• Already broken new year resolutions and an IoT blabbermouth - Weeknote 2019/1

    (weeknote,) (signals)

    3 (approx) interesting things, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.

    The new year has come and with it the time for some considerations and changes.

    We’ve started this Weeknotes with two main purposes: to track and share news and interesting projects in the design & tech world (or at least the portion of it that has to do AI, IoT and emerging technologies) and to update our community and friends with what Creative Technology at Uniform is up to.

    So far we’ve had some encouraging feedback. Uniform workmates seem to enjoy our findings (thank you!) and friends on social media liked our posts and reached out to us to discuss (thank you!).

    But on the other hand, I often felt that what we talked about in the notes could have used some more time and reflection and be developed into a longer piece, something that regretfully I couldn’t managed to do: the commitment to a one post per week seemed to suck-up any other energy for writing.

    So, while we work on our writing chops, the plan is to scale back on the notes. We’ll still chat about what we’ve been up to, if some particularly interesting thing happens, but otherwise from now on, we’ll limit to list what we found of interest in the week.

    Happy new year!

    And here’s to new year resolutions. We kick off the one above with already an exception!

    The reason is that we’ve just published a new project: Scout. A smart device that visualises the conversations between your other smart devices and their servers, and if something doesn’t look right, enables you to ask the manufacturer for clarification via pushing a button (thanks GDPR).

    The good thing about (good) smart object is how they seamlessly integrate and become part of your lives. But as you forget that they are “smart” you also forget that the data they collect is constantly shared beyond your home’s walls.

    In this scenario, Scout is on one hand just another “ambient” device in your collection. Not more eye-catching than the Nest thermostat on your wall and not out of place among your book collection. But on the other hand, it is also the blabbermouth of the bunch, your counterspy agent in the otherwise unbalanced info-war of corporate surveillance.

    Check the blog post, there’s also a beautiful video about the project shot by our own Beatriz Diogo - here.


    1. CES, still putting chips on it (2019)

    The trend is still going strong. Among others doubtfully smart products, an internet connected fishing rod and cat litter box.


    2. Dawn (2018)

    A bar where robot waiters are operated remotely from a paralyzed person’s home. Just a proof of concept (it stayed open just a couple of days), but very interesting.


    3. ElliQ (2019)

    A home assistant designed to keep elderly people active.


  • Thingscon: Ethics in tech & AI personas report — 2018/15


    End of week notes and 3 (approx) interesting things, new or old, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.

    Last week Mike Shorter and I have been in the stark & beautiful city of Rotterdam for giving our AI personas workshop and attending the Thingscon conference. I’ve been in a Thingscon conference before, the Berlin edition in 2015 and the atmosphere in Rotterdam felt similar to the one of 3 years ago in Berlin: a friendly and informal community, passionate about technology but strongly focussed on the impact that it has on people. But if in 2015, at the peak of excitement of the Internet of Things, “making” was the driving force of the event, now the most common keyword was instead “ethics”. Here are some of my highlights.

    • Peter Bhir announced the launch of the Trustable Technology Mark, a new trustmark that aims to certify that they respect user rights - https://trustabletech.org/
    • Ethics of emerging technology advocate and ex-Twitter designer Cennydd Bowles did a fantastic talk about ethics in tech, one of his interesting argument that here I’m paraphrasing is that “we should not make a business case for ethics, because if we make ethics subservient to business we imply that there could be a better business case to replace the ethics argument”.
    • Researcher Holly Robbins and Thingscon co-founder Simon Höher hosted a great panel on ethics and one of the most interesting point touched during the discussion was about the need to set aside space and time for talking ethics together, rather than leaving the moral questions just to individuals alone.

