target is new

an exploration in the new

Category: trends

The holy grail of the private moment

Since half a year now or so I’m using Taptalk. This Dutch/German app grew out of DingDong app and is unleashing a bunch of new apps that are a kind of retake more or less literally. Instagram introduced an app named Bolt just yesterday and earlier this week Mirage was launched, made by the people behind Yo. Both had done a shameless copy of the interaction principle of tap-to-share ultra short interaction model.

One of the makers of Taptalk did react on this fact by stating that they don’t really care because of their steps advantage in thinking and roadmap they have. And I believe him, not specifically for that roadmap, but because there is an angle in the Taptalk app that Bolt and Mirage are missing because they just focus on the quick share. The crux of the new movement of apps, that are originated by Snapchat, is the private character. We go from moment sharing – the field Instagram has conquered – to private moment sharing. This requires a different approach to master.

With Taptalk there are clear and hidden elements that create an extra private feeling. The clear thing is the location sharing. By adding the location of the moment it becomes way more private in perception. It seems simple but is so important for the feel of it. Also the way that only the one that shares reveals it location, something that was different from DingDong. I think this works better.

And there are also more hidden ways the app is more private I think. It lies in the obscurity of things. In the awkwardness of the sudden sharing, the puzzling interaction. Something that becomes of course less the case for regular users, but remains an important feel. The fact that there is no history, that there is a weird indicator in the avatar pics. The app is constructed around obscurity. Obscurity in an engaging way. That is different from the irritation factor Slingshot is generating with it’s forced communication chain.

The attention for Taptalk by Instagram is logical. They have no stake in the private message domain that is becoming more and more important. Like Whatsapp is replacing the function of Facebook and Twitter because we are rather sharing in our known groups. Instagram has introduced the messaging function but probably sees not many use (speculative). Mother Facebook is separating the Messaging app, Instagram is now doing the same with Bolt. Breaking up apps to their different functions is a trend on its own.

Unless I think that Instagram did not really get the essence of this new private moment sharing, they have a chance in succeeding as they find a way to embed their unique value of manipulating reality (filtering) and adding that to the private moment. Apart from that we will see that the new tap-to-direct-share interaction paradigm will dominate apps from now on. And so will private communication.

Evgeny Morozov inspiring a balancing of viewpoints

This evening I attended a debate session in De Balie organized around the Dutch introduction of the book by Evgeny Morozov: To Save Everything, Click Here. The writer was present to kick-off the discussion. Three others played the role as referent (Hans de Zwart, Linnet Taylor, Dimitri Tokmetzis). It became interesting as the floor was opened to the audience. I am not reporting on the session in detail, you can rewatch the whole piece if you want.

The value of the work of Morozov and this debate is not his standpoints as such, but it is the discussion it triggers. For me two important concepts are linked (and I don’t mean to be complete in the analysis, these are mine main observations).

First is the notice we have entered a state of total digital life. We are post digital and beyond mobile. We live our life like it is digital, in our behaviour, in our expectations. Next step is the connection with the real world, the creation of ‘solid’ touchpoints, tangible interactions. This is the solid internet. In Morozov’s world he is opposing the technology as solutionism for everything. He propose to think technology as part of our life, as something to live with, not to live by. We need not to be servants to technology, not to be pure slaves to data optimised behavior, we need to keep thinking. Something I agree upon.

Secondly we need to think how to react. We need to master this digital life, to learn and have literacy to play the system. We live in a world that becomes more and more defined in rules, adapting to our behaviour, but also trying to influence our behaviour.
We can fight this situation by ignoring technology, but I think it is a better strategy to learn to master this world. We will have a continuum of virtual reality that we can manipulate. The smart ones will generate ghost-presences, will learn how to bend the rules.

So we need to learn how to play. And we need to be aware how digital and physical layers interfere and add on. This is not something we can master in one iteration, this will take more like a generation. To help understand and learn is the important part of thinkers as Morozov. The biggest danger is the rhetoric and polarisation. I value Morozov as inspiration for this thinking, not as the end stage of an ideology.

Do we need an identity faraday cage?

This was rather interesting tonight. I attended a session on the topic of fixing the internet. Instead of talking on the infrastructure alone privacy became a hot topic. I did not intended to direct this discussion by wearing my Glass but it did. Some people seemed to feel offended by the device, which is interesting on its own. It started with Douwe Schmidt mentioning the presence of Google in the audience through the Glass and at the end of the evening Marleen Stikker asked me to declare why I put the device on as provocation. It was not, although I thought on it wearing the device. Also as I tweeted; it is very interesting how Glass is functioning as the sharp knife of privacy, making the invisible data collecting very tangible.

