This happened 6 on the soul of products

It was a remarkable edition of This Happened Utrecht again. This time with some more off-the-standard talks I think, but with high quality and good inspiration again.

The most off presentation was the statement of Matt Cottam from Tellart. In his normal life a rather straight forward (…) builder of model and apps, but once in a while he do something different. Researching the boundaries of making digital stuff. Closely together with the Berg London people, so conceptual thinking is guaranteed. The project he presented was Wooden Logic. A concept to add conductive material to growing trees. With a special developed device it is possible (in theory) to make a digital product out of every tree. A funny demonstration video made the hilarious story compleet.
There was of course a serious angle in this story. We will create objects with a soul, in the next ten years we will be introducing emotion into existing objects by making them smart. An interesting and inspiring thought I think.

The start with the children’s game Mijn Naam is Haas was much more practical, as presented by Sanneke Prins and Berend Weij. They built a 15 people company out of the game system they developed as graduates, very respectable. Well thought-through and executed. With some good insights in building game systems, not only for children. I like the insight on the difference in creating worlds in games. A storytelling world which has more boundaries than a open makable world offers a lot more result in achieving the educating goals for toddlers.

Some more straight forward Interaction Design promised to be the work on the iPhone app for Classics by Sebastiaan de With. Or better; it was about experience design, because of the strong focus on finding the exact right experience in folding pages and putting books on a shelf. Impressive to see that Apple borrowed the design for the iPad iBooks app. They helped the popularity of the app a lot to put it in the commercial of the iPhone. The downloads rose from 250k to 2,5 mln.
Sebastiaan delivered a solid This Happened presentation with the exploration of the most important choices he had to made in the design process. From animation to color pallet, and behavior of the books and icons. Classics offers royalty free books and the preparation for the app in making tiny PDF-files turns out to be a real monks work (is that also a English expression?).

Last but not least was Keez Duyves from PIPS.Lab, a collective artists that create music performance theater with high audience involvement. He showed how they developed the app Radarfunk. A good performance need to be simple and silly and the simplicity of Radarfunk is very strong. The idea to transform a loop control into a circle a genius move.
And especially the play aspect in it was cool. But above all it showed how a strong clear and essential concept for a tool can be extended to an unlimited number of installations and performances. And besides that, it turned out to be a great product in order to achieve a purpose: keeping PIPS.lab together.

The play factor as driver to achieve another purpose was shared in all presentations in a way, but to declare a theme for this edition I think we need more poetic stuff. I think you can see in every presentation a struggle between the translation of real life interactions to a digital invironment. They all make their own choices how to do that and what the role of this choice was. The choice for an figurative adaptable worlds for toddlers by Mijn Naam is Haas and the choice for the animation effect to make a crispy reading experience in Classics and the choices in making noise rythmes in Radarfunk. The project of Matt is completely on this theme of course and played in that sense a key role in This happened 6.

As Bill Buxton points out in its supplementary Skype-presentation: the beauty is in the experience. Looking forward to the next edition!

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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.

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