Victus Spiritus


Form, Function and Feel

23 Mar 2011

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The article mentioned above details the professional history of  lead Apple designer Jonathan Ive. Exploring Mr. Ive's tale fixed my attention on design thinking. Critical design is not only recognizing the importance of attention to fine detail, but the ability to conjure physicality from imagination. 

Early last year I made the presumption that the most breathtaking and breakthrough designs will converge on invisible. I was applying a perspective borrowed from Kevin Kelly, and my mistake was forgetting that the essence of art is redirecting attention, not absolute transparency. 

Art and Technology are Coevolving

An example of artistic technology is the bioelectric ink interface, or digital tattoos. These seamless interfaces were touched on briefly in a vision of what's to come.  The sensors will serve as both stylized art and provide advanced interaction with digital systems. These may work in tandem with external optical tracking systems like Kinect to yield rich information about our physical and emotional state. 

Consider an analogy to music. Its waves may be invisible to the eye, but the depth of meaning in songs are expressed and articulated through nuanced tones and rhythms. The digitization of sound and the growth of artistic interfaces have only increased the variety and range of compelling music. Both creatives and their audiences benefit from artistic visible designs.

A few months after the gamble on transparent technology, I mentioned specific examples of how it is taking form. The specification describes not only what is possible, but what is inevitable in the augmented reality web. Chief among the broad trends are implicit interfaces.

Implicit Interfaces

The ability to dynamically adapt a service to individual visitors will help familiarize new users and save proficient users time (two way search).

A visit to a blog or news site could provide you with a list of posts on the sidebar which match your publicly expressed interests. This trivial to implement search overcomes the problem of comparing two unknown sets by connecting them (your interests with blog tags)

A visit to a bookstore* while travelling for business can be as comfortable as visiting one near home. By sharing your location and interests to approved third parties (businesses will pay for this privelege), the store could suggest relevant new releases that correspond to your socially expressed topics, previous purchases, and public friend recommendations.

Upon walking into a coffee shop for the first time the barista could begin making your favorite drink with a simple gesture to approve the process.

A first visit to a virtual world like Second Life could place your avatar in a starting location that best matches your array of current interests, or provide you with a more intelligent short list of highly probable matching defaults

The goal of adaptive information services isn’t to remove choice, but to suggest a more rational selection of defaults to new visitors^.

* = Years of habit produced the nearly quaint bookstore example. I'd like to expand upon that implicit search example with the ability of an ebookstore to dynamically update displays as potential customers browse the store. Print copies may be generated on demand in real time. The hybrid digital physical storefront can be expanded to include objects that can be printed with 3D printers and easily assembled.

^= and do so in an elegant fashion. Design, implementation, and interaction yield poetic form, function and feel.