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Posts in category 'Prototype'

3 November 2007

Simplicity tomorrow

The Simplicity Event
Last week Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken attended the Philips Simplicity Event in London. It was a mixture of a vision presentation, a prototype exhibition, a networking event, and a marketing opportunity. The prototypes on show were conceptual designs for social care environments five years into the future. Developed by Philips Design, they represent the direction of the company’s thinking for future product development.

Everything was driven by a vision worded by Stefano Marzano, CEO of Philips Design, as follows: “There is no good design that is not based on the understanding of people”.

From the Philips press release:

“At the three-day event, Philips [showcased] to a select group of customers, business partners, healthcare professionals and public sector representatives its vision of how in five years the clever use of technology married with intuitive, personalized design can lead to unexpected approaches to caring for people’s well-being at home, in the hospital and on the move.

Philips approaches caring for people’s wellness from three perspectives – caring for guests, caring for families and caring for patients – a focus that reflects Philips drive and commitment to creating concepts and products that are designed around people. [...]

The theme at the 2007 Simplicity Event of “caring for people’s well-being” builds on ongoing societal trends that Philips has been tracking closely: populations are getting older, healthcare is increasingly consumer-driven and business travel is now more extensive and hectic. In light of these trends, Philips employed the creativity and expertise of anthropologists, sociologists, designers, engineers and business leaders to come up with design concepts that address these converging trends. The result: concepts that take a holistic approach to healthcare, in which health and wellbeing touch on all aspects of a person’s daily life. Focusing on relaxing, healing and providing enjoyment, design concepts at the show explore the role of simplicity in Philips three core businesses – healthcare, lighting and consumer lifestyle.”

Design concepts were demonstrated in “real-life” scenarios. One trend Philips is exploring is the growing prevalence for couples to start families later in life. In the “Celebrating Pregnancy” design concept, Philips showcased how through advanced technology and a creative approach to design, prospective parents can experience “the wonder of a view inside the womb”.

Ambient Healing Space“, offering patients the ability to make their hospital stay more comfortable while allowing hospital staff a method of involving patients in their own care and “Daylight“, a hotel scenario suggesting that travel to different time
zones can be refreshing rather than exhausting.

- Press release | Background information
More information about the concept collection
– Press release: Philips introduces simplicity to the hotel experience
– Videos: Simplicity Event | The Making Of | Megawhat.TV coverage

Several other sites have written about the London event, including AV Review, Design Taxi, Engadget, Geeks Are Sexy, I4U News, Pocket Lint (Wellness concepts, Hospital concepts, Daylight window, and Megawhat live), Tech.co.uk, and Trusted Reviews (Part One, Part Two, Showcase)

Some older concepts can be seen on the Simplicity Event website.

13 October 2007

Creative Conversion Factory

Creative Conversion Factory
Just when you thought that science parks were based on a paradigm, a new mixed science, technology and business driven initiative – the Creative Conversion Factory in Eindhoven, Netherlands – will launch on 12 November. Note the current focus areas though!

Turning bright ideas into brilliant products
Many bright innovative ideas fail to be developed into exciting, new products simply because they see the light of day in the wrong place or at the wrong time. For example, a company may decide not to pursue an idea because it doesn’t fit in with their strategy, or an idea may never get off the ground because the inventor doesn’t know where to find appropriate partners. It’s precisely to prevent such a waste of good ideas that a number of partners have now come together to found the Creative Conversion Factory (CCF).

What does the CCF aim to do?
The CCF aims to facilitate and accelerate product innovation in the field of high-tech systems by encouraging collaboration in design and ICT between participating companies and knowledge centers. It provides a place where inventors, manufacturers and investors can come together in a spirit of open innovation to turn promising ideas into viable products.

What does the CCF offer?
The CCF welcomes the submission of any patentable creative and technological innovation as a potential project. Submissions will be evaluated on the basis of a number of criteria, including the extent to which they enable participating organizations to achieve synergies and improve their capabilities. Once a project has been adopted, the CCF investigates whether there is a market for a product based on the idea and whether such a product is technically feasible. The CCF coordinates contacts among the various parties. In principle, the outcome of the project is a product prototype.

What capabilities are covered?
The CCF has so far defined three main areas of capability that it can apply in adopted projects:

  1. Sensor technology, including sensors and actuators, software and hardware platforms, wireless communications and high-level end-user programming solutions;
  2. Lighting, focusing on creative solutions based on new technologies that enable highly controllable lighting to be integrated into the surroundings; and
  3. Psychology, especially techniques for positively affecting people’s behavior and attitudes.

