Posted: February 13th, 2009 | No Comments »
The Potential for Location-Aware Power Management by Harle and Hopper is an interesting paper presented at Ubicomp 2002 that explore the use of location-awareness to dynamically optimise the energy consumption of an office. It basically shows how capturing workers’ location can be helpful in a different domain than mobile social software or urban computing.
(Figure taken from the paper: positions recorded for a particular user over four hours on a particular day across three floors)
The paper does not really describe an application, instead it demonstrates how an analysis of workers’ location is relevant “to form a picture of how people work and what energy savings might reasonably be expected if we were able to prevent device ‘idling’“. The authors link the discussion about “energy sinks” and workers’ movement: is it possible to lower the power consumption of electrical devices when the users are not using them… by detecting whether the user is within range.
Of course, apart from the technological side, the main issue at stake in this kind of research vector is the following:
“we emphasise that any changes should not frustrate users. As an example, we informally asked a number of computer users in various commercial and non-commercial settings why they did not have their desktop machines automatically power down, suspend-to-disk, or go to sleep after a speciﬁed time. The majority cited the frustration of having to wait for the system to reach a usable state as a major contributing factor. We cannot afford, then, to assume that an aggressive power saving policy will necessarily lead to power savings since it may prove very unpopular and be circumvented. Instead workstations in the scheme discussed must be powered up and in a usable state before the user is physically upon them. “
Why do I blog this? home/office automation is an favorite topic of mine as it uncovers important issues regarding the loss of control from users. Of course, I find the use of location-awareness relevant in this sort of context and I am wondering about other way to deploy this sort of solution without frustrating users. The paper offers a good discussion concerning such issues.
Posted: February 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment »
An intriguing mix of the bleeding-edge of recent times (seen at my hotel in Paris yesterday):
- this rfid key that you swipe on your door to enter your room
- the stability of the past: this old and commong keyring which is so heavy that you would not keep the rfid key in your pocket during a whole day: you must put it back at the hotel desk when you get out (delegation in design).
The flat, sober and white plastic key and the old copper keyring.
Posted: February 10th, 2009 | No Comments »
A tag cloud that my colleague John Elbing generated using the information Lift participants entered to describe their interests.
Why do i blog this? As a program organizer, it’s interesting to see the profile and the interests of Lift attendants. Using this wordle is a good way to get an impression of what defines the conference. It’s surely messy but there are some clear vectors: innovation is the main track with subthemes such as design/interaction design, technology and mobile. It’s also important to see that there are less and less people interested in the Web
Posted: February 9th, 2009 | 2 Comments »
This article in IEEE Spectrum made me think about this earlier post about what stays awake during the night. In the article, Robert W. Lucky describes the importance of blinking lights in hardware.
He takes the example of modem boxes which are full of indicator lights and explain that “people want blinking lights” as it shows whether the device is sick or in full swing.
“Often, you have no idea whether or not the gadget is working. When it doesn’t do something you expect it to do, you stare helplessly at the box. “Are you alive in there?” you ask plaintively.
Quite often there is no visible activity on my computer screen, but I see the hard-drive light blinking furiously. What is it doing? I wonder. At least the little light tells me that it is alive, though I worry about why it is so busy. At such times I often wish that there were a special key labeled “What are you doing?” I’ve always found the task manager rather useless for this purpose, and no human being could possibly interpret the gibberish that fills your screen following the dreaded “blue screen of death.”
Instead of an unintelligible binary dump, my imagined key would give a simple English explanation: “I’m busy at the moment reformatting your hard drive,” it might say“
And the author wonders about new design that does not include any blinking lights. The roar of air-conditioning is then the last sign of life inside the computer.
Why do I blog this? The aesthetic representation of blinking lights aside, these observation are interesting as they uncover people’s practices with regards to technology. We have been used to get some concrete signs of activity in our artifacts. Small details like these lights are not so simple as we might think. The nice light ballet you can observe when glancing at your details are all but useless.
Removing the lights also make me think about all these studies about cars that make almost no noise, which are terribly dangerous in cities.
Posted: February 5th, 2009 | 5 Comments »
Two curious encounters on my way from the Waag to the train station: the interesting use of speech bubbles in both cases, as if the designers of these elements wanted to convey the message that objects are close to have self-expression.
This way to express objects’ agency in our physical environment is certainly close to the blogject meme where “artifacts” and places would be more talkative in the near future. One can qualify the Internet of Things as “more than mere speech bubbles”.
Posted: February 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments »
Finally got some time to meet-up and discuss with Rob van Kranenburg yesterday in Amsterdam at Waag. It’s been a while that we only briefly exchanged during conferences and I wanted to know more about his work. It also immediately led me to read his recent book about the internet of things.
There is one aspect of his work that I find strikingly important and that is developed in the book: the connection between objects characteristics and people’s agency. See these excerpts:
“Just think back a decade or so. Did you not see cars on pavements and guys (mostly) trying to fix them? Where are they now? They are in professional garages as they all run on software. The guys cannot fix that. Now extrapolate this to your home, the streets you walk and drive on, the cities you roam, the offices in which you work. Can you imagine they would one day simply not function? Not open, close, give heat, air…
As citizens will at some point soon no longer be aware of what we have lost in terms of personal agency. We will get very afraid of any kind of action, and probably also the very notion of change, innovation – resisting anything that will look like a drawback, like losing something, losing functionalities, connectivities, the very stuff that they think is what makes us human.
