jump to navigation

MWC 2012 – Hardware March 12, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, light, mobile, physical interaction design.
add a comment

(own image)

Here my personal report on the Mobile World Congress this year in Barcelona:

1. Even though by the end of 2012, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth (according to Cisco), M2M is still just for the industry: None of the exhibitors understood that M2M (Machine-to-Machine or ‘Internet of Things’) could be an interesting field for inventors, startups and  small or medium sized companies. All the ready-to-use-technologies that I saw were pretty heavily directed towards engineers – at not (as with Arduino or Fritzing) towards the community of creatives.

(own image – excuse the quality)

Of course one can find the good old use-cases as home-network, health and car, and very little applied and innovative M2M-products. So, you can imagine how happy I was when I saw Glowcab by my friend David Rose. Next to his product, At&T showed Garmin GTU, a pet GPS–tracker, and Amber Alert GPS, the same for kids:

(own image)

2. Mobile phones are getting boring – just more of this and more of that:

– More Pixels

(images source)

Even though the 41-Megapixels offered by Nokia 808 PureView are not meant to be stored directly, but to improve the quality of the images, I just want to show that it is all the same, but more in the details.

– More Computing Power

It has been long time that I got excited about the performance of computers – but at MWC this topic was – as expected – huge. Wow, a quad core 1,5GHz mobile phone – please show me, for what we can use all this speed!!!

(image source)

– More Design

(image source)

The mobile phone industry decided to go down the lane of the wonderful black monolith (known form the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”) – and now some of the major players are trying to add some design to this object:

Nokia is very proud of the “one-piece polycarbonate body”, which comes in various colors. For me it rather looks like an unnecessary add-on:

(image source)

Sony shows with its Xperia U another mobile phone with an interesting feature, similar to Philips AmbiLight from 2002: the transparent bar is illuminated and “echoes” the major color currently on the screen. I couldn’t find out, why – besided on looking different…:

(view at 0:43)

Medias, the mobile phone brand of NEC, is showing a double-screen-smartphone “Medias W”. Well, “pixel everywhere” – who knows, maybe we will be seeing it one day in real live!

(own image)

– Finally: Mobile with Projector

IxDS, the company where I work with, did already in 2008 a project on exploring the potential of pico-projectors in mobile context. We came up with a couple of ideas and concept, none strong enough to make our client launch such a product right away. But now, Samsung came up with Galaxy Beam. A long line of visitors had to wait to experience this device in the dark-room. I was rather disappointed as the use-cases were nothing special: projecting slides from a presentation, home made videos or downloaded stuff…

(image source)

3. Mobile Sensing – still exciting!

Just one example – to not turn too nerdy here: ST Microelectronics presented a 10-axis-accelerometer-board. I first was not sure for what this should be good (another tilting-based game) until they explained to me that with this technology, they can “determine location reliably to within a few metres even in the absence of GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) satellite signals.” (source) – which is good for indoor location tracking. Wow!

(own image)

4. Mobile Actuation – there’s hope…

I finally had the chance to meet some guys from Immersion: they were displaying their “HD Haptics“, which was pretty impressive: Their demo was a selection of musical instruments on a touch screen, you choose one and then shake the mobile and can really feel the instrument. It is hard to describe, but it really gives me hope for richer tactile interaction. Technologywise, the system is based on piezo – I guess similar to my friend Ivan Poupyrev’s touch engine from 2002.

(own image)

(image source)

Well, another interesting approach to mobile actuation was presented by the Japanese company ChatPerf. They propose an mobile actuator, which sprays perfume:

(image source)
Currently they only have a prototype:

(image source)

5. Body!

Well, there was very little real “Physical Interaction” at the MWC – more or less as expected. So it was nice to meet the friends from Oblong Industries: they presented their new intuite interaction tool called Mezzanine:


Playing with Light April 19, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in exhibitions, light, making the invisible visible, physical interaction design.
add a comment


The former RCA-students Ortkrass, Wood and Koch – working together under the lable Random International – have been playing around with light for quite a while (the pixelroller in all its forms is well known to all of us): their latest devlopment – just presented at the Salone di Mobile in Milan – is a more poetic peace of art, again related to light and "leaving traces": the Pendant Lights

More on Random Internation at the Salone on one of my favorite blogs: WMMNA 

Light Switches March 16, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in light, physical interaction design.
add a comment


Prof. M. Rauterberg from the Technical University of Eindhoven has in his lecture “Interaction Design – Buttons” a nice comparison between a problematic light switch panel (right) and one possible solution (left). The problem is that there is no direct mapping between switches and corresponing lamps.


