"RFID" entries

Humanizing emerging technologies

We must demystify the "magic" of technology to increase user understanding and improve user experience.


Editor’s note: we’re running a series of five excerpts from our forthcoming book Designing for Emerging Technologies, a compilation of works by industry experts in areas of user experience design related to genomics, robotics, the Internet of Things, and the Industrial Internet of Things.

In this excerpt from the chapter “New Responsibilities of the Design Discipline: A Critical Counterweight to the Coming Technologies?,” author and independent design consultant Martin Charlier argues that taking a human approach to technology is required not only to ensure a good user experience, but also to afford better user understanding of technology. This could mean enhancing the experience by building on familiarity; presenting tangible representations of invisible technology, such as RFID and NFC technology; or even by eschewing high-tech solutions altogether.


Author and independent design consultant Martin Charlier.

British science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Magic can make people uneasy. Consider for example the scare around mobile telephones and what effects their radio waves might have on the human body.

The phrase “humanizing emerging technologies” is about reducing the amount of mystery around how a technology works and about helping people retain a sense of control over their changing environments. It is about understanding the mental models people use to make sense of technology and making technology fit people, not the other way round. It can even go so far as to question the need to use a particular technology to achieve a certain result in the first place.

This role of using design can be part of commercial work, or of academic, experimental projects dealing with market-ready or applied technologies. Read more…

Four short links: 20 February 2014

Four short links: 20 February 2014

Practical Typography, Bluetooth Locators, Web Credibility, and Vision Training App

  1. Practical Typography — informative and elegant.
  2. Nokia Treasure Tag — Bluetooth-chatty locators for keyrings, wallets, etc.
  3. Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility — signals for those looking to identify dodgy content, as well as hygiene factors for those looking to provide it.
  4. App Trains You to See Farther (Popular Mechanics) — UltimEyes exercises the visual cortex, the part of our brain that controls vision. Brain researchers have discovered that the visual cortex breaks down the incoming information from our eyes into fuzzy patterns called Gabor stimuli. The theory behind UltimEyes is that by directly confronting the eyes with Gabor stimuli, you can train your brain to process them more efficiently—which, over time, improves your brain’s ability to create clear vision at farther distances. The app shows you ever fuzzier and fainter Gabor stimuli.
Four short links: 29 May 2012

Four short links: 29 May 2012

AR Theme Park, Digital Citizenship, Simulating Faces, and Reverse-Engineering Pixels

  1. South Korean Kinect+RFID Augmented Reality Theme Park Sixty-five attractions over seven thematic stages contribute to the experience, which uses 3D video, holograms and augmented reality to immerse guests. As visitors and their avatars move through the park, they interact with the attractions using RFID wristbands, while Kinect sensors recognize their gestures, voices and faces. (via Seb Chan)
  2. Digital Citizenship — computers in schools should be about more than teaching more than just typing to kids, they should know how to intelligently surf, to assess the quality of their sources, to stay safe from scammers and bullies, to have all the training they need to be citizens in an age when life is increasingly lived online. (via Pia Waugh)
  3. Simulating Anatomically Accurate Facial Expressions (University of Auckland) — video of a talk demonstrating biomechanical models which permit anatomically accurate facial models.
  4. Depixelizing Pixel Art (Microsoft Research) — this is totally awesome: turning pixel images into vector drawings, which of course can be smoothly scaled. (via Bruce Sterling)
Four short links: 12 April 2011

