Who are we keeping in mind when creating future visions?

I can understand the frustration of the author Bret Victor about the lack of using our capabilities properly in future visions after watching the video that was attached to the brief rant. I couldn’t agree more that in a sense all these visions seem to actually numb our senses on purpose, making human-beings some kind of unintellectual, lazy and not creative creatures. However, I believe that there is a lot more to people, and that they are capable of greater things which have a lot more meaning. It doesn’t take much to swipe a finger across a glass surface and set up meetings, book hotels, etc. But, by doing that, I believe that people would lose all sense of reality and the real world around them, switching to live their lives on the screen rather than having actual interactions with other people. Also, agreeing with the author – not only would people lose the sense of real world and people around them, they would become unaware of their capabilities in a much more practical sense too. If depending too much on technology means that they couldn’t even use their hands and their brain ability to look for a cake recipe, then I believe we should seriously rethink the way where the future is going.

Another problem that I acknowledged as I was watching the video and reading the article, and which wasn’t mentioned in any of the responses, is that I don’t even see this vision as a plausible scenario for more than like one hundredth of the world’s population.  In fact, I believe that in terms of income it’s only the absolute top of the world’s population who could possibly afford and be able to have a different glass screen for each room, bag and outfit. Most of the world’s population live under a few dollars a day and I don’t think it’s something we could become ignorant of when thinking about the development and visualizing the future. However, whatever the outcome is, it is crucial to keep in mind that even if all of this becomes true, the ones who won’t be able to access this kind of technology will be the winners, because at the end of the day the possibility of using their capabilities for operating daily life will only benefit them.

Functionality + Meaning = Value

The book The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman discusses the importance and significance of good design in everyday things. I find myself agreeing with the author that bad and not understandable design is something that a designer should avoid at all costs. However, it might sometimes even occur unintentionally, for example, by engineers who think that their creation is logical, although they might have a hard time accepting that people do not always work by the same logic rules. I find that it is really entertaining and honest to observe my mom dealing with new technology. Good and straight-forward design is crucial to her, because if she wants to put something in her, for instance, kitchen, then it better is with practical use. However, who needs a super-modern dish washer if it is not even clear how to use it? That’s why she is usually not willing to upgrade to more advanced technology, because she is simply used to using things she already knows how to use. Each device or machine requires a certain amount of new knowledge to get the hang of using it.

This also resonates well with the essay Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better, because the author has emphasized that there are products for, let’s say, stressful situations that need to be as straight-forward to the user as possible to minimize the risk of the user not being able to use the product for its purpose. Similarly, as much as attractiveness might appeal to the majority of people and they might start thinking that attractive things work better, the functionality should also not be lost, because people like my mom will value the simplicity of choosing a dish-washer setting. In my opinion, one important thought that needs to be kept in mind when designing products is to consider both functionality and attractiveness in order to give meaning to the product, which therefore creates value.

Fashion Police

My initial switch project was simply turning on the LED by using my hair with a conductive hair pin in it as a switch, so I decided to expand on my project by still keeping the idea of doing some motion with my hair. My project consists of two switches and two LEDs; each of the switches controls one LED. These are the steps I did to make my project work:

This time I made two braids, and I secured the braids with hair ties which I wrapped in conductive tape. The two braids act as two switches and each of the braid turns on or off either a red or blue LED. At the end of each hair tie I made a tail from the conductive tape by sticking its end to itself, therefore I could attach a crocodile wire to it and attach the other end to the breadboard. Down below you can see pictures of the finished hair tie wrapped in the conductive tape. As you put it in the hair, it expands a little, thus not every part is conductive anymore, which is the biggest drawback of using this material.

