Ubicomp workshopLIFT 2008: Ubiquitous Computing: visions, failures and new interaction rituals

A special treat, this one: Nicolas Nova, Fabien Girardin & Julian Bleecker.

Intro from Nicolas. Handover to Fabien.

Definition of ubicomp: dissemination and deployment of sensors, information processing, wireless communication in everyday objects and the environment: RFID, Nabaztag, Wi-fi in the home, GPS navigation systems.

Early vision: "The most profound technologies are those that disappear" - Mark Weiser

This evolved into calm technologies: things that "remain in the background and allow users to interact in a calm, engaged manner".

Philips' vision of ambient intelligence: relating to electronics in a more natural and comfortable way, making electronics smart.

Julian: inserting technology into everyday objects (e.g. a baby's pram) runs the risk of overengineering and ignoring social practices.

Failures: recurring crashes, lack of adoption from users, uncertainty, complication practices. Why? Product doesn't match expectations, bad design, poor product vision ("technooptimism"), poor integration into the value chain. It's difficult to differentiate between failure and its reasons.

Activity: write down an example of a tool/tech failure and 1-2 reasons for this situation. I chose 3G video calls (failed because there wasn't much demand and they complicate communication IMHO, rather than making it more lifelike).

Divide into groups: take 3 postits, discuss the idea, reasons for failure, capture these, describe consqeuences.

First group: discussing the ticket machines for the Geneva bus system. Lovely example of appalling design, multiple mis-labelled duplicated areas, horrendous pricing model, etc.


Random quote: "ubicomp should be helping us make a choice, not replacing us".

Next group: electronic book reader. Cons of ebook readers: lack of content, expensive readers, resolution wasn't sufficient enough to make reading enjoyable. There's a big assumption of user behaviour, that the value added by moving to e-books outweighed the inconvenience of carrying your book everywhere. The value of digital content wasn't necessarily the same as the value of digital content. BUT recently there's been a generational shift towards consuming digital content; individuals now have different expectations towards digital media. Kindle is chunky, but will the future be a single device for reading? Or will any device with a screen gravitate towards e-book reading?

Banking is an example where the user normally has no control until an extreme event (fraud detected) occurs.