Archive for the ‘Interaction Design’ Category

Augment yerself

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I’m on the AIMIA Augmented Reality panel tonight. Will be chatting about ARToolkit and the AR work we do at CCS and UTS – Ian Gwilt’s work in particular, as well as my own mixed-reality research and Magic Hopscotch.

Magic Hopscotch

Monday, July 7th, 2008

We’re live! Just in time for the start of the school holidays, Magic Hopscotch is up and running and open to the public at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. The timing is important because this is a prototype of an interactive artwork designed for children. Doreen Ee, my collaborating technologist, put in a magnificent effort to reconfigure the code for the floor pads that control the piece, after we were compelled to rewire them last week. Shan Weiley, my partner and constant collaborator, has started participant observations and we are already getting some wonderful insights. More later, because i’m writing on my phone and more than a few words is painful :) The launch is on thursday the 10th of July from 2-4 pm, email me if you’d like an invitation. Heartfelt thanks also to Deborah Turnbull our erstwhile beta space curator and Matthew Connell at the phm.

Update: now tracking this project at Sky Blue.

Permeating the Magic Circle

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

The inimitable Doug Easterly addressed CCS today on Permeating the Magic Circle – exploring “the physical and conceptual boundaries that demarcate work and real-life from play and game activity”. He’s well known for his artistic practice with SWAMP addressing these very issues. Doug’s research looks into play, drawing on Huizinga’s Homo Ludens and Caillois‘ critiques of it, and of course Czikszentmihalyi on Flow. On that last Doug has formed a beautifully clear exposition of the standard critique of games: that they draw users into a state of Flow not for the high-minded goals of learning or self-actualisation, but instead for the baser purpose of merely keeping them in the game for its own sake, or for the sake of “coin drop” (in the parlance of the video game arcade industry). By drawing out a distinction between flow and device mesmerism, Doug shows that it’s not games, their holding power, or flow itself that is evil – but rather the purposes to which they are put.

The depth of his research is compelling him to dive down into evolutionary psychology, just to find a place to stand… bringing in references from Leda Cosmides [wp], Jared Diamond [wp] and Stephen Pinker [wp]. A PhD is certainly a great excuse to do some absorbing reading.

After the talk we got into an engrossing discussion of  hermetically sealed virtual realities (silly) vs. mixed reality (marvellous), mind/body dualism (outmoded) vs. holism (somewhat more sensible) and absolute transhumanism (fun but overblown) vs. whatever is actually going on (much more complicated, and even more fun). Doug saw an early sketch of the mixed-reality piece I’m currently installing down at the Powerhouse Museum, so I’m hoping to get the computer vision part of it working properly before he heads back to NZ at the end of the week. More about that in another blog post :)

Virtual Gardens for Prototyping

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

While looking for images of Donkey Kong (historical research for the UTS Games Studio, dontcha know) I stumbled across this gem:

Prototyping for Game Feel (v.2)

Including the faboulous step 3:

• Be Shigeru Miyamoto

There’s a nice thoughtful post here (and the rest of the site looks worth a read as well). What caught my eye was the description of Miyamoto’s virtual garden:

“Before any of the levels had been created Mr. Miyamoto had Mario running around and picking up objects in a small ‘garden’ which he uses in all his games to test gameplay elements.”

Miyamoto is noted for finding inspiration for his game designs from his other interests: playing the guitar and gardening. The gamecube game “Pimkin” was based directly on Miyamoto’s actual garden. So for him, it seems that the virtual and real garden are his ba – his own place, a creative source.

Design Transformations at CHI 2008

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

I arrived in Florence last week fairly alert, considering the time difference from Sydney. I’d done the right thing and stayed awake for the last 20 hours of the flight, crashed at my hotel on arrival in the evening and got a good 10 hours sleep before the opening plenary.

It was worth it. I hadn’t heard of Irene McAra-McWilliam (Head of the School of Design at the Glasgow School of Art) before but I’m a fan now. Her speech was uplifting. She wove a tapestry of design history and theory, to come elegantly to the conclusion that designers in a connected world have a responsibility to enable others; to come to some problems not with a solution but with a box of tools.

This is just what I hope to do with my research into creativity support tools, and it’s what I’m seeing in my studies of creative place. I don’t need to design the perfect virtual studio; I need to design an environment with the right parts and the right affordances, to enable inhabitants to configure the perfect studio for their task.

Web3D 2008 Paper on The Design of Virtual Place for Creative Collaboration

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

I managed to put together what I think is a reasonable summary of my unpublished work so far on virtual place, in time for the Web3D 2008 deadline. The writing could of course always do with some polishing, but my main concern is that Web3D tends to be an engineering-focused conference and my paper is on human factors and design. However it is the venue that I want to get into – it’s the engineers that I want to convince! Otherwise we’ll just keep seeing virtual worlds built without real consideration of what it is that is being built – why this set of affordances? Why these cultural choices? So here it is; all anonymised for review but anyone reading this blog already knows my research so no point being coy about it here 😉


Thursday, March 20th, 2008

A quick user experience critique – today let us consider the highly-produced, graphically superior and utterly useless Royal Easter Show web site.

