ITP Spring Show 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2-6pm & Monday, May 11, 5-9 pm

Ameya Mhatre


Passive delivery of contextually relevant information through an extended mobile interface.


Radius is comprised of a mobile application and a wearable interface that allows for the subtle delivery of contextually relevant information to a given user. Complementing internet enabled phones, this project aims to decentralize the role of the traditional mobile phone by creating a specialized interface in order to alleviate fundamental usability issues that have arisen with the increasingly capable smart phones of the present day.

The wearable component of this project which is worn on the wrist of the user allows for an 'at a glance' awareness of customizable streams of information.

The goal of this project is to address the hegemony of the attention scope imposed by mobile phones of the present day.

The Internet has established itself within our global infrastructure. Access to this global network is a commonality that will be shared by an estimated 2 billion users by the year 2010. The relevance of this statistic lies in the relatively immediate availability of information one can access. The form, functionality, and accessibility of the computing solutions of the present day justify the deployment of blanket high-speed networks. Iconic products such as the BlackBerry represent the economic significance of a stable data network offering perpetual connectivity as electronic communication has reached critical mass in the modern day business world. Products such as the IPhone or the TMobile SideKick that do not primarily cater to such formal audience further validate the availability of continuous network access. Beyond the growing acceptance of electronic communications such as email, there is significant value in having access to online services. Navigation (GPS), personal scheduling, or simply the ability to make a spontaneous query to Google are example cases that demonstrate how perpetual connectivity can augmented one's ability to live within an urban setting.

'Mobile Essentials' is used to describe a set of objects one considers essential when away from their home (Chipchase 2005). From a field study conducted in Berlin, Shanghai, San Francisco and Tokyo it was found that money, keys, and a mobile phone comprise this set of essential objects (Chipchase 2005). This is a significant finding given the presence of cellular data networks and the growing popularity internet enabled mobile phones. In the 'near future' it can be assumed that if one is in possession of a mobile phone, they have the potential to be connected to the Internet.

Assuming this state of perpetual connectivity, one must consider the implications of this information conduit. 'Information overload' is a term that has been frequently used to describe the difficulty in managing the growing volume of information streaming towards end users. A common example of 'information overload' is manifest in the task of manually filtering one's email for non-critical and spam messages as a means to access that information that is actually of interest and value. The task of receiving valuable information is hindered by the presence of noise one must eliminate inorder to ensure that information intended for them is actually received. In our current state of 'post Gutenberg economics' (Shirky 2009) where the barrier to entry limiting the quality and quantity of produced content has been reduced to a inconsequential level. There is no longer a risk associated with the production of media content leading to an inevitable growth in the amount of global digital data [SHOW IDC CHART].

It is evident that the amount of digital information available is increasing significantly (IDC). It is also evident that this will lead to an increase in the amount of noise one has to filter in pursuit of valuable data when a passive system such as email, or RSS subscriptions are opened. It is a near certainty that the rules and filters designed to minimize noise will eventually fail given the exponential growth of available digital information (Shirky). However, one may also consider the growth of available digital information as increase in the amount of valuable data ready to be leveraged at anytime.

Beyond the issue of information management when dealing with a connection to the internet, one must also consider how that information is ultimately acquired, interpreted, and used by the end user. Is the physical user interface optimized for making queries for specific information when navigating through an urban environment? Is the user interface optimized for absorbing the acquired data? How is this heightened exposure to information affecting our daily lives?

User Scenario
Salvador has been working late for the past week. His office is in Manhattan, and his home is in Brooklyn. After leaving work at 9:30 p.m on a Tuesday, Salvador makes a quick stop at a local restaurant for a meal with a few close friends. It is now past 12, and Salvador is 8 blocks away from his usual subway station. Past midnight, there is a modified subway schedule that requires salvador to wait up-to 25 minutes for his train to arrive. Before leaving the restaurant, Salvador has to simply glace at his wearable display where the scheduled time of the next brooklyn bound train from the most logical train station is posted. Given this information, Salvador can plan his walk to the station minimizing the time he has to wait in the station at late hours of the evening.

“12 minutes to get to 14th street. I should leave now.”

An Android phone application passes information to a wifi enabled OLED screen.