Touch project

Touch is a research project at the Interaction Design department at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Touch takes a user-centred approach to Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a technology that enables connections between mobile phones and real-world objects: bridging the gap between the real and the virtual.


Nokia 3220 NFC Shell

NFC is interesting for us because it enables connections between mobile phones and real-world objects: bridging the gap between the real and the virtual. The project offers the possibility of radically simplifying existing applications and providing a new spectrum of local services through the mobile phone. At AHO we have multiple disciplines, including interaction design, industrial design, urbanism and architecture; a group with significant interest in the areas possibilities of NFC technology.

About Touch

The Touch project aims to strengthen research and industry in Norway into user-centred applications of emerging NFC technology. It aims to understand the way people will use tangible, digital objects as part of their daily lives, and to discover the information systems underlying those interactions.

Touch is not a pure technology project; NFC platforms and specifications are already well developed and documented. Instead we are taking a user-centred approach, and focusing on the social motivations behind the use of technology. With this process it will hopefully uncover unexpected uses, and significant untapped markets for the technology.

NFC offers the possibility to radically simplify existing applications and providing entirely new services. This has significant potential to drive innovation in areas such as retail, marketing, and public services, and offers strong potential for emergent social and communicative uses.

The project covers three distinct areas

  1. Social and communication. This is a promising area for significant, emergent, potentially unexpected uses, particularly in areas of personal information management, location-based services and social networking.
  2. Public services. This area looks at the ways that new touch-based interactions could access public data or services in safe, democratic, appropriate and efficient ways.
  3. Retail, services and marketing. Exploring changes to the way we interact with retail services, looking at (but not limited to) payment for both products and services, automated check-out, product information, extended services and relationships, recycling, and tracking products through their cradle to cradle life-cycle.

Touch has a number of formal and informal partnerships within industry and academia. Among these partnerships are Telenor, Opera, Sintef, University of Oslo and the Interactive Institute Göteborg.

Simple scenarios

As part of the advocacy and initial research process we have developed some very simple scenarios to explain the potential of NFC interactions. (Drawings by Lars Haaland).

Transfer and exchange

Tags as gifts

Simple wayfinding

About Timo Arnall

Timo Arnall is a lecturer at AHO, an interaction designer and researcher currently researching in the fields of NFC and RFID. Timo’s research areas include tangible and social interaction, marking in public space, spatial annotation and locative media.

In May 2004 Timo ran a workshop on locative media and public space at the AHO conference Spark: Design and Locality. He has since presented his research at ISEA 2004 in Helsinki, Art+Communication in Riga, at the Interactive institute in Göteborg, and at CHI2005 in Portland, Oregon. In December 2004 he was involved in a seminar on Social Software at Intermedia in Oslo.

Timo Arnall’s paper ’Marking in public space’ was accepted to the Engaging the City workshop at CHI 2005, organised by Intel (US), University of Surrey (UK), Portland State University (US) and Carnegie Mellon University (US). At this workshop Timo looked at ideas for encouraging civic engagement in public space, and gave other researchers an insight into ongoing research into the marking of public space.

About Interaction Design at AHO

The Interaction Design department at AHO has a goal of building up a group comprising lecturers, researchers and PHD students, in which we excel at creative, relevant interactive work that communicates to end users. To do this, we are creating an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration where we collaborate across disciplines and encourage working in multi-disciplinary teams. The department has a focus on (amongst other subjects) physical computing, social computing, experience- and strategic-design.

The department works closely with Norwegian Industry. A recent success story in collaboration involved ASONO incorporating student work in the final design. In addition, students have been working on the Snøhetta modular house, and some of their ideas are likely to be put into production. The ERA World Congress for Design has commissioned two pieces of work from AHO students. One is an installation and one is a monument to mark the event.

Interaction Design is an area showing explosive growth. All of our students have successfully managed to find jobs, and several students have experienced strong competition to get hold of them.

Related things:

  1. Touch project interview In December 2005 I was interviewed for Printed and Disposable Electronics News about the Touch project, the future of RFID and on the social implications of NFC. Here is the plain interview, since an......
  2. A PhD in Touch Radio Frequency IDentification is a wireless technology that is is currently finding applications in the replacement of barcodes in supply chains and logistics. This cheap and potentially ubiquitous technology is likely to influence the......
  3. Teaching Touch This spring we have an MA interaction design course dedicated to the Touch research project at AHO called ‘Tangible interactions’. On this course there are 10 students, mainly with an industrial and interaction design......
  4. Touchable services: local interactions In March 2006 Fourth year interaction design students at AHO conducted intense one-week investigations into Near Field Communication in a project called Touchable services. See more student projects. Einar Sneve Martinussen, André Borgen, Paolo......
  5. Re/Touch: Inspiring touch-related interaction design One of the things that social and cultural research on touch attempts to grapple with is everything people are supposed to touch and not supposed to touch—and what we actually end up touching or......

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