Touch: Immaterials: the ghost in the field

Touch has a new research project “Immaterials: the ghost in the field” that is dealing with the invisible fields that pickup rfid tags. The clarity and level of professionalism in the documentation is truly wonderful. Be sure to keep an eye on this group. The Touch project is based at the Oslo School of Architecture & Design and funded by the Research Council of Norway. Please see below for a video and description from Touch.

Touch is a research project that investigates Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that enables connections between mobile phones and physical things. We are developing applications and services that enable people to interact with everyday objects and situations through their mobile devices

The problem and opportunity of invisibility

RFID is still badly understood as an interactive technology. Many aspects of RFID interaction are fundamentally invisible; as users we experience two objects communicating through the ‘magic’ of radio waves. This invisibility is also key to the controversial aspects of RFID technology; once RFID antennas are hidden inside products or in environments, they can be invoked or initiated without explicit knowledge or permission. (See here for more on the invisibility of radio.)

But invisibility also offers opportunities: the lack of touch is an enormous usability and efficiency leap for many systems we interact with everyday (hence the success of Oyster, Suica and Octopus cards). But there is also the ‘magic’ of nearness one of the most compelling experiential aspects of RFID.

As designers we took this invisibility as a challenge. We needed to know more about the way that RFID technology inhabits space so that we could better understand the kinds of interactions that can be built with it and the ways it can be used effectively and playfully inside physical products.

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