Posted: May 31st, 2010 | 1 Comment »
From Ubik, by Philip K. Dick (1969):
“The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.”
He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. “I’ll pay you tomorrow,” he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again it remained locked tight. “What I pay you,” he informed it, “is in the nature of a gratuity; I don’t have to pay you.”
“I think otherwise,” the door said. “Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt.”
In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip.
“You discover I’m right,” the door said. It sounded smug.
From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt’s money-gulping door.
“I’ll sue you,” the door said as the first screw fell out.
Joe Chip said, “I’ve never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it.”
Why do I blog this I really enjoy this quote and find it exemplifies the ever-increasing delegation of decisions that are embedded/inscribed into technical objects. The Ubik door might certainly be the ubicomp posterchild in a parallel (and dystopic) environment but it seems highly plausible nowadays. Let’s accumulate this kind of examples and see what patterns one can find.
Posted: May 31st, 2010 | 1 Comment »
Interestingly, location-based/Context-aware services are more and more present in the press. After the frenziness of 2004-2005 (and less interest afterwards), I see more and more article about the potential role of location and context as the starting point for complex scenarios. See for example the ideas described in this article:
- “My context device “knows” it’s noon. It also knows (via accelerometer data) that I haven’t moved from my desk for the last couple of hours. Because it “knows” I have a TBD lunch scheduled for 12:30 (it reads my tagged calendar entries), it will remind me I should leave. As soon as I move the device, it displays the list of places where I had lunch the last couple of weeks. Since most were Italian restaurants, it suggests Chinese or falafel and generates the latest consumer rating of the restaurants offered. At the same time, it also highlights restaurants located within walking distance that will allow me to be back in time for my scheduled 2 p.m. meeting.
- I am on a business trip to Madrid, have just finished my meetings and have three hours until my flight back to New York. My device “senses” I started moving and “knows” my schedule, therefore it asks me if I prefer to get a taxi to the airport, or if I prefer to stay in the city since the drive to the airport takes about 15 minutes. I choose the second option, slide the “ambient media streams” all the way from “privacy please” to “hit me with everything you’ve got,” and the device offers me all the tourist attractions around me, even a nearby coffee shop that has received exceptionally high ratings (I love coffee). I choose the coffee shop, and as I am drinking my second cup, the device alerts me that my flight has been delayed by an hour and will board through gate E32. I drink another cup of coffee and read from my device the history of Madrid until the next alert updates me that I should call a taxi — immediately providing me with an application that directly books one.
- I leave my office to interview someone at a nearby bar. My device “knows” it is a job interview (tagged in my calendar), therefore it automatically Googles the applicant, uploads his resume and image, and then provides me with a summary of the available information found about him from HR, the web and other social sources. As I approach the bar, my device turns itself into “meeting” mode, in which I can view a map that displays two dots approaching each other. As we meet, the device asks me if I would like to record the conversation and send it to HR.”
Why do I blog this? I am not sure I am convinced by these scenarios but it’s interesting to contrast them with the one we saw in 2004-2005. The move from location to context is interesting because it shows that the former is only a component of the latter. It also acknowledges the importance of taking into account the complexity of contextual information which cannot be limited to mere locational data.
Unlike the 3 stereotypical scenarios we had 5 years ago (friend-finding, location-based ads and geotagged post-its), the ones described here are a bit more complex and rely on the connection between “personalized social/behavioral data” and contextual information (location, time, etc.). Using algorithms, services would then be able to infer different things that can supposedly interest people, especially in urban environments.
Posted: May 30th, 2010 | 3 Comments »
[I started making weeknotes too, This is week 105 because I started working at Liftlab 105 weeks ago]
Last week-end was a sort of retreat/holiday to recover from Lift10… and work on the “Lift insight” report, which will summarize the various topics that has been addressed at the Lift 10 conference two weeks ago. It was good have already existing material such as the drawings you see above (made by Integral Development) or the notes by Hubert Guillaud on InternetActu. The event was good and dense, as usual, and it’s important to highlight what has been uncovered. I’ll post the report on-line when ready.
