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Nice Example on Crowd-Sourcing May 29, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in social computing.
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LEGO finally discovered the creative potential of its fans and is offering an crowd sourcing environment called CUUSOO:

(screen shot taken today)

Actually, quite successful are the Minecraft ideas – not a big surprise as it merges two geek-communities!

(image source)


5 Theses on IT and the (near) Future of Retail May 2, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in mobile, social computing, theory.
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Together with my friend Ilaria Forte, CEO from RadicalFuture, I prepared a short talk on how technology will have an impact in retail, especially for large multi-channel retailers. We developed the following 5 thesis on that subject:

FUTURE WAVE 1: technology –> access to information –> give power and control to the customers

NOW: new technologies provide to the customers fast and easy access to tremendous amounts of information upon which to base their buying decisions.  The tech-empowered consumer “knows everything already“ and is often more informed about a given product than most of the staff within the store. Above all, knowledge means power and control (e.g. negotiate purchase at the lowest price in the market).


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  • Instant information on products as e.g. price check App by Amazon or the goodguide App, which give instant information on the sustainble aspects of a product
  • Support in the entire context of the product as e.g. “Project Help” by Lowes.com, with tools to help archieving complex tasks in your home with amongst others a project “Calculator” or a “How-To” or a buying guide.

TOMORROW: consumers are getting wiser, access to information will be easier and faster. Consumers will demand higher service standards, offline and online.

IMPLICATIONS: consumers will expect staff excellence, superlative service and proved expertise. Retailer will need to get smarter, transparent and trustworthy. Upgrade store staff skills through training might be too expensive and not enough.
By using innovative technologies that integrate information assets and business processes, retailer will improve service levels at relatively low cost.

FUTURE WAVE 2: technology –> automation + simplification –> make easier everyday life tasks

NOW: new technologies and improvements make the overall shopping experience faster, more simple and more flexible for the customer. Consumers are looking to connect with retailers anytime, anyplace & anywhere. They can decide where (virtual or physical space), how (mobile, online, in-store), when (24/7).


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  • Shopping experience seamlessly integrated between online, mobile and offline as e.g. “Buy Online – Pick Up at Store” by HomeDepot or Apple EasyPay (“While in an Apple Store, quickly purchase accessories on your own with EasyPay (requires iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S)”)

TOMORROW: the whole purchasing and buying process will become simplified and faster thanks to integrated applications (online, mobile and in-store).

IMPLICATIONS: consumers will expect easy shopping experience, 1-click shopping especially for low involvement, low price and frequent purchase product categories.

FUTURE WAVE 3: technology –> access to real-time data –> make consumption a truly personal experience

NOW: personalized-shopping thanks to real-time data is mainly used by online retailers. Personalized tools include public profile, community settings, registries, gift and shopping lists, product reviews, personalized content and shopping lists.


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  • Audience detection for more personalized shopping experience as e.g. .g Intel AIM Suite, which “is able to discern a person’s gender, race, approximate age and, based on the contours of the person’s face and positioning, just how long he actually looks at the screen.” (White Paper: “Video Analytics for Digital Signage Deployments”)
  • Strong integration of store staff for personalized retail experience as e.g. concept “Identitymine Store”, presented by Microsoft: “Customers Create Preferences On App For Tailored In-Store Experience” und “The shopper can use their app to create a profile, browse products and make a shopping list. When they arrive at the physical store they can check in using the app and contact the store assistant, who views the customer’s profile, shopping list and purchase history using the app on a Windows tablet. The assistant can identify the customer in-store from their profile picture.” (source)

TOMORROW: address the needs and preferences of individual consumer online and in-store

IMPLICATIONS: access to data will be more and more the lifeblood of any retail marketing operation. Real-time interactive analysis of customer‘s preferences will deliver rapid customer insights. It is important to personalize a customer’s experience in the store.

FUTURE WAVE 4: technology –> network supported social exchange and interaction–> make shopping more social

NOW:  social shopping is a pervasive trend. Consumers share products, purchases, and deals with friends and family.  Recommendations mainly based on purchases and searches, reviews from other customers and friends.


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  • Social Shopping goes beyond recommendations as e.g. Ticketmaster’s feature of seeing where you friend are seating when purchasing a ticket

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  • The fun part of shopping is to be social as e.g. the TweedMirror by Nedap – even though the implementation of this concept is too nerdy from my point of view, but the direction is right!
  • Social Experience must be enabled as e.g. wiht Triptrotting, “who will help you feel like a local when you travel.”

