Step by step digital blurring of our reality

Due to my holidays I missed a bit on the reports of the new Google Nexus 5 and KitKat. In this article on Wired on especially the new functions of KitKat it strikes me how it seems to be another step in the path where our reality is enhanced with digital experiences. Or as often is called; the post digital era we are in now for some time.

This is in the way it is intelligent in helping you finding the right person in your phonebook when using voice searching, and even more how it combines all external knowledge in your phone to find the right address of a business. Context is taken into account and your phone carries more than ever the knowledge of the world with it. This is exactly also what makes the Google Glass design concept interesting; Google is reinventing contextual experiences.

“The camera’s HDR function is fantastic in weirdly lit situations to get the most out of color and range.”

This was another trigger. You can read it as a review of the HDR color correction, but I think it is a signpost how the phone is filling in reality with the knowledge of the context. A reality that need not necessary to be there.

Learning from Glass

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

The battlefield continues in the war of ecosystems

Today Google announced to acquire Motorola Mobile division. Superficially a strange move; why would Google danger its position as open platform maker by creating his own devices that compete his partners? The explanation can be found in the battlefields in the war of the ecosystems that definitely has started and will come to new heights the second half of this year as Apple will go for even more market share with their iCloud offer and Nokia and Microsoft will finally introduce their integrated products. Google is clearly focusing on more control too with the open platform philosophy as a marketing story mainly.

There are two aspects to it. Google will have discovered that there is a crucial role for controlling all aspects of the ecosystem getting to the next step in user loyalty. Rumors on 30% returns by clients of their Android phones underlines this. With full control over all touch points, there is a better chance to be a serious competitor to Apple. This goes also for Google+ and all services that have more design focus than ever. It helps to build a better ecosystem and create trust for the clients, also those with devices from other manufacturers. And they would be more capable of controlling the quality of the apps, the success factor of the new operating system.
It would not easy to challenge Apple in this of course, but Google will have more chance together with an experienced player.

Another more hidden aspect can be find in the dungeons of lawsuits and patent wars. In this article it is extended described what is happening. On the background a fierce battle is going on fighting each others patents.
All in all a clear sign that the control on the ecosystems is crucial in the next phase of the Internet and the war is severe. And is not over yet for sure.

Closing the circles to build conscious communities

Tons of reviews and thoughts on Google+ are published already, positive and negative, believing in its success as much as believing it will not succeed. Hard to predict. I’m not gonna review the service or predict the future for now. But one aspect is interesting to pinpoint. Google+ is really leveraging on the trend towards more closed communities, or maybe better put as the new conscious communities.

At Reboot 2008 I presented some thoughts on ‘virtual gated communities‘. I was thinking at that moment we would transform the new communities to more closed groups based on shared values, and was thinking how to connect to these more closed communities. In the end it took some more time to move into this more closed circles. In facebook lists it is possible, and in Twitter lists and private accounts are signs people feel the need sometime to talk more privately. Services like Path and Instagram are more private by default, based on the concept of ‘strong bonds’. And now we have Google+ of course.

It looks like this presentation of a year ago is directly linked to the design of the new service of Google. It is a great exploration on the models of making different layers of social friendships, just like real life. Google did choose with Plus to make a different approach. It is remarkable how fast the service is adapted by the users.

There are still a lot of user interface issues to solve in Google+. The whole process to create the circles should be more smart and fluent. And the mental model from invisible circles in the stream have to be plain intuitive and transparent. Than we can build the conscious communities we want to use to communicate. And of course it need more integration with other services. I have stated here before that the message center function of Facebook will be more important in the competition with Google. As we hangout more and more in the social networks messaging will be more in our known circles. If Google+ will succeed in a fluid creation of the circles and integrating this with the other services, they can leap the new landscape of the platform Internet. We will see if a kind of BondRank will be the new EdgeRank and PageRank.

Facebook of course did some strong construction work with the like-ecosystem, and with the huge installed base will be a strong player. But the war of the ecosystems has just started. Google+ will be a serious player, just as Apple with Twitter will be, and Facebook still stay. Combining sharing with no barriers with powerful messaging on different layers will be the key. In that sense it looks like Google chose the right angle.

A new era for search?

Two interesting developments in the world of search reached the news lately. Both connected strongly to the factor of time. Google rolls out the realtime search and becoming a topic based knowledge stream. While Yahoo is experimenting with a search tool with a timeline. Facebook is also busy to enter the search domain focusing on the enhancement of search with the social graph. Question is if this is signaling a new era of search or just an natural evolution.

Continue reading A new era for search?

De betekenis van subjectiviteit

Google staat vandaag weer flink in het nieuws. Ze introduceren vandaag de beta van hun wiki-dienst Knol die al eerder werd aangekondigd, en het gerucht gaat dat ze Digg gaan overnemen.

Allemaal interessant omdat het wel eens de volgende fase in het zoeken zou kunnen inluiden. Waarbij relevantie niet meer vanuit een soort semi objectieve statistische gegevens wordt bepaald, maar de rol van de auteur en de waardering en mening daarvan een belangrijk filtermechanisme wordt.

Techcrunch maakte een mooie demo hoe het zoeken in Google eruit zou kunnen zien met ratings geïntegreerd. Als Digg inderdaad wordt overgenomen hebben ze die techniek en vooral de rating-auteurs direct in huis. Pikant is daarbij dat Digg founder Kevin Rose op de afgelopen Next Web conferentie nog aankondigde dat ook Digg meer gelaagde waarderingen gaat krijgen; beoordelen van beoordelaars.

Het betekent dat we de eerste stappen naar een meer semantische filtering gaan krijgen. Waar de betekenis voortkomt uit subjectiviteit. Waarbij ik deze quote graag aanhaal “subjectiviteit is de nieuwe objectiviteit“.

En ben ik natuurlijk heel blij dat mijn voorspelling voor een van de ontwikkelingen in 2008 uit lijkt te gaan komen.