Week 149

I’m writ­ing these notes on a train to Malmö for a change. I was there this wednes­day and am back again to have a chat at Illu­sion Labs. I was put in touch with them by Ham­pus of The Aston­ish­ing Tribe, whom I vis­it­ed on wednes­day. TAT’s an inter­est­ing group, spe­cial­ized in the design of inno­v­a­tive mobile UIs. Their Rec­og­nizr con­cept video made quite a splash in AR cir­cles ear­li­er this year. I once gave a lec­ture on play­ful UIs at their office and even though noth­ing con­crete is in the works it would be inter­est­ing to col­lab­o­rate some more on that top­ic some time.

On wednes­day I also met up with my friends at InUse, whom I did some work with when I was last in Copen­hagen. That project dealt with appli­ca­tions of mul­ti­touch in a real-estate project. Over a Lebanese buf­fet lunch Mijo and I most­ly mused on what’s changed in UX con­sult­ing land the past few years and how that might devel­op into the future. We talked about ‘peak com­plex­i­ty’, the inter­net of things and strate­gies for design­ing deeply net­worked things. Good stuff.

To wrap up that day, I had a sur­prise meet-up with Karin of Ozma, (again thanks to the awe­some con­nect­ing pow­ers of Ham­pus). Ozma is a game design stu­dio work­ing very much in the same spir­it as Hub­bub, with a focus on “gam­ing beyond the screen”. It was very encour­ag­ing to dis­cov­er a com­pa­ny that’s been suc­cess­ful­ly work­ing in this space for the past four years. (And they’re not the only one, in Swe­den alone there’s also Fabel, The Sto­ry Lab and Grul…) One of the things we talked about is a cool plat­form they’re devel­op­ing for urban games that is not GPS-based, but runs entire­ly on SMS and is there­fore very use­ful for work­ing with tar­get audi­ences who do not have access to high-end phones (i.e. teens and tweens).

That wednes­day I head­ed back to Copen­hagen, my mind suit­ably blown, as you can prob­a­bly imag­ine.

Oth­er than that I have been enjoy­ing Social­square’s hos­pi­tal­i­ty on the Vester­bro­gade. Mar­tin, Mag­nus and I spent some time hash­ing out the details of the work­shop we’ll be doing and we man­aged to nar­row down the ques­tions we’d like to answer to a man­age­able set. I’m keen on hav­ing part of this project’s out­put be share­able with the world; in what shape or form we have yet to deter­mine.

My active involve­ment with Layar has gone on hold for the time being, but at the same time the first bits of my work for Layar are find­ing its way into the world. They’ve launched a new ver­sion of their app, which now sup­ports paid con­tent. (Android is out, iPhone should fol­low soon.) This was one of the first things I worked on for them, before mov­ing on to stuff that’ll hope­ful­ly see the light of day some­where over sum­mer. Design­ing the paid con­tent stuff involved deal­ing with a ton of depen­den­cies on process­es behind the scenes. It was an inter­est­ing chal­lenge to make it as fric­tion­less as pos­si­ble. Plus, the mobile pay­ment ecosys­tem is itself an inter­est­ing beast to deal with for a while. I also found myself design­ing for sev­er­al mobile plat­forms at the same time, which can real­ly mess with your head; both Android and iPhone have their own ‘gram­mar’ of inter­ac­tion (or more pre­cise­ly, one of them has some­thing resem­bling a prop­er gram­mar, the other’s is more accu­rate­ly described as a pid­gin). So design­ing in par­al­lel for both is a bit like speak­ing two lan­guages at the same time. Con­fus­ing, even to a Dutch­man.

All this, plus some more Skype calls with my HKU stu­dents (remind me to share some details on their work next time), anoth­er Skype ses­sion with the U-Turm group and the very final prepa­ra­tions for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6 took up week 149.