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Putting People First

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January 2011
27 January 2011

Innovating in the French wine industry

Wine by one
How does an entrepreneur successfully introduce innovation to a gastronomic tradition that is a cornerstone of French culture and identity?

Stéphane Girard, who graduated from the prestigious Bordeaux Wine School in 2004, has launched a modern concept in wine degustation to make understanding viniculture more accessible by placing the individual’s discovery of wine at the center of the experience.

“Imagine that you purchased a bottle or glass of wine, not because the label was attractive or you had read about it in a magazine, but because you had tasted it and found it pleasing. WINE by ONE facilitates that experience through its three-in-one concept of a wine bar, store, and club in a single location.”

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27 January 2011

The near future of the user interface

Amnesia
Two articles and one prototype provide diverging viewpoints on the near future of the user interface:

Microsoft plans a natural interface future full of gestures, touchscreens and haptics
An official Microsoft blog highlights MS’s plans about the future of how we’ll interact with computers. Apparently, writes Fast Company, it’s touchscreens and “natural user interfaces” (NUI) all the way. MS foresees NUI technology rapidly advancing from its current sensor-centric state to include “knowledge of what you’re trying to do (contextual awareness)” and “where you are and what is around you (environmental awareness).” By combining clever processing with Kinect-style sensors and touchscreens, MS imagines that its systems will become much more intuitive. The hope is that they become “almost invisible,” in fact, and not a barrier between you and what you want your PC to do. Add in haptic feedback, where your devices communicate back to you in non-visual ways to add to the quality of interactivity, and you’ve got some very powerful thinking here.

Amnesia: a magical interface for dragging files between mobile devices
A clever Microsoft Surface app makes iPads and Android phones behave like we wish they would: No different from real life files.

Mac daddy predicts all-knowing, all-seeing UI
In the future, you’ll use a speech-based interface to access all the world’s knowledge – including your own personal memories – stored in the cloud, according to a legendary engineer who was a member of the team that designed Apple’s original Macintosh user interface.

26 January 2011

Experientia trademarked its name

Experientia logo
When Experientia’s four partners decided to start a business back in 2005, one of the important discussions then was about the name. After brainstorming on the philosophy, concepts and strategies that would underlie the business, Experientia president Michele Visciola came up with “Experientia”, with inspiration striking him in the Milano Centrale train station on the way back from a business meeting.

Today Experientia has completed the process of trademarking our name in our business category (activities related to user experience and interaction design). With the trademark, we can, if we choose to, also go beyond consultancy and have legal protection when selling concepts, products and services with the brand name – made by Experientia.

After five years in business, we still love what the name “Experientia” expresses about our company and our philosophy. It is easy to pronounce in many languages. It reflects our Mediterranean roots and our commitment to serious, dedicated research.

With a nod to our Italian location, “Experientia” is the Latin word for experience, and actually carries the extra meanings of “trial, testing, attempt; knowledge gained by experience”.

To us, it reflects not just the value of people’s experiences, but also the importance of testing, trying and learning through successive reiterations, in order to create something that really connects with people’s inner desires and needs.

(The trademark was published on the CTM-Online database of The Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office of the European Union – you need to do a search with our trade mark number 005677216 and our trade mark name Experientia).

26 January 2011

Pleasant things work better

Umbrella today
Dana Chisnell, co-author, with Jeff Rubin, of Handbook of Usability Testing Second Edition, argues in UX Magazine that the UX community isn’t good at systematically creating consistently pleasurable designs, although we all know Don Norman‘s statement that “pleasant things work better.”

“Creating pleasurable designs is different from eliminating frustration. This is where designing an experience—not just a product—begins. […] Is there a way for designers to elicit raw positive feeling in the person who is using a design? Perhaps there are design patterns that UXers can look to as they develop the next great software products and web apps.”

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26 January 2011

Experientia congratulates Italy on Esperienza Italia

Italia 150
2011 marks the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, and it is fitting that the celebrations are kicking off in Turin, which (in addition to being Experientia’s home base) was the first capital of the unified country.

