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User experience and application development with Smart-Its

As emerging technologies such as SMART-ITS (Interconnected Embedded Technology for Smart Artefacts with Collective Awareness) disappear into everyday objects, supporting possibilities for collective awareness among ‘smart’ artifacts in our everyday life and intimate environments, the relations among users and the things in their surroundings is transformed. There are new interaction techniques, interfaces, actuation, multimodality and interactive behaviours that not only need to be designed, but investigated in relation to new perceptions and possible experiences in use. Within the Smart-Its project, a number of applications have been developed to explore aspects of the computational platform and also to investigate the implications of Smart-Its on design practice and user experience.

One such application that demonstrates the development of interaction techniques, design methods, and evaluation of user experience is the ‘Smart-Its restaurant’ application. Taking a specific work and everyday context, the application was developed for the highly dynamic flows and objects in a restaurant setting. A set of working demonstrators with Smart-Its augmented artifacts was developed with scenario-based design methods – the resulting application was developed as an exhibition in order to involve hands-on exploration of smart objects and the application was also evaluated in a user test. The prototypes demonstrated how sensitive food items may keep track of their status during their lifecycle by communicating in internal and external networks, how the handling of artifacts individually or collectively could be reflected in dynamic behaviours (for example, in dynamic menus) and how several objects can collaborate and share data to support logistics and workflow of users. Taken together, this suite of demonstrators showed how a variety of objects and tasks can be augmented and supported by sensors, communication and computation. By mixing real sensor data and visual scenarios we created a complete vision of an “intelligent environment” of the future, which visitors could engage and interact with.

In the Smart-Its project, a variety of applications were developed among the project partners (f.ex. Holmquist et al in documents section) which begin to map out a design space of the possibilities for collective awareness and ‘intelligence’ in environments and objects. Typically, in research projects developing smart artifacts or ubiquitous computing applications, it is necessary to build a lot of custom hardware and software from scratch. The Smart-Its platform allows designers and researchers to construct responsive or ‘smart’ environments with comparably little overhead. Future interactive systems will require a multitude of sensors and distributed computation – with Smart-Its and other physical prototyping toolkits, which are starting to appear, it is possible to explore such systems today without building everything from scratch. Application and user experience work in the Smart-Its project collectively constitute a body of design methods, interaction techniques, and user experience evaluations as a body of knowledge for working comprehensively with the technology possibilities of such ubiquitous computing platforms from the design and user-centered development perspective.

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The Interactive Institute II Aktiebolag
Karlavagen 108
10450 Stockholm
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