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Gamification and Learning (2 examples) August 25, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, learning, play.
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It is obvious and heavily discussed that gamification can help while learning.

Here are two examples for how this could look like:

Salman Khan founded the Khan Academy, which not only offers videos for learning (which is handy as the laerner can choose his own pace and his own content) but also exploits gamification strategies for motivating the learners:

(image source)

One can see badges (they are called archievements), progress bars in various forms (as e.g. “80/99”) or points (653285 – wow!), all classical elements of gamification.

In his inspiring TED-talk, Salman points out that “technology is used to humanize the class room”. This thought is important, especially as I come from Physical Interaction Design: using gamification and other e-learning technologies does NOT mean that traditional classrooms have to be closed down. On the contrary, they play a crutial role in learning as only here one can provide a human experience where peers and/or student and teachers interact with each other.

(video source)(In this video, Salman also explains a little more about the game mechanics they are using)

This link to the real world is even taken one step further in the next example: Quest-to-Learn, a New York based school founded in 2009, is bringing the concept of gamification to traditional schools. Katie Salen, the founder of the school, talks about “game-like learning”. By this she means amongst others “challenge-based contexts”, “high expectations of students’ abilities and skills”, “participation in activities that engage their voluntary commitment”, “opportunities to make contributions and to have these recognized and assessed” and “continuity of support” (source). In this video Katie explains a little more about her concept:

(video source)

I think both projects are quite inspiring for what we are planning to do in my research project “Experience the Energy,” but also for the way we teach academically. Luckily in Design we already have small classes and a strong focus on doing, but I think we can get much better…

Also for interface design we need to understand more about gamification and learning: the tasks which can be supported by technology are getting more and more complex but the willingness to learn is not growing at all!!! (Actually, two years ago, a friend of mine, senior designer at Philips Medical, told me, that they are having huge problems because medical personell (including doctors) are not willing to learn anything – actually most Dictaphones returned are returned by doctors who are claiming that the device is not working, but who just didn know how to use it… I am already scared of my first encounter with a complicated medical device – hopefully the operator read and understood the instructions…)


Sidlee Boot Camp July 12, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in innovation process, play, theory.
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Today Christian Holzheid, who is working with IxDS and with me on my research project “Experience the Energy“, talked in today’s pre-work-talk about her experience at the Sid Lee Boot Camp.

Sid Lee  is a very creative advertisement agency with headquarters in Montréal. For their client Fatboy they organized this creative boot camp with 8 participants from all over the world. They basically used a viral campaign in facebook and others to recruit and for the recruitment they did this nice video:

According to Christiane over 500 people applied and Sid Lee carefully selected 4 women and 4 men – all with different specializations within the design disciplin – as architect, graphic designer or media designer.

And then these people worked together for 10 days, really hard! All in one big warehouse, nicely designed for them and the topic, a lot of inspirations from various people, visits at really cool places as the Cirque du Soleil headquarter (with a training unit in high-wire performance), of course parties all the time and very little sleep. If you want to see more about the process and the results, you can find tons of material here.From Christiane I know that the client was also very happy about the outcome of this project and that all people involved had a lot of fun!

I am impressed about this approach, about the love to detail the organizers had and about how happy Christiane was that she could participate.

For me this Boot Camp is a quite extreme form of the method “Co-Design” as Liz Sanders is suggesting it and as we are doing it at IxDS: With Co-Desigh we mean to involve all stakeholders into the creative process – most importantly of course the people who are going to buy and use the outcomes of this process. We usually do one-day-workshops with all these stakeholders, but doing a 10-days-boot camp is of course much more intense and gives deeper results! And to provide all these inspirations – outside of the physical working space – is also a good idea we should do ourselves!

I am also thinking of  the learning curve of such an approach. Actually Christiane mentioned this also in her talk. And being a professor I ofter think that it would be so much more fun and effective if I could take my students to boot camps instead of seeing them once a week for a couple of hours.

Thanks for you talk, Christiane!

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!

Another Platform for Computer Science Education May 6, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in learning, play, prototyping tools.
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Just stumbled across The Finch, a new and very cute robot for computer science education, developed by Carnegie Mellon’s Create Lab.

I was quite impressed that the software to program the Finch is available in a lot of different languages, amongst others Java, Processing and Python.

I also quite impressed by the price and robustness of this device. The only thing I am not so excited about is the permanent connection of Finch to a PC via USB-cable. This seems to be quite troublesome or limiting, even though one doesn’t need to take care of batteries – as they say in their video…

In the introduction video the inventors argue for Finch based on their own framework for using robots in the computer science eduction:

  • Works Everywhere
  • Rich Interactivity
  • Aesthetically Appealing
  • Robust Hardware
  • Minimal Curricular Changes

I think this framework sounds reasonable, however the point “Minimal Curricular Changes” is too applyed for my taste. I prefer the thoughts of my ex-MA student and colleague André Knörig, who described in his MA-thesis the goals of our tool Fritzing as “low entry barrier”, “high ceiling” and “wide walls”.

Gamification and Leadership April 18, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, play.
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The Harvard Business Review is – as far as I know – a monthly business journal with quite high reputation. In 2008 they published a study, amongst others by Byron Reeves, a professor with Stanfort University and the founder of Seriosity, a startup around games or gamification in management.

