Event: Technology 2.0

A belated transcription of my notes from last Thursday’s InSync event in London. Already there are flickrs up about it. So remiss!

In summary, a very enjoyable evening, one which I appreciated more than the last one as the topic actually dealt with innovations in technology rather than a nod to interaction amid a disproportionate amount of bumph about advertising.

Dave Green brought together a bunch of people who were at SxSW and eTech and asked them to re-present truncated versions of their talks for those of us unable (too lazy?) to go to America this year. Speakers included: Nic and Dom Ludlum from Promise.tv, Tom Armitage from New Statesman and Nature, Liz Turner (an information designer), Charles Armstrong from TrampolineSystems.com, Dan Catt from the recently flickr-acqured Geobloggers.com and Yoz Grahame from Ning. It was a full night.

From the beginning:
Nic and Dom Ludlum
The pair of brothers presented their 7-day streamingHDD-like video recorder. They argued that video recorders changed the consumption of television (time-shift control, alternative broadcast stream) while DVD and PVR were essentially an extension of taping. Freeview, on the other hand, was “arguably Greg Dyke’s most stunning achievement,” changing the model from being subscription-based to open access.

With their box, “you’re in a time machine, in a video…You can go back to Tuesday”. It records 18 channels for seven days (including radio), over 2,000 programmes. Yes, including all of the graveyard shift bumph that people don’t watch anyway.

They tried to attempt an explanation about how this new tech might affect social viewing habits, but they briefly glossed over it, suggesting that what they’d created was “an impersonal video recorder”. It would have an impact on viewing habits – we’d watch less TV, particularly less live TV, and because of the time shift, the quality of what we watch would go up.

Hmmm. Must Catch TV – but must we? I don’t want to be a slave to the boob tube and prefer instead to drop out of that cultural morass in favour of other forms of – more interactive – entertainment.

I wanted to know how this would integrate with web content, as they proposed that most of the news we get in from radio. Eh? I get my news from the Web.

In future, they proposed that this machine would leverage social software concepts a la a network efect with freinds (share playlists, watchlists etc.).

For those who Must Have It, it will retail at about the same rate as a plasma tv. I don’t care enough about what’s on the telly to get it and don’t want to be its slave.

Tom Armitage
“From Paddles to Pads” – computer game controllers and “why they suck”.
Is controller design killing creativity in videogames?

Caveat – he’s not a game designer or an interaction designer, but he’s been playing games since year dot and is coming from a consumer’s perspective.

He believes that the problem with gaming is that the software’s too same-y. Particularly, a thing which is the same is the GUI – the controllers. Controllers make the assumption that you’ve used a joypad before and, consequently, you’re a gamer. Once again, games designers are making games for gamers.

Why should the controls stop people from enjoying the games?

Bushnell – founder of Atari and creator of Pong – says “people are interface phobic”. he likes the transparent interface.

Play is not foreign, the controller is.

But what about the incredible rise and rise of computer games? Well, removing population growth and double ownership from the latest statustics, Tom argues that the figure of 31-32% of homes with a console has remained stable since 1990 to the present day.

Games controllers are uninspiring to developers. We’ve pushed A to jump for nearly 20 years. He raises two games which have challenged the concept of control in recent years: Metroid Prime and Killer 7. These games (which incidentally I found extremely frustrating) muck around with the controller, so a new finger language is required to play them.

Furthermore, joypads are biased towards right-handedness.

These two areas form boundaries for game development.

Finally, GUI is often the last thing designed for – how can you develop a game and leave the interface to last?

Why can we not find the Uncanny Valley for interactivity?

Perhaps the problem is that game designers tend to be programmers, whereas interaction designers tend to be artists. Can the twain meet?

Lights at the end of the tunnel:
Nintendo Revolution
ARGs – play is pervasive: people use other technologies (mobile, bluetooth etc). The ARG is on the rise.

Liz Turner
Liz’s presentation was a demo of her tool which takes tags from Harper’s Weekly Review and reproduces them visually in a way which shows connections in news stories as covered by that particular site. She has created an interactive browser for linear timelines in Harper’s coverage of world news. Of course, at the end there was much enthusiasm about where else it might be used…

Harper’s has been a rich database of news in bitesize chunks since 2000. There are 600 keywords (and, therefore 600 timelines in Liz’s tool).

Key Questions (this is the result of her MA): How do people experience the passing metadata? How do people experience that on a Cartesian scale/visualisation?
How do they experience that in iconography?

Answer: Tools must contribute to user experience.

Charles Armstrong
Charles is a “social antrhropologist turned technology entrepreneur”.
Title: How a small island held tohe key to better collaborative filtering

Charles spent a year on the tiny island of St. Agnes doing an ethnographic case study of communication patterns amongst the 80 residents. Key interests: distributing, constructing and archiving information.

He noted how efficient an unspoken system was in getting news to relevant people with few wrongly-placed hits. The groups appeared to be authorisation mechanisms which govered how information was relayed. These groups pooled intelligence on who needs to know something and who’s best placed to pass it on. They functioned as a target for relaying information. Each person and each group is identified with certain semantic “triggers” that activate relaying behaviour. “further away” two people are in a social network, the higher the threshold for relaying relevant information.

He turned this knowledge into technology for business applications, providing solutions for non-relevant guff (like collaborative scoring a la Digg and /.).

The tool take the message and
*indexes contents
*finds semantic trigger matches
*seeks authorisation
*evaluates the social network (filtering)
*notes recipient preferences (e.g., weekly, email)

I wonder if it could deal with live data – i.e., transcripts from synchronous chat.

Dan Catt
This presentation scared me. I don’t want to think that I can be tracked vevery second of every day. And that all my new technology fun will be laced with GPS trackware…

Dan introduced (to me) the concept of GeoTagging, or, how to get location-based information into GeoRSS. So, for example, if you like only one part of Paris you can subscribe to podcasts from that area. You will not know about any other podacsts until that podcaster happens to pass through that area.

Why capture this inofmration? Adds context to time, allows you to relate to ther people, documents events, helps you to find keys (maps your desktop), and it’s fun.

Another use: “loads of people took pictures at this point in time and in this GPS zone. Some thing interesting is happening/happened here”.

More from the horse’s mouth here.

Finally, Yoz
Yoz demo’d (and finally made sense of) Ning, “A springboard for New Social Software”.

The screencast of Yoz’s talk from eTech is here or here.

The idea is that it’s “instant” social software, allowing non-developers the application and tools needed to create and share web apps (including add code). It’s a kind of code sandbox. It’s easy to clone apps you like.

He then whipped out a bunny rabbit thing called a Nabaztag which detects wireless networks, and can do funny things with its ears when prompted by Ning apps. Kat loved this.

More coverage from Tom Morris and Geoff Jones.

~ by aleks on March 28, 2006.

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