Touchable services: Underskog

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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.

Anette Andersen and Jørn Knutsen worked with the web service Underskog (the undergrowth). Underskog is infamous in Norway as one of the first social networking services, it offers event calendaring, collaborative weblogs, discussions and is invite only. It is shining example of situated software.

In their analysis, the students listed the strengths and weaknesses of the online service. Underskog is really good at handling the time before an event. It answers many of the questions that arise: Is anyone I know planning going? What does it cost? What do other people think of the place? Where do I get tickets? Where exactly is it? What kind of people are coming? I want to let other people know I’m going.

What Underskog currently is not good at is the time during an event: Are any of my friends here? Where are all my friends? He should be here by now? I’m bored, what else is going on? I want to let my friends know I’m here.

They designed a simple system that would log users into venues by touching a tag in the venue. Users would then rate events by touching a happy or sad face. The use of RFID-tags placed around arenas and events would allow for very quick ‘swipes’ or ‘touches’ to indicate presence and ratings, this is particularly important in a context where interacting with a screen may be socially inappropriate.

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Through the use of scenarios the students demonstrated the usage of such a system. The mobile interface told you how many of your contacts were there, and also if your contacts were somewhere else. It also sent information back to Underskog.no where information would appear on a map.

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Being a one week project, they did not look into detail what the advantages of this system may be over other forms of communication like SMS or simple mobile internet. But what is particularly interesting about this service is that the RFID tags can be placed by anybody on any venue, becoming a parasite of existing infrastructures much like Underskog itself. The service is potentially totally user-driven, and doesn’t require venues to sign up to the service in order for it to be useful.

See more at Jørn’s weblog.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 15 March 2007 at 1:31 | Permalink

    Hello,

    How come Underskog is invite only? I have a lot of friends who are members but they don’t have any invites to send me. Please help me out!

    Thank you.

    Asbjørn Hollerud

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