counter

Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


Posts in category 'Prototype'

19 May 2009

Mobile Literacy

Besera Bhen
Our friends at Adaptive Path have posted some information on a design and research project that aimed to understand how mobile technology can work more effectively in emerging markets.

The company went to rural India to investigate the impact of mobile technology and developed concepts for new mobile devices for this market. Based on the research they conducted there, they developed a series design principles and concepts for mobile devices to meet the needs of people in emerging markets.

You can find more information in a new dedicated section of their website.

More background is also on their blog:

26 April 2009

“We are all hackers now”

The Future of Making
For months now, I have been running with this simple thesis in my head: “We are all hackers now”, and again, again and again I notice it getting confirmed.

The latest confirmation comes from The Institute for the Future, which for the last six months has been researching the “future of making,” exploring how the stuff of our world may be researched, invented, designed, manufactured, and distributed in the next ten years.

At last weekend’s Maker Faire, they released the results of their research in the form of a visual knowledge map, summarizing drivers, trends, and implications.

“Two future forces, one mostly social, one mostly technological, are intersecting to transform how goods, services, and experiences—the “stuff” of our world—will be designed, manufactured, and distributed over the next decade. An emerging do-it-yourself culture of “makers” is boldly voiding warranties to tweak, hack, and customize the products they buy. And what they can’t purchase, they build from scratch. Meanwhile, flexible manufacturing technologies on the horizon will change fabrication from massive and centralized to lightweight and ad hoc. These trends sit atop a platform of grassroots economics—new market structures developing online that embody a shift from stores and sales to communities and connections.”

Download the Future of Making Map

(via Boing Boing)

15 April 2009

Organic interfaces workshop at CHI 2009

CHI 2009
Carla Diana reports on Core77 at length about the highly conceptual CHI presentation/panel “Eek! A Mouse! Organic User Interfaces: Tangible, Transitive Materials and Programmable Reality“, where heavy hitters presented their own visions of how computing devices will move away from the keyboard and mouse and manifest in unexpected forms.

“This panel was composed of researchers whose passion lies in the tangible manifestation of dynamic data. According to the panel, which included famed researchers Hiroshi Iishi and Pattie Maes from the MIT Media Lab, along with Seth Goldstein of Carnegie Mellon University, Sony’s Jun Rekimoto and media artist Sachiko Kodama, data-laden, sentient, computational devices will be embedded in the very fabric of everyday objects.” […]

“While we found the panel incredibly inspirational, we couldn’t help but wonder how close the projects showcased are to coming out of the lab and into users hands. Seth Goldstein boldly proclaimed 2015 as a “conservative estimate”, while Hiroshi Ishii reiterated his estimated one-to-two-hundred year timeline required to make the technology a reality. While it all seems very promising and prescient, none of the panelists could describe a clear vision for power management (with all these advances, will we still have to lug around batteries and power cords?), admitting this is a tough problem that the physicists in the labs next door are tackling. Regardless of the time frame, every panelist expressed confidence in the ability to produce the future as described, stating that the technology is essentially in the works in their respective labs. Though the researchers envision a fascinating future of possibilities its clear that designers will be needed more than ever before to act as mediators determining appropriate and meaningful ways to embrace these new ways of relating to our synthetic world.”

Read full story

20 March 2009

Tish Shute interviews Mike Kuniavsky on things as services

Bicycle rider data shadows
Tish Shute’s UgoTrade website is quickly becoming one of the prime sites in the field.

In the last months she interviewed Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM Master Inventor), Robert Rice (CEO of Neogence), Usman Haque (architect and director of Haque Design + Research and founder of Pachube), Adam Greenfield (Nokia’s head of design direction for service and user-interface design), and Chris Brogan (president of New Marketing Labs).

Her interviews are as well-researched and in-depth as they come, and each one of them is a highly recommended read.

Her most recent talk with Mike Kuniavsky of ThingM came after his presentation “The dotted-line world, shadows, services, subscriptions” at ETech 2009.

The interview covered “dematerializing the world, shadows, subscriptions and things as services”.

“I presented on essentially the combination of being able to identify individual objects and the idea of providing services as a way of creating things… the servicization of things …turning things into services is greatly accelerated by network technologies and the ability to track things and what leads this to the potential of having fundamentally different relationships to the devices in our lives and to things like ownership.

Like we now have the technology to create objects that are essentially representatives of services – things like City Car Share. What you own is not a thing but a possibility space of a thing. This fundamentally changes the design challenges. I am pretty convinced that this is how we should be using a lot of these technologies is to be shifting objects from ownership models to service models. We can do that but there are significant challenges with it. What is happening is that we have had the technology to do this for a while, but we haven’t be thinking about how to design these services. We haven’t been thinking about how to design what I call the avatars of these services – the physical objects that are the manifestation of them, like an ATM is the avatar of a banking service. It is useless without the banking service it is a representative of, essentially.”

17 March 2009

Nokia’s Julian Bleecker essay on design, science, fact and fiction

Design Fiction
Julian Bleecker of Nokia calls it a “short essay”, but “Design Fiction: A Short Essay on Design, Science, Fact and Fiction” is really a 97 page book.