What are the current focus areas?
Projects undertaken by the CCF focus on Ambient Experience, i.e., the embedding of intelligent technologies into the surroundings to make people’s lives more enjoyable, easy and productive. During the initial phase, the emphasis will be on two themes within this topic: Mobility & Navigation and Care & Wellbeing. Participating partners will collaborate to develop new concepts in interactive gaming environments that facilitate navigation in complex environments and stimulate social contact and physical exercise.

Who are the participating partners?
Partners participating in the CCF include the Technical University of Eindhoven (Faculty of Industrial Design), Stichting Brainport, Design Academy Eindhoven, Philips Research, Philips Design, Dutch Polymer Institute, Holst Centre, NH Hotels (Koningshof) and Living Tomorrow.

Creative Conversion Factory is an initiative of Emile Aarts, Scientific Program Manager of Philips Research. The concept and the business plan have been developed by Brainport Foundantion in conjunction with the Faculty of Industrial Design of the Eindhoven University of Technology, Design Academy Eindhoven, Dutch Polymer Institute, Holst Centre, Philips Design, Philips Research, NH Koningshof, and Living Tomorrow B.V.

12 October 2007

Philips Design tracks emerging developments through design explorations

Off the grid
Visitors to the Dutch Design Week will be able to see two projects from Philips Design’s ongoing ‘Design Probes‘ programme.

These projects – SKIN; Tattoo and Off the Grid; Sustainable Habitat 2020 – take a provocative and stimulating look at subjects that could have a profound effect on the way we live 15 years from now. In doing so, they also help improve the chances of innovation success.

The Philips Design Probes program is a unique foresighting initiative which tracks emerging developments in five main areas – politics, economics, environment, technology and culture. The outcomes of this ‘far-future’ research are used to identify systemic shifts that could affect business in years to come and that could lead to new areas in which to develop intellectual property. The main objective of this program is to stimulate the discussion and register the feedback of our stakeholders.

A tattoo that changes
The SKIN; Tattoo project investigates the use of ‘electronic’ ink that would allow people to have dynamic tattoos with an infinite number of display options. In much the same way as make-up is put on and taken off to suit the occasion, a tattoo could alter whenever desired. The tattoos could even change in response to gestures or emotions, which opens up novel ways of communicating and interacting with others.

Active buildings
The Off the Grid; Sustainable Habitat 2020 Probe looks at scenarios in which the built environment becomes active; the walls, roofs and floors have much more than just a structural function. Outer shells of buildings may be made to trap rainwater so it can be purified on-site for drinking. Sunlight is captured to provide electricity and water heating, while the wind outside could conceivably be harnessed and channeled into the building for air-conditioning.

Read full press release

4 October 2007

Frog Design Mind newsletter on identity and meaning in the world of design

Frog Design Mind
The latest issue of Frog Design Mind (permalink), the bi-monthly newsletter of Frog Design Inc., is devoted to identity and contain a rich group of articles on “the struggle to find new meaning in the growing landscape of design”. Here is a selection (and the first one in particular, by Mark Rolston, is highly recommended – it’s an excellent piece of writing):

 

Defining The New Singularity

Defining The New Singularity
Exploring the next level of convergence: between hardware and software, information and object, human and technology.

“As the writer Bruce Sterling puts it, borrowing a bit from Baudrillard and applying it to design, we are now approaching an age of technological advancement when ‘there is more stored in the map than there is in the territory’. Put more simply, the story surrounding a given ‘thing’, a product or service we buy and use, is rapidly exceeding the value of the thing itself. The identity of a product can no longer be easily defined through its form factor, but rather by the information that encases it, passes through it, and is accumulated by it over the course of its lifetime.”

Change Agency

Change Agency and Transformologies
Understanding the power of design to facilitate positive change in the end-user.

“Can personal development be better shaped by the technologies we, as designers, create? What if products and environments were designed to acknowledge individual aspirations and facilitate the realization of users’ potential? Could our products not only change users’ behavior, but actually foster within them the qualities that they seek?”

Parenting 2.0

Parenting 2.0
Key principles for the creation and curation of your child’s online identity.

“The purpose of this article is to provide you, the parent, with some basic principles for navigating the wonderful world of social networking and Web 2.0 with your children – all while keeping them safe, socialized, and engaged. They are not rules, or guidelines, or a philosophy of parenting. They are just basic principles that remind you, and your kids, to think before you press that Enter key.”

Is this how your kids see you?

Is Your Hard Drive Worth More Than Your Life?
The influence of technology on the collective experience of today’s families.

“Before the presence of cameras and the like, humans passed on knowledge through storytelling, intertwining personal experience with a sense of place and time. They created visual landscapes through words, art, and the objects around them. This storytelling codified a shared sense of experience, bringing the audience into a collective understanding of their culture and environment. As the stories were passed on, every teller became a part of the tale – rendering history subjective, reality shared. In our frenzy to safeguard our memories in the online world, we have removed the intimacy of storytelling. We have made the web, not each other, the major source of shared experiences, knowledge, and opinions (often not even our own).”

