3D printed mold for silicone parts with embedded LED’s

Categories Design, Technology
silicone-molding-3d-print
Getting ready to make some multi-coloured LED buttons using a 3D printed mold.

As part of the design of a digital instrument I was working on, I wanted to have a grid of square soft-touch silicone buttons that could light up in any colour using RGB LED’s. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find existing buttons that fit the size specifications that I needed in the design. The solution: cast my own silicone buttons using a 3D printed mold.

silicone-rgb-led
Testing light diffusion against various thicknesses and densities of silicone to inform the mold depth. Most good suppliers should have samples like this, the battery powered light I simply ripped out of a cheap RGB LED toy.

The 3D printed mold

Since this was a prototype, I was able to be creative with how I fabricated the components. The idea I landed on was to cast the buttons with the LED’s already inside them. There were a few benefits to this:

  1. The was mold significantly less complicated, because it could be achieved with a single piece of material
  2. The LED provided good leverage for easy mold release
  3. Air bubbles had plenty of surface area to escape from and barely anything to get stuck underneath*

*I mixed a few batches of silicone, varying the amount of catalyst slightly: in some of the ‘harder’ mixes the bubbles were caught underneath the LED pins.

led-embedded-silicone-button
RGB LED suspended in 3D printed mold, waiting to be filled with silicone

I got the set of molds 3D printed in Melbourne through my good friends at 3DPE – who not only turned around the parts quickly (I was in a rush), but offered invaluable advice on things like layer height, layer orientation and surface finish, all things which would transfer to the silicone surface. Experimentation was half the fun.

I made the files for the mold by simply taking the CAD drawings I had of my variously sized buttons and subtracting them from prisms.

Once I had the molds, it was just a matter of suspending the RGB LED’s in place (by bending their legs and using some tape) and slowly pouring in the silicone mix.

3d-printed-molds-silicone
3D printed mold with the silicone poured in. Most of the air bubbles slowly work their way out, however a vibrating table would have helped.

Testing out the lights

Once I had my first test button (which came out a little deformed as I removed it from the mold too early) I grabbed a breadboard and quickly hooked up the light to an arduino, and got it cycling through the rainbow.

button-rgb-led
Testing the embedded RGB LED diffused through the custom made silicone button.
Testing the button tolerance against the lasercut steel face plate

The final result

Happy with the experiments above and confident that I’d be able to cast better quality buttons as I got the hang of the process, I had additional molds 3D printed. This sped up the cycle times between pour and cure by increasing the batch sizes I was producing (I needed to get a total of 3 sets of 25 buttons, one for each prototype).

I ended up casting far more silicone buttons than actually made the cut, this was because a) I still had some things to figure out about how to mix and cast effectively b) Some of the silicone didn’t cure properly, leading to deformation c) I didn’t have an effective way to release all of the trapped air from inside the silicone mixture.

Through what seemed like shear brute force, I managed to cast a full 3 sets of buttons to a quality that I was happy with. Each button had it’s own individually controllable RGB LED fully embedded within it.

The finished prototype, with 25 custom made silicone buttons using 3D printed molds

What I’d do differently

Although the grippy texture worked well for the prototype, it wasn’t the finish that I would ultimately want, this was simply due to the surface finish “grain” of the prints and silicone’s ability to produce mirrors of even the most intricately detailed surfaces.

After talking further with 3DPE, I learnt that it is possible to use a post-process to smooth the surface of the 3D printed mold – which would then give me the smooth surface I want. If anyone is looking to do something similar, I’d also recommend trying to find a vibrating table that you could use (or even better, hack together your own) for peace of mind.

Oh, and try to find a better working space than a share house bedroom to avoid the serial-killer level of plastic that needs to be laid over everything when casting silicone.

plastic-sheets-silicone-casting

‘INTERFACE’ Exhibition @ The Powerhouse Museum

Categories Design, Technology

If you get excited about how design bridges intent to output, you’ll enjoy looking at and thinking about the collection at INTERFACE as much as I did…

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The Sydney Powerhouse Museum’s INTERFACE exhibition has curated a collection of devices and objects that provide a physical, mental or conceptual bridge between the output of a tool and the human controlling it.

