Archive for August 2009

Geek to Chic: The Cultural Branding of Augmented Reality Experiences

August 29th, 2009 — 2:57am

Since I wrote about the user expe­ri­ence of aug­mented real­ity less than two weeks ago, the most impor­tant devel­op­ment is the arrival of aug­mented iPhone apps (unof­fi­cially for the moment, offi­cially in September).

Why is this so impor­tant, when Wik­i­tude and other AR Android apps have been avail­able for almost a year?  Bring­ing aug­mented real­ity to the iPhone changes the cul­tural assump­tions made about AR expe­ri­ences as a class of offer­ing. Endors­ing AR expe­ri­ences for iPhone users moves aug­mented real­ity from the geek realm of Android and Google, to the chic world of Apple.  Cul­tur­ally, the assump­tions we make about the new prod­ucts and ser­vices from Apple and Google are dri­ven largely by the dif­fer­ences in way we per­ceive the two brands.  Apple is chic, while Google is geek.

Look­ing Ahead

Con­nect­ing the Apple brand to aug­mented expe­ri­ences will per­suade many peo­ple to try out AR.  Yet as I’ve said, and many oth­ers as well, get­ting the user expe­ri­ence of aug­mented real­ity ‘right’ is absolutely the crit­i­cal ele­ment to the long term via­bil­ity of this new class of expe­ri­ences.  This entails two efforts.

First, design­ers must refine the expe­ri­ences offered by all those AR appli­ca­tions based on the four clas­sic inter­ac­tion pat­terns known so far — Head-Up Dis­play, Tri­corder, Holochess, and X-ray Vision.  Two fac­tors make refine­ment essen­tial: com­pe­ti­tion from other AR offer­ings that reduces the nov­elty value of your expe­ri­ence, and increased ‘load’ on the UX in the form of actual use for every­day pur­poses in the com­plex set­ting of real life.  Think about try­ing to choose where to get lunch for the after­noon by sort­ing through 1500 list­ings for cof­fee shops and restau­rants while stand­ing on a street cor­ner in the rain in Lon­don hold­ing your phone aloft.  The func­tional aspects of AR expe­ri­ences just aren’t refined enough to han­dle the inter­ac­tion design, visu­al­iza­tion, and con­tex­tual sen­si­tiv­ity chal­lenges implied. [Pre­dic­tion: AR usage cases will nat­u­rally set­tle on a set of com­mon sce­nar­ios that bal­ance the strengths and weak­nesses of each of the four clas­sic pat­terns.  More spec­u­la­tion on that in a later post.]

Sec­ond, design­ers must address the gaps in the set of con­cepts now used as the basis for imag­in­ing new aug­mented expe­ri­ences.  I flagged six ‘miss­ing’ pat­terns in the range of expe­ri­ences offered so far; Loner, Sec­ond Hand Smoke, Pay No Atten­tion To the Man Behind the Cur­tain, The Invis­i­ble Man!, Tun­nel Vision, and AR for AR’s Sake (see the arti­cle for details).  I’m sure the very savvy read­ers of this blog can iden­tify even more.

I hope all the AR inno­va­tors, design­ers, and entre­pre­neurs work­ing hard on the crest of this break­ing wave of tech­nol­ogy find ways to take on both of these tasks.  If they can’t refine the exist­ing mod­els and fill in those expe­ri­ence gaps, then nei­ther Apple chic nor Google geek cred will suf­fice to make aug­mented real­ity viable in the long term.  And what could lit­er­ally be a new way of see­ing the world — one with legit­i­mate poten­tial for chang­ing our behav­ior with regard to urban spaces, the envi­ron­ment, social struc­tures, play, and eco­nom­ics, among just a few spheres of human activ­ity — will remain lit­tle more than a cam­era obscura style curiosity.

3 comments » | User Experience (UX)

"Interaction Design For Augmented Reality" In ReadWriteWeb

August 29th, 2009 — 1:43am

Mar­shall Kirk­patrick of Read­WriteWeb links to Inside Out: Inter­ac­tion Design for Aug­mented Real­ity (the lat­est Every­ware col­umn) in two recent sto­ries track­ing the fast-moving aug­mented real­ity space; Aug­mented Real­ity: Five Bari­ers to a Web That’s Every­where and, and Robot­Vi­sion: A Bing-powered iPhone Aug­mented Real­ity Browser

Thanks, Mar­shall!