Ravi Chhatpar

HBR: Melding Design and Strategy
In the September 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review, frog Strategy Director Ravi Chhatpar published the following article, outlining the benefits of an iterative design process, in which design and business strategy impact one another directly.

“From concept through development, designers should function in parallel with corporate decision makers, creating prototypes for a number of variations on a product and then testing them with users and, if appropriate, partners. Tracking how customers’ ways of using a product evolve over time also makes it possible for designers to identify desirable new features and, in some cases, create new functionality in conjunction with users.”

2 October 2007

Interview with director of SPARC Innovation Programme at Mayo Clinic

Ryan Armbruster
As Director of Mayo Clinic‘s SPARC Innovation Programme, Ryan Armbruster guides the clinic to solutions that not only advance the patient experience but also improve health outcomes.

Brandon Schauer of Adaptive Path had a chance to speak with him about the SPARC Innovation Programme, how it integrates with the larger organisation, and the role of emotion in experience.

“The Mayo Clinic’s approach to healthcare services is that the needs of the patient come first. [...]

“First we connect deeply with what those unmet patient needs are, often through observational research and ethnographic studies. Then we start to conceptualise solutions, or inform or change solutions to meet those patient needs. We help our partners through understanding how the research insights can be translated into solutions that are going provide even greater value for our patients.”

Read full interview

16 September 2007

Singapore Polytechnic’s diploma in experience design

Singapore Polytechnic's diploma in experience design
The Singapore Polytechnic now offers a new three-year degree in Experience Design (Interaction & Product).

Description:

Students are equipped with creative design skills backed by a strong foundation in technology and craftsmanship.

This course is a specialised design programme which focuses on engaging contemporary cultures, business and technology by exploring new strategies for generating design ideas using both digital and physical media. These ideas are then turn into reality with innovative craft, technical innovation, invention and professionalism.

The course is designed to support the Government’s initiative to produce multi-disciplinary specialists who are well equipped with skills to understand design, technological processes, and enterprise to propel the growth of the creative industries.

The aim of the programme is to train students to be an Experience, Product and Interaction Designer, who is able to conceive creative products and services, and the experiences associated with these, for contemporary cultures.

This is achieved by understanding the users’ experience, imagining new opportunities, testing and prototyping ideas, determining and applying appropriate materials, processes & technologies, and designing and crafting new interactive experiences and enterprises.

A full listing of the courses and their descriptions can be seen here.

Interestingly, the Singapore Polytechnic has also launched a new Experience Design Centre [no website]. Singapore Radio International has published a short interview with Liang Lit How, the centre’s director.

I am curious to hear if Niti Bhan, who just moved to Singapore, has some more insight on these initiatives.

16 September 2007

Background report on Danish “Concept Design” study

Concept Design
Last week, I wrote about how Fora, the R&D division of the Danish Authority for Enterprise and Construction, had just published “Concept Design – How to solve the complex challenges of our time“, which presents a new type of company – the concept design company.

Now they also published a background report to that study.

The purpose of this background report is to map the growth potential of the Danish design industry. Is there a particular type of growth-oriented companies working with the combination of innovation and design? And if so what characterises this type of company?

The analysis shows that the design industry’s potential goes far beyond the traditional focus on product design. Design is an important discipline to concretise innovation and to create new products and services – this implies that the companies’ increased focus on innovation has opened new opportunities for the design industry.

It should be stressed that design cannot drive company innovation on its own. Other industries including advertising and consulting use disciplines that are important to the development of innovative solutions. Companies assisting other companies with innovation must therefore work with tools from various professional disciplines. These are the companies referred to as concept design companies throughout this study.

Chapter 1 highlights the general structure, size and importance of the Danish design industry and maps the Danish concept design companies. The chapter also introduces a point system for ranking individual companies in terms of their ability to carry out concept design.

Chapter 2 maps and describes internationally leading concept design regions and compares results from the Danish survey with the results from the international mapping. In continuation thereof the chapter compares the identified companies based on the system introduced in Chapter 1.

Chapter 3 describes a range of trends that impact concept design companies and their potential for growth. These trends include choice of business strategy, how to combine concept design competences and finally how large industrial companies are moving into concept design.

