Exploring the ‘Human’ Aspect of Interactive Products
Jim Budd, Dale Evernden, and Jason Boileau | Simon Fraser University, Surrey
Design in Everyday Life: Responding to Technological and Social Change
The new millennium marked a significant shift in the role of design in society…and now more recent
innovations in ubiquitous computing have created exciting new opportunities for the application of
interactive technologies. This paper examines evolving issues of design in everyday life with a focus on the opportunity to leverage design research methodologies to reconcile the relationship between people and emerging technology. John Heskett, the design historian, identifies this approach with the emergence of hybrid forms of practice where designers as enablers use the possibilities of information technology and powerful miniaturized systems to provide users with the means to adapt forms and systems to their own purposes.
Animating Rover is a case study that begins to explore the potential for creating more user-friendly
tangible interface options for ubiquitous computing environments with a focus on user awareness in order to facilitate appropriate response. The original concept for Rover was presented at the IDSA National Education Conference in Lafayette, Louisiana, by Andy Runton a graduate student at Georgia Tech. As part of his thesis project titled “Products with Personality,” Andy redesigned a ‘happy-go-lucky’ radio with the personality attributes of an energetic young puppy to demonstrate the viability of a systematic method to develop Products with Personality by drawing on the skills and methods typically utilized in the field of Character Animation (see Figure 1). It was obvious at a glance that his new radio, Rover, was in fact yearning to spring to life; however, from a technical perspective in 1999, that challenge seemed to be rather speculative.
Over the past five years, advances in technology have changed all that. The latest wave of wireless communication and mobile computing devices have become an indispensable part of daily life for many of us… and now these new technologies have begun to fundamentally change the way we learn, work and play. The cell phone, for example, helps keep us connected to our friends and colleagues. But we can also use the cell phone to communicate with other devices. We can leave messages for our friends and colleagues, we can check e-mail, and we can surf the ‘net. We now have the ability to embed sensor technology in virtually all products that we produce. Based on these developments, we can even use our cell phones to buy a soft drink from a vending machine and pay the parking meter. If we stop to think, it becomes readily apparent that we are in effect beginning to develop an active dialogue with a new generation of ‘smart’ machines designed to facilitate our daily lives. At the same time it should be obvious that our primary interface—the diminutive keyboard on the cell phone—sadly lacks the capability to support the fluid level of communication that would seem more appropriate for the new mobile technologies.