target is new

an exploration in the new

Connected Everyday and the life of things

I was lucky to notice a tweet on Thursday evening, otherwise I would have missed a symposium at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering in Delft at Friday, dedicated to Connected Everyday. The symposium is dedicated to the inaugural lecture of Elisa Giaccardi later that day, but I was triggered with the line-up of speakers in the morning. Three of them I knew already by their reputation for good thinking on a field I find most interesting; connected products and the deeper impacts.

We live in a world where digital data, material objects and social practices are increasingly connected and interdependent. What are the challenges in designing for this new ecology of materials, artefacts and interactions?

Paul Dourish started off with a more philosophical look to the concept of Everyday. He mentioned different concepts of Everyday: Everyday as ubiquitous, everyday as casual, as residual, as repressive, as revolutionary, as collective, as site of study, as site of design.

Everyday is restructuring our perspective on life, my everyday is different from yours. As site of study it is interesting how he described the participation in the researchable world. Reshaping the concepts of everyday through design is in the end the topic of now.

Next was Chris Speed. He talked on Fast Algorithms and Slow things. And the concepts of time. The framework of everyday is future and past. He explored a bit further into the notion of time. Showing how stories told in movies of 6 seconds on Vine have a different meaning as the 140 characters of Twitter, that cost us also 6 seconds to read. And he let us experience via Speeder how speeding up the reading pace transforms meaning.

Sensors make us watch without eyes. New realities emerge. I liked his app TMIY, Take Me I’m Yours, where you can put geofenced based messages to objects based on place and time. The theory of spimes brought to practice. I think his distinction between objects and things, where things have context of presence, is very valuable. New economic models will emerge from the connected things.

Third speaker was Ron Wakkary. I did not see a talk of him before, but I liked it very much. He goes into the way we need to design for these everyday practices. We don’t call it functionality, it just does things. He also reject the idea of users. We have to look to these new things as self controlling entities. Unselfconsious interactions.

Screenshot 2014-01-27 04.27.32
A model

He used a couple of research project that made sense. The table non table project and the indoor weather station. Both designed for a kind of own will in the things. And as his main conclusion: “that over time lead to subjective and possibly unknowing improvements in the relationships of artifacts, evironments and people.”

Last speaker was Jack Schulze. Well-known for his agency BERG London, that is now fully transformed into a product company BERG Cloud with signature product Little Printer. He did not talk on this product, but on more meta level consequences of these new products. Systems are leaking into our experiences. Every connected product brings a system with it.

The example of cash is very strong. The product itself is quite simple. A coin. But it represents a lot. Like ownership. That change as you don’t hold the coin yourself. The object is just a carrier of the system behind it. And make the context of use clear.
And the example of Google; as a search action to pizaa of 0.26 seconds can return 213 million result, what is the thing carrying with it.

There are four orders of products, an evolution.

  1. Shelf demonstrable value
  2. Action at a distance, autonomous connection
  3. Independent connection to the web, the objects are part of the services of the internet
  4. They speak to and affect each other, an ecology of things

To use something, you have to be able to perceive it. You have to make things that have heart. That is what connects us to the things. Like the Apple iOS comparison to Android. iPhone feels better because the makers care.

The panel discussion delivered some extra bits of insights. The format to let objects ask questions to the speakers worked out very well. We learned a nice entertaining activity; read the reviews of the Roomba and see how the product is having a soul for people.

Schulze added that it is remarkable to realize how the very same book of 1999 -say Harry Potter- is so different now with all its context you get when reading in 2014. That is the impact of systems and spimes.

Wakkary put it nice: products are interventions in situations. And as Chris Speed said; objects are no things. Things are events with objects as artefacts. Combine this with algorithms and it can get messy.

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!

Design by storytelling at THUTC

Monday November 25 another edition of This happened Utrecht took place (THUTC), edition 18. Because of other appointments I missed the first speaker; Mapije presented her toolkit for making an adventure game of your home. Sounds like an interesting project so I will rewatch this online later.

The other three talks were amusing and interesting. In all three storytelling played an important role I think in one way or another. Or better said, the way using storytelling in the design proces.

Niels ‘t Hooft seems rather clearly connected to this storytelling; he is presenting the proces of writing a novel. He took us through his process of building characters, plotting activities. Also testing the development of the characters and the interdependencies. I think that the steps of writing he took do resemble the way I write (no novels though): 1. write down the story without bothering on style or grammar, 2. write up doing a rework, 3. a paper check, printed out story, 4. first draft. He mapped those to the chapters and those could have different speed and phases.

thutc18 niels

All in all it gave a great insight in his process of ‘designing a story’, and also the changes that occur along the way. I can recommend the book for sure, it is a real page turner.

