— 4 November 2005 —

AWF 2005 – Elizabeth Churchill

Elizabeth Churchill gave the opening keynote. I arrived a few minutes late thanks to the “it’s only a 15 minute walk to Navy Pier” from the hotel staff. Of course that was 15 minutes to the start of the pier. It was another 7 minutes to the end of the pier where the conference was held and another 5 on top of that just trying to find the place. No signs.

Now, had one of these been at the start of the pier I might have arrived on time. Elizabeth’s talk centered around her research into social computing at FXPAL, and the Plasma Poster her team developed.

Within a few minutes I was reminded of something that came out of IBM called Blue Bird (If I recall correctly) about 10 years ago. A friend of mine worked on it. Hm, now I can’t recall. Anyway, if you are reading this Deb, please chime in. :) I asked Elizabeth after the talk if she had heard of Blue Bird and she said that the team from IBM had contributed a few chapters to a book they had been working on related to the device. Anyhoo.

The Plasma Poster (also termed YeTi and eyeCnavas depending on its context of use) is a display set up in portrait mode (to avoid being confused with a TV) that can display pretty much anything you want. The screen is touch sensitive (or poke sensitive) and allows the user to interact with email, web, movies, audio… You can write notes to people (drawing the letters with your finger, save and email as a bitmap) and when you pass by you can see that there are notes left for you.

The context is important. Elizabeth reported that in some cases, the placement of the Poster was really what drove the use of it. All placements were in business settings, but in more public areas of the building.

People used it for a variety of things, mostly not business related. Well, not strictly business related. She broke down the emails sent from the device in one implementation:

  • 31% Technology news
  • 22% humor
  • 21% general news
  • 13% personal
  • 4% general announcements
  • 3% project
  • 6% other

I have an odd mention in my notes of Samuel Pepys’ Diary. No recollection of why. This is the downside of not blogging live.

Overall a very neat presentation. I suggested to Elizabeth (after, when I went up to join the fan boy line) that this would be fun to have at SXSW. She said they put one up at CHI two years ago. Allowed people to upload photos, blog, comment and such. Sounds like something that would definitely go over with the media-savvy, square-rim-glasses-wearing, black turtleneck crowd at SXSW. Which reminds me I need to get a new black turtleneck.

Last note: Elizabeth Churchill… hey nonny nonny.

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