4 Qs about Urbanseeder

0urbannlogo.jpgMaya Lotan is about to launch the fantastic flirting service which i discovered back in July 2005 when she presented her final thesis at the Interaction Design Institute of Ivrea.

The idea is to help users connect with people they meet in public spaces and “lure” them into a private corner to get to know them better. It works with “Seeds”. Each of the Seed has a private number that doesn’t reveal who you are but leads the other person to a webpage where he or she can get a series of clues about you.

How can you give the Seed to someone you fancy without unvealing who you are?

– If you know the email address of that person (a co-worker for example), you can send the Seed by email;
0urbannnseed3.jpg – or you can print and give away a Seed. Hand it to him or her yourself, ask a friend or the waitress to do it when you’ve left the bar. Each Seed is personalized, you can choose the colour and the patterns and the code is unique, it’s just for you and that person.
– do it freestyle.

Each Seed leads to a private space shared by the new “partner” and you. It’s a kind of exclusive blog for the two of you. You can put there images, videos, music, messages, etc. And list events and places where you’re going to be a week from now.

Hi Maya! Urbanseeder was your one year thesis at Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea. What prompted you to turn it into a marketable product?

I had no choice, I just couldn’t focus on anything else. I thought it might really work, and had to bring it to the stage it can be used by people.

Which challenge(s) do you or did you have to face to turn an experimental work into something “real”?

The first challenge, for me, was finding people to believe in the product with me, and people to consult in. The second is adapting the product to the real world, meaning reevaluating the feature set according to what is really key to the product vs. what is just fat, or what relates to existing behavior vs. relies on hypothetical future technology trends. The third, is thinking about the product as a business machine, where the challenge is not so much in the numbers, but more in the forming of a model.

I guess, the biggest challenge is ‘letting go’ of my idealistic vision and conforming with reality.

Do you think that this concept of flirting interactions cross any frontier or will it be interpreted and welcome in the same way in any culture?

We are really looking forward to seeing, what we believe will be, all kinds of weird interpretations of the product. In the basic level flirting is human nature, but on the surface culture has a great effect. There are different codes of dating and definitions of privacy that will probably effect the way it will be used in different cultures, groups, and ages.

Have you already tested the prototype? What was the feedback?

So far, just parts of it, mostly with friends and colleagues, as well as a few nights out Seeding in Tel-Aviv. The feedback: “What [email protected]#F?” “Wow!!” “Hmm..”. Some people get very excited about it, while others remain skeptical. The product will only be released as Beta around March this year, and this will be its first real test. We have quite a few people signed up already and welcome others to sign up for the Beta at urbanseeder.com.

b228-527-247.jpgI love the patterns of Urbanseeder. Who designed them?

Thanks! I love that you love them. The patterns are a product of Michal Amram and Oded Weigel – AKA michaloded – a designer duo we were lucky to be introduced to. They fell into place as part of a complete team effort including Gil Rimon, Shemi Frenkel and the advice of friend experts.

Thanks Maya!