“Extending this idea that science fiction is implicated in the production of things like science fact, I wanted to think about how this happens, so that I could figure out the principles and pragmatics of doing design, making things that create different sorts of near future worlds. So, this is a bit of a think-piece, with examples and some insights that provide a few conclusions about why this is important as well as how it gets done. How do you entangle design, science, fact and fiction in order to create this practice called “design fiction” that, hopefully, provides different, undisciplined ways of envisioning new kinds of environments, artifacts and practices. […]

The essay is a way of describing why alternative futures that are about people and their practices are way more interesting here than profit and feature sets. It’s a way to invest some attention on what can be done rather immediately to mitigate a complete systems failure; and part an investment in creating playful, peculiar, sideways-looking things that have no truck with the up-and-to-the-right kind of futures. […]

Design Fiction is making things that tell stories. It’s like science-fiction in that the stories bring into focus certain matters-of-concern, such as how life is lived, questioning how technology is used and its implications, speculating bout the course of events; all of the unique abilities of science-fiction to incite imagination-filling conversations about alternative futures. It’s about reading P.K. Dick as a systems administrator, or Bruce Sterling as a software design manual. It’s meant to encourage truly undisciplined approaches to making and circulating culture by ignoring disciplines that have invested so much in erecting boundaries between pragmatics and imagination.

Design is about the future in a way similar to science fiction. It probes imaginatively and materializes ideas, the way science fiction materializes ideas, oftentimes through stories. What are the ways that all of these things — these canonical ways of making and remaking and imagining the world — can come together in a productive way, without hiding the details and without worrying about the nonsense of strict disciplinary boundaries?

Read Julian’s introduction
Download essay

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

New frontiers at LIFT09

LIFT 2009
The final session of the 2009 LIFT conference was about new frontiers, devoted to people who are pushing the envelope, and reinventing their fields in the process.

Melanie Rieback discussed the evolution of security with regards to RFIDs. Creating the future is also a matter of methodology, Clive van Heerden from Philips Design showed how they employ past technological failures to develop disruptive futures. And finally, Vinton Cerf showed us his perspective about the Internet of the future

Note: this post contains embedded video which might now not show up in your rss feed.

Melanie Rieback

Dr. Melanie Rieback (website) is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, in the group of Prof. Andrew Tanenbaum. Melanie’s research concerns the security and privacy of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, and she leads multidisciplinary research teams on RFID security (RFID Malware) and RFID privacy management (RFID Guardian) projects. Her research has attracted worldwide media attention, appearing in the New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, UPI, Computerworld, CNN, BBC, MSNBC, and many other print, broadcast, and online news outlets.

Melanie is a “white hat hacker”, which means that she breaks systems in order to show to other people how to fix them, with a specific focus on RFID systems.

RFID is a technology that uses radio waves to identify things and shows much of the promise of the internet of things.

Melanie sees RFID as the new or next low-end of computing, with many of the same problems of previous generations of low-end computing, including hacking attacks, phishing, and spamming, but now they will start happening in the physical domain.

One of the problems with these very low-end, weak computers is that they don’t have the capability of being able to protect themselves with standard security tools such as cryptography. Anyone with a compatible reading device can access your tags much of the time.

In the media there have been plenty of reports of RFID-enabled transportation passes and credit cards getting hacked.

Melanie was the very first person putting a hacking attack or a computer virus on an RFID tag.

Master students in the Netherlands were able to hack a 2 billion euro public transportation in an eight week project.

In fact, in order to influence politicians it is better not to talk to them (because they won’t listen), but to demonstrate the attacks directly.

That’s where the RFID Guardian comes in.

The RFID Guardian Project is a collaborative project focused upon providing security and privacy in RFID systems. It provides audits and it also operates as a firewall. It is a handheld mobile device for RFID privacy and security management.

The basic idea is that it is a software defined radio, i.e. a piece of hardware that is fully controlled by software and specifically optimised for hacking on RFID systems. The RFID Guardian project can spoof RFID tags (pretend that they are one or one hundred), selectively jam RFID tags according to a user-generated security policy, even replay RFID tag responses at a later time.

In short, these systems are broken and will be broken more and more. We therefore need an RFID security industry.

Clive van Heerden

Clive van Heerden is creative director of Philips ‘Design Probes‘ programme.

Philips Design Probes is a dedicated ‘far-future’ research initiative to track trends and developments that may ultimately evolve into mainstream issues that have a significant impact on business. Emerging developments in five main areas are tracked – politics, economics, environment, technology and culture.

The outcomes of this ‘far-future’ research are used to identify systemic shifts, with the aim of understanding ‘lifestyle’ post 2020. These shifts could affect business in years to come and that could lead to new areas in which to develop intellectual property.

The way that technology is presented to us is often offensive: we have to confirm to devices, rather than devices confirm to us
Technology is still so unbelievable unaccommodating of human incompetence.

“What we try to do in Philips Design is not to propose definite product propositions, but present design provocations and assess the reaction to them. We are specifically looking at crises, to understand people’s reactions and therefore better understand the future lifestyle in 2020/30.”

