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Posts in category 'Play'

6 May 2009

Most Interaction09 conference videos now online

Francoise Bourdonnec
Most of the videos of the Interaction09 conference, that took place this February in Vancouver, Canada, are now available online (see also here). Here is a personal selection:

Kars Alfrink: Play in social and tangible interactions
Many of the interactions seen in tangible and social computing are essentially playful. Play can take on many forms, but they all involve people exploring a conceptual space of possibilities. When designing these “embodied” interactions, it is therefore helpful to have a good understanding of play – this session aims to do just that. We’ll compare the role of interaction designers to that of game designers, who concern themselves primarily with the creation of rule-sets.

Dave Malouf – Foundations of Interaction Design: Bringing design critique to interaction design
Foundation and critique are two core elements that separate design from other ways of thinking and practicing creation of ideas and solutions. Foundations are the core elements that we manipulate within our craft. Critique is the way we judge the results of that craft. For critique to be effective though it requires foundation. It is only through our understanding of what it is that makes up our craft, that we can bring consistency and consensus to design criticism. This 25min. presentation is meant to offer the beginnings of a discussion around what could be the foundations of interaction design, how they impact aesthetics of interaction and how they can be used for design critique within an interaction design practice.

Jon Kolko – Design synthesis
Interaction design research activities produce an enormous quantity of raw data, which must be systematically and rigorously analyzed in order to extract meaning and insight. Unfortunately, these methods of analysis are poorly documented and rarely taught. As a result, raw design research data is inappropriately positioned as insight, and the value of research activities is marginalized. Interaction design synthesis methods can be taught, and when selectively applied, visual, diagrammatic synthesis techniques can be completed relatively quickly. This talk will introduce various methods of Synthesis as ways to translate research into meaningful insights.

Aza Raskin – Designing in the open

Marc Rettig – How to change complicated stuff
In the midst of a global conversation about change, many designers are pondering their own impact in the world. How does our experience in software interfaces, web sites, and physical products prepare us to address the profound issues humanity is facing? These issues involve many complex systems, systems too big to fit into the scope of any single company or institution. Design methods are potent at large scale and scope, but what does it take to be effective as a practitioner, as a team, as a company? What is it like to actually achieve a meaningful, sustainable, positive difference in life?

Jared Spool and Friends – Hiring the next generation of Interaction Designers

Luke Wroblewski – Parti and the design sandwich
In architecture, parti refers to the underlying concept of a building. Will it be a public structure that provides safety or a commercial building focused on customer up-selling? Design principles are the guiding light for any parti. They articulate the fundamental goals that all decisions can be measured against and thereby keep the pieces of a project moving toward an integrated whole. But design principles are not enough. Every design consideration has a set of opportunities and limitations that can either add to or detract from the parti. This combination of design principles at the top and design considerations at the bottom allows interaction designers to fill in the middle with meaningful structures that enable people and organizations to interact, communicate, and get things done. In this talk, Luke Wroblewski will illustrate how the World’s most accessed Web page, yahoo.com, was redesigned with a parti and the design sandwich.

(see also earlier post with links to videos of presentations by Dan Saffer, Robert Fabricant and John Thackara).

20 March 2009

Scratching the Surface

Microsoft Surface
Jack Schofield of The Guardian has published a nice short story about the user experience of interacting with the Microsoft surface:

“Microsoft was using a shallow pool as the “attract mode”, and the screen image looks and behaves like water, in a graphical way. Touch the surface with your finger, and it sends out realistic-looking ripples. But you can also put your whole arm across the surface, like a barrier, so there are ripples on one side and not on the other. Or you can use a book, or other object. It doesn’t require skin.

In fact, although the Surface is touch-driven, it doesn’t actually use touch at all. It uses infra-red photography. It can “see” things that are still above the surface of the 30-inch screen, so if you touch it, it knows which side you’re sitting. And although it does a brilliant impression of being pressure sensitive, it isn’t: it just works on the fact that your finger contact area increases as you press harder.”

Read full story

11 March 2009

Case study: gestural entertainment center for Canesta

Canesta
Jennifer Bove, a former Interaction-Ivrea student, sent me a link to a case study on a gestural entertainment center that she and a team at Kicker Studio developed for camera maker Canesta:

Canesta, Inc. is the inventor of revolutionary, low-cost electronic perception technology that enables ordinary electronic devices in consumer, security, industrial, medical, automotive, factory automation, gaming, military, and many other applications to perceive and react to objects or individuals in real time.