Part of the collection (“The Three Phases of Adoption”) takes variously similar manifestations of a device and allocates them into three categories of user; enthusiast, professional and consumer. The role of design in this process is to reduce technological complexity.

I tried to identify the similarities and omissions (the overall expression) of each manifestation of a similar type of interface. I thought about how this happens in more traditional artforms – for instance two artists painting the same subject may choose to omit and include or augment and diminish differing aspects of the subject in order to convey what they feel is necessary. I found it particularly curious in seeing which elements of interface (patterns) are retained in both the enthusiast and the consumer iterations. In some cases, the interfaces were extremely similar, suggesting other values at play in their fate: The Rio PMP300 (1998) and the Apple iPod (2001) both achieved widely different amounts of commercial success. The iPod is a household name for instance, whereas I had never seen the PMP300 before. What struck me was how similar they were at a glance – which brings into question the surrounding systems and societal attitude towards technologies that allow a consumer electronic product to thrive or die. In terms of the iPod in particular “…the value of the device was cemented by its seamlessness with the iTunes music management software”[1]

Maybe I am projecting here, but non-complexity and minimalism are not as intertwined as designers may like to fetishise. In fact, minimalism can be baffling at it’s most beautiful. But as always, design isn’t solely about beauty, and I was reminded of Raymond Loewy’s “Most advanced yet acceptable” principle.

The exhibition also explores gestural, democratic and a slew of personal computing devices. There’s even an old Apple I Personal Computer in a suitcase housing.

Book Review: Arduino Home Automation Projects

Categories Design, Interaction, Open-source, Programming, Technology

ishot-5

Arduino Home Automation Projects is a practical step-by-step guide to entering into the world of ‘DIY Home Automation’. The benefits of a DIY Arduino based approach to automation that this book puts forth are those of a vastly reduced expense as compared to a commercial fit-out, more control through understanding and an endlesslessly customisable solution.

The book covers real-world examples of use: Motion detection, Controlling lights using a smartphone or tablet, measuring temperature with bluetooth and even explores cloud implementation.

What I find most exciting is the chapter on hacking an existing commercial home automation device. I hope readers find the concept of hijacking existing products with their Arduino’s for their own benefit to be useful in other arenas outside of ‘home automation’ and I can definitely see the skills presented in this book being translated into future projects.

For those strictly interested in ‘home automation’, the book wraps things up with everything you need to build your very own custom solution from scratch – including 3D printed casings and custom PCB’s – which exposes the reader to invaluable skills they can use outside of the subject matter.

ishot-6
The book is well illustrated and documented with photography which is essential for learning. I would recommend this book to students and hobbyists who have experimented with a stand-alone Arduino but have yet to let their Arduino experiment with the world around them.

Book Review: Internet of Things with Arduino Yun

Categories Interaction, Open-source, Programming, Technology

Internet of Things with the Arduino Yun

Internet of Things with the Arduino Yun is a well-paced practical introduction to creating and exploring DIY smart devices. Or, as the book phrases it; “projects to help you build a world of smarter things”.

Each example project explores a specific real-world scenario similar to that of existing applications of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies within industry. Each example also exposes the reader to concepts and techniques that should be easily transferrable to many other projects and applications. Covering the subjects of sensing, data collection, automation and long-term presence, the book gives readers a good overview of the broad concerns that need to be considered when designing smart devices.

Power Consumption Data

An example of the kind of data readers might
gather about objects and habits within their home

 

Impressively, the book doesn’t require a great deal of prior knowledge to navigate, though some interest in coding and electronics is of course necessary. Those already familiar with Arduino will benefit from the exploration of the networking aspects of Arduino Yun as they are a bit different to control than what one might be used to with prior versions of the Arduino. The book would make a great companion for those unboxing an Arduino Yun for the first time.

