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To riff off of Dave Gray's smart thingking, one of my favorite parts of the book is the discussion of multiscale user experience design.

 

Kuniavsky goes beyond Mark Weiser's model of tabs, pads, and boards to embrace a wider range of scales: covert, mobile, personal, environmental, architectural, and urban. The idea is to get us thinking about which devices and interfaces work best at which scales and how they can work together.

 

Of course, it's not easy to imagine multiscale interactions in the abstract. That's why I love the Business Origami approach. By combining tangible artifacts and sketching, it makes brainstorming more accessible and fun.

 

What I'd like to see #lazyweb is a Ubicomp Origami Kit with icons for multiscale and multisensory devices. Timo's Everyware Icons for sensor fields and objects with invisible qualities might be a good place to start. How else can we make it easier (and more fun) to sketch the future?

 

#ubicompsketchbook on Twitter and Flickr

 

Strange Connections

 

UX Storytellers is a free ebook worth checking out.

 

Video (plus interview) from my Ubiquitous IA talk at IDEA 2010.

In his book Smart Things, Mike Kuniavsky suggests metaphor as a tool for thinking through ubicomp designs and interactions. By mapping one category onto another we can discover new insights -- among other things, it's a way to trick the mind into seeing old things in new ways.

 

Organizational metaphors (ways of organizing services) include the factory, the public utility, parallel universes and so on.

 

Metaphors also help people understand new services by linking the new to the familiar. For example, RFID was first introduced as the next generation of the bar code, even though the two technologies had little in common.

 

Kuniavsky suggests that when exploring a new concept via metaphor, it pays to explore the dark side as well as optimistic scenarios to get a more well-rounded picture of the future system. How might your design be thwarted? How might the system be hijacked or co-opted for other uses?

 

Check out the whole set.

 

Please share your thoughts!

In his book Smart Things, Mike Kuniavsky talks about the information shadow as an essential element of a smart thing. The information shadow is the information that's associated with an object such as its name, number, position in space and time, and so on.

 

Information shadows allow designers to make objects simpler, to reduce the size of interfaces and reduce the display requirements of an object. An iPod shuffle, for example, can be tiny because the information display resides in iTunes, not on the device.

 

Science fiction author and futurist Bruce Sterling coined the term spime to describe an object that can be tracked through space and time throughout the lifetime of the object.

 

This is part of a project called Ubicomp Sketchbook that I initiated with user experience designer Peter Morville, author of Ambient Findability and Search Patterns, in order to explore and explain the ideas aand implications of ubiquitous computing, sometimes called the "internet of things." Check out the whole set.

 

Please share your thoughts!

A couple of years ago, I began to notice big red boxes appearing inside and outside grocery stores in Ann Arbor. I ignored them for a while, which wasn't easy because they are big and red, but eventually I gave Redbox a try. My first experience wasn't great. Using a kiosk interface to browse the DVD selection while strangers peered over my shoulder was unnerving.

 

Still, I endured the kiosk search a few more times before stumbling upon the website and realizing I could search and pay online, then pick up my movie at the kiosk with a swipe of my credit card. This multi-channel epiphany led to a much better experience, and I'm now a Redbox fan.

 

But how many folks never get past the kiosk? How do we make it easier for people to learn about multi-channel possibilities? The idea of smoothing the steps into a gentle slope sounds good, but I'm not sure it's entirely practical.

 

Perhaps we need ways of catapulting users to the next level. Or, even better, maybe we should copy foursquare and turn it into a game. I can imagine Redbox offering free rentals to users who reach the next level. Steps might include your first web/kiosk or mobile/kiosk combo or the first time you return a DVD in a different city than the one in which you rented it. What do you think? How would you get users up the stairs?

 

#ubicompsketchbook on Twitter and Flickr

In a recent post titled Ubuquitous Service Design, Peter Morville raised some interesting questions about how we might design for a world where everything is, or potentially can be -- smart. A world where your refrigerator knows what you had for lunch and when the lettuce will be out of date. A world where your car gives you suggestions for getting better gas mileage or tells you a better way to get where you're going.

 

In a ubicomp (ubiquitous computing) world, what kinds of methods, and what kinds of tools, will designers use to think through a whole new set of design problems? The environment and the context of use become much more important. Devices and services become stakeholders in the process, communicating not only with users but with other products and processes over a complex and deeply intertwingled network.

 

How will this change our approaches to design and change? How will it change our lives, our cities, and our social relationships?

 

Peter and I are embarking on a new project we're calling Ubicomp Sketchbook to explore exactly these kinds of things. We hope you will enjoy the ride and also share your thoughts, sketches and ideas. We'll be using the hashtag #ubicompsketchbook for our explorations.

 

Check out the whole set.

After hanging out with Dave Gray in Savannah in February, I was inspired to improve my visual thinking and sketching skills, so I bought Sketchbook Pro and a Bamboo Tablet, dug out an old Moleskine I'd never used, and signed up for a drawing class at the Ann Arbor Art Center.

 

Six months later, I'd made a bit of progress with the notebook but none with the tablet. And the drawing class? I quit after a few weeks. Too stressful!

 

That's why our Ubicomp Sketchbook Collaboration makes sense. Because it's Dave's fault. And now, he's making me use the tools he inspired me to buy.

 

Seriously, I'm really looking forward to sketching the future. We'll be building on ideas from Ambient Findability, Smart Things, and Everyware. And, we'll be using strange words and phrases like intertwingularity, spime, information shadows, synthetic synesthesia, and Ubiquitous Service Design.

 

We'll use words and pictures, and we'll even try a bit of design fiction. We also hope you'll join us by sharing your sketches and ideas. To follow along, just keep an eye out for the #ubicompsketchbook hashtag (and Flickr tag).

 

See Also: Original Blog Post

In his book Smart Things, Mike Kuniavsky quotes a Scientific American article from 1991, where Xerox PARC's then CTO Mark Weiser laid out the vision for ubicomp:

 

"[Ubicomp is] the idea of integrating computers seamlessly into the world at large ... not simulating the world so much as enhancing the one that already exists ... [most of them] will be invisible in fact as well as in metaphor ... These machines and more will be connected in a ubiquitous network.

 

Today's design challenge, says Kuniavsky, is to create a practice of ubiquitous computing user experience design. Such a practice is by necessity cross-disciplinary, involving identity design (what makes the product or service memorable and unique), interface design (modes of functionality), industrial design (physicality), interaction design (how you can interact with it), information design (how it displays information), service design (how the service maintains consistency across many objects devices and experiences), and information architecture (organizing principles for the information).

 

That's a lot of D words! In other words it takes a team, and this will only increasingly be the case. The practice is changing quickly, and with the power to transform society comes great responsibility.

 

Check out the whole set.

 

Please share your thoughts!