target is new

an exploration in the new

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.

SxSW2015 day 2; start with the thing

Day 2 of this years South by started with a panel on advanced mobility. 9.30am, I made it on time after publishing the first wrap up of this SxSW…

The first panel was held by several people from the University of Michigan and that results in some data rich slides on the way cars are mapping the world and the need that the world is mapped as preparation.
The panelist of GM indicates that it was for them a whole new look on mobility. Looking for the new business models. A question from the audience however made clear this panel and the GM representative in particular only thought of new ways cars will work and can be sold. A holistic view on mobility was not present and that made the panel more on advanced cars than on advanced mobility.
Some insights from that point of view: security is necessary to get the cars excepted. Not only driving security but also data security.
An interesting questing that was mentioned is the interface with driving. That will change and you can think of new concepts, or just get it all out as Google did.
All in all an interesting topic with a bit weak panel.

Second panel showed that a panel can work. It needs a couple of interesting panellist but above all a journalist that really dive into the subject. The panel was on wearables, as many are during South-By this year. It touched the fashion aspect a lot. One of the panellist was the founder of Ringly, the smart vibrating ring.
The first defined a lot of the discussion. Google Glass as inspiration where to go with a wearable. Not put tech in front but put the use in front.  And think about the cultural context, it should fit in. The utility on itself is not the main challenge, the wearability in all its aspects is.

One of the panellists (named David Austin) did work for 17 years at Apple and had a lot of little insights in the choices there. On pricing for instance. Apple don’t think about the cost price, it judges the product on its value. In the end it only counts what the consumer want to pay. The want prize.
There are a lot of panels on wearables and later the day I followed another on wearables and tech converge. Just like the other the topic of fashionable devices and the move from single purpose device (smartphone) to single function device (wearable) were important topics. The data exchange between wearables was discussed. We will see the first start-ups working on bringing the data together and create meaning. Later wearable companies will move to open standards.

With the wearables the human machine connections is interesting too. We saw interesting thoughts on that on day 1, so I entered a presentation on Human vs Machine, A Cognitive Revolution. The presenter was a bit too much focused on the technology push, but it was interesting to experience he also opts in for world where man and machine work together. The real implications of that world were not touched tough.

This was the first talk that I visited with an RSVP, a new method to fight the huge lines that makes SxSW in a chaotic experience. The Americans are mastering the art of cueing up, that was clear also this day, with a lot of people managing the right set up and dividing it into RSVP, waiting lists and normal lines. A kind of real life play…

Best talk of the day was of a London based designer of internet of things products and services, Ross Atkin. His statement was that you should start with the things, not with the internet. And before starting with the thing it should be clear what the use case was. He sees a lot of parties that are try to dig the gold of the IoT platform lock-in, but it is important to come up with valuable ideas. His three steps: identify the use case and do design research, design the service and validate, user test and iterate.
He had some interesting examples of his work that made sense. And he had very nice looking slides (check my Storify, making a comic book of his presentation. A tool he all uses as prototype to validate the concepts.

So also on the second day the main topics were around the relation between human and the technology. And it seems the best strategy to start by thinking on the thing you want to solve.

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:



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.

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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!


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.



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