A new multimodal conversation language

In this interesting overview on the move to conversational commerce by Chris Messina he touches also an interesting aspect on the new conversational language that we will have with our services based on task-based command lines. The example how to type in commands in Slack conversations with the slash and how the new app Peach is using a sub-language to communicate all kind of special short-cut messaging. Agree with Chris that we will learn in this first phase towards the conversational interactions to have these kind of dialogues.

In my trends-for-2016 post I shared the expectation that we will start to get used to have a dialogue with the products we use, and have more tangible interactions at the same time. Let’s elaborate a bit on that. These conversations will be a possible format to make an interoperability between the different services and products we use. We had the short hype of intelligent agents at the end of the last century, it was to early then and technical not ready missing the big data for instance. It will happen now. And the special behaviour will be the connecting of the different services. That goes two ways.

We will have the different services connected thru our own conversations, but we will also enhance our interactions with the services with more than one channel. Multimodal combining screen interactions with speaking, chats and physical experiences. As Chris mentioned the benefit of the knowledge of a person in a chatroom to verify payments, so is adding the physical contact points with the pure digital ones. That is the context for the learning dialogue.

A really interesting development. With a challenge to design these conversations using rule-based principles and machine learning support, applying it to both digital and the physical interactions. With an open setup for people to create their own language.

 

2016; capitalizing on the platforms

As always I like to look forward to the new year. Starting with a look back at the predictions of last year. I have to say that I was pretty accurate last year. Check it yourself.

So to sum up I think the home will be the main playground of the digital developments in 2015, with the internet of daily life as silent revolution. Impacting some of our habits and devices we use. The move to private messaging communities will have big impact and next to that we could be really preparing for a new sensing communication language that will however fly later.

More than ever the first seeds were planted for the things to happen later, like in 2016. As the messaging as platform, a lot is said on that in 2015 and is happening big time in China. It will definitely execute in 2016.

The new platforms for our smart homes as silent revolution is also something that happened with a couple of players. Samsung got into the market with the acquisition of SmartThings, the new Apple TV as platform can be seen as a move into the home, Amazon Echo products, and of course NEST platform from Google. That one is the most interesting to watch. It is clear that Google is trying to enter the home to collect user data there. Nothing secret there anymore. The big question is what they will do with the data. Expect more products and services connected to the platform to generate data. Leveraging the platform as service to – for instance – advertisers will follow later (2017). I am very interested if Google will make some serious steps in making the new invisible design patterns for data driven real life products at the next I/O.

Apple is also always interesting to take as reference for predictions. Everyone predicting the future talks on Artificial Intelligence as the thing to go big in 2016. Apple will try to play an important role. The way they build in more helping functionality in iOS building on your data is paving the way for more serious AI driven services. We will also see the first tangible products that use the SDK for making the product smart. If the SDK is opened up of course to external use…
The same goes for haptics. I was right last year that the integration of haptics in Apple Watch is important but very basic. With the roll-out of 3D touch to the phone and laptop will continue this year. Only if there is a serious installed base we can expect to open up the possibilities of haptic to use for real functions instead of the limited possibilities now. Expect that with iOS10.

Twitter is in decline. Not falling yet in 2016 but if they do not find a new purpose it will be hard in the years after. It moved very rapidly to Instagram, and Snapchat.
Snapchat did grow strong in 2015 indeed, even more than expected. Will continue to do so and is more and more adopted with broader audiences. There will be more discussion on the business model of the service. A connection can be made with VR. 2015 was not yet the year for VR breakthrough but certainly the first steps are taken to have a bigger impact in 2016. Snapchat is showing how to augment real video with animations. It is acclaimed they storing the visual information of our faces as valuable data. VR concepts could very well leverage that. Expect some examples on that.

A lot more can be said on 2016 and beyond, but I keep it to this. The platforms created in 2015 will start to collect our behavioral data and will offering helpful services as tradeoff. We will start to get used to have a dialogue with the products we use, and have more tangible interactions at the same time.
I hope we will remain gaining more awareness on the systems we live in and the consequences our behavior has. Just using the P word without offering actionable tools is not useful. We will see new forms of design thinking on systems (like design for agency, meta design, playful), good signposts for some increased literacy in 2016.

Have a great 2016!

A new force awakens

This evening I saw the latest Star Wars movie. And there was an interesting thing happening. The story is just like the first 3 movies solid and appealing, and the nice thing is that just as the first movie (episode IV) you feel the seventies, here you feel the 10s in the way storytelling is laid out. Think Game of Thrones.

