Apple’s iPhone 3.0 announcements caused a kerfuffle today, but it seems to me insane that the thing that’s being talked about most is… Cut and Paste?
At the time the event was running I summed my feelings up in <140 chars thusly:
I mean – they’d announced that you could create custom UIs that worked with physical peripherals – they’d had someone from Johnson & Johnson on stage to show a diabetes sensor companion to the iphone – the nearest thing to AP’s Charmr you could imagine!
Then my friend Josh said:
“Am now wondering whether a bluetooth/serial module and arduino will be able to talk with iPhone. And, pachube“
A rapid prototyping platform for physical/digital interactions? A mobile sensor platform for personal and urban informatics that’s going mainstream?
Imagine – AppleStores with shelves of niche, stylish sensor products for sale in a year’s time – pollution sensors, particulates analysis, spectroscopy, soil analysis, cholesterol? All for the price of a Nike+ or so?
Come on, that’s got to be more exciting than cut and paste?
Tom Igoe points out in his comment correctly that I have been remiss in not mentioning Tellart’s NadaMobile project from late last year – which allows you to easily prototype physical/digital/sensor apps on the iPhone through a cable that cleverly connects to the audio jack. It’s also totally open-source.
I thought that delivering my webstock talk, and finishing reading Welcome To Mars, Cold War Modern and The Bomb while on holiday would let me escape my obsession with the post-war and the high-modern. I had reckoned without James Coburn.
Tom Armitage picked up on my love of the Derek Flint movies, and suggested that I had not really experienced Coburn at the height of his powers until I had experienced him in “The President’s Analyst“. The plot is a thing of gossamer, and the dialogue is probably best described as “very much of it’s time”, but the production designs and way that product and environment is photographed is wonderful.
I watched it on my flight to Etech, and went a little crazy taking screengrabs of every beautiful detail I saw…
The complete set is here, but I want to just point out a couple of wonderful moments.
The classic Cold-War combo of the long fluoro-lit corridor with tiny psuedo golf-cart.
Amphibious vehicles and long-zooms…
Headquarters of Corporate Evil, designed by Bruce Goff?
With corporate communications by DePatie-Freleng. (What was the first in this line of ‘hi-modern corporate communications animation vernacular’ as parodied eventually in Jurrasic Park amongst others?)
Look at this… the way they are curled, and nested, and converging to a central control point… This might just be the ne-plus-ultra of command-and-control cybernetics of the cold war meets the high-modern consumer culture!
It’s the first session – Jane McGonigal is talking about games, and I start thinking about the less-goal directed, more ambiguous world of play – my twin obsession with place.
He’s from Wellington.
Update: even crazier – he now lives in Sarasota, Florida – where I went last October…
What I wanted to say at the Mobile Web 2.0 conference panel, originally uploaded by moleitau.
Haven’t done much of it since leaving Nokia, and certainly didn’t get the chance at an awful event I got invited to speak on a panel at last year (see the sketch above); but did get to bang on about some ongoing obsessions and thoughts while climbing out of a terrible hangover at the PSFK Good Ideas Salon today. I think it was being taped, so that might be online at some point for you to laugh at. Also, got to catch Christian Nold speak which was great. Thanks to Piers Fawkes for the invitation.
Carlo Longino homes in on the fact that it provides, finally, a somewhat humane and useful basis for a lot of the location-based services use-cases that mobile service providers and product marketers have salivated over for around a decade.
“I know my own zip code, but I don’t know its boundaries, nor do I know any others here in Vegas. So if I’m out looking for something, I’ve got little idea where to start. That’s the big problem with local search – we tend to spend a lot of our time in the same places, and we get to know them. We’re most likely to use search when we’re in an unfamiliar area – but often our unfamiliarity with the area precludes us from even being able to divine a starting point for our search. You don’t necessarily need GPS to get a starting point, as this new feature highlights.”
GMMv2.0 is sufficiently-advanced technology, not because of the concept behind it (location via cell network is pretty known) but the sheer, apparent quality of execution, simplicity and joy injected into the thing. This is something till now missing from most if not all mobile software, especially Symbian software.
Janne once said to me: “no-one codes symbian apps for fun”, and it shows. It’s enough to get the things working for most developers, and as they’re mostly doing it for a salary rather than fun, they walk away before the joy gets injected, or don’t argue when it gets de-scoped.
GMMv2.0 has some of the lovely touches that we’ve seen from the iPhone implementation carried over – like the location pins dropping into place with a little restitutional bounce. Just. So. It seems quicker and more focussed that v1.0, with location search features working to give the bare-bones info right there on the map rather than breaking-frame to a dialog.
The main, huge, thing though is MyLocation.
Chris gave a talk a few years ago at Etech 2004 called “35 ways to find your location”
, which argued against relying on GPS and ‘satnav’ metaphors for location services.
I don’t know if they downloaded his presentation in Mountain View, but GMMv2.0 delivers on Chris’s vision by not only using cellular location fiding, but how it interprets and displays it. By ditching the assumption that all location tasks are about a -> b in a car, and presenting a fuzzy, more-humane interpretation of your location – it gives a wonderful foundation for wayfinding, particularly while walking, which hopefully they’ll build on.