In Fall 2008, Canesta approached Kicker Studio to create a demonstration of their latest camera technology for the Consumer Electronics Show 2009 and at the TV of Tomorrow conference. The prototype was to be of an entertainment center controlled by gestures alone, and powered, of course, by a Canesta camera.

This highly attractive project is well reported in a case study full of photos and videos. It is a recommended read.

8 March 2009

Nokia’s IdeasProject on virtual communities and the power of the audience

IdeasProject
Two new interviews on Nokia’s IdeasProject:

This device we make in our own image changes everything
Renowned computational biologist and educational innovator James Bower believes the Internet, rather than representing some new stage in human development, has simply caught up with the ways people actually function. The Internet is allowing an old form of learning, he says, and we have to figure out how to get out of the way and allow it to do that.

Related content:

Advertising in virtual communities (podcast)
Jim Bower shares his insights on the evolution of advertising and branding within virtual communities.

Why is Whyville a hit?
Journalist Linda Knapp explains the success Jim Bower’s safe, virtual community for kids.

Audience is now the force behind media
Award-winning journalist Eric Roston talks about the profound shift technology has created by putting the power for organizing media in the hands of the audience rather than the entrepreneurs who previously controlled it. While he believes there are still opportunities for publishers and content purveyors, these manifestations of social media and online journalism also created a new set of demands.

Related content:

The death of the newspaper (Crosscurrents podcast)
Podcast by Zoe Corneli documents some success stories amidst the breakdown of traditional newspaper journalism.

This Modern World (Salon cartoon)
Parodies the beleaguered news industry’s flailing attempts to respond to the barrage of democratized online alternatives.

Newspaper Death Watch
Paul Gillin’s blog tracks developments in the volatile world of journalism, contrasting newspaper closures with the development of their online counterparts.

1 March 2009

The KashKlash game at LIFT09

Bruce Sterling
We just came back from the LIFT conference and have lots to blog about. Our LIFT experience started off with the KashKlash game, an action-packed workshop that explored alternative methods of exchange [and I helped prepare].

The focus was on a possible future ecosystem – in a new world where today’s aging, less useful and even dangerous financial systems are replaced by (or mixed with) more disruptive innovations and exchanges. Imagine yourself deprived of all of today’s financial resources. Maybe you’re a refugee or stateless. Yet you still have your handset and laptop and Internet and a broadband cellphone connection….

This is one of the provocations posed on KashKlash, an open forum and web project focusing on alternative economies in a post-money future. What will such a world look like? How will the concept of value be measured? What concepts will shape the formal and informal economies? Bright thinkers from around the world came together online to discuss, debate and ideate in this innovative and exciting project.

KashKlash is a collaborative project between Heather Moore of Vodafone, Experientia and a group of independent visionaries. The project started with four bright and innovative provocateurs, Nicolas Nova, Joshua Klein, Bruce Sterling, and Régine Debatty, and as the debate gathered steam, contributions, comments, flickr photos and twitter streams rolled in from more than 50 additional participants to shape and envision possible futures.

Here is how Bruce Sterling, the game master par excellence, introduced the game:

“This is the KashKlash game. It is a game of development, design, construction, building. What you are trying to do is dominate the world with your group’s theory of how the world should be.

So you are going to use these devices to construct a model of your civilisation. Unfortunately you have to bid for them, and you also have to communicate among one another, to get your hands on these delightful building materials.

Now you each have different advantages and deficits.

This is the high-tech group here. They have more money than anybody else and instead of the normal chopsticks, straw, clay and cheap string, they have exciting high-tech girders.

The rather emergent slumdogs group over there repesents tomorrow’s emerging economy. There are more of them than anybody else. But they have a lesser income and lesser communication than anybody else.

This group here, the Communists, have a relatively modest income in cash, but they have an open means of communication and solidarity. They have more communication and less cash.

And this group here which represents the marketeers has modest communication skills but a booming and sometimes crashing economy.

So each turn you are going to get some money and communication tokens that you can use to bid for things and to build things. So you can buy these materials with your tokens.

Now I am the auctioneer. I am the invisible hand of the market.”

The game was won by the Pragmatic Communities, who – pragmatically – joined forces with the High-tech Progressives.