Back to the breadboard – besides the crocodile wires, there are also 2 LEDs, 4 resistors (two 330 ohm ones and two 10K ohm ones) and wires connecting to the Arduino as well as two strips of conductive tape attached to my blazer. The whole idea of making the LEDs light up is by making the braids with conducive hair ties touch the conductive strips on the blazer. It doesn’t matter whether they touch one strip or the other as they both have the same function. However, it is more likely that the left braid will touch the left stripe and vice versa. Now when the braids touch the strips on the blazer – the LEDs turn on. If they touch the strips again – the LEDs turn off, because the other state of the button is for the LEDs to turn off. Also, the strips don’t stand out too much from the blazer, therefore it might not even be clear straight away what causes the LEDs to light up or turn off as they might just as well be a part of the wearable! Here you can see pictures of the breadboard and the complete circuit with my braids as a part of it:

Not only do the LEDs simply light up, I programmed them to flash with a 50 milliseconds delay each if only one of the braids has touched the conductive strip or, if both of them have, the LEDs flash alternatively. Down below you can see the code I used:

int ledPin;
int ledPin2;
int buttonPin;
int buttonPin2;
boolean flashing=false;
boolean flashing2=false;
int prevButtonState=false;
int prevButtonState2=false;

void setup() {
 // put your setup code here, to run once:
 ledPin = 2;
 ledPin2 = 7;
 buttonPin = 8;
 buttonPin2 = 12;
 pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);
 pinMode(ledPin2, OUTPUT);
 pinMode(buttonPin, INPUT);
 pinMode(buttonPin2, INPUT);
}

void loop() {
 // put your main code here, to run repeatedly:
 //turn Led on 
 int buttonState = digitalRead(buttonPin);
 int buttonState2 = digitalRead(buttonPin2);
 
 if(buttonState != prevButtonState && buttonState == HIGH) {
 flashing = !flashing;
 delay(200);
 } 
 if(buttonState2 != prevButtonState2 && buttonState2 == HIGH) {
 flashing2 = !flashing2;
 delay(200);
 } 
 prevButtonState = buttonState;
 prevButtonState2 = buttonState2;
 if (flashing == true) {
 digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);
 delay(50); 
 digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW);
 delay(50);
 } else {
 digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW);
 }
 if (flashing2 == true) {
 digitalWrite(ledPin2, HIGH);
 delay(50); 
 digitalWrite(ledPin2, LOW);
 delay(50);
 } else {
 digitalWrite(ledPin2, LOW);
 }
}

The biggest challenge of this project was figuring out what delay to use in order to turn the LED on. After several attempts I decided to stick with 200 milliseconds, which basically means that in 200 milliseconds you need to press and release the braid from the strip, and this causes for the button to change its state. Because 200 milliseconds is a fairly small amount of time, it also gives the illusion that the LED lights up almost instantly after using the switch.

Another challenge was choosing the delay time for flashing and I decided to go for 50 milliseconds, because if this period of time was longer, it was harder to turn off the LED (the other state of the button). It is still harder to turn both of the LEDs off than it is turn them on, because the program only checks the button press after one loop of flashing is done and this loop is longer if both of the LEDs flash. If I chose the flashing delay time to be longer, then oftentimes the LED wouldn’t turn off after the braid touched the strip, because the loop of flashing was not over yet. However, 50 milliseconds seemed like the most useful time for being able to both turn on and off the LEDs and still distinguish whether it flashes or not. Here you can see videos from both another person’s and my perspective:

And there you have it – the fashion police is on its way!

Luize Rieksta

Is everything going to become universally interactive?

I agree with the author of The Art of Interactive Design that the term interactivity tends to be used left and right nowadays. I believe it is used to give some objects or processes a fancier name or more important connotation. And because so many people don’t really know the definition of interactivity, that is what actually makes them more interested in the product. For some weird reason people tend to be more blown away by names that are not straight-forward, that don’t explain what the product is or does and just generally sound like there is something about it that differs it from others. However, if everyone starts using it without actually considering whether it is even appropriate to use, is it really going to be differentiated? Starting to call everything interactive is probably not something we want to be universalized. Besides from that, I think that universality in general is something to be looking forward to now or in the future, as it was mentioned in The Jump to Universality that in the ancient world universality was rather avoided. And maybe it was to make our lives more complicated now but maybe just to make them a little less predictable. Whatever the case, human-beings will still most probably find a way how to make their lives more convenient and improving.

No Juice Was Spilled This Time

When thinking of what object I would like to observe people interacting with I realized that I want it to be something that is commonly used by a lot of people, therefore it would be interesting to observe the different ways people use it. Also, I wanted it to be something that I use as well, thus I could compare my method of using the object with the methods other people use. That’s how I decided to observe people using the juice dispenser at the dining hall.