And as a bonus, Tim O’Reilly tweeted about Marshall’s arti­cle.  I doubt that Tim reads this feed, but it’s always nice to be rec­og­nized, even indirectly.

1 comment » | Uncategorized, User Experience (UX)

Fall Speaking: Janus Boye Conference, EuroIA, BlogTalk

August 25th, 2009 — 3:23am

A quick run­down on my fall speak­ing sched­ule so far.

waffles_logoFirst up is BlogTalk 2009, in Jeju, Korea on Sep­tem­ber 15 and 16. There I’ll be talk­ing about ‘The Archi­tec­ture of Fun’ — shar­ing a new design lan­guage for emo­tion that’s been in use in the game design indus­try for quite a while.  [Dis­clo­sure: While it’s a priv­i­lege to be on the pro­gram with so many inno­v­a­tive and insight­ful social media fig­ures, I’m also really look­ing for­ward to the food in Korea :) ]

Next up is EuroIA in Copen­hagen, Sep­tem­ber 26 and 27.  For the lat­est edi­tion of this largest gath­er­ing of the user expe­ri­ence com­mu­nity in Europe, I’ll reprise my Archi­tec­ture of Fun talk.


Wrap­ping up the sched­ule so far is the Janus Boye con­fer­ence in Aarhus, Novem­ber 3 — 6.  Here  I’m pre­sent­ing a half-day tuto­r­ial titled Design­ing Infor­ma­tion Expe­ri­ences.  This is an exten­sive, detailed tuto­r­ial that any­one work­ing in infor­ma­tion man­age­ment will ben­e­fit from, as it com­bines two of my pas­sions; design­ing for peo­ple, and using frame­works to enhance solu­tion scope and effectiveness.


Here’s the descrip­tion from the offi­cial program:

When design­ing for infor­ma­tion retrieval expe­ri­ences, the cus­tomer must always be right. This tuto­r­ial will give you the tools to uncover user needs and design the con­text for deliv­er­ing infor­ma­tion, whether that be through search, tax­onomies or some­thing entirely different.

What you will learn:
•    A broadly applic­a­ble method for under­stand­ing user needs in diverse infor­ma­tion access con­texts
•    A col­lec­tion of infor­ma­tion retrieval pat­terns rel­e­vant to mul­ti­ple set­tings such as enter­prise search and infor­ma­tion access, ser­vice design, and prod­uct and plat­form management

We will also dis­cuss the impact of orga­ni­za­tional and cul­tural fac­tors on design deci­sions and why it is essen­tial, that you frame busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy chal­lenges in the right way.

The tuto­r­ial builds on lessons learned from a large cus­tomer project focus­ing on trans­form­ing user expe­ri­ence. The scope of this pro­gram included ~25 sep­a­rate web-delivered prod­ucts, a large doc­u­ment repos­i­tory, inte­grated cus­tomer ser­vice and sup­port processes, con­tent man­age­ment, tax­on­omy and ontol­ogy cre­ation, and search and infor­ma­tion retrieval solu­tions. Joe will share the inno­vate meth­ods and sur­pris­ing insight that emerged in the process.

Janus Boye gath­ers lead­ing local and inter­na­tional prac­ti­tion­ers, and is a new event for me, so I’m very much look­ing for­ward to it.

I hope to see some of you at one or more of these gath­er­ings that alto­gether span half the world!

Comment » | Uncategorized

"Inside Out: Interaction Design for Augmented Reality" Live @ UX Matters

August 19th, 2009 — 7:02am

I’m very happy to announce that Inside Out: Inter­ac­tion Design for Aug­mented Real­ity — the lat­est install­ment of my col­umn Every­ware @UX Mat­ters -  is live now.  (Tim­ing is some­times the writer’s friend, as I was at the Layar event Mon­day night here in Ams­ter­dam just the day before, and had the chance to talk with some of their team.)

