Urbicomp &new new media.Chris Heathcote / @antimegaLondon IA, April 2011 1
The specialist designer. 2How many people here are called an IA at work? What about a designer? I ﬁnd it hard todescribe what I do any more, if I say I’m a designer, people want to know what I’ve made, andI haven’t made anything for years. I spend a lot of time ghostwriting for an idiot-savanttunaﬁsh at the moment.
makes calls 3I’ve worked on pretty much every different design aspect of mobile phones in the last 8years. When I started, this was the model to get. It was amazing. No visible antenna!
makes callscolour screentakes photos 4Within months, this phone had come out. It had a colour screen! It had a camera! I was livingin the future. This totally changed what a phone was, and what it could be. I rememberspending a lot of time working with a company to put various ways of photo sharing in thesilicon of a couple of models of phones - this was the only way to add functionality.
makes callscolour screentakes photosbrowse web 5And soon, this came out. It could browse the web. (just). This totally changed what a phonewas, and what it could be.
makes calls record videocolour screen listen to radiotakes photos Facebookbrowse web run appsplay gameswrite emailplay musicvideo callknows where it is 6And they just kept on changing. In less than a decade we went from a phone that magicallyhad no wires to mundane Star Trek.
makes calls record videocolour screen listen to radiotakes photos Facebookbrowse web run appsplay games be your ticketswrite email be your keysplay music pay for thingsvideo callknows where it is 7(and it’s not stopping, yet)
Designer, engineer, anthropologist, sociologist. 8I think the role of designer has changed as much as the products. Designers have tounderstand what stuff is available, they need to know some of how it works, how people willuse it, and how it will ﬁt into their daily life. Interaction design has time as its medium, andexperience design has emotion.I counted 26 different ways I can communicate with people with this iPhone. That’s illogical,but each fulﬁls a slightly different role, and humans are great at understanding just the rightway to communicate with the right person in the right context. It’s pretty impossible todesign holistically, or design as an individual, these days.
A thing. An action causes a reaction. 9But at least it’s still a thing. It’s an understandable object. This used to often be what mostdesigners cared about. And then, it was all about interaction - objects would respond.
Things happen... other things happen... something happens to you. 10But we’re entering a weirder world now. We’re now able to collect large amounts ofinformation, piece together lots of different data and then act on it. Actions can be displacedby time and space, and transmogriﬁed into outcomes no-one would have predicted.
11Although you’re still acting on the world, it’s all quite seemingly innocuous passive actions.The fact that doing anything can now have a reaction generates a real sense of unease.I received this email recently. I’d been to the Tate the day before, they’d scanned mymembership card at the entrance to the exhibition.It felt weird for two reasons: the ﬁrst is that you don’t expect everything to be joined up. Youdon’t think your membership card is linked to your email address. Secondly, it’s reallypersonal. It’s not from Tate, it’s from Jessica Morgan. It’s addressed to me.
12Another example. TfL mine Oyster data to see what routes you frequently use, and email youif there are long-term engineering works.
13Lovely, bless ‘em, but even the mode change from web browsing to web mail feels freaky.
14and more customer relationship management. It’s something I’m fascinated by - for examplemany good restaurants keep details of everything you ate and drank, and sometimes evenattach your photo or Google you before you arrive.
A world of sensors and the sensed. 15So we’re in a world of sensors, where all kinds of things can be sensed and reacted upon.
16This is a Japanese vending machine. It looks the same as many others, but it’s actually a 47inch touch screen. It’s got a camera built in, recognises age and gender, and tailors drinksuggestions accordingly.Using the same technology, there’s also a digital screen network that changes the adspresented based on who’s walking past.Pretty much all screens will have a camera built in - they’re really cheap. But how does itchange the relationship between people and public space?
Adding a network connection changes any medium. 17Even media we’ve had centuries to perfect and understand suddenly changes when you plugthe Internet into it.
18Even something like a receipt can change when you add a network connection. This is from aproject by Dentsu London and BERG exploring incidental media. Print can be fast. Live data,the news, the weather could be included... the purpose of the receipt can be changed.
19Similarly, what happens if a TV gets a network connection? Why isn’t the ticker made up ofinformation important to you?
Design is about wrangling invisible ows of data. 20personal data, private data, friends data, public data, urban data. They’re unseen andintangible, and it’s our job as designers to both instantiate them - make them real - andmake them understandable.
