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This is why the future sucks

Cesar Harada presente Protei a l’ENSCI Paris, 10 Octobre 2012

Cesar Harada at ENSCI, OUI Share network. 2012 10 10 Paris France

Facebook Event Page
2012 Octobre 10, a 19:00. ENSCI, 48 rue Saint Sabin, 75011, Metro Saint Sabin | Plan. Entree Gratuite.

C’est un grand honneur de venir presenter Protei a l’ENSCI, Les Ateliers Saint Sabin a Paris France.
En 2006 j’y ai passe plusieurs mois a construire un micro-trimaran, avant de partir a l’aventure camera au poing.
Je parlerai principalement de Protei, de l’histoire du projet, de la technologie, de la communaute,  et en general des implications de l’Open Source / Open Hardware pour des projets environementaux. Je parlerai beaucoup de strategie de design et des enjeux ecologiques et de societe. Je presenterai pendant 30 minutes, suivi de 30 minutes de questions.

L’evenement sera publie sur Facebook a travers le groupe OUISHARE.

Original file 3GB :  http://protei.org/download/20121010ENSCI.zip


http://vimeo.com/51847971
Edited by Christopher Santerre.

PS : pour ceux qui ne peuvent pas venir a TEDxParis le 6 Octobre, voila l’occasion d’avoir une presentation plus detaillee avec l’opportunites de poser des questions!
Poster : Crédits à Natalie http://holanat.com/

Urban Vascularisation

Paths through New York City
Eric Fischer, New York, “Paths through cities”

The Geotaggers' World Atlas #55: Taipei
Eric Fischer, Taipei, “Geotaggers World Atlas”

I recently came across these images of “living cities”, and it struck me how much they are similar looking to plastinated vascular (blood) systems.

krwiobieg
http://plastynarium.pl

REU BELGIUM/
Francois Lenoir/Reuters

And the word that came to my mind was “urban vascularisation” or how the city is a living organism that conduct flows, evolves and can be modified.

Luigi Colani Biocity

At this stage it would be hard to avoid mentioning Luigi Colani “Biocity”, a city that is supposed to be built and function like a human body (thanks to Matthew Plummer-Fernandez for the ref).

I connect this to a current research I am excited to see develop : a robotic traffic light system for Nairobi Kenya, spear-headed by the *IHub_ and Jessica Colaco. it is really interesting to see how the radical modification of a “simple” traffic controller could re-orient “life” within the city “vessels”. This interest came from research notes of “network growth” I have been making recently.

A traffic jam in Nairobi. iHUb is developing a system that will use lights to control traffic flow. Photo/File

As I posted this in social media, more interesting references came from Matthew Plummer-FernandezOriginal article (not accessible to non-subscribers), re-post by Wired, my pdf archive.

slime_mold_1-660x501

“A team of Japanese and British researchers observed that the slime mold connected itself to scattered food sources in a design that was nearly identical to Tokyo’s rail system. Atsushi Tero from Hokkaido University in Japan, along with colleagues elsewhere in Japan and the United Kingdom, placed oat flakes on a wet surface in locations that corresponded to the cities surrounding Tokyo, and allowed the Physarum polycephalum mold to grow outwards from the center. They watched the slime mold self-organize, spread out, and form a network that was comparable in efficiency, reliability, and cost to the real-world infrastructure of Tokyo’s train network.”

In the comment of this article  “JMillsPaysBills” suggests this article loosed in relevancy because the actual rail system and the slime mold are not placed side by side to be compared. So I made this graphic underneath. On the left it is the experiment with slime mold, on the right it is my maps overlays.

map-overlays
Original maps :  Japan Rail Pass map and Tokyo Rail Network.

“Charley” also commented :
“This article’s assumption is that that city populations are static and oat flakes can be a stand­ing for those static cities in this model. Then slime mold can be used to predict mass transportation links between these cities.
In practice, the situation often is reversed. Mass transportation is built, and then cities expand at the nodes of that transportation system.”

I think it works both ways : cities expand from transportation AND train stations are decided upon the location of existing settlements.

My friend Nick Kaufmann, recommended me this interesting reading “Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization” by Richard Sennett.
http://books.google.com/books/about/Flesh_and_Stone.html?id=W9sXRG3z-lgC
“Flesh and Stone is a new history of the city in Western civilization, one that tells the story of urban life through bodily experience. It is a story of the deepest parts of life – how women and men moved in public and private spaces, what they saw and heard, the smells that assailed their noses, where they are, how they dressed, the mores of bathing and of making love – all in the spaces of the city from ancient Athens to modern New York.