AR is more of a per­spec­tive and class of expe­ri­ences than an instance of new tech­nol­ogy, so I wanted to approach the sub­ject from the spe­cific per­spec­tive of user expe­ri­ence and inter­ac­tion design.  Reac­tions from the aug­mented real­ity com­mu­nity are pos­i­tive so far; Claire Boon­stra of Layar, and no less than the inim­itable Tish Shute of Ugo­Trade, have all been kind enough to rec­om­mend it.  Thanks to them and to every­one who’s tweeted and posted this one.

As we explore the role aug­mented real­ity will play in our gigan­tic exper­i­ment with every­ware, we should keep in mind that the map is not the ter­ri­tory.  But there is no deny­ing an effec­tive map will surely help point the way as you try to find your way around a strange new coun­try.

Comment » | Everyware, User Experience (UX)

Value Dissonance, Digital Goods, The Long Tail & My Oven

August 5th, 2009 — 7:24am

This week­end I went look­ing online for the ser­vice man­ual for my oven, to effect some DIY style repair work, and was unpleas­antly sur­prised to find every col­lec­tion of dig­i­tal ser­vice man­u­als within ready googling dis­tance locked tightly away behind a solid e-commerce wall.

Ten, five, or even three years ago, some thought­ful mechan­i­cal engi­neer would have lov­ingly uploaded a blurry pdf con­ver­sion of a scan of a pho­to­copy of the orig­i­nal KorEng­lish instruc­tion man­ual to a pub­lic file share hosted some­where deep in the wilds of home­brew elec­tron­ics land.  And there it would be, wait­ing for peo­ple who needed it.

Not any­more, appar­ently.  Thanks to all the MBAs who read The Long Tail dur­ing the rev­enue mod­els sec­tion of their Dig­i­tal Busi­ness courses, and then went prospect­ing for an under-monetized con­tent domain with pre­dictable trans­ac­tion and renewal flow vol­umes (read, oppor­tu­nity), I now have to pay $20 to find out how to take apart my ail­ing appli­ance.  To soften the mon­e­tary blow, I have an instantly find­able, one-click-to-purchase, secure-payment-capable expe­ri­ence.  But it’s still $20, when it would have been free last time I looked.

Take note, this is a sea change in dig­i­tal cul­ture star­ing us in the face: DIY become $DIY, thanks to ‘ratio­nal­iza­tion’ of the home brew elec­tron­ics infor­ma­tion economy.

If it sounds like I’m bemoan­ing the sim­ple fact that busi­nesses like to col­o­nize new mar­kets, and I now have to pay for some­thing I used to get for free, I want to say ‘Not true.’  (Okay, par­tially true.)  Some­thing was wrong with this expe­ri­ence.  At first I thought it was price: That man­ual is fully dig­i­tal, mean­ing it comes with absurdly low pub­li­ca­tion costs for print­ing, dis­tri­b­u­tion, inven­tory and restock­ing, thanks to the-great-copying-machine-in-the-sky-called-the-Internet.  It’s also trans­par­ently find­able via a sim­ple two-word query, which I know because I went look­ing for it myself, so there’s few of the typ­i­cal costs from AIDA (gen­er­at­ing aware­ness and moti­vat­ing my deci­sion to buy).  Yet the instruc­tion and ser­vice man­ual for a piece of hand-me-down kitchen equip­ment now car­ries the hefty price tag of $19.95.  And that’s with­out a pre­view; this is dig­i­tal mer­chan­dise I’m expected to buy on blind faith.  So much for free.

Then I real­ized some­thing deeper was involved.  This expe­ri­ence is inter­est­ing because it demon­strates the inevitable ten­sion that comes from liv­ing in an era dur­ing which basic cul­tural lay­ers, with very dif­fer­ent ways of assign­ing value, come into fric­tion with one another.  At heart, this is a mod­ern expe­ri­ence of value dis­so­nance dri­ven by two ancient human pat­terns in collision.

