Tag Archives: design

Fun fashion fantasy fone stuff

My Doggie Ring Ring

My Doggie Ring Ring

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… No… It’s a dog, it’s a phone… WHAT?

I’ve always thought alot of the digital media devices we see are UGLY so was relieved/amused by two things that crept into my inbox today thanks to some very fashionable colleagues.  (If this type of thing interests you, I highly recommend you read We Make Money Not Art which looks at the intersection of art, fashion and technology.)

The first is seen in the picture above.  OK, it might not be QUITE what everyone would call fashionable – but it’s a great stab at making mobiles fun and fashionable.  Apparently, this is what one of my colleagues learned recently when she went to the showroom for the company that made the My Doggie Ring Ring in Japan.  They’re called iida – and doggie phones aren’t the only cool thing they make (but it might be the most fun!).  They’ve also got a range of concept musical instrument phones and ones that incorporate solar panels.  The work is being done in conjunction with the Au Design Project – check out their site for more interesting concepts.

I really like the way that the designs incorporate fun and fantasy with objects that provide us with utlity.  Sure, usability and utility are great – but I sometimes feel in our hyperconnected world that we need a little room to indulge ourselves with a bit of fantasy and frivolity and that all too often we gloss over this because it might impinge on usability.  Why shouldn’t we have devices that give us a laugh, connect with our tastes and personalities?  Services on mobiles are becoming more personalised – why shouldn’t the devices themselves do the same – and maybe give us a tiny bit or reliefe from the hyperconnected world we live in?

On a slightly less practical note, I was also sent a picture of a QR Code belt buckle.  So, if you want people taking pictures of your crotch and then being able to use that picture to download a URL to their phone to go to your blog (or other online profile?) you can now do it!  More here.

QR Code Belt

QR Code Belt

And… not mobile related at all but as long as I’m pointing to some everyday objects re-imagined, I couldn’t resist this one – Creative Coffins.  Eco-friendly (cardboard!) and reflect your tastes, pastimes, nationality – whatever you want.  I quite like this beekeeper’s model:

beekeeper coffin

beekeeper coffin


Design Mind: Mobile industry and creative destruction

This is an interesting article I just read about the mobile industry written by Design Mind, the in-house magazine at Frog Design – one of the few that backs up and isn’t looking at what’s the next Series 60 handset or guessing at what Palm or iPhone have planned – but actually looking at some of the historical and traditional forces that are facing the industry.

creative destructionUltimately, it takes a dim view of convergence happening via smartphones – I’m not quite sure I buy it, but its an interesting theory, and certainly possible.  We don’t think about it much but there could be another path to instant communication and access to all the information you need that’s not a PC or a mobile or a hybrid one.  Sure, they’ll both come close – but, the article says, they may never provide the whole solution.  I also liked the importance the article attached to the ‘feeling’ that designed products provide – I think this is far too often overlooked.

Another point that excited me was that this is the first time I’ve read about Nvidia announcing that Tegra would soon be available and able to make video game-quality graphics available on mobiles.  This is going to allow a huge shift in mobile content and services and bring some great stuff to the small screen.

Meeting Karen Groenink from Google Mobile

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Karen Groenink a user experience designer from Google Mobile where I hosted her presenting and answering questions for us at the BBC.  Thanks to BBC Training and Development for organising it!

Karen has worked on a number of different products in the Google family as a mobile expert and it was great to hear the way she’s tackling problems that my team are facing as well.  Some of her presentation was even spookily like one I give on mobile (coincidence, not stealing) – for example we both have slides proclaiming “Mobile is Different!”

The best thing I took away from her presentation was a catch phrase I’m going to keep in the back of my head as much as possible:

“Digital products are rude.”

Easy, simple and true.  How many times have you had a warning message that won’t stop popping up that you don’t understand?  That’s a rude error message – not incorrect, but actually so annoying its rude.

She also talked alot about general principals for user-centred design warning about both trying to “design a car for everyone” as well as “designing for edge cases” – both of which can bring about the death of a piece of work.

Excitingly, she alluded to the fact that Google are looking at doing something with voice-activated serach – which could be really cool if it works.  I’m somewhat skeptical of voice-activated services because I’ve used them before with limited success. Voice dialling never got it quite right (and is a bit wierd socially when you have to say “Call Mom” out loud on a bus) and Spinvox, while generally good, transcribes my name as “Satan” instead of “Jason” which resulted in my old boss getting messages like “Hi, It’s Satan.  Are you coming to this meeting?”  All that said, mobiles started out as phones and few services take advantage of that, so its interesting to see that a bright spark I work with dug up this announcement of an iPhone app that does voice search today.  It looks its the beginning of what Karen talked about: http://googlemobile.blogspot.com/2008/11/google-mobile-app-for-iphone-now-with.html .

If you get to try it, I’d love to know what you think.  I used to work on the BBC’s search products and know that accuracy is everything and I’m curious to see whether or not the voice recognition can be accurate enough to make sure you get the search results you want.

