So I was having a chat with my friend Josh a few nights ago about how the iPhone has a very distinct component base and that there should be a simple magnet set to build ideas. I love the set of iPhone app magnets, but wanted a simple iPhone cutout that I could place a on top of a picture. While thinking about actually making these magnets, I thought about other heavily engrained digital experiences we have, and their call-to-action, so of course I had to make a Youtube playhead, Youtube timeline, and a Facebook “like” button. This was going to be a fun little experiment.
Adding elements of specific digital experiences really do change the way one experiences the medium. Take this simple photo on my refrigerator of my girlfriend (far left), and her cousin (birthday boy), father, uncle, and grandmother taken in the late-80’s:
By adding some of these new elements, the experience of a simple photo suddenly begins to change. I began with adding an iPhone screen with a call-answer screen in the middle, and found that I naturally began to think about voice, and what the man centered in the screen would sound like on the phone, and what he would be calling about. I then completely changed the parameters and added a YouTube interface on top of the photo, which suddenly made the photo feel much more real, and I naturally began to see the birthday party play out in my head. Thinking about what happened before and what might happen a few seconds after that frame.
YouTube creates some amazing popular pop culture references, so I had to create T-Pain and Obama magnets to add some social dynamics within the photos as necessary. Who doesn’t want an auto-tune birthday party!
This was a fun exercise to remind myself how much the medium affects the message, and that just the flat remnants added to a still photo brings some of their unique qualities into experience. If you would like some of these magnets, let me know, and I’ll what I can do;)
Minimalism is becoming the new design feature. Thanks for that Apple. I couldn’t agree more. Every new product feature should be considered “guilty until proven innocent” in its quest to join the list of features that now make small electronic pamphlets into hundred page guide books. Fun. This is a well established conversation with some interesting opinions, but what I would rather talk about is innovation through the lens of frugality, which is quite different.
Start Connecting these two, because they're already hanging out.
My recent long-term trip through Asia granted me many little discoveries, but one that continued to amaze me was technology proliferation. Technology that I considered “out of reach” for rural parts of Vietnam and Laos were putting smiles on locals’ faces. Before a tour through some rice patties in SaPa, a local Hmong girl was searching YouTube for ancient Hmong chants, and found them, and shared them with her friends. This was brilliant to see. While we were hiking the hills, she got a text message which she giggled and quickly replied to, “It’s my boyfriend.”
I have tons of these little stories, and they’re all brought about by frugal innovation. These areas of the world do not have a problem using technology, but rather technology is typically expensive and scarce. With companies expanding their markets and design thinking to include more places like India and China, product lines of cheap netbooks and mobile phones have expanded into these markets allowing Zi, our guide, to do what we do. And over time, I’m sure we will see creative usage that we didn’t think was possible.
Another night of photobooth fun! This time was a little different, as it was my eldest sister’s wedding! I had a few hours the day before the wedding to scout out a location within the reception venue, 632 on Hudson, a converted residence decorated with an astonishing collection of antiques and artifacts from all over the world on the edge of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
My favorite photo of the night was Tad, experiencing the booth for the first time before the wedding began.
Because everything in 632 on Hudson is basically a priceless antique, the setup had to be minimally invasive, quick to setup and takedown, and alcohol proof (easy-to-use and protected) which led to this setup. I didn’t bring any set pieces for the backdrop because the room was beautifully decorated to begin with. The room was also shared with a self-serve bar, which guaranteed traffic, a very important aspect of photobooth setups.
Over 500 photos were taken during this reception. Some photos were pretty, some racy, but always fun and entertaining. View all the images from the night here. I’ve also included a very rough iPhone photo of the setup for those curious.
I’m only bringing this up because, well, it’s impossible to overlook. I received a text message from my mom and it was as follows:
“Do you have an ipad? I think I want to get one.”