Another solution to this problem has been proposed by Neil Gershenfeld from the MIT Media Lab: he is suggesting the “internet zero“, an internet of objects, for example in the Media House in Barcelona:

“Computers were embedded in lights and switches, giving them each an Internet address so that their relationships could be dynamically programmed rather than fixed by a wiring diagram. Each device contained the data and procedures for its control functions, allowing them to operate as a distributed system without relying on central servers. And physical programming interfaces were provided so that, for example, installing a light and then operating a switch could associate them over the network without requiring commands from another computer to configure them.”

The intersting aspect of this approach is that with a flexible system similar to the ERCO rails, one could take away a switch from a certain location and mount it somewhere else. Or have multiple switche controlling one or various lamps…

Pouring Light March 16, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in light, physical interaction design.
add a comment


A nice physical interface to dimming light, done by Chris Noessel et.a. in the first year at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea.

Glowing Fabric February 27, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in light, prototyping tools.
1 comment so far


Luminex is a new kind of fabric from Italy -a fabric that glows. A piece 35 X 50 cm costs in the online shop 50 Euro, not including the battery. They also sell glowing bras…

A Candle as an Interface February 27, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in innovative interfaces, light, physical interaction design.
1 comment so far


The Candle Dimmer by Belmer Negrillo, a project of the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, is a candle holder, which controls the light in the room: if the candle is lit, then the light is dimmed down. Additionally the user can control the light through touch-based interaction with the object.

Lightable – It’s enlighted February 27, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in light, physical interaction design.
1 comment so far


A light table, designed by the German designers Julian Appelius and Markus Altmann, based on the principle of “total reflection”: The light of the LEDs, which are inside the table, becomes only visible in the moment, where a light.

LightTalk – Scanner und Winker in einem January 9, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, light.


Ein schönes Gadget, das ich von meiner letzte Japan mitgebracht habe: der LightTalk, ein Handscanner, mit dem man das gescannte Bild anschliessend winkend zeigen kann. Nicht schlecht, vielleicht hackbar…

“Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht” am ZKM January 6, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in exhibitions, light, media art.


Während der Weihnachtsferien habe ich die inspirierende Ausstellung Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht am ZKM besucht, kuratiert von ZKM-Leiter Peter Weibel und von Gregor Jansen. Diese Ausstellung zeigt eine beeindruckende Vielfalt von Lichtkunstwerken.

Es gab wenig, aber spannende Geschichten auch zu Interaktivem Licht, wie z.B. die Light-Graffiti-Box von PIPS:Lab, wo der Nutzer mit verschieden Leuchtobjekten (Taschenlampen, Lichtschwert etc.) ein Bild kreieren und in Internet stellen kann. Interessant fand ich auch die LED-Installationen von Ruth Schnell, die ein neues Sehen erfordern: eine Reihe von LEDs “blinkt” hochfrequent einzelne Worte (“schnell” und “quick”), die nur lesbar werden mit “frei schwebendem Blick, gleichsam eine Betrachtung am Objekt vorbei”. Fabrizio Plessi (siehe Bild) zeigt eine Arbeit, die sich mit dem Übergang von realer zu digitalen Welt auseinandersetzt. Schön waren auch die Schattenspiele von Joachim Fleischer (gibt nicht viel online über ihn, nur sein Buch), der die Lichtquelle bewegt und dadurch dynamische und überraschende Schattenbilder generiert.
In der Ausstellung sind eine Vielzahl von Klassikern und neueren Arbeiten, die auch ausserhalb des Kontexted “Interaction Design” spannend sind. Ausserdem finde ich das Thema “Licht als Interface” nicht unspannend und auch in diesem Sinne lohnt sich der Besuch! Wie fühlt man sich beispielsweise in einem Raum mit 12 Diskokugeln und sonst nichts…?