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My Blackberry is not working… August 16, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, new technologies, poetic.
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Mixed Reality with Mobiles July 5, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, innovative interfaces, mobile, physical interaction design, play, poetic.
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The Japan-based Mobile Art Lab developed a nice low-tech extension for mobile phones: a book:

(image source)

Here a short video of how the concept works:

I really like the project as it represents a flexibility of mobile devices beyond just the software – extended in the direction of hardware. The current sensor system of the iPhone does not really allow an elegant interaction through this book-extension: so when flipping the pages of the book, the user has also to flip the content on the iPhone.

Unfortunately Apple is really not offering an interesting and open hardware interface. I guess that with more USB-based interfaces between mobile phones and specialized hardware we will see more interesting innovative harware extension for mobile phones.

I gave this sensor problem a thought and then discovered a nice feature with my new Windows phone: when you talk to somebody and hold your phone to your ear the light of the display switches off. So, maybe it would be possible to have a little hole for this sensor in the book and each time the user flips a page the sensor can recognize the pattern of changes in light value and then also switches pages… Wow, what a great idea 🙂

This project reminds me of the project Bird Box by my friends Durell Bishop and Tom Hulbert from Luckybite:

(image source)

My friend Julia Leihener pointed the nice “phonebook” concept out to me. Thanks!

Pricing Models for Extra Feature in Cars May 17, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in entrepreneurship, gadgets, service design.
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After some discussion within the – quite proud of being close to academic thinking – team of our design research firm whether or not it is ok to quote the yellow press, we decided to do so:

The pricing model of extra features in cars is being accused by the Bild-Zeitung for being far to expensive. They use a trick, which we all would hate if it would happen in a restaraunt: to buy a not so expensive feature, one has to buy other, even more expensive features, which are not really related to the original feature.

(detail from price list)

The Number 1 in this article is the  “Pre-Crash-Safety-System” (Anti-Collision-Radar) in Toyota Prius, which costs 1500 Euro, however can only be ordered with  Lederausstattung (leather interior, 1700 Euro) und der Executive-Ausstattung (executive fitting, 3300 Euro), so it ends up with 6700 Euro.
Interesting: only with leather interior…
(It is actually true, you can check the price list here.)

(detail from price list)

BMW does a similar trick when selling a couple of digital features as Sourround View or Spurwechselwarnung (Lane Change Warning). You need – amongst others – to buy the feature “Innen- und AuĂźenspiegel automatisch abblendend” (interior and exterior mirror automatically screening off, 550 Euro)(price list here).

First of all that fits very well to the wonderful book “Predictably Irrational“, which I discussed recently, where the author writes: “it is so easy for a person to add 200$ to a 5.000$ catering bill for a soup entrĂ©e, when the same person will clip coupons to save 25 cents on a one-dollar can of condensed soup.”

Furthermore I think that you need to have some reasoning to argue a certain price, whether it makes sense or not as e.g. the leather interior for a anti-collision-radar. In the complex situation of purchasing a car, people might just forget that not every argument is logical.

To protect customers of having the feeling of being cheated maybe it would be helpful to show these dependencies in a more visual way – eventually with some explanation!

Report on Microsoft Research Summit 2011 in Paris May 10, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in exhibitions, gadgets, innovative interfaces, new technologies, physical interaction design.
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Besides the post I already wrote about the Microsoft Research Summit (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)I report in my talk about the following inspiring projects:

I met with Sharam Izadi, who was – with our friend Nic Villar the organizer of TEI 2009 in Cambridge. At the Summit he presented a couple of his works, which I think are very inspiring:

He worked on the Second Light Project, which was first shown to the scientific community in 2008, but which they are now preparing for launch for research institutions. The team presented a new idea for SecondLight: using IR-light to track the second layer and therefore being able to display images onto tilted surfaces without distortion.

Sharam was very proud about his first product out on the market: He is the inventor of the Microsoft Touch Mouse, which can interpret multitouch gestures:

(image source)

I think the mouse looks really cool and has a couple of interesting features, e.g. the ability to read three-fingers-gerstures. Sharam is particularly proud on the fact that the capacitive sensor is just printed on the shell – and is not a PCB. With this sensor technology one can make basically any shape a multi-touch-environment.

In his talk Ashram also mentioned another mouse project he did, the SideSight, which allows a multi-touch-input at the side of the phone, using infrared-sensors.

(image source)

Besides Sharam’s work I was inspired by the following presentations:

Microsoft’s new academic search engine, which – similar to a dick lendth comparison – allows ranking of researchers.

The Worldwide Telescope controlled with the Kinect:

Last, but not least the XML VM: This open-source-initiative developed a system, which translate Android apps to other platforms, as iPhone or (at least in near future) to Windows Mobile. They use Android as a well-documented SDK and from a debugging perspective a powerful tool. The cross-compiling seems to work fine, even for quite complex games.

Another nice talk was from Jamie Shotton, who showed his impressive work on Body Part Recognition and Human Pose Estimation. I really like the way they taught the computer all these poses through machine learning. The created millions of poses as the image below and the computer had to learn them… (Jamie showed a slide with all these poses, which was really impressive and beautiful – too bad, that I couldn’t find it online)

(image source)

Hands on with Gadgeteer April 13, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, innovative interfaces, physical interaction design, prototyping tools.