The nine months of exhibitions and events, under the overarching theme of “Esperienza Italia” (“The Italian Experience”), will look back at the history of unification and the creation of the Italian identity, and also forward to the future of Italian designers and artists.

Two exhibitions in particular explore the future: Stazione futuro (future station) and Il futuro nelle mani (the future in our hands).

The first of these is curated by Riccardo Luna, currently director of WIRED Italia, and explores an an ideal City of Ideas, displaying the ideas, prototypes, products and processes that best express Italian creativity and innovation.

The futuro nelle mani exhibition focuses on the idea of “Artisans Tomorrow”, and outlines the positive prospects for new “metropolitan artisan” work, featuring work from renowned and up-and-coming artists.

Experientia is pleased to be playing our own role in building Turin’s future of creativity and innovation, and wishes the city an excellent esperienza in 2011 and beyond.

For more information on the events planned, see eng.italia150.it.

25 January 2011

Experientia and Accenture sign memorandum of understanding

Accenture
Experientia and Accenture are looking at future project opportunities together, after signing a memorandum of understanding this month.

The two companies have previously matched their skill sets on a project involving user research, prototyping and usability testing, with the client congratulating the team on the outstanding quality of the final results.

At Experientia, we believe that our people-centred, multidisciplinary approach will be a perfect fit for further opportunities with Accenture, and look forward to new projects with them in the future.

25 January 2011

Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels speaks at workshop on smart living

ANCB
On Thursday 3 February, Experientia senior partner in charge of user experience design, Jan-Christoph Zoels, will speak at the TouchHouse. Smart living – Communicating surfaces workshop at the Aedes Network Campus Berlin (ANCB).

The opportunity mapping workshop, part of the ANCB Metropolitan Technologies Programme, focuses on the interface between building control, spatial and design implications, and energy efficiency, and will involve students from the fields of architecture, product design, graphic design, psychology, behavioural sciences, and sociology.

Jan-Christoph’s expert contribution will centre around Experientia’s recent work on advanced smart meter interfaces and behavioural change strategies for sustainable housing, as part of the Low2No project underway in Helsinki.

Carlos Alarcón, an architect from Sauerbruch Hutton, one of Experientia’s partners in the project will also be among the speakers at the workshop.

The objective of the workshop is to conceptualise and visualise innovative approaches for the further development of energy efficient, intelligent building control, as well as to examine its premises and consequences for architecture, urban space and human behaviour.

25 January 2011

Connected they write

Girl with laptop
Raquel Recuero (blog) is an associate professor at the Departments of Applied Linguistics and Social Communication in Universidade Católica de Pelotas (UCPel) in Brazil. Her research focuses on Internet social networks, virtual communities and computer mediated-communication in general, trying to understand the impact of the Internet in sociability and language in South America and Brazil.

In an article for DMLcentral.net she writes about the positive impact that the massive adoption of digital media in the everyday life of teens in Latin America is having on literacy, learning, reading, and especially, writing.

“In Chile, for example, more than 96 percent of all students have Internet access. In Brazil, almost 80 percent of the population between 16 and 24 years and almost 70 percent of those aged 10 to 15 accessed the Internet in 2009. With that kind of penetration, digital media is creating new ways to understand literacy, learning, reading, and especially, writing. Far from hurting the writing practices for youth, digital media seems to be creating a far more complex and compelling space for them to flourish.”

DMLcentral.net is the online presence for the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub located at the systemwide University of California Humanities Research Institute and hosted at the UC Irvine campus.

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25 January 2011

The ABC of behavioural change

abc
Jodie Moule, a psychologist and co-founder & director of Symplicit, an experience design consultancy based in Australia, describes on Johnny Holland what it takes to change someone’s behaviour.

“Design has always facilitated change in behaviour, especially in the area of technology, but it seems lately that design for behaviour change is in the forefront of people’s awareness. Part of the challenge is understanding what actually influences someone to change their behaviour in the first place.