Network Growth Programming

Physical Social Network Programming

I have been continuing to research how physical social networks (made with people and strings) can be grown. In addition of the 7 basic network topologies – which I consider now as only a subset on network growth “instruction”- I listed 4 larger ensembles :

  • Behavioural Programming: Guiding people to form 1) Line, 2) Mesh, 3) Fully connected, 4) form groups.
  • Visual Programming: Asking a group of connected individuals to conform to prescribed geometrical figures.
  • Numerical Programming: Giving each single individual a set of simple instructions to apply regardless of other dynamics, and let these “naturally” interact.
  • Entropy: After having conducted these previous experiments, giving participants the instruction to do whatever they want with the string.

I have also updated the instruction set of instructions for the “Behavioural programming” here :


Warm up
Walk random patterns eyes open
Run random patterns with eyes open
Walk random patterns eyes closed
Run random patterns with eyes closed
Stand up still eyes open, look at others
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Stand up still eyes open, stand up on one leg
Stand up on one leg, close one eye. Close the second eye.
Spin in one direction until you get dizzy.
Spin the other direction until you cancel the dizziness.
Stand up still eyes open, look at others
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others

Linear Network (Line)
_ I pull one line and connect everybody.
Walk random patterns eyes closed
Run random patterns with eyes closed
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Stand up still eyes open, look at others

Mesh Network (Mesh)
_ I cut the line, disconnecting some, reconnecting others in a mesh.
Walk random patterns eyes closed
Run random patterns with eyes closed
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Stand up still eyes open, look at others

Fully Connected Network (Fully Connected)
_ I each and everyone.
Walk random patterns eyes closed
Run random patterns with eyes closed
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Stand up still eyes open, look at others

Community building (Segregation)
How do you feel?
We went through 3 different types of network topologies :
1) a line network
2) a mesh network
3) a fully connected network
Which one did you prefer / dislike? Why?
What defines a community? Why?
Now I will get back to giving a few more instructions.
_ Pause.
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Feel others with the strings.
Which strings do you like most? Which string would you rather drop.
Keep the strings you like, drop the strings you don’t feel comfortable holding.
Eyes closed, keep holding the strings, but now move freely, wherever you want to go.
When you feel you are in the right place, stop. Take your time.
When I will see more than half of you standing still, this will be the end of this part of the experiment.
_ Pause.
How do you feel?
What did you learn?
What did we learn as a group?
How could push this experiment further?


I will continue this research further later – that was just a research note – and a cool poster coming out of it :) Original files here (.ai .pdf .jpg). Do you know of any interesting references / books / pdfs about network growth / evolution / topologies? Thanks!

The best interface is no interface

I just read this article from the Cooper Journal got very compelled with the proposition.
It is making designers (I count myself in that group) what kind of  “experience” we want to share with users.
The older I grow, the more I feel design is certainly content, but I am generally attracted to bring THE content, rather than expecting “users” to enjoy the delivery of that content. Exceptions apply of course.
It reminded me of this quote of Bruce Mau I stumbled upon when “massive change” came out.

Massive change

Allow me to quote another Bruce here :) http://youtu.be/gH67s0mPasA

I am “new” to blogging, and this will be my first re-blogging (just checked what it means in wikipedia).
So below is the original article by Golden Krishna.


“Atmadm.”

Getting our work done was an alphabet soup nightmare.

“chkntfs.”

“dir.”

(Source: vintagecomputer.net)
Then, in 1984, Apple adopted Xerox PARC’s WIMP — window, icon, menu, pointer — and took us a galactic leap forward away from those horrifying command lines of DOS, and into a world of graphical user interfaces.

Apple’s Lisa. (Source: Guidebook Gallery)
We were converted. And a decade later, when we could touch the Palm Pilot instead of dragging a mouse, we were even more impressed. But today, our love for the digital interface has gotten out-of-control.

It’s become the answer to every design problem.

How do you make a better car? Slap an interface in it.

Speedometer in BMW’s Mini Cooper. (Source: BMW)

Who doesn’t want Twitter functionality inside their speedometer? (Source: CNET)
How do you make a better refrigerator? Slap an interface on it.

“Upgrade your life” with a better refrigerator door. (Source: Samsung)

Love to check my tweets when getting some water from the fridge. (Source: Samsung)
How do you make a better hotel lobby? Slap an interface in it.

(Source: IDEO)

A giant touchscreen with news and weather is exactly what’s missing from my hotel stay. (Source: IDEO)
Creative minds in technology should focus on solving problems. Not just make interfaces.

