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.

Design for timely interactions

On Medium I wrote a longer post on a model that describes the approach to timely interactions which are especially applicable for design for wearables.

The new category of devices we call wearables are entering the market for a couple of years now. Smart watches and Smart glasses are the most well-known. The interaction model for services on these devices have a different architecture than that of mobile phones and tablets. Looking into the setup and use of the Google Glass last year I developed a model to describe the new interactions. This model is also very applicable for the smartwatches that come to market. The Notifaction Model try to give insights in the changes.

Read the whole article on Medium.

Beme app as ultimate execution of the private live sharing era

A couple of months I wrote some thoughts on the role of Meerkat in the new drive for sharing the live moment privately. Ephemeral media with an extra touch of private. I still am a big fan of the principles of Taptalk where you share the moment without knowing what you shared giving it a much more real feel. And creates the ultimate private connection with the viewers.

Yesterday Casey Neistat revealed the details of the new app he is building with his team: Beme. And it looks like they take this same principle and add a very nice physical feel to it. The use of a different way to start the sharing with the proximity sensor have the same effect as Taptalk has even further: you don’t experience what you share and you are liberated from boundaries.

At the same time Snapchat is booming and people sharing more and more their little life stories. It is the ultimate context for the new app. A nice touch to that is the way the app is coming into the market thru the daily vlog Casey has set up. As follower of his daily vlog the last 114 days Casey established a real connection with his live. Maybe Beme is not meant for vlogging like Casey does, but much more for the little moments in life. At the same time the vlogs have the feel of a chain of those little moments. The vlog is like a directed version of Snapchat, telling a story every day that looks like a story that just happened.

I have not be able to test app yet (hope to receive a code soon :-). Curious if the new way of sharing will be something that get traction and if the holding of the phone to the chest will be a new gesture that triggers new behaviour in the end and become a new Snapchat.

SXSW2015 day 5; smart human failures

The closing day. I missed the first session slot and my first session at 11am was sold out session. After changing venue I ended up in a session on the role of our new tech in spiritual thinking, remembering our diseased.
The topic went a bit broader on the function collected data plays and how to value this. Not real new concepts if you followed series like Black Mirror. One question from the audience triggered an interesting thinking: is our brain the center of our universe or is it just the embassy of our digestive system. It made me think how this relates to systems of sensors and AI. The sensors can have a much more important role.

Funny enough it connected nicely to the panel on the smart home I attended afterwards. One of the points there is how we need to speak of a conscious home more than a smart home. The sensors are getting smarter but need to open up to make valuable combinations possible. Philips is investing in a open platform and Nest is active in connecting other services to there own, so there is hope. Still the question remains how much smartness we can handle in our personal space. Something that was present in earlier talks too. See also the tweets on Storify.

Astro Teller -a keynote speaker, leading GoogleX laboratory developing moonshots- showed us how experiment and smart failure is key for (Google’s) innovation. The role of design is not covered well in my opinion though. And failure should not be a self for-filling prophecy. Failure could however been build in as part of the market product in the form of adapting to the user and usage.

Bruce Sterling wrapped up SXSW as tradition with some good points to think about. It sums up this years SXSW for me. The marriage between the human and tech will lead to new types of products that remain adapting to the user. Looks like that the ‘impulse shaped services’ can now become reality. The coming week I will process all the impressions with other visions and share this with you on March 24.

SXSW2015 day 4; tech as material

Day 4 already. The Monday is always a bit different. Hard to pinpoint why, maybe because you feel you have passed half of the conference. Or because it seems a bit more quiet because some of the Americans have to go back to work after the weekend. I did not have to stand in line for the sessions I attended.

I had a day with some different types of talks and topics. Starting with a wearable/3D printing/new material, to biomaterials, via surveillance and trust, to sharing service Lyft, to sensorbased storytelling and finally on new models of the Internet.

The first panel was organised by the Carnegie Mellon University and showed four projects on expressive interactive interfaces. On flexible 3D printed clothes. And another on expressive and learning light. A plaster 3D printer was interesting for the way it followed and learned from human movements. The fourth showed two examples on 3D mapping of body shape and movement and the translation to materials. Tactum and Reverb projects, see the site of Madlab.