As experience design researchers we quite often focus on what people do, and why they do it, so we can incrementally design better products, services and systems to ultimately improve the customer perception of a client’s brand. However, one of the most important things we need to be mindful of when designing for behaviour change is that we must also focus on the ‘future’ view of how we want people to behave with what we create. We need to consider the end-state behaviour ideals that we are aiming for when we are designing.”

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23 January 2011

Social networking under fresh attack as tide of cyber-scepticism sweeps US

Checking
Twitter and Facebook don’t connect people – they isolate them from reality, say a rising number of academics. Paul Harris reports in the Guardian:

“The way in which people frantically communicate online via Twitter, Facebook and instant messaging can be seen as a form of modern madness, according to a leading American sociologist.

“A behaviour that has become typical may still express the problems that once caused us to see it as pathological,” MIT professor Sherry Turkle writes in her new book, Alone Together, which is leading an attack on the information age.”

The article also covers other critical contributions, including The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, The Net Delusion by Evgeny Morozov, The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein, We Have Met The Enemy by Daniel Akst, and Cyburbia by James Harkin.

Read article

Alone Together has also been reviewed in The New York Times and the New Scientist (see also this previous blog post).

18 January 2011

Devices will allow for more heads-up mobility

Marko Ahtisaari
Marko Ahtisaari, senior vp and head of design strategy at Nokia, was interviewed on the [Nokia] Ideas Project site.

In the [short] interview, Ahtisaari states that true mobility means devices that users can operate and interact with on the go, at a glance and even one-handed; an alternative to the immersive attention many current smart phones now encourage.

The site also posts links to the Ahtisaari presentation at Le Web in Paris.

In a first video, we see Ahtisaari talking about his belief that we are in the very early phases of the smart phone, comparable to where the automobile was in the 1880s, which means we have yet to reach a dominant paradigm. Dominant smart phone designs, including the touchscreen OS, and multiple, personalizable home screens, and data systems, will be increasingly informed by collective intelligence, he says.

Then LeWeb creator Loic LeMeur interviews Marko Ahtisaari about the kinds of design innovation we can expect at Nokia in 2011 and future trends in the industry going forward.

18 January 2011

Beware the seductions of sociable machines

Robot
Our lives have become bold technological experiments, but we need to think hard before letting the computers and robots take over, says Sherry Turkle, MIT professor of social studies of science and technology, in the New Scientist.

“Where once artificial intelligence researchers proposed artefacts that would win us over with their smartness, designers of these latest machines aim to seduce with sociability. Sociable robots press our “Darwinian buttons”: we respond to humanoid objects that make eye contact, track our motion and say our names as “creatures” with intentions, consciousness, even feelings.

Indeed, when an object reaches out and asks us to care for it, we find we not only want to care for it, but want it to care for us in return. Nurturance turns out to be the “killer app” in our relationships with the inanimate. We are vulnerable to new attachments, seduced by machines that ask for our care. They “pretend” to converse, but do not understand what we say. Engrossed by sociable robots, we are alone yet experience a new sense of intimacy.” […]

“Alone with robots, we feel connected; together with people but not fully relating to them, we feel alone. We are in the still centre of a perfect storm. I call this the “robotic moment”, a technological moment in which we fear our lives with technology are out of control, and we fantasise, paradoxically, that it is technology that will help us re-establish control.”

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17 January 2011

Experientia part of EPIC 2011

EPIC
The Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC) has become the premier international forum for bringing together academics, computer scientists, designers, policy makers, social scientists, marketers and other professionals interested in the ongoing development of the field of applied ethnographic research and practice.

The call for contributions to the 2011 conference is now open, seeking original, high quality and engaging papers, workshops, artifacts and presentations.

Experientia president Michele Visciola will be in charge of the “artifacts” session and will help to provide high visibility and success to all demos, prototypes, posters and 3D presentations that are submitted to the conference.

The theme of the 2011 conference, to be held in Boulder, Colorado, from September 18 to 21, is “Evolution/Revolution: change and ethnographic work.” In particular, it will focus on the harmonies and disjunctions between the continuous evolution of practice and the pressures of radical disruptions that come from technology, history, economics, and other areas where change is the rule.