Some of the probes that Clive showed included and with each he explained the sometimes unexpected reactions of people:
Off the Grid: Sustainable Habit 2020
Skin probe dresses (video)
Skintile: Electronic Sensing Jewelry
Skin Tattoo (video)
Food probes (press release | backgrounder)

Vinton Cerf

Vinton Gray “Vint” Cerf (born June 23,1943) is an American computer scientist who is the “person most often called ‘the father of the Internet’. His contributions have been recognized repeatedly, with honorary degrees and awards that include the National Medal of Technology, the Turing Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Cerf has worked for Google as its Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist since September 2005. In this role he has become well known for his predictions on how technology will affect future society, encompassing such areas as artificial intelligence, environmentalism, the advent of IPV6 and the transformation of the television industry and its delivery model.

I am not writing my notes here on his talk, since it goes beyond the scope of this blog, but you can view it in its entirety online (above), or check out an interview (below).

3 March 2009

Design thinking for the future at LIFT09

LIFT 2009
The session devoted to Design Thinking was my personal favourite of the entire 2009 LIFT conference.

Beyond the engineers and business’ discourse about the future, what is it designers can propose? What sort of alternatives are they envisioning? What’s the role of design thinking in creating more meaningful futures?
With Fabio Sergio, James Auger and Anab Jain and open stage talks by Fabian Kalker and Felix Koch, and Bill Thompson.

Note: this post contains embedded video which might now not show up in your rss feed.

Fabio Sergio

(Note that the above video is actually in English, and not in French, and that it doesn’t always load).

Fabio Sergio (blog | site) is a design and user experience strategist, and creative director at frog design.

At LIFT he presented a designing for social impact project: Masiluleke (which means “lend a helping hand” in Zulu), a breakthrough approach to reversing HIV and TB in South Africa and beyond.

Frog was asked to conduct a project on this in New York and Sergio is simply relaying the project approach and results (he didn’t work on it himself).

Based on on-the-ground research, it became clear to t he designers that HIV is primarily a problem of information and social stigma in South Africa.

The methodology used was the normal Frog one of shaping the user experience, which goes from immersion, to synthesis, to concept development, and to service design.

In South Africa more than 80% of the population has access to a mobile device. So one of the key ideas of the Masiluleke project is to broadcast sms in the unused space of the “Please Call Me” (PCM) text messages (a special, free form of SMS text widely used in South Africa and across the African continent). These messages can connect mobile users to existing HIV and TB call centres, and remind patients to take theirs drugs.

But the project also wanted to facilitate local testing, so they created a low cost in-home self-test kit with mobile support, that was conceived for easy local production and assembly.

Design, says Sergio, is “how it works” not “how it looks”. When we talk about design as a future shaping discipline, you have to understand people and their behaviour. We don’t call this testing, but verification, as testing implies standing out of the activity.

The secret ingredient to it all is empathy. People-centred design goes beyond usage or consumption. It is also about culture and seeing people how people react to things within their culture.

Technology in this context is just a material to sketch with.

James Auger

James Auger is a partner in the critical design practice Auger-Loizeau whose projects explore the role of technology as a mediator and modifier of the human experience in both contemporary and future societies. He teaches on the Design Interactions course at the Royal College of Art in London and is currently undertaking a design practice based PhD looking into the role of robots in the home environment.

James talks about another way of approaching design. Some call it critical design, others discursive or speculative design. By removing the commercial content, we are free to dream and to see things in a slightly different way than they are done at the moment.

The mibEC was an audio tooth implant that looked at the ramifications of biotechnology. This implant, which was positioned as a real product, could be inserted during normal dental surgery and would give you superhuman capabilities. It gathered a huge amount of press attention and was voted as best invention of 2002 by Time Magazine (who never talked to James).

At Medialab Europe, Auger-Loizeau critiqued our immersive use of mobile technology, and created the IsoPhone, an immersive environment for deep social conversation. The 40 to 50 people that tried it at Ars Electronica all said it really changed the way they thought about telecommunications.

Now they are working on a new provocative, discussion-generating project: the carnivorous domestic entertainment robots, that explore the idea of evolution, value and aesthetics.

All these robots are based on microbial fuel cells, which turns organic matter into electrical potential.

What kind of services exist in real life environments that do that that could inspire our designs? Many people own a vivarium, where they feed real life animals to other animals.

James and Jimmy (Loizeau) developed a series of prototypes taking this idea to the extreme, such as the Flypaper Robotic Clock, the Lampshade Robot, the Fly Stealing Robot, the UV Flykiller Parasite Robot, and the Coffee Table Mousetrap Robot.

Anab Jain

Anab Jain (blog | website) is an independent designer and film maker. She likes to tell speculative stories of possible near futures at the intersection of the technological and sociological. She also likes to make these stories tangible by using design objects as props and narratives. Most of all, she likes to play with tomorrow by engaging with people in every possible way. Until recently she was design lead on a project at Microsoft Research Cambridge, which attempted to rethink notions of machine intelligence by developing product and service scenarios around biotechnology and RFID. Currently she works as a service and interaction designer at Nokia Design in London, while developing her emerging design practice ‘Superflux’.

Anab Jain’s talk, entitled “Learning to play with Tomorrow“, was according to me (together with Bill Thompson – see below), one of the best of this conference.