You can watch the video of the KashKlash workshop (and of many other workshops) on the Klewel website. On Flickr you can see about 75 photos of the workshop.

13 February 2009

Playful augmented objects

Touch
Touch is a research project, led by Timo Arnall, that investigates Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that enables connections between mobile phones and physical things. The project aims to develop applications and services that enable people to interact with everyday objects and situations through their mobile devices.

The project, which brings together an inter-disciplinary team involved in social and cultural enquiry, interaction/industrial design, rapid prototyping, software, testing and exhibitions, runs until 2009 and is based in the Interaction Design department of the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in Norway. It is funded by the Norwegian Research Council.

Last week Interaction Design students at the Oslo School of Architecture & Design participated in a Touch workshop where the brief was to design a playful, exploratory or characterful RFID interface. The emphasis of this workshop was on exploring the relationship between digital interaction through RFID and the material properties of physical objects.

Timo Arnall just posted about three recent Touch projects that suggest different senses as metaphors for physical RFID interaction.

17 January 2009

Experience design for interactive products

Walter Aprile
Experience design for interactive products: designing technology augmented urban playgrounds for girls (pdf) is the long title of an interesting paper by Aadjan van der Helm, Walter Aprile and David Keyson of Delft University of Technology.

Recent technological developments have made it possible to apply experience design also in the field of highly interactive product design, an area where involvement of non-trivial technology traditionally made it impossible to implement quick design cycles. With the availability of modular sensor and actuator kits, designers are able to quickly build interactive prototypes and realize more design cycles. In this paper we present a design process that includes experience design for the design of interactive products. The design process was developed for a master level course in product design. In addition, we discuss several cases from this course, applying the process to designing engaging interactive urban playgrounds.

One of the authors, Walter Aprile (pictured), was a former Interaction-Ivrea faculty member at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea.

via InfoDesign

8 October 2008

Teens, video games and civics

PEW_logo
This US survey by Pew Internet with the support of the MacArthur Foundation finds that teens’ gaming experiences are diverse and include significant social interaction and civic engagement.

The main conclusions:

  • Game playing is universal, with almost all teens playing games and at least half playing games on a given day. Game playing experiences are diverse, with the most popular games falling into the racing, puzzle, sports, action and adventure categories.
  • Game playing is also social, with most teens playing games with others at least some of the time and can incorporate many aspects of civic and political life.
  • Another major finding is that game playing sometimes involves exposure to mature content, with almost a third of teens playing games that are listed as appropriate only for people older than they are.

- Read more
Download report

27 September 2008

Experientia’s Jan-Christoph Zoels at Picnic /3

PICNIC
Experientia’s senior partner Jan-Christoph Zoels was this week at the Picnic conference in Amsterdam, and has been providing regular reports. Here is his third one, covering the Thursday afternoon sessions:

Making Love is Eskil Steenberg (Quel Solaar)’s take on a multi-player story adventure. Imagine seeing your favourite game inside a steam sauna. Beautifully rendered images provide an evocative and foggy background to players building and destructing their neighbourhoods. Social actions result in social pressures and player alliances. Do you want to be known for the destruction of a neighbourhood?

What will the networked city feel to its users? Adam Greenfield started his exploration of the Long Here and the Big Now by questioning new modes of place-making where new conditions of choice and actions are no longer physical but reduced to screen-based interactions. Information visualisation add a new digital sense of time extension to our live experiences in providing historical awareness and multiple views — a new parallelism of time. How can information about cities and patterns of use be visualised in ways to enable local awareness, on demand access and collective actions? Adam challenged the audience to design cities responding to the behaviour of its residents and other users in real time in moving form browsing urbanism to act upon it.

Tracking our world – A discussion brought together researchers exploring new ways to measure, visualise and make sense of changing environmental contexts to guide professional and governmental practices.

