ENTRIES TAGGED "Solid"

The evolving purpose of design

Design is about communication and respect as much as function.

Mine_Kafon

Massoud Hassani’s wind-powered land minesweeper, the Mine Kafon. Photo by Rene van der Hulst, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art.

For more than a century, design has been determined by its applications to the physical world. As architect Louis Sullivan expressed in an 1896 essay, “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered“:

“It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.

But Paola Antonelli, senior curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, thinks that’s a law best consigned to the dustbin of history; she gets exasperated when design is presented as the subservient handmaiden of utility.

“There shouldn’t be any differentiation between form and function,” she maintained in a recent interview. “The idea that form must follow function, that’s out the window; it’s a tired cliché. A good object, a well-designed object, is encompassing. It is unified, the material embodiment of a strong idea.” Read more…

Comment: 1

Business models that make the Internet of Things feasible

The bid for widespread home use may drive technical improvements.

For some people, it’s too early to plan mass consumerization of the Internet of Things. Developers are contentedly tinkering with Arduinos and clip cables, demonstrating cool one-off applications. We know that home automation can save energy, keep the elderly and disabled independent, and make life better for a lot of people. But no one seems sure how to realize this goal, outside of security systems and a few high-end items for luxury markets (like the Nest devices, now being integrated into Google’s grand plan).

But what if the willful creation of a mass consumer market could make the technology even better? Perhaps the Internet of Things needs a consumer focus to achieve its potential. This view was illuminated for me through a couple recent talks with Mike Harris, CEO of the home automation software platform Zonoff.

Read more…

Comment

Podcast: Personalizing hardware with data? Personalizing people with CRISPR?

Jim Stogdill, Jon Bruner, and Mike Loukides chat about personalizing all the things.

This week in our Radar podcast, Jon and I both had colds. You’ll be pleased to know that I edited out all the sneezes, coughs, and general upper respiratory mayhem, but unfortunately there is no Audacity filter for a voice that sounds like a frog caught in a mouse trap (mine). If that hasn’t dissuaded you from listening, we covered some things that were really interesting, at least to us.

Here are some links to things you’ll hear in this episode:

Are you a microphone geek? You’re welcome. Jon is a maximizer, I’m a satisfier. Mike remains indeterminate.

Blackberry’s salvation may reside in its QNX embedded systems division.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was an amazing technical organization in its heyday. Railroads were that time’s web, and Pennsylvania was its Google. It created a lot of the practices we still use today for testing and other technical disciplines. Also, I suppose if Atlas were to shrug today (shudder) John Galt would be a data center designer. Read more…

Comment

Application programming for iBeacons

iBeacons don't communicate directly with end users — applications are required for translation and action execution.

Once you are set up with an iBeacon, no matter whether it is a dedicated device or a program running on a host device, you are ready to start writing applications. The iBeacon “protocol” is simple, as we saw in the introductory post: it defines regions in space as “where I see a specified combination of UUID, major, and minor numbers.” There is no descriptive text or mapping transmitted in the packets sent by a beacon. Translation between the beacon’s transmissions and any actions are done entirely within an application running on the receiving device, even if the application is a simple text message to say “welcome to this place.”

For developing applications on iOS, the core documentation is the developer’s guide to region monitoring. For many years, iOS has enabled applications to use the physical location of a device in applications through the CoreLocation framework, which is what users enable in the Location Services settings in the Privacy panel. iBeacon functions were added to CoreLocation in iOS 7.0. Naturally, devices must have hardware support for the underlying Bluetooth Low Energy functions, which in practice means an iPhone 4S or later iOS device. Macs sold since late 2011 also have the required Bluetooth hardware. Read more…

Comment

3 topologies driving IoT networking standards

The importance of network architecture on the Internet of Things

This article is part of a series exploring the role of networking in the Internet of Things.

There are a lot of moving parts in the networking for the Internet of Things; a lot to sort out between WiFi, WiFi LP, Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE, Zigbee, Z-Wave, EnOcean and others. Some standards are governed by open, independent standards bodies, while others are developed by a single company and are being positioned as defacto standards. Some are well established, others are in the early adoption stage. All were initially developed to meet unique application-specific requirements such as range, power consumption, bandwidth, and scalability. Although these are familiar issues, they take on a new urgency in IoT networks.