But that is not the interesting thing. For me it was striking how the new BB-8 droid took the stage as leading character in the movie. Droids have an important place in Star Wars since the beginning, but this time it was a bit different:

R2D2 is a friendly smart droid that generates lots of empathy, but BB-8 had more emotions in its moving, and in its interactions. At the same time is the droid more basic in form.

BB-8 was from the beginning the leading character. Not next to the real main characters as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, in this movie they are almost like the supporting role.

Is this important? It is I think for one of the first times that robots have that human touch. Where in movies like Wall-E the robots are more special constructed as a character (also done very well), is it extra interesting this droid is in the basic setup rather realistic and not over romanticised.

I wonder if this positioning of BB-8 in the movie can have the same role for the appreciation and understanding of human droids, as Her had for artificial intelligence operating systems. We will maybe not see it directly in our personal environment, but it paves the way for a new way of looking to these robots. A new force of robotic love awakens…

Thanks to @lalalinder for sharping the idea with her reactions to this tweet.

 

The end of the internet as we know it

We are approaching a new year and there will be a lot of predictions on what the coming year will bring. I expect I will do something like that too again.
But it is also interesting to think and wonder on the bigger changes, longer changes sometimes. This morning I read an interview with long time respected Bruce Sterling in a Dutch magazine that sparked me to think on the state of the internet. The role is shifting as it remains a source for the things we do, one of the most important ones still.

We growing however in an functional internet. The internet as a medium on it’s own will have less importance as people are moving their communication to other places. And media consumption shifts to services captured in app on the devices we wear close to us or use for entertainment activities. Mobile phones, wearables, smart screens, all information is captured in streams. The internet facilitates the connectivity and is the management platform.

The functional internet is also part of our physical world. The connected things are all about connective tangible interactions with our cloud services. The internet facilitates here a new type of things that become adaptive to the context and use, I wrote on that before. The internet has not a presence on its own here, it is the back-end of the functions we use.

The functional internet is also in the messaging platforms, the closed communication services we use more and more as replacement for interaction with our peers, but is also the new media platform for brands to communicate with consumers.

The shift to a proprietary internet where the closed services becoming bigger as the the open internet is not a new development, it has been discussed before with the grow of Facebook. We see now the change emerge on all levels of our lives and the things we do. The combination of the digitised physical experience and the messaging platforms will change the character of products we use.
Our perception of our self is linked to that. As the reality is already in place that software is eating our world – everything is becoming software, the follow up is that we are as humans becoming eaten by the software too as our digital and physical presences is melted together.

An simple example is how a daily vlogger like Casey Neistat are now living their lives as a movie, and do real life decoupage where reality and representation are mixed up.
In that sense we will also deal with the dangers, the data leaks and manipulations of our behaviour, by developing a new literacy that is focused on data agency.

So in the end is the functional internet something we will be embedding in our being.
The end of the internet as we know it is complete as we have absorbed the characteristics of the hyper connectivity in all we do and are.

Thingscon 2015; on the core of the new things

Last Friday December 4 the second edition of Thingscon Amsterdam. In 2014 we organised the first edition of this Amsterdam edition as part of our 20 years anniversary of Info.nl. Thingscon is a Berlin conference that focuses on the design and making of the new hardware, the connected things. Often referred to as the Internet of Things, the approach Thingscon is more on the changes happen in things and manufacturing as result of the connectedness, than for instance a discussion on infrastructure, big data or cloud. It is all part of the total system, but we reckon it more interesting to think on the impact with our relation to things.

With this second edition we aimed to reach more people. We kept the one day format (in Berlin it is a two day conference), and we also sticked to the mix of plenary inspirational talks in the afternoon and in-depth workshops for everyone in the morning. We started with two keynotes this time to make the day more as one full story instead of two separate parts.

One of the ideas behind the composing of the program is a something I addressed in the short introducing presentation: we need to think beyond ‘fake IoT’, the products with an app. The Internet of Things is rather on top of the hype cycle at this moment, and that translates in a lot of concepts where an existing product is extended with an app that functions as remote control and monitoring of that one product. I think real value emerge if the connection between things with their surroundings and other things unlocks new uses, new functions. This is something that Rob van Kranenburg already described some years ago as pro-active thing-systems.

 

I used the example of a car. Nothing wrong that BMW adds an app to their car as extension of the car, but it does not do anything with the car as a product. That is something that is happening with Tesla where with the Model X is acclaimed as the first steps to the self-driving Uber with its recognizing of people approaching the car and opening it automatically. The Tesla is much more a connected system, a mobility software with a symbiose with its hardware.