Download background report (pdf, 990 kb, 75 pages)

13 September 2007

Articles from current InfoDesign newsletter

InfoDesign
The current (September) edition of the InfoDesign newsletter, edited by Peter J. Bogaards, contains a rich assortment of user experience related articles. I selected some here:

User Experience: Towards a unified view (pdf)
Proceedings of the 2nd COST294-MAUSE International Open Workshop (October 2006, Oslo Norway) – “The concept of usability has been evolving, along with the emerging IT landscape and the ever-blurring boundary of the field of HCI. Specifically, the so-called user experience (UX) movement is gaining gound.”

The Art of the Conceptual Prototype [Blink Interactive]
“Conceptual prototypes are often very interesting projects because the ideas are leading edge. But they also present some unique challenges compared to more traditional projects where we are designing for actual implementation.”

XcD
“The scope of human-computer interaction design has widened to include concerns with fun, emotion, beauty, aesthetics and values. There is an increasing emphasis on holistic approaches to user experience and what is now called experience design. A number of frameworks and theoretical approaches to experience design have been developed and a range of methods and techniques have also been proposed. This website is part of the work carried out on the EPSRC grant Theory and Method for Experience Centred Design. This site links to our own work and that of others on theory and method for experience centred design or XcD as we seem to have started calling it.”

Design for the Dream Economy [uiGarden.net]
“After the eras of the Commodity Economy, the Manufacturing Economy, the Service Economy and the Information Economy, we have now entered the era of the Dream Economy.The key to success in the Dream Economy is an in-depth and holistic understanding of people. It’s not only about meeting people’’s practical needs, but also about meeting their aspirations and providing a positive emotional experience.”

Multi-Touch Systems That I Have Known and Loved [Bill Buxton]
“Since the announcement of the iPhone, an especially large number of people have asked me about multi-touch. The reason is largely because they know that I have been involved in the topic for a number of years. The problem is, I can’t take the time to give a detailed reply to each question. So I have done the next best thing (I hope). That is, start compiling my would-be answer in this document. The assumption is that ultimately it is less work to give one reasonable answer than many unsatisfactory ones.”

Card Sorting: Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned [UXmatters]
“Card sorting is a simple and effective method with which most of us are familiar. There are already some excellent resources on how to run a card sort and why you should do card sorting. This article, on the other hand, is a frank discussion of the lessons I’ve learned from running numerous card sorts over the years. By sharing these lessons learned along the way, I hope to enable others to dodge similar potholes when they venture down the card sorting path.”

Conducting Successful Interviews With Project Stakeholders [UXmatters]
“A simple, semi-structured, one-on-one interview can provide a very rich source of insights. Interviews work very well for gaining insights from both internal and external stakeholders, as well as from actual users of a system under consideration. Though, in this column, I’ll focus on stakeholder interviews rather than user interviews. (And I’ll come back to that word, insights, a little later on, because it’s important.)”

A Map-Based Approach to a Content Inventory [Boxes and Arrows]
“After giving it some thought, I find that the thing I like most about the map is that it is pure, stripped down navigation. Harry Beck decided that including streets, districts and other geographical information on his underground maps was distracting and added little value. All you need to know is how to get from A to B. I suspect that the same may be true in information spaces.”

Social Networks And Group Formation [Boxes and Arrows]
“Humans suffer from information overload; there’s much more information on any given subject than a person is able to access. As a result, people are forced to depend upon each other for knowledge. Know-who information rather than know-what, know-how or know-why information has become most crucial. It involves knowing who has the needed information and being able to reach that person.”

The Tagging Growth Curve [tagsonomy]
“The apparently irregular growth and spread of tagging is simply example of the real nature of how innovations spread. Professional analysts and other meaning makers tend to draw smooth graphs to depict these things. But in reality, natural systems (and the tagging / technology landscape is a legitimate ecosystem) are noisy, cyclical, chaotic, complex, fuzzy, non-linear, and unpredictable. They only appear to follow smooth curves at a high level of abstraction, or a low level of resolution.”

Looking Back on Data-Driven Design Research Personas [Todd Zaki Warfel]
“The primary goal of the tutorial was to show people how to work data into developing personas and how they can be used for more than just design.”

13 September 2007

Business Week on service prototyping

Jeneanne Rae
Jeneanne Rae of Peer Insight argues in Business Week that to design an offering that customers will love, one has to start with a rough draft—and co-create with them.

“At the front end of innovation, the “rough draft” must be rough. That means prototypes that are cheap, simple and quick. To be effective service prototypes, they should inspire your audience—from beta testers to C-suite decision-makers—to assess the service through the eyes of a customer. How does it make them feel? Is it engaging? What’s missing? These early concepts should be unfinished and malleable, inviting improvement. Most importantly, these visualizations should create white space so the user can imagine the concept evolving into a service offering with which he or she would love to engage.”