TOMORROW: social commerce is expected to grow (forecasted $30 billion in 2015). The role of social media will continue to grow in the world of online shopping and beyond. From online to offline: the social aspects of the web will improve shopping experience in-store.

 IMPLICATIONS: put together all forms of commerce and channels (mobile, social networking, e-commerce, email, and in-store) into one “syndicated” experience. Customer deals, offers, promotions, and experiences must be one with the brand and the brand experience.

FUTURE WAVE 5: technology –> participative tools –> enable customers participation and co-creation

NOW: creating is a global trend: the active consumer, develops solutions and shares them with the community, which then again can learn and improve. Crowd-sourcing, liquid democracy and open-source are hints toward this trend.


(image source, screenshot)

Consumers like to create and share  as e.g. in the DIY-scene, but also in recipes as e.g. Food52, the „the first crowd-sourced cookbook“

TOMORROW: customers will become more active. we will see more and more co-production, involving consumers in the whole process. consumers will want to have support in their active approach to consumption and they might even want to share the revenue, which is generated through their activities.

IMPLICATIONS: retailers will need to clearly identify the key areas for active consumption. Enabling the consumer to create needs to be applied both, online and offline, from design to selling.

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)


IxDS’s “Bad Connection”-concept presented at TED Global November 8, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in mobile, poetic, service design, social computing.
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IxDS has been working for many years with Dr. Gesche Joost, leader of the Design Research Lab at Deutsche Telekom.

In 2008/2009 we conducted together a large design research project called “Woman’s Phone” (or Gender Inspired Technologies)(or Call Girls), where we investigated the specific relationship of women and their mobile phones. Based on the assumption that women conceive of their phones differently than manufacturers want to make believe, we developed a number of concepts to uncover this perspective.

One of the outcomes of the “Woman’s Phone“-project is Bad Connection, which was shown at TED Global last year in Oxford (starting at 3:22):

Bad Connections allows the user to induce noise into a phone call. This helps to end unpleasant calls: “Sorry, I can’t hear you anymore…”

I like the fact that Gesche did show this concept, because it proves that doing a design research project based on co-creation with a certain group (in this case women) does not mean that the results cannot be useful for people outside of this group. I would love to have such an app!!!

IxDS is currently developing a feasibility study of this project for Android.

Interface Design Positions – my own June 21, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in learning, physical interaction design, social computing, theory.

My colleagues from university and me were hosting an event with the topic “Position in Interface Design” last week. Here an outline of my talk – feedback welcome:

(me talking without slides, Photo: J. Landstorfer)

From Physical Interaction Design to Service Design

I was talking about my personal journey from doing and teaching Physical Interaction Design and why I expanded the focus of my research towards Service Design.

Physical Interaction Design is an important area from various perspectives:

1. From the perspecitve of us humans being more than Igoe’s famous finger-eye-beings:

(Igoe, O’Sullivan: “How the computer sees us”, image source)

  • We perceive the world differently and richer than the dominating HCI model pretends that we do (example: periphery of human perception = ambient displays)
  • We act in the world differently and richer than the dominating HCI model pretends that we do (example: rich expression from stone mason to violinist = tangible interaction)
  • We learn differently than the dominating HCI model pretends that we do (example: mirror neurons = cscw)

2. From an economical perspective:

  • Number of micro controllers in the world is growing exponentially
  • Interfaces become more and more important purchasing criteria also for non IT-products as e.g. cars
  • New areas for work for designers occur as e.g. exhibition design

3. From a pedagogical perspective:

  • Doing practical projects in Physical Interaction Design helps to understand computers, which is important for academically trained designers
  • Doing Physical Interaction Design forces one to understand humans and their mental models, cognitive and physical abilities and their fears etc.
  • Working exploratively in Physical Interaction Design forces one to apply various research and evaluation methods to argue design decissions

Then I explained how doing Physical Interaction Design also led to some suffering, which I already adressed at the CHI workshop “programming reality” in 2009:

  • It is very hard and time-consuming to bring new hardware to market, be it as an start-up or with a client – and this did not improve in the last years, even though we are trying with Fritzing.
  • The introduction of smart phones brough the software/hardware-model to the world of gadgets. Prior to the iPhone (2007) there were many highly specialized computing devices as dictionaries, love-getties, tamagotchis etc.
  • Our ecological responsibility also embraces the current trend towards less specialized hardware and apps

And then I talked about how at IxDS our clients actually understood that our knowledge and our methods could also be used for other areas than Physical Interaction Design: in 2007 we were asked to do a design project on “Women and ICT (Information and Communication Technology)” – with no focus on innovative hardware, but any kind of improvements.
Especially in Germany, an economy with about 70% of its GNP, service design becomes more and more essential.

