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Posts in category 'Virtual world'

17 December 2007

A designer at the intersection of physical architecture and information systems

Jeffrey Huang
Bruno Giussani posted his running notes of Jeffrey Huang’s inaugural lesson at EPFL, the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

“Architecture and design, says my friend Jeffrey Huang (photo), are becoming the interface between physical and virtual lives. And that’s his field of study: how can constructs (buildings, cities and landscapes) incorporate digital communication systems? What are the effects of digitization on the typologies of cities today?

Last week, professor Huang — who among other things was instrumental in creating the Swiss House in Boston, now called Swissnex — gave his inaugural lesson at EPFL, the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where he runs the Media and Design Lab (he was previously at the Harvard School of Design). Here my running notes.”

Read full story

14 December 2007

Serious games as customer touchpoints

Virtual retail
By 2010, says Gartner, 20% of global Tier 1 retailers will have some kind of marketing presence in online games and virtual worlds. 
Gartner predicts that by 2010 20% of Tier I retailers will have a marketing presence in virtual worlds. It also predicts that through 2012 the number of consumers using mobile phones to shop will increase at an average of 25% per year. Put together the two could make for an interesting combination, but Gartner doesn’t make any recommendations for mobile worlds. It does recommend that retailers begin to include virtual worlds as customer touchpoints, begin to test and measure virtual world initiatives before moving in, keep an eye on the space with a focus on the young demographic, and pick the right environment for the right demographic.

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(via Eliane Alhadeff, FutureLab, and Business & Games)

12 December 2007

Device art as a resource for interaction design and media art

iMal
Nicolas Nova, user experience and foresight researcher working at the Media and Design Lab (EPFL) and at the near future laboratory, is currently in Brussels where he gave a talk yesterday at iMal, a brand new center for digital cultures and technology.

The presentation entitled “Device art as a resource for interaction design and media art” was about the fading boundaries between interaction design, new media art and academic research. The hybridisation of digital and physical environments (through locative media, urban displays, augmented reality or mobile games) is explored by a large variety of people and institutions, not only engineers and academic researchers but also artists and designers. The talk looked at why the projects from the new media art/interaction design/device art are relevant and what they tell about the design of future technological artifacts.

iMal is the first Center for Digital Cultures and Technology in Brussels, a new place of about 600 square metres for the meeting of artistic, scientific and industrial innovations. The 2007/2008 programme of iMAL, an initiative of the French speaking community of Belgium, will propose basic and advanced workshops (i.e. on locative media, RFID, Ubicomp and the Internet of Things, urban electronic acts thanks to the support of VAF), regular concerts & performances, a series of conferences on Arts/Sciences, a series of meetings between innovating companies and creative peoople, and the first Dorkbot Brussels meetings.

Download presentation (pdf, 20 mb, 38 slides)

12 December 2007

How Facebook has become a very British way to stay in touch

Facebook
The UK Times reports on why British adults are more frequent users of social networking sites than any of their European counterparts.

British adults are more frequent users of social networking sites than any of their European counterparts, figures from Ofcom, the communications regulator, indicated yesterday.

Four in ten Britons use their internet connection to keep in touch with their friends on networking websites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace. The figure compares with 17 per cent in France, 12 per cent in Germany and 22 per cent in Italy. […]

Ofcom said that the relatively high usage among British adults was largely because of the greater number of women using the internet in Britain. Today, among people aged between 25 and 34, women account for 55 per cent of the time spent online.

It was also, the regulator said, partly because of the shared language between Britain and the US, where many of the best-known sites originated. Britons were more “culturally disposed” to tap into US trends, Ofcom said.

Read full story

12 December 2007

‘Exodus’ to virtual worlds predicted, claims BBC

exodus
The appeal of online virtual worlds such as Second Life is such that it may trigger an exodus of people seeking to “disappear from reality,” said Edward Castronova, Associate Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University, an expert on large-scale online games.

