Nokia Research recently gave me a small grant to conduct a research project in Summer, 2011. Here’s the basic description:
This project explores the design opportunities in objects that seem to have inner lives through their expressive behavior.
An Emerging Landscape in The New Ecology of Things
An updated, illustrated, and edited version of this post was published in the JohnnyHolland.org magazine about Interaction Design.
With the Apple iPad launched and scores of other tablets and e-readers hitting the market, I think it’s important to step back and look at the larger trends. We’re in the middle of a major shift towards ubiquitous computing, cloud based personal storage, and tangible interaction. It’s a shift away from the generic computation typified by the “personal computer,” which never really achieved the individuality or specificity implied by the term “personal.” In short, we’re experiencing the emergence of The New Ecology of Things, where a network of heterogeneous, smart objects and spaces create opportunities for a more personal and meaningful landscape. This is what I’d like to explore:
- Where we’ve been and how the personal computer has made us soulless
- Where we’re about to be #1 with the emergence of digital slabs
- Where we’re about to be #2 with a new form of design that’s a hybrid of software and product
- Where we may be going and the future of the designer in an era of bespoke objects
I just wrapped up my The New Ecology of Things class at Art Center’s Media Design Program. The class addressed the design of ubiquitous, massively networked systems – i.e. emerging ecologies of things. Our topic this term was “anti-homogenous” and we looked at heterogeneous alternatives to the mouse, keyboard, screen for specific work and play activities. This continues the idea mentioned in my Microsoft Future 2019 video post, where interactions should adapt to the type of activity, rather than the person adapting to the same type of interaction for every task. The 13 students designed and prototyped projects ranging from a special table for art directors to a lamp that receives and projects video messages from your friends. The projects addressed different affordances as well as the relationships between tangible, embodied things and their meta-data/meta-content. More details and links to project websites below the photos.
The Microsoft Office Labs Vision 2019 video recently shown at the Wharton Business Technology Conference, by Microsoft’s Business Division president Stephen Elop (text of speech), does a good job of showing potential modes of interacting with embedded and ubiquitous multi-touch displays. But how original is it? My students in Art Center College of Design’s graduate Media Design Program have been working on ideas like this for many years, and have made speculative videos like this, as well as working prototypes and real projects. See below for several examples, as well as some thoughts on where future interfaces should go – is Microsoft just proposing another version of windows?
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Microsoft Office Lab’s Vision 2019 video
Here are links to several of my students’ past projects:
- 2004 – wall – scott nazarian, nikolai cornell
- 2005,2006 – mirror – in search of identity, infiniti interactive – nikolai cornell, phil van allen, others
- 2006 – interactive table – acura oracle – nikolai cornell, jonathan jarvis, phil van allen, others
- 2006 – handheld augmented reality – telepath – matt mcbride
- 2007 – e-paper newspaper – beyond the fold – sebastian bettencourt
I’m very interested in how tangible objects can be used in interesting ways to interact with information on screens. This video collects together a series of experiments on the use of a range of object prototypes. In making these, I imagined a screen in front of me (in some cases a standard size screen, in other cases a wall sized screen), and manipulated the various objects as if I was controlling and interacting with content on the screen. It was more an experiment in the affordance of the objects in relation to screens than thinking of specific applications.
View Video (95meg)
American Honda and George P. Johnson have donated one of their Oracle Multi-touch Tables to the Media Design Program. We now have it permanently in our graduate studio where it is available for faculty and students to develop new applications. In particular, we’re interested in exploring how large sets of text and image content can be explored in a collaborative way with multiple users.
The Acura Oracle project was initiated by MDP alumni Nikolai Cornell at George P. Johnson for the Acura stand at the international auto shows (including Detroit, Chicago, New York, and LA) for the 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 exhibitions. It’s a 4 foot round multitouch table that enables a social experience for a group of people.
I participated as a consultant in the initial creative brainstorming and technical definition. I brought in Moto Development to create the multi-touch technology and optics, coordinated Moto with the creative team, advised on interaction design issues, and developed test projects and tools exploring different interaction possibilities. In the summer of 2007 GPJ loaned an Oracle for use in my class, and student Jonathan Jarvis made demos that became the design basis for the second version that was at the 2008 auto shows.
Video after the break
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