Anselm lays out the emerging issues with Augmented Reality (AR). In doing so he relates it to a whole host of known and unknown problems associated with ubiquitous computing, semantic publishing and data platforms.

Below are some clippings of bits that seem particularly insightful:

bq. It puts own embodiment at risk. And whomsoever can mitigate that risk while providing reward will probably do well. I believe that organizations such as Apple and Google see this and are pursuing not merely real-time, or hyper-local or crowd-sourced apps but ownership of the “view”.

bq. Everybody wants a part of the lens of reality, the zero-click base layer beneath the beneath. As Gene Becker puts it “The World is the Platform”. And an ecosystem is starting to emerge.

bq. Suddenly game developers are arguing with GIS experts and having to unify their very different ways of describing mirror worlds.

bq. [I]nterfaces move from being heavy and solid with big heavy buttons and knobs and rotary dials to becoming liquid and effortless like the dynamic UI of the iPhone to becoming like air itself.

bq. By making hidden things visible, and visible things cheap, it will make other things possible that we don’t entirely realize yet.

bq. There will be user interface interaction issues. What will be the conventions for hand-swipes, grabs, drags, pulls and other operations to manipulate objects in our field of view.

bq. [AR] is not simply “memory” – it isn’t just a mnemonic that helps bring understanding closer to the surface of consciousness. Clearly we are surrounded by our own memories, signage, advertising, radio, friends voices and an already rich complicated teeming natural landscape loaded with signifiers and cues. But it is another bridge between personal lived experience and the experience of others. It seems to lower costs of knowing, and it seems to provide stronger subjective filters.

bq. Augmented Reality seems to at least offer the possibility that we can punch some holes in the boxes. It seems to offer a bridge between structure and chaos rather than just structure.

Augmented reality experiments

I’m really not a fan of the goggle/glasses/helmet variety of AR, where the user wears something in front of their eyes that superimposes 3D objects into the physical world. In my experience this has been slow, inaccurate, cumbersome, headache inducing, the worst of VR plus a lot more problems. But AR is really interesting when it’s just a screen and a video feed, it becomes somehow magical: to see the same space represented twice: once in front of you, and once on screen with magical objects. I can imagine this working really well on mobile phones: the phone screen as magic lens to secret things.

Hand drawing markers

On that afternoon we didn’t have a printer handy for making the AR marks, so we took to drafting them by hand, stencilling them off the screen with a pencil and inking them in. This hand-crafted process led to all sorts of interesting connections between the possibilities of craft and digital information.

AR nail decorations

We had lots of ideas about printing the markers on clothes, painting them on nails, glazing them into ceramics, etc. We confused ARtoolkit by drawing markers in perspective, and tried to get recursive objects by using screen based markers and video feedback.

Confusing ARtoolkit

Now as it turns out there is an entire research programme dedicated to looking at just this topic. “Variable Environment”: is a research programme involving partners like “ECAL”: and “EPFL”: The great thing is that they are blogging the entire exploratory (they call it ‘sketch’) phase and curating the results online. The work is multi-disciplinary and involves architects, visual designers, computer scientists, interaction designers, etc. Check out the simple “AR ready products”:, “sample applications”: and “mixed reality tests”: with “various patterns”:

This seems to be part of a shift in the research community, to publishing ongoing and exploratory work online (championed by the likes of “Nicolas Nova”: and “Anne Galloway”: Very inspirational.

The address book desk

Underneath the desk I have stuck a grid of RFID tags, and on the top surface, the same grid of post-it notes. With the standard Nokia Service Discovery application it is possible to call people, send pre-defined SMSes or load URLs by touching the phone to each post-it on the desk. On the post-its themselves I have hand-written the function, message and the recipient. This is somewhat like a cross between a phone-book, to-do list and temporary diary, with notes, scribbles and tea stains alongside names.

Initial ideas were to spraypaint or silkscreen some of the touch icons to the desk surface, and I may well do that at some point. But for quick prototyping it made sense to use address labels or post-it notes that can be stuck, re-positioned and layered with hand-written notes.

This is an initial step in thinking about the use of RFID and mobile phones, a way of thinking through making. In many ways it is proving to be more inconvenient than the small screen (particularly with the occasionally unreliable firmware on this particular cover, I can’t speak for the production version). But it has highlighted some really interesting issues.

First of all it has brought to the forefront the importance of implicit habits. Initially, it took a real effort to think about the action of using the table as an interface: I would reach for the phone and press names to make a call, instead of placing it on the desk. But for some functions, such as sending an SMS, it has become more habitual.

SMSes have become more like ‘pings’ when very little effort is made to send them. At the same time they are more physically tangible: I rest the phone in a certain position on the desk and wait for it to complete an action. The most useful functions have been “I’m here” or “I’m leaving” messages to close friends.

I have had to consider the ‘negative space’ where the mobile must rest without any action. This space has potential be used for context information; a corner of the table could make my phone silent, another corner could change my presence online. Here it would be interesting to refer to Jan Chipchase’s ideas around centres of gravity and points of reflection, it’s these points that could be most directly mapped to behaviour. I’m thinking about other objects and spaces that might be appropriate for this, and perhaps around the idea of thoughtless acts.

