October 5, 2007
I made a presentation on Social Computing yesterday at the CEATEC Japan show – and took the opportunity to look around some of the exhibitor booths afterwards. Here are a few impressions and some rather low-quality photographs (taken on my mobile phone):
- OVERALL: I got the impression that companies were showing incremental improvements to their products. For example, all of the consumer electronics companies seemed to be touting their thinner screens… but I didn't notice a big "wow" factor this year. In a couple of places, I had a feeling of deja vu. For example, the BS11 TV channel had a booth full of people wearing special spectacles for a demo of new High Definition 3D display technology, which they are launching at the end of this year. I guess the technology must be getting better with every incarnation of this concept, but has 3D been a big success in any of the previous attempts?
- MOBILE CARRIERS: KDDI attracted plenty of visitors for its very fashionable handset designs, such as the infobar2, which has gently curving surface that produces a shape with no "corners". I can't be the only person who thinks that it looks like the world's first inflatable phone. In contrast, NTT DoCoMo's booth devoted more space to its vision of the future – movies predicting seamless transfer of photo and video content between wrist watches, TV screens and garden tables. They also had some more short term offerings – A "Wellness Keitai" that monitors the user's health. And a local search service which adjusts recommendations based on the user's profile. I want to explore this. The demo showed two "user profiles" (a man in his 30s and a woman in her 20s) – and depending on the user's profile, the results were prioritized differently. If the recommendations could be customized to give priority to the items that your peers (maybe the people you have befriended in a social network) rated highly then I think it could be valuable. (If the results just reflect what DoCoMo thinks that a particular demographic group wants, then I think it's less valuable).
- DIGITAL MEDIA: I was interested in two examples of solutions that might be used to create enjoyable web sites [Check out my colleague, Kerry Bodine's research on this topic: Desirable Online Experiences: Taking Web Sites Beyond Useful And Usable]. First example – Azest demonstrated an entertaining visual interface for the Rakuten Ichiba online shopping mall site. Customers can select news feeds about items for sale in the categories of products that interest them. The feeds are then displayed as 3D "skyscrapers" on a Rakuten branded cityscape that expand to expose the latest items on offer. The interface is going to be rolled out on Rakuten Ichiba later this year. MotionPortrait had a demo of their solution which can turn a photograph of a person into a kind of "Max Headroom" animated face – with lips that make realistic shapes when it speaks and eyes that follow your mouse movements as you drag the cursor around the screen. There's a mini-demo on the MotionPortrait web site.
- MAKUHARI MESSE: This place was really designed big – INHUMANLY BIG. I dislike the way that the architecture seems to favor vehicles over pedestrians. I noticed that lots of people were choosing to walk over a four lane highway in a place with no pedestrian crossing and a low concrete barrier in the center of the road – rather than climbing up a huge staircase and taking the circuitous route offered by the elevated walkways. The scene of people braving traffic like that reminded me of China. It's an accident waiting to happen. Time for the site owners to acknowledge that this design is not people-friendly and indeed puts people's lives at risk. I'd like to see zebra crossings at street level. (However, I get the feeling that we'll see no change at all until someone gets injured – and then we will see bigger barriers to discourage people from crossing).