She talked about design futurescaping, which is using design methods like storytelling, experience prototyping, making scenarios tangible, and talking to people on a daily basis, to influence how our near future will turn out.

Anab started off with referring to some historic examples of designers for whom the process of sketching has been hugely influential in their thinking, and allowed them (and us) to think outside of the box.

Two projects Anab worked on in the recent past illustrate this new way of thinking.

The future of work“, a project for Colebrook, Bosson & Saunders, a product design and office furniture company, explored the nomadic nature of work in contemporary life. The client wanted an open-ended project, that created new ways of thinking about the future of work, and opened up new spaces for product innovation. They were particularly interested in the home worker, the nomadic worker and the office worker, and in the demographic of the elderly worker.

Anab decided that the best way to find out what this future would be was to put these people in the future, and she created personas which she projected fifteen years into the future. She invented new jobs for them and placed them in a fictional space, which she called Little Brinkland. By having a new job, they needed new work places, new products and new services, which Anab chronicled about. Many practical service ideas and scenarios came out of this project.

The other project she talked about was loosely titled “Rethinking machine intelligence” (a.k.a. Life and Death in Energy Autonomous Devices and Objects Incognito), a project done in collaboration with Alex Taylor at Microsoft Research in Cambridge.

The group at Microsoft Research that Anab Jain was part of was quite critical of smart homes of the future, simply because the way intelligent machines work may change drastically. Their concept was that the everyday ideas of intelligence are not fixed, but are active in the world. Anab designed a small number of interventions that can show how material things are imbued with intelligence. Perhaps we can even start thinking of new objects and new kinds of computing machines.

To explore better what intelligence means, she designed four objects, the Gubbins, that are mini single-track robots. They are storytelling devices that can be situated through scenarios in people’s everyday lives, and are meant to get people think about ‘smart objects’ in the home.

One of the ideas that came out of the research is that people associate intelligence with living things. This brought up the question how to embed this quality of life, of biological “livingness”, in everyday objects.

So they created the Eco Board, which is an autonomously powered robot, which powers itself. This was then further iterated in objects that are made of sugared and powered things in our homes, but had a fixed lifespan, and in a big radio that can live forever as long as you feed it.

Open stage talk: Fabian Kalker and Felix Koch

The two “lefthanded bloodbrothers from back in the days” Felix Koch, strategic planner and Fabian Kalker, musician/composer, talked about knives, “just knives”.

In five minutes Felix and Fabian went through their wittily called presentation “Who has no knife may not eat pineapples. An off-topic tour d’horizon on the literacy of cutting“, and shared their insights about cutting-culture ( and the most memorable/painful experiences acquiring it ).

This pure and simple user experience presentation was for many in the audience one of their favourites. A must to see on video.

Open stage talk: Bill Thompson

Bill Thompson is a UK technology critic and commentator and his talk, entitled The death of privacy and why we should welcome it., was just marvellous, bringing together philosophical concepts with the mundane tasks of dealing with privacy on Twitter, in a series of thought-provoking questions.

The enlightenment idea of privacy is breaking apart under the strain of new technologies, new social tools, new practices, new ways of seeing things.

Bill thinks that instead of worrying about it, we should embrace it as an opportunity to rethink what we understand by ‘personality’, and perhaps even to find new ways of being human.

how we engage and interact with others and where the boundaries can be put between the public and private, because those of us who live our lives in the open are the avant-garde: we can take on those who believe in the old truths, and we can a find way to live in the new world.

Every Twitterer, Tumblr, Dopplr or Brightkite user at Lift is sharing more data with more people than even the FBI under Hoover or the Stasi at the height of its powers could have dreamed of. And you are doing it voluntarily, willingly, because you are hoping to benefit in a variety of ways. You believe that this unwarranted disclosure will in the end produce some public good, or even some private benefit.

Those of us who are ahead of the curve when it comes to the adoption and use of technologies that undermine the old model of privacy, should start thinking about what it means.

We can offer advice and support to those who might be less happy to have their movements, eating habits, friendships and patterns of media consumption tracked and made available to all.

We can begin to explore what it might be like to be a post-private human, or perhaps a human in recovery from the stultifying burden of privacy.

Bill Thompson is telling the “great God Google” everything about himself, and has no expectation that that data is or will remain private.

The reason he objects to the encroachment of the database state is because he is aware of the power that the asymetrical relationship gives the state at the moment.

Yet to some extent the power only exists because we believe there is a border between public and private. But this only matters if we believe in the individuals, if we believe in people that have behaviours, characteristics and personalities instead of accepting that each one of us is simply a contingent set of responses to stimuli, that we are defined by the people and situations around us.

The idea of the monolithic personality is in fact a mistake. We do not exist in the sense that we think we exist, and therefore we do not require privacy in the sense that we currently think about it. It is a necessary illusion.

We have a legal framework that is based on assumptions of individuality, existence and personality, that encourages us to draw lines. Bill Thomson is not sure those lines should be drawn any more.

We need to think about it again. The technologies we have around us now are challenging the enlightenment way of thinking, and what it means to be a human being at all. We have the option now of taking the big risk of living life in the open, and to embrace it. Privacy is over already.

