How To Get…

It all started with someone just Twittering “Type ‘How to get…’ into Google”.

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Google has a pre-search auto suggestion system already bringing up the most popular search terms. Looks like a lot of teenagers have a lot of questions.

Little Red Riding Hood, Infographics Style


Slagsmålsklubben – Sponsored by destiny from Tomas Nilsson on Vimeo.

You have to admire the Swedish ability to indoctrinate their students with brilliant design skills.

The above Little Red Riding Hood piece by Toma Nilsson was for a college project, inspired by the Röyskopp videos and got tweeted all over the place in the last couple of weeks.

I know plenty of experienced professional designers who would love to have made that (including me), damn the man! If any of my students are reading this – that’s what I’ll be expecting at the end of the semester, okay?

Open Frameworks on the iPhone


“Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas” for iPhone from Memo Akten on Vimeo.

OpenFrameworks, the “C++ library for creative coding”, is starting to get a lot more use in interactive installations.

I haven’t had the time to have a dig around and play with it yet, but those I know who are using it seem to be producing some great work. I also haven’t dipped my toe into the lake of C, though apparently you can learn it in 5 days (ahem).

The new release is quite a restructure and includes several new libraries, but the biggest news in the latest release is that it now officially has support for the iPhone. More details and guides from Jeff Crouse and Memo Atken (who made the Jackson Pollock iPhone app in the video above).

No more excuses. Time to get my hands dirty with XCode.

Sixth Sense. Only Slightly Lamer than VR.

Pattie Maes is a smart woman. She’s behind some research projects that I wish I had been part of. But the above presentation at TED of Pranav Mistry’sSixth Sense‘ system gave me flashbacks to bad VR demos in the 90s and Steve Mann’s sad exploits as a cyborg.

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Sometimes the focus on technology for the sake of technology just gets in the way of thinking about how people actually live. Any mobile device I carry around will have a screen and a camera, whether it be an iPhone or a projection onto my retina. There are ample uses and opportunities for augmented reality with these, so why would I want to carry around a tiny projector too?

In the ‘Sixth Sense’ set-up, I would need to keep my body still to keep the projected image from moving all over the place and I need to have some kind of tracking blobs on my fingers too. Let’s assume the devices are combined. Again, why the projector when I already have a screen? So that I can wave my arms about as a gestural interface? In public?

Like VR, the central paradox of ‘augmenting the senses’ is that the technology cuts back the senses. We’re not just heads floating around without bodies, we interpret the world through our entire bodies. Anything that reminds you that you’re using a mediating technology gets in the way of those senses and what you’re trying to do.

The success of multitouch interfaces is that they make the interface invisible. It’s still there of course – someone has to set up the metaphors of ‘pinching’, etc. – but when it works well, you don’t think about it. But they have to work well too – the slightest lag or misinterpretation of a drag as a click soon becomes a frustration.

Clever(ish) as it is, Sixth Sense doesn’t make much sense. I get a bit sad when I see these kinds of demos get such a big response at TED, because it’s an audience who should know better and should be in front of the curve, not behind it. This should be especially true from Maes, whose MIT page quotes her as saying “We like to invent new disciplines or look at new problems, and invent bandwagons rather than jump on them.”

(And Pranav should spend some time working on his MIT Web page).

Flash on the Beach 2009

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I am thrilled to have been asked to present again at Flash on The Beach again this year. The info about my talk isn’t up yet (and fortunately that highly unattractive picture of me in the sidebar has been covered up with the text). I’ll be speaking about a deeper understanding of play based on my research over the past few years.

Play and playfulness has been a feature of quite a few designer’s talks in the past few years and has gained a lot of currency.This is all good, but much of it doesn’t really explore play in much detail and depth. An understanding of what constitutes play and how we know we are playing or are in a play space can be put to use in interaction and experience design across a much broader spectrum that the usual approaches.

Hope to see you there. For all the latest info, follow FOTB on Twitter.

Mouth Off

Audio interaction. It’s one of the first things I show my students when teaching them about input beyond the keyboard and mouth mouse because it’s so easy to do and so effective. You get an organic reaction to the sound level and attach it to whatever properties you want to affect on screen. It’s my Hello World for sound input libraries.

Mouth Off (iTunes App Store link) is about as simple as it gets. Silly, interactive, playful, fun and cheap. Perfect. That alone makes me want to learn how to write apps for the iPhone.

(It also makes me wish the bastards at O2 Germany hadn’t automatically extended my contract so I can’t get an iPhone, but that’s another story).

(Via Creative Review)

Kinetic Design

Alongside the surge of interest in gestural interaction, there appears to be a rising fascination with kinetic works too. Some of this comes out of the crossover of interaction designers now being able to relatively easily work with physical computing interfaces like Arduino boards and camera tracking.

