target is new

an exploration in the new

Learning from Glass

As you maybe already know, at labs.info.nl 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 info.nl that cover different aspects of the new interaction model the device forces. Together with Greenwheels, bol.com 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 bol.com. The most near idea is to create a service that can recognize a (media) product and compare this to the database of bol.com and make it possible to buy the product at bol.com, second hand or new. We thought of some extra functions to connect the moment of use (scan) to the knowledge of bol.com. 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 bol.com 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 bol.com, 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.

THUTC17 Scope as design material

Monday September 9 I visited This happened Utrecht, the 17th edition. It was a solid edition with a nice variety of talks. My short observations.

Manuel Kerssemakers told us about the making of Reus, one of the few god-games made in the Netherlands. He showed in a very This happened-manner how the game grow from idea to realisation. Interesting to see how the focus for creating a game like this means a lot in organising a company next to all the creativity and coding needed. And finding the right boundaries to make a project to complete.

Marrije Schaake did quite the opposite with her side project Onzelootjes, in size of the project. But even in small project it can learn how to balance scope and inspiration by making it fun to work on a project.

Mieke Meijer had a kind of atypical project. Although she worked on a dashboard of a car - which is all about interaction – her work was about designing and fabricating a new material (Kranthout) that did not relate at all to the dash, pure to the image of the concept car. There seems no interaction between the car design and the material whatsoever.

She took us with her into the craftsmanship of creating a new material. Interesting that she would not use it in her own work because of its impractical behavior. So the value is in the story not in the function.

Last speaker was Rick Companje on his Doodle3D app that makes drawing for a 3D printed object easy, and learns you at the same time how the printing process works, an aspect I like the most. The value of his app evaluated more to the hub he created to connect the printer directly to a tablet. It could be in that case a strong way to make 3D printing accessible. Next up he should partner with Ultimaker in making a low budget suitable printer.
Writing this down it seems that scope has a role in all projects in some kind of way. Scope in sizing a company to produce a game, in sizing a project to keep it fun, and scope in choosing the material that fits a cause. And at last scoping an process down as the feature set of a product. Scope as design material, it is an interesting thought indeed.

The blurry lines between social and public sharing

Today I received an email from the developer of Wander, an app that is discontinued as of from today. Can happen, the app did not manage to come up with a valid business model.

What is interesting though is that he introduces a new app at the same time – Planett – that builds on the content of the app of Wander. And that made me wonder what this means for the valuing of trust and the blurry lines between social sharing and public sharing in and out of context.

For those who don’t know the Wander app, it had a nice concept. You met with a random like person around the world, mostly someone far away in South-Korea or Japan, and for a week you share your daily life with that person. Not your very personal life, but more the things you do, the interested places you pass by in your hometown, etc. A great way to get a sense of the life of a local in a strange city.

Planett now is taking the pictures and experiences from these wander chats as content for explorations of cities. Only the pictures that are ‘shared socially’ during the chat so they say, so in principle nothing wrong should be wrong there. And also, it should deliver some nice local guides of course. The app is making it into a game with assignments so the chance you bump into a picture you made is low.

My wonder though – and my feeling – is that taking these pictures out of context, is not right. Not because it is legally not right, or even rationally. But it feels different. A picture shared in a private conversation made public at that moment feels more private if it is shared outside the context of the conversation.

Elaborate on that last sentence. The perception changes. In the heat of the conversation it can be public. Outside that heat the public becomes private. Or at least less public. This is an interesting concept that I also experience with Instagram, the moment it became more public. It is more a proof that we need a new kind of literacy for the post digital world we live in.

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.

This happened on stakeholder design

Edition 16 already. This happened Utrecht has become an institute on its own. This edition was due to some other event in the location set back to the smaller room. Which is not bad at all; this is the intimacy that fits the format so well.

So just as always four talks, four times 10 minutes talking on what happened, and 10 minutes discussing this with the audience. This edition had an interesting mix of topics. From installation like art project Victory Boogie Woogie, to very business driven user service of Appie.

