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an exploration in the new

SxSW2015 day 1; high-tech and high-touch

This year I am again in Austin for SxSW (South by South West, or South by as locals say), I’m visiting the interactive conference, just like I did in 2011 and 2013. The conference is one of the biggest in the world (probable the biggest) with about 32.798 attendees. There are over a 1000 sessions in 5 days. The topics are very divers, but still you are certain that you will miss more that you can see. The experience and atmosphere is however unique, you feel that the whole world of internet is gathering in this little town in Texas.

The Friday used to be a quite start with just a couple of sessions in the afternoon. This year however it is almost a full day of sessions, starting at 11 in the morning.

For the first time I rented a bike (in advance, that is the only way) which is very convenient. The Uber driver that took me to the rental shop got me direct in the right mode telling how he drove 15 hours from Tennessee just to be an Uber driver for the week.

The first session I attended can be linked to that. Design for trust was the topic and this is even more important with all the services like Uber and Airbnb. The presenter Michael Boeke from a new company Synap mentioned Uber as a bad example and a good one. Good for the rating system of drivers and creating transparency. And bad for the fact that they are inconsistent in the storytelling and acting by the management. This consistency is one of the main drivers of trust he said, contributing to the factor of integrity. Control and transparency are the others.
The talk was nice but did not surprise. He lacked to go a step deeper in the factor of ‘trust elasticity’ as I like to call it. The threshold of our accepting of distrust when we have enough incentives.

On SxSW I like to find the more obscure talks too. This can be surprising, or it can be disappointing. The talk of Alex Wright did not live up to the expectations of sketching out a different thinking model for our connected world looking to the forgotten history of a Belgian skolar. He did the history part well with lot of nice looking old images of early systems, but did not translate to a view on the now. Maybe something for later.

After the lunch break at the official food court I did see two talks that were more related than expected at forehand. I try not to go to the big keynotes as a rule because those are covered extensively by others and also recorded for later viewing. I did end up by Daniel Pink however in the big room. I never saw him presenting before and the field of his work is highly related  to our initiatives around behavioral design. He did a bunch of well known research (for me) and packed in 7 big ideas. Watch his Crowd Control series on National Geographic.

  1. use fear the right way: to focus attention
  2. questions work a bit more engaging than statements
  3. make them rhyme
  4. social proof
  5. give people an off-ramp
  6. put a face on it
  7. try stuff, don’t take these rules for granted

The best part of his talk is the power he presented with. It was a great show.

More interesting though was the way it connected to the last speaker of the day; Cynthia Breazeal of MIT and startup Jibo. She researches the personal robot and did so by studying what makes a robot personal. So a lot of the behavioral things she experiments are linked to the one of pink.
She used packed slides with data and great movies of experiments with robots and children. I put some pictures here later, you can check the Storify. The main insight is that the personality of a robot is not a human personality, but has it’s own characteristics in an in between space between relations between human to humans and human to pets. The startup Jibo is definitely something to track, see if here research will lead to a practical to use personal assistent.

That wrapped up day 1, with the last talk the most insightful. Will go for more research driven talks the rest of the conference I hope.

This is the first of my daily wrap-ups of 2015 SxSW conference in Austin. Follow the tag sxsw2015 to find them all. 

Will SXSW trigger a new type of living media

This article was posted on Adformatie in Dutch.

Het is de nieuwste hit in de appstore: Meerkat, een app die op het eerste gezicht weinig bijzonder lijkt. Want laten we eerlijk zijn, is Meerkat eigenlijk niet anders dan een zoveelste variant op live videostreamen. Ja, klopt. Maar in vergelijking met eerdere vergelijkbare diensten als Ustream gaat het niet alleen om het maken en vastleggen van video.

Meerkat is gefocust op meekijken en is daartoe volledig geïntegreerd met Twitter. Dankzij die integratie vindt de app makkelijk z’n weg in je sociale context.

Een vergelijkbare transitie is te zien bij bij Snapchat. Een half jaar geleden schreef Naveen Selvadurai, de co-founder van Foursquare, een goede analyse over de kracht van het nieuwe Snapchat. Hij heeft tot nu toe gelijk gekregen.
Casey Neistat maakte er een mooie video over. Niet alleen Snapchat beweegt zich op dit gebied, ook Taptalk zit in de categorie van vluchtig gedeelde foto’s en video’s.