For me the most relevant question of the evening was that of Hans Maarten van den Brink. He wonders what to do; hide or regulate? I think that is the valid question. We have to deal with this reality in more intelligent ways than purely try to protect all our doing from leaving trails. Of course it is wise to be aware of what is happening and what you share without knowing. Data sharing literacy is so important. I hope though that we can come up with tools and solutions that alter our presence in a way we like, or give at least the control on what we want to share.

As I think that our identity is much more defined by all traces that we leave behind, and with that the profiles we build of ourselves, much more than our personal identity data like name or address. We need to design literacy first and tools for self control of our wished presence. The work of Tom Armitage I admire for that, how he is making a ghost presence.

That is the direction we need to think. More than using ultra protected devices. This is what I wanted to achieve with our privacy sensing concept and commission research on altering contexts.

I don’t think we need a faraday cage for our identity, that is not the privacy we need. I think that we need a tool that control the opening in the faraday cage, or better; we need a faraday cage that could function as our controlled self. In the meanwhile, check out the activities of the privacy cafe.

2014; balancing our life of captured moments

A new year has started. Time for some predictions to keep up a good tradition. We published already some trends on the Christmas card of (read them here in Dutch). In short: Mobile rules digital, wearables as next wave, from social to community, lean service design as approach and data as fuel.

Looking back at the predictions for 2013 as I did last year I got a feeling that a lot came true in the attention and intentions, but at the same time I could repeat the trends for 2014. There were others that coined 2013 as a lost year. Don’t agree on that, but 2013 was a year where some foundations for changes were made more than the changes itself. The explorations on Glass where important. The leap forward for electric cars. Drone delivery concepts, and the insights we gain from NSA. All important steps.

For me the big overall trend is the merge of the digital and psychical space that is tipping this year. We expected a lot from the internet of things in 2013 and we have seen a lot of attention and separate products like Hue and Nest breaking through. Still the real full connected context that shapes total new concepts and experiences is just about to start. Glass can be a driver. We played with the device build some apps already and preaching the impulse shaped services even more.

Glass and other smart wearables as the iWatch will come to the market and will connect with the psychical world via Bluetooth smart. In 2014 the first concepts and services will be introduced, conferences like SxSW and Solid will talk a lot on this, the real connected world will only emerge as the big players Google, Apple manage to create an OS-like environment where services can interact.

Google will launch definitely a model around Glass for extracting profile data into the services (Glassware) we gonna build, and Apple will introduce a variation/extension on Passbook. All seems to be in place for some serious steps here. Apple could even be the trailblazer if they get the model right in a way users understand we are entering a different world.

The model of impulse shaped services has a big relation with our even greater valuation of the now as. Snapchat is the signature service here that will have influence in new services part of existing social services.

Quantified self made it’s way to more people as predicted, becoming more part of services and products instead of separate things. Logging will be part of all system and crucial for the impulse shaped world. Interesting is how the data sensitivity will develop. With the highly contextual based services our profile and behavior will have even more influence on the day-to-day experience. If NSA secrets finds its way to a broader audience it can mean serious threat for the adoption.

We embrace also the real. 3D printing has a slow start, but could transform in a mean to freeze our continuous disappearing now experiences. Printing our life logging, expect a service for that the coming year. We need new services to make our legacy last longer than the moment. Looking for this balance between the even more digitized context and embodied experiences could become an important driver.

Have a great 2014!

Learning from Glass

As you maybe already know, at we are happy to be able to test the design and development of so-called Glassware, apps for the new catchy device of Google. Together with Daphne Channa Horn who is one of the 3 people in the Netherlands in possession of a Glass. The last month we discussed a couple of apps with three clients of that cover different aspects of the new interaction model the device forces. Together with Greenwheels, and EYE Filmmuseum we came up with some interesting concepts. The first technical proof of concepts are ready, and will be completing in some full functional apps soon. I like to share the learnings with you here too.

First of all some general thoughts. I think it is very interesting to see how the glass is demanding a new design paradigm based on timely context. More even than mobile does, because there is a lot of pull in the way mobile apps work on you smartphone. With Glass all functionality should be based on context driven push. This is highly connected with the model of impulse shaped services I developed a couple of years ago. I presented my first thoughts at Reboot11, 2009, and refined the thinking for presentations at The Next Web conference and The Web and Beyond in 2010. It is a believe that all services in an you-web-based world will develop in that direction. The you-web is the situation that all the services we use are highly personalised on our one profile. Personal products and services will be ubiquitous. Like Google Now is offering, or a car with a dashboard that adapts to you needs, and of course another sign post: the Nest thermostat that learns from the user behavior to complete its working.