If this was a space without wireless internet, I could also imagine this working very well for URLs: quick access to google searches, local services or number lookups, which is usually very tricky on a small screen. Here it would be interesting to think about how the mobile is used in non-connected places, such as the traditional Norwegian Hytte [pdf].

This process also raised a larger issue around the move towards tangible or physical information, which also implies a move towards the social. As I was making the layout of my address book and associated functions, I realised that maybe these things shouldn’t be explicit, visible, social objects. The arrangement of people within the grid makes personal sense; the placement is a personal preference and maps in certain ways to frequency and type of contact. But I wonder how it appears to other people when this pattern is exposed. Will people be offended by my layout? What if I don’t include a rarely called contact? Are there numbers I want to keep secret, hidden behind acronyms in the ‘Names’ menu?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out and changes over time, particularly in the reaction of others. I’ll post more about the use of NFC in other personal contexts in the near future.

h3. The making of…

The desk is made from 20 mm birch ply, surfaced in Linoleum. I stuck a single RFID to the underside, in the place that felt most natural. A 10 cm grid was worked out from that point, and the RFIDs were stuck in that grid, and the same worked out on top. If I were to re-build the desk with this project in mind, the tags should probably be layered close to the surface, between the ply and Linoleum. This would make them slightly more responsive to touch by giving them a larger read/write distance.

p(caption). Rewriteable 512 bit, Philips MiFare UL stickers.

p(caption). 10 cm grid of tags on the underside of the desk.

p(caption). Blank post-it notes on the surface, with the same grid.

More photos at Flickr.

Nokia 3220 with NFC

h3. First impressions

Overall the interaction between phone and RFID tags has been good. The reader/writer is on the base of the phone, at the bottom. This seems a little awkward to use at first, but slowly becomes natural. When I have given it to others, their immediate reaction is to point the top of the phone to the tag, and nothing happens. There follows a few moments of explaining as the intricacies of RFID and looking at the phone, with it’s Nokia ‘fingerprint’ icon. As phones increasingly become replacements for ‘contactless cards’, it seems likely that this interaction will become more habitual and natural.

Once the ‘service discovery’ application is running, the read time from tags is really quick. The sharp vibrations and flashing lights add to a solid feeling of interacting with something, both in the haptic and visual senses. This should turn out to be a great platform for embodied interaction with information and function.

The ability to read and write to tags makes it potentially adaptive as a platform wider than just advertising or ticketing. As an interaction designer I feel quite enabled by this technology: the three basic functions (making phonecalls, going to URLs, or sending SMSs) are enough to start thinking about tangible interactions without having to go and program any Java midlets or server-side applications.

I’m really happy that Nokia is putting this technology into a ‘low-end’ phone rather than pushing it out in a ‘smartphone’ range. This is where there is potential for wider usage and mass-market applications, especially around gaming and content discovery.

h3. Improvements

I had some problems launching the ‘service discovery’ application. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and it’s difficult to tell why this is. It would be great to be able to place the phone on the table, knowing that it will respond to a tag, but it was just a little too unreliable to do that without checking to see that it had responded. The version I have still says it’s a prototype, so this may well be sorted out by the released version.

Overall there is a lack of integration between the service discovery application and the rest of the system: Contacts, SMS archive and service bookmarks etc. At the moment we need to enter the application to write and manage tags, or to give a ‘shortcut’ to another phone, but it seems that, as with bluetooth and IR, this should be part of the contextual menus that appear under ‘Options’ within each area of the phone. There are also some infuriating prompts that appear when interacting with URL, more details below.

h3. Details

p(caption). The phone opens the ‘service discovery’ application whenever it detects a compatible RFID tag near the base of the phone (when the keypad lock is off). This part is a bit obscure: sometimes it doesn’t ‘wake up’ for a tag, and the application needs to be loaded before it will read properly. Once the application is open (about 2-3 seconds) the read time of the tags seems instantaneous.

p(caption). The shortcuts menu gives access to shortcuts. Confusingly, this is different from ‘bookmarks’ and the ‘names’ list on the phone, although names can be searched from within the application. I think tighter integration with the OS is called for.

p(caption). Shortcuts can be added, edited, deleted, etc. in the same way as contacts. They can be ‘Given’ to another phone or ‘Written’ to a tag.

p(caption). There are three kinds of shortcuts: Call, URL or SMS. ‘Call’ will create a call to a pre-defined number, ‘URL’ will load a pre-defined URL, and ‘SMS’ will send a pre-defined SMS to a particular number. This part of the application has the most room for innovative extensions: we should be able to set the state of the phone, change profiles, change themes, download graphics, etc. This can be achieved by loading URLs, but URLs and mobiles don’t mix, so why should we be presented with them, when there could be a more usable layer inbetween? There could also be preferences for prompts: at the moment each action has to be confirmed with a yes or a no, but in some secure environments it would be nice to be able to have a function launched without the extra button push.

