Designed to be made

August 29, 2006


The previous post about Chumby reminded me about 2 other Human Interface controllers that have never broken through to the mainstream. First, Lemur, (shown here on the right) which is a multi-touch screen with customisable interface design. The other is monome (below), which is ‘a reconfigurable grid of sixty-four backlit buttons’.

Both devices are aimed at the music and visual performance sector, though there is no reason why their application is not more wide spread. The price points are high for the casual purchaser, but the opportunities for media interaction are incredibly diverse. These are devices designed to be reinvented by the user.

The unholy trinity of mouse, keyboard and screen are modes of interaction that have been ushered into the mainstream use of communications, using office mechanics (namely, Word processing) to engage home audiences to participate in media collaboration and co-production, mainly around Text (blogs), Video (Vlogs) and Audio (Podcasting).

http://monome.org/ As data is made more and more available, the ability to use data will rise, and the way the audience will make use of data has yet to be realised. Already, through the use of RSS, we are seeing Mashup web projects, numerous web2.o concepts that make good use of available commercial and public domain data. Yet, these services, which are now being to look like each other (how many individual Google Map projects need branding?).

Data is there to be used as the life blood to systems, systems that make our lives more ‘enjoyable’.

For example, have a look at the Lego alarm clock (below right) by Greg Mccarroll. Greg is genius. Built from code, data and lego, his alarm clock knows when his train will be late, adjust the alarm time acordinly so that he doesn’t hang around the railway station in the cold, and emails his boss if the train is really late – leaving him to sleep on, if required. Full details (and it’s a brilliant read, like the rest of his blog) here.

Ideo have had a fair run at inventing gadgets over the past 20 years, many have failed due to pursuing proprietary code lock-outs/lock-ins. Apple succeed with the Ipod because they know how to sell ‘lifestyle’. The Ipod/iTunes offering is closed off and thus doesn’t offer possibilities for the audience to integrate their (iTune) music collection with the rest of their lifestyle – it just acts like a 70′s disco chest medallion. Even with the newly announced Sony Mylo these ‘mistakes’ are still being played out.

What is required is flexible hardware to work with the flexibility of software and the reuse value of code. Manufactures who offer this will begin to have a larger influence over the communication and network industries because the sum effort of the ‘audience as community’ is the driver for the telcom and information sectors. This raises the question about the current relationship that the manufacturing industries has with the audience. Perhaps the over reliance of User Focus Groups (run traditionally by marketing departments) is the problem. If focus groups do bring value to ‘product design’, where is it? A focus group will not see/think of the other possibilities for an invention, they are there to provide feedback on the quality of the object in front of them. Why not have the audience involved with product development instead of concept testing? Why cant marketing be the facilitators of a value-adding process BEFORE the release of a product?

Design, at it’s best, is evolutionary, and if that factor is not embodied into the product – as a feature – then you should expect a product to face extinction.

5 Responses to “Designed to be made”


  1. Speaking of multi-touch interfaces, I was blown away the other day from Jeff Han’s mutli-touch research. http://cat.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/index.html


  2. Speaking of multi-touch interfaces, I was blown away the other day from Jeff Han’s multi-touch research. Amazing stuff await us. http://cat.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/index.html


  3. Hi Petros!
    Indeed, that’s stunning research work and great to see the OSC protocol being used. How large scale screens translate to consumer products is the question. The Microsoft tablet gizmo didn’t realy capture the imagination nor the desire for daily ‘office’ use. Until the development of software for these interfaces goes beyond the gestural through to information manipulation, will there be a need for large scale touch screens?


  4. [...] Petros and I have been discusing, on and off the blog, about multi-touch screen interfaces. Whilst tidying my bloglines folders, I spotted that Sam Court from Preloaded had posted the Jeff Han presentation from this years TED show. [...]

  5. zero Says:

    I ran across your site while just surfing around, wanted to say hi and I like the blog


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