Sorry things have been a bit sporadic around here. My life has become a jumbled mix of philosophy of design (lots of rhetoric, with side dishes of grammar, dialectic, and poetic for good fun), Scrabble as an information space, interactive parking meters, haptic scheduling devices, spatialized audio-only interfaces, the pleasures of learning multiple applications and java(ugh), and, finally…robots! (what a great word – it just begs for the exclamation point). The learning continues at breakneck speed, and I’m ready for the winter break.
Yesterday I got to see Cynthia Breazeal from MIT speak about her work on robots, specifically Kismet, her doctoral thesis. She closed by presenting some video of her latest robot, Leonardo, which was contructed by Stan Winston, who’s made just about every animatronic creature you’re seen in movies for the last 20 years. Although Leonardo is still slowly undergoing the transition from an animatronic puppet to a robot having its own (small) degree of autonomy, the range of motion and emotion it can express is scary cool. She presented a great taxonomy of robots, considering robots as a tools, cyborgs, avatars, and social creatures. Much of her current work focuses on designing more sociable robots. I’ll be doing stuff in a similar vein on this robot over the next couple of weeks as a final project in my Interface-Interaction Design class.
What else? eDesign magazine has an article on design and technology at Carnegie Mellon. Their cover has my friends Carl DiSalvo and Francine Gemperle posing around an egg-carton (you just have to see it). I don’t know if the article is any good – I couldn’t seem to find it online, and I’m too lazy/busy to hunt it down in print. However, the eDesign site does feature a surprisingly good visualization of design-related careers courtesy of Harvard Grad School of Design.
Oh, and I needed a new cell phone, so I got a Hiptop. Yes, it’s as nice as reports said it is. It has lots of nice touches – good redundancies, tasteful audio feedback, nice layout and navigation. What’s funny is how quickly I became accustomed to it. It’s a fairly novel form of interaction, not like any handheld I’ve used, but within about an hour of using it I felt comfortable. It just works. I’m now exploring the integration with their website, which allows you to manage contacts, etc. And I haven’t used it much as a cellphone yet either.
It is an odd experience though, having an always-on internet connection in a handheld. I kept instant message conversations going intermittently with friends from a bus stop through the ride and my cooking/eating dinner. Instant messaging is just asynchronous enough that you can communicate with a friend but do lots of other stuff once you’ve got the form factor down to a reasonable size. I guess the odd part is realizing that you don’t ever have to stop a dialogue with someone, you just slow it way down. You could say that’s just email, but it’s qualitatively different – it feels different. Kevin Fox got one at the same time, so we’re both tracking our experiences as we use it.