The talk by Norah Gauw from Developlay on the iPad game for toddlers -Nott won’t sleep- to learn to sleep also have a important role for storytelling. The game is smartly constructed to make the toddlers learn rituals to go to sleep by telling a story. A short story of a couple of minutes but the build in tension is important for the effect.

She shared some learnings that brings designing an app for such young children. Like the simple fact that a request for ratings of the app (very important for the app marketing) is switched off because toddlers loose their interest than right away.

The last presentation was by architecture agency ONL on one of their projects Parametric Climbing Wall. The work of these agency is always characterised by the marriage between architecture and programming. They are able to make forms generated by code that could not exist without this design approach. This project is a wonderful example of this.

The climbing wall is made out of several pieces of wood that are all different. The volume is never bigger than a standard which makes it possible to make it for the same amount of money. The trick is that the office is connecting the design directly to the production machines (CNC) without an in between layer of technical drawings.

It is remarkable how the approach of Oosterhuis is creating a story in the technology, the only way to be able to make this work is to understand the ‘thinking’ of the machine and build a story in code to achieve the projected results.

Step by step digital blurring of our reality

Due to my holidays I missed a bit on the reports of the new Google Nexus 5 and KitKat. In this article on Wired on especially the new functions of KitKat it strikes me how it seems to be another step in the path where our reality is enhanced with digital experiences. Or as often is called; the post digital era we are in now for some time.

This is in the way it is intelligent in helping you finding the right person in your phonebook when using voice searching, and even more how it combines all external knowledge in your phone to find the right address of a business. Context is taken into account and your phone carries more than ever the knowledge of the world with it. This is exactly also what makes the Google Glass design concept interesting; Google is reinventing contextual experiences.

“The camera’s HDR function is fantastic in weirdly lit situations to get the most out of color and range.”

This was another trigger. You can read it as a review of the HDR color correction, but I think it is a signpost how the phone is filling in reality with the knowledge of the context. A reality that need not necessary to be there.

The internet of things vs connected devices

In a blogpost on Numrush I ran into an overview made by Stained Glass Lab on the a categorisation of the internet of things and connected devices. Reading the post I got the feeling those two things were taken together as one, which is not the case in my opinion. Probably blinded by the fancy infographic. I found the original post which put it more in context, Stained Glass Lab makes the differentiation in a sense. Still I like to share my thoughts on the differences here (again?).

Connected devices are smart devices that function smart because of their connection with the internet, or with the connection to another smart device. A device has a function on its own that originates only from the fact that it is connected.

The internet of things functions on a level higher, the concept that there is a network of connected things that in itself don’t to be smart things. The smartness (forgive me this hollow word smart) is generated by the fact that they connect to each other and the internet. The smartness is the system, not the object (eg. device) itself…

In that sense connected devices can and will be part of the total ecosystem that the internet of things is. One connected device does not make the internet of things.

An extra layer here is the distinction in reactive and proactive internet of things, as coined by Rob van Kranenburg. Reactive internet of things focusses on the value that emerges from the relations between the things. Extra value is generated as the system of the connected things becomes a value on its own. It generates more value by working together, and only by being connected.

Devices like smartphones, watches, glasses etc. function more as a remote control to the internet of things than as the defining elements. I used the difference between optimised and meaningful internet of things before. I hope some time soon be able to make time to elaborate a bit more on these things.

This happened Amsterdam on framing one’s reality

This happened Amsterdam was a pleasant experience again. For the mix of talks and nice crowd. Some reflections on the talks and topics touched.

Starting with the a project made by IJsfontein on dementia – Into D’mentia - talking on designing for emotions. Raimond wanted to push a bit to many slides into the ten minutes and had not the time for deepening on the emotion design part. The concept is interesting, letting people experience the dementia feeling by using a voice in the head. Knowing the process of dementia from nearby I know this phase is only part of the illness, but one the most nasty ones indeed. Interesting to see how to create a new reality by designing the context of experience.

A different kind of design is made by the guys of Human. The app that wants to contribute to your health by stimulating enough movements on a day (30 minutes). Paul Veugen told us a very clear story on the way their startup was shaped and how they learned the value of their service by looking into the data of the users. Creating tools for extracting those data turned out to be an important element in their design process. Also interesting is how the app is stimulating the use and transforming movement to appealing content and triggers. In the Q&A the predictable questions on startup culture and data reliabilty were covered. Luckily we could discuss another interesting aspect too: the relation with the app is for a lot of users – like me – connected to the notifications. I hardly ever open the app, and I am not alone in that behavior. Designing notifications is still a challenge for Human because of the fear to break the trust with the users when to communicate too loud. A valid strategy, an interesting element of the design.

