Shared editing is still hard – why?

Having coordinated the editing of a shared document with about 100 pages I still wonder why I have not come across a really good solutions that work in a real life context. We were 10 people working on the document which also contained about 100 references various tables and graphs, which originated in spreadsheets. Our solution using (different version) of Microsoft Word and Excel on different platforms (Win and Mac) was at best sup-optimal. Track changes works great if I write something and someone else corrects it – but with a larger number of people creating and reworking the document just seems unmanageable.

We tried google-docs before, which is nice for joint editing but lack essential functions and is to my experience unreliable. We lost most of the document we created at some point. The same happened to one of our students writing up his project…

The purists argue that Latex and SVN is the solution – however if you have ever worked with real people outside the geek world you will know that it is not 🙂 and it would question if there was any progress in text processing in the last 20 years at all.

Is it only me who does not see the solution? Here are the requirements:

  • Shared editing of a document of considerable size (100+ pages)
  • Functionality required for larger scientific documents such as styles, (cross)-reference, creation of tables, etc.
  • Comfort functions in editing, such as spelling and grammar checking, auto completion, tracking of changes
  • Works in a heterogeneous environment including Macs and Windows and across administrative domains (e.g. people can be behind different firewalls)
  • Automatically creating a backup of the document every few minutes
  • Integration of other media (e.g. images) and data sources (e.g. spreadsheet tables)

What is your solution? I think mine (email and copy and paste) is not really the optimal one….

In comparison to some years ago awareness, video and audio conferencing with skype works very well – but again for application sharing I have not seen a perfect solution that works in real live – any suggestions?

PS: our final and printed document missed 115 spaces (a known error from exchanging docx between Windows and Mac)

Finishing my term as External Examiner at Trinity College Dublin

Over the last three years I have been regularly to Dublin to act as external examiner for the Ubicomp MSc course. For me this was a good experience to see how serious The School of Computing at Trinity College takes external quality control and how well processes are managed. And besides the administrative part I saw a great many interesting MSc dissertations over the years. Even though the term has come to an end I hope to travel to Dublin in the future too – perhaps on Holiday to see more of the city (which I did not really manage …)

PS: recession seems to have hit Ireland – I have never seen such short queue in Dublin airport – and it is definatly not the selfservice machines that reduced the queue …

Print on demand for newspapers available at Munich central station.

It is about 15 years that I came across the idea of newspapers – printed in the shop where you buy them (sometime when I studied in Ulm). Today I have seen an advert for print on demand newspapers in the international newspapers kiosk in the central station in Munich. They have 850 titles from 70 countries available – as print on demand. The display copies had a decent quality – looked like A3 size color laser printouts – perhaps I can fetch a copy tomorrow.

I wonder how long it will take to move more (low volume papers, local supplements, etc.) to print on demand and how in the short term the split between e-ink and print on demand will be.

It was great to see in Munich so many people I previouly worked with!

New Power Plug in the Street – charging your e-car

Why would I write a post about a power plug? Perhaps in some years this may be so common that we do not know when the first appeared 😉 And here is my reference point for Essen, Germany.
There is a German news article about these chargeing points – there are 22 in Essen and they started sometime back in Berlin (where they plan to have 500 by the end of the year).

It looks very much like an ordinary power plug and I have not figured out how it really works – e.g. How to pay? How to reserve that parking in front of it? How to make sure that nobody unplugs may car and used my energy to drive a huge stereo? We will probably see how it works over the next months. I will add a new post when I actually see a car recharging there.

new post on the topic:

ebook, tangibe programming, iPhones bring back wired telephony

Having used the Sony PRS-505 now for a few weeks (mainly to read dissertations and project reports) I have quickly gotten used to carrying less weight. The user interface requires some learning – as the screen is pretty slow pressing a button does not give immediate feedback and that feels strange – more than expected. I wonder if there are studies on traditional interacton with electronic paper? Another issue: it seems to depend on the crew whether or not it is OK to read from an eBook during the entire flight (including take-off and landing)…

While reading a thesis I was reminded of an interesting paper on tangible programming [1] from a special issue of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing we did in 2004. The paper situates the topic historically and gives an interesting introduction.

In recent meetings as well as in airports around the world one can observe a trend: wired telephony! Whereas people with traditional mobile phone walk up and down and talk on the phone iPhone users often sit wired up to the next power plug an phone… seems apple has re-invented wired telephony 😉 and other brands will soon follow (make sure to reserve a seat with a power connection).

