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Posts in category 'Research'

8 April 2009

Sun Dial, a mobile application to alert muslims to prayer

Sun dial
Religious technology may seem like an oxymoron, but as more people obtain mobile phones, iPhones and other devices to help them manage their lives, it’s only natural that many of them will be using their gadgets to help them enrich their spiritual life as well.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a mobile application known as Sun Dial, which alerts Muslim users when it’s time to perform the five daily prayers known as salat. The device is currently being discussed this week at the human-computer interaction conference, CHI, in Boston.

“We have to understand religion because it’s such a central part of peoples lives,” explained Susan Wyche, doctoral candidate in the College of Computing and GVU Center at Georgia Tech.

- Read full story
- Download paper (“Sacred Imagery in Techno-Spiritual Design”)

The researchers have clearly been inspired by the excellent paper “No more SMS from Jesus: ubicomp, religion and techno-spiritual practices” by Intel researcher Genevieve Bell.

8 April 2009

Service design as the design of activity systems

Activitity system
Jeff Howard draws attention to a recent service design paper by Daniela Sangiorgi of Lancaster University:

“Dr. Daniela Sangiorgi’s 2008 presentation from ISDN3 just came across my radar. It’s on Service Design as the Design of Activity Systems (pdf 2.1MB). [Audio]

Here’s Sangiorgi on a key distinction:

I like to consider the origin of Service Design field with the introduction of the Interaction paradigm. Meaning moving the conception of services as complex organisations to the one of services as complex interfaces. In my opinion the perspective that looks at services from the interaction point of view, is different from the one that was trying to define services as ‘products’ and therefore as objects of a design process.

It sounds like she’s framing service design as a third order rather than a second order problem. By “interaction” she’s referring to services as complex interfaces between providers and users. A system of subjects, artifacts, roles and norms.

Here’s a recap of her talk by STBY.

I stumbled across an earlier paper (pdf) of hers on the topic of service design and activity theory a while back. Translating it from Italian proved incomprehensible so I put it aside.

This newer presentation clears up a lot.”

24 March 2009

Microsoft Research publishes interviews with Bill Buxton and danah boyd

Microsoft Research
The website of Microsoft Research seemed to have been redesigned recently and contains some nice interviews:

Buxton putting design into MIX
Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research, who delivered a keynote address in Las Vegas on March 18 during MIX09, the Web Design and Development Conference, discusses his talk and his work.

>> See also: related story on eWeek’s Microsoft Watch

boyd: Taking the pulse of social networks
danah boyd of Microsoft Research New England discusses her research into the dynamics of social network sites.

danah boyd was also interviewed by Microspotting, a Microsoft blog profiling some of the company’s most notable employees:

An IMterview with NERD researcher danah boyd
The Microspotting blog got a chance to have an IM session with Microsoft Research New England’s danah boyd.

We like her new “I am the empire” look.

19 March 2009

Social networking’s new global footprint

Nielsen
Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites, accounting for almost 10% of all internet time, according to a new Nielsen report “Global Faces and Networked Places.”

If data captured from December 2007 through December 2008 is any indication, that percentage is likely to grow as time spent on social network and blogging sites is growing more than three times the rate of overall Internet growth.

“Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience,” commented John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online. “While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing.”

More Time For Community
Time spent on social network sites is also expanding: Across the globe in 2008 activity in ‘Member Communities’ accounted for one in every 15 online minutes – now it accounts for one in every 11. In Brazil the average is one of every four minutes and in UK it’s one in every six minutes.

Not Just For The Young
While social networks started out among the younger audience, they’ve become more mainstream
with the passage of time. Not surprisingly the audience has become broader and older. This shift has primarily been driven by Facebook whose greatest growth has come from people aged 35-49 years of age (+24.1 million). From December 2007 through December 2008, Facebook added almost twice as many 50-64 year old visitors (+13.6 million) than it has added under 18 year old visitors (+7.3 million).

Read full story

6 March 2009

Microsoft Research’s “Technology for Emerging Markets” group

Technology for Emerging Markets
The Technology for Emerging Markets group at Microsoft Research India seeks to address the needs and aspirations of people in emerging-market countries, including those who are increasingly consuming computing technologies and services, as well as those for whom access to computing technologies remains largely out of reach.

