Archive for the ‘Innovation and Disruptive’ Category

Noisy Jelly

June 4th, 2012 by NearInteraction

“Noisy jelly is a game where the player has to cook and shape his own musical material, based on coloured jelly.

With this noisy chemistry lab, the gamer will create his own jelly with water and a few grams of agar agar powder. After added different color, the mix is then pour in the molds. 10 min later, the jelly shape can then be placed on the game board,and by touching the shape, the gamer will activate different sounds.

Technically, the game board is a capacitive sensor, and the variations of the shape and their salt concentration, the distance and the strength of the finger contact are detected and transform into an audio signal.
This object aims to demonstrate that electronic can have a new aesthetic, and be envisaged as a malleable material, which has to be manipulated and experimented.”

Raphaël Pluvinage

Mobile Hapticons

April 28th, 2011 by NearInteraction

Google – Digital City – AdTech Japan 2010

November 29th, 2010 by NearInteraction

Google - Digital City - AdTech Japan 2010

Check the Prezi.

Jan-Christoph Zoels & Experientia

September 27th, 2010 by NearInteraction

Jan-Christoph Zoels

Photo: Thanks to Matt Cottam

Recently I was fortunate enough to attend a fascinating lecture by Jan-Christoph Zoels entitled “Imagining behavioral change”.

Jan-Christoph Zoels is a senior partner at Experientia, based in Torino, Italy. His credentials are rather impressive; have a look at his public Linkdin profile here: Jan-Christoph Zoels on Linkdin.

Experientia is an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

- Jan-Christoph Zoels on Linkdin.

Jan-Christoph Zoels

Photo: Thanks to blese

What is experience design?

As a person travels through the various “touch points” of a brand like say, the City of London for example, they will come into contact with numerous interactions, communications, products, services and people. These all require designers working on very focused outcomes, but it’s often the job of experience design to envision and guide the overall journey, the bigger picture.

Society has made incredible progress on the backs of specialists working in narrowly focused disciplines. But today we face complex problems with no single owner or discipline capable of providing comprehensive solutions. Not unlike cooking, the solution today is not in any one ingredient, but in the mix.

-Marco Steinberg; from the Stroke Pathways Project, Harvard Design School. From

Designing the bigger picture implies a far more integrated and strategic approach. You work with larger and more complex variables like societal values, cultures, governments and global issues. Experience designers envision mid to long term scenarios and rely on contextual research to thoroughly understand and frame the problem. This means that the work is generally a lot more challenging and complex than more focused design, but often the impact is often more profound. If you are one of those designers who wants to be involved in “change the world” type design, then you need to work in experience design. Be prepared to work in large teams though; effective experience design means bringing a vast array of skills to bear on any one project.

People are our key reference point. They guide us when we conduct research, develop creative strategies, create solutions, design prototypes and test results.

- Jan-Christoph Zoels on Linkdin.

Complex and strategic projects with high stakes imply a heavy emphasis on research. Jan-Christoph stressed the paramount importance of understanding the people and the context for which you are designing.

Designing change.

A powerful example of their approach is their work on a challenging “Low to no” carbon emission district for twenty-five thousand people to work, live and play in Helsinki, Finland.

Recognizing the need and opportunity to improve sustainable building practices, Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, in collaboration with the City of Helsinki, invited partnerships of design, architecture and business to propose solutions to a truly complex and fundamentally important challenge that has every potential to become a benchmark in the design of sustainable urban development:

Experientia was part of the winning team which included ARUP, Sauerbruch Hutton and Galley Eco Capital.

c_life 1

The challenge implied unraveling an incredibly complex set of contextual design problems:

• Envision and design a sustainable development framework (for the site) that is both replicable, adaptable and has large-scale applicability.
• Design a vision for the project that will create and facilitate systemic change.
• Design a robust means of evaluating sustainability performance.

c_life 2




Above are highly cropped versions of the project slides, see the full slides in full size along with other project info on the low2no site here. The entire proposal is available here as a PDF: Download PDF. Below is a recording the project presentation:

Research in design.