I am currently at the Microsoft Software Summit in Paris. This morning I attended a wonderful workshop hosted by Nic Villar and James Scott. They presented their new hardware prototyping platform called “.Net Gadgeteer“.

The concept behind Gadgeteer is “modular hardware” – as Nic and James called it.

So, you have lots of small PCBs with various features as button, camera, display or many different sensors. These PCB are connected to a “mainboard”:

(I am sorry, but I have no details about the technology of the mainboard, but it seem to be quite powerful!)

To connect the moduls, one uses 10-core flat cable – with connectors, which are really hard to remove – you have actually to tear off the connector by tearing the cable, which eventually might break the cable soon… Nik actually told me that the connectors have been chosen with purpose: they are very reliable. Once a group of kids play with gadgeteer – with the only goal to tear off as many cables as they could – and not a single connector broke. So far, the cables or connectors did not break. Actually, the manufacturer suggested cheaper connectors, but Nik and James insisted on the existing once to make sure that connecting and disconnecting works!

(original image from gadgeteer)

What was quite surprising to me is that there are different plugs on the mainboard for different modules. According to Nic they decided to not use a protocol, but to be more flexible on what the modules need and can do – and also keep costs down! Maybe the product design of the modules could communicate this concept a little better.

The whole system is programmed with C# (called “C sharp”), part of Microsoft’s .Net-Framework and VisualStudio. This is a problem with Gadgeteer: currently one has to use Microsoft environment to program it. There is a free version of the programming environment called C# express, but as said, only for Windows! This is too bad as Nic and James are targeting designers to use Gadgeteer for their prototyping.

The nice thing is, that every module has its representation in the software – including all the actions one can do with this module. I was quite impressed of what an button or an multicolored LED can do – including “blink repeatedly” or “button released”. This makes programming quite easy.

Even more impressive this concept is when using complex modules as cameras or displays: in the end it takes a few lines of code to make the camera take a picture when motion is detected and show the picture on the display. I managed to implement this within a couple of minutes… 🙂

Another impressive idea behind the gadgeteer concept is the full integration in current state-of-the-art industrial design: when using Solidworks, you can use the gadgeteer add-in, which helps to quickly integrate the shapes of gadgeteer modules into your 3D-design and additionally generate mounting fixtures (those little pillars to screw the module to the product) and cutout fixtures (e.g. hole for a camera or display).

(sorry for the quality of the image, but i had to do it with my mobile…)

Gadgeteer will be sold soon for 150 – 250 US $. According to the two inventors, the system is very stable: some of the researchers at Microsoft are using gadgeteer to control their heating at home – non stop for weeks already!

I think it is an interesting product, especially for quickly producing small series or technically complex prototypes. Interesting is also the open-source approach they are going to take: so hopefully an active community will arise once this product is on the market.

I hope that I can get a testing kit soon to try out with my students – I will report on our experience!

GreenGoose – play real life for green April 11, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in ecoviz, gadgets, gamification, innovative interfaces, making the invisible visible, physical interaction design.
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In my research I came across GreenGoose, a company which offers sensors for real life gaming for a better lifestyle. The images below explain quite good, what they offer:

On their website they are calling game developers, however this link doesn’t work. So, I don’t know about the real life situation of this company… 🙂

However, I think that this is quite a radical approach to bring gamification into real life. We all know about the wii fit including a scale (they call it balance board, which might help). So, the GreenGoose concept is just going one step further. However, the nice thing about the Wii Fit concept is, that it is a little more indirect than just counting the number of times you drink… Some research needs to be done about whether a direct, obvious approach is better than a more playful, indirect approach!


Robotic Gadgets January 26, 2007

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, innovative interfaces, mobile.

Finally a research at the Soon Chung Yang University (Korea) finally implemented a long dream of us, the merger of a mobile phone with a robot. The robot finds its powerstation by itself and automatically drives to the call receiver. It also can indicate whether a nice or a mean person is calling – through “pleasant and unpleasant motion patterns”. (Video here, Thanks Andre)

There are lots of earlier studies about bringing robots and gadgets together. Here two my favorites:

(earlier report) by Gauri Nanda from the MIT is an alarm clock “for people who have trouble getting out of bed”, which runs away, when it starts ringing.

The concept phone Nokia 888 is a shape-changing phone: it can communicate its status by changing shapes, but also two owners of the 888 can send shapes to each other, as e.g. heart shapes.

Geek Cooking April 27, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, innovative interfaces, physical interaction design.
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Again the MIT is surprising the rest of the world with an interactive cooking spoon, which makes suggestions of how to improve your cooking based on "temperature, acidity, salinity, and viscosity". Sounds like fine cuisine!

Nearly as helpful as the pan, which reads RFID-based recipes.

Pee Gaming March 24, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in biofeedback, gadgets, innovative interfaces, making the invisible visible, physical interaction design, play, social computing.
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OnTarget – Another little game by Apparment10, which can be played in the urinal while peeing. One version of this game is creating visuals, which should be played in the bar or club…
Via Yanko Design

Innovative Uhr fĂĽr 220.000 $ February 3, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, Uncategorized.
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Die Cabestan.