p(caption). If a tag contains no data, then we are notified and placed back on the main screen (as happened when I tried to write to my Oyster card).

p(caption). If the tag is writeable we are asked which shortcut to write to the tag.

p(caption). When we touch a tag with a shortcut on it, a prompt appears asking for confirmation. This is a level of UI to prevent mistakes, and a certain level of security, but it also reduces the overall usability of the system. With URL launching, there are two stages of confirmation, which is infuriating. There needs to be some other mode of confirmation, and the ‘service discovery’ app needs to somehow be deeper in the system to avoid these double button presses.

p(caption). Lastly, there is a log of actions. Useful to see if the application has been reading something in your bag or wallet, without you knowing…

Graphic language for touch


This work explores the visual link between information and physical things, specifically around the emerging use of the mobile phone to interact with RFID or NFC. It was a presentation and poster at Design Engaged, Berlin on the 11th November 2005.

Download the icons (PDF, 721KB, Gif preview).

As mobile phones are increasingly able to read and write to RFID tags embedded in the physical world, I am wondering how we will appropriate this for personal and social uses.

I’m interested in the visual link between information and physical things. How do we represent an object that has digital function, information or history beyond it’s physical form? What are the visual clues for this interaction? We shouldn’t rely on a kind of mystery meat navigation (the scourge of the web-design world) where we have to touch everything to find out it’s meaning.

This work doesn’t attempt to be a definitive system for marking physical things, it is an exploratory process to find out how digital/physical interactions might work. It uncovers interesting directions while the technology is still largely out of the hands of everyday users.

h3. Reference to existing work

Visual references

p(caption). Click for larger version.

The inspiration for this is in the marking of public space and existing iconography for interactions with objects: push buttons on pedestrian crossings, contactless cards, signage and instructional diagrams.

This draws heavily on the substantial body of images of visual marking in public space. One of the key findings of this research was that visibility and placement of stickers in public space is an essential part of their use. Current research in ubicomp and ‘locative media’ is not addressing these visibility issues.

There is also a growing collection of existing iconography in contactless payment systems, with a number of interesting graphic treatments in a technology-led, vernacular form. In Japan there are also instances of touch-based interactions being represented by characters, colours and iconography that are abstracted from the action itself.

I have also had great discussions with Ulla-Maaria Mutanen and Jyri Engestr?m who have been doing interesting work with thinglinks and the intricate weaving of RFID into craft products.

h3. Development


Sketching and development revealed five initial directions: circles, wireless, card-based, mobile-based and arrows (see the poster for more details). The icons range from being generic (abstracted circles or arrows to indicate function) to specific (mobile phones or cards touching tags).

Arrows might be suitable for specific functions or actions in combinations with other illustrative material. Icons with mobile phones or cards might be helpful in situations where basic usability for a wide range of users is required. Although the ‘wireless’ icons are often found in current card readers, they do not successfully indicate the touch-based interactions inherent in the technology, and may be confused with WiFi or Bluetooth. The circular icons work at the highest level, and might be most suitable for generic labelling.


For further investigation I have selected a simple circle, surrounded by an ‘aura’ described by a dashed line. I think this successfully communicates the near field nature of the technology, while describing that the physical object contains something beyond its physical form.


In most current NFC implementations, such as the 3220 from Nokia and many iMode phones, the RFID reader is in the bottom of the phone. This means that the area of ‘activation’ is obscured in many cases by the phone and hand. The circular iconography allows for a space to be marked as ‘active’ by the size of the circle, and we might see it used to mark areas rather than points. Usability may improve when these icons are around the same size as the phone, rather than being a specific point to touch.

h3. Work in progress

This is early days for this technology, and this is work-in-progress. There is more to be done in looking at specific applications, finding suitable uses and extending the language to cover other functions and content.

Until now I have been concerned with generic iconography for a digitally augmented object. But this should develop into a richer language, as the applications for this type of interaction become more specific, and related to the types of objects and information being used. For example it would be interesting to find a graphic treatment that could be applied to a Pokemon sticker offering power-ups as well as a bus stop offering timetable downloads.

I’m also interested in the physical placement of these icons. How large or visible should they be? Are there places that should not be ‘active’? And how will this fit with the natural, centres of gravity of the mobile phone in public and private space.

I’ll expand on these things in a few upcoming projects that explore touch-based interactions in personal spaces.