  • Stan Williams, director of the HP Information and Quantum Sytems Lab, described his labs intention to measure CeNSE – the Central Nervous System for the Earth (Fortune article | Bruce Sterling blog post) – via a variety of nanotechnology sensor systems. Imagine one trillion nanoscale sensors and actuators will need the equivalent of 1000 internets, creating huge demand for computing power but also providing energy efficiency.
  • Professor Euro Beinat showcased the effect of using people, their movement and activities as sensors in the CurrentCity.org project. Their Amsterdam visualisation explored the human agglomeration and activities across the city using aggregated and anonymous mobile phone location data.
  • Eco Map is a Cisco collaboration with three cities worldwide – Seoul, Amsterdam and San Francisco – to demonstrate the impact of real-time individual activities in aggregated views of our cities to foster individual and governmental actions. Explore the UV heat loss of your roof at night to inform insulation requirements or understand the solar capacity of the same roof and get installation advice. Wolfgang Wagner, Cisco, and Jared Blumenfeld, San Francisco, prototype how to use complex public data sets to inform individual desires for greener ways to live, work and play.

Bruno Giussani introduced the four finalists of the Picnic Challenge 08 to make a measurable impact on the reduction of carboemissions. Over 280 participants proposed their ideas competing for an award of 500,000 Euro funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery.

The four finalists were:

  • RouteRank, who designed a web tool to find best travel routes for time, distance and environmental impact in one single view;
  • Smart Screen consists of a thermo-responsive, shape memory window screen to reflect sun rays and reduce air conditioning costs;
  • VerandaSolar are easy mountable and affordable solar screens for self installation to reduce your energy bills, empowering millions of small scale users to make a larger impact;
  • Greensulate, the Picnic Challenge 08 winner, engineered an organic, structural insulation panel made from local agricultural by-products.

The Design as a Collaborative Process session brought together Bill Moggridge, co-founder of IDEO, and Younghee Jung, senior design manager at Nokia, to document new creative and participatory design processes.

Bill showcased The Rockefeller Foundation and IDEO initiative Design for Social Impact, the Designers Accord and Shinichi Takemura’s Tangible Earth project. Each project guides its users to action – from design processes and methods, to codes of professional conduct, to understanding the global impact of local actions in an empathic information visualisation. To discover anew why globes changed world views over the last five hundred years, check out the Tangible Earth Demo Movie.

Younghee spoke about the choices and burdens of living with intimate technology – showcasing the results of participants in Mumbai, Rio and Acara designing mobile phones. They showed how diverse subjective views of what technology could be, how not to patronise usage patterns and how emotional touchpoints and usage patterns are formed.

What happens when we pay attention?Ethan Zuckermann, a co-founder of Global Voices, described in his talk Surprising Africa a range of social actions resulting in increased media attention. He challenged the audience to stop thinking about Africa in terms of aid, but to understand the changing political climate influenced by bloggers and citizen activists, the current infrastructure developments (community media, mobile banking, malls, etc), and the innovation capabilities of local research institutions.

For more Picnic reporting, check also Bruno Giussani, Hubert Guillaud (writing extensively and excellently in French), Ethan Zuckerman, Ernst-Jan Pfauth and Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Smart Mobs.

11 September 2008

Philips exploring the more “intimate” sides of experience design

Intimate massager
Philips’ new sex toy range, in other words.

Here some excerpts from today’s press release:

Philips launches new category of ‘Relationship Care’ with intimate massagers for couples

Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE:PHG, AEX:PHI) today announced the launch of a new category of ‘Relationship Care’ with the introduction in the UK of a range of products designed to enhance couples’ sexual well-being. These products will specifically target a new and previously unaddressed market of consumers in the 35-55 year age group who are open to using intimate accessories. Philips will sell its ‘Intimate Massager’ range in the UK through selected high street retailers i.e. Boots, Selfridges of London and Amazon.co.uk. [...]

The category is being launched following extensive market research. In the UK, research showed that 35% of adults would consider using an intimate accessory with their partner if it were designed for couples rather than being meant for individual use. Furthermore, studies showed these adults would be more likely to try such products if they could buy them through more accessible and – what consumers perceive to be – less embarrassing retail channels.

The first product launch from the Relationship Care category is a range of ‘Intimate Massagers’. These have been designed to be tasteful and stylish in their look and feel, creating an appealing product for consumers that can be sold by mainstream retailers. Philips’ Intimate Massagers are also the first non-penetrative stimulators designed for partners to use together.

Read full press release

28 April 2008

How Club Penguin turned 750,000 British kids into penguins

Digital youth
The (UK) Times reports on the successful networking site for tweens.

The features of Club Penguin, one of the most successful virtual worlds aimed specifically at children, may defy logic – and gravity – but they represent the new frontier of children’s entertainment, where the whimsy and colour of traditional kids TV blends with computer game-style tasks, and the networking power of the internet.