Its clear that a primary role that Experientia played in this project was in understanding and framing the problem, generating the contextual insights on which an effective design could be based. Jan-Christoph explained some of the methodology that was employed.
They believe on a thoroughly hands-on and user-centered approach that includes, besides the usual, bodystorming (knowledge gained through engaging with the actual activity/ problem physically), shadowing (observation of people as they go about their lives), and participatory design (shock and horror – involving the actual users in the design process).

knowledge wheel

The idea that business strategy needs to become more “design-like” has been kicking about for some time now. But, as Experientia was able to demonstrate in this project, creative strategy and strategic design is not enough, you need solid research.

Interaction design in general, as a inter-disciplinary activity concerned with complex interactions and systems is likewise reliant on research to be truly effective. I think we are going to see a lot more ethnographic researchers finding their way into strategic and interaction design agencies. Traditional universities and design schools are perhaps going to need to meet half way: designers need to understand and respect the need for research while not necessarily being research experts, and social researchers need to understand innovation, business strategy and the design process.

Explore further.
Articles by Jan-Christoph on the Expeientia blog.
Pre-presentation interviewJan-Christoph at LIFT07
Keynote speech at LIFT 07

Massimo Banzi – Arduino to the people

September 20th, 2010 by NearInteraction

massimo banzi

Massimo Banzi is something of a legend in the world of interaction design. Cheerful and unpretentious, he is one of the founding members of the Arduino phenomenon. I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by him recently.

“…to allow everyday people to use electronics and software as a creative medium with the least possible pain.”

It was this deceptively simple vision that led Massimo and his contemporaries at Ivrea Interaction design Institute to develop Arduino, in doing so making a significant contribution to a DIY revolution in technology that continues to pose a serious threat the to status quo.
Technology, arguably the most powerful medium in the world today, was becoming the sole domain of well-resourced profit-driven companies. It wasn’t just the technology patents or the skill barriers, in many cases it was actually illegal to even open up and look inside a product that you had bought and paid for, let alone (God forbid) modify it to suit your actual needs as an individual… iPhone anyone?

Teach a man to fish…

Putting technology in the hands of people that otherwise would not have access to it is of course a large part of what the open-source movement as a whole has been trying to achieve.
Projects like Ubuntu (a completely free and highly function operating system based on Linux) and Open Office have done exactly this. However, empowering people with free tools is only half of the solution, ultimately empowering people to create their own technology is far more powerful.

What is Arduino?

Arduino can act as an electronic brain for, well, just about anything. Essentially, it’s a very small and incredibly flexible computer; designed to allow you to combine it with any number of other hardware or software systems. It has it’s own software language, based on Java, which allows you to create programs that control the hardware.

Here are a few projects built with Arduino:

word clock
Word clock by drj113.

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TableTalk is an experimental interactive student project that visualizes speech and conversation.

Seem complicated? It isn’t quiet Lego, but for those with a minimum of determination, Ardiuno opens up a world of technological possibilities. Check out this video of 3 11-year old girls who upgraded their cat teddy-bear with a “mouse alert system”.

Who cares?

Artists students, hobbyists and anyone who wants to harness the power of technology for their own individual creativity. It’s especially useful for students studying in areas like interactive art or interaction design because we can use it to prototype our ideas. Designs prototyped in Arduino might end up being manufactured entirely differently if they go into mass production.

Why its so dam cool.

1. Cheap to manufacture and purchase.

Around €20 gets you an Arduino board. Massimo and the Arduino team realized early on that if they were going to be putting technology in the hands of the above demographic it was going to have to be cheap.

2. Relatively easy to learn and use

At the expense of really advanced features, the decision was made to keep it as simple as possible. A combination of a user-friendly design and extensive community driven documentation means that you can get stuck in and make stuff right away.

3. Completely open-source

In true open-source fashion it combined and reconstituted other powerful open-source projects to create something new and more powerful. The physical prototyping platform Wiring and the Processing language were its primary constituents.