    Now some words about the AI personas workshop we gave. Many of the participants were from University. Both students and teachers. It was interesting to see how our AI personas resonated with them. We had for instance a good discussion about the relationship between the UX methodology of Personas and our personas. If in both the end goal is always to create useful, pleasing objects for people, the AI personas is in a way thing-centred instead than user-centred, focussing more on characterising the object instead of the people using it. In general, it was nice to hear that everybody found the framework especially helpful as an ideation tool.

    We’ve also got a public shout-out from one of our participants, who cried: “AI personas” when the even host asked the audience about the workshops they liked the most. In the remote chance you’re reading this, many many thanks!


    1. #Glitterstretchmark (2018)

    Collage artist Sara Shakeel’s Instagram trend is Kintsugi for ageing female beauty.

    (via Next Nature newsletter and their always spot-on radar)


    2. Made In Machina (2018)

    Very interesting project about AI, product design and manufacturing by Simone Rebaudengo and Sami Niemelä. A design brief is generated from a neural network trained with items available on Alibaba and then interpreted by Nordic designers.


    3. 100% realistic artificially generated face portraits. (2018)

    Must watch video. The results are unbelievable.


  • Installations' storyboards: more gifs than films — 2018/14


    End of week notes and 3 (approx) interesting things, new or old, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.

    Two proposals we’ve been working on last week were about interactive installations for events. I always find these pleasing to work on, as there’s space to be more playful and conceptual and also because this is the kind of work that brought me close to Interaction Design in the first place, before I’ve started to be interested in designing and prototyping products.

    And working both in installations and products, it’s especially interesting to compare their user journeys. If the methodologies for developing products and installations experiences are the same, there’s one fundamental factor that make them differ radically: time.

    With a product you can account that some time will be needed by user to learn how to use the product, you can expect features to be discovered gradually by the user, and you are expected to think of reasons why the product would be still useful over time. And these experiences often are expected to occur over days or months.

    But for interactive installations the whole experience needs to be over in seconds, minutes at most. There’s only a limited space for illustrating how the installation would work: the experience needs to be as much self-explanatory as possible. And the experience ends in one iteration: no further interactions with the installation is expected.

    The way we approach interactive installation proposals is by reducing the experience to the bare minimum. Focusing on the main event in it - the emotional highlight - and removing everything that doesn’t contribute to it. In this brutal process of reduction, storyboards are still a key aiding tool. But good installations’ storyboards should look more like gifs than films: a detailed choreography of movements to make sure that each step that the user is required to getting to the experience main part was absolutely necessary.


    1. Airbnb’s Backyard (2018)

    Airbnb’s has a project called Backyard in which they are planning to produce and sell houses.

    The spaces will be designed to be shared, from the ground up.

    The spaces will be designed to be shared, from the ground up. What exactly that looks like remains to be seen, but the suggestion is clear: They will be optimal Airbnb rentals to anyone who is interested in hosting, or perhaps even investing in the big business of backyard cottages.

    The spaces may also support co-living,

    (On a side-note, the project is developed by Airbnb’s internal research studio Samara, which was funded set-up after the acquisition by Airbnb of Lapka, in my opinion the producer of the most beautiful product from this side of the millennium).


    2. Doodle Master (2018)

    Somebody did an implementation of that near Airbnb’s Sketching Interfaces concept: turn UI sketches into real (web) code. Looks neat.


    3. Paperclip Maximizer (2018)

    Hi! That’s me sharing a small experiment with genetic algorithms I’ve been working on.

    Here’s the simplest definition I could find of a genetic algorithm

    The genetic algorithm is a method for solving both constrained and unconstrained optimization problems that is based on natural selection, the process that drives biological evolution. The genetic algorithm repeatedly modifies a population of individual solutions. At each step, the genetic algorithm selects individuals at random from the current population to be parents and uses them to produce the children for the next generation. Over successive generations, the population “evolves” toward an optimal solution.


  • Modularity vs Ad-Hoc in prototyping — 2018/13


    End of week notes and 3 (approx) interesting things, new or old, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.