In my ideas there are three fundaments in thinking on impulsed shaped services.

  • You always put the service and the use of it in the middle. Not the device or screen. The service is the linking pin, touchpoints are remote controls and views on the service.
  • You need to design for the radical now. Data and data science are the key ingredients to create profiles that learn constantly, the products and services are not static but adapt to the very moment of use.
  • Playful interactions are the way to generate the right flows, the persuasion, the behavior you want to let emerge.

Those three fundaments are still very valid, and working with a device like Google (but also a smartwatch as Pebble has the same characteristics) generates the right constrains to focus on these aspects. In the case of Glass, Google formulated four design guidelines. That map rather well.

  • Design for Glass
    Do not port existing apps or sites to Glass, start with a empty sheet. So think from the service, not from a touchpoint.
  • Don’t get in the way
    A service, and the output of it, should not lead to necessary actions. No modal interaction models. So let the use happen in the moment, and be hyper relevant only in that moment.
  • Keep it timely
    Context and moment in time are the drivers for all services. If it is not relevant in the moment, it is not relevant at all. Design for triggers in time and context.
  • Avoid the unexpected
    Glass is almost as nearby as you can get. It is important to value the user and be humble. Like the old adagio of Steve Krug: don’t make me think in hyper form.

So with this in the back of our minds we started to develop on Glassware. We chose a couple of clients of ours that could have an interesting use case, and created concepts that are differentiating in the specific elements of Glass design principles. Together with our UX designers and the learnings from the making of the first proof of concepts we came to three apps.


The first is for Greenwheels, the car sharing service. In the mobile app we already have the function built in that you can open the car with the app, without using the member card. So it was a rather small step to make this function work with Glass. The necessary ingredients are there: knowledge of location and simple interaction; as soon as the client of the car that is know to have made the reservation is standing next to the car, the service knows and asks the user if it should open the car. A nod, speaking instruction or tap on the Glass opens the car.


We combine this interaction with the service to lead you to the car in case you don’t know the exact location. Here another interesting aspect of the Glass comes to the surface; you need to have a subscription to a service, and after that it will use triggers to put notifications in the timeline. Because the timeline is the main interaction starter, you need to create moments to start the use of the service. To be clear: there is no deck with apps you can activate, this moments of notifications are the one and only triggers.

basics of glass

The basic elements of Glassware

We added some extra functions, to report damage to the car and to close the car at return. I think it is nice to create a route logging function too.

Second use case is The most near idea is to create a service that can recognize a (media) product and compare this to the database of and make it possible to buy the product at, second hand or new. We thought of some extra functions to connect the moment of use (scan) to the knowledge of That knowledge is in the recommendation engine and data behind these recommendations, and in the social data on products, as we made it for the facebook-app. So the concept we created does exactly that: scan an interesting title and receive a profile of the book, both based on object relations as social relations. The profile is the source of a list of comparable products. You can put each of the books on your wish list. The wish list is reachable via your own account on the site or app. This asynchronous behavior is much more likely, different kind of decisions in different situations.


For both the apps you see that a connection of the service to an user account is crucial. That principle is default for apps in Glass, you connect the service via a website or mobile site to your Google-account, and only than you are subscribed to use the service. It is wise to let a user make general profile-settings at that moment, as far as they are not related to the moment of use.

The last service we designed is for EYE, the iconic filmmuseum at the IJ in Amsterdam. In stead of a pull action as with, or an extended service as with Greenwheels, here we want to try to augment reality by adding a virtual exhibition to the building space. You need to understand that Glass in not suitable for augmented reality experiences like Layar or VR-glasses. You always will be experiencing a screen when watching the so-called cards. Still we tested if it is possible to create a more immersive feeling with a head talking in space, recorded on a matted black background, watched on the white ceiling of the building. This triggered us to the concept to create an experience where different movies are located in the space around you, and you need to discover those by moving your head. The gyroscope sensors are strong elements to use of the Glass, and using the moving of the head is a nice touch of interaction. We also use the movements to control the movies to pause and play. we discovered that you need to install the app on the Glass though, something that is not so well documented yet.

glass principle EYE

Principe Glassware voor EYE

The EYE case is much more on bringing your space to live and telling new stories. Something that fits very well the aim of EYE to put displays with special cameras in the entrance hall.