Everything about Arduino is freely available, including the design details from the boards themselves. That means if you you really want to you could go and manufacture (even sell) your own Arduino boards, Seeduino did just that, modifying and building on the base system.


A good example of the power of this approach is the LilyPad Arduino board (above). Designed and developed by Leah Buechley and SparkFun Electronics, The LilyPad Arduino is a microcontroller board designed for wearables and e-textiles. It can be sewn to fabric and similarly mounted power supplies, sensors and actuators with conductive thread.

More importantly though, open-source means that the intellectual property of Arduino is essentially owned by “the community”; there is no doubt that the incredible success of Arduino would not have been possible without the discover, make & share ecosystem that characterizes open-source communities. Any one project built in Arduino will involve the integration and modification of some amount of software and techniques that have been previously discovered and shared by the community.

If you’re interested in the idea of open-source hardware, the topic was examined closely in this article on

I’ll leave you with Massimo’s final slide, design by Matt Jones.

get excited and make things

Dive into the DIY electronics world online:

About the author:
Charles is a student of Interaction design at Domus Academy in Milan, Italy. His website is here:

touchless control technology

August 16th, 2010 by NearInteraction

“fraunhofer’s fit is the latest touchless control system that uses gestures to control computer interfaces.
the design is unique because it requires no special equipment, gloves or other wearable controllers.
the user simply places their hands in the air in front of a camera. the computer can then sense their
hand and can visually see each finger. the users movements are then translated on screen allowing
them to manipulate objects through various gestures and motions. the system is so sophisticated it
can operate in three-dimensions, allowing various objects to be manipulated at varying depths.”

Via Designboom, video after the Jump.

hotel replacing tvs with mac minis

July 1st, 2010 by NearInteraction

Computers and televisions may some day be one. In the meantime, the folks at The Citizen Hotel in Sacramento have decided to simply do away with TVs altogether and replace them with Mac Minis. All 198 computer-equipped rooms now allow guests to seamlessly watch television, scan their Facebook account, Tweet, stream video, Skype with friends, play World of War Craft, check email, or do anything else their Internet-addicted hearts desire.

Read More

Penguin’s Upcoming iPad books

June 9th, 2010 by NearInteraction
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The first-look demos of Penguin Books presented by Penguin CEO John Makinson in London.

Source: paidcontent

iPad app delivers real-time trend forecasts

May 27th, 2010 by NearInteraction

Stylesignal provides its customers with constantly updated fashion forecasts, trend information, news coverage and inspiration, all for prices starting at USD 99 per week. Now that Apple’s iPad is out, however, the company has ported its full package of coverage to that platform. The iPad’s high-quality display has the same colour acuity and wide viewing angle of ultra-high end photographic displays, the company notes, making it perfect for viewing swatches, photographs and designs used commercially in the fashion industry. Accordingly, instead of just looking at a picture, Stylesignal subscribers can now “pinch to zoom, touch to see a colour palette based on industry referenced colours, or move from street style photos to catwalk pictures at the flick of a finger,” it says. The continuously updated iPad app also serves as a trend book that never goes out of date, the company says. This month and next, Stylesignal is giving new subscribers a free iPad; existing ones can download the iPad app from Apple’s App Store for free.

via Springwise

In-flight entertainment, starring the iPad

May 27th, 2010 by NearInteraction

Bluebox’s namesake system already offers wireless in-flight entertainment that’s accessible via handheld devices, seatback technology and overhead cabin broadcasting. Now the London company has announced that it will soon include the iPad among those delivery vehicles through its Bluebox Ai offering, which will be fully integrated with the other parts of the Bluebox system. Specifically, Bluebox has ported its PC-based operating and security software to the Apple platform, enabling a full range of iTunes App Store games and eBooks, a full selection of consumer magazines via Zinio, and a selection of some 200,000 commercial apps already available for the device. Airlines can add their own custom apps as well. Bluebox Ai will launch on an international carrier in July, the company says, with availability to other airlines shortly thereafter. In the meantime, it’s now on display at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.

Via Springwise