How different is the talk of Lieven Standaert on his project Aeromodeller II. He is looking for a good way to make a hydrogen airship, and went through a lot of rough stages. He used the craftsmanship of Gaudi to model the form of the balloon, by letting fluid in upside down bags, define the form factor. Interesting also how the project in the end (now) is evolving into a project to build the wind turbine to test the balloon.

Last of the evening was a duo presentation by two designers and tinkerers of Commonspace talking on their one off (two off to be precise) Bioscope video player. It is based on a Raspberry Pi board, customized to the product. I liked the whole approach to work on framing open and abundant content in a new form factor and in that sense discussing the abundance of movie materials. The apparatus is very cute looking, which helps. The product will not be on the market, now only two are made. For investors it could be a successful product. Especially if it can be connected to online url’s as Ianus mentioned.

It did not boiled into a clear theme for me (to break the tradition). The products are transforming the reality in a way by adding some new interaction models. In Biosphere, and Into D’mentia. And in Human in a sense too by influencing your behavior. All in all in the end it was another inspiring This happened.

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.

This happened Rotterdam and the art of interacting

To keep up the tradition I make a report on the This happened evening I visited. This time Rotterdam had it’s second edition in Worm. A nice place that was also subject of one of the talks. The talk of Césare Peeren, the architect of the interior was nicely kick-off by moderator Ianus Keller. The way of working is all on interacting with an existing building and the delivered materials. The interior is made with panels of Airbus airplanes and the old lockers of Tropicana. I also like the simple way he created a new entrance by cutting a piece from the wall and moved it to the pavement.

You can find these kind of interaction patterns also in the first talk of Jasper van Loenen. He made a kit that can turn every object – within some boundaries like weight – into a drone. The boundaries are here of course important too. A dialogue with the material that you want to use for the drone can only be relevant if the boundaries provide resistance to conquer. His work is open to use for everyone.

The third talk of Emma Heitbrink seems a bit less developed. Literally because it is just a concept and in that sense lacks it the value of boundaries. The stop-over place SolarZone is built with energy from solar tiles and can also been seen as an interaction with the material; the whole project is all about making tangible what the solar tiles are. TNO is planning to use the ideas in the development of the solar tiles, which on its own is an interesting material indeed.

The last talk was by Spark on their flying car. The car works in a manner that all lovers of scifi technology fiction get enthusiastic, with some sleek details as the rotors unfolding like a round stiletto knife. Robert Barnhoorn showed us above all how long the road for these kind of products is. He also emphasized the importance of sleek renderings to sell the product and convince all kind of stakeholders. Here too you can see the way resistance – in this sense more politics – motivates and leads to better solutions.

So interacting with resistance turns out again a great motivator for intriguing products.

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.

Do we lose agency with exponential technologies?

At Monday September 9 I attended another edition of Singularity University NL sessions, this time on Ethics, Values and Norms. The short seminar consisted of one keynote by Philip Bery, professor in Philosophy of Technology at University of Twente. Next to that Yuri van Geest, ambassador of Singularity University in the Netherlands gave some extra context. The attendees discussed the topic in four groups: big data/AI, robotics/drones, bio,

Philip Bery layed out the work they do on formulating ethical models. The focus on value design is interesting for all of us designers, especially if we are moving in systems that are influencing our life. As he made clear, the technology changes our agency of life.

Bery stated that ethical issues are always present, even if we do not know yet if and what issues technology trigger. We need to design proactively technology artifacts to promote desired values. It is a balancing act between technology features, values and context of use.

Yuri showed some interesting examples after the talk of Bery, like the Nordstrom tracking case (that seems to be stopped already) and the bio attack thread that can take place on a personal level now. He made clear that our behavior generates unique sets of data, that can be connected to the very person. So we need to manage our data exhaust.

In the group discussions it turns out – judging the presentations at the end – that central themes for all was unawareness of the consequences, and the need for literacy, and the losing of agency that is the result.

In the group discussions the proposed solutions remain on the first level like creating rules and education. Philip Bery proposed value-sensitive design is in that sense a better fundament for thinking on these topics, the real shift needs some serious shift in thinking.

It was valuable to notice the attitude of this audience and the willing to seriously discuss these topics. Hope it will be a integrated part in our shaping of the future.


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