By designing and especially by making and testing the proof of concepts we learned a lot on the new models of interaction of Glass. To sum up:

  • The device triggers new interaction principles;
  • You need to design the different phases in the service: subscription, triggers, use in context;
  • Make timely and context relevant customer journeys;
  • Glass in its current execution is not an augmented reality device;
  • Make it super focused. In functionality and in interactions.

I really like the way Glass forces you to think in context and timely usage-driven interactions.

I also think that Glass has the potential to shape a new paradigm in ‘using’ our world based on relevancy, like Google did with search.

However Glass is some time away from entering our markets, the learnings are very valid for other wearable devices and services we are creating. Learning from Glass is in that sense a preparation for a future of even more tech enhanced experienced.

Will Apple kill NFC?

We had a keynote address on the new iPhone last Tuesday as you probably know. And a lot of people were disappointed with the news. But what else is new. At the same time the strategy of Apple remains as it was and will be: making the best products for premium prices, and earn a good living. Going for mass markets with cheap phones does not fit this idea. But I will not go into that discussion, enough people said smart things on that.

In the new presented phones there are enough interesting aspects. First is the way the 5s is becoming a hub for everything. Connecting a screen together with the move to more streaming than storing in Apple TV and we see that this is the TV set we will have. In that sense it looks a lot like the model of Google’s Chromecast, but they will be creating a more seamless experience I expect. The difference will be in connecting and connection.

One of the most interesting parts of the new step in their smart product strategy is the role of NFC. Or better, the neglecting of NFC. It seems that Apple is choosing for another technology; bluetooth, and then especially the low energy variation. They combine this with the iBeacon option in the SDK to create a better solution for NFC. The well-known strategy to try to make an experience better. This article does a good analysis on the consequences.

The use of a near field technology is highly dependable of market adoption. So we can expect a fight here on standards. It seems like Apple is planning to break the market with their preferred technology. Just like with Flash and the Floppy disk. Sometimes they win that war sometimes they don’t. Let see what happens here. It will depend on the adoption by products and services like this Estimote. One of the strong aspects of the Bluetooth model can be the possible interoperability with other solutions like mesh based product to product networks.

We enter an interesting future, that’s for sure.

Our opportunistic self surveillance

Finally be able to read this great piece from Evgeny Morozov on information consumerism and the price of hypocracy. It is describing how all developments in data exhausts and free models is creating a world were surveillance is default and not forced by authorities.

In as much as the Snowden affair has forced us to confront these issues, it’s been a good thing for democracy. Let’s face it: most of us would rather not think about the ethical implications of smart toothbrushes or the hypocrisy involved in Western rhetoric towards Iran or the genuflection that more and more European leaders show in front of Silicon Valley and its awful, brain-damaging language, the Siliconese. The least we can do is to acknowledge that the crisis is much deeper and that it stems from intellectual causes as much as from legal ones. Information consumerism, like its older sibling energy consumerism, is a much more dangerous threat to democracy than the NSA.

It is interesting how our model changed. We had a fear that total dictatorship could arise from ubiquitous surveillance. This was all based on the concept that we would be more controlled by governments by this surveillance state. That is not the case at all, it are the big corporates that are ruling the world and using the data surveillance to influence our behaviour.

And I would like to take it a step further. It is not the government, nor the corporate power and interests that in the end is ruling the data surveillance. Of course they try to manipulate us. But the most intriguing one is the way we are  doing it to ourselves. Totally in free will, because the systems that are emerging are made by us and our social will. We will grow into an ultimate bottom-up society, but with systems that rule this society which have more impact than every models we thought of before.

Understanding technology to understand life

I was watching this interview with James Bridle by Fabrica. The interview setting did not go into depth of some of the interesting topics James addresses, but as a true man putting a black card in the rendering of the future, he triggers some thoughts with me I like to freeze here.

The interesting part emerges from a mismatch (in my opinion) between the interviewer focusing on the output layer of the projects mainly the new aesthetics 8-bit stuff and the thoughts James addresses. What I find interesting is how James his sketching with technology is quite different in its approach for seeing and doing stuff. He seems to want to understand how the technology works and creates new reality, as far as I can conclude. Or maybe not fully understand, but develop a language technology and humans both understand, getting in a flow to communicate and interact on a same level. All his talks and those of others like Kevin Slavin, choose this theme. We move into a state where the technology is developing a will of its own and we will loose contact and maybe agency over technology. If we understand how technology ‘thinks’ and acts we maybe get back in the flow.