EnviS wins at the 2014 iAwards (Vic)

Categories Design, Technology, UX Design

SAMSUNG

I went to the iAwards night alongside the other talented members of a project I worked on called EnviS. The project won the post-graduate category, which was a great honour for me and I’m really glad to see the hard work put into the project given recognition. I’m excited to see what opportunities await our team in the future. From here, we go on to compete in the National event…

 

AIIA ICT Industry Night

Categories Design, RMIT, Technology

Last night I went to the AIIA Industry Night at RMIT Storey Hall to help present a Computer Science project I was involved with on the Product Development side. Coming from an Industrial Design background I was impressed with how well the school of Computer Science & IT directly engages with industry players, I met a lot of great people and saw a diverse range of interesting and insightful projects. Hopefully in the future I’ll come across some of them in the wild.

AIIA Industry Night AIIA Industry Night AIIA Industry Night AIIA Industry Night AIIA Industry Night AIIA Industry Night

Using Xbee with Arduino Yún

Categories Interaction, Open-source, Programming, Technology

Came across an issue today when upgrading a project I’m currently working on to make use of an Xbee + Arduino Yún stack instead of an Xbee + Arduino Uno stack and found that the solution wasn’t very apparent online. I thought I’d post a short writeup here. Special thanks to Bo for solving this issue.

Firstly, the Yún is amazing in that is has built-in WiFi capabilities, but this also means a few peculiarities with the serial due to the split architecture. If you are trying to use an Xbee with a shield, you will need to make a few modifications to both hardware and code in order to get it working.

Firstly, we cannot use the normal serial communication pins (0,1) and instead need to use alternative pins. I assumed I could use the SoftwareSerial library to allocate another set of pins (for example 10, 11) however for reasons I still don’t fully understand this doesn’t work either.

The solution was suggested by cmaglie in this thread to use AltSoftwareSerial (download the library here). I had not heard of AltSoftwareSerial before, it is an emulated serial comm.

What you need to do is install the above library (read here if you have never done that before) and change your code to include the new serial method. The example code below will recieve packets from another device and print them to serial:

#include <XBee.h>
#include <AltSoftSerial.h>

XBee _xbee = XBee();
AltSoftSerial altSerial;

void setup()
{
  Serial.begin(9600);
  altSerial.begin(9600);
  _xbee.begin(altSerial);
}

void loop()
{
  value="";
  processXBeePackets();  
}

void processXBeePackets()
{
   _xbee.readPacket();
   if (_xbee.getResponse().isAvailable())
   {
      _xbee.getResponse().getZBRxResponse(rx);
      //Serial.println(rx.getDataLength());
      for(int i=0;i<rx.getDataLength();i++){
         value.concat(char(rx.getData(i)));
   }

   Serial.println(value);
   }
}

Then on the hardware side, you need to modify your Xbee shield (or if not using a shield, simply reroute your pin-out). This is as simple as bending out two header pins (we’ve used spacers) so that they don’t actually come into contact with their Arduino counterparts. So, pins 2 and 3 don’t connect to Arduino and we instead use some jumpers to reroute them to 5 and 13 respectively. See the images for reference:

Xbee shield working on Arduino Yun
Rerouting pin 3 > 5 and pin 2 > 13

 

sparkfun xbee shield header pins modified for serial with Yun
The header pins for 2 and 3 need to be bent so that they don’t interface with the arduino.

You should now be able to pass your Xbee communication data on to your Arduino Yún and then pass it on to a server or computer via WiFi.

Transience in Social Technologies

Categories Interaction, Social, Technology

Real life is dynamic and transitory.

 

Day to day communication exists in it’s moment of context and (for the most part) that’s it. Luckily, everything you’ve ever said or done hasn’t been recorded and archived. It doesn’t need to be. [Edit: Unless you’re the NSA, in which case you suck communications straight from the faucet to be filed away]

 

Conversely, social networks are mostly static and perpetual.