Update 20 Nov: Voice recognition doesn’t seem to work if you’ve got a UK accent – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/apple/3479305/Google-iPhone-voice-recognition-tool-baffled-by-British-accents.html

This has me thinking (again) about the potential of SMS-based searching.  As I mentioned in a previous post, this has been successful for Minfo in China and I think its another opportunity to take advantage of a behaviour that users are doing on mobile and find easy already.

Mobile Design UK meetings

Looks like a good proposal for meetings of people working in designing for mobile and a potentially good blog too.  Good luck to Bryan.

Korea: X|Media Lab: 3D internet, virtual worlds and Mobile

I did two speeches back-to-back earlier today at the X|Media Lab and Mobile Content 2008.  In both, I gave an overview of what the BBC’s been doing on mobile; which is slightly ironic since the Koreans are so far ahead of the UK, technologically.  Hopefully I had alot to share with the audiences about the content side of things.

The theme of this X|Media Lab is “3D Internet: Virtual, Visual and Social.”  I have to admit, I don’t know a hell of alot about the 3D internet other than that it exists and has a huge audience.  Before spending last week at Crossover Nordic, I didn’t realise just what a huge audience it has but when it was put in the context that many of the big worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life have more inhabitants than many real-world countries, my ears perked up and I realised it was time to pay more attention.  Good thing I’m here.  But what on earth was I going to talk about?

The answer had to be about how mobile and virtual worlds could overlap and complement each other.  Here’s my presentation (.ppt) and I’ll elaborate on it below, because the more I think about it the more excited I get about the possibilities.  Click to Download: X|Media Lab Presentation

So here’s what I suggested could be done:

1) Mobile can provide a persistent and ubiquitous connection the worlds, extending the opportunities for play and connection to the worlds.

Users of these worlds are ‘addicted’ to them and I suspect would welcome any opportunities to be more connected, more immersed and able to constantly participate ‘in world.’  I understand there are some Flash clients being developed for phones that will hopefully create 2D or 3D versions of the worlds.  This seems good, but like a ‘mini-me’ type of approach; and I’m not sure this will work.  Will the screens be big enough and good enough to render something useful?  Will on-the-go users really want to pay this much attention?  Or would they rather a thinner connection when the world is in their pocket at work?

On thing I spend alot of time telling people is that mobile ‘isn’t just a mini version of the web.’  Sure, mobiles access the web, but a mere copy and paste approach doesn’t always ensure success.

I think it might be cool to see if the types of services that help audiences stay in touch with their real world would be popular with helping them stay in touch with their virtual worlds.  SMS alerts sent from the worlds or text messages from or between characters in the world seem like an obvious opportunity. Imagine a guild of players in World of Warcraft texting out of the world to players in another guild to get online and help them in a battle where they need backup/support.  Texts would reach the players and they could rush from the real world back to their PCs to get in world and play.

The Twitter Fountain in Second Life is a start at this as Keren Flavell from SLCN.TV pointed out to me, but its still feels more like novelty and the beginning of something better:

And what types of web apps could provide data from the worlds to thin mobile clients, widgets or even simple mobile web pages?

2) Thinking about this type of connection and play, I wonder how these could be crossed with Alternate Reality Games.  ARGs are doing more out of home and with the crossover between real the real world and mobile and I think that this type of crossover could be replicated into the virtual world – possibly even triangulated between reality, alternate reality and the virtual world.  What a game that could make.  Can you geocache in any virtual worlds (yet)?

3) So how could all this work.  Well, I’m no expert.  But I have an idea that flexible, open web services could sit in the middle of these different ‘worlds’ (aka media) and provide the glue that lets transactions and interactions flow between them.

For example, using the Last.fm API you could (I think) create a situation like this if you built the right connections into the Virtual Worlds, Mobile Web, etc:

– I’m in a physical store and see a CD I want to recommend to a friend;

– I capture the barcode/semacode on the packaging which gives me information about the album from the mobile web on my phone;

– I could then choose someone from a list of virtual friends to recommend the track to;

– They would get notified, in say Second Life, and be able to stream the track for free;

– If the friend likes the song, they could add it to a Last.fm style playlist or even buy the track using real or virtual currencies.

In my presentation, I tried to describe it with this diagram:

To elaborate…  If we’re moving to a world where the ‘Internet of Things’ is becoming a reality, then everything around us will be connected, not just our devices.  This should apply to things in the virtual world as well.  If flexible and open web services can connect to these via mobile devices, strong connections between the real and virtual world can be created.  Behind this a strong system design strategy would be required.  Expanding from the idea that ‘Designing for Accessibility is good design’ (because everyone can use it), you could move to the idea that designing for mobile is (also) good design because everyTHING (in the real and virtual worlds) can access and use the service.

I’m obviously not going to be the only one thinking about this stuff but sitting in a room full of experts on this world has me really excited.  Neil Katz, from IBM, told me about a few examples where you can start to see this stuff coming to life in a very basic way.

The first was an IBM R&D project that echoed/emulated a Virtual World on Treo device.  Video of it here:

He also showed me this motion-aware mobile interface on a Samsung for Virtual Worlds (very cool!):

Also: Click to download my Mobile Content 2008 Presentation (similar to the X|Media Lab presentation but with a little more detail on the specific content the BBC has done)