Doc North from Prototype This! and In The Making

July 23, 2014

 

I met Dr. Mike North at a conference called HATCH.  What is HATCH?  HATCH is a community, movement, and a series of experiences designed to unite creative thought leaders to HATCH a better world.

 

I remember when I first met Mike at HATCH.  We were heading to a party with a car load of people, I was driving and Mike was the backseat DJ.  He made me laugh the entire way as he picked the music and commentated the journey.  That’s what it’s like to hang out with Mike.  He’s a ton of fun.  He also oozes creativity and imagination and I’ve been in meetings with him where he can’t sit still in his seat because he’s bouncing with excitement.  

 

Mike’s resume is impressive.  Instead of listing out all of his accomplishments, I’ll let his interview speak for itself.  I am honored to include Doc North in this interview series!  I’m sure his creativity will inspire you!  Thanks Mike! 

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROYCE GORSUCH)

 

IN ONE SENTENCE, WHO ARE YOU?
 

I’m an inventor, inventing my own systems and disrupting the established, whilst sharing that with the world and putting a few smiles on faces in the process.

 

WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE?
 

Usually the little things.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TOY OR GAME AS A CHILD?
 

My hammer.

 

YOU ARE NO STRANGER TO THE TOY AND GAME INDUSTRY.  YOU SERVED AS CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER AT NUKOTOYS.  TELL ME MORE ABOUT THIS.
 

I was the founding CTO of an ambitious start-up aimed to disrupt the toy category by creating toys that integrate with digital devices. For us old folks, there is a line between digital and physical. For kids that grow up digital natives, there is no line. Nukotoys blurs the intersection between online and physical and does so with games that add to kids’ lives versus just addicting them to make a profit. For example, Animal Planet Wildlands lets kids become animals by tapping a NUKO to the screen and then driving the animal by moving the iPad. The kids can then tap on the animal to learn more about it and even watch an HD video of the animal in the wild. Truly a transmedia endeavor!

 

WHAT DID YOU FIND MOST GRATIFYING WORKING IN THE TOY AND GAME INDUSTRY?
 

We developed a game with PBS for helping kids overcome the 4th grade reading slump (going from learning to read to reading to learn). Mission to Planet 429 was a wonderfully creative and fun game, and was shown to work. 

 

As a part of the project we did testing in a Title 1 elementary school in Chicago. The teachers in this school were amazing and certainly had one of the hardest jobs on the planet. So much of their job was just maintaining order in the classroom. This is where I saw the power of video games. The kids were completely engaged in the game (which at its core was looking for books, posters, etc. to read to solve problems). With the kids engaged in the game, the teacher could then go around and work one on one with the kids helping them to move forward.

 

One girl really stood out from the rest at the game. I asked the teacher later about her.

 

Me: “Wow, she was really amazing. She must be one of your top students.”

 

Teacher: “Sara?  She was held back twice in 2nd grade.”

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE INVENTORS TRYING TO INNOVATE IN THE PLAY SPACE?
 

Spend more time with kids.

 

WE MET AT HATCH, A COMMUNITY THAT UNITES CREATIVE THOUGHT LEADERS TO HATCH A BETTER WORLD. HOW WOULD YOU HELP TO HATCH A BETTER WORLD?
 

Through humor and antics showing different ways of thinking so that others can see it’s possible to rewire their own neural and social networks, to create a life they love.

 

HOW DO YOU ACTIVATE CREATIVITY?
 

I use narrative and storytelling through words, inventions, and video. A story is something that we create whether by doing or in the imagination. Once it’s created, it becomes reality. The bolder and more daring the story the more creative I need to become—both in making it up, and then making it!

 

WHO IS OR HAS BEEN YOUR MENTOR? WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE DID S/HE GIVE YOU?
 

Everyone around me is a mentor which is why I’m very proud of the people that surround me.  The best piece advice I’ve been given came from my 90-year-old professor, Leckie (may he rest in peace): “Be careful what you get good at because chances are you’ll end up doing a lot of it.”

 

WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS?
 

Causing people to rethink the world around them.  Whether it’s with an unexpected punch-line or a crazy prototype.

 

YOU HOSTED THE SHOW PROTOTYPE THIS! ON THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL WHERE YOU LED TEAMS OF CRACK INVENTORS, SCIENTISTS, BUILDERS, AND ENGINEERS TO CREATE NEVER BEFORE SEEN SPECTACLES OF ENGINEERING.  WHAT WAS THE MOST FANTASTICAL INVENTION YOU SHOWCASED ON THE SHOW? 
 

Showcased? Built! The crowd pleaser was the water slide simulator. I thought the custom six-legged vehicle took the cake.

 

WAS THERE ONE THAT DIDN'T MAKE IT ONTO THE SHOW BUT IT’S WORTH MENTIONING?
 

We had an un-aired pilot with two prototypes. One prototype was an un-stealable bike that locked the offender to the bike and then disabled the steering, locked the brakes and called the cops and gave them the GPS coordinates. The other prototype was the PooBot which automatically picked up doggy doo doo and threw it over your neighbor’s fence.

 

WHAT IS YOUR SUPERPOWER?
 

Thinking the absurd and turning it into reality.

 

WHAT IS YOUR PLACE OF INSPIRATION? 
 

I just make all this up.