Twentian Design

Yesterday I started in my new job as Assistent Professor at the University of Twente. I have not logged in to my new account yet, I have to move all my stuff yet, my laptop is almost ordered for me, I have no employee card yet and no coffee-card (but I do have a desk with a nice view!) but most of all what I do have: I counted 64 new students in the design project we started yesterday, and a small group of dedicated colleagues pushing students to put the ‘human’ into design wherever possible. I am very curious to see what Twentian Design looks like, and how I can contribute to its development. Together with our second year students yesterday we kicked off a new project called Tools for Empowerment, a follow-up of the theme I had been exploring in Utrecht with the Interactive Media Products semester. I did not have time to blog about that project but it was actually quite succesful: One team won a prize for best creative minor programme with an interactive lighting tool for autistic patients. To be continued!


Klokhuis on the brain

The Dutch children’s programme Klokhuis has an interesting series on the brain. We learn all about the major topics in brain research, which both shows that Klokhuis is master in explaining things in an accessible way and that the brain is still an extremely trending topic, pushed in particular by the flourishing of cognitive neuroscience studies in recent years.

The latest episode, however, deals with Artificial Intelligence: or, what is the difference between the human brain and the computer brain? A small test: what is the longest river in the world?, asks the researcher. Klokhuis presenter says: Amazone. The researcher Googles and says: no, you are wrong, it is the Nile. An interesting form of testing, where the performance of both contestants (the computer and the human) is tested against the knowledge of the computer (who says that the Nile is the longest river? How can we know?). Of course it was a human, at some point, who knew that the Nile was longer, and put it into a Wikipedia entry somewhere on the web, so that nobody would forget.

It suddenly struck me that comparing computer intelligence and human intelligence is essentially a category error. It is like asking the question: who’s the better carpenter, a carpenter or a hammer? Huh? The carpenter does his carpenting *with* the hammer. It is a tool that enables him to be the carpenter. Just so, are computers part of what makes us intelligent. They form a system, not opponents. Why is this obvious for hammers, but keeps on generating reasoning errors by Cognitive Scientists when it comes to computers?

Oculus Rift and Out of Body Experience

This is a video of an awesome project I saw at TEI’14 in M√ľnchen this year. Using the Oculus Rift (that freaked out show-host Matthijs van Nieuwkerk yesterday at ‘De Wereld Draait Door’) the user sees the world from another bodies’ ego-centric perspective. At minute 2.10 you see me and Ambra Trotto trying out the thing. It was a strange experience and it reminded me of the out of body experiments using rubber hands, mirrors, and what not.

The Machine To Be Another – Art investigation from BeAnotherLab on Vimeo.

Best paper award TEI’14

I have just heard that I have won the Best Paper Award at the ACM conference on Tangible, Embodied and Embedded Interaction, in Munich, (Feb 16-19, 2014). The paper has the rather cryptic title: Beyond Distributed Representation: Embodied Cognition Design Supporting Socio-Sensorimotor Couplings. It is mainly a summary of chapter 2 in my thesis and my supervisors Remko van der Lugt and Caroline Hummels are co-authors.

The main point of the paper is to show that tangible interaction can be more than creating physical interfaces to digital information, and that Embodied Cognition on a more fundamental level means that cognition is very much grounded both in sensorimotor couplings as well as in social coordination. And the challenge is to design interactive technology that connects to these couplings and coordinations, rather than to implement representations.

This is the website of the conference link:
The paper can be found here link

Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

This monday I’ll be talking in Rotterdam about the ‘smart city’. In preparing I stumbled upon this fantastic (and famous) documentary, I had never seen. (I reached it through the website of Dutch philosopher Erik Rietveld, who combines Embodied Cognition theory and Architecture, together with his brother, who’s an architect). I agree with Erik that this documentary is a must see for anyone interested in ethnographical video observations of everyday behavior’s of people (in this case, in the urban, public space).