[1] McNerney, T. S. 2004. From turtles to Tangible Programming Bricks: explorations in physical language design. Personal Ubiquitous Comput. 8, 5 (Sep. 2004), 326-337. DOI=

Statistical Data on phone usage and ICT

Ever wanted to cite the number of “Mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitance” in Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, …., United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia or Zimbabwe? Or the spending on mobile telephony or the computer penetration in these countries? Then the website I just came across may be interesting for you too:

Here are the direct links to documents containing data:

Some of the figures seem really high to me – but I have not looked into detail. They have also publish a handbook on how to measuring ICT access and uses:
MANUAL for Measuring ICT Access and Use by Households and Individuals

Mobile Boarding Pass, the whole process matters

Yesterday night I did an online check-in for my flight from Düsseldorf to Manchester. For convenience and curiosity I chose the mobile boarding pass. It is amazingly easy and it worked in principle very well. Only not everyone can work without paper yet. At some point in the process (after border control) I got a hand written “boarding pass” because this person needs to stamp it 😉 and we would probably have gotten into an argument if he tried to stamp my phone. There is some further room for improvement. The boarding pass shows besides the 2D barcode all the important information for the traveler – but you have to scroll to the bottom of the page to get the boarding number (which seems quite important for everyone else than the traveler – it was even on my handwritten boarding pass).

Poster on mobile advertising displays at HotMobile 2009

We put together a poster discussing some of our recent work on mobile displays for HotMobile. While presenting the poster I got a number of interesting ideas and concerns. One idea is to widening the idea of advertsing and fuse it with traditional classify ads by private people (e.g. advertising a flat or telling the world that you lost your cat). The big question is really how to measure audince exposure and eventually conversion. There are several ideas how to do this – but looks more like another master project on the topic than a overnight hack 😉

The abstract for the poster:
In recent years many conventional public displays were replaced by electronic displays hence enabling novel forms of advertising and information dissemination. This includes mainly stationary displays, e.g. in billboards and street furniture, and currently first mobile displays on cars appear. Yet, current approaches are mostly static since they neither do consider mobility and the context they are used in nor the context of the viewer. In our work we explore how mobile public displays, which rapidly change their own context, can gather and process information about their context. Data about location, time, weather, and people in the vicinity can be used to react accordingly by displaying related content such as information or advertisements.

When spending some time in Montain View I was suprised how few electronic screens I saw compared to Germany or Asia. But nevertheless they have their own ways of creating attention… see the video below 🙂
Some time back in Munich we look at how interaction modalities can effect the attention of bystanders, see [1] for a short overview of the work.

[1] Paul Holleis, Enrico Rukzio, Friderike Otto, Albrecht Schmidt. Privacy and Curiosity in Mobile Interactions with Public Displays. Poster at CHI 2007 workshop on Mobile Spatial Interaction. San Jose, California, USA. 28 April 2007.

Light themes – cool idea but with usability flaws

Over new year we went for a short skiing trip to Bödele in Austria. It is a small ski resort but great for learning to ski (and this is what Vivien did 🙂
We stayed in Dornbirn (not far from Lake Constance) in at Hotel Krone and had a really nice room – and it had a remarkable light installation. 

There were several lights (like you have them typical in a hotel room), then there were many switches, and finally there was a full page manual how to use the light – welcome to ambient intelligence! Instead of switching on and off individual lights one can chose a predefined light theme, e.g. a setting for working on the desk, a setting for watching TV, a setting for reading, etc. All lights are switched and dimed to fit this situation (or at least as the designer thinks it would fit the situation).

The basic idea of having light themes is quite interesting but when being in the hotel room with 3 people it gets really difficult to set the lights. Even after a lot of trying out I could not manage to set the lights so that I can work on the desk (desk lamp on), Petra can read in bed (reading light at on bed on), and Vivien can sleep (her bedside lamp off). 
Nevertheless one should not underestimate the entertainment of previously simple tasks – We spend have the evening exploring potential settings, rhythms, and speeds of the colored wellness light 😉

PS: (1) There is a good natural science museum in Dornbirn – inatura and (2) 3D projections are still not convincing…
PPS: using a GPS tracking device to record your skiing activity (including speed) is cool!