“The research in this group consists of both technical and social-science research. We do work in the areas of ethnography, sociology, political science, and economics, all of which help understand the social context of technology, and we also do technical research in hardware and software to devise solutions that are designed for emerging and underserved markets, both in rural and urban environments.”

Check out some of their projects.

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

17 February 2009

Rethinking banking for the twenty-first century

Center for Future Banking
MIT Media Lab has set up a Center for Future Banking. I guess they have some work to do.

“Researchers at the Center for Future Banking, in collaboration with Bank of America, will explore how emerging technologies and insights into human behavior can transform the customers’ experience and elevate the role of the bank in their financial lives. We seek to invent new ways to anticipate the needs and desires of customers down to the level of the individual, to put every customer in total control of his or her own financial futures, to rethink the experience of customer-bank interaction as virtual and physical reality become increasingly intertwined, and finally to leverage the unique position of a bank to make people’s lives simpler and more fulfilling.

The Center brings together disciplines ranging from behavioral economics, to computer science, to urban design in order to take a truly holistic approach to imagining and realizing new possibilities in banking. Its research will span a wide range of physical and social scales, from one-on-one interactions with customers, to new modes of global transactions.

AT&T Associate Professor Deb Roy, chair of MIT’s academic program in Media Arts and Sciences and a pioneer in cognitive modeling, communication theory, and human-machine interaction, serves as the Center’s founding director and principal investigator. He is joined by a multidisciplinary team of researchers and students with a passion for invention—a team that is not only developing new ideas for the banking industry, but also building and testing working prototypes.”

Make sure to also check out the somewhat hidden Macro Trends section.

11 February 2009

Seismic shift in Internet age mass

PEW_logo
According to surveys through 2008 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, larger percentages of older generations [in the United States] are online now than in the past, and they are doing more activities online. Generation X (not Y) is the most likely group to bank, shop, and look for health information online. Boomers are just as likely as Generation Y to make travel reservations online. And even Silent Generation internet users are competitive when it comes to email.

The biggest increase in internet use since 2005 is the 70-75 year-old age group. While just over one-fourth (26%) of 70-75 year olds were online in 2005, 45% of that age group is currently online, and doing more activities online.

- Read full article
- Additional information and PDF download

(via Customer Experience Crossroads)

8 February 2009

Why computers can’t kill Post-its

Infoscraps
MIT researchers argue that computers need to become as easy to use as those yellow sticky notes.

Office workers are like electricity: When they want to get something done, they follow the path of least resistance.

Which is why, say researchers at MIT, the Post-it note continues to flourish on every surface of the contemporary office, despite all those expensive computers ready and willing to help.

David Karger helps lead a group at MIT exploring the way people work with computers. A recent paper from his team chronicled the attraction of “information scraps” like Post-Its, which, says Karger, are actually near-perfect data base tools. They’re accessible and easy to use, and they take advantage of the brain’s facility to remember an object’s location in the three-dimensional world.

Read full story

31 January 2009

W3C workshop on the future of social networking

W3C
A few weeks ago, W3C, the body in charge of global web standards directed by Tim Berners-Lee, organised a Workshop on the Future of Social Networking in Barcelona, with a high level goal of bringing together the world experts on social networking design, management and operation in a neutral and objective environment where the social networking history to date could be examined and discussed, the risks and opportunities analysed and the state of affairs accurately portrayed.

Within the W3C workshop, the issues facing social networking growth could be documented and, in this workshop in particular, taking into account social networking on mobile devices/platforms with and without PC/broadband Internet services.

The workshop also explored whether it is worthwhile to consider the creation of an Interest or Working Group under the auspices of W3C to continue these discussions.

The discussions of the workshop were fed by the input of the 72 (!) position papers submitted by the participants, and animated by the Program Committee composed of experts from the industry and academics on this topic.

Companies that submitted papers include Atos Origin, Ericsson, IBM, Microsoft, Opera, Samsung Electronics, SUN, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Vodafone, Yahoo!, and YouTube, so the papers section definitely requires a quick scan. You can read the brief summaries by Libby Miller on each of them.

You can also read rough minutes of Day 1 and Day 2 of the workshop, download the slides of the various presentations (linked from the agenda) and watch videos of some of the sessions.