 

This means that our social tools and our social behaviours meet at an awkward divide. We don’t necessarily want to interact in an environment of forever.

 

Communication in real life can be flippant, idle, playful, not-for-archival, transitory, momentary, uncrafted and raw – it doesn’t have to be, but it does serve certain function to be at times. The truth can be best delivered by the spoken word. It’s why a phone-call is often a better way to discuss serious or emotionally heated matters than the perpetual, stilted, everlasting, re-assessable world of the text message. The text message can exist within it’s temporal context and outside it, it can contain subtext that only grows with it’s permanence.

 

There aren’t many social tools that acknowledge this divide. What results is warped behaviour.

 

 


The Guardian, UK. The future of social interaction.

 

It’s long been apparent that a person’s online persona (such as a facebook profile, tumblr page or twitter account) is a curated version of their own life and not an accurate reflection of that person – not a new concept, consider the useful social “masks” we all wear on a daily basis. The effect is, however, heavily amplified by the perceived (and actual) permanence of the “profile”. The existence of a social receipt of every interpersonal transaction you’ve made on a social network. Eventually, we learned to brand ourselves, to periodically check and bask in our own image, to actively compare ourselves to each other in an easily cross-referenced, standardised format.

 

Ever noticed how human behaviour changes around the presence of a camera? That’s because a sense of permanence has just been introduced to a transitory environment. Interactions become crafted, more curated and less a reflection of the usual.

 

And though permanence is incredibly useful, it doesn’t describe the rightful state of all social interactions.

 

“The internet is forever.”

 

Well, let’s pretend it isn’t.

 

Data can be useless. Delete it. Let it fall into non-storage. The lack of transience devalues some communication by valuing it too much. Non-permanent information and communication serves a different function to permanent information.

 

A great example of the validity of non-permanent communication is Snapchat, a photo-sharing application that enforces transience. The app works as follows:

 

  1. You take a photo
  2. You specify the photo’s lifespan (in seconds)
  3. You send the photo to another user
  4. The photo is received, viewed and auto-deleted after the specified lifespan.

 

Snapchat takes the existing functionality of a social tool (picture messaging) and adds the element of enforced transience (auto-deletion). What we see is that Snapchat is used for much different forms of communication than the standard MMS functionality of modern phones. The non-permanent nature of the communication leads to more playful and perhaps baser interactions such as frivolity and flirting – these modes of communication are no less socially enriching than others. Snapchat is successful because it caters to our need to communicate digitally outside of a permanent environment.

 

Transient content, self-destructing media and perhaps degradable social connections are surely things to consider implementing in future social media environments. Ubiquitious or wearable computers and near-field communicators will hopefully bring about the data we will need to create honest social network technologies.

 

Swipe to lock-in

Categories Open-source, Technology

What follows is a slightly rambling stream of consciousness orbiting around the subjects of the patent system, technological development, the open-source community and user interfaces. The whole situation is far from simple, with benefits on all sides. I guess my thinking comes from a recognition of what I see as the inevitability of product transparency and how to curb that into economic growth. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on these subjects, so feel free to leave a comment or email me.

/ / /

 

We need to copy, right?

 

Ok.

 

The copyright and patent system can be a messy business – and I mean business in the literal term.

 

Right now, research and development teams are setting out like early colonialists to stake claim on ideas, theories and methodologies. This would be fine, if the driving factor for such activity was truly innovation – but I don’t believe that it is. Instead, we find patents being created and filed away with the manic fervour of an arms race. In fact, recently we’ve seen how this impacts the smartphone industry with the cases of Apple v. Samsung.

 

This means that the incentive for coining, describing and protecting an “original” idea, system or method has as much to do with the implementation or progression of a company’s own product or service as it does with crippling their financial opponent’s ability to progress. The implications of such a dynamic are that our technology suffers and it’s feature-set becomes porous – a collection of innovative features and stunted features, mutually exclusive between brands – or else is obfuscated for no reason other than to avoid legal penalties.