    We had a quick workshop and one of the outcomes was an interactive prototype to demonstrate our idea.

    When the requirement is to have an experience prototype, focussed on a single feature to be tested or demonstrated, and speed (1-3 days), I found planning how much to modularise being the most crucial aspect of the whole development.

    To turn one application block into a reusable module is time consuming, but if the module is used often enough throughout the application, it will definitely save time after. On the other hand, without the requirement of maintainability of a prototype application, writing ad-hoc code(hard-coded values, copied and pasted functions and other software engineering aberration and spaghetti coding trade-marks) can be just good enough for the job.

    And the most effective way to decide what to modularise and what to code ad-hoc is a lot of scribbling. Having at hand the focus of the prototype clearly stated and visible on a piece of paper, and then, iterations after and iterations of flow-charts and code structure drawings (which for me, regardless if I’m working with modules in javascript or object-oriented programming in Openframeworks/C++, is some simple version of Class diagrams).

    Once the diagrams are detailed enough in terms of structure and it looks like something that can be done fast and that would be effective for the demonstration or testing, just then is time to code. Every extra minute spent sketching and refining the diagrams, is countless time (and frustration) saved during development.


    1. HyperSurfaces (2018)

    HyperSurfaces uses vibration sensors and AI algorithms to turns any surface into an interface, recognising gestures and objects colliding onto the surface. From the CEO of the company Zamborlin:

    it is difficult to imagine what the applications of HyperSurfaces technology might end up being, in a similar way as it was difficult to imagine 10 years ago all of the applications a mobile phone could enable. The most immediate ideas include the possibility of creating technological objects made of materials that until now haven’t been associated with technology at all, such as wood, glass and different kinds of metal etc.

    I love the potential of this, and I’m also excited about the big design challenge of this technology: to turn a feature-less surface/object into a usable interface. To say it with Don Norman’s definition of affordance: the “perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used.”


    2. Privacy Not Included (2018)

    Mozilla’s shopping guide for the privacy minded. Nicely done website, accessible and informative


    3. Thingscon conference (2018)

    New sleek website for the organisation, and the 2018 Rotterdam conference is out, with our AI personas workshop too!


  • Fun in the home — 2018/12


    End of week notes and 3 (approx) interesting things, new or old, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.

    Past week’s highlight (well, actually the week before - I guess the weeknotes habit didn’t sink in quite yet). We’ve had a workshop with eight 6 to 12 years old kids that Rich Pay organised as part of his Future Agency initiative. I haven’t done any workshop with kids of that age before, and that was a particularly nice experience.

    One particular thing struck me. That many ideas were not about new incredible ways to play, but in finding ways to avoid doing all those tasks that prevent them to play, or at least to rethink them to be more fun. A faster way to cook and eat, automatic tooth-brushing, a more playful bath, etc.

    In light of what Adam Greenfield argues in the essay I mention below, that as contemporary society has lost the purpose of leisure there’s no longer much use for the time freed by home-automation, is very reassuring to see kids that like Silicon Valley designers, also invent time-saving devices. But the kids have no doubts about their objective: having as much fun as possible, as often as possible.


    1. Instant Archetypes (2018)

    Speculative design studio Superflux and researcher Paul Graham Raven have created a tarot deck that replaces the traditional Major Arcana cards with the Empress, the Hierophant and the Chariot with contemporary figures such as the Consumer, the Market, the Disruption, the Hacker.

    They’ve already successfully reached their funding goal, but it’s still possible to get the cards until 19th November (10:00 am GMT).


    2. Home Futures contribution by Adam Greenfield (2018)

    Adam Greenfield wrote an essay for the Home Futures catalogue, an exhibition about present and past visions of the home of the future in the Design museum in London (which I’m really hoping to go visit soon).

    He has an interesting point in arguing that although the current Smart Home is still aiming to the same objectives of efficiency and labour-saving of the past future homes visions, we might have lost the purpose of these objectives.

