This Happened…

I was lucky enough to attend the 2nd “This Happened” event, an evening of designers presenting the stories behind their interaction design projects. This is a great idea; you get to see the thought and design process, the problems and successes of the project unfolding.

I though Karsten Schmidt’s talk about his tangible user interface for the London College of Fashion graduate show was really impressive.

The show is basically a recruitment event, so users are looking to walk away with a selection of cards for the designers they are interested in. From the users point of view, you select designers cards then place them on the tables to bring up and explore the portfolios.

reacTIVision Setup

It’s using ReacTIVision for image recognition of symbols printed on the back of designers cards, using the identity and orientation information to explore the appropriate portfolio. The software is setup for this and other multi-touch table applications, and one of the interesting things for me was that it chucks out the data in a defined format TUIO over the OpenSoundControl protocol; this kind of abstraction is a great indication of how it was possible for it to be integrated easily to do the whole project in under a month! Great work.

Crispin Jones talked about his USB device, Tengu. This was particularly interesting as he’s been working with SolidAlliance who also make USB things I saw on my trip to Japan; most notibly the USB Sushi Disk and USB Humping Dog.

He talked through the design process, and interestingly some of the more advanced features it did support (like sending text to it from the PC) before agreeing the final design with the manufacturers. The final design responds to audio using a microphone, with no communication with the PC (primarially to avoid needing software on the PC); this confirms yet again that USB is a power standard first, and a communications standard second!

Massimo Banzi talked about the development of Arduino, a microcontroller board for interaction designers. It was great to see as a lot of what he talked about aligned with our observations while developing mbed (which is Chris’ and my little project aimed at enabling rapid prototyping with microcontrollers). They’ve now setup tinker.it to take this stuff further which sounds like a great idea.

I think the potential when designers and web hackers get hold of microcontrollers is awesome. I’m sure the real innovations in utilising electronics and software will come from those without electronics and software expertise. It is designers that will explore interaction and tangile interfaces, and web developers who will hack mashups that start spilling over to the physical world. My aim with mbed is to help us get nearer to that!

Check out the 2nd “This Happened” event archive for details of all the talks, and links to some photos where you can see a lot of the slides.

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