Sketching Smart Things, a presentation for CHIFOO

(photo from Flickr, (cc) dailydog)

CHIFOO, the CHI forum of Oregon, invited me to speak at their January gathering, and it was an honor and a pleasure to accept their invitation. Their lecture theme this year is "From Ideation to Innovation," and I used the theme as an opportunity to describe our recent projects, including our work with the Henry Ford, and our products, and the theoretical framework that we're developing to think about ubiquitous computing user experience design and incorporating the principles of agile software development into design.

The full presentation is available as a 1M PDF.

Here's a highlight, the ThingM theoretical framework:

1. Information Processing is a Material
When a designer can include information processing in a product for very little cost, the calculation becomes not one of engineering complexity, that’s relatively cheap, but one of competitive advantage. What you do with that CPU becomes part of the design of the product and needs to be designed with the same attention to the other parts as any of the materials being used. And just like a material, it creates some new capabilities, and imposes new constraints.
2. Applianceness
Coined by Bill Sharpe of the Appliance Studio, states that applianceness is "the set of properties that guide the design process towards simple, helpful devices that exploit the potential of embedded information technology in everyday things." The core of the idea for me is that focus in functionality is more important than arbitrary flexibility. When computation is cheap, we no longer have to make general purpose computers. (Sharpe and his colleagues at an earlier incarnation of the Appliance Studio also did an excellent set of design principle cards (120K) that I still carry around)
3. Physical Objects Cast Information Shadows
In our modern world, everything exists simultaneously in the physical world and in the world of data. Nearly every object’s information shadow can be examined and manipulated without having to touch the physical object. Think of the Amazon and Google book APIs. Information shadows have lives of their own. Wine has a particularly rich one.
4. Devices are Service Avatars
Networks mean that the same information can be accessed and manipulated through a variety of devices. Most value rests in information, rather in the device that’s communicating it, which means that the devices become secondary. A number of familiar information appliances--cell phones, ATMs--are basically worthless without the networks they’re attached to. They are physical manifestations, avatars, projections into physical space of services, but are not services themselves. This means that when thinking about how to design user experiences for ubiquitous computing, the design of the service becomes as important as the design of the device. (I wrote more about this idea a couple of years ago)
5. Granularity Determines Key Aspects of Experience Design
Ubiquitous computing devices can come in all sorts of sizes and the user experience design for them must take this into account. This has been true since the earliest days at PARC when Weiser defined the tab, pad and board as names for the scales of the devices they were developing. I use a different set of terms, but the key idea is the same: what works at one granularity doesn't necessarily work at another.
6. Magic is a Powerful Interaction Metaphor
The concept of enchanted objects can help generate ideas about interaction and as a way to create user experiences that are easier to explain. People have a tendency to create animist explanations for the behavior of technologies that exhibit unpredictable behaviors. They treat their Roombas like pets, they get mad at their laptops, they think their iPod is obsessed with a band, etc. We can use these natural associations to design ubiquitous computing interactions. (I've written and talked about this idea more extensively before)

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Kuniavsky published on January 11, 2008 5:33 PM.

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