Small Recap

To share a few of the highlights since last time, we have among other things been working with sports stuff in our Bell Lab. The bracelet prototype is slowly coming together, although since new tech is already around the corner (Android Wear) it might be wise to keep the design process and sketches but put the tech prototyping on hold.

About a month ago we had our first meetup here at Mobile Life. We arranged it together with Ziggy Creative Colony on the theme of Researching and experiencing a connected future. We had almost fifty people visiting us and we had a few really good talks followed by pizza, beer, snacks and mingle. We even offered a preview of Insbits Studio, which *almost* worked at the time. Live coding can be tricky sometimes - especially if everything hinges around one poorly charged battery. Lesson learned.

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Fortunately we got another chance to show off how to connect many devices to each other through Insbits Studio at the annual SICS Open House. That’s where we used the steel wire. Everything worked smoothly despite new seemingly random and extremely weird bugs appearing. Server froze and wireless connectivity got saturated among other things.

With the student course work over its time to prepare for the CHI conference in Vancouver where we will present our paper on the topic of “Taking Things Apart” !

When a demo has to work - attaching things with steel wire!

When a demo has to work - attaching things with steel wire!

Quite a few things are happening now when the new year has started. While I’m continuing working on aspects related to running and fringe sports throughout the spring, my new project within the material explorations track is called Revisit. In short the new projects seeks to go back a few years, to before the smartphone and bring back a few of the prototypes and concepts into current light of things. What if we got a second chance to re-design, re-evaluate, re-shape concepts using current technology and thinking? Will the ideas still hold? Will they transform into new or radically different concepts? Have any other technology replaced them or even surpassed them? Are the research questions still valid? What new critique have emerged? There are many many questions to ask and address in a project like this, but the fundamental challenge is - what can and could have been achieved in a second development cycle, something that is seen as a bit of luxury and even unnecessary in terms of research. My hunch is that if the new trend of materials and materiality are right then revisiting older projects could and should be done more regularly and perhaps even in a quite systematic way.  

Thesis about to be printed

Thesis about to be printed

When all Pieces Fall in Place

Today it finally happened. On Friday I received the final document needed to submit the thesis to print. Today I went to the printing office and handed it in. Realized that I didn’t yet got an ISBN number but that solved itself eventually by emailing a bit back and forth.

Back in Kista I had my first real blood deposit. It was quite exciting and I finally know my real blood group for the first time. It was not what I had assumed since the biology lab-experiments back in school. The needle was a bit bigger than expected so good that I’m not really afraid of doing this. I got a scratch lottery ticket, juice, nuts and sandwich, a pin the shape of a blood drop and two dozens of iron pills. Since it was my first time I had to stay under observation for ten minutes so that they could check that I was OK. The overall feeling is very positive and it matters to me to be able to help others even if it seems like the most trivial thing.

Back at the office I continued collecting data about people running at night. Suddenly I get all the answers I’m looking for and more. I have come to realize that I’m arriving at a sweet-spot where ActDresses turns into ActDresses 2.0 by turning the wheel around so that technology makes people act. Perhaps a bit of Goffman, but my realization that technology empowers people in this way blows my mind. I did not expect this.

And then I just discovered neopixels as round LED-rings! I’m jumping up and down at the moment and cant wait to go down to the galleria and buy a few.

The Process

For the past few weeks we have slowly been trying to build a proper interaction design hardware lab-space. At the same time there has been an interesting test run of the formal procedure of applying for having a Ph.D defense. It involves things like suddenly collecting all course-work, writing a proper Ph.D plan (final one, second one in total) and submitting loads of physical copies of documents as well as carefully filled in new documents. By email and in brown institutional envelopes. Sometimes this process feel quite arbitrary and sometimes it is surprisingly rigorous. For weeks now I have been waiting for some sort of confirmation. The process is not a transparent box, its rather the black box version. Not only is it the first and only time I will do this, it is the first time for most people involved. Hopefully there will be time for drawing some lessons learned from it.