 

 

The oft talked about example is Apple’s ownership of “slide to unlock”, this is the reason Google Android’s lock screen is rendered as “swipe to unlock”. The distaste I have for the ownership of gestural actions in an interactive environment is doubly so when those gestural actions are informed by a borderline skeuomorphic interface. How is sliding a virtual slider to unlock a device a new, patentable idea? I was sliding my cassette player into operation from “sleep” to “stand-by” 10 years prior to the iPhone. I was sliding latches to unlock gates that were made by people long before I was even born. I realise that the iPhone created new territory, and that “unlocking” in that context is a slightly different concept to the gate I mentioned above, but the gesture must surely belong to a collective lexicon outside of ownership. At some point an idea is so integral – and I daresay basic – that to deem it only useable by a single company in a massive, emerging market sector is a flavour of lunacy that is detrimental to the progression of technology on the whole. The danger lies in this attitude being applied somewhere truly integral. How would our technology look if the rotating volume knob was patented? If one brand owned the push-button?

 

But then, perhaps my opinion is skewed by hindsight.

 

Imagine three children seated at a round table with a piece of paper in front of each of them. There are a box of crayons in the centre and each child has privilege to one colour that no other child can use – one child owns red, another blue and another yellow. All other colours are shared. The children then attempt to draw the same thing. The resulting drawing’s are all shit subpar for different reasons, probably stemming from an illogical lack of colour, respectively. Or maybe they all make innovative use of a limited pallette, in which case, touché imaginary children.

 

I don’t know anyone with blue skin. Damn patent system.

 

Everything you can do, I can do different

 

The work-around, of course, is subtle deviation or obfuscation or inversion or “different”. Which often leads to users being presented with what I can only describe as counter-interfaces. Counter-interfaces are equally devious.

 

 

The new WiiU Pro Controller and the Xbox Controller feature inverted button arrays creating two interfaces that directly clash in learned operation. Is this the result of trying to avoid legal hassle, or in trying to lock users in to their system through some sort of familiarity-loyalty?

 

What do I mean by familiarity-loyalty? A loyalty borne out of familiarity with a product’s idiosyncracies. But further than that, it refers to the idea of creating these idiosyncracies for the purpose of locking users in to your system. This is perhaps doubly apparent with video game consoles because they share mutual software in the form of video game titles. You can play the same game on multiple consoles, being forced to interact with each one differently only in a schematic sense. You still have all the same functions. You just have different buttons. Inevitably, your option of multiple consoles only exists in a theoretical world, because in reality you will only ever take the time to master and operate one of them. This doubtlessly helps to fuel fanboyism, and what brand would be complete without adversaries to go into consumer combat with?

 

I’m pretty sure every chainsaw I’ve ever operated had roughly the same interface. My loyalties are influenced by the quality of the chainsaw, not my reluctance to learn a new interface structure.

 

Take a moment to imagine what Nintendo would offer.

 

Ok, so the chainsaw scenario is probably an unfair example. I remember my first mobile phone, it was a Nokia 3310. In fact, my next three mobile phones after that were all Nokia models. Why? Because it was common knowledge that the GUI’s between their products varied minutely. I was free to choose any (Nokia) phone that I wanted with minimal hassle, but to deviate from their brand meant I would be met with a jarring user experience. My fourth device, a Samsung, provided me with just that – and a few embarrassing, unintentionally sent messages, given that the BACK and SEND buttons were reversed on my new device.

 

The interesting thing about this idea of familiarity-loyalty is that the opposite directive – attempting design convergence of your interface with that of your competitors – makes it easier for consumers to switch to your product, whilst at the same time making it easier for consumers to leave your customer-base.