En nu dan Meerkat. Het uitkomen en ongelooflijke rondzingen van deze app geeft in mijn ogen de aanzet tot een nieuwe stroming. Ik noem die maar even ‘mee(be)leefmedia’. Deze trend berust op iets wat ook Twitter groot maakte: het gevoel dat je krijgt als kijker dat je er ‘bovenop’ zit. Dat lukt Snapchat met fotografie en dat lukt Meerkat met video.

Met het SXSW festival in aantocht zal de aandacht voor Meerkat komende dagen exploderen. Meeleven groeit uit tot meer dan het delen van een moment, meeleven is een nieuwe vorm van communicatie.

 

The quality of Pebble

On Adformatie I wrote this short post on how well the new Pebble is. Because of it’s focus. It is a nice implemtation of the model of notifaction I developed from our Glass experiende too.

The post is in Dutch.

Deze week introduceerde Pebble zijn antwoord op de komende Apple Watch. Beter design en vooral een interessante upgrade van het gebruiksconcept. 

Het duurt niet lang meer of de Apple Watch zal de markt van smartwatches gaan overspoelen, 9 maart weten we de details. En als de voortekenen niet bedriegen zal het de bakens verzetten, hoewel er ook een typische Apple-productstrategie te verwachten is, kleine stapjes uitrollen van functionaliteit met een beperkte eerste versie.

Ondertussen komen nieuwe modellen binnen het Android Wear platform op de markt, momenteel gepresenteerd tijdens de Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Huawei bijvoorbeeld introduceerde een ronde smartwatch in lijn van de Moto360. Ik heb ‘m niet geprobeerd nog uiteraard, maar het besturingsysteem Android Wear ken ik van de Moto360 en daar is nog wel wat op af te dingen. 

Interessant is de nieuwe Pebble die deze week via een slimme marketingcampagne het licht zag. Net als de eerste versie was de basis een Kickstarter-campagne en al snel werden alle records verbroken. Interessant is om te kijken naar de veranderingen in het besturingssysteem. Als een van de eerste smartwatch leveranciers is er veel ervaring. En de kracht van Pebble was altijd de beperking. Een smartwatch moet je niet proberen vol te stoppen met apps, het is een notificatiemachine en kan nuttig zijn met hele gerichte monofunctie apps. Zoals Eric Migicovsky van Pebble zegt: je zet geen apps op je Pebble, maar functies.

De nieuwe Pebble Time (dat is de naam) heeft een ander schermformaat en er is kleur toegevoegd. De beleving is daarmee behoorlijk verbeterd, ook de animaties zien er goed uit, al zullen ze niet kunnen tippen aan de scherpe hoge resolutie schermen van Apple en Android. Maar het is dan ook e-paper en heeft als groot voordeel dat het batterijleven tot een week is. Mijn Moto360 haalt het eind van de dag niet eens soms, wat met een horloge best lastig is.

Het goede van de nieuwe Pebble is de focus op het begrip tijd als interactiemetafoor. Dat past natuurlijk perfect bij een horloge, maar ook bij een wearable. Het timeline-principe als basisinteractie was een sterke eigenschap van de Google Glass, Pebble heeft het nu verder versimpeld en tot de core teruggebracht passend bij een watch.

Pebble Timeline

Pebble Timeline met blik in toekomst en verleden.

 

Ondertussen is de introductiecampagne zeer succesvol. Op Kickstarter staat de teller op bijna 12 miljoen. Daarmee bewijst Pebble en passant dat Kickstarter een interessante marketingstrategie kan zijn. Met de relatief lage prijs zal Pebble zeker enige tijd stand houden naast de Apple en Android watches.

