Peter looks into his crystal ball for 2018 and sees computers with eyes, computers with ears, and computers with brains.
Tuesday, January 9th, 2018
Monday, October 9th, 2017
I quite like the idea of broadcasting my URL from a friendchip bracelet.
Monday, October 2nd, 2017
Alan Kay’s initial description of a “Dynabook” written at Xerox PARC in 1972.
Tuesday, September 26th, 2017
Anecdotes about the development of Apple’s original Macintosh, and the people who made it.
Like a real-life Halt And Catch Fire.
Monday, September 11th, 2017
Along the lines of John’s recent post, Henrik makes the business case for progressive web apps.
He also points out how they can be much better than native apps for controlling hardware.
They can be up and running in a fraction of the time whether or not they were already “installed” and unlike “apps” can be saved as an app on the device at the user’s discretion!
Essentially they’re really great for creating “ad hoc” experiences that can be “cold started” on a whim nearly as fast as if it were already installed.
Thursday, September 7th, 2017
Then there’s the inflatable doorknob.
Wednesday, July 26th, 2017
I was listening to some items in my Huffduffer feed when I noticed a little bit of synchronicity.
First of all, I was listening to Tom talking about Thington, and he mentioned seamful design—the idea that “seamlessness” is not necessarily a desirable quality. I think that’s certainly true in the world of connected devices.
Then I listened to Jeff interviewing Matt about hardware startups. They didn’t mention seamful design specifically (it was more all cricket and cables), but again, I think it’s a topic that’s lurking behind any discussion of the internet of things.
I’ve written about seams before. I really feel there’s value—and empowerment—in exposing the points of connection in a system. When designers attempt to airbrush those seams away, I worry that they are moving from “Don’t make me think” to “Don’t allow me to think”.
In many ways, aiming for seamlessness in design feels like the easy way out. It’s a surface-level approach that literally glosses over any deeper problems. I think it might be driven my an underlying assumption that seams are, by definition, ugly. Certainly there are plenty of daily experiences where the seams are noticeable and frustrating. But I don’t think it needs to be this way. The real design challenge is to make those seams beautiful.
Friday, May 12th, 2017
Ben points to a new product aiming to ease the pain of connected devices bumping up against the harsh realities of shearing layers:
By exposing the ‘hardwiring’ of our electrical systems, Conduct emphasises how much we rely on existing systems to power our ‘new’ technology – the rate of change and advancement in our traditional technologies moves at a much slower pace than our mobile app-based world and there are physical limitations as a result of this hardwired legacy.
I am—unsurprisingly—in favour of exposing the seams like this.
Thursday, April 13th, 2017
As part of an ongoing series where we ask industry professionals what they use to get the job done, we speak to Jeremy, technical director at Clearleft.
I couldn’t resist the smartarse answer about my “dream setup.”
Sunday, January 15th, 2017
A 1983 article from 73 Magazine on the surprisingly plausible Rube Goldberg/Heath Robinson device created by E.T. to call home.
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016
This is so wonderful! A 3D fly-through of the Apollo 11 command module, right in your browser. It might get your fan whirring, but it’s worth it.
Click through for lots of great details on the interface controls, like which kinds of buttons and switches were chosen for which tasks.
And there’s this lovely note scrawled near the sextant by Michael Collins (the coolest of all the astronauts):
Spacecraft 107, alias Apollo 11, alias ‘Columbia.’ The Best Ship to Come Down the Line. God Bless Her.
Saturday, October 29th, 2016
As Benedict Evans has noted, the next billion people who are poised to come online will be using the internet almost exclusively through smartphones. And if Google’s plans with Android One are any indication, then we have a fairly good idea of what kind of devices the “next billion” will be using:
- They’ll mostly be running Android.
- They’ll have decent specs (1GB RAM, quad-core processors).
- They’ll have an evergreen browser and WebView (Android 5+).
- What they won’t have, however, is a reliable internet connection.