Mobile images / video as proof

While waiting for my conneting flight a saw a women posting a letter and filming this as she did it. She created some sort of proof. Thinking a little more and having further information in the background (e.g. a clock, the schedule display, people waiting) this this has some potential to replace registered mail for certain domains? This gives me an idea for a small weekend project…

Talk by Florian Michahelles, RFID showcase at Kaufhof Essen

Florian Michahelles, associate director of the AutoID-Labs in Zürich visited our group and gave a presentation in my course on Pervaisve Computing. He introduced the vision of using RFID in businesses, gave a brief technology overview and discussed the potential impact – in a very interactive session.

Florian and I worked together in the Smart-its project and during his PhD studies he and Stavros were well know as the experts on Ikea PAX [1], [2]. In 2006 and 2007 we ran workshops on RFID technologies and published the results and a discussion on emerging trends in RFID together [3], [4].

At Kaufhof in Essen you can see a showcase of using RFID tags in garment retail. The installation includes augmented shelves, an augmented mirror, and contextual information displays in the changing rooms. The showcase is related to the European Bridge project. …was fun playing with the system – seems to be well engineered for a prototype.

PS: Florian told me that Vlad Coroama finished his PhD. In a different context we talked earlier about his paper discussing the use of sensors to access cost for insurance [5] – he did it with cars but there are other domain where this makes sense, too.

[1] S. Antifakos, F. Michahelles, and B. Schiele. Proactive Instructions for Furniture Assembly. In UbiComp, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2002.

[2] Florian Michahelles, Stavors Antifakos, Jani Boutellier, Albrecht Schmidt, and Bernt Schiele. Instructions immersed into the real world How your Furniture can teach you. Poster at the Fifth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, Seattle, USA, October 2003.

[3]Florian Michahelles, Frédéric Thiesse, Albrecht Schmidt, John R. Williams: Pervasive RFID and Near Field Communication Technology. IEEE Pervasive Computing 6(3): 94-96 (2007)

[4] Schmidt, A., Spiekermann, S., Gershman, A., and Michahelles, F. 2006. Real-World Challenges of Pervasive Computing. IEEE Pervasive Computing 5, 3 (Jul. 2006), 91-93

[5] Vlad Coroama: The Smart Tachograph – Individual Accounting of Traffic Costs and Its Implications. Pervasive 2006: 135-152.

Is it easier to design for touch screens if you have poor UI designers?

Flying back from Sydney with Qantas and now flying to Seattle with Lufthansa I had to long distance flights in which I had the opportunity to study (n=1, subject=me, plus over-shoulder-observation-while-walking-up-and-down-the-aisle 😉 the user interface for the in-flight entertainment.

The 2 systems have very different hardware and software designs. The Qantas infotainment system is a regular screen and interaction is done via a wired moveable remote control store in the armrest. The Lufthansa system uses a touch screen (It also has some hard buttons for volume in the armrest). Overall the content on the Qantas system comprised of more content (more movies, more TV-shows) including real games.

The Qantas system seemed very well engineered and the remote control UI worked was greatly suited for playing games. Nevertheless the basic operation (selecting movies etc.) seemed more difficult using the remote control compared to the touch screen interface. In contrast the Lufthansa system seems to have much room for improvement (button size, button arrangement, reactions times of the system) but it appeared very easy to use.

So here are my hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: if you design (public) information or edutainment systems (excluding games) using a touch screen is a better choice than using an off-screen input device.

Hypothesis 2: with UI design team of a given ability (even a bad UI design team) you will create a significantly better information and edutainment systems (excluding games) if you use a touch screen than using an off-screen input device.

From the automotive domain we have some indications that good off-screen input device are really hard to design so that they work well (e.g. in-build-car navigation system). Probably I should find a student to proof it (with n much larger than 1 and other subjects than me).

PS: the Lufthansa in-flight entertainment runs on Windows-CE 5.0 (the person in front of me had mainly the empty desktop with the Win CE logo showing) and it boots over network (takes over 6 minutes).

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 ( – the idea is really simple but very powerful! And finally the UK has an educational laptop, too ( 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.