The breakthrough of the VR glasses is near

The post was published at Adformatie and is therefor in Dutch

 

Gisteren kwam een tweet voorbij van Linda Duits. Ze zat in de trein en had last van ‘onsmakelijke’ gedragingen van haar overburen in het stoeleneiland. Ik kon me er veel bij voorstellen en grapte met de tweet:

Tweet

 

Zoals vaak bij dergelijke gedachtes komt ergens vandaan. Heel direct was het misschien wel getriggerd door een foto die een paar dagen daarvoor rondging op Twitter:

Man met VR bril en milkshake

Maar ik denk dat het meer is dan een leuke kwinkslag. Zelf experimenteerde ik met de Oculus VR bril en heb ook een Cardboard van Google aangeschaft. Uiteraard. En vooral die laatste doet iedereen die ‘m opzet verbaasd staan over de impact. Juist in combinatie met de simpelheid, de combinatie met een standaard telefoon. De bril die op de foto wordt gedragen is die van Samsung, die sinds vrijdag ook in Nederland te koop is.

Volgens mij zou het best wel eens snel kunnen gaan met de VR-bril, juist in hele specifieke situaties en omgevingen als de trein of vliegtuig. Nu sluit iedereen zich op in de telefoon, een kleine stap om de VR-bril op te zetten. Het is een teken van onze veranderend begrip van realiteit. Maar daarover een andere keer.

Het mist nu alleen nog aan goede content. Veel is nog experimenteel. Er liggen veel kansen om korte verhalen te vertellen. Zoals Snapchat nu video op de mobiel opnieuw aan het uitvinden is, ben ik benieuwd of we snel een dienst krijgen die de YouTube van VR materiaal wordt.

Ik ben benieuwd. Ondertussen stop ik de Cardboard in m’n tas als ik met de trein ga.

– See more at: http://www.adformatie.nl/blog/de-doorbraak-van-de-vr-bril-komt-eraan#sthash.dbqDlKNF.dpuf

On a wristful 2015

The year 2015 has started. Traditionally I look forward to the coming year. Some thoughts for 2014 are still in the expectation. One important development we all thought would go fast were the wearables. Glass did not fly yet and is not expected to enter a consumer market soon. The principles in the Glass interaction for relevant services turned out to be the fundamentals for the wrist-interactions too. The postponing of the Apple Watch launch and the not optimal implementation of Android Wear made it slower getting traction.

I’m still looking forward to is the launch of the Apple Watch and the possible impact on this category. I have stated before my belief in the haptic aspect of the watch. I think it will be a very low tech implementation in the first version, just like traditional Apple product strategy: small steps that look disappointing but have serious impact in our perception and behavior. Our research in Labs on haptic and adaptive interactions will continue of course, being more relevant than ever.

I think that the one of the consequences of a serious movement to the wrist can be the growth of the use of phablets. It is of course already an important trend but it will be even more dominant.
The telephone-like device will have more importance in the home-browsing, becoming the first screen with the TV as second screen. The tablet with the current form-factor will lose its interest further. I am curious if we will see the 12/13” tablets come to market as the entertainment slate to have lying around at the coffee table. The use will change. In combination with a bigger screen it can replace the TV-settop box. Let’s see if the TV providers will upgrade their apps to a serious competitor to traditional TV set-up.

The home will be the domain of another breakthrough this year: the digital smartness in our daily life. With the leaked patent of Apple of a Bluetooth home-device and the activities of Google with Nest this will be a get some serious traction in 2015. In the Netherlands smart energy meters and thermostats are installed rapidly by the energy companies and people are getting used to more smart products. It will not be one integrated smart home as the futurist of the past thought, it will be a bottom-up development with more and more products connected to the net and controlled by the smartphone. The hubs will be integrated in the operating systems of our phones, but web based solutions will become more important as independent connector. The first new players will arrive in the market in 2015. Apple and Google will however try to move first.

This whole movement to the internet of daily life as practical execution of the internet of things is one of the big developments in 2015. As the smartness and data move into the cloud and the control and personal experience move to the mobile, we will have a silent revolution.
The world in general will remain unstable and old structures are more and more enhanced with new peer 2 peer markets and sharing services. This will be even more local based as the established sharing services grow into traditional companies that we will approach as traditional companies. The shift to more private social messaging that we have seen happening in 2014 will continue and be more part of our routine, also stimulated by the wrist to wrist interactions. The first messaging service that integrate marketplace functions will have a great success.

