The team I work in is great. We not only focus on interesting themes, and on the home (a compelling domain for a designer like me) we also have a healthy scepticism about the power of technology. Or at least the ease with which technology is a solution to every problem. In the home, particularly, the barrier to entry and acceptance for a new piece of technolgy is very high. A business can require it’s employees to use a certain piece of software regardless of its ease of use, but the same isn’t true at home. At home it’s always an option, and even if a piece of technology makes it over the doormat that doesn’t mean it will be easily integrated into home life.
We’ve been working on BubbleBoard for the last 8 or 9 months, as a follow on to Homenote, an earlier piece of work which predated me. It’s an example of a visual answer machine, an idea recently popularised by the Apple iPhone, but thankfully one that we’ve been working on for quite a while.
BubbleBoard is quite metaphorical, perhaps too much so. It uses bubbles to represent newly recieved answer phone messages, allowing family members to tell at a glance who called, when, and how long their message is. It allows them to directly manipulate their messages through touch so they can triage them quickly, deleting the ones that they don’t want to keep, and saving the ones that they do. It offers clear advantages over linear, audio-driven voicemail systems and that notion of saving messages easily introduces new opportunities for the ways in which people at home think about their messages. They can save messages that are precious or emotive. Or they can save messages that simply remind them of a task they need to complete.
BubbleBoard has a whiteboard region to the right of the saved area that allows for very simple annotation of messages. Users can “tag” their messages in any way they want – assigning them to people and dates, or highlighting them with qualities like “fun”.
Here’s the short paper recently submitted to CHI 2007 for those that are interested.