Communication Convergence

In the past 12 months, many things have happened. The world has seen an unprecendented global shakedown of financial services, America welcomed in a black president, a well respected and seasoned newspaper filed for bankrupcy, and the catch phrase “chk chk boom!” entered the Australian vocabulary. Just to name a few. And every one of the events of the past 12 months has been recorded, distributed, discussed and discovered on the interwebs.
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Interactive billboard

This is something I’ve not seen before, at least not in Sydney. In Pitt St Mall, NAB (a bank in Australia) have erected a billboard on the back of a public telephone, that invites users to interact with it.

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I probably paid closer attention to it than I usually would, as one of my colleagues at work is currently completing his final semester at UTS, and his project (titled Poster 2.0), while not necessarily directed at the advertising industry, certainly touches (boom boom) on the concept of display systems that are designed specifically to be interacted with. From that point of view, I was intrigued to see how others in the mall would deal with this very unassuming interactive piece.

The premise

The billboard is setup like a public survey. There is an area where a yes/no question is put to the public, a tally is displayed, and interactin sought (vvia a simple yes/no touch device below). The results are displayed instantly, and the tag-line is “Live life at a great rate.”

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I watched as several people took at least a minute or two to come to grips with the concept. More than half didn’t get it – that is, they stared, waiting for something to change. Obviously the invite wasn’t clear enough for them. One guy did eventually pluck up the courage to engage, and as soon as he chose “Yes” to the question “Have you ever lost money in Vegas”, the billboard updated the count, and he had a bit of a chuckle, and walked off. Result? Not sure…

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I don’t completely understand the communication of the Billboard. Take for example the following : “Have you ever lost money in Vegas : No (see below).” And then below : “Live life at a great rate.” Is this suggesting that only those people who haven’t lost money before are the ones that NAB want as customers? (The yes’s were more than the no’s when I was there…) I also wonder how much effort is going into placing and maintaining this billboard, vs how much actual new customers NAB are actually going to get. Perhaps, though, this is not the purpose of this sort of interface – is it’s job is merely to engage?

I did enjoy the subtlety of the display however – it didn’t initially jump out and grab you, it made you look twice, and even made you try and understand it – that sort of brand time is definitely worth something, though I don’t know how you quantify it.

Anyway, interesting regardless – and I think something that will become more and more common given time.

Ubicomp, new technologies, and the future

So, ive had a few minor revelations over the past few days – which i’d like to share and get feedback on. Here they are – in no particular order.

1. Small business and ubicomp

As I look out my window, I see a man steering a small boat underneath the Anzac bridge. He’s a coffee man. He travels around Sydney in his aussie-gondola, selling coffee to people on beaches too removed from the rest of the world to have kiosks, boardwalks or pools. It’s a great business. Question is, do you think he has a need for ubiquitous computing?

Well, what could he get out of having better access to the world, from within the comforts of his floating coffee shop? I can think of at least one thing : more customers. Imagine if people on their secluded beach could open up their phones, launch a little web app, placing an order. He’d be able to launch his side of the app, see the list of orders, and plan a route that would best maximise his dollar. He could use something like the Google Maps Java app for mobile phones in conjunction with his own custom orderring system and viola!

Or, if he does decide to go the ubicomp way… perhaps his implementation will be via an SMS service, and the cost of the coffee will be charged to the users mobile account. He’ll forgoe Google Maps Mobile, and instead use a tablet pc to map his route out. People will recieve his current location (based on a GPS signal) and know how long until he arrives at their beach.

Question is… would he really use any of this technology? Just because ubicomp is coming, doesn’t mean that every small business will be on the ever-connected band-wagon. And just because it has the name ubicomp, doesn’t meant that it’s a one size fits all scenario. In actual fact, it’s the complete opposite. And for small business, I can see the future being a fun messy place of technologies as they jump head long in the brave new world.

2. Personal computing and ubicomp

OJ has started an interesting discussion about the state of personal computing – with respect to the family pc. It is an interesting discussion, which goes on to suggest a non-MS default for all standard home pc’s – a great idea.

I love the notion that every new computer will get shipped with an open source operating system – capable of becoming a Windows, or OSX or Linux box – depending on the need of the individual. Hence the “personal” in personal computing. But what interests me even more, is what shape the personal computer will take in 10 years time…

Many people are moving to the now user-friendly install of Ubuntu, and we already know that MS aren’t about to rush out and make another version of Windows after Vista…so this number will just continue to rise. We have just seen in the last few days Adobe hand over much of its proprietry Flash virtual machine to the Mozilla foundation. Google seem to come out with yet another free application every second day, and are pushing the use of their personalised javascript widgets heavily. And many smaller devices – digital playback, network elements, etc – come with Linux as the default standard OS because of it’s light weight, and yet fully flexible, robust, secure and open sourced framework.

