Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Interaction Design for Objects and Spaces

Nothing like reflecting over a holiday break to get you to fire up the old blog in the new year! This time it’s an inspiring studio I taught this past fall at the California College of the Arts’ Interaction Design department. I taught the course, Interaction Design for Objects and Spaces, with a couple of IDEO colleagues, Brad Simpson and Marco Triverio. As a fervent believers in the blurring between the digital and physical worlds, it was fun for all of to see how that intersection would unfold over the course of three projects with the inaugural class of the first interaction design students program on the West Coast. It was a studio that revealed the emerging potential of this new discipline of interaction design for the physical environment, and push us to push things forward. The focus of the studio was on iterative prototyping, primarily with Arduino where it intersected with physical making.

There were a lot of standout projects. In the second project, teams of 3-4 students focused on digital/physical experience that would activate the public space of the mid-Market district of SF. Through a series of scrappy physical prototype iterations, many of which happened on the fly, the students evolved their street activation and slowly began to bring it to life with sensors and actuators. 

One project was called MarkIt. The team, William Clark, Kelly Fadem, and William Litvak were exploring what would happen if the physical environment of urban space were tagged with user-generated information, to be retrieved by others for future reference. They explored a more ephemeral system that shared feelings about urban spaces as well as a more Yelp-like review/opinion of urban spaces.

The result was MarkIt, a playful anthropomorphic box that invited pedestrians to leave a comment about a specific location.  Simply push the button to get a thermoprinted prompt. Some of the prompts on the printout included:

   This place reminds me of ___________
   When I’m here I feel __________
   The thing I love / hate about this place is ___________

Each thermoprinted ‘sticker’ also came with a unique number that you could text in order to join the dialogue thread created by each post. 

An incredible first attempt at exploring a new to the world experience that encourages people to share something relevant about their experience of the physical environment of the city in a way that would be easily retrievable by someone else later on in a context specific way.