Posted: May 25th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Two interesting columns on Gamasutra caught my attention recently. Both of them have been written by people I follow for a long time and they both debunk myths about video games.
On the one hand, Ian Bogost writes about how hard it is to make games and the inherent problem of “serious games” or “gamification” approaches. His point is that making game is super hard and that making good games to serve external purposes is even harder. Some excerpts I found important:
“key game mechanics are the operational parts of games that produce an experience of interest, enlightenment, terror, fascination, hope, or any number of other sensations. Points and levels and the like are mere gestures that provide structure and measure progress within such a system.
The sanctity of games’ unique means of expression is just not of much concern to the gamifiers. Instead they value facility — the easiest way possible to capture some of the fairy dust of games and spread it upon products and services.
Games or points isn’t the point — for gamifiers, there’s no difference. It’s the -ification that’s most important
In the modern marketing business, the best solutions are generic ones, ideas that can be repeated without much thought from brand to brand, billed by consultants and agencies at a clear markup. Gamification offers this exactly. No thinking is required, just simple, absentminded iteration and the promise of empty metrics to prove its value.“
On the other hand, Greg Costikyan gives his perspective on the “social” of social games. He basically wonder about the asocial or even antisocial characters of these games:
Developers of social games have clearly given great thought to using the social graph to foster player acquisition, retention, and monetization; but as far as I can see, no thought whatsoever has given to the use of player connections to foster interesting gameplay. It’s all about the money, and not at all about the socialization.
The peculiarity of this is that social networks are actually far better suited than most online environments to fostering social gameplay. Messaging and chat are built into the system, and need not be separately implemented by developers; but more importantly, the social graph allows players to interact with people who are their actual friends.“
Interestingly, Costikyan then describes what could be a “social gameplay”: the value of having teams, diplomacy, negotiated trade, resource competition, hierarchy or performative play (not as “winning point to get the best performance”, rather “speaking and acting in character”).
Why do I blog this? These two columns are important and interesting read as they reduce the inflated reputation of two current “trend” candidates. They also offer relevant counter-versions about what is relevant in game design.
Posted: May 23rd, 2011 | 1 Comment »
A bunch of curious visuals from the nice media art exhibit at the Mapping Festival in Geneva. A festival dedicated to VJing practices, Mapping combines various events ranging from VJ sets to workshops, conferences and art installation.
In this context, I’ll be moderating a conference session called “From Hal to Kinect: live visuals, music and body tracking technologies” on Wednesday 25, at 4:30pm (BAC):
“Recent advances in body-tracking technologies have lead to the emergence of mass-market products that can be repurposed for live visuals and music. The Nintendo Wii, Sony Move and Microsoft Kinect are the most recent ones but other platforms has been used for VJing and live performances. This session will give an overview of the opportunities they enable.
Speakers: Douglas Edric Stanley, Abstract Machine/ HEAD-Genève (FR/US), Jean-Baptiste Labrune, Bell-Labs (FR), James Cui, VJ Fader (US)“
Why do I blog this? Working on the user experience of gestural interfaces for quite sometime, I am curious to see a different pespective here. More specifically, I’m intrigued by how a community such as VJs repurposed gaming platforms for their own goals. Certainly a good domain to see détournement and bricolage for a peculiar angle.
Posted: May 20th, 2011 | Comments Off
Design failures and recurring non-products is of course a favorite topic of mine. Hence, a paper entitled “The Curious Case of the Kitchen Computer: Products and Non-Products in Design History” by Paul Atkinson appears clearly promising for a Friday afternoon train ride between two European countries.
I wasn’t disappointed. This article takes the Honeywell Kitchen Computer, a futuristic computer product that never sold, as a starting point to ask questions concerning design history, the significant agency that non-products can have and the role of a period zeitgeist in design.
The Honeywell H316 was a so-called “pedestal computer”, a sort of miniature computer compared to the mainframes, released in the 1960s. They were meant to be used for scientific and engineering calculations, processing business information, file handling and access to pre-punched computer cards. The design of the various models is quite radical with this intriguing pedestal form. As pointed out in Atkinson’s paper, “the final result was a futuristically styled, red, white and black pedestal unit that looked as if it could have been taken straight from the set of Star Trek or 2001: A Space Odyssey“.
