Here's the follow-up to the first sketch I drew about smart kitchens
I think these sketches sum up one of the big problems with many of the ubicomp projects that end up in the press. It's a common problem when "the Internet" is added to other products: the assumption is that new-device-plus-Internet will be like a PC-with-Internet; but that's wrong. Just as Mobile Internet is more about where you are and what you're doing, almost to the point of supporting your current task rather than being the focus of the task; Internet-enabled appliances in the home will have uses tailored to their particular constraints and unique features.
Slapping a PC onto the front of a fridge shows a lack of imagination. There are many more useful features that could be added to white goods which wouldn't require anywhere near the same level of technology: a freezer defrost warning system (as shown in this sketch); a washing machine that detected when it had sprunk a leak and warned me (that would've saved me at least one kitchen floor...); a washing machine that texted me when it had finished the washing programme; a cooker which automatically lowered the gas if a pan boils over...
What would you like your kitchen to do for you, or tell you about?
What are yours? I'm trying to up the audacity-level on mine.
Apart from mentioning the talk about Sun SPOTs the other day, I haven't mentioned any of the BCS SPA events that I've been to over the past few months.
If you're interested in computing, and live in or near to Cambridge, then the events held by the Cambridge arm of the BCS Software Practice Advancement group are well worth checking out.
You don't have to be a member of the British Computer Society to attend; the events are free; and cover a wide range of topics - from management techniques to computer-generated music.
There's a list of upcoming events on their events calendar page.
The first SPA event I made it to is also one of the best presentations I've ever attended. Not so much for the information it contained (the talk was titled The Second Coming of the Internet and was all about Web2.0) but for the presentation technique and style Adrian Van Emmenis, the presenter.
He started the session by taking the audience with him through some basic e-commerce tasks, deliberately tripping himself up on a number of problems with using the "reload" or "back" buttons along the way. That illustrated perfectly how seemingly ordinary behaviour could cause strange results and confusing error messages. I think that helped the techie audience get into the mindset of the average user.
He then laid out the technical reasons for the problems, accompanied by nice graphical explanations and even a live shop-keeping role-play session with the event organiser and a collection of fruit.
All in all a masterclass in how to keep the audience interested.
Over the long weekend I was playing around with my tablet PC and drew something I've been thinking about for a while now:
It was an interesting demonstration of the technology, but I often wonder how useful or necessary it is to build devices with such powerful hardware. The Sun SPOTs have an ARM9 processor, which is much better than the mobile phones that I'm currently working with!
Part of me thinks that it just makes experimentation and proof-of-concept easier and quicker, which is good; but I also wonder if it merely results in nice-but-too-expensive toys. In my experience it isn't always easy to take something big and scale it down.
I think a better solution could be something like the Arduino boards. They aren't quite as self-contained as the Sun SPOTs, but have more believable costs and component choices (for mass-market applications). I'll hopefully be finding out more about them at this Takeaway Festival workshop tomorrow.
UPDATE: I've now posted my notes from the Arduino workshop and the second part of Innovation In Kitchen Appliances is here.
I was surprised to come across such a succinct and thought-provoking quote about green issues from an oil company, but I suppose they're all busy trying to find the next way to make lots of money when the oil runs out.
According to my search on google it isn't clear who first coined the phrase, but I'll give Shell the link as they're the ones currently daubing it across half-page spreads of newspapers.