Interaction design has increasingly been supplementing (if not outright supplanting) industrial design when it comes to many of the products that we use on a daily basis, and technology continues to promise new ways to interact with objects, both within and without ubiquitous touchscreens. The Internet of Things may not yet be evenly distributed, but the Interaction category of the Core77 Design Awards continues to celebrate not only what's new and next but also the experiments and breakthroughs of the future made real.
Even so, the content itself is often familiar—if not outright commonplace—which only underscores how new modes of interactions have the potential to reinvent age-old experiences such as socializing, storytelling and wayfinding. Led by Jury Captain Aaron Siegel of Fabrica, the jury selected these projects and products—over a dozen in all—for top honors in the Interaction category of the 2014 Core77 Design Awards.
Professional Winner: Sadly By Your Side, by Angelo Semeraro and Davide Cairo
Turn your iPhone into a visual and musical remixing tool with Angelo Semeraro and Davide Cairo's Sadly By Your Side. Bring each song in the 8-track album to life by using the app in conjunction with the imagery in the accompanying booklet, or by 'scanning' the real world. By deeply integrating disparate media—an album, book and iOS app—the project easily stood out to the jury: "Sadly by Your Side captivated us visually and emotionally. It explored an interaction paradigm that was new to most people, and it bridged a number of disciplines and mediums while also rethinking how we experience music, causing the user to become a part of the composition process."
Student Winner: inFORM: A Dynamic Shape Display, by Tangible Media Group
MIT Media Lab's Tangible Media Group turned heads with their Dynamic Shape Display, and for good reason. The device turns digital data into virtual objects that can be manipulated in real life, allowing users to play with things that aren't actually there. "The integration of telepresent characteristics helps bridge the virtual divide with the additional fidelity of experience through haptic feedback," says the jury. "While we would love to see this scaled, we thought that even this prototype demonstration was extremely compelling and the fact that it got us talking for a lengthy amount of time about its different applications in the world very much pointed to its worthiness."
Professional Runner-Up: Makr Shakr, by Pentagram and MIT Senseable City Lab
Robotic bartenders aren't just a figment of our sci-fi movies and books anymore, thanks to Makr Shakr. Better yet, its crowdsourced cocktail database goes far beyond a mere recipe book: The app holds recipes for one googol combinations (that's 1 followed by 100 zeros, people). The jury saw it as much more than a bartending tool: "Makr Shakr is an exceptionally well executed folly that was a captivating addition to an important event. And while robots replicating human action is nothing new, the fact that it includes us as part of the process (thereby subverting our idolization of bartenders and their bespoke cocktails) helps us ask the question: What happens when we all become makers of anything and everything in this world?"
Professional Runner-Up: 100 Years of Design, by Second Story (Part of SapientNitro)
Designing for designers is a daunting task in itself, but to present a century of design history may well be among the very tallest of orders. Second Story managed to commemorate AIGA's centennial with 100 Years of Design in a way the jury admired: "The project seamlessly mixes video, motion and graphic design components very successfully creating a beautifully executed experience on both desktop and mobile platforms. The clean navigation makes experiencing the narrative effortless and achieves a product that tells a story concisely."
Student Runner Up: Tink, by Megan Chiou, Alfredo Sandes and Kunal Chawla
In childhood, play is the first and most formative way we interact with and learn about the world around us. Megan Chiou, Alfredo Sandes and Kunal Chawla have designed a child-friendly kit that allows the user to interact with commonplace objects in entirely new ways, and even control bits and pieces of them. The jury noted the toolkit's ability to seamlessly fit into its surroundings: "We loved that Tink uses ambient data and does not require any physical or electronic connections (besides an endpoint) to be usable. It's made to be implemented in your own environment and with devices and objects around you, rather than needing a discrete set of actuators designed for the system."
Student Runner Up: Loop: Directional Haptic Feedback Accessory, by Kathryn McElroy and Joseph Weissgold
Although it's not as pernicious as, say, texting while driving, there's no denying that GPS navigation can add to distraction we face behind the wheel or in the saddle. Kathryn McElroy and Joseph Weissgold's Loop: Directional Haptic Feedback Accessory sends you on your way via an armband that's connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth and GPS. Instead of barking directions or demanding eye contact, Loop simply vibrates to point you in the corresponding direction. "The jury was impressed with how hugely useful it is with a wide range of applications, and how quickly it could be deployed as a real product. We loved that the user could apply it to their life in a variety of ways and that it could be a tool for enjoyment."
