Dec 1, 2008

Building the First LCD iTV

For four months, we teamed up with electronic engineers, industrial designers and software developers to build the prototype of an LCD interactive television (iTV). We dubbed the iTV "Ilumina" and our codename was "Project Faith".

We wanted to show that Filipinos have the creativity and the smarts to build an innovative product through "inovention" -- the fusion of innovation and invention. Hence the company name of the design firm is Inovent Inc. Our company, Dig It All Solutions Inc was asked by Inovent Inc to build the software and the interface for Ilumina.


So we brought in our CEO Val Gonzales and interface designer Jon Danao to solve the software problem. Val and I immediately agreed to build the operating system on existing open source software. It would allow us rapidly make a prototype by standing "on the shoulders of giants" so to speak. For the operating system/interface team, we decided early on to prioritize the following design principles for the OS/interface:

  1. The OS/interface should work and it should work well (ie, not buggy, slow etc.).
  2. It should be fast and impressive.
  3. We should focus on releasing a working system (ie, we concentrate on the core functionalities and drop extraneous features that could be worked slowly into the OS, later).

I think that defining these three design principles early on helped us focus our energies on the things that matter for the prototype. And the team stuck to it and made it work.

The audience started warming up to the Ilumina LCD iTV as we did the demo of its features. From my vantage point, I could see people's eyes widening and the room temperature go up in all the excitement. They asked many questions about what it can do now and our plans for the future. Someone even chided that he couldn't wait to win an Ilumina in a raffle. :) We dropped hints that we plan to release APIs so that third party developers could add features and plug-ins to it.

People swarmed Ilumina prototype to get a closer look.
People swarmed Ilumina prototype to get a closer look.
It was a very fulfilling night for us and credit must be given to the team that built it. Brian Quebengco, for leading everyone and cheering us on. Mark Ruiz for the brilliant thinking on marketing, Noriel Mallari for reverse engineering and building the prototype internals and Val Gonzales and Jon Danao for building the operating system and the interface. Brian worked with Jonas Prealta and Jaed Del Moral to create the beautiful, sleek white design of the Ilumina unit itself.

At the end of the unveiling, the crowd gathered to check out the unit up-close. Because they saw the potential Ilumina, they were willing to forgive the rough finish of the prototype. They saw instead what the real Ilumina set will look like in the near future.


What is equally important is that Ilumina sparked discussions among our guests after the formal program. Media people, bloggers, techies and friends struck up conversations about how Filipinos can do it, what environment is needed to support such an endeavor as Ilumina, and the need to help drum up support for such efforts. Potshots at our misearable political landscape were taken. But over-all, a positive mood was in the small theater where we held our little program. Which is good, because this was what we intended to do, to show that we could do it and to inspire more positively infectious conversations.

The Project Faith Team
The Project Faith Team.

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