This constant push I think will make these curently “geeky” devices more and more common in the household – and perhaps spell the demise of the personal computer… or at least force the reshaping of it, to become something much more ad hoc, and “personalised”.

3. Market pressure

The road to these possible futures will forever be pushed and pulled by market pressure. You only have to look at the current mess surrounding the new LG LCD advertising which had to be pulled and reworded, because it promoted people skipping ads. Then there is the continued ICE TV debate in Australia between it and Channel 9.

In the same way that Sydney streets do not follow a discernable pattern, nor too will the future of interactive technologies. And maybe that’s a good thing – ever lived in a city with nothing but straight streets? It might be easy to get from A to B, but is it any fun?

Coming Zune….

Whatever else Microsoft are doing wrong with Vista et al, the visuals they are using for the imminent release of their much-hyped Zune player are refreshingly non-MS. Check out their Coming Zune website. Rather nice.

Google and YouTube….

Well, if you’ve been living under a rock… Google and YouTube have joined forces. Well, to put it more bluntly, Google have gobbled up YouTube. $1.65 billion!! Nuff said…

Here is an article written not long ago that gives the service a new cool name : GooTube! hehehe.

Interestingly, if you use Googles own Google Trends, YouTube doesn’t seem to be as popular as all that… maybe they made this tool just so they could buy the tube for a little bit less!!

I wonder how it will change things – if at all…

Digital white board

Tell me THIS isn’t a cool invention :) My post name probably doesn’t do this justice, it’s not just a digital white board – its more about the technology behind the drawing application that’s cool. Check it out.

Interacting with the world….

The other day OJ posted about a video on YouTube, depicting an interface that comes close to resembling what you see in Minority Report… you know, with the interface made from projected light? I’d seen this movie in the past myself, and was excited by the possibilities it offered for new interfaces and interactive moments.

I didn’t think much more of it, until yesterday, when it was also mentioned in a book im currently reading : Everyware. A very interesting book, talking about the impact of ubiquitous computing and challenging some assumptions being made with regards to things like interface design and interactions.

It made me think again about the interface supposed by the video on YouTube. It reinforced the truth that with whatever direction we go with technology, there needs to be a lot of effort put in by you and me now, to make sure that what we do is accessible by everyone in the future. This is not to remove all creativity from design and communication, but merely suggesting that for all the bells and whistles that we could possibly have, I think it’s important that we choose the right bell for the right occasion.

I think the future of interaction will be successfull if the technology behind it is able to dissolve into the background – leaving only the communication (in whatever form).

I may be getting too existential for this little blog… but if you’ll indulge me, I think it might be a very interesting conversation to have – especially when we don’t really know what devices may be around in 20 years…

Anyway, as part of this continuous discussion, tomorrow I head off to WebDirections 2006 at UTS. I’ll be attending Designing for Interaction, and will let you know how it goes.

Leica M8 released…

Wow, what a nice camera this is : The Leica M8 is one beautifully crafted object (with a beautifully hefty price tag to boot!). Anyway, wow – im impressed. But for the mere mortals of the world, the Panasonic Lumix digi cam is (while not of exact quality) of very similar Leica-esque status and well worth a look. (photo ripped from d-preview)

Happy Birthday to me…

Well, im a few days early but hey. I like to think that the entire week surrounding my birthday IS my birthday – and why not?! It’s the start of Spring, the weather rocks… parties every night…
So here’s an (early) present from my gorgeous better half (and here’s the link Sennheiser HD 280 Pro)

HD 280 Pro

So what’s the verdict? I love these puppies! Sound is crystal clear – and i mean crystal. They are studio headphones, so closed and with a restricted audio frequency – which basically means they output what the audio ACTUALLY sounds like without mooshing the sound wave. Tight fit on the head, but quite cumfy. Also, a hot tip – if you want to buy these in Australia, don’t go to a shop as they will cost you over $350 bucks. Ebay instead. Nearly half price on a good day (for some reason the resell price in Aus for a couple of the Sennheiser products is way higher than it is anywhere else in the world).

Happy Birthday to me yay!