CHI Nederland

Mike Kuniavsky: ubiquitous computing

Smart things

At the risk of becoming an Adaptive Path blog, here's a small report about a talk Mike Kuniavsky (@mikekuniavsky) gave Wednesday 10 November 2010 at Adaptive Path's' office in Amsterdam.


This talk was about his new book "Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design". The number of participants was quite small, which allowed for a good discussion and intimate setting. Apparently, AP will try to host such an event every month, so keep your eyes on their twitter account (@adaptivepath). It might be more packed next time though!


Main points

  • Moore's law: chips keep getting smaller. On a 50 eurocent size you get the computing power of a computer with which the internet was built beginning of the 90s.
  • Information as a material: because of the previous development, more and more regular objects will get sensors and network connectivity.
  • Ubiquity: Mike shows an old advertisement promoting a engine that could be connected to various household appliances such as a sewing machine and even a personal vibrator! At the time such an engine was expensive, but now electrical motors are embedded in all kind of appliances.


  • Disney toys: Mike talks about a series called Clickables and part of the Disney Fairies series. It consists of jewelry for children with chips inside of them. There is a base station connected with usb to a proprietary social network of Disney. All kind of interactions are possible such as connecting jewelry touching with each other, changing a virtual avatar's appearance through the base station, or playing a game to get more points later on in the network.
  • The vibrator is a recurring theme. Mike shows an example of sexual accessories to a dating site for both genders to enhance the experience.
  • Mike designed an interactive wine rank himself. Each wine drawer has separate lighting. Doing a filtered search on wine characteristics on a connected devices changes the lighting, showing the wine you are looking for. 


  • Privacy: if everything will have sensors and be connected, how are we going to protect our privacy? Participants doubt whether this is a stoppable process, and cite CCTV in the UK as an example.
  • Acceptance: it seems like the technology is there, but there aren't any widespread applications yet. Is this purely cost-related? Or should the ubiquity technology proves that it can offer real value to pass the acceptance threshold?
  • Honesty of material: an example is shown of connectivity achieved between wooden objects. Mike mentions there is no problem in using plastic, as long as it serves the purpose. You might use other materials as an experiment or if it adds value, but it's not necessary.
  • Concentration: ironically enough, Mike wrote most of his book in a San Francisco cafe famous for its lack of wi-fi. At home he has an internal, timed firewall that disconnects from the internet after 10pm and in the weekend. Now that connectivity becomes ubiquitous, being able to isolate yourself becomes a luxury.

Looking forward to the next one

Nice session by Adaptive Path, definitely interesting for people in the UX field.