Spent one day in London for a project with a mobile phone carrier and a design agency. The project consisted in both a presentation and a workshop to make clients appropriate the insights I brought (through a set of exercises/break-out groups). It was kind of painful to each LHR because my Easyjet flight has been cancelled and I had to take BA, which was on strike.
In parallel, Fabien, Laurent and I completed another project about networked objects and home appliances for a client with the help of Etienne from XPteam. I still have to finalize the exec summary of the report and send it tomorrow to the client.
Finally, it was my last week of teaching for the semester at HEAD-Geneva. These two sessions about evaluating design products were the conclusion of my “Field research and interaction design” course. Students now have to work on their assignments: a field study that will lead to the description of design implications (storyboards, scenarios, paper prototypes, specifications, etc.) I am definitely curious about the results and now need to write a review of the year course to see what we can change or improve for next year. And yes the picture above shows the place where courses are given, an old and curious building in Geneva.
Besides, I received my (physical) copy of Laurence Dupuis’ dissertation (under my supervision, at ENSCI in Paris) about Imagination, design and digital technologies. It’s full of interesting insights and discussion with people such as Jean-Louis Fréchin, Frederic Kaplan or Bruce Sterling. Only in French though.
Posted: May 29th, 2010 | 4 Comments »
Pedometers connected to video-games are more and more complex, as attested by this Pokéwalker, a Poké Ball-shaped pedometer which can connect to Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver game cards via infrared signals. See the possibilities:
“It uses a currency known as “watts”, which are obtained as the player walks with the device. Every 20 steps will earn the player one watt. It can communicate with other Pokéwalkers. Exchanges are not limited merely to watts, but also items and Pokémon
When players transfer a Pokémon from their game into their Pokéwalker, they can select which route they would like to take their Pokémon along. Depending on which route the player takes (such as in a grassland or by the sea), they will encounter different wild Pokémon and items. When players first begin their journeys with the Pokéwalker, the list of routes they can select from is short. But, the more players take a stroll with their Pokémon, the more routes will appear and the more Pokémon and items they will be able to get.
And you can get a more in-depth perspective in Katie Salen’s article Pokéwalkers, Mafia Dons, and Football Fans: Play Mobile with Me.
Why do I blog this? documenting material about tracking technologies and how game mechanics could lead to peculiar usage of such platforms.
Posted: May 27th, 2010 | 1 Comment »
Les Editions Volumiques finally launched their website showing plenty of curious and original products based on mixing paper and digital technologies:
“Here are the first pieces of les évolutions dynamiques following research on both volume and interactivity, playfully mixing paper and computation. By allowing interactivity and gameplay in the page (for example with the Duckette project) or between the pages (in The book that turns its own pages, or Labyrinthe), we try to bring new life to paper. We then pushed physical behavior to paper and ink (the book that disapears). There, the paper is no longer only the frame for representation, but at the same time the field of a real physical experience. We also played with the volume and perspective of book and content (paradoxales, Meeting-Zombies). And then, we tried to combine paper with this little computer-object almost of us all carry everywhere: our cell phone (the night of the living dead pixels, (i) pirates).“
Why do I blog this? I find these projects fascinating and love the idea of mixing digital tech with paper to create compelling user experiences. The examples showed on the picture (see more on their website) are stunning and show the future of books go far beyond boring reading machines. The use of playful metaphors and game mechanics in the work of Bertrand and Etienne are also highly intriguing for those interested in inspiring ways to renew the reading experience.
Besides, if you’re interested in this type of “paper computing”, be sure to check the Papercomp 2010 workshop at Ubicomp. Organized by friends from EPFL, it’s based on similar ideas:
“Paper is not dead. Books, magazines and other printed materials can now be connected to the digital world, enriched with additional content and even transformed into interactive interfaces. Conversely, some of the screen-based interfaces we currently use to interact with digital data could benefit from being paper-based or make use of specially designed material as light and flexible as paper. In a near future, printed documents could become new ubiquitous interfaces for our everyday interactions with digital information. This is the dawn of paper computing. “
Posted: May 27th, 2010 | 2 Comments »
Looking at interaction design metaphors lately, I’ve been reading Chris Crawford’s “The Art of Interactive Design: A Euphonious and Illuminating Guide to Building Successful Software“. As mentioned in this other blogpost, I like his approach that uses verbs:
Using linguistics as a metaphor for HCI/interaction design is of coruse very old and other people than Crawford proposed similar approaches. However, the idea of focusing on verbs (what people can do) in design is interesting and used here and there. See for example the recommendation #2 in Jyri Engeström’s slides about designing social software (“define your verbs”).
