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Smart-Its is a technology platform for creating intelligent products and environments. The size of Post-Its®, Smart-Its are small, generic, and cheap computational devices that can be used for post-hoc computational enhancement of everyday objects. Smart-Its allow objects to perceive their environment, communicate with peers, and have customizable behavior. Within this European Union research project, we applied scenario and design methods to develop new applications and user experiences facilitated by Smart-Its. An example is the Smart-Its Restaurant, in which the technology was applied to a range of items involved in food packaging, transport, storage and preparation. Applications were developed in which individual artifacts could display their quality and lifecycle, and in which artifacts could collectively negotiate inventories, menus and prices. This application was developed as an interactive demonstrator for exhibition, in which a serving tray, refrigerator and several food items were augmented and networked. Interacting with the items in an exhibition setting triggered a series of animated movies explaining the application as well as the Smart-Its platform more generally.

The user experience aspects of Smart-Its were developed through a series of workshops with project partners. In order to support collaboration and orient a user-perspective within a predominantly technological project, we deployed scenario-based methods within a series of project workshops. Early workshops explored a range of potential use contexts and interaction modalities with smart artifacts. Promising concepts were selected for prototyping as demonstrators, including the Restaurant. Prototypes pointed to a range of opportunities for product development and, more generally, illustrated how Smart-Its could augment any object with self-aware and ‘smart’ functions as well as connect large collections of these artifacts into ‘smart environments’ with customizeable behaviors and emergent intelligence. Significantly, prototypes provided a common basis for diverse disciplines, as well as end-users and the general public, to discuss and imagine futures with smart artifacts.

Image (above)
(1) Excerpt from programming specifications for the simulation software and percepts algorithms, (2) set-up of demo for the final Disappearing Computer exhibition, and (3) user experience applications mapped for the final report. All images by myself with the project team as listed on the website (link below).

My role
I was active as a researcher in the project, in which I developed and led several of the scenario workshops with partners, and I co-authored research reports and scientific publications. For much of the project, I was the ‘de facto’ project manager for the Interactive Institute’s part, including responsibility for personnel, research direction, budget and financial reporting. I was responsible for the research direction and product team in the Smart-Its Restaurant, and participated in the Smart-Its Friends and SiSSy applications. I supported the development of new initiatives around the project including ToyLabs ITR AB, a a spin-off company from the IT University course in which I taught as well as the Interactive Institute projects Smart-Its and IT+Textiles. I was also co-initiator of the Sonic City application, which was largely funded through Smart-Its.

Smart-Its was funded in 2000-2003 within the Disappearing Computer Initiative, part of the European Union’s 5th Framework Program for R&D. Project lead: Hans Gellersen (Lancaster University); Project partners: Lancaster University in the UK (Department of Computing); ETH Zurich in Switzerland (Distributed Systems and Perceptual Computing and Computer Vision groups); the Interactive Institute and Viktoria Institute in Sweden; University of Karlsruhe in Germany (Telecooperation Office); and VTT Electronics in Finland (Interactive Intelligent Electronics).

More about the project

See also

/ Projects / Sonic City

/ Teaching / Ubiquitous Computing, MSc course, IT University Göteborg, 2002 and 2003.

/ Publications / Mazé, R. (2010) ‘RE: Thinking Sustainability’, in D. Keyson and S. Jin (eds), Designing for Sustainable Living & Working.

/ Publications / Mazé, R. (2007) Occupying Time.

/ Publications / Holmquist, L.E., et al. (2004) ‘Building Intelligent Environments with Smart-Its’.

/ Publications / Holmquist, L.E., Mazé, R., and Ljungblad, S. (2003) ‘Designing Tomorrow's Smart Products’.