• The “History Tablecloth,” developed by the Interaction Research Studio is an example of embedding computing in everyday objects.
When items are left on the cloth it begins to glow beneath them, creating a slowly expanding halo. When the items are removed, the
glow gradually fades.
ones. However, with Gaver’s target users, and with
those in developing countries, they find it hard to
give feedback on how the technology could best be
used in their lives based on the half-formed prototype they are presented with. Hence the artifacts
that Gaver designs are finished to a very high
standard before they are deployed, so that the leap
the users have to make is not so great.
Inspired by these insights, my colleagues and
I decided to follow Gavers methodology on our
most recent study. This involved the creation of an
electronic notice-board system that allows users
to download multimedia content for free onto
their Bluetooth-enabled cellular handsets. This
work was inspired by earlier research that showed
that many users in the townships around Cape
Town had sophisticated cellular handsets, capable
of playing MP3 or 3GP files, but they lacked the
finances to download such files.
Instead of interviewing these users and including them in design sessions to discover what they
would do with a system that lets them download
multimedia files for free, we went ahead and built
the system. We tested it in many scenarios and
with many users around our university to ensure
that it was robust and reliable before deploying it
in a township community hall. The final system
that we deployed allowed users not only to down-