Feel free to use and modify the icons, I would be very interested to see how they can be applied and extended.



h3. Visual references

Oyster Card, Transport for London.
eNFC, Inside Contactless.
Paypass, Mastercard.
ExpressPay, American Express.
FeliCa, Sony.
MiFare, various vendors.
Suica, JR, East Japan Railway Company.
RFID Field Force Solutions, Nokia.
NFC shell for 3220, Nokia.
ERG Transit Systems payment, Dubai.
Various generic contactless vendors.
Contactless payment symbol, Mastercard.
Open Here, Paul Mijksenaar, Piet Westendorp, Thames and Hudson, 1999.
Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud, Harper, 1994


Design Engaged 2005

h3. Intro by Andrew Otwell

Restorative feeling of getting together.
The architecture of participation.
Experience design is participation design.

h3. Adam Greenfield

Ethical and social implications of ubicomp
Has been reading far afield “Out of gas” “Dark age ahead” “Collapse
Growth and decline
Models of growth:
1. Health of economy is based on growth
2. Continuous growth: technological singularity: going off the charts
3. Cancer,
Decline: cyclical decline, populations, rise and fall of the nile
But sometime it’s not cyclical: the global production of oil.
Growth and terminal decline: global oil production. Industrial civilisation becomes very hard to maintain.
There is a contingency that designers probably ought to be thinking about.
An implication: things get intensely local
Power sources, reclamation, working and forging
Textiles dyes colorings
Methods practices and standards: knowledge: resident in the minds and things around us.
Deployment of finished items
Value: ie copper may be worth more locally as a metal to be worked, than as wiring in an inert grid.
A new suite of design gestures
Our near-instantaneous google+wikipedia
Lose Apple-Z
Flexibility and unquestioned connectivity (the social, fluid, soft meeting space)
digital visualization and rapid prototyping
Petrochemical or dependent derived material properties
Precision fabrication
Low material costs
The global community

Will become important
Adaptive re-use
Modularity, interoperability
Mash-up ethos
Sense of possibility and play
Reclamation of old industrialisation
Re-densification: new urban centres
Urban core may be untenable: bulding higher than 6 floors may be difficult
KH Kunstler: the long emergency

h3. Matt Ward

Has design lost its way.
Design is always ideological, influenced by specific world views, responds to cultural context, design is a product (of the society it originates from).
It’s also world shaping, future oriented, not yet, soon to be, one day, wouldn’t it be cool if. Imagination and production. Cannot claim autonomy from social change.
Utopia, Outopia: no place. Eutopia: good place
The desire to be somewhere different, not about this place not now, free of the problems of this world.
No problem to link utopianism with the act of designing.
Many see design as a key to changing the world. Corbusier.
Design is also linked to control and power.
Archigram: a move away from conservatism. Anti-utopianism, learning from the mistakes of their forefathers.
Inbetween the space of freedom and control: metamorphosis
Utopia of difference: terroristic meta-narratives (Tom Moylan)
Superstudio: allows for different uses and actions to define the architecture of the studio. A critique of the modernists.
Critical utopia: asks questions: asks towards change, towards critical design.
Problem with critical design: forgets to question the position that the designer has
Locative media: a lot of technology removes us from everyday life, we need to remember the dogshit and the chewing gum.
Malcolm: the avant garde is now 2 minutes.
Digital design: change in space and place: information acts within the production of space.

h3. Joshua Kaufman

Book: The Whale and the Reactor (A search for limits in an age of high technology)
Social consequences of design from a historical perspective
Artefacts have political properties: invention, design or arrangement of artifact becomes a way of settling an issue in the affaris of a community. Some articles are inherently political (weaponry)
Political design can be found in architecture and urban planning
Robert Moses low overpasses: discouraged lower-class travel
Barron Haussmann’s thoroughfares: large roads and parks.
Concrete buildings and plazas at universities, to discourage demonstrations
Cyrus McCorrmick II’s molding machines
How design choices affect the relative distribution of power.
Fabio: Relationship between artefact and culture is complex. You can put the baby out into the world, but can’t take responsibility for all it’s actions.

h3. Anne Galloway

Design and the parliament of things
Making the work of a social scientist applicable
Philosophy of science
The difference between an assemblage and an assembly
“To assemble is one thing; to represent to the eyes and ears of those assembled what is at stake is another” Bruno Latour, How to Make Things Public.
The different between objects and things
In design, things are objects: stable and neutral. Even users are objects.
Things: an assembly: to come together
A coming together precicely because we have differences.
From Realpolitics to Thingpolitics.
“Walking is controlled falling” Laurie Andersen.
Representative democracy: body-politic: unifying difference, stabilising and reducing difference.
From representation to re-presentation: all the constituent parts
Re-presenting design: invention and capitalism, speed and mobilisation.
Going from an assemblage of different parts to an assembly.
Speed and competition, focusing on the novel: ideas and materials and practices are being mobilised, getting rid of the obstacles that will slow it down.
This doesn”t help us ‘assemble’. A constant space of speed, not encouraged to slow down and think things through. We don’t have an assembly.
We can’t afford to keep ignoring each other.
“Your concerns are not relevant to our task at hand, you are not enabling my efficiency, etc.”
What is it going to take to design in this parliament of things?
We can start by slowing down.
“That’s where slowing down comes in ? you can create new habits only by slowing down, because new habits also mean new feelings, new interests, new possibilities” ??Isabelle Stengers
Matt: voting is a last resort, consensus is reached in different ways.
Anne: not interested in consensus, interested in convergence.
Malcolm: taking into account, not accounting the bottom line: Latour
Matt: strategies and tactics in moving towards slowness? A: get outside, get into the ground.