Dr Castronova, who has written a book on the subject entitled Exodus To The Virtual World, drew parallels to the 1600s when thousands of people left Britain for a new life in North America.

“That certainly changed North America – and that’s usually what we focus on – but it certainly changed the UK as well,” he said.

“So what I tried to do in this book is say, ‘listen – even if the typical reader doesn’t spend any time in virtual worlds, what is going to be the impact on him of people going and doing this?'”

And he predicted that everyone will be involved in a virtual environment within ten years – although the level of that involvement will vary.

Read full story

7 December 2007

Getting serious

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

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

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

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1 December 2007

Friending, ancient or otherwise

Friending
The New York Times reports on how in the collective patter of profile-surfing, messaging and “friending,” academic researchers see the resurgence of older patterns of oral communication.

“The growing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Second Life has thrust many of us into a new world where we make “friends” with people we barely know, scrawl messages on each other’s walls and project our identities using totem-like visual symbols.

We’re making up the rules as we go. But is this world as new as it seems?

Academic researchers are starting to examine that question by taking an unusual tack: exploring the parallels between online social networks and tribal societies. In the collective patter of profile-surfing, messaging and “friending,” they see the resurgence of ancient patterns of oral communication.”

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31 October 2007

Philips Design claims to have found the key to understanding Virtual Worlds

Philips in Second Life
Far from fading out, as some media reports indicate, Philips Design believes that there is serious attention being paid to virtual immersive spaces, like Second Life, as dialogue with virtual world residents uncovers what companies can achieve above and beyond public relations and branding activities.

“Philips Design’s Co-Creation Experience in Second Life has resulted in a wealth of input regarding people’s values and motivations in virtual immersive environments. Dialogue between Philips Design and the so-called ‘Philips Design Friends Group’ shows that Second Life residents have a greater than average interest in interactive participation and co-creation activities. The insights from the research also reveal how communication and the unwritten rules of engagement used in virtual spaces are enabling people to become more societal in their real lives. Feedback from companies and stakeholders show an increased interest from businesses to enter these worlds for a multitude of reasons. This can be characterized as a Second Wave of Business involvement. The focus is thereby shifting to engagement with people, internal business collaboration, more enhanced brand experiences, and more interest from a Business to Business perspective.”

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27 October 2007

The future of presence

Movement
The Dott07 festival, curated by John Thackara, and taking place in the English city of NewcastleGateshead, is now in its last few days. One of the events was a series of debates on a variety of topics, such as energy, food, health, movement, and schools.

The debate on movement started from the assumption that the movement of people and goods around the world consume vast amounts of matter, energy, space, and time – most of it non-renewable. Question that arise are: Should sustainable development therefore be concentrated in cities, where economic progress can most feasibly be de-coupled from transport intensity? Or are there ways to ensure that rural communities have access to services by using transport resources more smartly? And could new forms of sustainable tourism be enabled by access to territorial and cultural assets that already exist?

The session began with a keynote from Anthony Townsend, research director at the Institute of the Future in Palo Alto, California, who has now posted his entire presentation online.

“What I want to talk about is not the future of mobility but rather, the future of presence. By ‘presence’ what I mean, is that if movement or travel is a means – then presence is the end. And so I want to broaden the discussion of mobility to include technologies and practices of telecommunication – ways of being “present” at remote locations.”

Townsend believes in the future of virtual worlds, telerobotics, and high-definition videoconferencing. But does presence really always require such high-end technologies?

Townsend’s talk was followed by a review of Dott 07’s Move Me project, which explored the potential to transform transportation resource efficiency in one village, Scremerston, in Northumberland, and by a review of three Dott 07 projects – Sustainable Tourism, Welcomes and Mapping the Necklace.

