Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Perceptions & Assumptions

Monday, June 14th, 2010

We know how to use almost all the objects that surround us. Our ability to learn and retain memories from past experiences, together with our perception of reality, build a set of assumptions over the objects, shaping our behavior while using them. As David Rockeby wrote in his interesting article The Construction of Experience, “the interface itself, by defining how we perceive and navigate content, shapes our experience of that content”. We experience the reality through our sensory system. From Rockeby’s article, “there is the reality out there – raw sensuality. The base of human-reality interface is raw and uncoded. We decode with perceptual filters”.

A repeated experience with an object tends to build a standard in our mind. We (designers) use these standards as metaphors to facilitate the comprehension and use of a complex or new concept.

And there is intuition, that is also constructed and being modified based on our experience and sensory perception.

But what happen when we don’t know anything about an object?

I’m interested on how an unknown object can challenge us, how is the process of discovering its functionality, its features, how to operate it. And the feelings that can arise on the user: frustration, disappointment, curiosity, surprise, addiction, etc.

Is it possible to have a new, pure relationship with an object with no assumptions? How many levels of content can we access though our senses? How many other levels are we missing if we only rely in our senses?

Is the intuition a result of our sensory perception and assumptions from our past experiences? Or is an independent dimension?

I started exploring some of these questions with a small experiment as part of an open exploration with the aim to have a better understanding of the essence of the interaction between humans and objects.

The experiment consisted of giving a wood cube to different people and let them interact with it, with no instructions. The cube has a labyrinth inside, with a ball in it. It has also a hole.


The purpose of the experiment is to generate an instant assumption that drives the interaction with the object. However, during the experiment, the object seems to challenge the assumption, generating doubt about the real goal, addiction or frustration. Here a video of the experiment.

Without any instructions, only by seeing the hole and hearing a ball trapped inside, the goal seems clear. It’s interesting to see the reactions and the evolution of the exploration of the object by different people.

Jacek spent twenty minutes. He found the hole was a problem, as it was setting up a challenge an offering a goal without assuring it – “this hole makes everything complicated”. The curiosity to know what was inside make him thing about other ways to open the box, even break it – which could actually have been the goal, why not?

In other cases there were ups & downs on the motivation to pursue a goal that wasn’t clear. For example during the experiment with Shruti, there is two moments where she seems to give up, but continues for some more minutes. Is the assumption that makes her continue exploring? Maybe the possibility to find another goal? When is it “enough”?

It seemed to be a cycle in all the experiments: exploration, (assumption of the goal), motivation, try understand the inside, query the goal, frustration, (something that made continue exploring or giving up), motivation, and so on.

A bit more analytical, Mayo made some questions to narrow down the possibilities of the purpose of the object, and the experiment. As he explained me later, he spent a some time trying to mentally draw the labyrinth to get the ball out. “It seems that is why it was build for. Or for making music”.

At some point the ball gets stuck on the labyrinth, and needs to be shaken to be released. That added some confusion.

Some other people tried to put stuff inside through the hole to see if it could come out later on.

Laura proposed me to put different materials on the labyrinth’s walls in order to facilitate to find the way out for the ball. She’s always constructive, even building over the assumption that the goal was getting the ball out :).

Actually there was no way out for the ball. The labyrinth was build to keep the ball inside. Some people considered this option but they continued trying, probably because a) there is no way to prove that you cannot take the ball out. b) it’s hard to look down on the obvious goal (a reasoned assumption) and spend time on finding a new uncertain goal.

That experiment has to be considered within a frame of an experiment, since the participants knew that there was a hidden purpose, not just playing. Although they were free to play as much time as they wanted, I’d like to repeat the experiment without asking to participate – leaving the cube on the street maybe. Also I’d like to test it with children, and see in which age they don’t build assumptions with a labyrinth, a ball and a hole.

Here some pictures of the inside:




More pictures here.

Thanks to Jacek, Jennifer, Dean, Elena, Shruti, Laura and Mayo.

Small interactions

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Lately I’ve been questioning all the small interactions that we deal with everyday, these that are so deeply-rooted in our daily routine that we don’t question whether it’s a good design or not. Sometimes we have the perception that if it’s been there for a long time, it should be good. We have created standards that help us not to think about the interaction itself, but focus on what we want, and the result. However, as we deal with these interactions many times each day, their design has a big impact in our lives. It’s part of the designers’ role to analise how appropriate are these interactions in our days.

I wanted to dedicate a short video to these small interactions.

The same thinking could be applied to everyday objects.


A knife today has exactly the same shape (and sometimes same materials) than thousands of years ago. It’s a standard – we know how to use it, we know what is it for. But it was conceived in another context: different lifestyle, design and manufacture processes, needs, etc. When it’s time to redesign these objects? Is it too late because they are already standards? How much have they already shaped our behavior and lifestyle?


Wednesday, May 12th, 2010


The first week of May I attended LIFT10, this year with “Connected People” as a main topic. I was invited to exhibit Linyl (a project developed together with Benoit Espinola, Shruti Ramiah and Natalia Echevarría at CIID) in Démo:Mode, an exhibition organised by HEAD Genève within Lift Experience. It was interesting to see the different approaches, design methods and finishings of the pieces depending on the origin (mainly RCA and Head Genève).



Linyl arrived Wednesday morning, coinciding with the inauguration of the event. It had been stucked on the customs for 4 days. Finally, despite the difficulty of calibrate the color sensor because the light conditions, the piece was settled up and demonstrated to Lift attendants as they came into the exhibition.

I got really good feedback from people. Some people wanted the piece for their home, some other commented the obvious relation with the VJ world, and a woman told me that she’d try to do something similar for her restaurant. “ingenieux“, “simple” or “beautiful” were common adjectives that people use to describe the piece.

