affective design

Exploring Emotional Design

Phones That Sense Their Environment

The recent announcement of the iPhone, equipped with motion and proximity sensing capabilities was only the first in a rash of new phones that can sense and respond to the environment…

New phones from almost every manufacturer are incorporating technologies like motion sensing and three-axis accelerometers, enabling users to accomplish both basic and advanced tasks in a variety of new ways.

With the success of the Wii, motion sensing is being used to interface with games and enable interface functions like menu scrolling, program launching and basic interaction. These new phones can be used to monitor and display athletic training information like number of steps taken, speed, distance and calories burned. The Samsung S310 even allows users to “write” phone numbers in the air for the phone to dial.

Accelerometers are being used in phones, cameras and gaming consoles to support several types of motion, including shaking, rocking and rolling (my apologies to Elvis). Shaking motions can be used to initiate actions like rolling dice and shuffling card decks. Rocking motions can be used to generate cursor input commands, while rolling motions offer control similar to joysticks and can be used in navigating games, maps or web pages.

These new technologies are also being used to integrate the phones with other human senses. Six phones designed by students of the College of Art, Science and Engineering in Dundee were created to enhance “intimacy and sensuality”.

The Aware… sends a tingle down your back if a friend is nearby and the Boom Tube… allows people to make music together.

It’s fascinating to see these new applications of motion-sensing technologies. An increasingly important aspect of influencing emotional response with designed objects is capitalizing on the kinesthetic sense. This is our sense of the position of our bodies in space and the internal feedback (also called “feelings”) that we receive from them. From an evolutionary standpoint, we rely on the kinesthetic sense to tell us whether things we experience are good or bad.

Often, our strongest emotional experiences occur when our bodies are somehow involved. If you think about the strongest, most lucid memories you have of past experiences, you may notice that there is almost always a deep feeling of some sort involved. Whether it’s pain, pleasure, surprise, or some other strong emotion, experiences that produce strong feelings are more easily remembered and have a greater impact.

Adding technologies that utilize and encourage the sensory experience of motion can only serve to magnify users’ experiences with these products, possibly encouraging brand and product loyalty.

Check out this CNet article for a good overview of some these new phones and these articles for more.
Students create ‘sensual’ phones on BBC News
Technology Brings Motion Sensing to Camera Phones on CNet
DeComo’s New Phones Offer Motion-sensing Gameplay on Reuters

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