Professional Notable: The Binoculars, by Tellart and Google Creative Lab
On the occasion of the 40th birthday of the Sydney Opera House, Tellart teamed up with Google Creative Lab to update a much-loved tourist tool with a modern twist. Users got much more than a clear view through The Binoculars, which detect the viewers' position to transport them to well-known landmarks from around the globe via hi-res, 360° scenes, thanks to Google Street View. "We loved the fun way that Binoculars subverts an iconic landmark and forces us to think about which public buildings and natural wonders we hold up as examples around the world," says the jury. "It plays with the nostalgia of a viewfinder combined with the very well known serial urban object of an observation deck binoculars, and uses those familiar interaction mechanisms to put the opera house in the context of other great places by showing rather than telling."
Professional Notable: The Eventbrite Reserved Seating—Seat Designer, by Eventbrite's Registration & Ticketing Team
If you thought pre-ordering tickets for an event was a chore, just imagine being tasked with planning out the seating space from a third party's point of view. The Eventbrite Reserved Seating—Seat Designer makes it a little easier on those looking to sell tickets through the service. The jury took notice of the company's dedication to solving the issue through design: "We were very impressed that Eventbrite was able to take a very entropic problem and effectively solve it through great design and user experience. Taking into consideration all of the different types of events and arrangements makes the software extremely flexible while still continuing to be simple and effective."
Professional Notable: SonoSite X-Porte, by SonoSite Experience Design Team
While the medical industry is often considered slow to adopt new technology, a spurt of innovation can make a huge difference in many areas, from hardware to software and UI. SonoSite's X-Porte marks several major upgrades to the ultrasound, including a more intuitive user interface, which further facilitates and expedites usage. The jury shares their favorite aspects: "The SonoSite X-Porte is a product re-engineered from the ground up, allowing the designers to rethink the prerequisites for medical imaging equipment and an intelligent re-prioritization of the cognitive load of the operator. Despite the fact that this is complex equipment, the design makes it intuitive even for those who are not trained.
Student Notable: Angl°, by Joakim Bergbom, Taís Mauk, Júlia Nacsa and Yedan Qian
Athletic training is hard enough in itself, and keeping track of proper form and intervals requires even more discipline or, better yet, a trainer. Joakim Bergbom, Taís Mauk, Júlia Nacsa and Yedan Qian have designed an accessory to support some of this mental load by introducing a musical approach to their workouts. Angl° allows users monitor their intensity and form with music—when you're doing it all right, the music is in tune; hit a slump and the music will distort. "The design of the object and interaction solves a very real problem and it looks like it has the beginnings of a novel, pleasant and effective interface," note the jury. "It clearly acknowledges that anything like this has to look good and even if it is not fashion, it must have an 'athleisure' appeal."
Student Notable: IDNA—Spatial Storytelling, by Sylvain Joly and Emilie Tappolet
Mobile devices offer tantalizing potential for physical experiences, yet we continue to tap, swipe and scroll through content behind a glass screen. Enter IDNA: Spatial Storytelling by Sylvain Joly and Emilie Tappolet. Based on the viewer's orientation, the dynamic interface allow users to focus on any angle or detail they want and explore scenes from different perspectives. "We found the project to be a very clever way of navigating stories that make it feel like it is bringing the story into your space," says the jury. "It offers the user the chance to radically change the nature of a story based on where they are in time and place. This is not a storytelling medium for the every day; it is a storytelling medium that requires wonderful and engaging visual stories."
Miha Feus's Haptic Drive goes far beyond a touchscreen in the dashboard. By incorporating haptic feedback into the control panel, a driver need not take his or her eyes off the road to adjust the climate control, soundsystem, etc. "The project takes on the huge problem of distraction and cognitive load while driving," says the jury. "Use of multiple sensors—touch, air, temperature, sound—demonstrated a high level of thinking about the problem. We believe that some of the design solutions are well thought out, even if the execution was at a prototype level."
Peter Buczkowski has created a social media network based on wolves. Seriously—and just how you would imagine a pack of wolves to be tight, Mogli works with a limited spatial range. Messages sent through the app are temporary and are available in a radius of 100 meters. The jury appreciated the messages' lack of permanence: "Building on the fact that not all social networks need to be permanent and that not all content needs to exist forever, it creates a great temporal experience and the designer made the right choices as to what is important given an ephemeral location based social context."