Read full story

11 September 2007

Low technologies, high aims

MIT D-Lab
The New York Times reports on how M.I.T. has lately turned its attention toward concrete thinking to improve the lives of the poor”

“M.I.T. has nurtured dozens of Nobel Prize winners in cerebral realms like astrophysics, economics and genetics. But lately, the institute has turned its attention toward concrete thinking to improve the lives of the world’s bottom billion, those who live on a dollar a day or less and who often die young.

This summer, it played host to a four-week International Development Design Summit to identify problems, cobble together prototype solutions and winnow the results to see which might work in the real world.

The summit was the brainchild mainly of Amy Smith, a lecturer at M.I.T. who received her master’s there in 1995 and in 2004 won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, and Kenneth Pickar, an engineering professor at the California Institute of Technology. Faculty and students from Olin College, an engineering school near Boston, were also involved.The flurry of activity was taking place at D-Lab, a research center and set of courses at M.I.T. devoted to devising cheap technologies that could have a big effect in impoverished communities.”

- Read full story
Audio slide show

8 September 2007

Living Tomorrow

Living Tomorrow
Living Tomorrow is a company originally from Belgium, but currently also active in Amsterdam and San Jose, that presents every day life (banking, shops, cars, aviation, energy, health etc.) of the future based on a people-oriented innovation focus.

“Living Tomorrow is a meeting place for innovative companies to introduce visitors to products and services that can improve the quality of living and working in the near future.

Social, economic and technological developments are observed and are converted into realistic and recognisable applications in the complex. 80% of the displayed solutions are ready for the market, while 20% are future-oriented visions.

Living Tomorrow selects carefully leading-edge companies, each prominent in their field of expertise. Together they integrate their products, services and technologies in a future oriented way.

Living Tomorrow is a research oriented company that is continuously in search of synergies between, and feedback from the participating companies and its (future) customers.

The Living Tomorrow website also contains five interesting case study downloads (on laudry and mirror tv, and on the companies Gispen, Philips and Jaga). You can find them under “Participants” > “Cases”.

8 September 2007

“Concept Design”, a new study from Denmark

Concept Design
Fora, the Danish Authority for Enterprise and Construction‘s division for R&D, has just published “Concept Design – How to solve the complex challenges of our time“, which presents a new type of company – the concept design company.

The study focuses on how design can be utilised together with other disciplines to create new solutions to the global challenges faced by the private and public sectors in the twenty-first century, and is a follow-up to the report entitled “Et billede af dansk design” (A View of Danish Design), which was published in April 2007. It draws up a map of the proliferation of concept design companies and their areas of work.

Today’s companies are seeking answers to the question “what?”.

What should companies focus on? What problems should the companies’ innovation solve?

In the past companies wanted answers to the question “how?”. How do we develop a new product? How should it be designed? How should it be marketed, and how should the company be organised to achieve the best solution?

When companies seek advice and answers to how questions they can turn to consulting engineers, designers, advertising agencies or management consultants. Until recently, this has provided a reasonably clear division of labour between different consulting offerings.

In terms of answering questions related to what a company should innovate and produce, companies have no obvious place to go. For that purpose consulting engineers, design companies, advertising agencies and management consultants could all be involved. However, none of these companies are single-handedly able to answer the question “what”. Hence, we are witnessing industry break-up and gliding.

The study will contribute to shed light on this dynamic and fascinating development – with a particular focus on possibilities and consequences for the design industry.

Downloads:
Concept Design [August 2007] (pdf, 17.9 mb, 115 pages)
Et billede af dansk design – udfordringer og perspektiver [April 2007, in Danish only] (pdf, 11.1 mb, 118 pages)
Design Denmark [July 2007, Danish government white paper on the direction for design policy in Denmark] (pdf, 320 kb, 20 pages)

8 September 2007

The trouble with computers [The Economist]

multi-touch interface
The Economist wonders why computers are still so difficult to use and if new forms of interface might help.

“Although computers have become cheaper, more capable and more commonplace, they have made much less progress when it comes to ease of use. Their potential remains tantalisingly out of reach for people who find their control systems, or “user interfaces”, too complex. And even people who have no difficulty navigating menus, dialogue boxes and so on, might use computers more productively if their interfaces were better.”

The article, which quotes Adam Greenfield, author of “Everyware“, a book about the future of computing, Steven Kyffin, a senior researcher at Philips, Ken Wood, deputy director of Microsoft’s research laboratory in Cambridge, England, Patrick Brezillon of University Paris VI, Albrecht Schmidt, an HCI expert at the Bonn laboratory of the Fraunhofer Institute, Henry Holtzman, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anind Dey, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University’s HCI Institute, looks at various gesture-based interface systems, from the Sensitive Wall, developed by the Italian company iO (a spin-off of the natural interaction research group) to the Jeff Han’s “multi-touch” interface; and from the Microsoft Surface to the Apple iPhone.

