Everyware icons (visualising ubicomp situations)

In December 2005 Adam Greenfield asked me to work with him on icon concepts for his book Everyware. Here is Adam’s description of his book:

“The age of ubiquitous computing is here: a computing without computers, where information processing has diffused into everyday life, and virtually disappeared from view. What does this mean to those of us who will be encountering it? How will it transform our lives? And how will we learn to make wise decisions about something so hard to see?”

The icons were for the section headers of the book, covering the ideas that Adam felt were important around making aspects of ubiquitous computing visible. These were the suggested themes:

  • Augmented-reality information is available in this location
  • This object has invisible qualities (could be almost identical with the last of these four)
  • Warning: sensor field
  • Information processing dissolving in behavior (i see this as bits flowing through a handshake)
  • Media surface
  • Network dead zone

    I made a quick sketch that has some icons that are consistent with my earlier work on a graphic language for touch-based interactions. I’ve used the dashed line again to show borders and invisible geometry. Not all of these are successful, but I think they show some interesting directions for the future.


    Click for a larger size image. Download as pdf.

    I think in particular the Network dead zone, Warning: sensor field and this object has invisible qualities are particularly successful. The book used a set of icons inspired by these, you can see a selection on Flickr.

    Related things:

    1. From ubicomp to service design Mike Kuniavsky presented at ETech 2009 on the Dotted-Line World on the links between ubiquitous computing and service design, where subscription-based services are based on everyday objects. (I’m a big fan of dotted or......
    2. Making radio tangible Next week we’re launching some new work that explores the spatial aspects of RFID. So before we publish that, here is a quick summary of existing work on radio, sensors and space that I’ve......
    3. The EU on the visibility of RFID The EU is conducting a new online consultancy on privacy, data protection and information security principles in RFID applications. I am happy to see that in Article 5 they begin to address the invisible......
    4. Internet of Things booklet Rob van Kranenburg is creating what looks like an interesting critique of ambient technology and the all-seeing network of RFID: “The Internet of Things is the second issue in the series of Network Notebooks.......
    5. Making things talk Tom Igoe’s new book Making things talk arrived today, full of lovely projects and code examples. Tom’s previous book Physical computing has been the definitive reference for all hardware hacking that goes on at......

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  1. By The dashed line in use · Touch on 28 September 2006 at 17:17

    [...] In previous work I have advocated for the use of dashed lines, my paper for Mobile HCI 2006 [pdf] represents Touch-based interactions with dashed lines, and work on ubicomp iconography uses the dashed line to represent borders, or seams. [...]

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