Gadgets: part 2

XIII.5 September + October 2006
Page: 24
Digital Citation

Gadgets are here to stay

Bruno Niman

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I recently saw an ad: "Remember when technology had the ability to amaze you? Believe again." I do—and you probably should too! The difference is technology is much more human this time around.

You're reading the second special section on (must-have) gadgets and there's a reason: Gadgets and services are all around (and on!) us. They're changing the way we live, work, enjoy, expect, and behave. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) play an increasingly important role in the everyday lives of many people. Gadgets are our point of entry to the magic world of interactivity and multimodal multimedia.

When my wife Gabriella and I had our first child Norbert in 1991, it took some weeks to get the glad news out to all who deserved to know (we'd grown up). By the time Mark was born three years later, voice communication had become much easier with the advent of mobile phones and systems. By Linda's birth in 2004, my wife and I could send everybody (pre-edited smiley.gif) SMS messages; we could email the first pictures and video clips of our newborn the first hour, or at least day, from the hospital. When we first applied for her kindergarten the same year, the preferred communication channel of the school in our Stockholm suburb Nacka was over the Web, using a digital ID... Quite a difference from 1992 when a faxed application was the only option other than placing a personal visit.

The gadget boom is here to stay, even if the walkie-talkies, chatrooms, Blackberries, webcams and Napsters of the `90s are replaced by the push-to-talk applications, MySpaces, mobile devices, media downloads, and iTunes of today.

Communities are becoming more global than ever before, bridging distances in reliable ways on the user's terms, through increasingly polite, "always-on-as-I-wish" connectivity, where user desire is king and simplicity is becoming her queen.

In this issue, we explore the possibilities for and ideas surrounding co-design, the commercialization of mobile UIs, all-important first impressions through the out-of-the-box experience, and a basic text entry.

During the last ten years, I've been deeply involved in the development of products and concepts but also of user experience-related ICT standards and guidelines, making information and communication devices and services more usable and accessible to all, through the European Commission-sponsored European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C, Developing a common, higher level of minimum usability and accessibility standards openly available and free of charge has considerably improved the user experience of ICT for end users including consumers, in the mean time as we have more to do than ever before, fighting technical complexity.

W3C has recently launched a first set of recommendations providing Mobile Web Best Practices and the updated Web Accessibility guidelines, WAI, are being finalized. If more can use it, more easily and with more trust and fun, more gadgets will develop. If so, there is hope for future special issues on gadgets.

This time, we focus on the first billion mobile ICT users and do not address the reality faced by the second and third billion. However, we'll come back to this topic and cover mobile ICT-enabled services in a future issue!

Until then, I hope you enjoy the reading.

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Bruno von Niman
vonniman consulting

About the Guest Editor

Bruno von Niman, founder and lead expert of vonniman consulting, an ICT user experience company, spent the most exciting ten years of mobile development with Ericsson in Sweden as a catalyst and advocate of user experience in R&D, product development, and standardization, also coordinating group activities. Bruno is vice chairman of the European Telecommunication Standards Institute's Human Factors Committee and leader of several projects sponsored by the European Commission. He represents European consumer interests in the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), chaired Mobile Communications at CHI2004, the Mobile HCI 2005 Industry track, and is the chairman of the Human Factors in Telecommunications Symposia.

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©2006 ACM  1072-5220/06/0900  $5.00

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