After eight years at Sony and five years spent elevating Disney Research to one of the premier interaction design labs in the world--Ivan Poupyrev--a Fast Company Most Creative Person 2013--is leaving for Motorola Mobility (owned by Google) where he’ll help develop new products to compete with dominant hardware companies like Apple and Samsung. In other words, Motorola is about to become a UX juggernaut.
Poupyrev is known for his cutting edge research for a post-screen world, an analog-controlled digital utopia in which dumb objects, from tables to house plants, could be easily retrofitted to recognize us, complete with Internet-friendly multitouch and tactile feedback. Meanwhile, Motorola Mobility has never quite come to terms with its own skin in the iPhone era. After their hugely successful, impossibly slim RAZR flip phone, poor management milked the RAZR brand dry rather than continuing the R&D that made Motorola a global tour de force. But Motorola retooled with the Droid--their ingenious rebranding of Google's then-esoteric Android operating system. With Droid, Motorola Mobility had its new identity--just in time to be purchased by Google and start the entire "Who is Motorola?" conversation all over again.
“Motorola used to be this iconic American company--it still is. It was such a massive influence in the world of electronics. Motorola invented the cellphone. The first Apples ran on Motorola chips, and their chips were instrumental in the Apollo program,” Poupyrev tells Co.Design. “Now it’s going through a transition, and being part of this transition is exciting for me. In a small way, I can help shape the future of the company.”
Poupyrev will work in the highly secretive Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) division. ATAP is run by the former head of DARPA, Regina Dugan. The division's first product was Motorola's first product under Google, the landmark (but retail disappointment) Moto X, a colorful, user-customizable smartphone, which debuted impressive interaction technologies that could authenticate your identity without passwords.
Now, with Poupyrev involved, it’s easy to imagine Motorola/Google not just one-upping Apple’s iPhone, but creating a new wave of products that redefine the way we interact with everything from our gadgets to the entire smart infrastructure of our analog world.
Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s look at the projects Poupyrev led along with a slew of post docs in the past few years at Disney Research--and pay attention to how many of those young researchers have either been swallowed up by the tech industry’s power players or ended up at another premier interaction research facility, MIT Media Lab.