Fight for attention – changing cover display of a magazine

Attention is precious and there is a clear fight for it. This is very easy to observe on advertising boards and in news shops. Coming back from Berlin I went in Augsburg into the news agent to get a news paper – and not really looking at magazines is still discovered from the corner of my eyes an issue of FHM with a changing cover page. Technically it is very simple: a lenticular lens that presents and image depending on the viewing angle – alternating between 3 pictures – one of which is a full page advert (for details on how it works see lenticular printing in Wikipedia). A similar approach has already been used in various poster advertising campaigns – showing different pictures as people walk by (, One could also create a context-aware advert, showing different images for small and tall people 😉

In outdoor advertising we see the change to active display happening at the moment. I am really curious when the first really active cover pages on magazines will emerge – thinking of ideas in context-awareness the possibilities seem endless. However it is really a question if electronic paper will be cheap enough before we move to completely electronic reading. Another issue (even with this current version of the magazine) is recycling – which becomes much more difficult when mixing further material with paper.

What can we learn from legacy-free washbasins?

In Sydney I saw a legacy-free setup for washing hands in a public bathroom. I was surprised at the simple and solution with high utility! It is only a board mounted in an angle with water taps above. For typical use (washing hands under a flow of water) this is as good as a traditional setup. From looking at it, the legacy-free setup seems much easier to clean. I have never used a washbasin in a public bathroom by filling it – and I have never seen this functionality used (typically you can not use it in the lagacy way as there is not plug)… nevertheless most setups have washbasin.

Back to computing – what does it tell us? Looking at the operating systems I use, the applications and devices I see a lot of washbasin! Functionality that is never used but makes maintenance pretty expensive is a part of most of them. Looking at architecture as well as user interfaces the above example can motive to look at non-standard solutions…

Poor man’s location awareness

Over the last day I have experienced that very basic location information in the display can already provide a benefit to the user. Being the first time in Sydney I realized that network information of my GSM-phone is very reliable to tell me when to get off the bus – obviously it is not fine grain location information but so far always walking distance. At some locations (such as Bondi beach) visual pattern matching works very well, too 😉 And when to get off the bus seems a concern to many people (just extrapolating from the small sample I had over the last days…).

In my pervasive computing class, which I currently teach, we covered recently different aspects of location based systems – by the way a good starting point on the topic is [1] and [2]. At We discussed issues related to visual pattern matching – and when looking at the skyline of Sydney one becomes very quickly aware of the potential of this approach (especially with all the tagged pictures on flickr) but at the same time the complexity of matching from arbitrary locations becomes apparent.

Location awareness offers many interesting questions and challenging problems – looks like there are ideas for project and thesis topics, e.g. how semantic location information (even of lower quality) can be beneficial to users or finger printing based on radio/TV broadcast information.

[1] J. Hightower and G. Borriello. Location systems for ubiquitous computing. IEEE Computer, 34(8):57–66, Aug. 2001.

[2] Jeffrey Hightower and Gaetano Borriello. Location Sensing Techniques. UW-CSE-01-07-01.

Mobile Physical Interaction in the Wild

The parking meter is some streets of Dublin are an interesting example of an interface following the basic idea of physical mobile interaction. As you see from the manual sticker – the first part is on the mobile phone: you call a number and then provide the place in which you are (by typing in a number). The second part is then on the ticket machine – till you get the print out. The amazing thing was I really saw people using it!

The user interface design is interesting as they use on the phone typical phone interaction (basically dialing an number) and keep the interaction with the ticket machine the same (except there is no need to insert coins) as it was before. But looking at some work we did in the PERCI project with DoCoMo in Munich we can tell that this is just the initial state of physical mobile interaction [1] – it can be expected that this will become more common!

[1] Broll, G., Siorpaes, S., Rukzio, E., Paolucci, M., Hamard, J., Wagner, M., and Schmidt, A. 2007. Supporting Mobile Service Usage through Physical Mobile Interaction. In Proceedings of the Fifth IEEE international Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (March 19 – 23, 2007). PERCOM. IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, 262-271. DOI=

DIY automotive UI design – or how hard is it to design for older people

The picture does not show a research prototype – it shows the actual interior of a 5-series BMW (fairly recent model). The driver (an elderly lady) adapted the UI to suit her needs. This modification includes the labeling of controls which are important, writing some instructions for more complicate controls close to them (hereby implementing one of the key ideas of embedded information [1]), an covering some to the user “useless” controls.

At first I assumed this is a prank* – but it seems to be genuine and that makes it really interesting and carries important lessons with regard to designing for drivers of 80 years and older. Having different skins (and not just GUIs more in a physical approach) as well as UI components that can be composed (e.g. based on user needs) in the embedded and tangible domain seem challenging but may new opportunities for customized UIs. Perhaps investigating ideas for personalizing physical user interfaces – and in particular car UIs – may be an interesting project.