Some 750,000 British children aged between 6 and 14 are estimated to inhabit Club Penguin, the brainchild of two Canadian entrepreneurs who as parents became frustrated with the lack of the options for kids who wanted to play computer games but also meet friends online.

Read full story

26 April 2008

New Linden Lab CEO announces user-centred vision for Second Life

Mark Kingdon
Earlier this week, Linden Lab, creator of the well-known virtual world Second Life, announced a new CEO: Mark Kingdon, currently CEO of digital marketing firm Organic. He will be taking over in mid-May.

Technology Review assistant editor Erica Naone spoke with Kingdon earlier this week about his plans for Second Life.

A lot of new users seem to have trouble getting to that place. They get confused by the controls, and aren’t sure what to do inside the world. Do you have any thoughts about how to make it easier to get started?

I’ve got a lot of background in the kind of user-centered design work that’s going to be important for Second Life, especially as you look at the first-hour experience. I haven’t come to any specific conclusions yet, but I think it starts with understanding what the resident needs in order to make a powerful experience, and looking at the kinds of people that you want to attract and bring in-world. The answers will emerge very clearly from that.

How do you plan to get different types of users acclimated? For example, business users might just want to get in-world quickly to have a meeting, while other users might be looking for a more playful experience.

I think the first thing that I need to do … is really immerse myself in the different user bases and then think about if, by giving them additional tools, they can create that entry point for themselves, or if it’s something we need to encourage, or if it’s something that we need to create for them. I think the question is, how do you make that happen without becoming the primary content creator?

Read full interview

17 December 2007

Designing the playful experience

UXmatters
Jonathan Follett argues on UXmatters that playfulness is an often overlooked, under-appreciated, and rarely measured component of user experience, while the digital space is so conducive to play—exploration, imagination, and learning.

“Playfulness, like usability, refers to a quality of user experience that can span many disciplines—information architecture, information design, interaction design, and graphic design. In our minds, however, many of us have relegated play to the realms of gaming or kids’ stuff and don’t consider play daily when designing. Though, in the digital space, satisfying the desire to play can be integral in determining the success or failure of a digital product or service. So it’s time for user experience designers to take play seriously. (And stop being so darn boring.)”

Read full story

7 December 2007

Getting serious

Getting serious
The Economist reports on how virtual worlds are being put to serious real-world uses—and are starting to encounter some real-world problems.

“With the popularity of virtual worlds such as Second Life and games such as “World of Warcraft” and “Sims Online”, companies, academics, health-care providers and the military are evaluating virtual environments for use in training, management and collaboration. Superficially, such uses look a lot like playing a video game. “The thing that distinguishes them from games is the outcome,” says David Wortley, the director of Coventry University’s Serious Games Institute. Rather than catering to virtual thrill-seekers, the aim is to find new ways for people to learn or work together. [...]

As with any novel technology, virtual worlds bring new opportunities and new problems. The embrace of virtual worlds by companies for mundane uses on the one hand, and by scam artists to get up to no good on the other, points not to the shortcomings of such environments—but to their increasing maturity and potential.”

Read full story

17 November 2007

Ethnographic research highlights educational value of MMO games

Jezabelle
At the first keynote of Toronto’s Future Play 2007 conference for game educators and developers, Dr. Constance Steinkuehler, assistant professor in the Educational Communication & Technology program for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, argued that MMOs and online worlds are good “push technologies” for education, rather than threats to it.

Her presentation (audio file) was titled “Massively Multiplayer Online Games as an Educational Ethnology: An Outline for Research,” a deceptively straightforward talk about Steinkuehler’s [ethnographic] research findings on what constitutes gameplay in MMOs and virtual worlds, and how that research might be applied to education programs.

Read full story

21 October 2007

Serious Games Institute shows off applications for the real world

Serious Games Institute
The Serious Games Institute in Coventry, England, says that it is one of the first places dedicated to helping businesses enhance their own operations by harnessing virtual worlds for things like training, communication and emergency planning.

“Much has been made of the potential of Second Life as an environment for entertainment, marketing or even terrorist financing. But the Serious Games Institute, a center for the development of “serious” applications of video game technologies and virtual worlds for businesses, security agencies and other users, says that it is one of the first places dedicated to helping businesses enhance their own operations by harnessing virtual worlds for things like training, communication and emergency planning.