In the study, the authors compared management skills in online games – mainly MMORPG – to real life management skills. For this study, they interviewed players and real life managers and came up with some interesting conclusions:

A number of our conclusions about the future of business leadership were unantici- pated. For one, individuals you’d never expect to identify—and who’d never expect to be identified—as “high potentials” for real- world management training end up taking on significant leadership roles in games. Even more provocative was our finding that successful leadership in online games has less to do with the attributes of individual leaders than with the game environment, as created by the developer and enhanced by the gamers themselves. Furthermore, some characteristics of that environment— for example, immediate compensation for successful completion of a project with non- monetary incentives, such as points for commit- ment and game performance—represent more than mere foreshadowing of how leadership might evolve.

Some insights – rather important from a manager’s perspective:

Risktakingisencouraged.Trial and error play a big role in accomplishing game tasks. Failure, instead of being viewed as a career killer, is accepted as a frequent and necessary antecedent to success.


leadership in games is a task, not an identity [comment: to avoid burn-outs, to have the best person in place for a certain task and to involve also shy or reserved players]


We pinpointed at least two properties of games that we believe facilitate and enhance leadership: nonmonetary incentives rooted in a virtual game economy; and hypertransparency of a wide range of information, including data about individual players’ capabilities and performance.

In the article the authors then discuss about synthetic currencies as dragon kill points, or DKPs to motivate team members, sometime even on a extreme short range as “I have an additional four DKPs for those that can clear the dungeon in under three hours!”

The authors than suggest to transport this concept into real life management problems. Here their example:

We have seen virtual incentives affect digital communication in other ways. In a study done at a Fortune 100 company on methods for reducing information overload, employees received an allotment of a virtual currency, which they could use to indicate the relative importance of e-mail messages they sent. Attaching a large amount of the scarce currency to a particular message would draw attention to it or even serve as a feedback mechanism: You send me an e-mail you value at 100 units, and I respond with one valued at 200, giving you a credit of 100 units to validate the usefulness of the information you sent. One experiment showed that the currency, as a marker of information importance, in fact influenced how quickly colleagues opened and read different messages in their inboxes. Other gamelike elements were also tested: For example, the ability to win publicly visible digital badges in return for efficient communication helped reduce unnecessary e-mail.

I think that ATTEND (demo video) by Seriosity is the tool they talk about in above chapter.

The article closes with a nice statement:

At the very least, digitally enabled environments and techniques could increase productivity by making many aspects of work simpler, less tedious, and—dare we say it?—more fun. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Gamification for good?! April 9, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, play.
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Last year, my research team and me won a grant by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The topic of our three-year-research-project is “Experience the Energy”. We want to explore ways of making people change the energy consumption. For this a adapted a model, which is nicely explained in my slides for the “Visual Voltage”-workshop, which I co-organized in 2010.

Now I am teaching a class related to one of the aspects of this research project: we want to explore, how social reward systems can be used to change peoples behaviors related to energy consumption. My favorite example: why is accidentially dropping my public transport monthly pass considerably less sexy than dropping my Porsche car keys?

In preparation for this class I looked deeper into gamification – the new hype for making people do what you want them to do.

The first time I remember, that gamification was used for people to do useful stuff, was the “Google Image Labeler” (here the wiki): a game where to players have to identify tags for a photo: the sooner they write a identical tag, the more points they get. Try it – it is kind of addictive!

(image source)

Todays understanding goes further: here a nice video for introduction:

Actually, just recently I met Ibrahim Evsan, who is Germany’s evangelist for gamification. He is also the founder of fliplife, a German gamification platform. We both were invited to give a talk at the Tchibo Ideentag. His thought on how to use game-dynamics for supporting people in archiving goals were quite inspiring.

Surgeons With Video Game Skill Appear To Perform Better March 5, 2007

Posted by reto wettach in physical interaction design, play.

Just a short addendum to my talk at the TYPO-conference last year, which I gave together with the very smart journalist Ralph Grauel: we discussed the potentials and advantages of computer games:

Today I read this:
Surgeons With Video Game Skill Appear To Perform Better In Simulated Surgery Skills Course
“Those [surgeons] in the top one-third of video gaming skill made 47 percent fewer errors, performed 39 percent faster and scored 41 percent better on the overall Top Gun score than those in the bottom one-third.”

I know what to ask my doctor or dentist before my next treatment…

Physical Game Controllers April 8, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in innovative interfaces, physical interaction design, play.
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Steering Wheel by LogiTech


Densha de Go! as one of many train games, which are very popular in Japan.

G-Con2 for Playstation (image)


Powerfishing as a representative for a long history of fishing games with physical controller.


Taiko from Namco (image


Konami's Dance Dance Revolution


A soccer game with EyeToy


KaraokeRevolution (Image from Flickr)

The Free Floating Steering Wheel. April 7, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in innovative interfaces, physical interaction design, play.
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The Floor It! race cars are controlled through a realistic free floating steering wheel. On the website is a small movie, which explains the concept well. I like it for the way you work with the steering wheel – something we all dreamt of, when we were boys… Done at the IDII

Evolution of Game Controllers April 6, 2006

Posted by reto wettach in physical interaction design, play.
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Very nice familytree of game controllers.