21 October 2007

Serious Games Institute shows off applications for the real world

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

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

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

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

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

Read full story (International Herald Tribune)

18 October 2007

Siemens on factories of the future and seamless communication

Siemens magazine
The latest issue of Pictures of the Future, the half-yearly research and innovation magazine of Siemens, the German engineering conglomerate, looks at the future, with Epcot style utopian thinking and illustrations straight from the Jetsons (check page 40).

Two topics stand out: “Factories of the Future” and “Seamless Communication”.

Factories of the Future is about making it possible to design products in the virtual world and to design and test their associated production processes there as well. If you are interested in spimes or the mechatronic challenge, this pretty enthusiastic engineering prose is reading material for you. But don’t expect a critical discourse about how this all matters to people.

What we’re moving toward is a virtual representation of the entire value chain — everything from raw materials to lifetime maintenance, remote service and product and production planning in a holistic, seamless product lifecycle and supply chain management environment,” says Paul Camuti, president of Siemens Corporate Research. “In twenty years the real and virtual worlds will be seamlessly integrated. Our simulations will duplicate reality down to the last detail. The result will be virtually limitless manufacturing flexibility.”

The result could also be a revolution in retailing and consumer purchasing. Already, some clothing stores provide “mass customized” personalized items. But as simulation technology matures, high-tech kiosks and “walk-in Websites” that link us to manufacturers and their suppliers may allow us to profoundly and realistically individualize, test and even experience the appearance and personalities of everything from phones and scooters to clothing and the design and decoration of our homes. We may even venture into virtual worlds ourselves.

Seamless Communication makes much of the Siemens collaboration with Nokia. Jarkko Sairanen, responsible for Nokia’s business strategy and technology planning, talks about the usability challenge (page 82-83). But there is also an article about the smart home which adapts to user profiles (page 86-87); and an insight piece on how to prevent production plants from being hacked (page 94-95) – I am not making this up.

Download report (pdf, 3.7 mb, 55 double pages)

9 October 2007

Is there a future for old-fashioned museums?

Newseum
“Is there a future for old-fashioned museums?” is the rather outlandish title of an otherwise good Washington Post article about the future of museums in the age of networked computers and virtual worlds.

“As the Newseum puts the finishing touches on its new building in downtown Washington, a second version of the museum of news is being developed for the online society Second Life.

This novel way to experience a museum […] raises questions about the very future of museums. Indeed, it can make one ponder whether all those granite and limestone mausoleums that litter Washington have a future at all.

In the age of the networked computer, museums are being fundamentally challenged in the same ways that other bastions of education and entertainment — from libraries to the music industry — are being rocked to their cores.

The arguments swirl. Are museums in the bone-and-pigment business, reliquaries of the past? Are they in the theater business, telling stories through sensational lighting, presentations like stage sets and costumed interpretive actors? Are museums in the experience business, forced to reach for ever fancier gizmos and blockbusters to compete with the sports world and Disney for family time and money?”

It seems to me that new media usually don’t replace old ones but just provide an alternative experience. Just like television didn’t kill the radio, and movies didn’t kill the theatre, virtual worlds will not remove the need for real museums. They will just provide an alternative window into their collections and the story they are telling.

And in the end, that’s what the author thinks too. I recommend you to read the conclusions of the article.

Read full story

8 October 2007

Second Life: virtual worlds and the enterprise

Second Life
Susan Kish, vice president of the network and community practice at XING, has posted a long essay on how enterprises should look at Second Life and, more generally, at virtual worlds.

“Is the topic still too early or too distracting from “real business”? Or is SL actually close to the tipping point where, like so many technologies before, it will flip into the mainstream with unanticipated results?

This essay looks into these and other questions relevant to businesses in relation to the emergence of virtual worlds. We consider here particularly Second Life as the most important and fastest-growing, but there are several other similar entities.”

Susan Kish has been working with networks and communities for over 10 years. This essay, completed with a glossary and a bibliography, is available in pdf for downloading here (1.4 MB).

