It is time we talk innovation, particularly retro innovation, as that is what we derived from our interview with Pixminds at Vivatech 2018. Pixminds holding is a group that brings together several subsidiaries comprising of a game distribution company that caters to a broad socio-demographic group in France and a manufacturing company that designs retro innovation driven pinball machine and arcade kiosks.
Thirdly, it also encompasses an innovation company (ARK) which develops, files and manages a certain number of patents. LEXIP is another of the group companies which develops arcade games. It is trying to build up its products by incorporating retro innovation mechanisms. Our meeting with Mr. Hugo Loi of LEXIP led to the unveiling of top 3 tips that he believes are needed to make fruitful the retro innovation dynamics: begin with passion and a driving personal experience, observe the improvement opportunities that might come up during the utilization of products and lastly, make beautiful encounters and build relationships with like-minded people.
One of his sentences was so appealing and true that I decided to give it a mention here:
“Often it is only by chance that innovations crop up, that’s why we must kindly welcome all the people who share our passions with a smile.”
What is retro innovation?
Retro innovation refers to giving new wings to old concepts; equipping old ideas with new and up to date techniques.
Let’s begin the retro innovation examples with the LEXIP computer and gamer mouse. What is it that makes this mouse stand out?
HL: This mouse is extraordinary as it has the same shape as those that have been in use for a little over 30 years now, but with a whole new dimension attached to it that has revolutionized the use of this pointing device. But wait, was there a need to revolutionize the uses of the mouse? Yes, certainly. We have witnessed a remarkable change in the uses of software, particularly in the world of video games where the number of players using the PC has been on a rise. The players have higher expectations and demands now: they do not just want to embody a character that runs everywhere, rather they wish to fly helicopters, spaceships and even design their own worlds that they share with their friends. All these tasks have increased the complexity manifold from the previous years, yet the operating equipment remains unevolved.
But aren’t there mouses available for gamers that have buttons everywhere?
HL: The scenario is similar to what we read in the book “the war of buttons”. We see buttons everywhere, portraying as if we have reached the limit of usability. Our idea was to preserve the concept of mouse and yet apply innovations to it. We added to it the new “ceramic feet” and kept just two buttons on the sides.
This mouse is a special one as it has six axes instead of the conventional two (horizontal and vertical that are required to move on the screen). There are two joysticks: one is within the reach of a jog dial, which is common in car but was never seen before in a mouse, and a second one that works through a gyroscope which is placed inside the mouse. This allows the upper shell to tilt forwards, backwards and to the sides.
Second example of retro innovation is the “new old device”, which derives its name from its looks which resemble the arcade games that we had 20 or 30 years ago.
HL: Yes, absolutely. I prefer calling it the future of retro innovation, since it elucidates the concept of a design that looks like an old one but has a completely renewed functionality.
These are the latest generation gaming consoles that can play games that were predominant in the 80s as well as the contemporary ones- the latest versions of fighting games that are very expensive in the world of arcade. These games are now even a part of competitions, because of arcade games and “versus fighting” becoming a trend.
Moving ahead, the third example of retro innovation we have is that of electronic billiards. It is startling to know that this electronic pinball machine has 300 tables and 300 different scenarios as compared to the mechanical ones that have a single table and a single scenario. There is no need to align 300 mechanical pinballs next to each other when you can have it all for the space of one! The equipment, hence, need not be changed if one wishes to change the game.
What are the top 3 retro innovation tips that you would like to share with our readers ?
HL: The first tip is that you re-engineer stuff based on your personal experiences. Our range of arcade came up as a result of a personal desire and experience of the leader of our group, Lionel Chataignier, who wanted a pinball for himself, but realized that it wasn’t possible to get one since it was quite expensive and time consuming.
He went to measure a real pinball in a bar and with measurements by his side, he built up one for himself. When one of his friends saw it, he enquired “where did you get it from?” “how much does it cost?”. This rang a bell in the entrepreneur’s mind and when his other friends started asking the same questions, he took his idea to the market.
The second tip is that you reflect on and listen to the various uses of the product. In our case, we realized that the ease of use and productivity are key elements for a 3-D designer, not only for the comfort of the designer himself but also for improving his results, employability, etc. We saw an opportunity and reasoned that simply adding some axes to the mouse would make it possible to achieve a better result. At the end, everything depends on your analysis of and approach towards the opportunity that you see.
The third tip relates to the social interactions that you make with people that share the same passions as you. Often it is only by chance that innovations crop up, that’s why we must kindly welcome all the people who share our passions with a smile. Keep yourself in the company of those who wish to embark on the same journey and continue the adventure with you.
A little more on retro innovation with Grenoble Ecole de Management:
You can augment this reading with the interview of Sebastien Herriau, student of the Specialized Master’s in Entrepreneurship at Grenoble School of Management (transparency: of which Mr. Yann Gourvennec is the Program Director for another training program dedicated to digital strategy), who was on a mission to support LEXIP at CES in Las Vegas in 2018.