This will not work for everyone. Some will suffer. That may be the price we have to pay for finding a new enlightenment, a digital enlightenment, that is far more powerful and important even than the first enlightenment was. But in order to do we have to get over the idea of privacy.

3 March 2009

Industry trends in prototyping

Paper ATM prototype
Get an overview of the thought process and common strategies for generating prototypes from Dave Cronin, Director of Interaction Design at Cooper.

Although applied to Fireworks, Cronin’s discourse is general, especially when he talks about his four reasons for creating prototypes:
1. Prototypes make your designs better
2. Prototypes facilitate communication
3. Prototypes enable user input and usability assessment
4. Prototypes help assess technical feasibility and reduce development time

Read full story

2 March 2009

Inspiring stories at LIFT09

LIFT 2009
The last day of the LIFT conference started off with a session devoted to inspiring stories from people with extraordinary projects and lives.

Designer Matt Webb talked about the relationship between science-fiction and design, followed by Joerg Jelden, a trend analyst from Trend Buero who addressed the importance of fake products and services in the near future. Web veteran James Gillies told us his perspective on the history of the Web, and new media artist Natalie Jeremijenko discussed the opportunity for social and environmental change that new technologies provide.

Note: this post contains embedded video which might now not show up in your rss feed.

Matt Webb

(Note that the picture above does not show Matt Web, but the video does.)

Matt Webb (blog) is a principal of the design shop Schulze & Webb, which has a special focus on the social life of stuff. Projects include material prototypes for Nokia, Web strategy for the BBC, and an electronic puppet that brings you closer to your friends. Matt tinkers with short fiction and web toys, speaks on design and technology, is co-author of acclaimed book Mind Hacks – cognitive psychology for a general audience – and if you were to sum up his design interests in one word, it would be “politeness.”

Matt talked about scientific fiction and design. He starts from a book called World War Z, the 21st Century best zombie novel so far. When you read it, it makes scientific sense. It is believable.

Despite the outlandishness of some science fiction novels, what has held constant is believability, plausibility.

In a scientific fiction, there are three things that have to work together: human nature, society and things.

You can see the same things in physics: pressure, temperature and volume are intimately linked in water.

Scientific fiction explores the chart of possible worlds in the future. You can’t just invent a product and expect that things will change. Society and human nature will have to change too.

Which products are going to work in the landscape of possible worlds?

Market research is one solution. Economics is another. Evolution is another such way of exploring the chart of possible worlds.

This kind of evolutionary thinking was implemented in the iterative design process to create Olinda, a prototype social digital radio Schulze & Webb developed for the BBC.

The radio then evolves into a number of prototypes and ended up “in where we ended up”.

The past is another set of possible worlds, and just as hard to read. Matt focuses on counterfactuals: “what if?”. Popper says it like this: “try to imagine the conditions under which the trends of the history in question would disappear.”

It is manifest in the counterfactual mobile phones, a project done for Nokia in 2005, which melts at 47 degrees Celsius. What is it about the mobile phone despite this violent evolution into different forms? That brought about an exploration about fabrics and phones, and the possibilities of “editing” your phone, thus creating the much-desired value of “greater attachment”.

For Matt, “design is a way of walking over the landscape of possible worlds.”

Joerg Jelden

Joerg Jelden (blog) is a senior trend analyst at Trendbuero – Consultancy for Social Change, in Hamburg and Beijing. At Trendbuero, Joerg advises companies like eBay, Deutsche Post, O2, OTTO or ECCO about the opportunities of social change. His main field of interest is centered around Network Economy: How will the rise of the internet change our society? How will consumer behavior change? How will we do business tomorrow? What will be new business models to answer the changes?

During his stay at Trendbuero’s Asia-Pacific office in Beijing Joerg examined The Future of Fake or “Fakesumption”. He tried to find out, why fakes are so successful, what they do differently and what brands can learn from the fake industry. The project will be published in early 2009 and he gave a preview at LIFT.

Joerg started off with a history of fakes, some insights on a survey they did on how Germans feel about fakes, and a description of the fakes industry in 2009.

So, what can we learn from their success stories? (Fake creators)
1. Consumers: fake delivers something to consumers that the originals don’t, but still these consumers consider themselves to be brand customers. To spy on, sue or punish these consumers might not be the best idea. Are there new ways of integrating customers rather than outlawing them? Can we give consumers a convincing reason to spend much more for the original?
2. Brands: fakes truly explose the brand gap. Companies overvalue brands, brands overestimate themselves. But consumers aren’t buying it. Trust in brands has decreased by 50 percent in the last fifty years. Brands focus too much on products, but what makes the difference is strong relations. One way to deal with this is a better bonding.
3. Fakers: The originals look at the fakes, are inspired by the fakes. Yet fakers attack brands from within. They convert originals into fakes. They sell fake parts to manufacturers, mix fakes with originals and open up online stores to sell directly. So the originals can’t find the fakes anymore. Why don’t brands collaborate with their best fakers? In other words, the way we deal with fakes might need a reconsideration.