    Precisely what was it that the proud owners of these gleaming new labor-saving appurtenances were being freed for? For much of the twentieth century, the canonical answer would have been “leisure time”

    But for all of that, the leisurely future we were promised failed to arrive on schedule. In fact, it didn’t materialize at all; if anything, “leisure,” in the creaky, Affluent Society sense of the word anyway, is a thing that scarcely exists anymore, for almost any one of us.

    For a cohort who experiences even the time spent preparing and enjoying a meal as an intolerable interruption of their availability for work, homelife itself is a burden. [..] And this leads directly to the culmination of this entire line of thinking: the suspicion that the most efficient of all possible homes may very well be no home at all.


    3. Forensic Architecture - Design of the Year 2018 (2018)

    Design of the year winner is Forensic Architecture’s Counter Investigations exhibition. Brilliant work.

    The research agency is based at Goldsmiths University in London, from where it uses a range of research techniques to expose miscarriages of justice by piecing together strands of evidence across various disciplines.

    Its work uses footage from news coverage, videos shot on smartphones, satellite images, as well as maps and fragments of other evidence are subject to architectural analysis. From these many strands of data, Forensic Architecture creates detailed 3D reconstructions, to identify a clear picture of events in cases where information is disputed.

    The exhibition for which they won the award included investigations into a murder in Kassel, Germany by a member of a far-right group, and the failings of state agencies that contributed to the deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean.


  • AI Personas reloaded — 2018/11


    End of week notes and 3 (approx) interesting things, new or old, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.


    Mike Shorter and I will be in Rotterdam for Thingscon Conference 2018, giving a workshop on our AI personas framework.

    This is the research framework that we used for during an internal workshop that led the emotional radio Solo, a project we are particularly proud of.

    As we spent some time last week to refresh the workshop structure that we used back then, it was also interesting to look at the write-ups we did on the back of that workshop. At the time the radio was not yet called Solo, but Timbre, and it was made of cardboard instead of wood and Formica. Here they are, still fresh: Designing with AI and Timbre: designing with AI part 2.

    The Thingscon conference website is not up yet, but here’s the description of our workshop session.

    Thanks to new machine learning advancements, we can now create connected objects which are able to carry out complex tasks autonomously, without requiring direct user inputs. But with increased autonomy, our ability to plan for all possible interactions users will have with the products diminishes, with the result that users expecting seamless experiences will be often frustrated and disappointed. As products become smarter with AI, we can no longer regard them as tools for people to use. This usual metaphor doesn’t work anymore for describing the complex interactions between users and AI-powered products. A better way to consider the new user-object relation is one of cooperating partners. By using the personification metaphor we can give users an intuitive way to manage their expectation when using products with autonomous, complex behaviours. The AI Personas is a simple framework that uses the characters of the Butler, the Police and the Buddy to illustrate three different ways for intelligent products to behave. By referring to these personas and their familiar traits, designers can have a higher level reference for guiding their process and users can intuitively know what the product would do in each situation. In this workshop, we will first introduce our AI Personas framework of the Butler, the Police and the Buddy. Afterwards, we’ll have a creative session where we’ll show you show you how to use the frameworks for ideating AI-powered products with clear goals and behaviours.

    Thingscon’s early bird tickets are still available until October 4th. Be sure to grab one before then here!


    1. Spatial (2018)

    A truly impressive prototype of collaborative remote workplace using AR. Basically you see an avatar of your colleague through AR glasses (Hololens and Magic Leap One, on the demo video) and you organise documents, create a moodboard in mid air and so on.

    Video is great (although I’m not sure why the soundtrack needed to really be so so dramatic).


    2. sociality.today (2018)

    A website collecting patents of technologies about social control, manipulation, and surveillance. Great effort to make this visible.

    Patent titles are frightening by themselves.

    For instance: “system and method for determining credit worthiness of a user” or “system and method for identifying persons having socially unacceptable behaviour” and around 400 more.

