Exploring the Future of Interactive Products
Jim Budd, Associate Professor Dale Evernden, Research Assistant School of Interactive Arts and Technology | Simon Fraser University,
Surrey Technology Creeps In
At the Computer Human Interaction Congress in The Hague in 2000, John Thackara, the director of Doors of Perception, the international conference and knowledge network for information and communication technologies, opened his keynote address with what then appeared to be a very speculative series of questions:
“What happens to society when there are hundreds of microchips for every man, woman, and child on the planet? What cultural consequences follow when every object around us is ‘smart’ and connected? And what happens psychologically when you step into the garden to look at the flowers— and the flowers look at you?” John Thackara, 2000
Much has transpired over the past three years to move us surprisingly close to this vision. New innovations in networked wireless technology have created a host of exciting new developments in the field of interactive product design. The following list that was reported in the June 25, 2003, edition of the Vancouver Sun is indicative of the extent wireless has crept into our lives:
- Point-of-sales devices like wireless credit card readers now allow business transactions anywhere
- Location-based services like Bell’s nearest restaurant finder cost 25 cents a call while Rodgers even more accurate GPS-enabled phones allow you to pay your parking meter fee on your cell
- Office services allow your office information like e-mail, customer orders, and forms to be available wherever your travel.
- Digital cameras built into cell phones let you shoot and send travel and business photos to other phones or computers.
The real surprise, however, is how prevalent these technologies have become in so short a period of time. How many of us would have guessed that 16 million camera phones were sold worldwide in 2002 while projections indicate this will rise to 147 million by 2007… and perhaps even more surprising, how many of us are aware that on-line gaming now takes up more than 50 percent of all wireless data traffic.
Another good indicator of the relevance of Thackara’s questions can be found in work underway at Philips. In the article, “Experience Counts,” Irene McWilliam provides insight into the ideas behind what Philips is calling their Ambient Intelligence initiative. According to McWilliam, Philips has been working with the concept of ambient intelligence for some time now. Originally known as ubiquitous computing, its aim was to disperse the inherent intelligence available in the PC throughout the user environment. More recent growth of the Internet, coupled with the advent of wireless technologies like Bluetooth, has brought the possibility of truly distributed intelligence closer then ever. This notion of distributing technology into the users’ environment takes full advantage of networked wireless capabilities and along with these developments comes the necessity to explore more natural modes of interaction… including speech, touch, gesture, as well as changes in light and temperature.