This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating.
With increasingly ubiquitous wireless networks the physical world is becoming layered with a spectrum of radio waves. These fields range from massive GSM, 3G and DVB cells, through to household sized wifi and bluetooth networks, to tiny RFID and NFC bubbles. Each of these invisible bubbles offers functions or services that can be accessed from various devices. When inside the appropriate field mobile phones may be able to carry a voice call or pay for a subway ticket, laptops can transfer data, while smart cards can authorise access or payments.
What does the increasingly radio-saturated landscape – and our reliance on wireless infrastructure – mean in our everyday use of applications and services? Can we use fields as a material for creative purposes?
This is a central issue for ubiquitous computing where wireless functions or services are embedded – invisibly – into the environment. For a user, knowing what kinds of fields are available and knowing what kinds of functions, applications or services they offer may be a critical usability problem in the near future. If certain fields become critical for our use ubiquitous functions or services, how can we cope with the edges, seams and failures? Do we need to increase the usability and awareness of various radio fields?
Can we introduce certain kinds of visibility back into ‘invisible computing’? How should we visualise the available options? Should we represent them technically, according to applications or services, or should we visualise the kind of information or risk involved in the interaction?
The work of Matthew Chalmers on seamful design is relevant, particularly: Seamful Design and Ubicomp Infrastructure: “In this paper, we discuss taking a ‘seamful’ design approach to ubicomp systems. Some features that we designers usually categorise as infrastructure problems may, to users, be useful interactional features. Examples include the edges and gaps in 802.11 coverage, and the patterns of where one can and cannot get GPS positioning.”
Mobile Landscape Graz in Real Time. “harnesses the potential of mobile phones as an affordable, ready-made and ubiquitous medium that allows the city to be sensed and displayed in real-time as a complex, pulsating entity. Because it is possible to simultaneously ‘ping’ the cell phones of thousands of users – thereby establishing their precise location in space at a given moment in time – these devices can be used as a highly dynamic tracking tool that describes how the city is used and transformed by its citizens.”
Photos of wifi space. “Wifi Camera Obscura reveals the electromagnetic space of our devices and the shadows that we create within such spaces, in particular our wifi networks which are increasingly found throughout cities of the developed world.”
Cell phone disco. “An experimental installation made out of flashing cells. By multiplication of a mobile phone gadget, only slightly altered consumer product, we created a space to experience the invisible body of the mobile phone.”
Usman Haque. “The domain of architecture has been transformed by developments in interaction research, wearable computing, mobile connectivity, people-centered design, contextual awareness, RFID systems and ubiquitous computing.”
Dunne & Raby, Hertzian tales. “The subject of these proposals is the role of electronic products in the aesthetic inhabitation of a rapidly dematerialising, ubiquitous and intelligent environment.”
Gadget allergy. “A university is trying to unravel the truth behind a 21st century “disease” produced by exposure to electrical equipment.”
EMF Absorption by the body. “The public are concerned about the health effects of electromagnetic radiation. Scientific research is needed to find out exactly how electromagnetic fields interact with the human body. These measurements cannot be done on live people and so calculations must be used.”
When wireless dreams come true. “Waves, a recent exhibition and conference in Riga curated by RIXC and Armin Medosch, tuned in to artistic engagements with the electro-magnetic spectrum. By exploring the material, if imperceptible, base of the information sphere, this event attempted to escape the conventional fetishisation of message over medium.”
ætherspace. “With ætherspace I would like to make hertzian space audible, make the invisible sonic. Briefly, wearable transducers/antennae would pick up the various components of hertzian space as the user walked around in the city, home, or workplace.”
Electroprobes. “The Electroprobe allows you to listen to electronic objects while they are talking and dreaming.”
Phantom geometry and tissue-simulant liquids. “Investigating the visualisation of electromagnetic fields.”
EMF meter. “A scientific instrument for measuring Electromagnetic radiation.”
On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study. “Aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals.”
Read more about these design briefs.