The first pat­tern: I am ‘given’ the oven for ‘free’ by virtue of my ‘mem­ber­ship’ — earned by mar­riage — in the local oper­at­ing unit of the folk-recycling econ­omy instan­ti­ated by my extended fam­ily; specif­i­cally, my Dutch in-laws.  Apart­ments in Europe don’t come with appli­ances, so after mov­ing to Hol­land from New York, I need a new oven thanks to the legacy incom­pat­i­bil­ity in elec­tric dis­tri­b­u­tion infra­struc­tures (volt­age dif­fer­ences) between Norte Amer­ica and Europa.  This lovely unit was avail­able from the family’s pool of col­lec­tively man­aged assets, thanks to a con­struc­tion acci­dent in my wife’s cousin’s neighbor’s adjoin­ing prop­erty, which caused a flood of water into their home while they were on a 3-week  hol­i­day, result­ing in sub­stan­tial water dam­age, com­pen­sated in proper Dutch fash­ion by a hefty insur­ance set­tle­ment, which allowed this par­tic­u­lar pair of agents in the extended fam­ily net­work to go shop­ping for a new kitchen set-up, all appli­ances included, long before the pro­jected life­cy­cle expi­ra­tion of their cur­rent oven. [ill winds indeed…])

This pat­tern is as old as man­ag­ing the aggre­gate live­stock and pas­turage.  Decid­ing which of the chil­dren to edu­cate, send to the mil­i­tary / priest­hood (or some other form of bach­e­lor­hood), or sequester in a con­vent b/c of lack of required mar­riage dowries is the same thing.  For me, all is fine and good: I have the oven I need, and all I have to do in return is allow the extended fam­ily to use my house to host the annual fam­ily New Year’s din­ner.   A fair trade for all parties.

The sec­ond pat­tern: the con­stant evo­lu­tion in the def­i­n­i­tion of first-tier trad­able goods: Suc­ces­sive waves of tech­noso­cial change have made the instruc­tion man­ual for my oven a dig­i­tally trade­able good on it’s own.  At brith, the man­ual was “part of” the con­sumer prod­uct pack­age of the oven, only avail­able — and mean­ing­ful — when sold with the appli­ance.  Fast for­ward to the pre-Long Tail Inter­net, and the man­ual was free to me, as a res­i­dent of the unfenced realm of the dig­i­tal fron­tier, exchanged via the folk econ­omy of DIY prac­ti­tion­ers.  But now that the tech­ni­cal infra­struc­ture required to effec­tively enclose this resource is  itself nearly free, and every MBA knows the Long Tail (sounds like one of those ter­ri­ble fake Amer­i­can Indian names peo­ple used be given in TV sit­coms, when some form of hijinks led them to visit a ‘Native Amer­i­can Tribe,’ and the char­ac­ters had to be iden­ti­fied within the tribe’s con­cep­tual space [another exam­ple of truly awful sort of cul­tural fric­tion…]), this par­tic­u­lar piece of dig­i­tal con­tent has a price tag.  A hefty one.

So using the free appli­ance now requires con­tent from the ambi­ent infor­ma­tion cloud in the form of a paid asset that is now, on it’s own, a trad­able good.  This mis­align­ment causes fric­tion and dis­so­nance for me; I have an appli­ance from the folk-resources layer, but all the use­ful infor­ma­tion *about* the appli­ance resides in the newly mon­e­tized Long Tail dig­i­tal con­tent econ­omy.  The newly dig­i­tal man­ual that should come with my hand me down oven is very much try­ing its hard­est to be a tra­di­tional prod­uct from the uni­verse of trad­able goods: a Thing, with a Price, sold by a Busi­ness, to Customers.

What dri­ves the fric­tion, and what makes this worth pay­ing atten­tion to and writ­ing about, is that it is the oppos­ing direc­tion of the move­ments of these dif­fer­ent kinds of goods, dig­i­tal and mate­r­ial, that cre­ates dis­so­nance by bring­ing me a free phys­i­cal oven and an expen­sive dig­i­tal ser­vice manual.

