Ubiquitous computing is an example of a silicon-based trend. Ubiquitous computing is the increasingly embedded nature of sensors, processors, and
networks in the physical objects that surround us,
from medical equipment to our mobile phones.
A good example of assistive or augmentative
technology is Dean Kamen’s iBOT-powered wheelchair. The unique technology and orientation was
intended to enable those with severe mobility
problems to ascend stairs. Anyone who uses this
device daily will also mention the unintended
appeal of the device: the mechanism can readily lift the user to be eye to eye with anyone they
Finally, an example of devices that help one
understand better is the work done on Xerox
machines. As noted earlier, the machine evolved
into something that could teach users how
to diagnose problems and quickly return the
machine to a fully operational state.
John saw three different resources enabling
adaptive systems. The first are the platforms for
creating experiences, “the auto-catalytic foundation for co-constructing fluid, extensible interactions and meaningful relationships between people and hybrid physical/virtual worlds that matter
to them.” The second is the people, places and
things that contribute and benefit from the adaptive worlds, what John referred to as the material
substrate. Last are the underlying elements that
make up the networks within adaptive worlds,
infrastructures that are self-organizing rather than
guided by outside forces. At least one component
from each of these clusters is required for any
adaptive emergent system.
We now have the capacity to design and build
objects that are active, semi-autonomous, evocative, emergent, mixed-initiative partners in the
(re)formation of worlds that are magical by today’s
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, recently suggested
“people are not ready for the technology revolution that’s going to happen to them.” He was
referring to the ubiquitous role of technology and
the collection of data to enrich our interactions
with the artificial. Many organizations, including
Google, are under fire for provoking privacy concerns over the handling of their users’ data. The
complex adaptive systems that are beginning to
emerge are a testament to the benefits of systems
that can learn and engage in a dialog.
What does this mean for interaction design?
More broadly, what does this mean for the systems we will interact with in the future?
John, when speaking to a group of present and
future designers, said: “Don’t be satisfied with
my native abilities. Provide a setting in which my
ability is extended… Help me reveal my potential.”
He envisioned a world in which systems weren’t
designed for specific interactions, but instead
designed for the latent potential abilities that exist
in everyone. John continued, “Let me feel that it’s
alive. Don’t hide it from me. Don’t make it transparent.” Living systems are inherently fallible and
magical: We make decisions that end up being
mistakes or happy accidents. One of the qualities
of biological systems is their ability to acknowledge and react to these events. John believed that
complex adaptive systems should react the same
way: They should evoke the same feeling of “alive.”
About the AuthorS Shelley Evenson is a
design manager at Microsoft leading a team that
explores real-time communication products that
engage and connect people in new ways to help
them communicate and collaborate. Before
Justin Rheinfrank is an interaction designer at grav-itytank, an innovation consulting firm in Chicago.
He has helped visualize and define exciting new
interaction and service concepts for organizations
like Google, Samsung, Mayo Clinic, and NASA.
Rheinfrank graduated from Carnegie Mellon
Hugh Dubberly manages a consultancy focused on
making services and software easier to use
through interaction design and information design.
As vice president he was responsible for design
and production of Netscape’s Web services. For 10
University with master’s and bachelor’s degrees in human-comput-er interaction and a bachelor’s in industrial design.
November + December 2010
© 2010 ACM 1072-5220/10/1100 $10.00