The institute, which is affiliated with Coventry University and funded in part by a regional economic development agency, has a handful of tenants set to take up residence in November. It plans to operate as an “incubator,” helping these companies grow, as well as serving as a hub for networking and research. [...]

Coventry, in the former industrial heartland of England, may seem like an unlikely location for an institute devoted to cutting-edge technologies. The spire of Coventry Cathedral, which rises above the landscape of postindustrial office parks, survived a German bombing raid in 1940. Car factories, which used to be the area’s economic backbone, survived a few decades longer, but have now mostly been shut.

But Wortley said the automotive industry also left a legacy of industrial design, which is now being put to use at the institute.”

Read full story (International Herald Tribune)

17 October 2007

The LIFT08 conference programme is out

LIFT08
Bruno Giussani reports on the press conference announcing the LIFT08 conference programme (backgrounder):

The conference LIFT08 will take place for the third time in Geneva, Switzerland, on 6-8 February 2008. The main structure of the programme has been presented tonight in a trendy bar downtown Geneva by organizer Laurent Haug and editorial producer Nicolas Nova.

And again, like last year, they seem to have got a knack of seeking out many new voices and speakers that haven’t made the rounds yet – but have interesting things to say. The programme is structured in thematic “tracks”, four per day on Thursday 7 and Friday 8. On Wednesday, a pre-conference will present a series of focused workshops. Thursday evening will feature the now-traditional fondue for 500+ people. Alongside the main conference there will be a “blogcamp”-like space for unplanned discussions and presentations, as well as an “off” space dedicated to design, art and games.

Here a quick rundown of the main tracks:

  • Internet in society — With Jyri Engestrom (he just sold microblogging platform Jaiku to Google), Jonathan Cabiria (on virtual environments and social inclusions) and others
  • User experience — With two tech anthropologists, Younghee Jung (Nokia, Tokyo) and Genevieve Bell (Intel, Seattle) and UC’s Paul Dourish.
  • Stories — With serial entrepreneur Rafi Haladjian and others.
  • A glimpse of Asia — With Marc Laperrouza, a specialist of new tech in China, Heewon Kim, a Korean researcher on teens and social networks, and others.
  • New Frontiers — With “cyborg” Kevin Warwick, Henry Markram who’s trying to simulate the functioning of brain cells, and Holm Friebe talking about new forms of cooperation and collaborative work.
  • Gaming — With Robin Hunicke (who worked on games for the Nintendo Wii) on gaming trends, and others.
  • Web and entreprises — With David Sadigh and David Marcus on how the web is reshuffling work practices.
  • Foresight — With future researchers Scott Smith (Changeist) and William Cockayne (Stanford) and Nokia designer Francesco Cara.

Haug also announced that LIFT is exporting itself to Asia: after a successful small launch event a few weeks ago in Seoul, South Korea, they’re now planning a full LIFTAsia in September 2008, again in Seoul.

I am very pleased to notice that Genevieve Bell, Paul Dourish and Francesco Cara are amongst the speakers.

8 August 2007

Second thoughts on Second Life

Second Life
Lately a lot of people seem to have had second thoughts on Second Life.

A wave of articles was published recently on how marketers are not getting the returns they were expecting, how deserted it is, how it is all about sex and pranks, how it has become a virtual nanny state, and even how terrorists are using it to plan attacks.

Leaving aside for now the discussion to what extent this is just negative hype, it does make sense to see Second Life as an experimental environment where we can prototype new interaction and communication paradigms. Experimenting in these virtual worlds can also help us understand and imagine a future where a mix of real and virtual worlds will become increasingly prevalent.

I can see four good reasons for businesses, institutions and experience designers to be present in Second Life.

1. Prototyping of new participatory communication paradigms often involving very targeted and selected communities
A lot of lectures take place in Second Life. In fact, more than 300 universities, including Harvard and Duke, use Second Life as an educational tool. Some educators conduct entire distance-learning courses there; others supplement classes. Also big companies such as IBM and Intel use these graphics-rich sites to conduct meetings among far-flung employees and to show customers graphical representations of ideas and products. IBM went even as far to take the unusual step of establishing official guidelines for its more than 5,000 employees who inhabit “Second Life” and other online universes. Philips Design uses Second Life “to gain feedback on innovation concepts, engage residents in co-creation and obtain a deeper understanding of potential opportunities in this virtual environment”. And the Italian bank BNL and others are using virtual worlds to create communities to recruit some of their future employees, especially for more creative or technical job openings. Even something simple as chat is an entirely different experience on Second Life, with the other person’s presence is no longer communicated through an MSN-style presence icon with a small photograph or drawing but instead through a full three-dimensional moving avatar.