    Thanks Erika for finding this.


    3. Smartians (2018)

    Dutch invention studio Frolic created a prototype of a kit of connected actuators to connect online switches, knobs, buttons, etc.

    My favourite thing is how thoroughly the kit was designed. A number of addons and a positioning system for the actuator to make the device suitable to smartify a huge variety of house interactions.


  • Screen Time — 2018/10


    End of week notes and 3 (approx) interesting things, new or old, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.


    We are experimenting with a new three days workshop structure. We use it for tech-led, out-of-the-box solutions for concrete problems of the commercial sectors we work on and for exploring applications of longer-term research themes. Its initial structure and techniques have been inspired by the usual suspects: GV’s Design Sprint and Stanford d. School’s Design Thinking, plus our own past experiences in creating and planning workshops with all lengths and purposes.

    But the big difference from our previous workshops is that with this we are aiming to have a structure that is versatile enough to be used any time we need of an internal, accelerated process for creating a focused, insight-grounded solution.

    In the past, our workshops were planned out specifically depending on the purpose and the participant’s time. This is great for testing new techniques and experiment with the structure (and we’ll probably use them for this specific purpose in the future) but is also very energy demanding.

    The planning took always a considerable about of time and there have been occasions in which we had to change the structure or modify some creative techniques on the fly when things didn’t work out as expected.

    Choosing to focus on a single workshop structure, and especially being able to use it repeatedly, gives us the possibility to improve the process, refining timings, techniques and facilitation in an iterative fashion. This way we can make the workshop time more effective and pleasant to work, for both us running it and for the participants.

    After each workshop sessions, we examine what went well and what could be improved, amend the plan in a new document, bump the version number on the filename and repeat. We’ve run two workshops in this way and the steady pace through which we’re ironing out issues and improving aspects of our workshop plan which feels very, very satisfying.


    1. Future Agency (2018)

    Some due self-promotion for a start. This has been a long internal project here at Uniform that involved people from all disciplines and it turned out truly great. Well done team! From an It’s Nice That article.

    Packed with tools like the sinister-sounding “dream builder”, bioengineered brand influencers, automated office pets that force you to exercise, and a truly awful ”Client Cam” that offers absolute transparency into what we’re working on at all times, The Future Agency forces us to imagine what’s next, exaggerating our current moment into a evolving vision of the future. The app is on the App Store.


    2. Baxter robot discontinued (2018)

    Truly bummed by this. Rodney Brook’s Baxter pioneered and made available the idea of a cobot, a robot that could work alongside humans. It has two arms and a different number of replaceable hands, and its main application was for using in assembly lines, without the risk it would crush its human co-worker’s bones.

    What I loved the most about it was its capability of being programmable by imitation: one could teach Baxter some action by physically moving its arms and the robot would replicate that action to carry out a specific task.


    3. Follow JC Go (2018)

    It’s like Pokemon Go, but with Saints. Find a Saint, answer a question and add it to your team.

    The game was developed by Fundación Ramón Pané, a foundation dedicated to evangelization, in preparation for World Youth Day 2019, an international Catholic event focused on youth. According to Crux Now, a Catholic publication, Pope Francis reportedly commended the app when it was presented to him in Rome earlier this month.

    Fascinating to see that there’s somebody in the Catholic Church that proposed this app, somebody that signed it off and somebody developed it. Available on the App Store.


  • Screen Time — 2018/9


    End of week notes and 3 (approx) interesting things, new or old, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.


    Last week main focus was to finalize documentation for the Shared Home project, ahead of some meetings where we wanted to introduce the idea. The project is called Roommate and a blog post about it is now live 🎉.

    But for of an exhibition that we’re preparing for this week’s Design Manchester event, I’ve also worked on some code for making a connected thermal printer prototype we use in the studio to also stream and print tweets and Instagram comments.