Four short links: 12 April 2011

Email Game, Faster B Trees, RFID+Projectors, and Airport Express Broken

  1. The Email Game — game mechanics to get you answering email more efficiently. Can’t wait to hear that conversation with corporate IT. “You want us to install what on the Exchange server?” (via Demo Day Wrapup)
  2. Stratified B-trees and versioning dictionariesA classic versioned data structure in storage and computer science is the copy-on-write (CoW) B-tree — it underlies many of today’s file systems and databases, including WAFL, ZFS, Btrfs and more. Unfortunately, it doesn’t inherit the B-tree’s optimality properties; it has poor space utilization, cannot offer fast updates, and relies on random IO to scale. Yet, nothing better has been developed since. We describe the `stratified B-tree’, which beats all known semi-external memory versioned B-trees, including the CoW B-tree. In particular, it is the first versioned dictionary to achieve optimal tradeoffs between space, query and update performance. (via Bob Ippolito)
  3. DisplayCabinet (Ben Bashford) — We embedded a group of inanimate ornamental objects with RFID tags. Totems or avatars that represent either people, products or services. We also added RFID tags to a set of house keys and a wallet. Functional things that you carry with you. This group of objects combine with a set of shelves containing a hidden projector and RFID reader to become DisplayCabinet. (via Chris Heathcote)
  4. shairport — Aussie pulled the encryption keys from an Airport Express device, so now you can have software pretend to be an Airport Express.
Four short links: 8 February 2011

Four short links: 8 February 2011

Web Memory, Phones Read Cards, Military and Public Data, and NoSQL Merger

  1. Erase and Rewind — the BBC are planning to close (delete) 172 websites on some kind of cost-cutting measure. i’m very saddened to see the BBC join the ranks of online services that don’t give a damn for posterity. As Simon Willison points out, the British Library will have archived some of the sites (and Internet Archive others, possibly).
  2. Announcing Farebot for Android — dumps the information stored on transit cards using Android’s NFC (near field communication, aka RFID) support. When demonstrating FareBot, many people are surprised to learn that much of the data on their ORCA card is not encrypted or protected. This fact is published by ORCA, but is not commonly known and may be of concern to some people who would rather not broadcast where they’ve been to anyone who can brush against the outside of their wallet. Transit agencies across the board should do a better job explaining to riders how the cards work and what the privacy implications are.
  3. Using Public Data to Fight a War (ReadWriteWeb) — uncomfortable use of the data you put in public?
  4. CouchOne and Membase Merge — consolidation in the commercial NoSQL arena. the merger not only results in the joining of two companies, but also combines CouchDB, memcached and Membase technologies. Together, the new company, Couchbase, will offer an end-to-end database solution that can be stored on a single server or spread across hundreds of servers.
Four short links: 3 January 2011

Four short links: 3 January 2011

RSS, Copyright Terms, RFID Security, and Server-Side Javascript

  1. RSS is Dying and You Should Be WorriedIf RSS dies, we lose the ability to read in private.
  2. What Could Have Been Entering The Public Domain on January 1, 2011? — a list of the works that won’t be entering the public domain in the US because the copyright term was extended in 1976. Think of the movies from 1954 that would have become available this year. You could have showed clips from them. You could have showed all of them. You could have spliced and remixed and made documentaries about them. (You could have been a contender!) Instead, here are a few of the movies that we won’t see in the public domain for another 39 years …. This list will be viewed two different ways by different groups, reinforcing instead of changing their views: copyright minimalists will say “what a tragedy” but copyright maximalists will say “look at these great works we protected, they’re still earning money for their creators therefore they’re still valuable and thus worth protecting”. (via Bill Bennett on Twitter)
  3. ProxClone — cloner for proximity cards, cost of parts around $30. (via Hacker News)
  4. 2011 Is The Year of Server-Side Javascript — explanation of why the author will be doing back-end coding in Javascript this year. Good to see an honest assessment that it’s still early days for server-side Javascript: Most of the libraries out there are young, buggy and incomplete. I got Node.js to segfault a few times. There’s no killer framework on the same caliber as Rails, nor anything that comes close to ActiveSupport and a decent standard runtime library (hmm … that gives me an idea). But then, it’s not much different than what Ruby was five years ago, or Java back in the late 90′s. We’ve all got to start somewhere.
Four short links: 19 October 2009

Four short links: 19 October 2009

YouTube Bandwidth, RFID Visualization, Social Software Arms Race, Google Voice to the Laptop