James Gillies

James Gillies is the head of communication at CERN. In 2000, he published a book with Robert Cailliau, Tim Berners-Lee’s first partner on the Web project, giving a history of the internet seen through CERN eyes. The fact that the Web was invented at CERN “is no accident”.

James was asked to write the story about the history of the web, when he started working at CERN in 1995.

His presentation, which is best viewed on video, goes through some of the main historical founders — Vannevar Bush (who in July 1945 wrote about the Memex machine), Donald Davies (who developed the concept of packet switching), and Louis Pouzin (who was commissioned by France’s national research network INRIA to build the first internet).

So where does CERN to fit in? It is and has always been a very open place and a research place. In the early 80’s, the Internet was already in place.

Tim Berners-Lee came to work at CERN in 1980 as a consultant to computerise the control system for the particle accelerator. He noticed that none of the programmes could talk with one another. So he wrote a paper that argued that the internet should be an emulation on a computer platform the way that our brains work. He then left CERN and came back in 1989 to implement his vision. By Christmas 1990 he had the web up and running. It only ran on Next and allowed a collaborative flow. Tim always saw the web as a collaborative tool, not as a one-way flow of information.

Then there were a series of developments (the first browser, the first server outside of Europe in 1991, and the pick-up of the web’s commercial potential in 1994).

What was probably the most significant thing that CERN institutionally could have done for the web, happened on 30 April 1993. The web was put in the public domain through the issue of a legal document.

James is absolutely convinced that this single act is the only reason why we have a single web, and not an Apple web, a Microsoft web, etcetera. Another main factor was that all the people James interviewed were altruists in the best sense of the world. In the words of Tim Berners-Lee: “It’s not always what you get out of society, but what you put in.”

Natalie Jeremijenko

(Note that the video stops a few minutes early, which is a pity.)

Natalie Jeremijenko is a new media artist who works at the intersection of contemporary art, science, and engineering. Her work takes the form of large-scale public art works, tangible media installations, single channel tapes, and critical writing. It investigates the theme of the transformative potential of new technologies—particularly information technologies. Specific issues addressed in her work include information politics, the examination and development of new modes of particulation in the production of knowledge, tangible media, and distributed (or ubiquitous) computing elements.

Natalie, who started her career at the computer science labs of Xerox Park, has always been concerned with the question what the opportunities for change are that new technologies represent and how might we seize that to build the kind of social change that we want.

She introduces the audience to a future where environmental issues are “no longer out there” but right here, in our cities and houses. It is a future where global media and global discourse has crumbled.

Whereas environmentalism used to be driven by the “sue the polluter” approach, now the biggest polluters of an urban centre are you and me (because of the city’s many impermeable services).

Natalie then introduced us to a different strategy in the light of this transformed environmental discourse. An example is the environmental health clinic which is in the East River, and thereby externalises health (as health is not only internal and pharmaceutical, but external and something that can be shared).

Another strategy are the pet tadpoles — named after local bureaucrats whose decisions affect water quality — a species which is very sensitive to industrial contaminants.

Finally, she showed the mouse trap that self-administers anti depressants.

2 March 2009

Microsoft’s Canvas for OneNote prototype

Canvas for OneNote
Microsoft Office Labs is a group within Microsoft that tests ideas by building prototypes and gathering usage data to inform ongoing and future research and development in the productivity space for both work and home.

The Labs just launched Canvas for OneNote, a prototype conceived by former Interaction-Ivrea student Ruth Kikin-Gil.

“Within Office Labs, we’ve been exploring alternate interactions with software that take advantage of the natural human capacity for spatial recognition in order to help users organize their digital belongings in much the same way that they organize their physical belongings.

Canvas for OneNote explores how you can browse, organize, edit and create OneNote content using a canvas.

How does a canvas make things better? Think about your desk, with piles of papers on the corner and things in certain spaces. You have a lot of liberty to sort and arrange as you want. You know where certain things are, and you can go quickly and easily to those spaces to find them. Our gut feeling is that this canvas-like approach to organizing digital content is really promising, and with this prototype you can help us explore the truth of that feeling through your actual use, interactions, and work flow.

Canvas for OneNote was designed to allow OneNote users to navigate their notebooks more efficiently by using a high-level view of all of the documents, pictures, and anything else they’ve stored in their notebooks. Users will be able to see all their notebook pages and sections at a glance, and zoom into any content for which they want to see more detail or perform edits. It also enables users to organize sections and pages using spatial placement, easily browse and find content based on size and color, and add new sections or pages by simply double-clicking the canvas or using the toolbar. It also provides an Activity View to easily locate pages modified by date.
We feel that the canvas can help users better organize, access, and engage with the work they do, and that it is especially useful for previewing lots of content at the same time. However, we realize it is not the be-all. We know there may be ways that the interface may actually hinder productivity or could be significantly improved. That’s why we need your feedback.

From our research we’ve noticed that the “value” (or Ah-Ha! moment) isn’t fully experienced until people actually try out a canvas interface for themselves using their own data (it’s hard to visually recognize content you didn’t create!). So, we hope many of you will download this prototype and give us the feedback we need to improve productivity solutions of the future.”

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.

