Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cross-country for cross-media (9)

Mattias Arvola of Södertörns University College made explorations with his students into interaction design for nature experience. The basic question was: how can interaction design be used to advance information design, interactive services, and in the end increase the tourist attraction at nature reserves and national park? Some 60 interaction design and media technology students they developed initial concepts and early prototypes of interactive services. These areas studied were guides, routes, events, games, installations and websites.

Guides are of course the most likely candidates for interactive services. They can range from stationary versions such as installations, points of information, billboards and websites to interactive versions on mobile phones, PDAs or even dedicated mobile devices with the possibility to of GPS positioning. Some of the guides were community based, e.g. bird watchers. Most curious but interesting was a design concept whereby people would walk around with a small log of wood. The log had a hole through which you could listen, but also talk or blow into it. The main input was given by blowing.

Routes were another area of investigation. Also here mobile devices could be used. But also games can be used to make a route interesting. One of the students developed a route whereby kids could create an animal, learn about what it was doing and then track the animal on a PDA.

And why not use an online dating service to bring people together for a visit to the woods and even have a dinner there?

Installations were one of the favourites for explorations. One novel idea was to have a screen projection of a woman who lived in the lake and showed shots of other places and times. Another idea was to develop a living tree by which a face would be projected on the tree and kids could hug the computer augmented face on the tree (see illustration; design by Johan Blomkvist, Ruken Cetiner, Oskar Jeremias and Sara Schill Saran). Another interesting idea was the use of stationary mixed-reality binoculars. When people look through them and turn them in different directions, additional information would be given.

Websites were used for preparing a visit, but they were also used after a visit. They were also used for community building, using geo-tagged photographs. In one project, a family at home could track their father on a fishing expedition and see the photographs he took immediately after he had taken them (I guess of the whale he caught).

Several ideas were based on embodied multimodal experiences such as interaction techniques like blowing and hugging, touch, movement, sound and light, but also instrumental and social issues. (social web, sharing photographs, ranking them). Of course location based technologies such as WiFi triangulation, GSM triangulation, GPS, RFID, Bluetooth and barcode readers were explored.

In the ideas presented the students made use of features like cross-platform applications, multiple platform applications, embodied multi-modal experiences, user generated content and location-based information. This is a mouthful. Yet Mattias Arvola was realistic about the explorations as he considered them a mirror of our zeitgeist. He would love to see what students had made of these projects ten years ago and ten years from now.

(BTW An example of nature experience can also be found in The Netherlands. In a wetland area near our offices a sea eagle pair has made its nest and is brooding. Like last year the nature organisation has put up a webcam)

Blog Posting Number: 714

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