    Twitter has always been the poster-boy platform for IoT and internet experiments. Uniform’s Sweet Tweet, our first Creative Technology project from 7 years ago, was also listening for Twitter hashtags and doing something with it. There were actually some breaking changes on the Twitter API this year, but the ability to stream the public Twitter feed in search for a specific keyword, which is what I needed, is still perfectly available.

    But Instagram is where most people are now, so we also wanted to integrate it as well in our little in-person engagement tool. The problem is that Facebook has radically restricted all its APIs after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, making them only available to medium and big size businesses, and there’s not any official way (we’ll get to that later) to programmatically access the platform’s content if you’re not one of them. It feels like we’ve moved light years away from a time, 5–6 years ago, when integration was key for internet platforms and I used to browse websites like Programmable Web in search for interesting data and service to connect to. To summarize that lost spirit, that’s from an article I wrote a couple of years back.

    We think of APIs as just another material, and we love consuming RESTful interfaces as much as we love turning wood.

    But all is not lost. Apparently, there’s still a way to access Instagram public posts. You can search for comments that contain a specific keyword by accessing an URL constructed in this way: www.instagram.com/explore/tags/pizza/?a=1. Change pizza with anything else and you’re ready to go. As I said, it’s all undocumented, so a bit of JSON beautifying is necessary in order to use it. It also 404s often and I wouldn’t count on it for a long time, but for lack of alternatives (and for an application without critical requirements) it’s more than enough.


    1. Facebook Portal (2018)

    Facebook announced its first hardware product. A camera+screen combo for video calling and watching videos. Nice feature: is that the camera can move to follow the user in the room and the video automatically zooms out to include all people in the frame. Curious feature: it uses Amazon Alexa as a voice assistant. Ironic feature: a clip-on camera cover is already included.


    1b. Google Home Hub (2018)

    At about the same time as Facebook, also Google released a connected screen device. It uses the Google assistant, you can watch YouTube videos and play music. It doesn’t include a camera though: in privacy-conscious times they avoided to deal with the issue altogether?


    2. How to Generate (almost) anything (2018)

    We are a bunch of scientists and artists that aim to test the limits of human-AI collaboration to generate (almost) anything the human mind can (and can’t) imagine.

    A repository of Human-AI collaborating efforts, with a name directly inspired by Neil Gershenfeld’s How to Make (Almost) Anything MIT class, where the idea of Fab-Labs was created. Surely an homage, but also an apt picture of this past couple years’ tech zeitgeist: makers’ days are over, behold the human-AI centaur.


    3. Fiberbots (2018)

    The FIBERBOTS are a swarm of robots designed to wind fiberglass filament around themselves to create high-strength tubular structures.

    Basically Neri Oxman group at MIT media lab is actually creating technologies for that kind of organic inspired, generative architecture that Archigram and Japanese Metabolists were dreaming of in the 60s and 70s. And the video is just stunning.


  • De-phubbing: Signals - 2018/8


    End of week notes and 3 (approx) interesting things, new or old, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.


    As anticipated last week, we did a quick 3 days hack on face-to-face scenarios and communication technologies.

    Our goal with the Shared Experience design theme is to develop an approach for designing digital products that especially considers the face-to-face surroundings of the user (the people around him in a specific moment and more in general the ones that he/she share spaces with through a house, a workplace, a neighbourhood etc.).

    Smartphones have transformed our social moments. We believe there is an untapped opportunity to use our devices to enrich the time we spend with people; but in most cases the effect that smartphones have, is to isolate us from each other and to damage social interactions.

    As a first step we decided to focus on the latter case, the negative scenario. The reason for that is that if we want to design products that are actually improving face-to-face situations, we needed to figure out also when we shouldn’t create a product. As designers working every day with technology, it’s easy to fall in solutionismtraps, that impulse to see in any issue a possible technological fix. And spending some time so identify the cases in which we need less, not more, tech, is an effective way to educate ourselves against those traps.