1 March 2009

Microsoft’s glimpse of the future

Microsoft future
A new video from Microsoft shows in an elegant, if utopian way, what it might look like if all of those gadgets came together several years hence.

Ina Fried of CNet News wasn’t entirely impressed:

“The hardest thing for me to imagine wasn’t that in several years time, all our walls will be displays, but rather that Microsoft will have become so efficient in getting all of its product groups working together.”

Read article with embedded video
Read related interview

1 March 2009

Nissan interaction design team suffers to make future cars simple and painless

Nissan prototype
With the help of a proprietary “ageing suit” that mimics the mobility and faculties of an elderly driver, interaction designers at Nissan Design Center were able to create a unique interior-concept prototype.

“It is almost painful to watch Nissan designer Naoki Yamamoto get out of a test car. To understand the challenges aging drivers face, the 39-year-old interaction specialist is encased in a proprietary “aging suit” that gives him the mobility and faculties of a driver twice his age. “Sure, it’s uncomfortable,” Yamamoto says, “but to really understand a problem you have to feel it in your bones.”

At an “Interaction Design Workshop” today at the Nissan Design Center in Atsugi, Japan, Yamamoto demonstrated to reporters one of many methods Nissan’s Interaction Design team employs in a continuing effort to make future car interiors easier to understand and more comfortable to use.”

Read full story

15 February 2009

Forthcoming Rosenfeld Media books

Touch
Rosenfeld Media, which is run by Lou Rosenfeld, publishes short, practical, and useful books and webinars on user experience design. Here are their forthcoming titles:

Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable
by Nathan Shedroff
Design makes a tremendous impact on the produced world in terms of usability, resources, understanding, and priorities. What we produce, how we serve customers and other stakeholders, and even how we understand how the world works is all affected by the design of models and solutions. Designers have an unprecedented opportunity to use their skills to make meaningful, sustainable change in the world—if they know how to focus their skills, time, and agendas. In Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable, Nathan Shedroff examines how the endemic culture of design often creates unsustainable solutions, and shows how designers can bake sustainability into their design processes in order to produce more sustainable solutions.

Card Sorting: Designing Usable Categories
by Donna Spencer
Card sorting is a technique that is used to gather user input to design the information architecture of a site. The technique is easy to prepare and run, and great fun. But sometimes the results can be hard to interpret and it is not always clear how to use them to design the IA. This short, practical, and accessible book will provide the basics that designers need to conduct a card sort in a project. More importantly, it will explain how to understand the outcomes and apply them to the design of a site.

Search Analytics: Conversations with your Customers
by Louis Rosenfeld & Marko Hurst
Any organization that has a searchable web site or intranet is sitting on top of hugely valuable and usually under-exploited data: logs that capture what users are searching for, how often each query was searched, and how many results each query retrieved. Search queries are gold: they are real data that show us exactly what users are searching for in their own words. This book shows you how to use search analytics to carry on a conversation with your customers: listen to and understand their needs, and improve your content, navigation and search performance to meet those needs.

Prototyping: A Practitioner’s Guide to Prototyping
by Todd Zaki Warfel
Prototyping is a great way to clearly communicate the intent of a design. Prototypes help you quickly and easily flesh out design ideas, test assumptions, and gather real-time feedback from users. Like other Rosenfeld Media books, A Practitioner’s Guide to Prototyping will take a hands-on approach, enabling you to develop prototypes with minimal muss and fuss. The book will discuss how prototypes are more than just a design tool by demonstrating how they can help you market a product, gain internal buy-in, and test feasibility with your development team.

Storytelling for User Experience Design
by Kevin Brooks & Whitney Quesenbery
We all tell stories. It’s one of the most natural ways to share information, as old as the human race. This book is not about a new technique, but how to use something we already know in a new way. Stories help us gather and communicate user research, put a human face on analytic data, communicate design ideas, encourage collaboration and innovation, and create a sense of shared history and purpose. This book looks across the full spectrum of user experience design to discover when and how to use stories to improve our products. Whether you are a researcher, designer, analyst or manager, you will find ideas and techniques you can put to use in your practice.

See What I Mean: How to Use Comics to Communicate Ideas
by Kevin Cheng
Comics are a unique way to communicate, using both image and text to effectively demonstrate time, function, and emotion. Just as vividly as they convey the feats of superheroes, comics tell stories of your users and your products. Comics can provide your organization with an exciting and effective alternative to slogging through requirements documents and long reports. In See What I Mean, Kevin Cheng, OK/Cancel founder/cartoonist and founder of Off Panel Productions, will teach you how you can use comics as a powerful communication tool without trained illustrators.

Remote Research: Real Users, Real Time, Real Research
by Nate Bolt & Tony Tulathimutte
Remote user research describes any research method that allows you to observe, interview, or get feedback from users while they’re at a distance, in their “native environment” (at their desk, in their home or office) doing their own tasks. Remote studies allow you to recruit quickly, cheaply, and immediately, and give you the opportunity to observe users as they behave naturally in their own environment, on their own time. Our book will teach you how to design and conduct remote research studies, top-to-bottom, with little more than a phone and a laptop.

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.