This is the same argument that Tom made in his presentation at Responsive Field Day. The main point is that network conditions are unreliable, and I absolutely agree that we need to be very, very mindful of that. But I’m not so sure about the other conditions either. They smell like assumptions:
Assumptions are the problem. Whether it’s assumptions about screen size, assumptions about being able-bodied, assumptions about network connectivity, or assumptions about browser capabilities, I don’t think any assumptions are a safe bet. Now you might quite reasonably say that we have to make some assumptions when we’re building on the web, and you’d be right. But I think we should still aim to keep them to a minimum.
It’s not necessarily true that all those new web users will be running WebView browser like Chrome—there are millions of Opera Mini users, and I would expect that number to rise, given all the speed and cost benefits that proxy browsing brings.
I also don’t think that just because a device is a smartphone it necessarily means that it’s a pocket supercomputer. It might seem like a reasonable assumption to make, given the specs of even a low-end smartphone, but the specs don’t tell the whole story.
Alex gave a great presentation at the recent Polymer Summit. He dives deep into exactly how smartphones at the lower end of the market deal with websites.
Alex’s talk prompted Michael Scharnagl to take a look back at past assumptions and lessons learned on the web, from responsive design to progressive web apps.
We are consistently improving and we often have to realize that our assumptions are wrong.
This is particularly true when we’re making assumptions about how people will access the web.
It’s not enough to talk about the “next billion” in abstract, like an opportunity to reach teeming masses of people ripe for monetization. We need to understand their lives and their priorities with the sort of detail that can build empathy for other people living under vastly different circumstances.
That’s from an article Ethan linked to, noting:
When I read articles defining “the mobile web” as “decent hardware and evergreen browsers”, I start thinking hard about our industry biases.— Ethan Marcotte (@beep) October 13, 2016
Monday, October 10th, 2016
A browser for Android that specifically touts privacy and security as its key features.
Monday, September 26th, 2016
Seb is going to be closing out the Brighton Digital Festival with a bang.
Seb unravels all the geeky details about how your favourite retro gadgets work, including Nintendo light guns, Casio keyboards and the cathode ray tube televisions that once dominated our living rooms.
It’s going to be like Seb: The Musical …with lasers.
Monday, September 19th, 2016
Jonathan takes a look at the physical web. Like me, he’s excited by the possibilities. Although he says:
Sadly, my mind quickly devolved into the annoyance of numerous notifications, like popup windows and other distracting adverts, vying for my attention.
This is a common worry with the physical web, but it’s unfounded. All a beacon does is broadcast a URL. You have to actively look for the URLs being broadcast—they can’t send notifications.
It all just feels like QR codes. They’ll be all over the place and most of them won’t be very useful.
I understand this concern, but whereas QR codes are completely opaque to humans, at least URLs can—and should—be human-readable …so, unlike QR codes, a URL can give you some idea of what awaits.
Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
mozilla-magnet/magnet-client-desktop: A simple Physical Web menu-bar app for URL discovery and broadcast
This should be a lot more straightforward than process I linked to before.
Sunday, August 7th, 2016
A wonderful investigation of a culture-shifting mobile device: the kaleidoscope. A classic Gibsonian example of the street finding its own uses for technology, this story comes complete with moral panics about the effects of augmenting reality with handheld devices.
(I’m assuming the title wasn’t written by the author—this piece deals almost exclusively with pre-Victorian England.)
Thursday, July 21st, 2016
Well, this is interesting! It turns out you can turn your laptop into a beacon for broadcasting a URL to devices that support The Physical Web.
Saturday, February 20th, 2016
Related: this great chat between Jen Simmons and Stephanie Rieger.
Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
But we are promised and shown a world where technology is gorgeous and streamlined and helpful and light and unobtrusive. We don’t live in that world. That world is a fantasy. The hope that the Internet of Things will allow us to be free from daily headaches and logistical errors is naive.