40p o a latte. 21The cliche of ubiquitous computing is that as you walk past a starbucks, your phone willvibrate with a coupon for 40p off a latte. It’s an unscalable, unsustainable example, but letsunpick what could be going on.First off - what ratted on you? Your Nike+ talking shoes, using a credit card nearby, your carnumber plate being recognised, your phone reporting your location, or your Oyster cardinforming the system that you’ve just come out of Oxford Circus tube?Next, why you? Maybe your credit card or Foursquare checkins told them you prefer CafeNero. Your age and gender are mixed with your home address’ purchasing proﬁle, plus yoursocial standing from Facebook and Twitter.And why now? The store has lower sales this hour than normal - in fact there’s no queue. Youdidn’t take them up on the offer last time - they’d only offered 20p off - but you really wanta coffee, and as you enter the store, the barista greets you by name, as your details andphoto have popped up on her till.That’s a lot of work to sell a latte.
Magic is an awful lot of hard work behind-the- scenes. 22To appear effortless in real-time takes a lot of work. Computing is cheap, thankfully.
23This has been going on for a while. This is an extract from the ACORN database, whichclassiﬁes every postcode in the UK. It’s used to make decisions on your credit, the advertisingthat appears around you, the offers you’ll be given.Was spun out of the Great Universal home shopping business - they also had their own homedelivery network, a vertically integrated business before it was cool.
ANPR. 24And Governments love these kinds of large databases. The UK Automatic NumberplateRecognition system stitches together over 10 thousand CCTV cameras operated by variouscouncils and government authorities, and stores over 15 million number plate reads a day.It’s designed to deny criminals the use of the road.
25Supposedly Brazil is working on a system that can identify people and will be portable by2014. I know it’s not possible now, but what about in 2 cycles of Moore’s Law? Is this a caseof creating design ﬁction to make it happen?
How do we take back control and make urban computing work for us? 26I’m interested in how this stuff changes our daily life, and I’m particularly interested in thevery mundane daily uses.
A car that knows where the nearest free parking space is to your destination. 27I think of a car as a big mobile phone you sit in. It has many of the same capabilities andcharacteristics (other than moving at 90 miles an hour). This seems like an easy problem -after all nearly every car has GPS in now.
28But how do you know if a space is free? Well, modern carparks now have parking guidancesystems.
29Again, not a new thing - this has been a little bit of future urban computing installed for thelast 30 years (photos from Swarco, a traffic solutions company).
30But now the resolution is changing. Rather than just a count in and out of the carpark, everyparking spot has a sensor and light above it. It detects if the space is free, and sends thatinformation to the central computer, that knows where every space is, and can direct carsaccordingly.This is large scale informatics - Westﬁeld London has 4500 spaces, Heathrow Terminal 5 has3800. Some also incorporate number plate reading cameras, so if you can’t remember whereyou parked you car, they can ﬁnd it.This data is only useful to us, however, if it’s networked, and available in real-time - andyou’re car has mobile connectivity and a way of interpreting and presenting the data.
Food that texts you when it’s going out of date. 31OK, another example. Your shopping basket can answer back. Again, we’re nearly there withthis...
32Supermarkets have to know when food goes out of date for stock control. Ocado provide thisinformation on paper, on your receipt.But what if you could choose to receive a text message each day? Or if your shopping had aTwitter account?
It’s about being relevant,in the right place, at theright moment.Personal computing. 33
We have places we naturally put our stu . Keys, wallet, phone. 34Jan Chipchase did a lot of work looking at centres of gravity - how and where people storetheir essential stuff, when mobile and at home.
What’s the equivalent for data? 35No-one’s really cracked the ability to display the relevant, contextual data you need. Theclosest we are now is a mobile phone with an app for each different need. Dentsu’s incidentalmedia ﬁlm showed some ideas of how data can inhabit different contexts. How do we placethe data where it’s used?
36How can data pervade our home? EDF and Tinker created a project called Homesense to lookat how people could wrangle data and electronics themselves to create useful urbancomputing interventions in the home.One of the best examples is Russell Davies’ bikemap. It displays the availability of TfL bikesnear his home. That’s all. It’s hyperpersonalised, and it changes the way you use urbaninfrastructure. What’s also interesting is the homeliness of it, and how it has to look like aﬁnished product.
37This is DisplayCabinet, a (slightly smoke and mirrors) demo Ben Bashford, Tim Burrell-Saward and Dan Williams made for the Pachube Hack Day. It identiﬁes your personal objects via RFIDand displays relevant information around them. I’m really interested in what can be done withpico and nano projectors, especially in the home. Dust off those ergonomics books, there’slots to be done.
Mundanecomp and the new DIY. Arduino, Processing, Python, Pachube, OpenFrameworks, Cinder... 38You can think of a million ways to improve household products and objects. Why does mywashing machine beep when it’s ﬁnished rather than text me?So these are our new tools and materials. Do designers need to know this stuff? Well, yes, wehave to know our tools and materials intimately. And it’s only people like us that will abstractaway the difficulty to make useful products and services for others.