5 February 2009

RCA Design Interactions’ Tribal Futures project for Vodafone

Tribal Futures
Matt Jones writes about a short project he worked on last November with the students on the Design Interactions course at the RCA in collaboration with Vodafone’s User Experience group.

The brief was deliberately wide and intended to steer us all from thinking about mobile phones. It was entitled “Tribal Futures”, and asked the group to:

“…focus in on the mundane and the extremes of our behaviour in groups and propose design interventions to support, subvert and celebrate our tribal connections. We encourage you to extrapolate the current trends in mobile, social and other technologies in terms of their failures as well as successes, and examine what technologies intended and unintended consequences might be.”

A short summary of the work can be found on Matt’s Magical Nihilism blog.

All of the projects can be found at http://beta.interaction.rca.ac.uk/ft/ and they have kept the project blog that the group used for research and work-in-progress live (but with comments closed) at http://beta.interaction.rca.ac.uk/futuretribes/ to show some of the process along the way.

29 January 2009

Pachube: connecting environments, patching the planet

Pachube
Pachube is a web service that enables you to connect, tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world.

The key aim is to facilitate interaction between remote environments, both physical and virtual. Apart from enabling direct connections between any two environments, it can also be used to facilitate many-to-many connections: just like a physical “patch bay” (or telephone switchboard) Pachube enables any participating project to “plug-in” to any other participating project in real time so that, for example, buildings, interactive installations or blogs can “talk” and “respond” to each other.

Pachube is a little like YouTube, except that, rather than sharing videos, Pachube enables people to monitor and share real time environmental data from sensors that are connected to the internet. Pachube acts between environments, able both to capture input data (from remote sensors) and serve output data (to remote actuators). Connections can be made between any two environments, facilitating even spontaneous or previously unplanned connections. Apart from being used in physical environments, it also enables people to embed this data in web-pages, in effect to “blog” sensor data.

Tish Shute of Ugotrade has been conducting a lengthy interview with Pachube founder, Usman Haque, which just got published. The interview describes how Haque was influenced by Dutch architect Constant Nieuwenhuys and thinkers such as Adam Greenfield and Bruce Sterling, how Pachube was founded in response to current predicaments within the field of ubiquitous computing and how “an ethically driven business model [will] allow a diverse group of companies and individuals to transition to the internet of things”.

Sensor/actuator integrations are a part of what Pachube is about, and an interest in home automation and energy management is giving a lot of early momentum to Pachube.

But Usman makes clear Pachube is about “environments” rather than “sensors.” “An ‘environment’ has dynamic frames of reference, all of which are excluded when simply focusing on devices, objects or mere sensors”. A central part of Pachube is the development of the Extended Environments Markup Language. […]

Pachube is here to make it easier to participate in what I expect to be a vast ‘eco-system’ of conversant devices, buildings & environments.

Pachube will facilitate the development of a huge range of new products and services that will arise from extreme connectivity. It’s relatively easy for large technology companies like Nike and Apple to transition into the Internet of Things, but Pachube will be particularly helpful for that huge portion of smaller scale industry players that *want* to become part of it, but which are only now waking up to the potentials of the internet — small and medium scale designers, manufacturers and developers who are very good at developing their products but don’t have the resources to develop in-house a massive infrastructure for their newly web-enabled offerings.

Basically, having built a generalized data-brokering backend to connect physical (and virtual) entities to the web, others can now start to build the applications that make the connections really useful.

And here is the phrase I think is most important of all:

“It’s relatively easy for large technology companies like Nike and Apple to transition into the Internet of Things, but Pachube will be particularly helpful for that huge portion of smaller scale industry players that *want* to become part of it, but which are only now waking up to the potentials of the internet — small and medium scale designers, manufacturers and developers who are very good at developing their products but don’t have the resources to develop in-house a massive infrastructure for their newly web-enabled offerings.”

Read full interview

(via Bruce Sterling)

24 January 2009

Kitchen Budapest visit

Kitchen Budapest
I just posted an article on Core77 about my visit yesterday to Kitchen Budapest.

Check it out.

KiBu will be presenting three projects at the upcoming Lift09 conference. Check also KiBu’s One Year book (pdf -28 mb), which includes all of its projects: mobile expressions, intelligent and charming things, dynamic media interfaces, community technologies and workshops. A few photos of my visit can be found here.

22 January 2009

BUG+IDEO blog

BUG+IDEO
IDEO just announced a quick open user interface exploration project with Bug Labs, that will run for a little over a week on a new public blog BUG+IDEO.

An open project between BugLabs and IDEO, this deep-dive exploration of the BUGbase UI is focused on re-envisioning the BUGbase interface with an eye toward integrating new display and input technologies.

The outcome of these explorations will feel less like a finished product and more like a concept car. And like any successful concept car, we hope these provocations will not only help us gauge users’ interests, but will spur constructive discourse and inform future design, engineering, and business decisions.

BugLabs’ commitment to openness presents a unique and exciting opportunity for us to be as inclusive about the design process as possible. For this quick two week collaboration, we will be conceptualizing new interface paradigms, designing new tangible user interface directions, and creating the associated industrial design/housing-modification solutions.

We will be sharing as much as possible over the next week and a half and welcome your comments, thoughts, and feedback. Start typing!