LIFT07: Embracing the real world's messiness, Fabien Girardin

He's an engineer/researcher into ubicomp and HCI. What's the reality of the integration of tech into our everyday life?

Fabien getting messyShows a sign asking room residents to shut a bathroom when having a shower, to avoid setting off a fire alarm. The vision of ubicomp is to be "seamless", invisible, and calm. Seamless access to ambient connectivity isn't here (err what about GSM) and may never be.

Automatic doors have sensors in various places: foot, top of door, etc. Watch people interact with them: the doors usually don't react the way people want. People wave their hands at the top of the door to activate the sensor: imperfect interactions with the door, in a controlled environment today. Despite the money spent, the company implementing this has failed to give people what they want.

The world is messy. Infrastructures which we rely on need to be maintained: they break down. Heterogeneity: we have agreed standards but they don't necessarily interop, look at remote controls. Technologies co-exist: we're building a Babel-like tower of technologies which collaborate and compete.

Who owns ubicomp resources? Even if the facilities (e.g. power) are there, that doesn't mean we have permission to use them. Look at power sockets on trains in the UK, for instance.

There's cultural bias. Fabien hasn't worked out how to use UK taps to mix hot and cold water. We're unpredictable: how do we develop context-aware ambient intelligence to deeply get into our own behaviour?

Automatic door arc"Seamful design" seeks to reveal the limits, boundaries and uncertainties of ubicomp: reveals the seams. Shows a game which displays the uncertainties of LBS on a small screen. Shows a sign in Barcelona which tells you there's a CCTV camera in the location, and also how far its coverage extends: so you know where the surveilled area is. Shows an automatic door which has a mark on the floor showing its radius, so users can tell where it will open to.

Co-existence with technologies is about accommodation and appropriation. Technologies need to be customisable, not just graceful.

Seamlessness is the exception: messiness can't be ignored, we need to design technologies with this in mind. Do we really want to live in a calm world?

A fantastic talk, I wish he could have spoken for longer.