As Donald Norman said in 1990, “The real problem with the interface is that it is an interface. Interfaces get in the way. I don’t want to focus my energies on an interface. I want to focus on the job…I don’t want to think of myself as using a computer, I want to think of myself as doing my job.”

It’s time for us to move beyond screen-based thinking. Because when we think in screens, we design based upon a model that is inherently unnatural, inhumane, and has diminishing returns. It requires a great deal of talent, money and time to make these systems somewhat usable, and after all that effort, the software can sadly, only truly improve with a major overhaul.

There is a better path: No UI. A design methodology that aims to produce a radically simple technological future without digital interfaces. Following three simple principles, we can design smarter, more useful systems that make our lives better.

Principle 1: Eliminate interfaces to embrace natural processes.

Several car companies have recently created smartphone apps that allow drivers to unlock their car doors. Generally, the unlocking feature plays out like this:

  1. A driver approaches her car.
  2. Takes her smartphone out of her purse.
  3. Turns her phone on.
  4. Slides to unlock her phone.
  5. Enters her passcode into her phone.
  6. Swipes through a sea of icons, trying to find the app.
  7. Taps the desired app icon.
  8. Waits for the app to load.
  9. Looks at the app, and tries figure out (or remember) how it works.
  10. Makes a best guess about which menu item to hit to unlock doors and taps that item.
  11. Taps a button to unlock the doors.
  12. The car doors unlock.
  13. She opens her car door.

Thirteen steps later, she can enter her car.

The app forces the driver to use her phone. She has to learn a new interface. And the experience is designed around the flow of the computer, not the flow of a person.

If we eliminate the UI, we’re left with only three, natural steps:

  1. A driver approaches her car.
  2. The car doors unlock.
  3. She opens her car door.

Anything beyond these three steps should be frowned upon.

Seem crazy? Well, this was solved by Mercedes-Benz in 1999. Please watch the first 22 seconds of this incredibly smart (but rather unsexy) demonstration:

(Source: YouTube)
Thanks “Chris.”

By reframing design constraints from the resolution of the iPhone to our natural course of actions, Mercedes created an incredibly intuitive, and wonderfully elegant car entry. The car senses that the key is nearby, and the door opens without any extra work.

That’s good design thinking. After all, especially when designing around common tasks, the best interface is no interface.

Another example.

A few companies, including Google, have built smartphone apps that allow customers to pay merchants using NFC. Here’s the flow:

  1. A shopper enters a store.
  2. Orders a sandwich.
  3. Takes his smartphone out of his pocket.
  4. Turns his phone on.
  5. Slides to unlock.
  6. Enters his passcode into the phone.
  7. Swipes through a sea of icons, trying to find the Google Wallet app.
  8. Taps the desired app icon.
  9. Waits for the app to load.
  10. Looks at the app, and tries figure out (or remember) how it works.
  11. Makes a best guess about which menu item to hit to to reveal his credit cards linked to Google Wallet. In this case, “payment types.”
  12. Swipes to find the credit card his would like to use.
  13. Taps that desired credit card.
  14. Finds the NFC receiver near the cash register.
  15. Taps his smartphone to the NFC receiver to pay.
  16. Sits down and eats his sandwich.

If we eliminate the UI, we’re again left with only three, natural steps:

  1. A shopper enters a store.
  2. Orders a sandwich.
  3. Sits down and eats his sandwich.

Asking for an item to a person behind a register is a natural interaction. And that’s all it takes to pay with Auto Tab in Pay by Square. Start at 2:08:

(Source: YouTube)
Auto Tab in Pay with Square does require some UI to get started. But by using location awareness behind-the-scenes, the customer doesn’t have to deal with UI, and can simply pursue his natural course of actions.

As Jack Dorsey of Square explains above, “NFC is another thing you have to do. It’s another action you have to take. And it’s not the most human action to wave a device around another device and wait for a beep. It just doesn’t feel right.”

Principle 2: Leverage computers instead of catering to them.

No UI is about machines helping us, instead of us adapting for computers.

With UI, we are faced with counterintuitive interaction methods that are tailored to the needs of a computer. We are forced to navigate complex databases to obtain simple information. We are required to memorize countless passwords with rules like one capital letter, two numbers and a punctuation mark. And most importantly, we’re constantly pulled away from the stuff we actually want to be doing.

A Windows 2000 password requirement. (Source: Microsoft)
By embracing No UI, the design focuses on your needs. There’s no interface for the sake of interface. Instead, computers are catered to you.

