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Experimentation, Prototyping and Roombas.

Will we look back on the desktop experience of today in much the same way we reflect on computer punch cards of yore? If so, when will the desktop and mouse become irrelevant? How do people who want to explore the world of technology experiences that are free from the tethers of the keyboard and mouse begin?

panel snapshots


These along with a host of other thought-provoking questions were among the topics of discussion, debate, and jest at last week’s Beyond the Desktop panel discussion. I was honored to be in the company of six brave and talented designers who are exploring the frontier beyond the desktop and thrilled to see such active interest in this topic by the San Francisco UX community.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes of the evening:

We’re still skeptics and I think that is an important perspective to have. I wouldn’t say the technology that we work with is better than anything out there right now, it’s just different. A lot of this is still a hammer looking for a nail. People come to us and say, “we want a multi-touch application.” and we say, “Why?” The challenge for us is developing an understanding for what this technology is well suited for. ~ Daren David

We use play in a lot of our design process. We find as we design stuff, we end up opening a box of things and emulate experiences on the table that way. That is one of the big things that has changed for us - our deliverables have gotten more physical and less visual. ~ Nathan Moody

The truth with all these emergent interactions and interfaces is that the conventions haven’t been established, so you don’t actually know how to work and you end up experimenting a lot more. ~ Noah Richardson

Prototyping used to be a luxury, but these types of emergent interactions, it is an important part of the design process. ~ Daren David

Often times the technology we’re designing for is still being developed. So there’s a lot of give and take and trying to understand what is possible… so we often have to attack from both ends. ~ Jennifer Bove

How do we go from bling to kaching? This is new and shiny right now, but five years from now when this become ubiquitous, what will be the meaningful experiences? And what will be the proper uses of these kinds of technology? ~ Daren David

It really comes down to experimentation. The recognition about a lot of this stuff and the reason I think a lot of people are here is that everybody recognizes and has this feeling that there is potential in this stuff, but we don’t really know what it is.
~ Jeevan Kalanithi

The common element all these interactions share is that they’re all more sociable. ~ Brett Fitzgerald

I have two Roombas in my house and they engage in gladiatorial combat. It’s awesome. I don’t feel like they’re gonna get hurt because they look like frisbees. ~ Nathan Moody

When your Roomba saves your life you won’t feel so cavalier about them. ~ Daren David

… there was a project that reminded us how different emergent interactions can actually open up different affordances and provide accessibility to people who haven’t had it. I have a two-year-old daughter and she instinctively knows how to use my iPhone. It’s frightening. And to see her walk up to the television and try to swipe it… you realize that some of the things being created by natural user interfaces really open things up…. I tend to be fairly optimistic with respect to technology and I think there is this notion of accessibility in a lot of the work that we are doing that we can take a fair amount of pride in. ~ Noah Richardson

I would advise people who want to start exploring interactions beyond the desktop to start by looking at the applications or experiences on the desktop they are currently designing and understanding that it is an instantiation of something that is probably broader. Start thinking about what happens when a user walks away from the computer. What are other the other opportunities? ~ Jennifer Bove

For those of you unable to attend the event, here’s a video of the 90 minute discussion:

Beyond the Desktop Panel Discussion from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

Beyond the desktop sketch note

Sketch note by Kate Rutter

Photo credits:
Panel discussion photo courtesy of Allison McCarthy
Sketch note photo courtesy of Jennifer Bove

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