To begin establishing the right networking technology for your application, it is important to first understand the network architecture, or the network topology, that is supported by each technology standard. The networking standards being used today in IoT can be categorized into three basic network topologies; point-to-point, star, and mesh. Read more…

Comment

Joi Ito: “Deploy or Die”

Why everyone must understand manufacturing, and why the most creative companies design hardware and software together.

It was a pleasure, as always, to talk with Joi Ito a couple of weeks ago. He and I are co-chairing Solid, our new conference about the intersection of software and the physical world, and we recorded part of our conversation in the video below to frame the program we’ve assembled.

Joi is, of course, the director of the MIT Media Lab, where the emphasis is on working across disciplines: engineers take on art and designers hit the oscilloscopes. The kind of development process standard in the new generation of hardware startups — small groups of people hacking away at electronics and software to come up with products that combine both — has been familiar at the Media Lab for decades.

Now the Media Lab’s emphasis is on projects that go all the way to manufacturing and distributing: moving from “demo or die” to “deploy or die,” as Joi puts it. Projects that deploy can be vastly more impactful than those that just demo — putting thousands of devices into the hands of users rather than just a couple. Plus, the manufacturing process is a crucial source of both constraints and creative possibility. Joi says, “Understanding manufacturing is going to be key to design, just like understanding the Internet has become key to running a company.”

Other topics that arose in our conversation — and that are also central to Solid: the merging disciplines of hardware and software, the role of expertise in creating manufactured products, agile hardware development, the importance of having software design and hardware design in the same place, and the need for a new ethics as manufacturing becomes democratized.

Comment

Humanizing emerging technologies

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

EmergingTechCoverSM2

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.


Martin_Charlier

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…

Comments: 2

Wearable intelligence

Establishing protocols to socialize wearable devices.

The age of ubiquitous computing is accelerating, and it’s creating some interesting social turbulence, particularly where wearable hardware is concerned. Intelligent devices other than phones and screens — smart headsets, glasses, watches, bracelets — are insinuating themselves into our daily lives. The technology for even less intrusive mechanisms, such as jewelry, buttons, and implants, exists and will ultimately find commercial applications.

And as sensor-and-software-augmented devices and wireless connections proliferate through the environment, it will be increasingly difficult to determine who is connected — and how deeply — and how the data each of us generates is disseminated, captured and employed. We’re already seeing some early signs of wearable angst: recent confrontations in bars and restaurants between those wearing Google Glass and others worried they were being recorded.

This is nothing new, of course. Many major technological developments experienced their share of turbulent transitions. Ultimately, though, the benefits of wearable computers and a connected environment are likely to prove too seductive to resist. People will participate and tolerate because the upside outweighs the downside. Read more…

Comment

Connected for a purpose

Are we finally seeing connected vehicles doing more with the connection than infotainment?

A few months ago, I rented a Toyota Prius and was driving it up the 101 when, predictably, I ran into a long stretch of mostly-stop-with-some-go traffic. I remember thinking at the time, “It’s too bad this thing didn’t see this traffic jam coming; it could have topped off the battery and I could be motoring through this bumper-to-bumper on much more efficient electric drive.” Instead, I entered the traffic with the battery relatively depleted and ended up running the engine a bunch even though I was only going 5 mph.

Then last week, I was getting my car worked on and saw this sign in the waiting room:

Mini_Drivetrain

That was cool because it was the first time I had seen an auto manufacturer (in this case, Mini) using externally obtained data to actually improve how the car operated instead of using it for some lame in-dash “experience.” It got me thinking. Read more…

Comments: 3

Horseshoes, hand grenades, and building mobile applications

The difference between location and proximity: knowing you’re in the restaurant vs knowing what table you’re sitting at.

As the old proverb goes, “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” It doesn’t quite apply when building mobile applications, however. Smaller screens and the resistance to extensive keyboard input define the input and output constraints of mobile apps, but there is something more fundamental that a mobile application can do. At its best, an application that knows where you are will augment reality to help you navigate and interact with the physical world. These applications are sometimes described as “location” applications and sometimes described as “proximity” applications. Many people are guilty of using the words interchangeably — myself included. In response to my post on iBeacon basics, Alasdair Allan called me out on Twitter:

His comment was spot-on. In this post, I’ll define (and be very precise about) the difference, the importance of which leads directly to the level of interest in proximity — and informs the excitement levels around technologies like iBeacons. Read more…

Comment