h3. Michelle Chang

Public by design
Interested in the issue of privacy
Privacy / Publicness
Public library
How the library became a microcosm of the city: a number of services and interfaces to the city
Practices: activities.
What technologies are public goods? Electricity, wireless, etc.
Which technologies must be individually wrought? Laptops, mobiles.
“A public institution must bear the burden of public demands”
Anne: a public space or a commons? A convergence
Use of the internet problematic: an increasing use of “adult terminals” versus “children’s terminals”.
The library becomes a sort of pitstop: getting out of the rain or using the toilet.

h3. Thomas Vander Wal

Clouds, space and black boxes
Information is found and created, but there is little distinction between the two.
Personal info cloud, local infocloud, global infocloud
A clearing house of filters from the flood of information that flows down.
Filtering based on trust and value: aggregation
A ‘firewall’ that filters what information we give to people
A ‘smart’ black box
Some people keep all different bits of their personal data stored underneath different usernames: so as to not keep all data aggregated in one place.

h3. Louise Klinker

Guilty consciences
Using environmental issues. Using P2P software
Linking music download to criminal activity, but also tracking music downloads according to the amount of money owed to industry and artists.

h3. Malcolm McCullough

Taking into account the notion of civic space: architecture.
Closed laptop, notebook…

h3. Fabio Sergio

The skin of objects
No definitions of interaction design!
Where is the material of interaction design?
Joy Mountfort: “We are designing the skin of objects” reacted strongly against this.
Industrial design: from Olivetti cash register to Apple G5.
Ben: models are the substance of interaction design. The act of creating constraints and systemic understandings.
The visualisation of complexity: making new materials from the mass of information.
Conceptual models affecting the physical models.
Liz: what are models? Fundamentals of interaction design are stories.

h3. Stefan Smagula

Open source media
Project Lightspeed: AT&T, Yahoo and Microsoft.
Big players: Apple, IPTV, Yahoo, Google
Bootstrappers: Open Media Network, DTV (Bittorrent & RSS), Open Source Radio
RSS provides metadata and triggers downloads
Matt Jones: Jerry Cornelius: an open source character: giving away plots and stories.

h3. Chris Heathcote

Panasonic gets personalisation.
Barcodes on skins.
Websites for cover creation.
Harajuku store for expensive personal covers.
Korea: metal depicting war scenes, cloth.
A spectrum of engagement, consume, buy, customise, accessorize, alter, make, design.
Find out how, make stuff, sell stuff. cyworld (half population of Korea?), habbo, myspace, neopets.
Peer production: flips traditional production economics.
physical peer production: toolmakers, manufacturer, designer, aggregator, printer, user.
Internet fabrication: electronic, materials
Home fabrication: 3d scanners, milling and printing, 2d printing and cutting
Local fabrication: access to machine shops, equipment
Is physical better than digital?
Is this sustainable?
How do we design for casual craft?
Malcolm: biggest criticism of digital ground is the longevity of the tools, the tools are not consistent or stable enough.
Mike: people don’t like to do something they do for a living in their spare time: this might be a reaction away digital work environments.
John: scrapbooking industry is huge in the States: manifesting a collection of pieces: in Target is a whole section for scrapbooking.
Slowness is the point of craft. The process is key.
Anne: when you work in a sweatshop you don’t knit for relaxation.
Liz: … as long as it’s pink. Modern idea of design is strongly opposed to the Victorian ‘crafted’ fussy environments.

h3. Jyri Engstr?m & Ulla-maaria Mutanen

Social objects, invisible tail and free product codes.
A map of relationships, with nodes as individuals.
But look at interactions from an ethnographic pov, we see interaction through social objects.
Michael Tomasello: children learn about intentional affordances based on understanding the intentional relations to other people.
Online these things are links, photos, etc.
Developing novel kinds of interactions through objects.
Photos, bookmarks, blogs, products.
Tim O’Reilly: Amazon also introduced their own proprietary identifier: the ASIN: works for objects that don’t have ISBN. A basic necessity for anything to become a social object online.
UPC, EPC, ISBN, ASIN for artefacts of mass production.
What might be a for physical things?
History, present, makers, materials. Making those relations visible: indicating social value.
Using RFID as a personal tool.
To-do list
??Recommendation-based markets
??Free thing identifiers
??Available wireless access
??Simple terminal devices

h3. Matt Webb

Forms of address: how we talk to computers, and how we should.
URLs and point and click are bad.
Desktop search and recent items: help a lot
Global URLs: they are portable, excellent.
They let you see ideas within their structure, not other ideas.
Doug Engelbart: online system
Delicious encodes a certain type of behaviour with more persistence and history.
Recent call lists on mobile phone
Using the Ning database is more like a conversation than Spotlight, it makes assumptions around structured data.
Patterns of behaviour: ‘the things I’ve done in the last 30 seconds can be referenced as an object”.
Bookmarking a conversation.
Mr Messy
“I’m only a first time user once”
Mike: Predictive shell.