Actors: Shan and me; a mid 30s couple in Sydney, Australia

Task: to discover what is on at the show ("Australia’s biggest event") tomorrow, so that we can plan a day out at the kids. Further, to buy some tickets.

Right. First, there are 16 top-level navigation items, too much to bother reading. Let’s check out Activities for Kids. Hang on, isn’t the entire show pretty much for kids? Apparently not, as this page lists two animal attractions and ice-cream, and gives some line drawings to colour in (the single least creative activity you can induce a child to undertake voluntarily). Alright then, let’s try Visitor Information. Once again, hunh? Isn’t this whole website visitor information? Deeper still there is Essential Information which starts by telling me about a colour supplement that I could have bought in last week’s newspaper, and continues with information about wheelchair charging stations (certainly essential to some, so why not put it under Accessibility Information, where those with an interest could have found it?), plus some scattered info on buses and taxis (put here rather than the adjacent Transport and How to Get to the Show links for, I suppose, kicks.

At least there is a map here. We can see it’s a PDF, so fortunately right-click and Save the file instead of a left-click which would attempt to load it in the browser. I say fortunately, because this 1.1MB file first stalls, and then on the second attempt takes half an hour to download on our broadband connection. When we get it, it’s formatted for an A3 printer. Dear Easter Show – very few people have an A3 printer. Fortunately we can scale it down and print it to A4.

Aha – on the home page we spot a link entitled My Show Planner. Excellent! Except that clicking it rewards us only with Server Error in ‘/Planner’ Application. Microsoft .NET Framework Version:1.1.4322.2300 (etc.)

More looking around… under About the 2008 Show (isn’t the whole site about the 2008 show? What is with these names?) we can see Daily highlights. Bravo! A comprehensive list of what’s on, when and where. Only it’s for today, and the show closed for today hours ago, and there is no link to the schedule for tomorrow.

OK, let’s buy a ticket, and find out how much the rides are. I’m getting as tired of this as you are, so I’ll just say quickly that the Ticket Information page doesn’t tell you where you can buy them, and certainly doesn’t sell them online, and that five clicks down, you can find out that ride coupons are a dollar each, but not how many coupons you need for a ride. Fine – time to sleep. Bah!

A Pale Shadow of Reality: Virtuality as a Second-Best Option

Friday, March 14th, 2008

This rant kicks off with a Tech Republic article on telepresence that was linked in the February ’08 Litmus. I’m reading Litmus because the lovely people at ACID have been kind enough to chip in on my research, and they went to the trouble of putting it together, so it’s clearly something I ought to be doing. Fortunately it’s an interesting read, at least to someone of my peculiar interests.

The linked article on the other hand, while being bang-on to my research topic, only serves to annoy me. It’s not that the article is wrong; it’s more that it expresses a widely-held but misconceived view of what telepresence is for and how it should be developed.

The headline sums it up nicely: Telepresence: The next best thing to being there. This reminds me of the early Virtual Reality hype. The idea is that the aim is to perfectly replicate what we already have – perfect photo-realism! Stereo vision! Touch! Taste! It’s what Baudrillard might call the simulator’s obsession with reality. And since we’ll never quite perfectly simulate reality until we have Gibsonian neural interfaces, then whatever we make will always be second best.

No need to draw this out. I am tired of this obsession. Reality is interesting, but human minds do not need to be tricked into a full sensory illusion in order for a technology to be useful. Text is immersive, when well written. Bodies moving in space is part of it, but it’s not the whole ball of wax. We construct our everyday mixed realities as we inhabit our own minds while simultaneously modeling the minds of those around us; considering our own context and the other contexts available to other people and systems that we are connected to. And not only in the moment; we include the potential availability of other connected realities, for example when we plan to pick up the phone when we get off an aeroplane.

Telepresence is its own thing; augmenting and interoperating with our other modes of communication and interaction just like the telephone and the post. It does not need to perfectly mimic reality, any more than virtual environments must be “virtual reality” (in the sense of realism). This conflation with realism is why I don’t use the term VR. I prefer VE, or even Ivan Sutherland’svirtual worlds” when talking about a self-contained virtual place. But really the key for me is that unless you’re planning to wipe your users’ brains and create for them an entirely new self-contained context then you’re never making a new reality, you’re just making something that will be part of the rich and multifaceted realities that we already inhabit.

Honours Research Report

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

My Honours Research Report is here (9.5 MB PDF). Tomorrow I’ll be demoing the VR model of Utzon’s studio in Hallebæk born from a practice-based enquiry into the nature of collaborative place, one of the studies described in the report. So now, to bed 😉

Honours research presentation

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Here are the slides from my presentation today, in HTML (with nice navigation buttons but maybe too big for some screens), and in Flash (click to go forwards, no way to go back, but automatically fits your screen).

If you’d like to print it out, here is the low-res (1.6 MB) PDF, or the high-res (10.3 MB) PDF  (40 slides on 5 pages).