Then I explained a little more what Serive Design is and showed that the same skills that are important for Physical Interaction Design are also important for Service Design:

  • The abillity to understand the potentials of technology
  • The ability to understand humans
  • The ability to prototype and evaluate

In the final part of my talk I suggested a Potsdam Model for Service Design consisting of:

  • the strength of our university (interface design including strong links to communication and product design, media studies)
  • proximity to Berlin, which seems to become the new hub of service design and start-ups in  Germany
  • the industry and diversity of lifestyles in Berlin and Potsdam

I ended by summarizing that Physical Interaction Design will stay important, but that Service Design is a good direction for an extension of the quite narrow focus of Physical Interaction Design.

Behavior Grid June 20, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification, service design, social computing, theory.
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B.J. Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, published the “behavior grid“, which categorized 15 forms of behavior change:

(image source)

Now we can talk more clearly about behavior changes (e.g. “BlueDot Behavior” vs. “BlackPath Behavior”). I think this is really helpful.

Fogg is also offering strategies for each use case. However, the free online version does not really offer mind-blowing “guides”. For example in the GrayPathBehavior they suggest:

“A. Remove the trigger that leads to the undesirable behavior
B. Reduce ability to perform the behavior (make it harder to do)
C. Replace motivation for doing the behavior with de-motivators:  pain, fear, or social rejection”

Similar to this, in the BlackPathBehavior they also suggest “Remove the triggerReduce the Motivation and Reduce the Ability”…

Even though I appreciate the model of trigger, ability and motivation, I think it is hard to define really differentiating strategies for all use cases.

One of my MA-students, David Ikuye, pointed this work out to me. Thanks!

Visualization of Conversations June 8, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in innovative interfaces, making the invisible visible, social computing.
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(image source)

Talk-o-Meter is a new App, which visualizes what percentage of time each speaker in a group conversation is speaking – currently only available for two speakers “who do not have similar voices” – later they plan to have a version with multiple speakers. I could not really find out who is the developer of this app, but they seem to be German, because on of the screenshots on the website is called “Wortwaage” (word scale or word balance), which sounds very poetic – in German at least.

(image source)

This project reminds me of the “Conversation Table” (2005) by Lira Nikolovska from the Computing Culture Group at the MIT. This table is a “visual representation of conversational dynamics” and was sponsored by the MIT Council for the Arts. In this project I like the reduced ubiquitous visualization.

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While researching for this post I stumbled upon another, more recent project on this subject: At the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne Khaled Bachour wrote his thesis about the subject “Augmenting Face-to-Face Collaboration with Low-Resolution Semi-Ambient Feedback“. In his thesis Khaled discusses a whole range of similar interfaces, ranging from timebased visualizations to dial-based representation of the conversation.

Khaled also invented a mobile version of the conversation visualization, which I think is nice idea, specially the form factor and they way one can add participants:

(image source)

Khaled evaluated his concept and came to some – well maybe not so – surprising results: “when the level of engagement was displayed on the table, the outcome was that male users increased their engagement but female users did not.”


As the general idea behind the concept is quite old, I am wondering why so far nobody started to use this content of the spoken word for visualization of conversation. One could easily use the various “buzz word bingos” lists to show who is just making noise…

The Challenges of Personalization May 27, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in innovative interfaces, learning, making the invisible visible, service design, social computing.
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As one of my MA students is currently looking into a more immersive experience of Twitter we had a discussion on the danger of personalization.

Jacob Nielsen already wrote 1998 that “personalization is over-rated“: “Having the computer personalize the website to the user assumes that the computer can guess the user’s needs. This is difficult to do and even more difficult when you consider that the same person may have different desires at different times. It is annoying to have the computer try to be smarter than it really is and second-guess your needs, only to have to spend extra time to correct it when it gets it wrong.
In 1998, at least we were thinking that the user could correct the computer – this is not true anymore!