The evening started with the work of Q42 on the Hue project. They contributed for a seemingly small part to the project by making the web frontend adding the system with lamps, bridge and app. Nevertheless it is an important part in getting the project more into the open space creating a product that is – almost un-Philips-like – good. It is remarkable how the product benefits from the connection to the service If This Then That, making it possible to create nice smart relations between services.

Second talk was on a game called Slag om Dondervoort. Aiming to learn children about the life in Fortress Cities. Mixing virtual and real-life game principles; it is nice how it connects the social fabrics in a school class to the game and transform it to a experience in the virtual game, back to activities in the real city. Managing the second order effects in the game to achieve the goals seems a bit of a challenge. And so is the developing technology that makes the game now hard to play in current device setups. Hope they can get another round of funding for an update.

In the project of the algorithmic Victory Boogie Woogie it was not completely clear how Mondriaan get into the game, it was a brainwave as often happens in projects I guess. The idea is quite sweet; challenge coders with something they do quite naturally; making squares with code, and use that for remaking that intriguing painting by algorithms. With the second order effect to let non coders experience what an algorithm is in the end. Something they definitely accomplished judging the attention on national television.

The last presentation was of a different order; a bit predictable presentation on the service of Appie made by Icemobile. Working in the same field the agile approach and way to present felt very familiar. She discussed some nice aspects. Maybe not the fact that you need a central mission to inspire the project (Beating The Pen), but more in the way the user is making part of the app development, and strategies to really drive the usage. Like the easter egg gimmicks. For an outsider it seems clear that AH is building functionalities around the idea to collect as much data on the products, by stimulating the use of official product names with the scanning functions and deep integration with the recipes. That is also the stimulans for the user to use the app in an AH store. In that sense it is most logical that the service is focused on value for the end user. All to stimulate use. This was not really addressed in the talk though.

This Appie project shares however a theme of the evening in the way it tries to stimulate adoption in the organisation. Just like Hue did by putting the innovation center apart from the rest. And as the Slag om Dondervoort learned the makers that it is more on tuning associations with the client than achieving the direct goals to make the project stand out. And funny enough, even the Victory Boogie Woogie project resulted in conclusions on the adaption of the project with the stakeholders.

In that sense it was a slightly different This happened with less focus on the usual design decisions. It makes more clear than ever that service and strategic design is an crucial part of the competence field of the designer of today.

This happened AMS getting into the core

I have to be honest; I was not well prepared for this edition of This happened AMS #6 last Monday in the Brakke Grond. Also, my expectations were lower because the last couple of editions in this town had some weaker talks. This edition however turned out to one of the best I think, fitting all the elements that makes this series of talks great. A mixture of experience and new talent, all interesting projects and one that has a special level. Oh, and there was even an hidden – but well played out – theme.

To begin with that theme. I think that the talk of Ubi de Feo on his project From 0 to C. He is learning you to master code by understanding the fundamentals. And by mastering the this fundamentals emerges great results. Apart from the nice execution of his method – like a great art director would do (…) – also a key concept in the evening.

The whole principle of mastering the core of coding emerging in a kind of new nature was what made the project Deleting Borders of We Work We Play so nice. The presentation dealt for a great part on the way the commissioned work and workers in a bartering system, the graphics that resulted from the analyses on the system is as beautiful in behaviour as in visual experience.

Dries Depoorter is a still very young interactive visualizer. Works in Processing a lot and was very true in the analysis of his own work and what happened. It was very powerful in its simplicity, in also getting to the core of making an interactive experience. Both the translator as the light scan he explained with a touch for the essence. The beauty of plant scan is in the way it brings the scan alive, making it into a living thing even.

And that links to the great work Fearless Symmetry of Ruairi Glynn, who is that much more experienced that he can create the same living machine on purpose, by designing not by coincidence. He masters the process, he showed in the answers to the questions and the sidelines on the researched choices he made for his installation in the Tate Modern hos mastership. At the same time it was an iconic This happened talk that show how hard work it is to accomplish a great work, something you don’t understand by itself looking at the work or the sleek movies.

His story and his work including all the things he could not tell even, it showed how understanding the core of machines is part of making things that really have meaning. And how the route to mastering is an almost necessary part.

Check also the story in tweets.

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