In order to achieve my goal, all I had to do was go to the dining hall at around 6-7 pm, because that’s the time when a lot of people are having dinner. In less than 2 minutes there were at least five people using the juice dispenser and sometimes it was even hard to keep track of the different ways people used the juice dispenser, because they just came one after the other. However, I managed to make some observations, and they were quite surprising to me. Technically there is just one job that the juice dispenser does – it delivers juice as you press a glass against the metal thing. However, different people really use different techniques in order to get the dispenser do its one job. My observations were that most people pressed their glass against the metal thing in order to activate the tap and the juice would start pouring in the glass (therefore they are only using one hand), but there was one person who used one hand to press the metal thing but the other hand to hold the glass (therefore using both hands). Most of the people tilted the glass as the juice was pouring in, but some people put the glass almost vertically, so it created a 90 degrees angle with the surface. There was one person who was pouring juice in two glasses at a time, because I asked her to pour some juice for me, however I did not tell her what the purpose for my request was, so she didn’t know that she is being observed. To my surprise, none of the people I saw spilled any juice. I guess that the thing I was expecting the most was some spilling as I sometimes have trouble with this issue, however all of the people I observed dealt with the situation without spilling anything. Overall, I was intrigued to see new techniques (for example, putting the glass vertically below the tap, as I always tilt it), but the main conclusion is that they all eventually lead to success.

Below you can see a picture of the person who poured juice in two glasses at a time:

Here you can see a picture of someone pouring juice with one hand and putting the glass below the tap without tilting it:

Luize Rieksta

The Electron Theory vs. Little Greenies

The author introduced me to a way of writing about electricity and explaining terms (or as he calls them – jargon) about it which I had never seen before. He does it in a witty, super light-weight and constructive manner. By using the character of Little Greenie, he describes things like voltage, current, resistance, electrons, etc. What I like the most about his style of writing is that in the dialogue between him and the imaginary Little Greenie Mike he firstly uses some of the scientific explanation, which is accepted to be true and is widely believed (the electron theory). However, in response to that, the author also provides the view of Little Greenie who actually explains the same process, just by using less abstract and less complicated vocabulary and a description of events that is easier to understand for a reader who has no background knowledge. Overall, I think that by writing both the scientific and Little Greenie’s explanation, the author has made it possible for the reader to create an analogy between those explanations and understand better what’s going on even in terms of the electron theory.

Look mom, no hands!

When designing a switch that wouldn’t require the use of hands in order to turn on the LED light, I considered several ideas as the initial idea didn’t work out as well as planned. That’s what I found the most challenging and the most useful about this assignment – going through phases of something not working but then detecting the weaknesses and trying to improve them with the use of different materials and a slightly different setup.

Initially, because I have long hair, I thought of making a switch which would use my hair to turn on the LED. Knowing the fact that water conducts electricity, I thought that it would be an interesting idea to create a switch that lights up the LED only if the hair is wet. However, after several attempts of making the circuit, I came to a conclusion that the water in the hair was not enough to ensure a sufficient flow of electricity in the circuit. It worked well with using a dampened paper towel instead of my hair in the circuit, but, because it was not what I was looking for, I had to keep trying different ideas.

That’s how I eventually came up with using a hair pin that’s pinned in my hair as it is made out of metal and therefore conducts electricity. The way how my switch works is that there are crocodile wires attached from the breadboard to a metal pin in my hair. There are also crocodile wires attached from the breadboard to a piece of aluminum foil which, however, is attached to a pocket of my shirt. As the hair with the pin touches the piece of foil, the circuit is complete and the LED lights up. The reason for using the aluminum foil is because it increases the area that the hair can touch in order to turn on the LED. Down below you can see a picture of the circuit, but the LED is not yet lit up, because the hair doesn’t touch the aluminum foil attached to the pocket.

This is the circuit from my perspective:

In these pictures you can see that as the hair with the pin touches the foil, the LED lights up:

There is also a short video of the process of using the switch (no hands used!):

Finally, you can see the whole circuit without being attached to my shirt:

Luize Rieksta