Snapchat will get more traction, Facebook will remain big as media for the older generation, but will be under pressure to change some of its new privacy terms. In the end it will lead to people more reluctant to share personal stuff. Google+ will remain in market but won’t develop anymore, Google will focus on messaging with Hangouts and try to add some serious private messaging platform again.

Just like a lot of other predictionairs I think that the VR-hype will not fully happen in 2015. Still, there will some real promising applications and experiences introduced.

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.


Have a wristful 2015!

HappyTapping

Protecting privacy is all about critical living

I attended the Big Brother Award event organised by Bits of Freedom in Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam. Three prizes were announced, some bands and poets and talks by Hans de Zwart of Bits of Freedom, Aral Balkan and Edward Snowden in a Google Hangout.

Often the rhetoric in these contexts focuses on privacy. Also this night, but it was good to see that the main concept of freedom was more important after all. Privacy is ‘just’ a mean to leverage the freedom of living we need.

This freedom thinking is more and more important, and more and more linked to our own actions. Aral Balkan is able as no other to preach the ‘we are the product’-story. His focus is Google mainly, as the main representative of the tech companies that have build their business models fully on data. Data is eating the world, also in the new wave of things that are being connected, it all comes back to the data in the end. We as humans are a lab rat mainly. In all we do.

It is a well known concept Aral is telling. His hope pyramid boils down the mission: respect human values. It is definitely important. The winner of the public prize – Ivo Opstelten – showed how little respect the government has by making it into a joke.

You could debate what is more harmful, big companies building their business on data models or governments that define your rights based on making you a suspect by default. The latter probably, but the cynical thing is that governments are standing on the shoulders of big companies to gather the necessary data. That is what the Snowden affair made clear to everyone.

The price for Edward Snowden was more than well deserved. He may not be the great visionair as he says, but he is a classical hero that did what others would not do: stand up on a personal level. This was the main message of his words and also the main message of the night.

As Hans de Zwart in his talk emphasized that diversity is important. We need the space to experiment, to make mistakes. That is what freedom is for. We should strive for personal freedom and we are in the end the only ones that can start this freedom are we ourself. Building walls is not enough, we should learn to act on a critical living.

 

New things as hubs in the internet of daily life

We are slowly entering an new phase in online, in our digital life. As internet started before the web, it was a communication medium. E-mail as the most solid representative. When we got the web about 20 years ago internet became a publication medium and information base. Hyperlinking lead to surfing from article to article. Google optimised the system with relatively evaluating links.

Ten years later, in 2004, we got the social web. The network effect was strengthened by adding the people angle. It generated a huge uplift of the use of the web and the role it takes in our life. The open web with APIs was invented parallel and mobile did generate a wave on its own.

And now we are another 10 years later and we see the shift to the mix of the digital and the real. Often coined as the internet of things. But I like the term solid internet a lot. Internet lifestyle – thanks to the combination of social web and smartphone use – is the default and the physical is as a solid node in this.

I also like the definition of ‘the internet of the daily life’ as a good representation of the change that is happening. Internet is not a place you go to, it is part of everything, and you do not think about it. This is of course specially true for the digital natives that are become of age now after 20 years.

An interesting aspect is how this new balance between digital and real is influencing the way we look at the physical things. We expect our things to act like digital. We want products to be adaptable to the use, more platforms than products, playful and have new forms of interaction beyond the screen. We adapt new development methods, we have 3D printing as a first iteration of the new things.

This is all just at the beginning. Hardware produced as software is not that easy, as a lot of the Kickstarter projects prove.
The consequences of this shift to the internet of daily life and the impact for making a new type of things is what I think is an important theme of the Things-conference, that was organised in Berlin in May this year.
I hope we can touch this same theme coming Friday at the first ThingsConAMS, info.nl is hosting and I’m co-organising during the celebration of our 20 year history as internet agency, marking the next decade in internet history.

The haptic revolution of a watch

Today the Apple Watch was announced. It will not make it to the market until next January probably to give app developers chance to develop their apps and have a relevant watch experience from the start. And maybe also for other reasons we do not know.

In the media the reactions vary. Of course the stunning looks of the device and the sharp graphics are applauded. But on the other hand the features are criticised. Is this the leapfrogging device we were expecting?

