Do You Poken?

Yesterday on Twitter, I tweeted some thoughts about a device I own called a Poken. Shortly after doing so, I got a reply back from one of my followers that said “@francehopper I still don’t understand Pokens. O.o” That reply got me wondering, how many people actually know what a Poken is and what it does? That same follower said they had heard of them, but had no idea what it was. The response I got back from Twitter was clear, most people have never heard of Poken. Likewise, at Drexel I always have my Poken with me, worn on a lanyard. I get asked a lot “What the heck is that thing on your neck?” That question is one of the few questions I do enjoy getting asked repetitively. From what I’ve found, most people in the US have never heard of Poken. I’m not in the least bit surprised.

Above is a video I did for YouTube explaining what Poken is. As mentioned in the video, the reason I’m not surprised most of the people who I’ve come in contact with don’t know what a Poken is can be attributed to the fact that Poken simply isn’t advertised in the US. I’ve never seen an AD for it on TV, on billboards, in magazines, or even online. Needless to say, I’ve never seen them in a retail store either. In fact, I personally never would’ve heard of Poken if it weren’t for Danny Choo. As any regular reader of dannychoo.com should be able to tell you, it has its own mascot, designed by Danny himself. Actually, it has a couple now, but that isn’t the point. The primary mascot is Mirai Suenaga. In recent years, Mirai has appeared on a number of products, one of which is a special edition Poken, the same one I now own.

From what I had read on dannychoo.com and the Poken website, it sounded to me like Poken could very well be that next “big thing”. The idea behind it made a lot of sense to me and it was one I was interested in. So, I decided to drop $70 on investing in the Danny Choo special edition set. Now before I continue, I’m willing to be that price tag has freaked more than a few of you out. Allow me to explain it. When I say special edition set, I mean special edition set. The set comes with two custom designed Pokens, two highly desirable dannychoo.com lanyards, two special edition product cards, and lastly is imported directly from Japan. Do the logic and that $70 makes a lot of sense. A regular Poken is much more affordable, costing only $20. However, a regular Poken just comes with the hand and body and an attachment piece so you can attach it to a lanyard. You supply the lanyard.

As for the design of the Poken itself, it’s very simple. A Poken is made of a two-part plastic shell. the removable part with the design on it is the Poken Body. The white plastic part with the four fingers and Poken logo on the back is the Poken Hand. The Hand is where all the technology is, a button battery, tri-color led, flash memory, USB connector, and NFC antenna. The way a Poken works is you “High Four” another user. What this means is you touch two Poken hands together to exchange contact information over NFC. As for what information is exchanged, that’s entirely up to you.

In order to setup your Poken, you need to activate it at the Poken Hub, the web interface for Poken. Doing so is simple and takes only a few minutes. Just connect your Poken to the USB port on your computer and open the file Start_Poken.html This will begin the registration process (and later sync your Poken). As a Poken is basically your digital business card, one of the first things you’ll do is create your own personal card to be stored on you Poken for exchanging with other users. One of the truly remarkable things about Poken is that you can make your card as simple or as detailed as you want. Just want your name, photo, and email? You can do that. Want your name,
photo, email, address, phone, twitter, Facebook, AIM, DeviantArt, PSN, and practically every single social network ever? You can do that too. More than one card? Yep, that too. Or how about an automatically generated QR code and public profile with all of the information on your card. You bet. Poken is extremely customizable and the easiest way to carry around all of your personal information. If you just want a place to store all that information, you can use Poken for that too. You don’t have to purchase a Poken to use the service. In fact, soon, all you’ll need is your NFC-capable phone.

In Europe, Poken is currently looking to expand big time. Earlier this year they announced a partnership with Nokia to bring NFC technology to Nokia phones. Poken also announced redesigned Poken Sparks (the things with the bodies and hands), Poken Mobile (basically, replace your Poken with your phone) and Poken Tags (NFC enabled tags you can scan with Poken or Poken Mobile. Personally, I think it’s a brilliant idea and applaud Poken for expanding their reach. But, as mentioned earlier, this is in Europe, and may well be only in Europe. In the US, the only research really being done into NFC technology is being done by… surprise… Google. In fact, if memory serves me right, Google is the only maker of an NFC phone in the US right now. Ok, technically it’s Samsung. Either way, it’s about damn time. NFC has been widely deployed for years overseas and has been widely successful. It truly blows my mind that it’s just now (as in this year) starting to spread in the US. On that note, I still can’t believe that QR codes are also just now catching on. It really amazes me how behind the US is in technology. Many of these technologies that are just starting to catch on are ones that are simple, pretty cheap, and make a lot of sense.

That said, given that Poken uses NFC, I do very much hope that it might catch on soon here in the US. The idea behind it is simple, makes sense, and the technology behind it is cheap. I strongly believe that Poken is a revolution waiting to happen in the US. If I’ve managed to get you interested, I recommend heading over to the Poken website to get the full run down on Poken, all the things it does, and all the services they offer. As mentioned in the video, Poken is designed for both regular consumers and companies of all sizes. If you have any questions at all about Poken, I’d seriously love to answer them, especially if it helps Poken catch on. So, Do You Poken?

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