What can you alarm clock do? Platform for the bedside table

I have learned about Chumby an interesting platform that is designed to replace devices on your bedside table. Looking forward to get one or some when I fly next time to the US.

For a design competion at the appliance design conference I did a design concept for a networked alarm clock [1] assuming that networked device will be soon cheaply available. Maybe we should look at the paper again and think about how to push such ideas forward as the devices are on the market…

[1] Schmidt, A. 2006. Network alarm clock (The 3AD International Design Competition). Personal Ubiquitous Computing Journal. 10, 2-3 (Jan. 2006), 191-192. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00779-005-0022-y

Integration of Location into Photos, Tangible Interaction

Recently I came across a device that tracks the GPS position and has additionally a card reader (http://photofinder.atpinc.com/). If you plug in a card with photos it will integrate location data into the jpgs using time as common reference.

It is a further interesting example where software moves away from the generic computer/PC (where such programs that use a GPS track an combine it with photos are available, e.g. GPS photo linker) into a appliance and hence the usage complexity (on principle, did not try it out so far this specific device so far) can be massively reduced and the usability can be increased. See the simple analysis:

Tangible Interaction using the appliance:

  • buying the device
  • plug-in a card
  • wait till it is ready


GUI Interaction:

  • starting a PC
  • buy/download the application
  • install the application
  • finding an application
  • locating the images in a folder
  • locating the GPS track in a folder
  • wait till it is ready

.. could become one of my future examples where tangible UIs work 😉

Visit at Microsoft in Redmond

AJ Brush and John Krumm organize for the people who are in Redmond for the Ubicomp PC meeting a visit to Microsoft. In the morning we got a tour at the home lab – Microsoft’s vision of future home environments – was quite interesting, but had to sign an NDA.
After lunch we went over to Microsoft Research (which is in a new building). We got to see some cool demos. Andy Wilson showed us some new stuff moving the SURFACE forward (physics rocks!). I learned more about depth sensing cameras and Andy showed a fun application [1] – there is video about it, too. Patrick Baudisch talked us through the ideas of LucidTouch [2] and more general about future interaction with small mobile devices. The idea of using the finger behind the screen and the means to increase the precision has many interesting aspects. I found the set of people that work at MSR as impressive as the demos – it seems to be a really exciting work environment.

The atrium of the new building is amazing for playing Frisbee and shoot rubber band missiles. And waiting for the pizza with those toys around proved yet again that researchers are often like kids 😉

[1] Wilson, A. Depth-Sensing Video Cameras for 3D Tangible Tabletop Interaction. Tabletop 2007: The 2nd IEEE International Workshop on Horizontal Interactive Human-Computer Systems, 2007.

[2] Wigdor, D., Forlines, C., Baudisch, P., Barnwell, J., Shen, C. LucidTouch: A See-Through Mobile Device. In Proceedings of UIST 2007, Newport, Rhode Island, October 7-10, 2007, pp. 269–278 http://www.patrickbaudisch.com/projects/lucidtouch/

Tagging Kids, Add-on to make digital cameras wireless

Reading the new products section in the IEEE pervasive computing magazine (Vol.7, No.2, April-June 2008) I came across a child monitoring systems: Kiddo Kidkeeper – In the smart-its project Henrik Jernström developed 2001 a similar system in his master thesis at PLAY which was published as a Demo at Ubicomp [1]. I remember very lively the discussion about the validity of this application (basically people – including me – asking “Who would want such technology?”). However it seems society and values are constantly changing – there is an interesting ongoing discussion related to that: Free Range Kids (this is the pro side 😉 The article in the IEEE Magazin hinted that the fact the you can take of the device is a problem – I see a clear message ahead – implant the device – and this time I am more careful with arguing that we don’t need it (even though I am sure we do not need it I expect that in 5 to 10 years we will have it)

There were two further interesting links in the article: an SD-card that includes WIFI and hence enables uploading of photos to the internet from any camera having an SD-slot (http://www.eye.fi/products/) – the idea is really simple but very powerful! And finally the UK has an educational laptop, too (http://www.elonexone.co.uk/). Seems the hardware is there (if not this year than next) and where is the software? I think we should put some more effort into this domain in Germany…

Not to forget the issue of the magazine contains our TEI conference report [2].

[1] Henrik Jernström. SiSSy Smart-its child Surveillance System. Poster at Ubicomp 2002, Adjunct Proceedings of Ubicomp 2002. http://citeseer.ist.psu.edu/572976.html

[2] http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MPRV.2008.27

Personal mobile health – Nintendo GlucoBoy

Recently an interesting mobile health product was launched: the glucoboy – http://www.glucoboy.com/ . It is designed as an add-on to the Nintendo Gameboy. The basic idea is to combine blood glucose measuring for children and video gaming.

This product shows that an in-depth understanding of the problem domain can create novel interactive products (in this case the idea was conceived by a parent with a direct insight into the problem). For user interface engineering we see again a clear value of contextual enquiry (or at least contextual understanding) combined with a clever utilization of technology.