h3. Nurri Kim

Tokyo Blues: The city as seen through one material
Blue tarpaulen: used in many different ways across different cities.
Most extensive use of blue tarps in Japan: anything that is passing into or out of existence.
Blue tarps with a modular system: model number is higher with durability
Most popular model number 3000, conforms to the tatami mat size.
Aerial photo: everything is being built, or rebuilt, historical renovation.
Used as shelter for homeless, mat for picnics, covers for temporary objects, street vendors, covering floors, spreading tarps to indicate zones: becomes an indoor space: taking off shoes to enter an ‘indoor zone’. Concealing / covering. Stack of things.

h3. Jack Schulze

Screen based button.
Working with manufacturing engineers
Physical buddies
The Invisibles
Desolation Jones
Will Burtin
What we can get away with in domestic manufacture.
Phones: manufacture, style/form: self reinforcement
Manufacture: iterating this relationship towards cheaper, assume this is better.
Manufacture: Worskshops : craft, local, milling, rfp
Style: malice, opportunism, dissassembly, individual, cults, play, luxury
Metal: Lens 117, casting metal in wax.
Casting phones in metal.

h3. R?gine Debatty

Artists or designers using RFID technology.
RFID was initially frightening.
Some consumer focused uses
RFID sushi: underneath each plate is a tag, conveyer belt. RFID reader scans a stack of plates.
For tracking cows.
In toys: a doll that gets sick, each accessory is a tag, in the toy is a reader.
Zapped: a machine that lets you know about readers in the space. Gave a cockroach with RFIDs to every participant: release in the nearest walmart to taint the database.
How artists and designers are using it
A1 lounge: re-materialisation, prada store.
Digital wardrobe: making sure she uses things that people don’t see more than once.
RFID habitat: tables in two parts of the world, shows presence
RFID bootleg objects: mp3 player based on a vinyl turntable, using the old covers as interface to mp3s.
Deal me in: cards for poker: blackjack mat that plugs into the computer: seeing and printing pictures using playing cards, a traditional interface.
With hidden numbers: traditional fashion objects, by passing these objects through a reader you can play music and play samples
Junkie helper: medicine linked to a chatroom: where people in a chatroom can see your action.
Go-dance: projecting videos in nightclubs, but can DJ using embodied interactions, with RFIDs connected to clothing
Peripheral needs: Velcro is used to turn appliances in the home on and off. The paper tags can be used to keep track of what’s going on in the home.
Urban eyes.
The living room: Telling stories with rfid

h3. Liz Goodman

Physical fitness
Ecosystem enabling.
Dance Dance revolution incorporating fitness into gaming.
The ‘Pay per play’ model
Arcades are designed to be really fun.

h3. Eric Rodenbeck, Michal Migurski, Stamen

Dumb Gestures
Vito Acconci: our work has to sound exciting over the phone
Dumb: easy explanations: eg. Flickr
Meet the audience more than halfway
Dumb is difficult
Map of the market: martin wattenburg, babyname voyager, visualising the way we use language
Vox Delicii
Acconci studio: website based on tags: can build dynamic presentations on the fly.
Cabspotting: live taxi visualisation
Molly: data fetishism: what types of things can be done with this as a tool?
Thomas: difficulty with time on the web, nothing that deals with it well: everything stuck on a calendar.
David Gelertner: lifestreams
How can we make this more ugly: graphic ugliness is equated with truth, if anything is to be taken seriously.
Malcolm: too much visualisation as wallpaper

h3. Molly Steenson

With re-unification, an entire class of everyday markers was wiped out.

h3. John Poisson

Seeking nirvana in design for the tiny
Four mobile truths
The mobile world is in a mess: earliest days of the PC.
Intense and competing constraints.
How to design for a form factor that is so limited.
Implementation is so limited by standards. Onerous restrictions and suffering with dealing with carriers. Onerous business models.
But it’s a tremendous opportunity, billions of potential users.
To assuage anxieties over all this: constraints can lead to a level of purity. A mobile app is a bit like a haiku.
A zen approach to the design and implementation of these things.
Refinement towards a very specific set of constraints.