Eli Pariser talks in his inspiring TED talk about the impact of personalized contents: he mentions the danger of the “algorithmic editing of the web” as google and facebook, but also news portals or shopping sites are doing it:

According to Eli, even if one is not logged in in any Google service, there are 57 signals, which are interpreted by the search engine, such as where you are or what computer you are using.

He calls this phenomena a “filter bubble”, “your own personal unique universe of information”. And he shows that currently this filter bubble is based on your direct , quite impulsive interests (“what you click on first”) and not offering a “balanced information diet”.

What I like in his talk, is that Eli is pointing out that this very personalized experience of the web is not visible – a great challenge for us interaction designers, I would say! He is requesting not only transparency, but also control, so that “we can decide what gets through and what doesn’t”.

Henry Lieberman, researcher with the MIT, comes to similar conclusion when talking about the “Challenges in HCI Design for AI Applications“: “the underlying complexity of AI algorithms means that interface design needs to pay special attention to transparency and explanation. Since complex algorithms might indeed be “smarter than the user” (and therein may lie their value), both the programs and their users may need to invest some effort in communication about what the program does and how it can be of service to its users.” (2009)

Interesting challenges for interaction designers!

Serious Play in HBR May 16, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in entrepreneurship, gamification, social computing.
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The Harvard Business Review had last month an article on gamification or „Serious Play“ as they call it. They write about Badgeville, a concept very similar to what my students are going to present this week at the un-conference “sustainable lifestyles and entrepreneurship”. Furthermore the author, David Armano, who is Executive Vice President at Edelman, talks about the “social reward economy” and four points, which he considers important in this context:

Competition: Here he reminds us that “friendly competition” is the way to go – however he fails in decribing this concept in a detailed way. I agree with Armano that “not everyone enjoys competition” and therefore I also understand his idea/wish for friendly competition. However, I am not so sure how a solution for this can look like – especially in times of economic downturns. Friendly competition can easily turn unfriendly – once a company has to let go employees…

Play: Armano example for play is the Twitter slot machine, which they displayed when they were acquiring another company. Might have been fun, and I am sure that ‘play’ can often be fun. However, I am not sure that this very literally implementation of play in the business world is what we talk about when we talk about gamification: In my point of view, play means that a serious task is turned into play through certain strategies as e.g. breaking the tasks down to small subtasks which are easily accomplished.

Revard: That’s good and important.

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Status: I guess this is closely linked to competition and the leaderboard, also mentioned in his description of “competion”. Armano is quite interested in algorithms that allow to measure one’s status in online reach. He mentions two companies, which do so: “Klout-The Standart of Influence“, which “uses over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.” (company’s description). The other company Armano mentions is one he is affiliated with and is called SocMetrics, which develops a ranking of “top influencers” based on topics. Another system in this direction is the way the influence of researchers are measured (please dont check me…), through the G-Index and H-Index, as implemented in Microsoft’s academic search engine.

I need to investigate these kind of topic-centered, but global leaderboards a little more to see whether they work or not and to see whether they are motivating or not. One argument agains them is already mentioned in the article: people might cheat…!

Neurowear May 6, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in biofeedback, innovative interfaces, making the invisible visible, new technologies, physical interaction design, social computing.

As some of my students are currently trying to build brain controlled interfaces, I would like to point out to these sweet ears by Neurowear, which are controlled by its wearer’s mind.

Here from their quite poetic description:

People think that our body has limitation,
however just imagine if we have organs that doesn’t exist,
moreover we can control that new body?

We created new human’s organs that use brain wave sensor.

「necomimi」is the new communication tool
that augments human’s body and ability.

This cat’s ear shaped machine utilizes brain waves
and express your condition before you start talking.

Just put on 「necomimi」 and if you are concentrated on,
this cat’s ear shaped machine will rise.
When you are relaxed, your new ears lie down.

If concentration and relaxing time comes at the same time,
your new ears rise and move actively.

In general, professional sport players demonstrate their abilities most in this condition.

If people show their feeling even they don’t express,
what differences will be happened?
Interesting? Ashamed? Scared?

In the beginning, people may feel strange,
however people are getting accustomed to control their new ears by brain waves
if they keep using. At this moment, 「necomimi」can be part of your body

I am not sure, whether this is just a fake or not, but I like it. Would be nice to research further “communication tools” for our bodies…

[via JapanTrends]