[1] Albrecht Schmidt, Matthias Kranz, Paul Holleis. Embedded Information. UbiComp 2004, Workshop ‘Ubiquitous Display Environments’, September 2004

* will try to get more evidence that it is real 🙂

Where are my things – Would Smart-its friends help in a real world scenario?

At social events of conferences interesting things happen. One issue with a borrowed key reminded me of a paper that colleagues in the smart-its project wrote several years ago – smart-its friends [1]. The central idea was to have means to connect objects (make them friends) by a gesture interaction, which is detected by comparing acceleration values. Technically it is feasible and highly interesting, but I wonder about the real world applicability – but the missing key may be evidence for it…

[1] Holmquist, L. E., Mattern, F., Schiele, B., Alahuhta, P., Beigl, M., and Gellersen, H. 2001. Smart-Its Friends: A Technique for Users to Easily Establish Connections between Smart Artefacts. In Proceedings of the 3rd international Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Atlanta, Georgia, USA, September 30 – October 02, 2001). G. D. Abowd, B. Brumitt, and S. A. Shafer, Eds. Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 2201. Springer-Verlag, London, 116-122.

Will cars become a more open platform?

Today I met with Matthias Kranz in Munich. Besides discussing his thesis I got to see his new car (a prius) – quite impressive and interesting interfaces. Later I met with Wolfang Spießl who started recently his PhD in cooperation with BMW – again seeing an interesting and impressive (test)car.

It is really curious to see that there is a lot of interest in the hobbyist communities on car interfaces and protocols. In the June/2007 issues of Elektor ( was an article on a OBD-2-analyser, in a recent issue of the EAM ( was a similar article and there are many community sites on the WWW, e.g.

Perhaps we could do in one of our pervasive computing related classes a project on this topic? There are so many technical opportunities and the challenge is to find the convincing applications!

Reminded of the Ubicomp Vision

Today I was reminded of a discussion in 1998 on the implications of computing technologies becoming cheaper and cheaper. Even then it seemed inevitable that many artifacts will include computational and perceptual qualities. The discussion was in the context of the European project TEA (technology for enabling awareness) where we built a context-aware phone [1]. Walter van de Velde suggested imagining that processors, sensors, communication will only cost cents (or will be virtually free as part of the production process) and we worked on the question: what products and services will emerge? One generic answer then was than any product of a value 20$ and above will include computing and sensing capabilities, if there is any (even a minimal) advantage achieved by this.

Michael Beigl made it more concrete and found coffee mugs (which were more than 20$ each) and attached a processor, communication and sensors. The MediaCup [2] showed several interesting results and underlined that such approach makes sense if there is an advantage.

Today I saw in an office of a former colleague in Munich two objects that had perceptual qualities and output (not really processing yet). One object is a plastic toad that makes a noise when you move and the other is a rubber pig that makes a noise when you open the fridge (reacts on change in level, but did not work). This made me wonder if we were only partially right – yes objects will have sensors included, yes there will be processing, but no there is no need that it makes sense. Or perhaps having it as a gadget is advantage enough…

[1] Schmidt, A., Aidoo, K. A., Takaluoma, A., Tuomela, U., Laerhoven, K. V., and Velde, W. V. 1999. Advanced Interaction in Context. In Proceedings of the 1st international Symposium on Handheld and Ubiquitous Computing (Karlsruhe, Germany, September 27 – 29, 1999). H. Gellersen, Ed. Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 1707. Springer-Verlag, London, 89-101. DOI=

[2] Gellersen, H. W., Schmidt, A., and Beigl, M. 2002. Multi-sensor context-awareness in mobile devices and smart artifacts. Mob. Netw. Appl. 7, 5 (Oct. 2002), 341-351. DOI=

Interactive window displays – we have better ideas

It seems that in the research community a lot of people are convinced of interactive public spaces and interactive window displays. Over the last month I have see great visions and ideas – as well as reflected on our own multi-touch ideas for interactive shop windows.

The installations I have seen in the real world however are at best boring (and often not functioning at all). It seems that even a student-project-lab-demo is more appealing and works at least as realiable.

