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February 06, 2007

Takashi Matsumoto on


Ubiquitous Content + Pileus: The Internet Umbrella

"[...] "Ubiquitous Content" is an idea of a new design objective of our lives in the post-PC era. In 20th century, a notion of media contents has been meant contents like movies, music, animations, video games etc. Figuratively speaking, such contents were entities supplied in containers designed as "boxes". But now, a spread of networks and a realization of ubiquitous computing technologies are going to change those styles of media. The container is not like a "box" any more: It will change its forms freely to give us advanced computer augmentations in a specific context and it will be sometimes invisible embedded into our environments. It is more appropriately called Ubiquitous Media and it will be a new style of media. When we design such Ubiquitous Media, we need to think about the container as our environments in which many things are cooperating rather than a single hardware, a single software or a single standard. Users will not need to be conscious of those medias, therefore such containers emerge for users as "their lives" themselves. "Ubiquitous Contents" are contents for such media. Those must be "experiences" in "their lives".

As Ubiquitous Content project focuses on our lives and experiences, all things in our everyday lives are targets of the design. The 10 Laboratories of KMD are working on this wide subject from different perspectives....

Pileus is the most exciting project for me right now. This work is designed in a team with Sho Hashimoto, who has a unique engineering skill in the lab. We started this project in a kick-off camp of a spring semester in 2006. the initial concept and the first scenario movie were completed in just 3 days of the camp.

We have many rain in Japan. So the umbrella is one of the closest article of everyday use, but it is also a bulky article in such a climate. Traditionally we have been feeling many kinds of air and mood in a rainy day, and we wanted to expand that feeling to be more fun and vivid with the re-design of an umbrella. From that perspective, we came up with the idea of umbrella to take photo-logs and to browse internet contents in a rain. Me and Sho already took notice of that we can provide many kinds of services in a real world with Web2.0, and also had a technological vista to mash-up those with a mobile hardware. Additionally, it was another target that this can be the first example of a hardware mash-up to indicate a new economic solution for mobile gadgets joining into an economy of Web 2.0. We do not want a small "Cellphones" (Smartphones, whatever) squashing up many functions inside, but we re-designed an object of everyday use from scratch to be mashed-up with web services.

At the end of last year, we founded a spined-off LLC for the project, and we are thinking how it will go a business exit.

As the ideology of the design of Pileus, we would like to show that design is not about its shape any more; an apt assortment of modules and interactions are more important factors for the design. So, our prototype is showing off the circuits to see how modules are combined rather than covering it. Some people suggest us to give a beautiful surfaces for it as a "design", but that is not what we want to do now, we are meticulous about the interaction of information visualizations on the screen though. Fortunately, this rugged look is loved by many audiences at demo sites.

As an exclusive info, we have builded a new version of Pileus with GPS. A new function with GPS is geo-tagging of photos taken by Pileus. It will help to users to check and share records of their walks in the rain. Another function is a map display of an area. This will be used for a big-screen navigation in an umbrella, and it will be able to show local pictures and local ads are loaded on the umbrella. Of course, this function is also realized by a mash-up technique. Now we are using Yahoo! Maps API, but we may switch it to Google Maps API because Japanese map on Yahoo! maps has bad scale ratio. We are going to go an experiment in a city in a rain, however, unfortunately we have had few rainy days this year yet... [ from Regine's interview on we-make-money-not-art]

Posted by jo at February 6, 2007 01:07 PM