h3. Ben Cerveny

Hyperdimensional hopscotch
Ideas put forward around the possibilites of dystopian futures.
Structure and architecture loom large in our minds (even though our titles are not that enymore)
Information structures are starting to play out in the spaces we inhabit: in the construction of the community.
In the process of game design: commodification of play, play creates interfaces in a richer interface than the traditional process of interface design. (through play finding the boundaries of the self and the other).
Use of symbolic systems and projection of language onto the world.
Game vs play: game is projecting a model into play. Language formalises meaning, games formalise play.
Hopskotch has no real ingredients, apart from a method of making marks and a space (plus an agreement to play the game)
This agreement is where the power is.
Consensual modelling capabilities: emergent social properties.
People have a growing literacy of what is possible.
Chess: a sculpture of behaviour of the pieces.
Aware of the tools to make this kind of models.
Goal directed learning: role-playing is more like improvisation: the roles involved are not defined in silos, but interwoven. Multiplications of capabilities. Certain tasks can only be achieved through a sequence of collaborative actions. Cumulative actions.
The techniques of role-play have made it into the workplace.
Neverendingness: a distributed conversation about the building of ‘what can happen’. Submitting ideas into a collaborative space.
The hopskotch that we are playing, is a directed but temporary structure.
The smooth space that we are standing on, that we demarcate with some markings.
Building models that have a linkable state.
The game we are playing is re-projectable onto different circumstances. (in case of dire future possibilities).
Games gone native: in specific environments.
Temporary autonomous games (tag). Chalk on sidewalk, but chalk is washed away. Temporary collaborative structures of meaning: playing out actions in that space, the product is meaningful. Focus taxonomy onto a specific process, that has traction, but can then discard the rule-set, once we have a product.
In betweening (Aldo van Eyck). Became uncomfortable with the top-down projections of authority (high modernism). Built 700 playgrounds in Amsterdam.
Projecting the possibility of play onto the environment. Filled all of the gaps in Amsterdam with play. A sandbox here, a pole there, etc.
A divergence from the monolithic flows of high modernism.
Collaborative making of urban experience.
‘We are all here now’, feeling. Take different roles in the game that is more empowering towards our ability to make things in the city.
Beaurau of spatial organisational.
Before we can activate a city (with a platform) we need to begin to compose our personal, fragmented understandings, how things can be represented, things that we can broadcast to each other.
These things can be connected to the city, a living model of the city. Building the hopscotch squares from one to the other.
The game model has the flexibility to support the kind of collaborative activity that will support these things.
Matt: how to manage the politicization of artefacts. What are the political consequences of these ideologies, structures, games. A game about the making of the game.
Adam: John Zorn’s cobra: improvisational combat jazz. Disruptor.
Mike: open ended, play-based perspective: changing and following rules is very complex, and leads down paths that are very damaging. But by sticking to one set of rules might end with a better result.
Collaborative idealism is a constant flow of articulation and re-articulation. Laminar flow and turbulence. Turn up the flow of collaboration we also get ‘stop and go’ effects.
Game: flex: so many rulecards have been played that it’s impossible.

Embodied interaction in music

I too have “ditched”: my large iPod for the “iPod Shuffle”:, finding that “I love the white-knuckle ride of random listening”: But that doesn’t exclude the need for a better small-screen-based music experience.

The pseudo-analogue interface of the iPod clickwheel doesn’t cut it. It can be difficult to control when accessing huge alphabetically ordered lists, and the acceleration or inertia of the view can be really frustrating. The combinations of interactions: clicking into deeper lists, scrolling, clicking deeper, turn into long and tortuous experiences if you are engaged in any simultaneous activity. Plus its difficult to use through clothing, or with gloves.

h3. Music and language


My first thought was something “Jack”: and I discussed a long time ago, using a phone keypad to type the first few letters of a artist, album or genre and seeing the results in real-time, much like “iTunes”: does on a desktop. I find myself using this a lot in iTunes rather than browsing lists.

“Predictive text input”: would be very effective here, when limited to the dictionary of your own music library. (I wonder if “QIX search”: would do this for a music library on a mobile?)

Maybe now is the time to look at this as we see “mobile”: “phone”: “music convergence”:

h3. Navigating through movement


Since scrolling is inevitable to some degree, even within fine search results, what about using simple movement or tilt to control the search results? One of the problems with using movement for input is context: when is movement intended? And when is movement the result of walking or a bump in the road?


One solution could be a “squeeze and shake” quasi-mode: squeezing the device puts it into a receptive state.


Another could be more reliance on the 3 axes of tilt, which are less sensitive to larger movements of walking or transport.

h3. Gestures


I’m not sure about gestural interfaces, most of the prototypes I have seen are difficult to learn, and require a certain level of performativity that I’m not sure everyone wants to be doing in public space. But having accelerometers inside these devices should, and would, allow for the hacking together other personal, adaptive gestural interfaces that would perhaps access higher level functions of the device.


One gesture I think could be simple and effective would be covering the ear to switch tracks. To try this out we could add a light or capacitive touch sensor to each earbud.

With this I think we would have trouble with interference from other objects, like resting the head against a wall. But there’s something nicely personal and intimate about putting the hand next to the ear, as if to listen more intently.

h3. More knobs


Things that are truly analogue, like volume and time, should be mapped to analogue controls. I think one of the greatest unexplored areas in digital music is real-time audio-scrubbing, currently not well supported on any device, probably because of technical constraints. But scrubbing through an entire album, with a directly mapped input, would be a great way of finding the track you wanted.

Research projects like the “DJammer”: are starting to look at this, specifically for DJs. But since music is inherently time-based there is more work to be done here for everyday players and devices. Let’s skip the interaction design habits we’ve learnt from the CD era and go back to vinyl 🙂

h3. Evolution of the display


Where displays are required, I hope we can be free of small, fuzzy, low-contrast LCDs. With new displays being printable on paper, textiles and other surfaces there’s the possibility of improving the usability, readability and “glanceability” of the display.