Read full story

(via Lunch over IP)

8 October 2007

More Internet users getting a virtual life

vSide
The San Francisco Chronicle has a story about how virtual worlds are becoming more and more popular, and provides an extensive update on how the playing field is changing.

The online universe is brimming with dozens of virtual worlds vying to build sustainable life.

From Gaia, a Japanese anime-inspired site, to vSide, a hip nightclub scene, they represent the latest way people are interacting through the Internet. Users create alter-ego avatars to navigate these online worlds, where they meet and hang out with other people, go shopping, watch movies, even start a business.

And they’re live: Day and night, they change as people join in.

Though the idea is not new, the technology and the business to support these virtual worlds are starting to catch up. And now a new generation, inspired in part by Linden Lab of San Francisco’s Second Life, is starting to evolve.

The article features Gaia, Habbo, IMVU, Kaneva, Metaplace, MTV, Second Life, There, vSide, and Zwinky.

Read full story

2 October 2007

BT futurologist on new needs hierarchy and feminisation of work

Ian Pearson
BT’s futurologist Ian Pearson sets out some interesting ideas on the future at a recent conference in Rome, as reported by Bruno Giussani.

He suggests a different reading of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs , saying that the value is now in the top layers (self-actualisation, esteem, social – see image on Giussani site). “Tech helps people to do more, interact more, have more fun, be more, and feel better about themselves”.

We can produce in 15 years’ time a virtual world that’s so realistic that you can’t tell if you’re in real life or in that world. Link nervous system, record a handshake or an orgasm and replay it. Education via time travel (any time period, any weather, no tourists, no erosion — take your kids back to Stonehenge; full sensory environments will allow even more).

Duality, a whole new market, where the virtual world and everything you can do on the internet are overlayed into the real world. People and buildings can emit an interactive digital aura (wireless LAN). Artificial intelligence and productivity: today: human big, machine small; tomorrow: we can make machines up to a million times smarter than a human being. Information economy will largely move into the machine world. People will have access to machine enhancements of their creativity. Most of the “male” jobs of today will be automated, taken over by artificial intelligence. In the “care age”, that will follow the “information age”, this will lead to a feminisation of work.

13 September 2007

The ultimate user experience: technologically-mediated sex, erotica and BDSM

Pony girl
Joanna Bawa of Usability in the News reports on the most emotional, creative and play-oriented state of mind to consider when designing user experience: human sexuality.

At HCI 2007 two papers addressed this development, the first being Bardzell and Bardzell’s fascinating insight into the BDSM (bondage, discipline and sadomasochism) subculture on Second Life. In this paper the researchers reported from a two-year study, combining virtual ethnography and artifact analysis with recent HCI theories of experience design to understand how and why the complex phenomenon of BDSM subculture emerged from Second Life users.

The researchers show that participants view virtual BDSM not as a sexual practice, but rather as a full-blown aesthetic, and that its sexual practices are a part of that aesthetic.

Less exotic, perhaps, but no less important, Bertelsen and Graves Petersen presented research on the impact of home-located technology on ‘everyday erotica’.

The researchers studied eroticism and sexual practice as aspects of everyday life where technology impacts massively in the private and intimate sphere. Sometimes the effect of the new technologies is positive, but most often it seems that intimacy is jeopardised as these workplace-centric technologies invade private life. In combination with an intensified working life, these can be significant factors in making a sexual life difficult for many couples today.These adverse effects should be counterbalanced by deliberate ‘design for erotic life’.

Read full story

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.

29 July 2007

Information architecture island on Second Life

Peter Morville talk on Second Life
The Information Architecture Institute (IAI), a professional membership organisation, has created an Info Architecture island on Second Life.

Several apparently well-attended events have already taken place:

Andrew Hinton‘s “Architectures for Conversation: What Communities of Practice Can Mean for Information Architecture” was the inaugural event on IAI’s new Second Life island. You can download snapshots, transcript and slidedeck.