Your car door unlocks when you walk up to it. Your TV turns on to the channel you want to watch. Your alarm clock sets itself, and even wakes you up at the right REM moment.

Even your car lets you know when something is wrong:

(Source: YouTube)
When we let go of screen-based thinking, we design purely to the needs of a person. Afterall, good experience design isn’t about good screens, it’s about good experiences.

Principle 3: Create a system that adapts for people.

I know, you’re great.

You’re a unique, amazingly complex individual, filled with your own interests and desires.

So building a great UI for you is hard. It takes open-minded leaders, great research, deep insights…let’s put it this way: it’s challenging.

So why are companies spending millions of dollars simply to make inherently unnatural interfaces feel somewhat natural for you? And even more puzzling, why do they continue to do so, when UI often has a diminishing rate of return?

Think back to when you first signed up for Gmail. Once you discovered innovative features like conversation view, you were hugely rewarded. But over time, the rate of returns have diminished. The interface has become stale.

Sadly, the obvious way for Google to give you another leap forward is to have its designers and engineers spend an incredible amount of time and effort to redesign. And when they do, you will be faced with the pain of learning how to interact with the new interface; some things will work better for you, and some things will be worse for you.

Alternatively, No UI systems focus on you. These systems aren’t bound by the constraints of screens, but instead are able to organically and rapidly grow to fit your needs.

For example, let’s talk about Trunk Club.

It’s a fashion startup.

They think of themselves as a service, not a software company or an app-maker. That’s an important mind set which is lost on many startups today. It means they serve people, not screens.

And I guess if we’re going to talk about Trunk Club, I’ve got to mention a few of their peers: Bombfell, Unscruff, Swag of the Month and ManPacks.

After you sign up for Trunk Club, you have an introductory conversation with a stylist. Then, they send your first trunk of clothes. What you like, you keep. What you don’t like, you send back. Based on your returns and what you keep, Trunk Club learns more and more about you, giving you better and better results each time.

Diminishing rate of return over time? Nay, increasing returns.

Without a bulky UI, it’s easier to become more and more relevant. For fashion, the best interface is no interface.

Another company focused on adapting to your needs is Nest.

When I first saw Nest, I thought they had just slapped an interface on a thermometer and called it “innovation.”

As time passes, the need to use Nest’s UI diminishes. (Source: YouTube)
But there’s something special about the Nest thermostat: it doesn’t want to have a UI.

Nest studies you. It tracks when you wake up. What temperatures you prefer over the course of the day. Nest works hard to eliminate the need for its own UI by learning about you.

Haven’t I heard this before?

The foundation for No UI has been laid by countless other members of the design community.

In 1988, Mark Weiser of Xerox PARC coined “ubiquitous computing.” In 1995, this was part of his abstract on Calm Technology:

“The impact of technology will increase ten-fold as it is imbedded in the fabric of everyday life. As technology becomes more imbedded and invisible, it calms our lives by removing annoyances while keeping us connected with what is truly important.”

In 1990, Donald Norman wrote “The Invisible Computer.” From the publisher:

“…Norman shows why the computer is so difficult to use and why this complexity is fundamental to its nature. The only answer, says Norman, is to start over again, to develop information appliances that fit people’s needs and lives.”

In 1999, Kevin Ashton gave a talk about “The Internet of Things.” His words:

“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost.”

In 2006, Adam Greenfield wrote “Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing.” An excerpt:

“Ever more pervasive, ever harder to perceive, computing has leapt off the desktop and insinuated itself into everyday life. Such ubiquitous information technology “everyware” — will appear in many different contexts and a wide variety of forms, but it will affect almost every one of us, whether we’re aware of it or not.” (p.9)

Today, we finally have the technology to achieve a lot of these goals.

This past year, Amber Case talked about Weiser-inspired location awareness.

There’s a lot we can achieve with some of our basic tools today.

Let’s keep talking.

Oh, there’s so much more to say.

Vote to hear this at SXSW. I’d love to talk about this at SXSW. But, I really need your vote. It would be very nice of you to spend one minute giving this topic a thumbs up: Click here to hear the “The Best Interface is No Interface”. Voting ends 8/31.

Come talk about this at Cooper Parlor. If you’re in the San Francisco area, stop by our office and talk No UI. We’re doing a round table on September 19th. I’ll moderate, you share your rants, criticisms, love. The details are here.

Comment below. Where do you see No UI opportunities?

Special thanks: to everyone at Cooper and all those who have helped, particularly Stefan Klocek, Chris Noessel, Doug LeMoine and Meghan Gordon.