    During the course of the hack, we identified three motivations people have for phubbing, the action of snubbing someone in favour of a mobile phone, and came up with three simple ideas to address them, each solution specifically un-technological, as a reminder that this wasn’t a space for a new product, but for reflecting on our use of existing ones.

    We’re spending some more time to refine what we did and will soon share the result of the hack.


    1. Wearspace (2018)

    A prototype by Panasonic. Basically it’s noise cancelling headphones attached to a fabric structure that covers the sides of you field of view. Ingenuous but effective solution for staying focused while at work, especially in open-space offices.


    2. Anamorphic Playground (2018)

    London based Unit Lab and studio friends, create products “that bring science into everyday objects”. Their latest project is a playground where pieces are distorted in real life, but appear normal when looked through warped mirrors placed in the playground.


    3. Smarter Homes (2018)

    If you have an interest on Design and the Internet of Things, chances are you’ve heard of Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino. She’ve been giving talks, organising conferences, writing and consulting about smart homes, connected objects and the likes since almost 10 years, always strongly working and advocating for ethical and human-centred values. She wrote a book on the topic that has just been released and I’m looking forward to start reading it. An introduction is available on her Medium.


  • Signals - 2018/7


    We’ve decided to make more official the habit of writing weeknotes about the work I and Mike do at Uniform, creating a Medium publication and collaborating in writing duties. I still plan to keep writing my own notes in this blog, first because I find it useful and also because I like the idea of having my notes stored in a format (markdown) and in a place (my computer and a github repo) reasonably immune to the ups and downs of an company such as Medium. To avoid adding confusion, I’ll stop sharing link from this blog on social media, and if the current post is also present on the Medium publication, I’ll mark it below.

    End of week notes and 3 (approx) interesting things, new or old, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.


    Our new research theme is finally starting to take shape and the temporary working title is “Shared Experience Design” (yes, it couldn’t be less catchy). We’ll be going into more detail on it (and change the name), but here’s the gist of our thinking.

    There’s a general tendency by popular communication technologies companies (Apple, Google and Facebook) to design products that are making us isolated from each other. This is not a deliberate choice of engineers and designers building those products, but something that is not good for people, avoidable, and that can be addressed. Our plan is to illustrate ideas of products to be used in social environments (we’re working on the scenarios of the home and of face-to-face meetings) that enable and even enrich the direct interactions between people.

    There’re quite a few things on the pipeline for this project. Next week we’ll have a 3 days hack to explore the concept in the context of face-to-face meetings and I’m planning to write something on the consequences that products focused on individual, personalized experiences will have on an increasingly software-mediated world (read AR).


    1. Oculus Quest (2018)

    A new portable VR headset released by Oculus. The big news is that it uses cameras on the headset to map your surroundings so that you can move in the virtual space. This feature is already available in high end headset such as Vive and Oculus Rift, but both of them need 1. to be tethered to a computer and 2. sensors placed on the ceiling or table in front of the user for the tracking.


    2. Snapchat Visual Search (2018)

    Simply point your Snapchat camera at a physical product or barcode, and press and hold on the camera screen to get started. When the item or barcode is recognized, an Amazon card will appear on-screen, surfacing a link for that product or similar ones available on Amazon.

    Shazam for things as a feature on a popular app such as Snapchat, although not available to everybody yet. Does that mean that we’ll see people start sneaking pics in train and public places? Will Facebook release the same functionality for Instagram a couple of months (we’ve seen that before… )?


    3. solar.lowtechmagazine.com (2018)

    A radical experiments in sustainability. A self-hosted website, solar powered and off the grid. A good reminder that the internet is based on a very tangible infrastructure (of cables, data-centers, people, etc) and not an immaterial “cloud” as we are too often led to believe.

    I also love their tourist location sounding heading: “When is the best time to visit?”, warning about the risk of downtime during rain days.