However, there is more to make computers simpler to use:

“Smarter software is needed, too. For example, much effort is going into the development of “context aware” systems that hide unnecessary clutter and present options that are most likely to be relevant, depending on what the user is doing.

The trick, says Patrick Brezillon of University Paris VI, is to get computers to “size up the temperament of users” and then give them what they want. This can be done by analysing the frequency of keystrokes, the number of typos, the length of work breaks, internet-search terms and background noise, among other things.”

The article’s conclusion is perhaps the most important however:

“Many futurists and computer experts believe that the logical conclusion of all of these new input devices, sensors and smarter software to anticipate users’ needs, will be for computing to blend into the background. In this “ubiquitous computing” model, computers will no longer be things people use explicitly, any more than they “use” electricity when turning on a light or a radio. Mr Greenfield says a digital “dream world” that provides “one seamless experience of being immersed in information” hinges on one big if: computers and their interfaces must become so good that, like electricity, they rarely require concentrated attention. The trouble with computers in their current form is that they are still all too conspicuous.”

Read full story

25 August 2007

Charmr, a laudable Adaptive Path R&D project

Charmr
Challenged by an open letter that diabetes patient Amy Tenderich wrote to Steve Jobs, the American experience design consultancy Adaptive Path developed Charmr, an experience design concept to project how insulin pumps and glucose meters might work five years from now.

As reported in CNet News, Charmr is “a prototype for a sleeker, more functional blood glucose monitor and an insulin pump that users can apply directly to their bodies as an adhesive.”

“They researched extensively, interviewing diabetics and consulting with Tenderich, a valuable source of information and a link to the diabetes community.

While the Charmr vaguely resembles an iPod Nano, it has an appeal of its own. The device allows users to monitor the trends of their blood sugar levels, as well as administer insulin via a sweat-proof patch. Not to mention, the device allows for wear on the wrists, or as a keychain or necklace–all of which let the device simply appear to be another mysterious gadget, as opposed to a complex medical apparatus. Furthermore, the Charmr will triple as a USB drive that allows users to view daily trends and patterns of their condition, and other special features.”

Interaction designer Alexa Andrzejewski highlights that Charmr is not a product, but a vision of what the diabetic experience could look like in a few years if considered from a user-centered perspective, exemplifying a more human approach to medical device design, i.e. a device that looks and feels like it was designed with people in mind.

As explained by Dan Saffer, they spent three weeks just learning about diabetes and talking to patients and experts, then another week analyzing and taking in all the data they gathered. They spent another two weeks concepting; creating as many ideas as they could around the design principles they’d come up with. Once they narrowed down to an idea, they created the visual and interaction design to really flesh out that concept, then a movie to explain the vision.

Not surprisingly, they were overwhelmed by the positive feedback.

11 August 2007

Rapid manufacturing’s role in the factory of the future

Direct Metal Laser Sintering
Two years ago Bruce Sterling wrote in his book Shaping Things: “We can define ‘fabricators’ as a likely future development of the devices known today as ‘3-D printers’ or ‘rapid prototypers’. The key to understanding the fabricator is that it radically shortens the transition from a 3-D model to a physical actuality. A fabricator in a SPIME world is a SPIME that makes physical things out of virtual plans, in an immediate, one-step process.”

It’s happening already, according to this Design News article:

Greg Morris doesn’t spend much time wondering about the factory of the future. He already runs it.

His company, Morris Technologies, specializes in tough-to-manufacture metal components for aerospace, medical and industrial applications. At first glance, Morris seems to operate a conventional machine shop full of high-end CNC machines. Next to the machine tools, though, Morris quietly runs a bank of EOS direct metal laser-sintering (DMLS) machines, which build up parts from successive layers of fused metal powder.

With six machines, Morris has the world’s highest concentration of DMLS capacity. And he has been using those machines not just to make prototypes but also to turn out production parts. It’s a practice that goes by many names — including rapid manufacturing, direct digital manufacturing, solid freeform fabrication and low-volume-layered manufacturing. All of the names refer to the use of additive fabrication technologies, which were initially intended for prototyping, to make finished goods, instead. Morris believes additive fabrication systems will soon occupy an increasingly prominent space on our shop floors. “We’re on the verge of a revolution in how things are made,” he says.

This is also the right time to add another category to Putting People First: mechatronics (under “Business”). It is a term that was recently re-introduced by Donald Norman, and I add it as a category because I think it is particularly relevant to the city where I live (Turin, Italy) with its great and very high-end mechanical engineering tradition – and therefore also for any other engineering-focused economy.

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.