(Image of the Kitchen Computer from Life magazine, 12 December 1969. © Yale Joel/Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images)
What I found interesting in this article is the description of how a non-product such as his Kitchen Computer can influence technological change:
“As a ‘real’ product, the adoption of a science fiction-inspired form provided the means for Honeywell to promote itself as a progressive company, to differentiate itself from its more mainstream traditional competitors such as IBM, and to align itself with younger, more innovative companies such as Data General Corporation. The fact that actual orders were received for the product despite its being purely a marketing ploy is a reflection of its success and the acceptance of such iconography amongst at least some of its customers. As a non-product, the Kitchen Computer had even more agency. It created a huge amount of publicity for Neiman Marcus and, because of its price, reinforced the position of the company as an exclusive retailer to the upper classes. It also reinforced popular cultural representations of the domestic kitchen as the focus of family interactions with technology in the home, in a variety of fora. In addition, it inspired those working at the forefront of computer developments to realize that, despite the limitations of technology at the time, there was real value in seriously considering a domestic market for computer products. Finally, despite the fact that both the product and the non-product were consumed largely as a piece of visual culture, as a part of the cultural milieu or zeitgeist, they provided very pragmatic, positive results for both Honeywell and Neiman Marcus, as well as having a direct influence on the future direction of the computer industry itself.“
Why do I blog this? Yet another great reference for my research about technological, product failures and their significance. Which, by the way, recently led to a French book about this very topic.
Posted: May 19th, 2011 | Comments Off
A chalk map found on a wall in Paris last Monday. An interesting example of a temporary object employed for specific purposes.
Posted: May 19th, 2011 | 3 Comments »
One of the talk at the Robolift11 conference that I found highly inspiring was the one by Pierre-Yves Oudeyer. In his presentation, he addressed different projects he conducted and several topics he and his research team focuses on. Among the material he showed, he described an interesting experiment they conducted about how robot users are provided with different kind of feedback of what the robot is perceiving.
Results from this study can be found in a paper called “A Robotic Game to Evaluate Interfaces used to Show and Teach Visual Objects to a Robot in Real World Condition. Their investigation is about the impact of showing what a robot is perceiving on teaching visual objects (to the robots) and the usability of human-robot interactions. Their research showed that providing non-expert users with a feedback of what the robot is perceiving is needed if one is interested in robust interaction:
“as naive participants seem to have strong wrong assumptions about humanoids visual apparatus, we argue that the design of the interface should not only help users to better under- stand what the robot perceive but should also drive them to pay attention to the learning examples they are collecting. (…) the interface naturally force them to monitor the quality of the examples they collected.“
Why do I blog this? reading Matt Jones’ blogpost about sensors the other day made me think about this talk at robolift. The notion of Robot readable world mentioned in the article is curious and it’s interesting to think about how this perception can be reflected to human users.
Posted: May 17th, 2011 | Comments Off
Lift France 11 (in Marseilles) is 7 weeks ahead and the program is now complete. The general theme revolves around radical innovation and disruptions: when (high- or low-)tech contributes to redefining a market’s terms of reference, a whole industry, a share of social life, etc.
The program basically consists in 5 main sessions with the following speakers :
- URBAN – Who needs to become “smart” in tomorrow’s cities? with Saskia Sassen, Robin Chase (GoLoco / Meadow Network), Adam Greenfield (Urbanscale) and Alain Renk (UFO / Cities Without Limits)
- CARE – Disruptive innovation in healthcare and well-being with Paul Wicks (PatientsLikeMe), Tobie Kerridge (Material Belief), Jonathan Kuniholm (Open Prosthetics Project)
- WORK/LEARN: Transforming the way we work, innovate and learn, with John Robb (Global Guerillas), Ville Keränen (Monkey Business) and Geoff Mulgan (The Young Foundation / Nesta)
- SLOW – Can we use technology to reclaim control over how we and our organizations manage time? with Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (Microsoft Research / Contemplative Computing), Anna Meroni (Politecnico Milano / Slow Food movement) and Kris de Decker (Low-Tech Magazine)
- OPEN – What happens when barriers to innovation become drastically lower? with Juliana Rotich (Ushaidi), Georgina Voss (CENTRIM, University of Brighton) and Gabriel Borges (AgênciaClick Isobar)
In addition, there will be a Masterclass session that will aim at giving learning material about emerging technologies with Remi Sussan, the futures of innovation and innovation management, with Philine Warnke, and the importance of data with Nicolas Kayser-Bril.
