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Merry Christmas by IxDS December 24, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in poetic, privat.
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This year, we at IxDS send out our Holiday greetings with a personalized snowflake: based on the recipient’s name a snowflake is generated in our typical segment-display-grid:

(image shows the snowflake for “interactiondesign”)

Please try your own snowflake here.

We got a very nice review on the blog designmadeingermany by Nadine Rossa. Thank you!

So, happy holiday to you all!




Gamification at WordPress December 18, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification.

As a professor, but also in my practical work, I have been looking quite a lot into the potentials of gamification.

The other day I stumbled on an example for gamification, which did not really convince me: Here at WordPress, after each post one writes, a sidebar opens and displays the number of posts one has written so far:

Firstly, I find it strange to think that the number of posts is a motivation for people writing their blogs.

But then – to use one of the core gamification elements, the progression dynamics, to motivate people to write 5 more blog posts, seems even stranger to me.

So, when I finally reached the 190st post, then I will get motivated to write more by another progress bar helping me to reach my “Next Posting Goal” of 195 posts?

The typography in this sidebar is also quite interesting: in the sentence “You published your 188th post.” it is not “You”, who is highlightes, also not “188” or “post”, but “published” – and who is the publisher? Yes, it is WordPress!

I think that WordPress should rethink their gamification strategy and have a close look at what motivates their users…


Kate Hartman on Bodies, Plants and Glaciers December 18, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, physical interaction design, poetic, theory.
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(Botanicall is a device, which allows plants to twitter or to make phone calls) (image source)

Kate Hartman, one of the inventors of the Botanicalls, gave a very entertaining TED-talk on her work:

At 1:03 she makes a wonderful statement on “Why bodies matter”:

Everybody got one. All of you […] have bodies! Don’t be ashamed! And this is something that we have in common. And they act as our primary interfaces for the world. 


Merry Fritzmas! December 13, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in physical interaction design, poetic.
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Stefan Herman, who is working with us on Fritzing, developed this wonderful geeky Christmas star.

With each Starterkit the Fritzing team is shipping such a star.
Order fast – I just hear that there are only 35 left…


Job Offer at IxDS December 13, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in jobs.
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IxDS, the Berlin-based Interaction Design Studios I am working with, is seeking for a FRONTEND/UI-DEVELOPER!

Here from the job description:

We are looking for an all-around sympathetic person to work with us on our projects as a frontend-developer a.k.a. user interface programmer a.k.a. creative technologist.

= Things you should know about =

You should be passionate about at least one of:
– Web (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Ajax,…)
– Mobile (Android, iOS,…)
– Freeform (Processing, Cinder, Arduino,…)

Additionally, you should be able to communicate fluently with:
– colleagues developing backend technologies
– colleagues designing the user interface design

= What you can look forward to =

IxDS is an interaction design consultancy based in Berlin.
We apply methods of co-creation and agile prototyping to give shape to our clients’ visions.
This means you will
– collaborate in a dynamic, interdiscplinary team
– develop with contemporary agile methods
– get direct feedback from end-users in our co-creation process
– work on a broad range of innovation-oriented projects
– have time for learning new things
– get fair pay and life-friendly working hours

= Apply =

We would like to fill this position as soon as possible.
Full-time employment is desired, but flexible arrangements are definitely possible.

Please send your application, including a portfolio and links to prior work to work@ixds.de.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate.

Why service design is the next big thing in cultural innovation December 13, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in innovation process, methods, service design.
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(image source)

In TheGuardien from 07.12.2011, there is a nice article on Service Design: The author, Rohan Gunatillake, is working with the Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab, which identifies and develops ways to improve the festival culture in Edinburgh – “for audiences, for artists, for partners and for the festival organisations themselves“.

In his article, Rohan makes a nice remark on what Service Design is: just as product design is a discipline where formal design methodologies and approaches are used to make your hoover, smartphone and car the best it can be for your needs and your lifestyle, service design does the same for experiences.