7 August 2007

PDF prototypes: mistakenly disregarded and underutilised

PDF prototype
Kyle Pero Soucy, founding principal of Usable Interface argues in a long article on Boxes and Arrows that creating a clickable PDF to prototype a new design is is a valuable tool that is often overlooked and underutilised.

“While working over the years with other designers, information architects and usability professionals, I’ve noticed that many of my colleagues believe the same fallacies about the limitations of PDFs. Contrary to popular belief, you can do more than just create links and interactive forms with PDFs; you can also add dynamic elements such as rollovers and drop-down menus, embed audio and video files, validate form data, perform calculations and respond to user actions. PDF prototypes have the ability to replicate most interactive design elements without investing a lot of time and effort.”

In her article, Pero Soucy debunks five common misconceptions about PDF’s, using examples to the contrary …

  • Misconception #1: Dynamic elements cannot be created in a PDF.
  • Misconception #2: PDFs are only good for prototyping page-based applications.
  • Misconception #3: PDFs cannot include multimedia.

… and then describes in detail how to create PDF prototypes.

Read full story

3 August 2007

What patients want

SPARC
I have written before about the SPARC Program at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, which uses a design methodology that is rooted in the techniques of ethnography, prototyping, design thinking, and business integration, but just found several backgrounders that are worth sharing.

First there is a Minnesota Medicine article that reports in detail on how physicians and designers from Mayo Clinic are using a creative process borrowed from industry to improve the patient experience.

Step off the elevator onto the 17th floor of the Mayo Building in Rochester and you might think you’re in a design firm in the heart of the Minneapolis warehouse district. Light fixtures that look like flying saucers hang from a ceiling supported by steel beams, hovering over open workspaces. Colorful, overstuffed chairs form a circle in the center of the room next to a wall of note-filled whiteboards. Glass walls offer passersby a glimpse into the work that goes on inside—here at the SPARC Innovation Laboratory in the heart of Mayo Clinic’s internal medicine department. Across the hall is a row of exam rooms that serve as Petri dishes for ideas that are dreamed up behind the lab’s glass walls.

Alan Duncan, M.D., medical director of the lab, enthusiastically points out some of the concepts physicians and designers are testing. Duncan walks quickly, stopping to show off a biometric reader on the door frame of an exam room and explain that physicians can place their index finger on the reader to log on to the EMR system.

He says they came up with the idea after watching how physicians would enter an exam room, greet the patient, then log on … and wait. “We knew that if you started the log-in process earlier, you could improve patient satisfaction,” he explains. “So why not reverse the order so you log on using biometrics, and by the time you’re done greeting the patient, the computer is ready to go? It’s one way design works—by reframing an issue.”

And that’s the whole point of the SPARC Innovation Program, Duncan explains: To find ways to use design to improve the patient experience. “Everything we do is from the patient’s perspective,” he says.

The laboratory was created through internal funds, philanthropic support, and a grant from the VHA Health Foundation, which also posted an article on SPARC on its own website, focussing more on the service design aspect.

Meanwhile Alan K. Duncan, M.D., medical director of the lab, has created a 41 slide “monograph” (3.1 mb) this year on his experiences setting up the SPARC Innovation Program:

“This monograph [...] describes a practical approach to incorporating design thinking into creating and transforming health services. We believe that the progressive health organization – the ambidextrous organization – will find new capabilities here to balance with traditional business tools and techniques.”

Finally, there is also this interview with Alan K. Duncan, published as part of the 2005 IIT Design Strategy Conference, where he talks about how The Mayo Clinic’s SPARC Innovation Program improves healthcare by blending the practices of design and medicine.

(via Design for India)

3 August 2007

Central role for co-creation and ethnography at new Nokia design studio in Bangalore

Anubhav Yantra
Nokia’s new design studio in Bangalore, India, will use co-creation and ethnographic approaches to explore new design ideas for mobile phones targeted at the Indian market.

InfoWorld reports:

The studio in India is one of four satellite studios that Nokia plans to set up over the next 12 months. The satellite studios will collaborate with local designers and universities to get a better understanding of the cultural nuances relevant to mobile phone design. The next center is slated to open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The focus of the studio is on “co-creation,” or collaborative design, between Nokia’s designers, local designers and users of mobile phones. It is housed at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, where students from the institute, Nokia’s designers and external designers will work together.

Designers at the studio will not only work in areas of industrial design and user interfaces, but also do ethnographic research to better understand people and their experiences, said Hannu Nieminen, head of insight and innovation at Nokia Design.

According to M&C, a team of top Nokia designers will engage students of Srishti in studying the use of the Internet on mobile phones and its implications for design and features of the next generation handsets.