I think that the core of things is changing -or can change- with adding electronics and connectivity. New uses emerge, new design principles are necessary to plan the things that flourish in the moment of use, that gets the real function when the thing is used.

There is a challenge to make these things. You need a framework where the things and the digital mixes with the inner data and algorithms, with the sensors and connectivity, thinking of energy harvesting and the connection with external systems. That is the challenge for the design and making of the new things. It was very nice to see how the different talks of the speakers followed the same chain of thoughts and adds a lot to this  as inspiration.

Claire Rowland was very clear in their focus on the design of the things that let the users understands the system behind and the importance of interusability. Nadya Peek showed how important the low level making is, with machines that make machines. Tina Aspiala showed us the impact of the new things on the experience of things, something Matt Cottam uses in his installations, making the invisible material characteristics visible. Martijn Thé made very clear that the profit of designing the good things is in the detailing of the software. Ross Atkin took us to the city level emphasizing that the clever city is build with things that deliver a human profit.

The same mix we made with the workshops that focused often on the methods to design and think on several aspects of the new things. From the Thingclash in our world of ubiquitous connectedness, to the haptic interactions to mediate social relations. Imaging the future and designing the connections. Using gaming principles and connecting your body, it all was a great palette of inspiration I think (and hope).

I am happy that this edition turned out that well. This Thingscon showed how a lot of different people are inspired with the new things. It would be great to build upon the event to make more connections between the people. To zoom in on certain topics with specialists and those that apply them in the new things. We are thinking on the possible ways to do so, let me know if you want to join.

To close, this nice aftermovie gives some first impressions of the day. The videos of the talks will follow as soon as possible. Hope to meet you again soon!

 

 

Read the tweets of the day here.

Battle of the platforms part 2 is about the seams

A couple of years ago we discussed the battle of the platforms with big players dividing the pie on Internet. The big 4: Google, Apple, Facebook, with Amazon as outsider providing the ecosystem for making. An interesting aspect was (is) the proprietizing of the internet, the closed systems. This has only become more apparent in the way we use the internet for instance with the closed chat systems like Whatsapp.

With the internet of things is one of the lines of discussion always on standards. Can we create a new standard that has the same status as the internet itself has. That is now far from true, all kind of different alliances are defining communication standards for the specific data communication in IoT. In a blogpoast Martin Spindler shares some good thoughts. The article from Theo Priestley he mentions shows a matrix with the big players and the alliances.

It is interesting that in this overview the big four are not mentioned. That could very well be because the parties are more active on a manufacturing level than a servicelevel, it is all on the embedded layer. But maybe there is also a part that is overlooked. The big question Priestley also touches: do we really move to one standard that functions as a new internet in a world of connected things (life)? Fragmentation is a much more likely scenario. Proposition driven systems that create seams for interoperability. Services will work together if we choose to connect the APIs.

We will live in our own default ecosystem more and more, and connect services from others based on exchanges of data in the moment. Ephemeral data as Maciej Ceglowski describes. The real war of the platforms will move to the seams. The question is how the seams will be controlled. With new design challenges.

New Apple goodies

The evening the big 2015 Apple event took place again. A lot of the predictions came out, so no big surprises; a iPad Pro, a new iPhone and Apple TV. This will not mean it will not have an impact.

The iPad Pro was needed as the gap between iPhones and iPad became too little and there is no need for using the iPad anymore for normal tasks. The new iPad is aiming for specialising uses like reading, drawing or professional use. I don’t know about the keyboard but a stylus is very useful for drawing.

Talking on the Apple TV. With the big words in the legacy of Steve Jobs it was to be expected that the result of the reinvention of TV is less excited than hoped. Nevertheless it app model could make it possible to give the TV a new place in the home, especially if the apps can link all devices.

Most interesting is the new step with Siri for interacting with Apple TV. The conversational interface is definitely on the rise and we will see a lot happening. Apple TV can help to accelerate this trend.

The iPhone 6s has two important new things. The force touch -now called 3D Touch- in combination met haptic feedback will create a revolution in the design patterns from mobile devices. Touch and feel is a very powerful design material that has been underestimated till now. Just like a lot of product inventions of Apple the impact is in the detailing and possibilities it unlocks.

The second important introduction seems not so big maybe. The lease option for the phone offered by Apple, a subscription model with guarantee for the latest models now, but this could be very well the first step to a total package of Apple that surpasses the mobile carriers with a software based subscription.

So as always not the direct news is the most important and impactful, the possibilities and hints to the future are.