This happened Amsterdam on framing one’s reality

This happened Amsterdam was a pleasant experience again. For the mix of talks and nice crowd. Some reflections on the talks and topics touched.

Starting with the a project made by IJsfontein on dementia – Into D’mentia – talking on designing for emotions. Raimond wanted to push a bit to many slides into the ten minutes and had not the time for deepening on the emotion design part. The concept is interesting, letting people experience the dementia feeling by using a voice in the head. Knowing the process of dementia from nearby I know this phase is only part of the illness, but one the most nasty ones indeed. Interesting to see how to create a new reality by designing the context of experience.

A different kind of design is made by the guys of Human. The app that wants to contribute to your health by stimulating enough movements on a day (30 minutes). Paul Veugen told us a very clear story on the way their startup was shaped and how they learned the value of their service by looking into the data of the users. Creating tools for extracting those data turned out to be an important element in their design process. Also interesting is how the app is stimulating the use and transforming movement to appealing content and triggers. In the Q&A the predictable questions on startup culture and data reliabilty were covered. Luckily we could discuss another interesting aspect too: the relation with the app is for a lot of users – like me – connected to the notifications. I hardly ever open the app, and I am not alone in that behavior. Designing notifications is still a challenge for Human because of the fear to break the trust with the users when to communicate too loud. A valid strategy, an interesting element of the design.

How different is the talk of Lieven Standaert on his project Aeromodeller II. He is looking for a good way to make a hydrogen airship, and went through a lot of rough stages. He used the craftsmanship of Gaudi to model the form of the balloon, by letting fluid in upside down bags, define the form factor. Interesting also how the project in the end (now) is evolving into a project to build the wind turbine to test the balloon.

Last of the evening was a duo presentation by two designers and tinkerers of Commonspace talking on their one off (two off to be precise) Bioscope video player. It is based on a Raspberry Pi board, customized to the product. I liked the whole approach to work on framing open and abundant content in a new form factor and in that sense discussing the abundance of movie materials. The apparatus is very cute looking, which helps. The product will not be on the market, now only two are made. For investors it could be a successful product. Especially if it can be connected to online url’s as Ianus mentioned.

It did not boiled into a clear theme for me (to break the tradition). The products are transforming the reality in a way by adding some new interaction models. In Biosphere, and Into D’mentia. And in Human in a sense too by influencing your behavior. All in all in the end it was another inspiring This happened.

This happened, the Amsterdam edition #1

For the first time the Utrecht-based This happened event was organized in Amsterdam. In the Vlaams Cultuurhuis De Brakke Grond four speakers dived into the road to some beautiful projects. The venue did a great job to host a wonderful evening again, and the Amsterdam edition has proven already to be a good addition to the Utrecht ones. As always I like to share my thoughts on the talks, and who knows, a theme of the evening will emerge at the end.

The evening started with the project of Belgium collective Unfold called Kiosk, a mobile 3D printer especially made for the Salone Mobile in Milan. The installation wants to discuss the value of products, I guess, but the presentation focused – in the best tradition of This happened – on the developing of the product. In that sense it was interesting to see what iterations the Kiosk made, some earlier models were disapproved becaused it was not enough design. This is of course an interesting statement if you are fighting the concept of high brow design with the art installation.

In the Q&A an interesting discussion evolved around the realness of the prints. Not really important of course, they make a strong point I think to offer this new future of 3D printing in the heart of the design mekka. This idea behind the installation was a bit weakened as the presenter did emphasize the differences of the original and the print due to the quality of the prints.

The second speaker was Edo Paulus who showed the lovely project of SonOrb, a sound installation made for the Klankspeeltuin in the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aimed at children aged 7 to 12. His inspiration was the insight that abstract electronic sound normally has not the direct relation with the playing as acoustic sound does. This installation tries to add a physical handling to abstract electronic sound.

Edo showed how he used a lot of low tech solutions to create his installation. This was both caused by the circumstances, but brings also an extra robustness with the easy to replace elements. It seems as if the most of his design choices were a kind of incident like the choosing for the ballerina balls, that fits the right weight and characteristics for the children, and also make it foolproof when thet kids throw the balls around. The execution of the ideas of Edo showed a nice way of craftmanship in buidling an appealing work. With the way he was thinking on the volumes and the composition of the modular system he showed a true designer.

