Touching the senses at This Happened #4

This night I did attend This Happened for the fourth time. It was a great night again. Kars, Ianus and Alexander managed to mix up a fine program with different points of views on interaction design. And just like the other editions you can experience an emerging theme I think. I borrow this from the first talk of Janneke Sluijs: embodied embedded cognition can be coined as the binding theme.

This edition ended with the sympathetic talk on the project of the Zesbaans collective called Metronoom. The highly interactive sound and light installation had a great appeal to the audience. The way the collective of six was able to come up with this installation was special to see. But the most interesting was the way they solved the problem to catch the interaction with the laser beams by adding another receiver based on a sonic principle. Therefor the installation fools the user because the light-beam is not the interaction device at all. But unmissable in the experience of the interaction.

The interactive light and sound installation Funky Forrest of Emily Gobeille and Theo Watson did the same in another way. They created an interactive ecosystem where a gaming experience is added to the interactiveness and causes a triggering of the usage by the children. Playing a game without being a game is a strong driver of the interaction. Besides that they gave a good insight by stressing the importance of the tweaking to complete the design. The right end result only is reached by adding an extra phase of playing by the designers in the end.

A whole different story it seems was the development of the Ambilight system of Philips. Elmo Diederiks shows the first ideas and process to the current product. In contrary what you might expect the whole project is started as a lighting project, not as a television project. They skipped different elements of the product during the 2 years of development. No subwoofer like light effect anymore, no backlight effect with light speakers. And no persuasive light effects by scripting the light experiences in advance of the movie scenes. And the first Ambilights had not the best light experience he revealed. Not in the living room to be precise. The systems was optimized for the selling experience where much more light is necessary.
Elmo showed the next generation, but it was a pity the scripting feature was not part of it. You would expect that the technology will make it possible to analyse the movies in advance very quickly and adapt the effects… I also like the idea of an Ambilight beamer where the light effects are projected on the wall behind you.

The evening started with the presentation of Janneke Sluijs showing the Noot device. This clip for small paper notes that records the soundtrack of a brainstorm at the same time is an interesting project. Smart is the the way sound is recorded and send by AM signals to a central receiver and the notes creates markers in the stream. A pity the whole systems is not intuitive enough to let brainstormers use it naturally. Maybe because the design of the service software seems not to be developed as one experiences.

As said Janneke however showed in her presentation some emerging themes. All the shown products have in common that more ‘outlets’ combines one experience and that designing the experience system in stead of the devices itself is the only way for success. With the Noots and the six Metronooms this is straightforward, but also the wall and floor working together in the funky forrest. Even for the Ambilight where in the end the scripting idea is more important that simple adding a light effect.

But more important even is the term she coined: embodied embedded cognition. She explains it with the way we need to learn to ride a bike; you have to do it to learn it, a manual alone is not enough. For me you can find this though in all presentations. From the Noot devices that enables the understanding of the interactions in a brainstorm and translate them to a intergrated system, to the Funky Forrest where the tweaking is the only way to create the right experience. And with the Ambilight that should adapt to the movies you watch to deliver the promises and with the Metronoom where in the end the social interactions that will emerge between the players are the real product.

The next This Happened will be sometime in 2010. The frequency will be probably a little bit higher than last year. And they plan to choose a bigger theater to make it possible to have a longer registration time. I’m looking forward to it!

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

2 thoughts on “Touching the senses at This Happened #4”

  1. Great wrap-up Iskander! I again enjoyed this edition of thishappened very much. Will be there in 2010 for sure. Oh and by the way, lasers are so freakin’ cool!

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