But there seems to me to be a fascination with the physicality of objects too. Not in the static sense of product design’s endless fascination with chairs and lamps, but in the way objects move and transform. ‘Kinetic designer’ Ben Hopson, has written a long and interesting piece on Core77 titled Kinetic Design and the Animation of Products in which he explores this discipline.

I’m not sure he can really claim to have ‘created’ the discipline, but he has certainly brought together some interesting ideas and approaches in one place. Much as Dan Saffer has argued in Designing Gestural Interfaces, designers in this area need “A Vocabulary for Motion” and methods for sketching and recording motion:

“What choreographers, physicists, and puppeteers have in common is that they are all able to sketch movements, record their ideas, and talk about them. Design has no such tradition of kinetic notation or vocabulary. While design has many resources with which to address form, surface, and structure, it has no means of effectively developing or recording a spatial event that takes place over time.”

Interaction design does use some elements from these disciplines and many more to describe interactions, but in the end it always comes down to what it feels like. And the only real way to do that is to make a prototype.

“Fancy hardware or mechanical elements are not necessary for such models and, in fact, can become a hindrance. As long as a sketch moves as it should, it doesn’t matter how it’s made or from what. Dirty, fast, and cheap sketches are usually sufficient to demonstrate a motion concept. One can use simple materials like foamcore, tape, hot glue, and balsa wood. The model itself is not important– just how it moves.”

The same is true in interaction design. For me, the question are always, “does this encourage playful interactions?” and “do I feel compelled to keep interacting with/using this interface?” These are intangibles – they are experiences and it is very hard to predict without a prototype. It is also what makes it so hard to describe what I do for a living…

Update: Sarah reminded me in the comments about the DVD player vs. jukebox comparison in Ben’s article. It reminded me of Nakamichi’s famous Dragon casette deck that turned the tape for you:

A Fax is too complicated GoDaddy

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I’m just in the process of moving all my domain hosting from GoDaddy because, frankly, it’s like being ambushed in a shopping mall by salespeople every click.

The support is terrible too. I got the above e-mail because I asked them what their fax number was.

If you’re wondering, I’m moving to Gandi.net, which is also covered by French privacy laws (which means private Whois listings for free).

Update 9th March: Wow, GoDaddy’s ‘Advanced Technical Support’ really are amazing. Here is the response I got. Bear in mind, I just need a fax number and already have the auth code:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have examined your Domain support request. We will be able to provide you with a valid fax number, as well as the Auth Code for your .DE domain name (which is required for transferring away). In order to do this we will need you to verify that last 4 of a payment method on file within your account or your 4 digit shopper pin. Please include this information in a reply to this email.

Thank you,

Kevin H.

Advanced Technical Support

Thanks Kevin. Magic work.

Update (again):

After I queried GoDaddy about whether they really needed my security details in order to tell me their fax number, I got this response:

Hello Andy,

Unfortunately it is GoDaddy policy that we cannot give out any account specific information without validating the requestor with either the last four of a Credit Card or a 4 digit PIN if your account was set up with one of these. I understand this may seem like tight security protocol for a simple request, but we do not make the policy we simply enforce it and help as best we can. If you need further assistance please respond.

Have a great day,

Joshua M.

I replied with this:

In what way is GoDaddy’s fax number account specific?

Answer: In no way.

The digits you are looking for are ****.

If you end up sending me the fax number I already have, don’t expect a polite response.

From GoDaddy:

Andy-

The only fax number on file is the one that you already have. If you need further assistance, please feel free to call our 24/7 customer support at 480-505-8877.

Thank You,

Joe B

By this time I was bored of the process and fulfilled my promised of politeness:

So, let me just get this straight. In order for you to tell me what I already knew, I had to dish out my security details and part of my credit card number?

Nice work.

You guys are fucking morons.

To be fair to Kevin, Joshua and Joe, they’re monkeys following lame rules. But even monkeys show some initiative sometimes.

The very last update:

Dear Andy,

I am the current supervisor on duty. I would first like to apologize for the poor support you have received as it is apparent that the issue at hand was misconstrued. Please know it is not our intention to create a negative customer experience. With that in mind we will take the appropriate actions to improve in our customer service department in an effort to ensure similar situations do not arise. It does appear that you have located the correct fax number which again is (480)505-8844. Again, I do apologize for the confusion on our part and any frustration it has caused. If there is anything more I can do for you, or if you have further concerns, please let me know.

Sincerely,

Ben C.

Supervisor, Online Support

“It is not our intention to create a negative customer experience”? Really? They seemed to try pretty damn hard to make it so.