Ssssh, my computer is in sleep mode!

June 9, 2009 at 12:57 1 comment

A research on light and sound interfaces that evoke the behaviour of a living being and engage our peripheral attention.

PREMISE
Light and sound could be used in a more meaningful and intuitive way in many devices’ interface. Human brain perceives them as “natural” feedbacks, this propriety can be effectively exploited to convey an object status. The aim of my exploration is to find out if it possible to design an interface based on an anthropomorphic metaphor that uses light and sound as main tools to show the user what the devices are doing.

CONTEXT
In the near future, wireless communication will be spread everywhere. Without the physical cable connection it will be harder to guess which devices are talking to each other and what they are talking about. Already today we are often struggling to prevent our iPod from synchronising the whole content of our music folder, we wonder why the printer is not working when everything seems connected in the correct way, when we don’t receive any incoming signal from our wireless router we just reboot it, purely because we don’t know what else to do.
If we assume that, within 5 years, most of the devices that we use on daily basis will communicate to each other without any physical connection, the situation could become even more complicated.
Products like mobile phones, mp3 readers, earphones, printers, laptops, cameras, game platforms etc will share connection (Bluetooth, Xbee, WiFi), functionalities (I’ll probably write my sms using a wireless keyboard that I’ve found around) and contents (I’ll share my playlist with the other 100 iPod users that are on my train now) more and more.
How will they communicate their status? Maybe it will be easier to understand their mutual interaction if we design an interface that shows us their behaviour in an intuitive way.
This “device language” will give a concrete representation of the intangible and invisible events that are taking place. A well designed device/device communication will lead to a more “natural” device/user interaction.

DESIGN CHALLENGE
I would like to design a tangible communication protocol between networked objects that share data, connection, functionalities etc.
Light and sound will be used in the interface to make visible the devices’ behaviour as if they were living beings. The aim is to show the devices’ intangible actions and make them intuitively recognisable stretching light and sound emotive communication qualities.
How might we use light and sound to design interfaces that show in a “natural” way the behaviour of wireless networked devices?
How might we use light and sound to make visible the intangible processes that are happening inside our devices?

Devices should be perceived as calmer, in fact if the user understand what the object is doing, he also feels more in control of it. Moreover users feel more power over their tools if they can have a direct/physical interaction with them.
How might we design a non lingual /gestural interface that amplify the trust we put in a device?

Today our environment is getting polluted and saturated with many feedbacks that keep our central attention continuously focus, this situation leads to a high level of stress and information overload.
How might we engage more our peripheral attention to create a calmer relationship with our devices?

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