He then makes four statements, which sound quite familiar for us at IxDS as well:

  1. What people want isn’t always what organisations want
  2. We cannot afford to limit innovation just to technology
  3. We should be customising the wheel, not reinventing it
  4. We need a more established culture of prototyping

Especially the last one is interesting as I am wondering about a culture of prototyping in the area of festivals: Rohan published a “Festival Design DNA“, which “hosts a toolkit for how to apply service design for people-centred innovation in festivals and the wider cultural sector“. Here you can find the toolkit – under a CC license!

In this toolkit they present three prototyping approaches:

Desktop Walkthrough

(example for desktop walkthrough; image source)

Even though the descriptions are short and quite general and not  focussed on Service Design for festivals, I like their understanding of Desktop Walkthrough: Using figurines, complex services can be brought to life and visualised in 3D, enhancing your paper sketches.

And what do they suggest using?  Plastic figurines, Lego
Great idea!!!

(Thanks to Experientia)

Tactful Calling goes live December 12, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in Uncategorized.
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IxDS has been working on various innovations projects with the Deutsche Telekom. One rather larger design research project was “Gender Inspired Technology” or “Woman’s Phone”, which tool place in 2008-2010. I briefly wrote about this before.

Today a project which came out of this collaboration with Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost and her Design Research Lab at Deutsche Telekom was released as a “technology demonstrator”: Tactful Calling is an Android app, which allows the caller to indicate the urgency of a call as well as the time frame he oder she would like to have for the conversation. Instead of answering an incoming call when busy, Tactful Calling allows the recipient to press one button and indicate to their caller that they are busy and will call them back later.

This app is quite exciting as it is challenging a core part of our phone culture – the way we place and accept calls. When you look closely to how people place calls on Skype or how they use SMS to make sure that a call is not disturbing, it is surprising that such a change of culture is only happening today.

The technical implementation of Tactful Calling is still quite complex as it requires both – caller and recipient- to have the app installed – and as it needs an additional IP-based server-client-connection. However, the shift in how to place calls is quite exciting! Let’s see what is going to happen when people discover this beta version…


PS.: The app is not running under Android 4.0 – yet!

The Uncanny Valley of Mobile Services December 12, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in innovation process, methods, mobile.
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In 1970 the Japanese researcher Masahiro Mori presented the concept of the Uncanny Valley:

(image source)

The uncanny valley is applied to human-like robots or to 3-D computer animations of humans.

Mori describes it in this translated version of his original paper (pdf here) as follows: the appearance is quite human like, but the familiarity is negative. This is the uncanny valley.

A lot of research has been done since 1970:

Some are trying to understand the origin of the Uncanny Valley as Karl F. MacDorman (2005) who relates this feeling of estrangement to the “Terror Management Theory”, which is concerning “how human beings manage their fear of personal extinction“.

Others are expanding the original model as Christoph Bartneck et al. , who are doubting that the uncanny valley in its quite simplistic approach really exists and are demanding a more complex discussion of this hypothesis. In his paper “My Robotic Doppelgänger” (2009) he compared a real person with his robotic Doppelgänger and could not confirm Mori’s hypothesis, however, the “participants were able to distinguish between the human stimulus and the android stimuli“, which I do not think was too difficult… 🙂 However, in my understanding of the uncanny valley, this estrangement is happening in the moment where you are not sure whether something is a robot or a human…

(image source) (Note: Hiroshi Ishiguro is a co-author of the paper)

Hiroshi Ishiguro is even suggesting to expand the framework and to take “behavior” and “appearance” into consideration (“Android Science – Toward a New Cross-Interdisciplinary Framework“, 2007):

(image source)

I am quoting this research because the behavior aspect of the uncanny valley can also be applied to human-like behavior, which is not visible as an robot or computer generated 3-D-person. In many “intelligent” services one could have the feeling that they come from humans, e.g. in the area of location based services:

Fjord, an agency, which “designs transformational digital services” – mostly for mobiles, explored the “Uncanny Valley”-hypothesis to mobile context:

(image source)

The sweet spot 1 “include simple, focused applications like local search or sat nav systems. They provide clear benefits at low cost to the user, and tend to be transparent about their limitations or how they make decisions.