The announcement follows a 2006 collaboration between Srishti and Nokia on Only Planet, Nokia Design’s international student programme, which began at the Doors 8 conference in New Delhi last year:

The journey to the Nokia Only Planet Conference 2006 began at the Doors 8 conference in end-March in New Delhi. Friends from Nokia Design Research offered to include the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, in the Only Planet program which was being implemented in design schools across the globe.

Soon after, Nokia sent in the Only Planet design brief. The first task for the 16 students who signed up for the project lay in engaging with the methodology of “dirty ethnography”. The students went out armed with sketch pads and cameras to record and study their environment, especially the street and food cultures of Commercial Street.

Their objective, as per the preliminary brief, was to identify key influences and sources of inspiration in three main dimensions – street (commercial values), society (family values) and culture (aesthetic values). These values were then represented in a set of “image boards”. The process allowed for the categorization of the visual details of the environment enabling students to arrive at verbal definitions and conclusions.

Eero Miettinen, Group Design Director of Nokia Design, Finland, provided extensive feedback on the image boards, their construction and their significance. He then revealed the next phase of the design brief in which the students had to generate concepts for their products.

The students now entered into serious discussions on what values would make a premium global Indian product. While brainstorming, they made case studies of extant products that they considered to be Indian in essence yet global. From their image boards and the case studies, they extracted a “basket of essences” that could add premium value to Indian products in the global market.

Each student sought to inform the conceptualization of their products with these essential values in terms of colour, form, aesthetics and function. Each one came up with several initial product ideas and then fixed on a final single product. An international five-member panel from Nokia headed by Eero Miettinen gave extensive feedback on the fleshed-out final concepts and made suggestions on the potential of some for prototyping.

Of the 16 product concepts presented before the Nokia panel, it was decided that nine would be prototyped – Opium Ray, Shara Shaiya, Plaything, Mudra, Acoustic Recliner, Kitchen Warrior, Sholay, Anubhav Yantra and Bollywood Mahal. Phase Three of the project concentrated on the prototyping, to an extent, of these concepts.

And, finally, at the end of this journey, five students and two faculty from Srishti were invited by Nokia Design Research to present its work at the Only Planet Seminar in Rovaniemi, Finland, November 28-30, 2006.

Download Srishti’s Only Planet submission (pdf, 16.2 mb, 61 pages)

2 August 2007

Promoting user-centred design innovation in Ireland

Centre for Design Innovation
The Centre for Design Innovation, which is funded by Enterprise Ireland, an agency of Ireland’s Department for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, aims to research and promote design thinking as a means of driving successful innovation; its goal is to make businesses more competitive and public services more effective.

The Centre, which is run by Toby Scott, previously a director of the UK Design Council and before that an advisor to the UK Government on creativity, design and innovation, takes a strong user-centred approach to innovation: “Design innovation only occurs by understanding and anticipating the needs of your users and creating successful products or services that fulfil their desires. This in turn creates competitive advantage for your organisation.”

In May 2007, Justin Knecht, programme manager at the Centre launched the Innovation by Design programme, a 15-month programme where selected companies use design research tools to better understand their end-user needs and develop these insights into new products and services.

“In June 2007, all the companies in the programme participated in a user-centred design workshop at the Centre for Design Innovation. Three to six representatives from each organisation, including most Managing Directors, learned the tools and techniques firsthand that they would apply to their own businesses. The day was facilitated by Colin Burns, a user centred design expert and former Director of IDEO London. Over a three month period, the organisations will apply these design research tools to their users before convening in September 2007 to discuss what they have learned and the opportunities they have identified to implement through September 2008. The Centre will be taking a qualitative and quantitative measurement of the programmes effect on each organisation.

To most companies this approach is completely new, so each company is partnered with a Design Associate, who provides hand-on mentoring and facilitation with the tools. As opposed to traditional consultancy, the goal of this programme is to leave a legacy of skills within the organisations beyond the end of their involvement with the programme. The mentors will spend at least 40 hours with each company over the course of the programme, which equates to a series of full-day and half-day visits.”

The team is now also working on two long-term projects that will raise the profile of design and its role in innovation.

  • Innovation Northwest” will be a yearlong festival celebrating the role of design within business, the public sector and communities across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In recent memory, few other areas have suffered so much due to social migration and the decline of traditional industries caused in part by the “troubles”. This will be an opportunity to re-brand the region as a natural home for innovation and enterprise and to demonstrate the powerful impact of design across all sectors.
     
  • The Centre for Creativity will provide a permanent “home” or focal point for design, innovation and creativity in Ireland. It starts from the premise that we are all innately creative but that our external environment, be that education, work or community, conspires to suppress that creativity. The Centre will provide a physical (and metaphorical) space to support businesses, communities and organisations to seek creative solutions to their problems.