If as a citizen you can no longer fix your own car – which is a quite recent phenomenon – because it is software driven, you have lost more then your ability to fix your own car, you have lost the very belief in a situation in which there are no professional garages, no just in time logistics, no independent mechanics, no small initiatives. (…) Any change in the background, in the axioms that make up the environment has tremendous consequences on the level of agency of citizens. They become helpless very soon, as they have no clue how to operate what is ‘running in the background’, let alone fix things if they go wrong. As such, Ambient intelligence presumes a totalizing, anti-democratic logic.“
Why do I blog this? these excerpts echoes with lots of various discussions I have lately during a foresight project concerning the future of the internet. The importance of hardware and knowledge about it is a crux issue that seems a bit left aside in the occidental world (as if it was ok to shy away from techniques and infrastructures). There are some consequences of this situation and Rob describes both what they are and how to act in his book.
Posted: February 4th, 2009 | 2 Comments »
Some random notes from Mobile Monday Amsterdam, where I was invited last monday (to give a talk about “what the hell happened to location-based games”). The event was more specifically about mobile gaming/entertainment:
- Jeroen Ellferich interestingly brought this intriguing question: would you differentiate an iphone from an ipodtouch? is a Nintendo DS a mobile game platform? what about eee pc?
- He also reported on the odd fact that the most downloaded games today are the same as 5 years ago: tetris, pacman, who want to be millionaire, monopoly here and now, bejeweled, showing how the field is not very innovative.
- To him, the dark side of the mobile industry have the following characteristics: flattening growth
traditional developers and publishers on mobile in troubles, fragmentation and porting hell (450 phone models!), flawed vale chain and low rev shares, lack of innovation in past years
- BUT, he showed that there is some hope: iphone and android trigger mobile content revival, flat-free and connectivity become the norm, there is a business case for location-based games (!?), social networks and games are a “killer combo”, touchscreen, tilt, compass are opportunities too
- Kamar Shah, formerly at Nokia, described how users are far from the dream of having a simple mobile entertainment platform (as simple as we had on TV). He showed how people are tired because of fragmentation (operators, services, partners), experience is generally shit, it does not work, people pay twice… and unfortunately bad meme spread faster
- Kamar also mentionned that people want to watch stuff, tv, high def, replicate their experience on the mobile: it’s the platform and the content that will drive the revenue, not the hardware.
- His main point was that the consumer experience is based on 5 key elements: how to find, try, buy, manage and share:
- we should make content accessible (over the air, on device, off the portal, on the portal…), consumer choose afterwards and have different habits: “content is king, distribution is king kong”
- people need to be able to try: demo, free-trial (website, on the phone), engage consumers otherwise the top 3 games will still be tetris and pacman!
- you have to enable all payment and billing mechanisms (micropayments…)
- when you buy food, you put it in the fridge, where do you put mobile games? there’s a need of storage and manage in an easy place; apple does that really well: they have a marketplace where to go
- sharing content for free: it has to work, if you like sth, you’d like to pass it on, you should be able to send it via email, bluetooth…
- Redefining the consumer experience implies taking care of these 5 issues.
- He concluded that the financial crisis will have important consequences: people loose their job, can’t pay the rent, how will they find the money to buy games? what’s gonna happen? Kamar said that (1) people will have more time, (2) consumer demand will go down, people will learn what to do with what they have (the complexity of mobile phones), will educate themselves. It’s good for our industry, because it’s expensive for the industry to educate consumers. They will do it by themselves, (3) we will be able to take our technology right (and it takes time)
Thanks Yuri van Geest and Maarten Lens-FitzGerald for the invitation!
Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | 11 Comments »
The evolution of vending machine interfaces is highly curious. Seen in Amsterdam yesterday, at the train station in Schiphol. This train ticket machine sports weird spikes. What do they mean? What are they intended to do? preventing people to put stickers? Or it can be a way to prevent credit card skimming (the practice of retrieving and using the information that is encoded on the magnetic strip of a legitimate credit card).
The way they are place on the interface is very odd. Any clue?
Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment »
An interesting cluster of services at Schiphol airport near Amsterdam. This meeting point is enriched with:
- A physical whiteboard so that people can leave messages, notes and writes stuff.
- A dual screen that: (a) explains how to send SMS messages, (b) list the different messages that people sent with their mobile phone. You can send messages to greet people and tell them you’re arriving (or simply to take a certain transport mean).
Why do I blog this? It’s interesting that both media (physical and electronical whiteboard) are present. Each of them have their own values (the physical one is available in case of power failure or if the tv screen is our of order) and allows a sort of presence mediated by different characteristics of the artifacts employed.
I also find relevant to observe how cluster of services are deployed in physical space, see also here.
Posted: February 1st, 2009 | No Comments »
Seen in Guadeloupe last month. Made me think about this quote:
“The world constantly decays. Moisture gets in. Damp hangs around. Ice expands joints. Surfaces wear thin. Particles fall out of suspension. Materials rot. Insects breed. Animals chew. All kinds of wildlife war with all kinds of fabric. Humans make errors. Each process of dilapidation does its special harm and releases new ‘wastes’“
Graham S. and Thrift, N. (2007). Out of order, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 24, No. 3.