In a short article, the New Scientist focuses on one of the papers on the potency of mobile social networking in developing market economies (with the great subtitle: “The Revolution will be ‘mobil’-ised”), written by South Africa-based mobile social media consultant Gloria Ruhrmund.:

Western consumers are becoming used to the idea that the computing power of their phone is catching up with what is traditionally expected from a computer. But in Africa and some other poor regions it is phones that have all the computing power – mobile handsets far outnumber PCs and broadband connections.

As a result, innovative new uses of mobile connectivity are appearing in those developing areas first, possibly providing a glimpse of what the future holds for cellphone users in richer countries.

28 January 2009

New blog series on media practices in international contexts

China
A new blog series, New Media Practices in International Contexts, looks at the intersection of youth, new media and learning in a range of countries outside of North America and Western Europe.

The authors, a group of people around Mimi Ito, believe that examining new media practices from an international (and, in some cases, transnational) perspective will enhance their current efforts to theorise youth, new media and learning, a wider MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Initiative.

Over the next three to four months they will be introducing six case studies – Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Korea and Japan.

China (by Cara Wallis): introductionmobile phonesgaminginternetnew media productionconclusion
Korea (by HyeRyoung Ok): introductioninternetgamingmobile phonesnew media productionconclusion
India (by Anke Schwittay): introductionmobile phonesgaminginternetnew media productionconclusion
Brazil (by Heather Horst): introductioninternetnew media productiongamesmobile phonesconclusion
Japan (by Mimi Ito and Daisuke Okabe): introductioninternetmobile phonesnew media productiongamingconclusion
Ghana (by Araba Sey): introductionmobile phonesinternetnew media productiongamingconclusion

Each case study will focus upon the telecommunications landscape, internet and mobile phone practices, gaming, and new media production, and will provide a unique perspective on the ways in which infrastructure, institutions and culture (among other factors) shape contemporary new media practices.

(via Mimi Ito)

25 January 2009

Horizon Report 2009

Horizon Report 2009
The annual Horizon Report describes the continuing work of the New Media Consortium (NMC)’s Horizon Project, a long-running qualitative research project that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within learning-focused organizations. The 2009 Horizon Report is the sixth annual report in the series.

Each edition of the Horizon Report introduces six emerging technologies or practices that are likely to enter mainstream use in learning-focused organizations within three adoption horizons over the next one to five years.

The technologies featured in the 2009 Horizon Report are placed along three adoption horizons likely timeframes for their entrance into mainstream use for teaching, learning, research, or creative applications.

The first adoption horizon assumes the likelihood of entry into the mainstream of institutions within the next year; the second, within two to three years; and the third, within four to five years.

In the first adoption horizon we find mobiles and cloud computing, both of which are already well established on many campuses — and still more organizations have plans in place to make use of these technologies in the coming months.

Institutions at the leading edge of technology adoption are also already applying the two clusters of technologies we have placed on the mid-term horizon, geo-everything and the personal web.

All four topics on the first two horizons are already in common use in other sectors, including entertainment, commerce, and the world of work. The two technologies placed on the far-term horizon, semantic-aware applications and smart objects, are not yet commonly found in an educational context, although research is being conducted in both areas and the rate of development seems to indicate that these topics are well worth watching.

[Quoted from the executive summary and the first chapter]

Download report

via Smart Mobs

25 January 2009

People-centric sensing in the city of the near future

People-centric sensing
Fabien Girardin, whose work I start to know (and appreciate) more and more, just uploaded the presentation of his research work in the domain of people-centric sensing, presented last week at Yahoo! Research lab in Barcelona.

Abstract
Technological advances in sensing, computation, storage, and communications is turning people as sensors of their own environment. Indeed, the increasing deployment of wireless and mobile devices produce new types of dynamic urban data that people generate by passively and actively interacting with these ubiquitous technologies. In this talk, I will illustrate through a few examples how the analysis and visualization of these data gives the ability to show previously invisible urban dynamics resulting in opportunities to inform the urban design, planning and management processes. Moreover, the increasing integration of these technologies into the fabrics of our lives could create more responsive cities in which authorities, service providers and citizens can monitor urban processes and react to events in real-time. Finally, I will ponder these opportunities by highlighting the complex socio-technical assemblage that challenges researchers and practitioners in designing the integration of these new dynamic urban information into people’s daily life.