The merge of technology and human went a step further in the talk of Robert Langer. He showed how far we are by making implantable devices that fight diseases. In his talk he told about the long road it takes from research to approval and treatment. The developments are going rapidly though now and it has become a 3rd approach to treat cancer. See my photos in the Storify with some details.

The interesting thing on the session on surveillance was the pannelist that was a former NSA director, Stewart Baker. It delivers definitely good discussions on the role of government versus peoples literacy.
Privacy was discussed and how it has almost always been tied to your ability to pay. And how neutral is an algorithm? Every algorithm is editorial.
Trust was the key point of discussion, trust in governments. But it subject was to big for a good panel discussion.
Stewart Baker: The reason Silicon Valley is less sensitive to privacy is because they’re already living in the future.

One of the future routes was laid out in the last session on the ‘end of the internet’. Not literally, but it discussed the new forms of internet infrastructure with mesh networks between mobile phones. This will be especially interesting in developing countries, but it could also grow into the extra layer to the private social networks we all are using with our Whatsapp groups.

You could imagine that services like Uber and Lyft create their own mesh networks and provide the internet connection for clients as extra product. Something that was not discussed by the founder of Lyft – the American only Uber-x competitor. A smart guy that understands that the world is changing if our mobility changed. We use lots of land and energy to mobility, in LA it is half of the city space.

A panel on storytelling engines for smart environments learned us that those engines are more methods. The work from Meghan Athavale from Lumo Play showed how much playful design and storytelling are linked.

Making the story first is crucial for developing a model for the new sensor-based world, the technology is an augmentation on the real world as Lance Weiler said. Which is true but we saw earlier how those two concepts ‘human’ and ‘tech’ are integrating. Even in the physical space. Making stories and let people experience them is also a way to learn on the consequences. We need to have insight in the decisions the AI makes for us.

It seems that we are moving very fast to marriage of tech and human interactions, but the interfaces for understanding both sides are crucial to move ahead.

SXSW Day 3; a thin line between smart and smart-ass

On day 3 the themes of wearables, mixing real and digital, AI and new interactions were present again.

I started the day with a panel on fashion technology. A good mix of panellists covered things as the characteristics of materials and the role of fashion with smart garments. Topics as storing data in the garment, making clothes that adapt to the outside temperature, and generating it’s own energy by your movement. The good thing was that also the manufacturing was covered and topics as stimulating hormones fabrics came by. New concepts as mushrooms that become a organic material that can grow into the right form. And of course 3D printing in clothes, were our Dutch designer Iris van Herpen was mentioned as haute couture inspiration.

One of the panellist -Billy Whitehouse- wore here navigation jacket that has navigation signals by haptic feedback. It is important to have others than fashion designer involved. Industrial designers have less fear for fashion rules.

New interfaces for the real-digital world were touched in a presentation on speech interaction. Some solid facts on how to design for speech dialogs. On ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition), NLU (Natural Language Understanding) and appropriate dialog response.
The talk did not make the specific connection to Internet of Things, but gave good design considerations for designing for speech

  • understanding expectations
  • leverage the strenghts of speech
  • partner with other modalities (screens, gestures)
  • frame the scope
  • support what is natural
  • provide conversational feedback
  • identify ‘errors’ as opportunities
  • consistency for a point of view. Cross device.

Overall: provide conversational feedback. Speech systems should follow our conversational norms. Indentify errors as opportunities.

Later I attended a session on the Myo, the new arm device that makes gesture control possible. Interesting device that he live demoed by using it as presenter remote for his Prezi. It is a smart device and he made clear how much tuning was necessary to get the musle reading right. I think it is most interesting when you have an open system you can calibrate yourself, and I think that is possible.
His trends: 1. Interfaces as next major advance computing, 2. next generation interface blur the lines humans & computers and 3. it will not be a cyborgs future.

The last talk I like to mention is the one of Molly Steenson. The room was quite empty. Apparently is the connection smart cities and architecture is not that hot. She had a solid story on the thin line between being smart and smart-ass in context of the city. With some good references to earlier history, especially the work of Cedric Price and his generator city project. Google seems to make this now for real at is new campus. See some of the slides in the Storify of the day.

The thin line is definitely important for more than the smart-city concept. The last presentation I saw (by accident) on future fashion shopping concepts how a techno focus can pass the line.