Next in line was Peter Morville (blog). In his talk “Information Architecture 3.0“, Peter drew upon stories, examples, case studies, and discussions to explore the future present of information architecture. Also here you can download snapshots, transcript and slidedeck.

Session three is on 2 August with the talk “Search Engine Optimization and Information Architecture – The Makings of a Beautiful Friendship” by Marianne Sweeny. Marianne will talk about what is going on behind the scenes of today’s search technology, what is in the pipeline for tomorrow’s search technology and how information architects can work with this technology to create optimal online wayfinding systems.

27 July 2007

Social scientists studying human interaction in online worlds

Virtual world
The BBC reports on how social scientists are starting to use game worlds as laboratories to study human interaction.

“Researchers are getting insights into real life by studying what people do in virtual worlds, reveals a review in the journal Science.

It suggests virtual worlds could help scientists studying ideas of government and even concepts of self. Others are looking at behaviours peculiar to online worlds and how they differ from real life.

Online worlds offer great potential to social scientists because they overcome some of the problems these researchers encounter when gathering subjects in the real world, Dr William Bainbridge, head of Human-Centred Computing at the US National Science Foundation, wrote in the journal.

For instance, he wrote, social scientists often face problems finding subjects fast enough or securing funds to carry out the research.

The popularity of online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft meant there was a ready pool of subjects that could be recruited over long periods of time for little cost, he said.

The game worlds also gather huge amounts of data about what players do that could easily be analysed by social scientists, wrote Dr Bainbridge.”

Read full story

6 July 2007

Philips Design on experiencing experience design

Philips Second Life
Last year I wrote about how Philips Design is entering Second Life (SL) with the specific objective to co-create with end-users.

I hadn’t heard much from it since, until I found a post today by “Centralasian Wise“, one of the members of the Philips Design’s team in Second Life, where he talks about his second SL presentation – I cannot find the first one – that dealt specifically with the experience design process.

During the presentation “Centralasian Wise” also distributed a recent Philips paper about “Experience Evaluation” (pdf, 830 kb, 14 slides) and demonstrated the AMEC research project (AMbient ECologies) that Philips participates in – see summary below.

An earlier “Centralasian Wise” post reports on how Philips Design continues to recruit people for its research projects and creative workshops in Second Life. More information on these, and other research and design activities of the company at the first site of Philips Design in SL, Co-creative Experiences. Using interactive posters on the site, people (or better “SL avatars”) can also join the group of Philips Design Friends, and have a chance to join one of these creative sessions in the future. Both experienced dwellers and total newbies are welcomed.

Ambient Ecologies project

Within the next decade, as digital technologies become increasingly pervasive, we might find ourselves living with almost invisible, intelligent interactive systems – an ‘Ambient Intelligence’ – that will form a part of our everyday existence and ecology. The implications of this development are far reaching for individuals, businesses and communities. Ambient Intelligence could lead to great opportunities. But as with all new technologies, we know that the technology itself is neither good nor bad. It is how we might use it that makes the difference. The main challenge at this moment is to guarantee that the new Ambient Intelligence technologies are appropriate, sustainable and meet people’s individual and social needs.

The AMEC (Ambient Ecologies) project addresses this challenge by defining the architectural framework and developing the methodologies, tools and design methods for people involvement, which will facilitate a user-centred evolution to this new Ambient Intelligent environment.

People, human desire and needs, are the starting point and focus of the AMEC project. The project aims to change the way we conduct our everyday activities by gradually introducing artefacts that are able to perform local computation and to collaborate with each other and interact in a natural and intuitive way with the user. AMEC will achieve this transformation through a series of carefully planned technology innovations, and in close cooperation with people. Their interaction with the new Ambient Intelligence technologies is closely studied and analysed, in order to yield requirements for AMEC developments. These developments are gradually introduced into people’s lives, in carefully controlled research experiments, because acceptance is the major factor for the market success of these new technologies. The work will incorporate and build upon the results of the ITEA projects Beyond and Ambience.