 

Hide your source, hide your errors, hide your potentials

 

There’s a similar dichotomy between open and closed-source mentalities. The same sort of benefits at the expense of “control”. Closed-source means that you do not share your production methods – code, manufacturing details, CAD files and so on with the general public – meaning that competitors and DIY “makers” can’t replicate your product and modify it to suit their needs or material access or fuse it with new hardware. This seems like an obvious choice of conduct from a typical business perspective. Why would you give away information that you spent plenty of money and time on researching and developing?

 

The answer is this: Open information can lead to free, highly-dispersed, communal development. Open information and modification fuels product longevity.

 

Here’s the second answer: We’re going to steal the information anyway. We’re going to modify it anyway. We’re inquisitive creatures. We do it for fun.

 

Hammer Editor: An in-house production tool released to the community.

 

By allowing your users access to legitimate information regarding your product, marvelous things can happen. Companies are slowly starting to realise the potential benefits of letting users modify their products. When Microsoft first released the Kinect, they were of the anti-mod, anti-hack mindset. But in my opinion the hackers and modders and makers and academics were doing much more exciting things with the Kinect than Microsoft was. The mindset has definitely changed:

 

The enthusiasm we are seeing in the scientific community – specifically the research and academic communities – around potential applications of Kinect, is exciting to see… It’s an exciting time for Microsoft, our customers and partners as we explore the possibilities [Natural User Interfaces] has to offer and how we can make them a reality – Kinect for Xbox 360 is just a first step.

Steve Clayton, Microsoft Blog

 

It seems Microsoft realises that free research and development by minds outside their organisation, that are excited enough about the concepts they are exploring to explore them despite not being on their payroll is a good thing.

 

Videogame company Valve learnt this lesson long ago – they are a thriving example of how understanding your craft, your technology and your audience leads to healthy financial success. One of their most popular titles, Counter-Strike, was originally a community-made modification of one of their existing products. Valve knew early on of the advantage of community created content, releasing their in-house level editor Worldcraft (later Valve Hammer Editor) to the public. Basically, you release one product that spawns more products and relates to a wider audience or keeps your existing audience captive for a lot longer (people still play Counter-Strike 1.6, which is now ~10 years old). As long as you are still selling the seeds, who cares what the fruit is made into?

 

Don’t be afraid of the culture, leverage it, help create it

 

Again, it’s going to happen anyway.

 

Young kids at a “maker faire” (source: boingboing.net)

 

 

 

Embracing the Digital Landscape

Categories Technology

Lately it seems as though every other article I read online about software interfaces is in some way related to the concept of skeuomorphic design, with the prevailing opinion amongst young digital natives being that it is often an unnecessary and dishonest factor of interface design. I tend to agree.

A skeuomorph is a physical ornament or design on an object copied from a form of the object when made from another material or by other techniques. For example, pottery embellished with imitation rivets because the object was once made of metal, or a calendar application which displays the days organised on animated month pages in imitation of a paper wall calendar.

Wikipedia.com

In my opinion, in regards to its use in digital landscapes, skeuomorphism is simply a transitional device from one medium to another. It’s a design direction capable of interfacing with a wider population-bracket (inclusive of the non-tech-savvy segments) because of it’s perceived familiarity achieved through the appropriation of the visual cues belonging to common cultural objects with analogous functions to their new digital replacements.

 

To the casual user, the command prompt (left) is much less “orienting” than the skeuomorphic world of OSX (right). Both represent differing levels of abstraction.

 

This has clear business benefits if user tests support that it does indeed broaden the spectrum of usability and thus increase potential market share. In fact, I feel this may be why Apple saw value in it as a tool.

 

But, here’s the thing: The transition period is almost over.

 

Mainstream consumers are already fully exposed to smartdevices, tablets, netbooks, touchscreen kiosks and interactive surfaces. I daresay that through intermittent frustration with the disconnect between visual appearance and interface behaviour they have also learnt that though elements of the various interfaces may look like tangible things, they don’t behave like them. Mainstream audiences understand the digital landscape a little bit better than a few years ago, it might be time to dial down the abstraction in order to facilitate complex interactions and open up opportunities for developers to allow users to solve a broader, more complex set of tasks.