My main wonder emerging from listening is if the whole quest for understanding this technology soul is in essence driven by the quest for understanding life. We made technology ourselves, and if it is evolving in more smarter and more humanlike systems, growing slowly (or less slowly) into systems that are compatible to the system we are as human. In that sense it could learn a lot on the way human works. Not in the functional part, but in the way we having a soul and feelings etc. If we get computer systems that are comparable than we have cracked that code. Of course you need to believe that we as humans are not more than a set of rules and nodes just like computers are. But in that huge amount of nodes and and speed of inter node connections we are far away from simulating this.

There is a lot more to say on this, and to think about. For instance what is the scale of the technology model of the human . Is it one device or is it the sum up of all the devices in the world making a collective brain, like Kelly is preaching for some time. Also, in the evolution technology will be part of a common sense and this will influence the modelling.

The basic concept is not new at all, the link between technology evolving and human behaviour, but it is mostly taking the side on how technology will become smarter as humans. I think it an interesting thought that this quest for understanding could also well be triggered by the urge to understand ourselves as humans.

Some inspiration for Glass

When certain occurrences are happening at the same time it could be a signal of a new development. Like two videos I ran into this evening. When I saw the first one I was wondering if this first person shooter inspired violent video was more inspired by console game culture or by the Russian dash cam culture, because of the nationality of the makers.


Then I saw another video, that has also a heavy part of first person footage in it, totally distorted to fit the music.


And that made me think these are the signals of our future reality, as art is often an signal for the future. This is how Glass will enter our world as a new common visual language.

2013; Value as guidance

We are at the turn of the year so time for some reflections on the coming year. As always it will be an interesting year, and especially for someone like me turning my focus on the Internet of Things in the last years, many are predicting a break-through year for the connected physical world. Not so strange, a lot is happened in 2012 to pave the way, like IPv6 and some icon products. Both Google and Apple seems to invest a lot in this field.

So it is a no brainer that in 2013 the Internet of Things will be ubiquitous. I predicted it as important for 2012 too, and in a way I was right. Kickstarter had a lot of interesting connecting products and some important new introductions were done like the Philips Hue. Still the real turning point will be in 2013 and 2014 I think now.

To look at 2013 I think a couple of developments are interesting to watch, a bit more meta trends than usual maybe.

The first is DIO; do-it-ourselves.
We will see a break-through of 3D printing the coming year, but still in the stage of for example the early DTP-software early nineties. Some people are gifted to make nice things themselves, the majority will be rather poor. We will combine the new possibilities with the social behavior we developed, do it ourselves will be more important the coming year than DIY. Groups will find eachother, community sites will appear, groups in Facebook and Google will hangout making real stuff. There will be a hype as the printers keep falling in prize. At the end the trough of disillusionment will emerge. Nevertheless some valuable concepts of half fabricated/scripted products will come to market as signs for the coming time. The ones with a social angle will be most successful.

A second development is the added smartness to everything. Smartness emerges from awareness of things on their own behaviour, but more important from the usage data by the user. Quantified self will be part of product features, not a separate thing.
Robotics will become more important. Smart products are not just smart, they are replacing tasks. We will see more and more household appliances like the Roomba, or like the Nest, which is in the end also task replacement. The key of these connected products is the intelligence and the move to replace repetitive tasks.

Third is the growing data literacy. Was a trend for 2012 and will go on into 2013 even more. People are becoming more aware on the way Facebook works, and become more critical users. We will not stop using the social tools, but people will be conscious and choosing the channels based on the way data is treated. And we more and more will create a version of ourselves on social media. There will be a serious space in the market for a fair-play social platform.
Data literacy is more than social media. We are just beginning with all the data trails from products use and services like Google Now will trigger our sense for data. Still no revolution to expect though, but definitely space for smart propositions in this area.

Last one is one that is the glue for these all and the most important for the coming year(s): value in all.
We see a romantic quest for craftsmanship as a counter reaction to the post digital world we live in where everything is connected and digital. Value in the form of genuine experiences will become part of premium products and services. But also in convenient goods the story of the products, the history of the making, will be a distinction and important brand characteristic. Making stuff personal is one way to create this value, and is an important driver for the do-it-ourself movement.

Value is not just a differentiating feature, it is also crucial in using services where we exhaust data. We will more and more be aware of the privacy sacrifices that we do for using services. Data literacy and consciousness will at first result in our wish for more balance and transparency, we only share our data if direct value is the result. Like we sketched in this little movie earlier this year.

In contrast to the automated smart environment we will see that we value the imperfections, the seams. Hiding all technology is not better for a start. Depending the product, but we will like to see what is happening, feel our products.

What does this mean for 2013? More products with stories, more critical consumers, more community based consumption. With the continuing crisis (real of feel) people will mix this value-based consumption with cheap mass products. Genuine value will be part of the successful products and services of 2013.


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