Moreover, there’s also the open program. Feel free to submit your workshop
Posted: May 16th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
There’s a currently a lot of interest directed towards screens and ubiquitous displays in interaction design. Interestingly, I’ve always been ambivalent about this topic and scarcely addressed it in my own research/consulting gigs. However, given that more and more client projects (as well as students/media requests) are related to multi-screen design, I started to collect material about it. The approach, as usual at the lab, is to investigate what one could refer to as the “Long tail of insights”, that is to say, research results, informed opinions, expert views or little field observations that go beyond the general discourse about the topic at hand.
Concerning multi-screen design, one of the sub-theme that I rarely see addressed consist in the body of work done on pico-projectors. The potential use of built-in projectors in mobile phone seems to be a curious prospect and researchers, designers and engineers of course wonder about what can be done once the camera in phones are not just an input and allow users to create so-called “mobile projections”. As a matter of fact, the mobile character of this capability looks intriguing and the next question to be answered here concerns the “real potential uses of projections in the wild”.
The uneventful train trip to Paris this morning provided a good opportunity to read a paper about it. Called “Pico-ing into the Future of Mobile Projection and Contexts” and authored by Max L. Wilson and his colleagues from Future Interaction Technology Lab at Swansea University in the UK, it reports the results from a study about how people will want to use such technology, how they will feel when using it, and what social effects we can expect to see.
On the methodology side, the paper adopt an interesting approach:
“Our first-phase study used the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) to elicit the reactions of participants to a range of media regardless of whether they would consider projecting them during undirected usage. In the second phase, we performed a diary study of potential mobile projection scenarios. Although consumer-level mobile projector phones were not available for use or study at the time, we believe that using prototype systems allowed participants to concentrate on the potential use of such devices, rather than the qualities of a finished product. The reactions in the first-phase study also helped to finalise the design of the materials in the second study, which in turn provided deeper insight into the reasoning behind the possible projections recorded in the second“
Some excerpts that caught my attention:
“the study noted a surprisingly negative response to potentially personal content, such as text messages, with some reporting that they felt anxious being asked to project such content on the wall. Further, we saw that public observers showed very little interest in the projections being made by study participants. We did not see any significantly negative responses to projecting in social situations, although people were significantly less anxious about projecting and finding suitable surfaces when not at work. We were also able to identify some usability constraints, where participants expected to be able to control a reasonable amount of focus and projection size within one arm length. For the sake of augmentation, we also recommend that projection technology face the same way as the device’s inbuilt camera.
Our second study revealed more direct insight into the types of content people actually wished they were able to project. Compared to a general study of mobile information needs, we speculate that participants might consider projecting information to solve around two-thirds of the noted scenarios. While a large proportion was time, location and object sensitive, participants also recorded many cases of projecting static text that had no immediate or short-term benefit.“
The paper gives some details about surfaces sought for projection, the type of content people may want to project or temporality.
Why do I blog this? being agnostic about this topic, this kind of reading is meant to shape my perspective.
Posted: May 14th, 2011 | Comments Off
Why do I blog this? it’s impressive how interfaces (such as ear bud headphones) can become personalized and invasive through various solutions.
Posted: May 12th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Why do I blog this? fascinating towards the diversity of clock-related devices to indicate time in public space. The first one is definitely my favorite as it’s sort of absurd.
It’s been a while that i collect such examples, I don’t know what to do with them. Perhaps something will emerge out of this, a typology or sth else and I’d have to think about a design research workshop with students.
Posted: May 10th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
Anyone interested in robots and networked objects in multi-functions artifacts may be intrigued by this gorgeous AM/FM restroom radio with telephone that I ran across at the flea market the other day.
This device is an intriguing example of technological convergence, the tendency of certain technologies to be combined in a single device (as opposed to their existence as multiple products).
Of course, it’s an example of awkward convergence as you can imagine. However, I definitely find it highly curious. So much so that the use case provided on the package if quite important to observe:
… which is reminiscent of another brilliant (and more recent) converging device found by Fabien some time ago:
Why do I blog this ? basic observation about how convergence can lead to strange solution, especially due to contextual reasons. This led me back to what Henry Jenkins wrote some time ago:
“Rather than a single machine that suits every need, technology is converging into many Black Boxes that address the needs of the consumer depending on the constraints of their situation“