I have to say, my first reaction when the movie was played was also a bit disappointed. Not for the lack of functions, I really don’t think that is an issue at all. I was however expecting a bit more a new type of product and not the pure watch. Still I could have known, Apple did not invent a smartphone or a tablet but improved the dna of it from the outside in. The real disruption is in the way the device works, the way it feels, the way we will use it and integrate it in our lives. And in that sense I think there is a true breakthrough innovation: the haptic touch.

I am wearing a Pebble for a year now and next to the real value of the concept of a notification device on my wrist, the most interesting part for me is the resonating interface. We are really able to distinguish different information signals by the resonation rhythm.

Next to that Apple introduced forced touch and heartbeat communication. Both are part of a whole new interface language I think, that brings the next level of intimate interactions into our digital devices. In the presentation some of these interactions are hinted but I expect this is just the start of a sixth sense, a way we will be able to make contact with the digital cloud around us, and with others.

Together with Digital Life Center, Labs is running a research project to look into the way trembling interfaces can be used to connect to digital coaches and to touch on distance. I think the ecosystem Apple created by sensor, display and SDK HealthKit can be more revolutionizing than any other functions that are introduced or did not been introduced. Looking forward to dive into this beyond touch interactions and develop for real intuitive use, for interfacing without a screen.

The battle for the home cloud media

Samsung has acquired SmartThings, a Kickstarter project to create a smart home platform. It is the next step in the battle for domination in the home cloud media. Entering the house and adding a new media touchpoint is part of all major strategies.

This blogpost was published on Adformatie earlier, in Dutch.

 

Samsung neemt SmartThings over, een Kickstarter project voor een smart home platform. Het is een nieuwe stap in de strijd om het slimme huis als medium naar de klant.

Op mijn bureau liggen drie hubs voor verschillende connected products. Eentje voor de Philips Hue, eentje voor de Little Printer en eentje voor de Air Quality Egg. En dat zijn er nog maar een paar. Het is een teken van de huidige status van het verbonden huis of smart home; het zijn nog silo’s.

Nu is de Little Printer gebouwd op het platform van BERG Cloud, de spin-off van het beroemde designbureau uit Londen, BERG. Het past bij de battle of the smart home. Vrijdag was daar een nieuwe stap: Samsung heeft SmartThings overgenomen. Dit van origine Kickstarter-project doet in principe hetzelfde: een netwerkoplossing voor al je slim verbonden dingen in je huis.

Apple kondigde al eerder HomeKit aan als onderdeel van het nieuwe iOS8 dat in september uitgerold zal worden via de nieuwe iPhone. Een logische actie, de eerste generatie slimme dingen zijn vooral een op een relaties tussen product en app. De waarde zit echter niet in de ‘afstandbedienings-apps’ die het nu zijn, maar zijn de combinaties tussen producten in je omgeving, gekoppeld aan de kennis over de mensen.
Google legde bij de laatste I/O conferentie de nadruk sterk op wearables via Android Wear, maar plaatst dat ook als verbindende schakel.

Samsung en SmartThings benadrukken het belang van het open platform voor third party developers. Een eerdere analyse over het verschil van insteek tussen Apple en Google over de verhouding tussen cloud en devices (Apple smart device, Google smart cloud; kort gezegd) zal alleen maar interessanter worden om te volgen. Er zijn dingen die worden gekoppeld via een cloud waardoor ze slim worden. De verbindende factor is vaak nog je telefoon, en straks je wearable.

Hoe Samsung hierin via SmartThings een positie neemt moeten we afwachten, maar het is logisch te verwachten dat alle partijen open zullen zijn voor het verbinden van alle producten van aanbieders, maar de lock-in wordt gedaan in de data die er uit voortvloeit. Want de grootste bron van data is het gebruik van alle nieuwe verbonden producten. Het is de volgende stap van het internet of things; het solid internet. Digitaal waardes met ankers in de echte wereld. Er ontstaat een digitale laag die alles wat we gebruiken tot media maakt. De volgende Facebook is de speler die dat goed bij elkaar brengt, op en wijze waarin de consument meer sturing over de inzet van de data krijgt.

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.

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