As appealing as it is, I found an interesting quote in Howard Becker’s book “Telling About Society” that (IMHO) explain my interest in verbs:
“it’s a confusing error to focus on nouns rather than verbs, on the objects rather than the activities, as though we were investigating tables or charts or ethnographies or movies. It makes more sense to see artifact as the frozen remains of collective action, brought to life whenever someones uses them – as people’s making and reading charts or prose, making and seeing films. We should understand the expression a film as shorthand for the activity of ‘making a film’ or ‘seeing a film’.”
(Thanks Basile for pointing this out)
Why do I blog this? Material for my interaction design course about user observations and design. This notion of verbs is interesting given its 2-facets: you can design something by using the verb metaphor (you then define verbs that set what people can do) and study how people employs the designed artifacts by studying what they do (which is defined by the verb). The action, defined by the verb, is more important than the artifact (defined as a noun) itself.
Posted: May 24th, 2010 | 1 Comment »
[Short note: blogging is more and more difficult with travels, consulting gigs and the need to spend some time offline, i will try to post some form of weeknotes with a visual and short text twist. It's not very fancy, only curious stuff I've stumbled across and collected last week. Of course I'll post more meat if I have time.]
An intriguing speech by Golan Levin at HEAD-Geneva (Geneva University of Art and Design) about interactive art and speculative HCI. Levin described some of his projects and framed them as “creating new forms of interactive experiences… some are very useful (immediate applications), some are absolutely useless and project possible futures that may or may not come into existence… propositions of how we might interact with objects and people“. I liked the idea of “infoviz as self-examination for society” and his thoughts about the computer mouse: “a mouse is pathological, as one of my teacher told me: to interact with a computer is to have a computer that has a model of you as one finger“, “a urinal knows more about me than a computer mouse”
Some visual research about the gamepad project, like this beautiful representation of what was needed in 1958 to play “Tennis for Two” on an oscilloscope [via].
Preparing a speech about Science-Fiction and urban environments, I’ve been drawn to various representations of cities in the context of speculative movies. This picture of “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972) was of interest… as it shows how an existing US university (UC Irvine) was used as a scene for this movie.
WiFi Camera is a curious project that “ takes “pictures” of spaces illuminated by wifi in much the same way that a traditional camera takes pictures of spaces illuminated by visible light“.
Two visualizations by Barbara Hahn and Christine Zimmermann that caught my attention. It’s a project called “Visual Atlas of Everyday Life at the Hospital” that represents selected organizational and communicative sub-processes within the patient process at Berne University Hospital. Some of the them are related with waiting times, others are about patient recovery and leaving the hospital. The fact that an hospital could used these data in this form is interesting. I’ve put this in perspective with Fabien‘s recent work about representing Geneva based on people’s usage of Flickr and Foursquare:
This 8-digit calculator watch by Casio triggered some inspiring discussion about object convergence, an interesting follow-up to my post about the pianococktail. It left me wondering about a watch connected to the Internets. For some reasons, I haven’t seen groundbreaking project along these lines. It’s not that I want to connect anything to the réseau des réseaux but I am curious about interconnected time machines.
A trip to the funfair is always inspiring for informal observations of various forms of play. More specifically, bumper cars (“dodgems” in the UK, “auto-tamponneuses in France) were very interesting to observe driving behavior of people ready to bump into each other. What happens here? Why do people seem so happy doing this? Could it be an interesting metaphor for new car interfaces? I don’t have the answer but I definitely have a gut feeling that bumper cars are an interesting answer to some problems (which remains to be found). Next step is to dig the scientific literature about this funfair device.
Posted: May 18th, 2010 | 2 Comments »
The paper “Making the Social Hold: Towards an Actor-Network Theory of Design” by Albena Yaneva is an interesting contribution to the role of Actor-Network Theory in design.