We are beginning to see signs of this with this OLED display on this “Sony Network Walkman”: where the display is under the surface of the product material, without a separate “glass” area.


For the white surface of an iPod, the high-contrast, “paper-like surfaces”: of technologies like e-ink would make great, highly readable displays.

h3. Prototyping


So I really need to get prototyping with accelerometers and display technologies, to understand simple movement and gesture in navigating music libraries. There are other questions to answer: I’m wondering if using movement to scroll through search results would create the appearance of a large screen space, through the lens of a small screen. As with “bumptunes”:, I think many more opportunities will emerge as we make these things.

h3. More reading

“Designing for Shuffling”:
“Thoughts on the iPod Shuffle”:
“Audioclouds/gestural interaction”:
“Sound objects”:
“On the body”:

Tangible and social interaction

h3. Brief history of interaction

(Based on Dourish, see reading recommendations, below)

Each successive development in computer history has made greater use of human skills:

* electrical: required a thorough understanding of electrical design
* symbolic: required a thorough understanding of the manipulation of abstract languages
* textual: text dialogue with the computer: set the standards of interaction we still we live with today
* graphic: graphical dialogue with the computer, using our spatial skills, pattern recognition, and motion memory with a mouse and keyboard

We have become stuck in this last model.

Interaction with computers has remained largely the same: desk, screen, input devices, etc. Even entirely new fields like mobile and iTV have followed these interaction patterns.

h3. Definitions:

* Tangible: physical: having substance or material existence; perceptible to the senses
* Social: human and collaborative abilities, or ‘software that’s better because there’s people there’ (Definition from “Matt Jones”: and “Matt Webb”:

h3. Examples

Dourish notes in the first few chapters of his book that as interaction with computers moves out into the world, it becomes part of our social world too. The social and the tangible are intricately linked as part of “being in the world”.

What follows are examples of products or services we can use or buy right now. I’m specifically interested in the ways that these theories of ubiquitous computing and tangible interaction are moving out into the world, and the way that we can see the trends in currently available products.

I’m aware that there are also terrifically interesting things happening in research (eg the “Tangible Media Group”: but right now I’m interested in the emergent things that start to happen effects of millions of people using things (like Flickr, weblogs, Nintendo DS, and mobile social software).

h3. Social trends on the web

On the web the current trend is building simple platforms that support complex social/human behaviour

* “Weblogs”:, newsreaders and RSS: simple platform that has changed the way the web works, and supported simple social interaction (the basic building blocks of dialogue, or conversation)
* “Flickr”: a simple platform for media/photo sharing: turned into a thriving community: works well with the web by allowing syndicated photos, bases the social network on top of a defined funciton
* Others include, world of warcraft, etc.

h3. Social mobile computing

On mobile platforms most of the exciting stuff is happening around presence, context and location

* “Familiar strangers”: stores a list of all the phones that you have been near in places that you inhabit, and then visualises the space around you according to who you have met before. “More mobile social software”:
* “Mogi”: location based game, but most interestingly supports different contexts of use: both at home in front of a big screen, and out on a small mobile screen.

h3. Social games

Interesting that games are moving away from pure immersive 3D worlds, and starting to devote equal attention to their situated, social context

* Nintendo DS: “PictoChat”:, local wireless networks that can be adapted for gameplay or communication (picture chatting included as standard)
* “Sissyfight”: very simple social game structure, encourages human behaviour, insults
* “Habbohotel”: simple interaction structures, (and fantastic attention to detail in “iconic representations”: support human desires. Now a very large company, in over 12 countries, based on the sales of virtual furniture
* “Singstar”: entirely social game, about breaking social barriers and mutual humiliation: realtime analysis/visualisation of your voice actually makes you sing worse!

h3. Tangible games

* “Eyetoy”: Brings the viewer into the screen, creates a “performative and social space”:, and allows communication via PS2
* “Dance Dance Revolution”: taking the television into physical space
* “Nokia wave-messaging”: puts information back into space, and creates social and performative opportunities (Photo thanks to Matt Webb)
* “Yellow Arrow”: puts digital information into city space, gives us a glimpse of the way that we might have more interaction with situated information in the future

There are also very interesting aspects of “gender”: in all of this: this move towards the social implies a move towards the type of games/play that is seen more often in girls.

h3. Recommended reading

“Where the Action Is, Paul Dourish”: (Read the first 3 chapters for a great introduction)

“Digital Ground, Malcolm McCullough”: (Exploring the relationship between architectural and digital spaces)

“Physical Computing, O?Sullivan, Igoe”: (Practical book on making physical computing devices)

“Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold”: (Exploring wider social aspects of mobile technology)

“The Humane Interface, Jef Raskin”: (Covers screen based interaction, but has the best discussion on ‘modes’ of any book)

“Mind Hacks, Matt Webb and Tom Stafford”: (Looks at our interaction with the world from the perspective of neuroscience, great introduction to ‘affordances’)