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Design Tool Design February 23, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in prototyping tools.
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Bret Victor, a designer who worked amongst others for Apple and Al Gore, talks about creativity and tools and has some important principles he follows when developing his tools:

“Creators need an immediate connection to what they are creating.”

He means by this that – while creating – changes has been experienced immediately. I agree on that: in art and design this is called “thinking within the material”. Bret says that “so much creation is discovery – and you can’t discover anything if you cannot see what you are doing!”

Applied to software developement, Bret is criticizing that coding (aka writing text into a text editor) is disconnected from the result. One works “blindly” in the text editor – “without an immediate connection” to the result.

Instead Bret is suggesting a system, where result and code are next to each other, and where changes in the code affect the result immediately. These changes can be done by typing of by a slider, which allows to change values dynamically:

(image source 3:46)

This is programming philosophy is also working for dynamic results as computer games and for complex programming algorithms!

Bret is applying his design principle also to electronic design – based on simulation:

(image source, 25:59 – with the mouse one can change the current)

I am a little surprised that – for design of analog electronics – Bret is talking about the simulation – even though they look wonderful and convincing for the chosen example. I would think that his principle applied to design of electronic circuits would be rather based on doing the real thing than playing with a simulator…

Regarding Fritzing, I am wondering what this philosophy would mean. I guess the first step would be to have more transparent programming environment for micro controllers, which not only allows the modification of values and code in real time, but also give feedback on every single piece of information available, be it on value of datatypes or on current situations at various ports. In a next step it would be interesting to develop certain electronic components, which can change their behavior dynamically (as a resistor).

Great talk!


Charging your e-Car while Driving February 23, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in new technologies, physical interaction design, sustainable interaction design.
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One of the big project we at IxDS did last year was about the user experience of owning an e-car. Of course the charging (and the fear of running out of energy) were important aspects of our design research.

Today, I found an interesting concept for a racing car described in the NewScientist: most exciting to me is the idea of charging the car while driving. Based on the wireless charging technology developed by HaloIPT, the idea of the concept car is to embed this technology in the racing track:
Drayson wants to populate the racing line on racetracks with the pads, so cars charge from the track during races.

(image source)

Imagine, what this means for the user experience!!!

M2M for very beginners February 17, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, new technologies, physical interaction design, prototyping tools.

As I wrote a couple of months ago, I am currently preparing a new research project which focusses on the easy access for non-engineers to the so called “Internet of Things”-technology.

(image source)

The other day I stumbled over a wonderful project called “Ninja Blocks“. This is basically a piece of open source hardware, which can easily be connected to the internet and allows basically anybody to set up simple rules based on “triggers” and “actions”:

Example Triggers:
“Movement has been detected”
“The temperature has risen above”
“You’ve been tagged in a photo on Facebook”
“You’ve sent a new tweet”
“A button has been pushed”
“Sound is detected”
“Your friend has checked in”

Example Actions:
“Display text on an LCD display”
“Play a sound”
“Send a tweet”
“Open a relay”
“Turn on a light”
“Send an SMS to my phone”
“Post a message on Facebook”

What a great idea!

The block itself contains an RGB LED, a built-in temperature sensor and an accelerometer, four expansion ports and a regular USB port allow you to add further inputs and outputs.

The basic design philosophy follows quite a high-level approach, not comparable to Arduino. I guess that is the way to go: though this kind of plug&play approach even more people will be attracted to work creativily with hardware.

All the best for your kick-starter initiative, Ninja Blocks!


Innovation in Banking February 7, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in making the invisible visible, service design, social computing.
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As written before, finally some user-experience-based innovation is happening in banking. Here another interesting site: HOI, a swiss site (“hoi” means “hi” in Swiss-German), is offering a quite detailed and nicely designed calculator for personal finances. This calculator offers either the calculation of your “potential” or the suppoort in reaching financial goals. Furthermore it offers the comparison of my own results with the average in Switzerland and – if wanted – with the average of my friends, which I think is a sensible way to share financial information.

(screenshot from hoi.ch)