Hopefully this was the quirk to it and that everything from now on runs smoothly. It would be a shame to waste all energy on such matters rather than on more creative things, like doing actual research. And write some. And work on energy harvesting, sports and tinkering stuff!

Giving Blood

About the experience of giving blood. Well, since it was my first time it is of course a test run. But then I have no problem with either needles or the sight of blood so it seemed like a very good idea. Foremost, its just one small way of helping others and one of those things that in a nice way captures true human altruism. I wish we could learn more from such environments in our pursue for human centered technological advances. After a long stretch of thesis work, it is time to heal and heal others.

Exploring the Shadows

I finally made up my mind and got myself a pair of barefoot running shoes. It was a nice experience trying them out in the outdoor sports shop. It immediately felt right and for a second the social awkwardness didn’t exist. The finger socks felt kind of interesting, and when I bought a few pairs for my wife in Tokyo five years ago, It did not cross my mind that I would one day wear them myself. So in total, one pair of socks and one pair of shoes. I wore them in our apartment for a good two hours before deciding to take them out for a test.

The first round was interesting, It felt a bit strange running on the street so I went for gravel and grass when possible. I was suddenly less constrained and my feet intuitively got me to explore. This is a bit strange, but feeling more shifts focus towards this kind of subtle exploration. This is what technology should do and must be investigated further. Unfortunately my neighborhood have an established elite of casual runners that have set a kind of standard for how the state of the art is done. I must now realize that I have to break with this. This notion of running is indeed a social construct, perhaps not as formalized as soccer or as wild as parkour. But it is obvious that technology, accessories and garments can shift perception and behaviour in interesting ways.

Second run was in the evening, partly lit by street lights and partly almost complete darkness. This extended all of the above but in some sections it would have been nice to have dark vision glasses. I searched around and found that the common solution is a forehead-lamp. Furthermore the experience made me think about how all other senses are strengthened when the visual gets a bit constrained. This was a good run and very few people outside. No other runners only people walking their dogs.

Two ideas: Sensing the unsensable using gloves and some kind of light-enhancing light glasses.

Walking Researcher

Yesterday was day zero in terms of doing any kind of directed effort regarding my own bodily physical activities. I am interested in how technology could subtly encourage overcoming this threshold. What is needed for someone (like myself) to take the step and go out and take a fast walk/jogging/running session? Anyway, I put on the outfit, I went out started walking. I switched on an Android app called RunKeeper to keep track of my effort. After walking a bit I started running up a hill. 50 meters later I was exhausted and walked again for a few minutes. Then I ran for another 100 meters before pacing down into a fast walk again. One hour in total and I had managed a toll of 7km. Funny last time (couple of years ago) I tried this I did much better. This was a sad story, but also good in some way. It feels a bit uncomfortable with all these people around. I would prefer an empty quiet track in the woods.

Anyway, I thought to myself “any supporting tech better add some really good level of excitement, even if it is just initial”. I would love to try this with five-finger shoes or something that lets me feel the ground a bit more. I did not use any music, and I wanted to take in the nature/environment. I reacted strongly towards smell - I do not like moving into a cigarette-smoke cloud - especially when exercising. Someone had painted something under a bridge, so it smelled like paint solvents. Furthermore, I felt the urge or motivation to engage in physical activities like this one so that I would become more fit in order to help others. How can I get a surplus of energy and feel better?

Have I changed my diet? No, not really, but I do tend to skip some meals and I try to eat better and smaller portions. Not sure yet what better is, but more tasteful, natural and less synthetic stuff. My thoughts are that feeling a bit hungry could be a good thing. I need to loose about 10kg, but I also want to keep eating a variety of natural, good and tasty food. That said, I’m suddenly more aware of the things that I eat. I try to listen to my body rather than eat by routine. If it screams sugar I (usually) resist and anything else I give it a little rather than until stuffed. If anything I try to make sure to drink properly and go for salads without dressing.

Unboxing Event at Mobile Life