It basically shows how various ANT concepts can be relevant and insightful in the context of designing artifacts. Relying on notions such as scripts or delegation of action to objects the author examines various mundane artifacts (stairs, handrails, elevator buttons, etc.) and show how the way they have been designed triggers “specific ways of enacting the social“.
Some excerpts I found interesting:
“If you follow me for a moment, again, in my trajectory, you will witness how the objects from my university mornings (my key, the door lock of the resource room, the elevator buttons, the staircase handle, the conference room arrangement) do not stand for social forces and divisions, nor do they symbolically represent the university’s order, hierarchy or divisions of labor; rather, they perform the social as we use them, and connect us in a new way with fellow colleagues, students and university administrators.
expanding the project of ANT to the field of design requires mobilizing this method’s persistent ambition to account and understand (not to replace) the objects of design, its institutions and different cultures. This means we must understand the designerliness of design objects, networks and artifacts, instead of trying to provide, by all means, a stand-in (social, psychological, historical or other) explanation of design, i.e. a psychological explanation of the creative energies of the inventor, a psychoanalytical explanation of the client–designer–user relationship, a historical explanation of the social contexts of design.
An ANT approach to design would consist in investigating the culture and the practices of designers rather than their theories and their ideologies, i.e. to follow what designers and users do in their daily and routine actions. (…) we should study the experiences of both users and designers, as well as the numerous connections that this research would reveal.“
Why do I blog this? collecting material about ANT and design, a hot topic lately. What I find interesting here is that there the move from sociology to design is similar to the one we have seen in the 80s from psychology. At the time, cognitive psychology moved from explaining individual behavior by internal factors (the brain, a cognitive system bound to the individual) to explaining it with external factors (artifacts in our environment, the importance of context, the situated character of action). This led to the emergence of Situated Action or Distributed cognition. Conversely, sociology moves from the “social” to artifacts (non-humans) and show how social is inscribed in objects.
Another important point of this article is the proposition that Yaneva makes as a research agenda: instead of investigating the influence of external factors (be they economical, cultural, political) on design, the idea is to describe the design process itself by capturing “the movements of artifacts and designers in the design studio“.
Yaneva, A. (2009). Making the Social Hold: Towards an Actor-Network Theory of Design. Design and Culture, Volume 1, Number 3, November 2009
Posted: May 16th, 2010 | 3 Comments »
An intriguing encounter this afternoon with a pianococktail, i.e. a piano that mixes drinks based on the combination of keys played. Being a reader of Boris Vian, running across this crazy object he described in his novel “L’ecume des Jours” (“Froth on the Daydream“) is always a pleasure. The one I saw this afternoon has been designed by Géraldine and Nicolas Schenkel in Geneva.
Here’s how Vian explains how the device works:
“For each note there’s a corresponding drink – either a wine, spirit, liqueur or fruit juice. The loud pedal puts in egg flip and the soft pedal adds ice. For soda you play a cadenza in F sharp. The quantities depend on how long a note is held – you get the sixteenth of a measure for a hemidemisemiquaver; a whole measure for a black note; and four measures for a semibreve. When you play a slow tune, then tone comes into control to prevent the amounts growing too large and the drink getting too big for a cocktail – but the alcoholic content remains unchanged. And, depending on the length of the tune, you can, if you like, vary the measures used, reducing them, say, to a hundredth in order to get a drink taking advantage of all the harmonics, by means of an adjustment on the side.“
Why do I blog this? sunday encounter with a curious object that corresponds to the absurd convergence of two very different artifacts. The idea of mixing distinct functions in one object is an interesting innovation process but it’s sometimes more poetic and intriguing to do it with very distant class of objects.
As a general exercise to envision alternative near future worlds, it would be good to think about similar convergence between very remote objects. Making two functions converge is a difficult purpose. This example reminds me of a talk by Ben Fullerton at interaction 2010 in which he described a project he worked on at IDEO forBang&Olufsen: a music player that was also a phone, as opposed to a a phone that would also be a music player. This kind of approach is inspring IMHO as it forces to rethink the role of the two objects in very different ways.
Posted: May 16th, 2010 | No Comments »
Give people a surface next to a phone… and it’s going to be used for annotations and crazy scribblings. Seen at CERN last week.