Download presentation

22 January 2009

95% of mobile users would use more data services if setup were easier

Mformation
Press release:

Complexity is preventing uptake and usage of mobile applications and services, according to a survey of US and UK consumers commissioned by mobile device management (MDM) specialist Mformation. 95% of consumers surveyed indicated that they would be more likely to try new mobile services if setup was easier. Complex setup issues are also preventing 45% of people from upgrading to new, more sophisticated mobile phones. Moreover, 61% of these mobile users say phone setup is as frustrating as changing a bank account.

Read full story

19 January 2009

India: The Impact of Mobile Phones

India: The Impact of Mobile Phones
Vodafone publishes a very good, but highly under-communicated, Public Policy series. The aim of the series is “to provide a platform for leading experts to write on issues that are important to Vodafone and that may help policy makers as they strive to provide a regulatory environment which stimulates growth and economic development”.

The latest report: “India: The Impact of Mobile Phones” (pdf) contains five meaty research contributions with lots of data:

  • A policy overview by Dr. Rajiv Kumar
  • An econometric analysis of the impact of mobile by Professor Rajat Kathuria, Dr. Mahesh Uppal and Mamta
  • The impact of mobiles on agricultural productivity by Sanjay Gandhi, Dr. Surabhi Mittal and Gaurav Tripathi
  • A survey of usage of mobile in poor urban areas by Professor Ankur Sarin and Professor Rekha Jain
  • The impact of mobiles in the SME sector by Dr. Mahesh Uppal and Professor Rajat Kathuria
19 January 2009

New phone features ‘baffle users’

Setting up
The complexity of modern mobile phones is leaving users frustrated and angry, research by Mformation (and reported by BBC) suggests.

Some 61% of those interviewed in the UK and US said setting up a new handset is as challenging as moving bank accounts.

The survey found 85% of users reporting they were frustrated by the difficulty of getting a new phone up and working.

Of those questioned, 95% said they would try more new services if the technology was easier to set up.

Read full story

17 January 2009

Itsme concept evaluation

Itsme
Some months ago I wrote on Core77 about Itsme, a new “design-driven” way of organizing the contents of a PC, covering both the hardware and the software of the workstation.

The project is developed by a group of Italian researchers, led by Giorgio De Michelis.

They just published the results of an expert evaluation that consisted of 117 interviews and 201 completed questionnaires.

“We adopted a Persona based evaluation method, where we showed our community 4 scenarios, followed by questionnaires and interviews. The aim was to basically evaluate the functional features that we have designed until now, analyse Itsme key values and issues, and delve deeper into the concept to understand how users perceive it.”

In the presentation you can see their findings and the analysis made from the evaluation.

Note that the presentation might be easier to understand if you take a look at this earlier general presentation. Also helpful are these videos and a scientific paper.

17 January 2009

Experience design for interactive products

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

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

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

via InfoDesign

15 January 2009

People-centric sensing in the city of the near future

Flickr sensing
More on people-centric sensing, this time by LIFT’s Fabien Girardin, and it’s as if he is taking the Nokia paper I just wrote about one step further:

“In the past, sensors networks in cities has been limited to fixed sensors, embedded in particular locations, under centralised control. Now, there new application that leverage humans as sensors and their volunteer generated information. It becomes necessary to discuss their integration into the city of the “near future”, the city “produced” by the activity of its actors and inhabitants. In the scope of my research work, I particularly consider the implication of this emerging amount of data and their effect on contemporary practices in the city.”

Read article

15 January 2009

Sensing the world with mobile devices

Sensing
The Nokia Research Center published a short paper on participatory mobile sensing that I like very much because of its human-centred approach:

By putting mobile phones in the hands of human participants, we can take advantage of users as creators, custodians, actuators, and publishers of the data they collect.

That’s a good thing, because the physical world contains more sensory data than we can possibly comprehend. Even while moving across great distances, humans narrow down observations via critical decisions, reality checks, and inferences. Which data is important? How much do we need? How can we use the data to tell a better story? Humans make opportunistic choices on the spot, taking into consideration immediate factors not possible using digital methods.

A people-centric sensing network would behave much like a self-organizing organic system, with personal data interplaying in fluid and unpredictable ways with environmental, community, and global data. And since the data is organic by nature, it calls to mind an ecosystem more than an architecture—capable of self-assembling dynamically as the data and its constructs shift and expand.

Download paper

(Check also this website on Nokia’s SensorPlanet project)