage. This company will provide those places with solutions to control water usage. The plumbing systems may include technology such as highly efficient waste flushing systems, and sensor fitted water controlling taps and showers.
Since it’s a major environmental problem, this company could partner with the government and environmental agencies/advocates to regulate this new technology. This step will provide some employment boost in those places by providing local plumbers and technicians some work. The adoption of such technology may not be very positive but it can be corrected by having the company and the government subsidize a portion of the cost for some benefits in return.