  1. YouTube’s Bandwidth Bill is Zero (Wired) — they buy dark fibre and peer with the major ISPs.
  2. Immaterials: The Ghost in the Text (Vimeo) — visualising RFID fields. See also the blog post about the work by Timo Arnall from Touch and Jack Schulze from BERG.
  3. The Commercial Speech Arms Race (Bruce Schneier) — Whenever you build a security system that relies on detection and identification, you invite the bad guys to subvert the system so it detects and identifies someone else. Sometimes this is hard ­– leaving someone else’s fingerprints on a crime scene is hard, as is using a mask of someone else’s face to fool a guard watching a security camera ­– and sometimes it’s easy. But when automated systems are involved, it’s often very easy. It’s not just hardened criminals that try to frame each other, it’s mainstream commercial interests. Bad actors game systems, and social software is just another system to be gamed. It’s very difficult to create a system with no incentive to misbehave or to accuse others of misbehaving.
  4. A SIP of the Future (Tim Bray) — he connected Google Voice with Gizmo5 so his Google Voice number forwards to his laptop. FTW.

See It, Follow It

RFID remains an interesting option to supplement other tracking technologies for indoor applications and situations which are relatively tightly controlled (e.g., teaching/training, museums, entertainment venues, architecture and urban planning). Tracking for consumer AR applications in uncontrolled environments when all the user has is a camera phone remains a very, very challenging area of research and we should expect to continue seeing major developments in this field in the year ahead before it is gradually integrated into our everyday AR applications.

RFID Fun at PICNIC 2009

I just left Amsterdam with Geeks on a Plane. We were there for PICNIC, an annual technology-art conference in Amsterdam. One of the highlights of the conference are the RFID projects. Each attendee is given an RFID tag (an ik tag) that can be linked to their conference social network profile (we modeled our own RFID experiments at ETech…

Four short links: 7 August 2009

Four short links: 7 August 2009

Recovery.gov, Meme tracking, RFID Scans, Open Source Search Engines

  1. Defragging the Stimuluseach [recovery] site has its own silo of data, and no site is complete. What we need is a unified point of access to all sources of information: firsthand reports from Recovery.gov and state portals, commentary from StimulusWatch and MetaCarta, and more. Suggests that Recovery.gov should be the hub for this presently-decentralised pile of recovery data.
  2. Memetracker — site accompanying the research written up by the New York Times as Researchers at Cornell, using powerful computers and clever algorithms, studied the news cycle by looking for repeated phrases and tracking their appearances on 1.6 million mainstream media sites and blogs […] For the most part, the traditional news outlets lead and the blogs follow, typically by 2.5 hours […] a relative handful of blog sites are the quickest to pick up on things that later gain wide attention on the Web. Confirming that blogs and traditional media have a symbiotic relationship, not a parasitic one. (via Stats article in NY Times)
  3. Feds at DefCon Alarmed After RFIDs Scanned (Wired) — RFID badges make for convenient security, and for convenient attack. Black hats can read your security cards from 2 or 3 feet away, and few in government are aware of the attack vector. To help prevent surreptitious readers from siphoning RFID data, a company named DIFRWear was doing brisk business at DefCon selling leather Faraday-shielded wallets and passport holders lined with material that prevents readers from sniffing RFID chips in proximity cards.
  4. A Comparison of Open Source Search Engines and Indexing Twitter — Detailed write-up of the open source search options and how they stack up on a pile of Tweets. While researching for the Software section, I was quite surprised by the number of open source vertical search solutions I found: Lucene (Nutch, Solr, Hounder), Sphinx, zettair, Terrier, Galago, Minnion, MG4J, Wumpus, RDBMS (mysql, sqlite), Indri, Xapian, grep … And I was even more surprised by the lack of comparisons between these solutions. Many of these platforms advertise their performance benchmarks, but they are in isolation, use different data sets, and seem to be more focused on speed as opposed to say relevance. (via joshua on Delicious)