dConstruct: Ambient Location & the Future of the Interface

by Luke Wroblewski September 6, 2013

In her talk at dConstruct in Brighton UK 2013 Amber Case shared how location data can serve as a information layer which makes our lives better. Here are my notes from her talk :Ambient Location and the Future of the Interface

  • Any time you interact with a technology outside yourself, you are a cyborg. Humans extract appendages to themselves in order to be in places they shouldn't.
  • Physical extensions of ourselves allow us to extend the capabilities of our bodies: knives, hammers. These appendages have remained very stable over the years. Mobile devices and computers on the other hand change very quickly. Buttons have liquified into software. Devices are now larger on inside then on the outside. We can add more to them than their physical size implies. Computers are extensions of the mental self. Anthropologists traditionally go and study people of different cultures/regions and report back on them. But we have a lot of curious behaviors within our own cultures well.
  • In 1981 Steve Mann wore portable computing apparatus at MiT. He had to set up his own pirate radio to get connectivity. He wanted to take away bits of reality away from his view like remove billboards and ads. He could cancel out brands he didn't like.
  • Wearing something on your head to Mann was a way to empower yourself. For instance, he used analytics about people to better remember them.
  • Input has been an issue since the mouse. It was an indirect manipulation display that was never intended to be around long. Touch, on the other hand, is a direct manipulation device.
  • Technology has not been good with humans. It has been designed to be technology. Often technology for technologies sake. And it can be rude, challenging to use, etc. Calm technology instead is there to amplify your life not take away from it. Example: Memoto is a tiny camera that persistently records everything in your life. It is designed to not get in the way of your life.
  • Ambient notifications can occur in the background and be pushed to people. Input can come from anywhere your location, your speed, your motion, etc.
  • Location based reminders have been around for long time. But consistent location detection has issues like battery drain, and security.
  • Geo location: allows your phone to become a remote control for your life. You can set up invisible radiuses that provide messages about your environment using real time data like weather, public transit, etc.
  • Geolocation can provide serendipitous interactions by notifying you when you are near things. It's a different way to experience the world. Examples: restaurant ratings scores, nearby pinball machines, landmarks, etc.
  • Personal data sets about yourself are not correlated together. We have frictionless data gathering but that data gets put into proprietary data sets. We need to expose some of this invisible data and make it visible to ourselves. The best technology should get out of the way and let people live their lives. But there are invisible things that should come forward because they help you to understand what your are doing and why.