Category Archives: visualization

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Resonate 2014

I’m just travelling home from Belgrade in Serbia, where I’ve spent the last few days at Resonate. Resonate is a conference, or more like a festival, primarily attended by people doing visualization work. It’s full of great talks from a community that is very tightly networked, brought together by the equally highly networked Filip Visnjik, who also founded the website Creative Applications. Many of the talks at the event act almost like portfolio presentations that give an overview of some compelling computer graphics or interactive installations created through the development of complex systems of code and electronics. Many of the biographies of speakers at the event start with a similar sentence: “[Person A] is a programmer and artist working at the intersection of [X] and [Y]”. This emphasis on “art” as a discipline is an interesting one, since it releases many of the attendees from the obligation that we often have in our lab of having to justify their work on pragmatic grounds. Presenters can instead focus on aesthetics and abstraction. Many of the presentations cover visualization and interaction work done with other artistic disciplines such as dance or music.

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http://www.kimchiandchips.com/ bravely set up one of their “Digital Emulsion” installations in the public lobby. Projection mapping onto string.

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Wesley Grubbs shows work for the McKnight Foundation. A data visualization made from the resume of an artist from the foundation was then hand annotated by that artist.

Below are highlights from the event, plus a little bit about my own 30 minute presentation.

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jenny bv lee: immateriality – the future human

Great to see some publicity on DesignBoom for Jenny Lee’s project “Immateriality – The Future Human”. This was a standout from this year’s Textile Futures degree show at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design. This is the course we worked on a couple of year’s ago for Microsoft’s Design Expo.

Jenny imagines digital skin as a virtual overlay, providing a strange, biological anonymity, a morphing mask. In addition to some great research work she had a live demo at the show that used augmented reality to overlay visitors faces with strange, biological growths (see bottom picture).

http://www.jennylee.org.uk
jenny bv lee: immateriality – the future human

"I designed a collection of virtual digital skins that was inspired by morphogenesis and mineral crystalisation processes. a series of radical non-human like aesthetics were fashioned, to engage the public to consider if we have the tools to-redesign ourselves, would we still look, feel and be human? I also worked in collaboration with a company called holition who deal with a range of 3d technologies in particular augmented reality. augmented reality technology blurs the boundaries between the real and the virtual worlds; it superimposes graphics, audio and other sense enhancements over a live view of the world. holition and I designed and developed new ways to utilise and implement the AR to enable a more tactile and tangible response to technology, bridging the gap between the immaterial and material worlds. we translated the digital skins into the technology, and developed face-tracking ar to create a virtual experience that would enable the public to interact and visualise the future technological impact on society and the self."

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Interaction 11, Boulder, CO. Day 1.

Thought I’d do a quick summary of my favourite two talks from yesterday, which, predictably, were the keynotes by Bill Verplank and Lisa Strausfeld.

Bill is one of the original interaction design guys, like Bill Moggridge and Gillian Crampton Smith, who did a lot of foundational work, particularly in eduction, in establishing the discipline. He worked at Xerox, at IDEO and at Paul Allen’s Interval Research group.

The thing I most enjoyed about this talk was how much it was basically just a chat, an unstructured discourse about the history of interaction design, the importance of artefacts and craft. It stumbled a little towards the end (he never really covered everything he hoped – I wish he’d got into schools a little) but that casualness was compelling.

Rather than use slides Bill sat at an overhead camera, sketching with a conte crayon, creating little charts, arrows, triangular figures.

Bill’s sketchbook
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Part of a live sketch of Enactive vs. Iconic vs. Symbolic interfaces.
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A few things stuck with me in terms of actual content. The emphasis on building and discovering – working with materials. I loved his phrase “designers put things between people and the world”. He described every interaction as being either a map or a path. He talked about the evolution of interaction design in terms of cognitive “mentalities” (from Piaget) three of which are enactive (given kinaesthetics – “doing” – which we’re born with), iconic (representations – “seeing” – which we learn first) and symbolic (Ax=y – “knowing” – which we aspire to as a tool for thinking). This last he equated with command line interfaces. He tied graphical user interfaces with iconic representations. Lastly, he lamented that we’re missing an opportunity to build truly kinaesthetic experiences.