2. Prototyping of new interaction paradigms
Researchers at MIT are building realistic training simulators in Second Life, often controlled through a Wiimote. Some are even creating simulations for companies, such as a medical-devices firm, a global-energy company focused on power-plant training, and a pest-control firm — all looking to reduce training costs. In the words of one researcher, “the ability to easily integrate a wide range of psychomotor activities with simulations running on standard computer platforms will change the ways people interact with computers.”

3. Experimentation in an unconventional digital environment
These virtual worlds may be primitive still, but if we think of it, we are already living in an enriched world where our interactions with companies and banks, institutions and universities, cities and public services, are no longer just based on a physical communication paradigm. Instead they have become highly mediated by technologies. This will continue to grow. Our interactions will not only become more mobile but also more involving, more three-dimensional, and more experiential. Virtual worlds will be important, no matter what. There will be new types of interfaces – as already alluded to here and here and here – and new types of feedback, and it makes sense for forward looking companies to explore these new ways of reaching out to and involving their customers.

4. Virtual laboratories to understand human behaviour
Also researchers are exploring Second Life and other virtual worlds. A recent article in the journal Science addresses how researchers are getting insights into real life by studying what people do in virtual worlds, suggesting that virtual worlds could help scientists studying ideas of government and even concepts of self, while other researchers are looking at how behaviour peculiar to online worlds differs from that in real life. Also our colleagues from Adaptive Path are involved in this type of research.

6 August 2007

‘Game School’ aims to engage and educate

The Game School
Soon New York City will be home to a new 6-12th grade public school that will use game design and game-inspired methods to teach critical 21st century skills and literacies.

Opening in fall 2009, the school is being created by the Gamelab Institute of Play (blog), a New York City-based not-for-profit organization that leverages games and play as transformative contexts for learning and creativity, in collaboration with New Visions for Public Schools, a not-for-profit organization that works in partnership with the New York City Department of Education to improve academic achievement in the City’s public schools.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently awarded a grant of $1.1 million to help with planning and development.

According to a Wired news story, the planners “are looking at how games naturally engage players and teach them new skills, and hope to apply those principles to create kids who not only ace their SATs, but are also well suited for the 21st century.”

“Games offer a context for problem-solving with immediate feedback, and often involve social interaction that can reinforce lessons learned. Combine that process with the skills that modern games encourage — like computer literacy and navigating through complex information networks — and you have the basis for a brand new pedagogy. [...]

The meaning of ‘knowing’ today has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it.”

2 August 2007

TI working with end-users to design their perfect product

video projector for gamers
Bryan Hynecek of Ignition reports on Core77 how his company teamed up with the Texas Instruments DLP Products Group and students from The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University, putting together a program that would enable video gaming experts the chance to design their “ideal product”–a video projector design specifically for gamers.

“Companies are investing more into understanding their customers and trying to anticipate the perfect product. As designers we have seen or participated in focus groups, surveys, questionnaires, beta programs, and various forms of ethnographic research and observation in order to understand what consumers really want. More recently some organizations have begun to use co-creation sessions. These are participatory gatherings where designers and researchers sit with a panel of target users and, through story telling and with the help of “toolkits” (a collection of objects that may represent features, functions, or forms), try to elicit features that consumers might want but never knew how to explain. Although co-creation is still a far cry from users designing their own products, it is the closest we can get to translating user wants and needs. But what is the next level? Can we get even closer? [...]

According to the designers involved in this exercise, it was an eye opening exercise, confirming to the designers what they had already suspected: that to a significant degree, consumers or end users really do know what they want or need in a product–even what they aspire to. But it is the job of the designer to tease it out of them, like a therapist helping a patient unlock their inner feelings. Sitting down with the students, evaluating their concepts, explaining the system architecture problems, the back-end of mechanical design—all through a combination of explaining and educating—thesee were the steps in helping them to refine their raw content into the idealized end product they desired.”

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