Here is another in my series on SXSW events. I am pleased to be attending SXSW for the first time. I am grateful for Adobe Acrobat for enabling me to attend. I will be attending some Adobe sponsored sessions. As I do with other events I will be posting my notes from most of the sessions I attend. This is the keynote session on Ambient Location and the Future of the Interface led by Amber Case. Here is the session description.
“Amber Case is a cyborg anthropologist and user experience designer from Portland, Oregon. She has been featured in Forbes, WIRED, and many other publications, both in the United States and around the world. Her main focus is mobile software, augmented reality and data visualization, and reducing the amount of time and space it takes for people to connect. Case founded Geoloqi.com, a powerful platform for real-time location based services, out of a frustration with existing social protocols around text messaging and wayfinding. Case has spoken at TED on technology and humans and was featured in Fast Company 2010 as one of the Most Influential Women in Technology. She’s worked with Fortune 500 companies at Wieden+Kennedy and on major applications at Vertigo Software. She is @caseorganic on Twitter.”
Amber has been described as a person from the future who has come back to help us figure things out. She said we are all cyborgs with our smart phones. A cyborg is an organism with new stuff added to adapt to new environments. In the past most tools were extensions of the physical self like hammers. These physical tools have changed very little over time. But now tools are extensions of our mind and their form is instable and dynamic. She is interested in how interfaces have evolved over time. Now buttons can move around on liquid screens.
A traditional anthropologist goes out elsewhere. A cyborg anthropologists uses tools themselves. The devices are larger on the inside than the outside. You can put lots of stuff in your smart phone and its does not get heavier. Someone printed out what was on smart phone and it was over two thousand pounds.
She spent some time at the Banff Institute of Arts and filed up a whole wall with contacts that were on her smart phone. My daughter is a writer and has to my workshops there. She said it would her ideal place to live. The Egyptians put their content in stone so we still have lots of it. There is the danger of having everything on electronic as we can loss it. I have done this as I crashed a hard drive that was not backed up and have a back up now that I hope works. Also things can massively fill up like thousands of emails in your inbox.
Cell phones are the new cigarettes. Twitter can be the same. I have written about this. (see Is Twitter Like Going Out for a Smoke?) People stop at bus stops and light up their cell phone. I can really agree with this. She showed a box to put over yourself so you can have privacy with your cell phone call.
She showed Steve Mann recording everything he did for two years and he wrote a paper on it. One of the things he hated was the need to stoop over your computer. So he built a computer than fit his body and blocked out ads. It weighed eighty pounds. By 1998 it was in his sun glasses, as decreased the size. He also put in a contextual system to do things like remind he to get milk when he was near the store. This was before GPS.
At Xerox Park in 1970s there was the idea of calm technology that worked in the background. Your actions triggered things. There was a compass belt that buzzed in the direction of North. The person who used this felt he had a better sense of direction. This can now be integrated with GPS for automated direction without taking your attention off the highway.
A friend tracked his every move and speed for several years and could look back at what he did. She set up a smart device where her phone turned off and on lights so she never came home to dark house. She put in a geofence to wake her up when the bus came to her stop to wake her up so you can sleep on the bus. My grandfather could have used this. My grandfather was a country doctor in Oklahoma before it was a state. He used a horse and buggy to do rounds and after 30 or more hours on rounds we would throw the reins over the horses knew the way home and he would sleep. So he got the first car in the county. The problem was he was always falling asleep at the wheel since the car did not know the way home. Fortunately the roads were wagon ruts so the car would just stall in the rut and he would curse it. He was about to go back to the horses when he got the idea of teaching his daughter to dire the car. She came along and drove it after he got too tried. He could
Amber also used a gepofence to bring up the wikipedia articles about the places near here. I know of a training company in Singapore. CEOlutions, that has combined GPS with learning and is doing well educating people about the history of parts of Singapore. (see CEOLutions Integrates Mobile with GPS for Location-based Learning)
Someone put in restaurant inspection scores of Portland restaurant inspection scores in an app so you can see what not to eat. Amber found out she was eating some of the wrong things.
Her conclusion is that the best technology is invisible that just let’s you do your life unlike the 80 pound device that Steve Mann lugged around.
It was asked how do you combine the best of analog and digital? Answer: Experimentation and play.