Lisa Strausfeld spoke in the afternoon. She’s now a partner at Pentagram, but I think of her as one of many talented graduates of Muriel Cooper’s Visible Languages Workshop at MIT. I don’t have any shots of this talk because, after a battle of wills with the facilities people, most of it was in semi darkness to show her work in best effect. She showed a combination of examples of her amazing portfolio, tied to examples of driving philosophies.

Briefly, these were:

  • Design one solution.
  • LATCH – 5 ways of organizing information – Location, Alphabetical, Time, Category and Hierarchy (Lisa added “Network” as a 6th). From Richard Saul Wurman.
  • Find, don’t invent (in the context of solutions she talked about how ideas emerged from finding meaning in data).
  • Engagement, Context, Reference (“ECR” from Curtis Wong). A way of thinking about drawing in people with content.
  • Immersion – people should be IN your designs.
  • Information is the interface.
  • The interface can make the information more engaging.
  • Design a continuous experience.
  • Do one thing perfectly. Repeat.
  • Be the audience.

Here work has an amazing amount of integrity and continuity to it. You can see the lineage all the way from her work at MIT in 1994 (see Information Landscapes) to the recent Pentagram website redesign.

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Technology Heirloom videos

I’ve posted a couple of videos of the Digital Slide Viewer and the Backup Box prototypes that are described in my earlier entry entitled Some Technology Heirlooms. I hope to make one for Timecard as soon as we get them back from out “volunteers”.

[UPDATE 9th Dec. 2010 – Just added the Timecard video]

Digital Slide Viewer from Richard Banks on Vimeo.

The Backup Box from Richard Banks on Vimeo.

Timecard from Richard Banks on Vimeo.

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Design Expo 2010 Videos

Videos have just been posted for the six student presentations from this year’s Microsoft Design Expo. This is an international competition we’ve run for a decade, inviting various design colleges to do projects to a brief that we set. They pick their best student team and send them to Redmond to present their work at the Faculty Summit.

This is the third year that I’ve been a coordinator for a school in the UK. The first two were with Dundee University, and because we try and mix up the schools regularly, this year I picked Central Saint Martins to participate. Slightly radically, we’ve been working with the Textile Futures course. This is an amazing department, combining technology with the craft of surfaces. Their work was really challenging and conceptual, and quite unlike anything that Microsoft employees tend to get exposed to. Well done to Natsai Chieza and Amy Congdon (from the team Social Pica) for inspiring the audience, and presenting so well. And well done to all the students on the course for some beautifully compelling work.

Here are the shots from our two crits (in March and May). They’re very random and anonymous, as was my photography, but compelling.

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Techfest 2010: Some Technology Heirlooms

We recently took part in TechFest 2010, the latest in Microsoft Research’s show and tell events, with a booth that we entitled “The Future of Looking Back”. TechFest is primarily a way for people in Research to meet people in Microsoft’s product groups who are interested in similar topic areas. It’s a sort of trade show, in which each Research team has a booth that contains things they’ve made or are thinking about from the previous year. The event also has a “public day” during which we were able to show work to a bunch of Microsoft partners. Since our work was “public” I thought it would be fine to share some of it here.

Three of the projects we showed are related to our Technology Heirlooms theme, which I’ve written about before. This theme is all about what it means to live with digital stuff for a long time. We’re talking 40+ years, and possibly to a point where we start thinking about passing on our digital objects and files to our offspring. We don’t tend to think of technology in those sorts of terms, although we tend to take that length of time for granted when it comes to physical artefacts like paper photos.

These projects are Timecard, the Backup Box and the Digital Slide Viewer (more details below).

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(Remember, these aren’t future Microsoft products. These are speculative research objects that we use to try and understand better how people think about issues like reminiscing and their family’s history.)

 

Timecard

This is a much more evolved version of an item we showed at Techfest 2009. We’ve had a year during which our ideas have really solidified, and we’ve put together a prototype that’s almost ready to test with real people in their homes.