This was alarming and amazing for a couple of reasons that I think many other people are experiencing right now. I had the joy of experiencing firsthand how a mom completely scared of a mobile phone and HD TV can suddenly be technologically confident enough to consider buying a new tech device such as an iPad. She picked it up, and instantly, instantly was attached. I watched her immerse herself, a smile broadening on her face with each passing moment. She discovered that those innate human gestures we have confusingly trained to work on opposite planes were now functioning as per nature. She wanted the next page, so she made a sweeping gesture and the page flung over to reveal another colorful page of options. She didn’t “click” to select, she pointed at it with her finger, and with a slight nudge of flesh to screen the action took place. It finally made sense to the less technical mind. And though she has always loved the iPhone, something about the size of the screen, and accuracy required with such small icons had become a barrier to entry.
The world of gestural interaction is as old as anything, but the iPad is the first tablet to marry such intuitive UI with a device that can support the experience needed for “my mom.” the large unquestionable gestures that she exhibited reminded me of John Underkoffler and his recent TED talk about the future of UI. He is known for creating the futuristic Minority Report interface, which he believes is not too far away. His gestures seemed too complex for me, let alone my mom putting on his wired gloves and being able to play. I can say that his view of the “one person, one mouse, one screen” world as old fashioned was refreshing to hear. I truly believe that with a world based in “the clouds” the computer experience should be more evenly shared with me being able to drop a video on my sister’s screen, and then quickly troubleshoot my mom’s computer, while they both circle their favorite photos on my screen. It’s coming.
I recently bought a new pair of Nike+ shoes along with the sensor kit, but arrived home to realize I had only bought a replacement sensor for the shoe. I stared at my ipod, wondering if perhaps there was a way in fact to receive the signal. There isn’t, so I sat there, feeling totally defeated, almost as if running wasn’t worth it. This is crazy, because in fact it did not prevent me from exercising or even the quality of the exercise in anyway, like lost headphones may have. Was it really because I wouldn’t log a few miles? And eventually I had to agree it was. Because now I had a means to record a part of my life that wasn’t easily measured before.
We have happily found ourselves snuggling with named objects that connect us to each other. Phones, laptops, gadgetry, these pieces of technology record us in numbers and start to visualize parts of our lives that we simply guessed and estimated before. I have a Mint account that measures monetary habits and financial information. I check-in on Foursquare so you know where I go physically. And with a sensor in my shoe, I know my running habits. These were once all estimations, but now I have pie charts and graphs that parse and label my life. Im quantifiable and measurable more than ever before.
The cover of the New York Times Magazine recently featured an interesting article by Gary Wolf that explored this very phenomenon among the most extreme cases. He attributes this sudden influx in self-monitoring to four recent changes: Electronic sensors became smaller and more effective, people began carrying computers (mobile phones), social media became mainstream and popular, and finally, the digital “cloud” began forming. These new services now carry popularity with friends, spark competitions, show progress, and help you quantitatively look at things you don’t have to think about anymore. Definitely worth a read.
Yesterday I was awarded a virtual badge. I had accidently become an Adventurer in foursquare by checking into 10 different venues. The unexpected achievement made me smile, but then got me wondering while I got such a good feeling for a very simply designed icon that now proudly sat in my virtual profile of foursquare.
To some degree I earned it I guess. The badge was a combination of virtual and physical accomplishment. I certainly walked many miles aimlessly through San Francisco “exploring” the city yesterday. But really?
Welcome to the world of Social Objects, an ever-growing playground of online visual toys created to illustrate or add feeling to our interactions. Facebook has gifts, a socially recognizable form that a friend is willing to buy to represent attention, thought, and friendship. On twitter, the act of retweeting has become a sort of socially recognized “kudos” to the original tweeter. Flickr, and YouTube have a favorite or “thumbs up” to add to your favorite video or image, a way of distinguishing success to both parties. Remember Mafia Wars on Facebook? Who thought a text-based mafia game would become a 100 million dollar phenomenon? The game builds from actual friends and is completely badge-based. And of course Foursquare, the first truly successful geo-tagging game that awards people for checking-in and physically moving a lot. The list goes on.
These objects aren’t unique, but rather infinitely abundant to anyone willing to earn them. So who cares? Well it’s the interaction these icons represent, the interaction of an actual person who thought and spent time to accomplish the badge. The emotional quality these images, badges, or tokens bring to the virtual space. It seems we, as “real” people are always finding subtle ways to gain achievement and to reward one another in a socially recognizable way. We are emotional creatures after all.