From the outside of this average looking office building, no one would suspect that it’s the site of Nokia’s most secretive research and development lab. Guarded by a frosted glass door labeled “no entry” hides Nokia’s inner sanctum of new product development, cutting edge ideas, possible failures, and future technology. This place is where the next big ideas are researched, developed, and tested. When Chip Chick was granted access into Nokia’s inner sanctum located in Helsinki, Finland, I didn’t see elves or robots testing the newest products, but instead the clean, simple designs that we have come to expect from the Scandinavians. This international team of rock star visionaries that work at Nokia are combining trends with the newest in mobile phone technology. For example, there was a huge emphasis on social networking and augmented reality – taking physical objects and bringing them into the virtual world. The idea is to get information on-the-fly and to enhance your user experience in the real world.
For example, the Nokia team showed us an idea for an interactive audio guide that would allow users to point and receive information about specific landmarks recommended or reviewed by friends. For example, if you’re interested in that coffee shop down the street, point your cell phone at it and get a little sampling of what people are saying about. Or download the menu. Maybe even order coffee in advanced. All in preliminary stages, Nokia is going from being a voice and data provider to an interactive and engaging company on the cutting edge. The idea is to make travel and everyday life easier, faster, and better with your cell. Probably the coolest idea to come out of the lab are Nokia’s Gaze Tracking Glasses. Put the glasses on and you can navigate the Internet with your gaze. Kind of like a jedi mind trick.
In testing stages, the researchers showed us a smart social networking application for your Nokia phone that would allow you to group all social network sites into one, easy-to-use application. Check Facebook, Twitter, geographically tagged pictures, etc. from a central smart application that would suggest content based on your preferences and habits. Another cool app was the Nokia Brail Reader, which allows the visually impaired to send text messages using audio cues.
So I made it out of the lab alive to tell my story. What really impressed me about Nokia’s R&D process was their development process. There was no static idea. Ideas were dynamic, tested, practiced, and talked about. Nokia’s Beta Labs website is a prime example of their company spirit, allowing users to submit ideas on new product development projects and comment on what features they would like to see. This direct input from the consumer shows Nokia’s dedication to creating a quality product that really embodies what the customer wants and needs.