Although I couldn’t attend all the talks I wanted to attend, the experience of these three days in LIFT10 was highly interesting. I’d highlight Russell DaviesNeil Rimer or Aubrey de Grey.




When I learn a lot of things in a short period of time I feel a strange sensation (which I love), like shivering – I felt it several times during some talks or the workshop Hacking Venture CapitalFred Destin from Atlas Venture. The VC world is quite new for me, but I’ve been interested lately. I’m far from understand it properly, but this workshop was the best starting point I could have.

The workshop was divided in two parts: “Pitching and getting through the deal selection process” and “Negotiating the venture investment”. It was a hands-on workshop, with good discussions around the pitches and negotiations that groups of attendants were asked to do. People were quite into the topic, so I was mostly listening to them. In my group of 4 for example, they were 3 VC and me. I really liked the way they were dealing, sharp, to the point.

Some of the quotes I captured from the workshop:

“You need a pitch for your business – it’s not only for a VC but for selling or recruiting as well”

“The pitch should be able to be summarized in the back of a business card”

“The “price per share” is what matters, not the value or the % you sell”

“Don’t rely on anyone, is your job to know the rules of the game”

“Don’t over pitch, let the VJ feel curious about your story”

“The price of the company is a discovery process, don’t say a percentage or how much the company worth at the beginning”

“Nobody reads a business plan. Nobody reads the executive summary. Nobody signs an NDA. Don’t lose your time on them.”

“Repeat your high concept pitch (3 words) a lot, VC will remember you for this and your first impression”

“It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s how you say it. Practise!”

“Tell a story, talk about why you needed it, what people say about it.”

“Sell yourself and your team more than your company”


LIFT10 is a good place to extend a network both in business and design fields. People is open to meet each other, discuss and keep in touch. The program also enables and fosters this communication between the attendants, with numerous coffee breaks, cocktails, a fondue night and a proper closure. See you in LIFT11!




More pictures about the Lift Conference here.

· one need, a bunch of solutions ·

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

While travelling, I’m always intrigued on how different cultures meet their needs through unique objects.

The solutions that cover a need are conditioned by the available resources in the region, ability to industrialise, purchasing power, etc. In developing countries with handicraft tradition and less resources, people stretch their minds to come out with the smartest and simplest solutions. Some examples from my last trip in Brazil:

A bottle opener made with a wood stick and a screw

A bottle opener made with a wood stick and a screw

A carriage puller made of the motion parts of an old VW Beetle

A carriage puller made of the motion parts of an old VW Beetle

 A 'mechanically distributed switch' for stop request (also seen in old buses in Spain), instead of the most extended 'electrically distributed buttons'

A 'mechanically distributed switch' for stop request (also seen in old buses in Spain), instead of the most extended 'electrically distributed buttons'

Sometimes an entire region/country/continent doesn’t use an specific tool, perhaps because the need do not exist. Then, a big opportunity for some, a big ethics issue for others: “create the need, sell the solution”.

· click! ·

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Hopefully my interaction of the future.

· wearing vs. degradation ·

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Examples of wearing and degradation perceived through the senses:











Is it possible to expand the list with more intangible concepts? relationships, confidence…

· estandarizar consumibles ·

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Los datos medios de consumo y autonomía de un coche eléctrico (no híbrido) parecen incómodos para realizar desplazamientos de larga distancia: aunque pueden llegar a recorrer 400 km con la misma batería, típicamente estan sobre los 150 km, con un tiempo de recarga de 20 minutos a varias horas. Se prevé que en un futuro las estaciones de servicio tengan un sistema para recargar esas baterías, aunque obliga al usuario a quedarse en la estación durante la recarga (una ratonera vaya).

Una buena solución, comentada por un taxista inquieto acerca la sostenibilidad, sería que las gasolineras tuvieran baterías cargadas que puedas intercambiar por la descargada más una cantidad de dinero. De este modo se solucionaría una de las grandes flaquezas del coche eléctrico. Claro que esto requiere un exceso de baterías, que en la mayoría de ocasiones no son amigas del medio ambiente.

Y quizá sería un buen momento de estandarizar la batería de coche, para facilitar la solución del intercambio. De todos modos hay pocos ejemplos donde se haya encontrado un concenso racional para estandarizar consumibles que comparten varias compañías, y me sorprendería que en el sector del automóbil cambiara esta dinámica.

Ya que se acercan los reyes, podríamos pedir también la estandarización de los cargadores (móvil, cámara, iPod, …), los cables de datos (usb A, usb B, 1000 versiones de las cámaras de fotos…), y las tarjetas de almacenamiento (flash, SD, miniSD, …). Para un mundo más simple.

· la ratonera ·

Monday, December 8th, 2008

El otro día me encontraba en el aeropuerto de Bruselas en una escala del vuelo Berlín – Bcn. Había salido de Berlín a las 18:30 (demasiado pronto para cenar) y llegué a casa a las 23:30 (demasiado tarde para cenar), así que era el momento y el lugar. Pagué 9€ por una focaccia i una agua de 33cl.

Los aeropuertos, como las áreas de servicio, son espacios con un micro-clima consumista peculiar. Son lugares de paso obligado para los viajeros, y existe una oferta perfectamente estructurada para cubrir sus necesidades. Hay comida, hay lavabos, hay caprichos.

Además es un lapso enmedio de un trayecto donde el viajero no ha podido hacer ciertas cosas; al llegar el pequeño oasis justifica pagar el doble porque ‘te hacen un favor’ y también para recompensarse a uno mismo por el duro viaje. Los precios son altos porque la gente los paga.

Son escenarios perfectos para crear micro-monopolios.