The oven used to be part of the first-tier trad­able goods layer.  It was a pack­aged con­sumer appli­ance prod­uct, cre­ated by a man­u­fac­turer, sold via opti­mized dis­tri­b­u­tion net­works that moved it through the chain from man­u­fac­turer to whole­saler to retailer at a fixed price, com­mu­ni­cated via mar­ket­ing chan­nels embed­ded within dis­cov­ery and com­mu­ni­ca­tions media.  Since then, it’s ‘fallen out of’ the trad­able goods econ­omy, and is treated as a fam­ily asset, to be handed around as best suits the col­lec­tive needs, with­out any offi­cial trans­ac­tions tak­ing place.  We could put it back into the trad­able goods econ­omy as used, if we choose to sell it, or even enter it into the recy­cling econ­omy, where it would be bro­ken down into con­stituent ele­ments — e.g. motors, wiring, dis­play, or at a lower level of inte­gra­tion phys­i­cal mate­ri­als like glass and steel — to what­ever extent pos­si­ble.  But almost all of the changes in value for mate­r­ial goods when they shift from one cul­tural / eco­nomic layer to another are one-way, and down­wards.  The pos­si­ble paths for re-uptake of mate­r­ial goods that have fallen into the folk econ­omy layer used to be trans­for­ma­tion into antiques, art, or col­lectibles — all one form or another of the museum economy.

That’s not the case with dig­i­tal goods in gen­eral, like the newly Long Tailed ser­vice man­ual for my oven.  The man­ual was orig­i­nally part of the con­sumer / prod­uct econ­omy for trad­able goods when bun­dled with the oven.   Since then, it has under­gone sev­eral trans­for­ma­tions.  First, it was un-bundled and dig­i­tized for the DIY layer (mak­ing it part of the folk econ­omy),  Now it is once again part of the prod­uct econ­omy, though now in it’s un-bundled  and dig­i­tized form.  In terms of which econ­omy it’s part of, *the man­ual is mov­ing all around the page on it’s own*.  That’s highly unnatural!

This is a key prop­erty of dig­i­tal goods that the mate­r­ial world is just begin­ning to under­stand.  Dig­i­tal goods are designed for just this sort of mobil­ity: We can move dig­i­tal goods all around the map in terms of the cul­tural / eco­nomic lay­ers they inhabit, and their con­se­quent value, with a few changes in address­ing and for­mat.  No trans­for­ma­tion of a dig­i­tal good is nec­es­sar­ily one-way.  And when these trans­for­ma­tions aren’t syn­chro­nized with the ele­ments that inhabit the phys­i­cal world, we feel the con­flict and ten­sion that results.

In my case, the oven is mov­ing one way, while the infor­ma­tion about it is mov­ing the other way.  This fail­ure to dance together eco­nom­i­cally and cul­tur­ally is a con­se­quence of the way that the oven was designed, made, mar­keted, dis­trib­uted, etc.  It’s a tem­po­rally iso­lated form of dis­so­nance that emerges from fric­tion with the new dig­i­tal layer that’s per­me­at­ing the world so rapidly.  If you’re famil­iar with spimes, and related con­cepts like ser­vice avatars and infor­ma­tion shad­ows, you know this is a (osten­si­bly) tem­po­rary state of affairs.  Once our cul­tural frames of ref­er­ence catch up with our tech­ni­cal capa­bil­i­ties, and every­thing is part of the great data­base in the sky, these expe­ri­ences of fric­tion should be much less common.

But in the mean­time, I have to fix my oven on my own.  Or cough up the $20 for the manual…

Comment » | Ideas

"Learning From Games: A Language For Designing Emotion" Live @ Johnny Holland

August 3rd, 2009 — 11:39am

I’ve joined the John­nies!  The good peo­ple at Johnny Hol­land Mag­a­zine just pub­lished Learn­ing From Games: A Lan­guage For Design­ing Emo­tion.  This arti­cle is a intro­duc­tion to the ideas I talk about under the head­ing ‘Archi­tec­tures of Fun’, which is my per­spec­tive on the great research and design frame­work built by lead­ing games con­sul­tant Nicole Laz­zaro, of Xeo Design.  Check it out, and let the rest of the Johnny com­mu­nity know what you think about this pow­er­ful lan­guage for design­ing the emo­tional ele­ments of experiences.


Comment » | User Experience (UX)

Back to top