Timecard is a personal timeline object. It’s like a digital photo frame, except the content is structured by time, and is all about one person. You might see a photo on it that you recognize, or you want to use to tell a story to a visitor in your home. Clicking on the photo brings up a timeline view that shows all the photos of that person chronologically. It allows you to see the structure of their life, and tell the story of them in an order that makes sense.

We’re really asking with Timecard if you can build up a personal history of someone to a point where the value of the content and structure accumulates so much that the object become something that a family would come to treasure, and maybe even start passing on through the generations.

 

Timecard in slideshow mode. The content is all of my daughter:

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Timeline view:

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Close-up of timeline view:

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A Digital Slide Viewer

Imagine you have a relative who uses Flickr for much of their life. One day they pass away. Would you want to inherit their account, with all of its responsibilities, or do you really just want the content to be able to use for reminiscing about the person? I think I might want the latter.

With the Digital Slide Viewer we imagine that I’m able to pay a service to back up that account into a device which can then live on my bookshelf at home. Like a photo album, I can just pull it down and use it to browse through shots of this person’s life. Those shots just happened to have originated on a web service.

Here’s a shot of the device. Content actually lives in the viewer. The small white slides correspond to sets of photos on Flickr. When the slides are inserted in the device the colour of the labels on each slide is analyzed, and a corresponding set of images appear on the small screen embedded in the viewer.

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Here’s a slide. The slide at the front actually corresponds to a set of photos I have of my wife.

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The viewer has a small 100×100 pixel display embedded in it. It also has a couple of tilt switches in it, so the device can be tilted to the right to go to the next photo and the left to go to the previous one.

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Some of the slides. One idea we’re exploring is what king of metadata we might also download from Flickr. Here’s a slide that is blank on the left, shows a title and date in the middle, and then shows the location of the photo, as well as comment, view and favorite status from Flickr.

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This concept was originally developed by Mark Selby, who interned with us in 2009. He’s now a PhD candidate in Nottingham University’s Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub.

 

A Backup Box

A lot of the messages we’re sharing through websites like Twitter are a form of diary keeping. Information such as where we are, what we’re doing, who we’re meeting and what we’re thinking, that we might traditionally written in a book at home, is now being shared on line through our status messages and blog entries.

We’re concerned that this content won’t persist long enough online for us to be able to use it for reminiscing once we get older. I know in 20 or 30 years I’d like to be able to use my Twitter feed, for example, to look back on what I was doing in 2010. I’m not confident, though, that Twitter will still exist in 20 or 30 years, and the onus is on me to worry about this since the burden is not on the social networks to persist this content for me for that long.

The Backup Box is a concept device that lives in the corner of my living room doing nothing but backing up the content of my Twitter feed. It’s an object of reassurance that leaves me with some confidence that the message I’m putting online will also persist offline. It’s an insurance policy for the future of my reminiscences.

Most of the time the box has a lid on it.

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I can take the lid off, though, at any time and browse back through the timeline of my Twitter feed.

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Each of these little flowers is a Tweet. The Tweets are connected together by one long curve that gives some sense of order. The horizontal axis is days. The vertical axis is time of day, with Noon somewhere in the middle. So most of these Tweets were posted in the afternoon.

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Clicking on a Tweet opens it. This box currently has the last 1000+ Tweets that I’ve posted to Twitter on it. We imaging that, as with Timecard, its value as an object increases as the content on it grows. I wonder what my daughter would make of this kind of object if she inherited in the future. How would it compare to inheriting my diaries?

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NOTEBOOK 98-3 « LEBBEUS WOODS

Lebbeus Woods, the architect, has started a series of posts on his notebooks. It sounds like this was a practice he went through and “finished” at some point, before moving on to other ways of working. That’s a little disappointing and goes against what I see as a lifetime practice. Still, I guess that depends on what activity replaced this form of sketching. Probably another form of sketching.

I loved this quote:

“Notebooks are portable. They can be kept secret, or published. Technically, they are simple to make. Pen and paper. The hand, eye, and thought. Freed from any sort of burdensome apparatus, thought becomes more agile in confronting itself.”

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NOTEBOOK 98-3 « LEBBEUS WOODS

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