In other possible advantages that “Do not use while driving” gives you is it become a resource you can use indoors, where I’d guess 90% discussions about where to go and what to do actually happen, and where 90% of GPS’s won’t ever work.
Other contenders in the mobile wayfinding world seem to be pursuing interfaces built on the metaphors and assumptions of the car-bound “satnav” world e.g. Nokia Maps. Probably as a side-effect of most of their senior management driving to work in suburban technology parks everyday!
Actually, Nokia Maps (at least the last version I used, I switched to GMM and haven’t returned) does something even more bizarre when it starts up and shows you a view of the entire earth’s globe from orbit! I cannot think of a less user-centred, task-appropriate entry point into an application!
The Google mobile team are to be congratulated not only for technical innovation in GMMv2.0, but also having the user-experience savvy to step beyond established cliche in a hot area and think in a context-sensitive, user-centred way about the problem.
As Carlo says:
“I continue to be slightly amazed at the speed with which Google gets these apps and services out, and the overall quality of them, though I guess it’s a testament to the amount of resources they’re throwing at mobile these days.”
Can’t wait to see what’s next.
Lamenting lost futures is not that productive, but it doesn’t stop me enjoying it. Whether it’s the pleasure of reading Ellis’s “Ministry of Space” and thinking “what if?” or looking through popculture futures past as in this Guardian article – it’s generally a sentimental, but thought-provoking activity.
Recently, though, I’ve been thinking about a temporarily lost future that’s closer to home in the realm of mobile UI design. That’s the future that’s been perhaps temporarily lost in the wake of the iPhone’s arrival.
A couple of caveats.
Up until June this year. I worked at Nokia in team that created prototype UIs for the Nseries devices, so this could be interpreted as sour-grapes, I suppose.. but I own an iPodTouch, that uses the same UI/OS more-or-less, and love it.
I spoke at SkillSwap Bristol in September (thanks to Laura for the invite) and up until the day I was travelling to Bristol, I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I’d been banging on at people in the pub (esp. Mr. Coates) about the iPhone’s possible impact on interface culture, so I thought I’d put together some of those half-formed thoughts for the evening’s debate.
The slides are on Slideshare (no notes, yet) but the basic riff was that the iPhone is a beautiful, seductive but jealous mistress that craves your attention, and enslaves you to its jaw-dropping gorgeousness at the expense of the world around you.
This, of course, is not entirely true – but it makes for a good starting point for an argument! Of course, nearly all our mobile electronic gewgaws serve in some small way or other to take us away from the here and now.
But the flowing experience just beyond Johnny Ive’s proscenium chrome does have a hold more powerful than perhaps we’ve seen before. Not only over users, but over those deciding product roadmaps. We’re going to see a lot of attempts to vault the bar that Apple have undoubtedly raised.
Which, personally, I think is kind-of-a-shame.
First – a (slightly-bitter) side-note on the Touch UI peanut gallery.
In recent months we’ve seen Nokia and Sony Ericsson show demos of their touch UIs. To which the response on many tech blogs has been “It’s a copy of the iPhone”. In fact, even a Nokia executive responded that they had ‘copied with pride’.
That last remark made me spit with anger – and I almost posted something very intemperate as a result. The work that all the teams within Nokia had put into developing touch UI got discounted, just like that, with a half-thought-through response in a press conference. I wish that huge software engineering outfits like S60 could move fast enough to ‘copy with pride’.
Fact-of-the-matter is if you have roughly the same component pipeline, and you’re designing an interface used on-the-go by (human) fingers, you’re going to end up with a lot of the same UI principles.
But Apple executed first, and beautifully, and they win. They own it, culturally.
Thus ends the (slightly-bitter) side-note – back to the lost future.
Back in 2005, Chris and myself gave a talk at O’Reilly Etech based on the work we were doing on RFID and tangible, embodied interactions, with Janne Jalkanen and heavily influenced by the thinking of Paul Dourish in his book “Where the action is”, where he advances his argument for ’embodied interaction':
“By embodiment, I don’t mean simply physical reality, but rather, the way that physical and social phenomena unfold in real time and real space as a part of the world in which we are situated, right alongside and around us.”
I was strongly convinced that this was a direction that could take us down a new path from recreating desktop computer UIs on smaller and smaller surfaces, and create an alternative future for mobile interaction design that would be more about ‘being in the world’ than being in the screen.
That seems very far away from here – and although development in sensors and other enablers continues, and efforts such as the interactive gestures wiki are inspiring – it’s likely that we’re locked into pursuing very conscious, very gorgeous, deliberate touch interfaces – touch-as-manipulate-objects-on-screen rather than touch-as-manipulate-objects-in-the-world for now.
But, to close, back to Nokia’s S60 touch plans.
Tom spotted it first. In their (fairly-cheesy) video demo, there’s a flash of something wonderful.
Away from the standard finger and stylus touch stuff there’s a moment where a girl is talking to a guy – and doesn’t break eye contact, doesn’t lose the thread of conversation; just flips her phone over to silence and reject a call. Without a thought.
As Dourish would have it:
“interacting in the world, participating in it and acting through it, in the absorbed and unreflective manner of normal experience.”
I hope there’s a future in that.