For up to date information and further details on the conference and submissions, visit the EPIC conference website.

14 January 2011

“Alone Together”: An MIT Professor’s new book urges us to unplug

Alone Together
Sherry Turkle, has been an ethnographer of our technological world for three decades, hosted all the while at one of its epicenters: MIT. A professor of the social studies of science and technology there, she also heads up its Initiative on Technology and Self.

In her new book Alone Together, she shares her ambivalence about the overuses of technology, which, she writes, “proposes itself as the architect of our intimacies.” The book completes a trilogy of investigations into the ways humans interact with technology.

Fast Company spoke recently with Turkle about connecting, solitude, and how that compulsion to always have your BlackBerry on might actually be hurting your company’s bottom line.

Read interview

13 January 2011

UX design in the financial services industry

UX and the City
Harald Felgner alerts us to a presentation by Amir Dotan of LAB49 where he shares his experiences working as a user experience architect in the financial services industry in London.

The talk is structured in three parts:
1. The job of a UX professional in the financial services industry
2. The trading floor work environment and its impact on UX work
3. Closing user experience design considerations

View presentation

12 January 2011

Distance Lab closed down

Distance Lab
The BBC reports that the Distance Lab closed down.

Distance Lab was a Scottish creative research initiative for digital media technology and design innovation, focused on addressing the many problems and opportunities found in rural and remote areas of the world.

“A technology laboratory working on a prototype device designed to communicate intimacy over distances has been wound up, it has emerged.

Backed by £3m of public money, Distance Lab had said in 2008 it expected to raise £2m or more and become self-sustainable in just over three years.

Based in Forres, staff had been working on Mutsugoto, a device to help couples stay in touch while separated.

They were also working on Remote Impact, an interactive fighting game.

The company’s projects included research on the use of technology in medicine and health.”

Read article

11 January 2011

Design research and innovation: an interview with Don Norman

Donald Norman
Jeroen Van Geel of Johnny Holland interviewed Donald Norman about innovation, design research, and emotional design.

Earlier this year you wrote that design research doesn’t innovate, technology does. This caused quite a discussion. What were the main counterexamples you got back?

No, that’s not what I said. And indeed, that is the main problem with the reaction I got: many people never read my post or listened to my talk: they simply reacted. (The people who did consider it thoughtfully were very favorable; in fact, I was invited to give it at several places, like Delft and the Copenhagen Business School).

Innovation is a very complex topic, very thoroughly discussed in academia, which is not something most designers follow. The important points are these: There are many forms of innovation–process, product, radical, incremental, and so on. I considered two forms of product innovation: radical (e.g., the invention of the telephone) and incremental (e.g., releasing a new version of a mobile phone, automobile, or kitchen appliance). Radical innovation in the products, I argued, always comes from the works of inventors, excited by some new technology and anxious to explore its potential. I do not know of a single radical innovation that has come from the people who do design research. Not the telephone or automobile, not Facebook or Twitter. Not 3D television nor, for that matter, high-definition television. Not hybrid autos. Not the Internet itself. Market studies, market research, design research, field observations (ethnographic studies), etc., do not yield radical innovations. They are very important in finding new uses of and improvements to existing products, but these are incremental innovations, not radical ones.

Incremental innovation is very important. Over 90% of the radical innovations fail (some of my friends say 99%). Yes, when they happen they change lives, but think about it: how many radical new product innovations have you experienced in your lifetime? One? Ten? Even if it was 100 that is still relatively infrequent compared to the thousands of incremental product innovations every day.

Moreover, radical innovation almost always starts off being inferior to what already exists: it takes good design research to transform that radical idea into something that is appealing to the world.

Alas, we train our design students to do radical innovation, even though in the real world, these radical ideas will almost certainly fail, even though they will be asked to do incremental innovation in their practice, and even though the evidence says that the radical innovations come from anywhere, and often take years or even decades before their worth is understood and appreciated.

In other words: we are not facing facts. We shy away from truth. We are delusional.