What was a bit underexposed was the way the installation was used by the children. In the Q&A we learned that the children could not play by themselves, an supervisor is necessary to get better experiences on the one hand and prevent misuse. It would be interesting to see if it was possible to have the same installation in a complete open play mode. On the other hand was the quote of Edo in reaction very strong: you need a clear framework to play more freely.

The third speaker was Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen of LUSTlab. In contrary to the other speakers he made more of a lecture on his visions than a talk on what happened in the design proces, however he touched some important choices en passant. In that sense his talk resembles a lot the way Daan Roosegaarde presented once at This happened. If the speaker and the story is as strong as that of Daan and also Dimitri , it delivers a very nice experience though. In the talk the consequences of our move to an Internet of Things were clearly sketched and the project that was put central was Res Sapiens, a set of the cheapest IKEA lamps that have an emotion to it by its moves. The interesting part is the energy that moves the lamps, which is public data of the Internet. Data and form was the central theme of his presentation. The objects are a translator of the data to emotions, the objects become an interpreter and a hub between people via the data.

The most interesting part of this talk was triggered by the question Kars Alfrink asked on the role these research could play to shape this kind of emotional products that are fed with data, and this enhanced IKEA lamp may well be the future of our products.

This kind of intertwining of our real world and the digital space are definitely also part of the last project that was presented that evening. Tim Knapen showed his older project Godmode, an installation where all kind of drawings are translated to animated creatures. The device itself is an old copy machine equiped with beamer, digicam and computer. The interesting part is the way he made the algorithms for the translation from the drawings to animated creatures. He wanted to make something that could work for every drawing with hardly any restrictions. It was nice to see how he is inspired by the creatures of Theo Jansen, because I see some resemblance in the way Theo Jansen made algorithms to simulate evolution in order to find the perfect dimensions of the legs of its creatures. In that sense was the solution of Tim less sophisticated because it misses the self learning aspect. But the way the animation learns is beautiful. And so is the result.

Tim Knapen did a real This happened presentation both in the presenting of the working process and the road to the result. In this first Amsterdam edition we saw less variation in projects. No games or applied products, all the projects were well thought-through installations. That did not make it a weaker (or better) edition, it was interesting to see though.
All talks had a kind of relation to our emerging post digital world we are shifting into now, the code/space context we are living in. Post digital could be defined bluntly as the reversal of digital and reality: in stead of a digital world that copies reality is our real world more and more acting following the rules of the digital. The projects of Tim Knapen and LUSTlab are directly related to this, and the Kiosk of Unfold is of course the mirror for the believers of a superior real world. Edo Paulus mentioned it as his inspiration for his project; how to make the digital abstractness into a physical world. He showed a form of interfaces that will be an important first stage in our will to get in touch with our digital context.

The guys from This Happened (@kaeru, @ianus, @dmos) did again a wonderful job in orchestrating such hands-on tangible interpretation of the transformations we are experiencing in our digitized life. Hope to be present again at the next edition on March 30 in Utrecht or at a possible THAMS #2!

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!

Enhancing and dissolving technologies at This Happened #5

This evening I visited again a very inspiring This Happened. Four talks with a perspective. This time in a new bigger location which could not prevent the event be sold out in one minute again.

I gave myself a kind of spell to distillate a not existing theme on every TH-night till now, so the organizing guys (Kars, Ianus and Alexander) were challenging me to do so again. It would be easy to add the label game play to this night, because all the talks connected to that more or less. But game principles are part of every good interaction, so that would be not fair and just confirmation of the quality of the designs.

But I can see some resemblance in the talks. Let’s first sum up what we have seen:
Continue reading Enhancing and dissolving technologies at This Happened #5

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.
Continue reading Touching the senses at This Happened #4

Het thema van een 2e inspirerende This Happened

Maandag 23 februari vond de tweede editie van de Nederlandse (of Utrechtse) versie van This Happened plaats. Deze cyclus lezingen over interaction design staat in het teken van de weg naar het eindresultaat, in plaats van het resultaat zelf en wordt georganiseerd door Kars Alfrink in samenwerking met Ianus Keller en Alexander Zeh. Het was weer een inspirerende avond waarbij duidelijk een ander thema boven kwam drijven als de eerste editie.
Continue reading Het thema van een 2e inspirerende This Happened