 

This. We kind of want it.

 

I’ve yet to use Windows 8. I’ve only heard bad things about it. Yet, I’m finding that a lot of what I think they were trying to achieve are things that I’ve also considered myself as valuable for the furtherance of interface design that is honest, mature and incredibly useable.

 

The lack of “chrome” means a higher Content:Interface ratio

 

I was inspired to read that Metro (the namesake of the design language created for Windows 8) sought to abolish “chrome”, which got me thinking about the relationship between content and interface. The less chrome, the more real-estate for content. This is almost a self-evident notion, but when you consider and make note of the pixels used for non-content AND non-function purposes in any given applications, it’s actually still rather novel. But, as with all philosophical inclinations that laud simplicity, less is more is always harder to achieve than is first thought. Regardless of success, Windows 8’s entry into the mainstream will certainly answer some questions that I have about user interfaces and public readiness.

“The new user interface is less of a problem than it would have been 10 years ago because people have got used to mobile interfaces”

Forrester Research’s senior analyst David Johnson, UCstrategies.com

 

So, how ready are we? And as a designer I also have to ask, what familiar visual languages can I use to fabricate the desired interactions?

 

Luckily, video games exist. Video games have led to something almost as over-mentioned as skeuomorphism, that is, the gamification of things. The concept involves all sorts of behavioural theory, incentivisational practices and even lends exposure to augmented reality. In fact, I believe that gamification will be (if not already) an integral component of modern interface design and a vehicle for positive behaviour change.

 

 

No one seems to mind the infodense blend of 2D and 3D elements, HUD or realtime data overlays. In fact, it helps the user achieve a goal.

Pioneer’s augmented reality HUD for in-car GPS (read more here)

 

Icons, progress bars, real-time overlayed data, gestural inputs, rewards, social ranking, menus, inventories, micro-trading, experience points, contextual hints. There’s 2D elements hanging out in 3D space and inexplicable notifaction sounds coming from a nearby omnipresent source. It’s not an acid trip but it’s certainly not reality and we’re somehow OK with it. I like to think of the history of video games as a huge chunk of free research and development that can be applied to interactive products and user experience design, especially in regard to user enjoyment and return patronage. But essentially, video games have helped in the creation of a shared language for a new digital frontier.

 

Then you throw mobile into the mix.

  Your experience will definitely vary.

 

Mobile has demands, most of which are data based and outside my area of expertise. But it’s important as a designer to try and understand the medium.

 

Data is expensive, both to your wallet and collective global consumption.

 

New interfaces should deliver a small packet from the server and then do the rendering client-side. Basically, send the schematics, not the building.

 

For me, it’s all about vector graphics and algorithmic art. Contextually aware content zones and dynamic text. Things should be static insofar as they are contextually appropriate. Data should only be sent as contextually appropriate. Devices need to become more aware of their context of use.

 

Mobile also means variegated delivery points. I have an Android phone, the person next to me has an iPad. Let’s say we both decide to use the same web app. The design issue here is evident because the screen sizes between both devices vary greatly – so the same web app has to have enough fluidity to expand or contract into the various “frames” that it is pulled into (be that an iPad, laptop, smartphone or whatever else is commercially well-dispersed). The current solution – in regards to creating a consistent user experience between these frames – is what is referred to as responsive design. Responsive design literally responds to it’s frame according to a set of rules. There are many ways of going about responsive design, from contextually dropping elements, hiding them, conforming to a grid, setting up ratio relationships between elements or all of the above and more. It’s an automated style guide.

 

It’s all a lot to consider, but all these convergences between technology and culture are exciting to me as a designer because they signal opportunities.

 

I believe that the average consumer market is fertile soil for innovative advances in interface design and that we will have to embrace the digital landscape in order to facilitate that advance.