Read interview

11 January 2011

Mobile youth around the world

Mobile youth around the world
Nielsen’s new whitepaper on Mobile Youth Around the World reveals that most young people with mobile phones chose their own device. In fact, across all the countries surveyed, only 16 percent of young people reported that their parents selected their mobile phone. Price was the most common consideration among youth in selecting a mobile phone, though that is true among other age groups, too. Youth aged 15 to 24 in all countries surveyed put price as the first purchase driver, with the exception of Russian youth, 21 percent of whom placed design/style first. (Some grown-ups care about design, too. Around 14 percent of Brazilian adults say design/style is the most important consideration, compared to seven percent of U.S. adults.)

Out of all the countries examined, Italy leads in smartphone penetration with 47 percent of young people ages 15-24 owning a smartphone, compared to 31 percent of adults over 25. Smartphone penetration among European youth averages 28 percent in the countries surveyed, while penetration among older adults in Europe is 27 percent. Twenty-eight percent of U.S. mobile subscribers have smartphones. Youth in the United States exceed the population average smartphone penetration by 5 percent.

According to the report, China is the biggest spot for the mobile Internet, with 73 percent of Chinese youths age 15 to 24 citing mobile Internet usage as among the things they used their cell phones for in the past month. By comparison, less than half of American and British cell-phone toting youths used the Internet from their mobile devices, while the rest of Europe had rates less than 25 percent.

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10 January 2011

Arduino The Documentary. How open source hardware became cheap and fun

Arduino
When I was working at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, I met Massimo Banzi who embarked on an open source hardware initiative which eventually became the very successful Arduino project.

Now, writes the Arduino blog, Rodrigo Calvo, Raúl Díez Alaejos, Gustavo Valera, and the people at Laboral Centro de Arte in Gijon, Spain, have created a video documentary, entitled Arduino The Documentary, that you can view on Vimeo in English and Spanish.

Here is some background by Matthew Humphries published on geek.com:

Open source software has had a major impact on the applications and platforms we all use today. Linux is now a very viable alternative to Windows and Mac OS even for beginner PC users. The Android operating system looks set to dominate on mobile hardware, and more and more software applications are being released for free as open source projects by anyone who can learn to program.

Now the same looks set to happen for hardware. With the development of cheap, easy to use electronics components as part of the Arduino computing platform, it’s becoming much easier to create your own hardware solutions without spending a lot of money.

No longer do we have to leave hardware creation to the large corporations with access to manufacturing plants and skilled workers. Instead, we can spend a few dollars buying an Arduino board, a bunch of components, and start experimenting with the support of a growing online community.

The video above gives you an introduction to what Arduino is and how it has developed since its inception. You come away thinking anything is possible with a bit of learning and a 3D printer, and why not? If software can be free to use, why can’t hardware be free to create and distribute?

The clear message Arduino The Documentary gives out is that we are about to see an explosion of hardware devices that come from bedroom tinkerers and student projects. Not only that, but they have the potential to turn into commercial products that businesses form around and investors flock to. We also have an opportunity to get electronics taught to our kids in schools for very little cost and hopefully start producing the next generation of talented engineers.

10 January 2011

Cyberspace when you’re dead

Sunset portraits
The Internet promises a kind of immortality. What if your last tweet is the one that defines you for all time? Rob Walker reflects in a long article for the New York Times Magazine.

“It’s now taken for granted that the things we do online are reflections of who we are or announcements of who we wish to be. So what happens to this version of you that you’ve built with bits? Who will have access to which parts of it, and for how long?

Not many people have given serious thought to these questions. Maybe that’s partly because what we do online still feels somehow novel and ephemeral, although it really shouldn’t anymore. Or maybe it’s because pondering mortality is simply a downer. (Only about a third of Americans even have a will.) By and large, the major companies that enable our Web-articulated selves have vague policies about the fate of our digital afterlives, or no policies at all. Estate law has only begun to consider the topic. Leading thinkers on technology and culture are understandably far more focused on exciting potential futures, not on the most grim of inevitabilities. “

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