The sweet spot 2 is like a “close friend”: “incredibly context sensitive, but also has very good sense of discretion, appropriateness and knows how to honour privacy.

At IxDS we developed a tool for prototyping contextual mobile services, which we called CWS (Contextual Web Services). This system is based on the concept of Wizard-of-Oz-Prototyping, which means that the user does not know nor experience that a human is controlling the contextual web service on his mobile. The operator is working with a PC-based dashboard which shows the profile of the test person, his/her location, the history of interactions and an easy-to-use interface to send/push a notification – with or without interactive elements. The user can give direct feedback whether he like a certain service or not:

(image source)

We also observed an “uncanny valley” when the suggestions became too personal. In the qualitative feedback following a three-week-test-period many test users indicated that they didn’t like too personalized suggestions – they found them “scary”…

Feel the Touch Screen December 10, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in physical interaction design.
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Last week I wrote a post on how to make screen more tactile. Today I stumbled upon this nice project: “TouchFire – The Screen-Top Keyboard for iPad“:

A nice project; I am excited to see that it has gotten quite a lot of funding on kick-starter!

And it reminds me very much of the project SLAP Widgets by Jan Borchers (et al.) from 2009, a colleague at the university in Aachen:

(image source)

Jan is not only suggesting key boards, but also sliders and knobs. He is also outlining in his paper the great advantage of having “dynamic relabeling”:

(image source)

Start-Ups by Designers December 8, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in entrepreneurship.
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(image source)

One topic which makes me think on a regular base is the role of designers in the current economy and the way we educate for that role.

Already my professor, Hans (Nick) Roericht, challenged the role of a designer as a consultant and demanded a culture of “DIY for designers/entrepreneurs”:

Wirklich neue Ansätze, meint Roericht, blieben hierzulande oft auf der Strecke. Grund genug, sich als „Selber-Macher” zu betätigen. Was er auch seinen Studenten einschärft: Nicht auf den aussterbenden Posten des angestellten Designers in der Industrie spekulieren! Nicht mehr um die Gunst des Kapitals buhlen, sondern selbst Dinge in Angriffnehmen! (source: design report 5.95)

(Rough translation: Good ideas are often stuck with nowhere to go. That’s a good reason for designers go DIY. Roericht teaches to his students: One should not stay in the dieing-out role of an designer for hire! One should not court for the grace of capital, but should just do it!)

This way of thinking is today more right than ever as the cost of new “products” are getting lower and lower due to modern production technologies and due to the acceptance of digitale products!

A couple of month ago I posted my joy about a Start-Up Seed Fund addressing designer, who are starting a new company.

Our concept behind Fritzing is also to reduce start-up costs for hardware-based innovations – Please check out our production service for Fritzing-PCBs, which we launched a couple of weeks ago.

And of course the very basic idea of me teaching Service Design is to prepare students also for a role as an entrepreneur!

So, I am very happy, when my MA-student David Ikuye pointed this project to me:

(image source)

Enrique Allen, one of the founders of above mentioned designers fund, is preparing a book on designers founders:

Designer Founders: stories by designers of tech startups, is a non-profit book of 35+ rare personal interviews with founders who have various design backgrounds such as Chad Hurley (YouTube), David Karp (Tumblr), Matt Shobe (Feedburner), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Brian Chesky & Joe Gebbia (AirBnB), Ryan Freitas (About.Me), Rashmi Sina (Slideshare), Jeff Veen (TypeKit), Dave Morin & Dustin Mierau (Path), Daniel Burka (Milk), Christina Brodbeck (TheIceBreak), Aza Raskin (MassiveHealth), Alexa Andrzejewski (Foodspotting), Khoi Vinh (Mixel), Lisa Strausfeld (Major League Politics), and legends like Mitch Kapor (Lotus). (source)

I am looking forward to this book!