Projections into the world

I wrote a piece for the July/August issue of ACM interactions. It's a special issue on ambient intelligence and I wanted to share my thoughts about designing for ambient intelligent systems. To me the key is thinking about the design of everyday objects as projections of services into tools that support aspects of those services.

Now there's no reason that services must be coupled to specific objects or places, and of all of the possibilities AmI provides, the one I think may be most compelling is its ability to decouple services from individual objects.


Treating objects as representatives of a service, rather than the service itself, is a fundamental change in our relationship with the objects of our lives, but in a way that feels like a natural extension. The service becomes the focus, and the objects its avatars: the projections of a single idea into the world, rather than each embodying a different idea. This sounds lofty, but matching service to goals may lead to better overall user experiences than trying to match tools to goals. Traditional tool design focuses on enabling concrete tasks used to fulfill abstract goals. In many cases the tool becomes a necessary burden on the way to satisfying the goal, and the design of the tool is assumed to be unable to address the goal directly. Designing a service to satisfy a goal, and then designing tools that use the service to support tasks that satisfy the goal is a potentially "cleaner" way of thinking about creating a user experience than trying to enable the goal by way of designing task-specific tools.

In other words, in a world where tools communicate, store and process knowledge, every tool should not try to address every aspect of a given need. It may be easier to design tools by first designing services that satisfy the larger needs and then make tools that are tuned to facets of the service, rather than trying to do everything. (this is, btw, probably not unlike what ID calls service design)

The full text of the article(80K PDF) is available.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Kuniavsky published on July 15, 2005 3:08 PM.

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