Especially combining sensing (e.g. simple activity recognition, context) with low threshold interactive content seems to have great potential. If there is somebody interested in really cool stuff for a shop window (attention grabbing, eye catchers, interactive content, etc.) – talk to me. We are happy to discuss a project proposal 😉

Pervasive Computing to Change Advertising in the Real World

It was great to spend some time chatting with Alois Ferscha and Gabi Kotsis in Linz. We discussed future forms of advertisement and it seems that it is very clear that pervasive computing technologies – ranging from new displays, to tracking and implicit and explicit interaction – will change our high streets (and any other place where we expect or don’t advertising) in the near future significantly. Looking at current installations we can already see that the race for grapping customer’s attention is on. Given the many ideas around I expect it will be quite exciting.

One interesting movie on shows a pretty cool and novel form of advertising – beamvertising. The technology is simple (a projector mounted on a driving truck) but the effect looks pretty good! It is probably not legal but it shows interesting potential. I think interactive (outdoor) projections can be a real actor. Perhaps we should start talking to some companies to push our ideas for new forms of advertisement…

Just in time train schedule?

Thought experiment: if we have the same number of trains we have at the moment and we let them travel as we do at the moment – but without time tables (basically a train is always on time – it is there when it arrives – similar to today). Customers would have real time access to all trains and the system could provide estimates when a certain train is where – perhaps with a confidence interval and probabilities of connections and travel times (obviously with an understandable user interface).

Would this be a better or worse model of public transport?

… and by the way the coach I was in has the IP address and runs DOS 😉

Reset/reboot is ubiquitous – or my worst train ride so far

What have learned to do when our computer or phone does not work anymore? Easy just reboot it. A colleague recently told me his rental car broke down (basically did not work anymore) but after resetting it, it worked fine again. When he told me I found this pretty strange – ok the radio or opening the car boot – but essential functions related to driving?

Today I was travelling on an ICE high-speed train to Amsterdam for the CHI-Notes committee meeting and shortly after we left Germany the train lost speed and became slower and just rolled out. Then can an interesting announcement: “Sorry it seems we do not get power anymore – but we think it is not a big problem. We reset the train and then we are on our way again”. The reboot did not work 🙁 so they told us we needed to another engine. Perhaps there was more to reboot (e.g. the train power grid nation wide?)…

Extrapolating in the future I can imagine a lot of things we will need to reboot, e.g. your shoes, your furniture, your house, your augmented sense, and your implants – or should we take more care in developing things?

At some point they decided we can not wait on the train and we had to get off the train outside the station (using small ladder) while it was pouring with rain. The left us than waiting for 2 hours (in the rain) – basically till we found ourselves another means of transport (overall delay about 5 hours). This made me realize that a Nokia N95 with GPS is probably really good while travelling – if I would have had it with me I could have called a taxi to where I was 😉

More about train rides… Some more traditional technologies however work very well – this week I was already once stuck on a train were a passenger pulled the emergency train and went of the train – somewhere in the middle of nowhere…

Information inside the cap

Travelling on the train from Crailsheim to Nürnberg I saw several police officers on their travels back from an assignment at Stuttgarter Volksfest. When we got off the train the collected their caps from the luggage rack and observed an interesting (traditional) information display.

Inside the cap they carried a schedule and a description of the location they had to go. The size of the paper-display was about 15 x 15 cm. It seems an interesting place to display and access information – perhaps we will do a digital version of the cap as an assignment in our courses.

Watching movies on the train

At the moment I am travelling a lot on the train and it seems that there is an increase in people using their mobile devices (e.g. Sony PSP, mobile phones) to watch cinema movies and episodes of TV-shows. Some individually and others even share the experience. Over the last years it become popular that people watched DVDs on their notebook computer on the train – but it seems the real mobile age is moving on.

Even though the screen is very small it shows again that one needs little to create the illusion of a movie. In the end it comes always back to the story…

Satellite Television –Challenges

My first day of the holidays I got myself into an interesting project – setting up a satellite dish that receives Astra 19.2 (German TV) and Astra 28.2 (major UK TV stations). Going back between my roof and living room I finally got it to work – thanks to many posts on the Internet. That brings me back to a question I ask myself more and more (not just for setting up TVs): how did people share technical and practical information before the Internet? It seems that the Internet really is a catalyst for implementation.

After having the hardware in place (which is more difficult than the theory of pointing it at a certain angle – especially without the right tools) I was surprised by the number of channels and the user interfaces of the digital sat receivers. It seems that much of the usage and interaction concept is still from a time where there were 3 channels – youtube is much easier to use… Perhaps satellite television could provide a much more exciting experience with new means for interaction (perhaps those devices are out there an I just got the poor ones).