Thursday, November 22, 2007

Shapeshifting bubbles

Click on the image for an animation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Project card

I made a little card with a hand drawn illustration showing the topic of my project.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Car modeling

Hi, just wanted to share an image. The first car body I set in 3D CAD using Catia. I am not a car person whatsoever besides, just did my job :)

I modeled a Citroen Berlingo in one day, for a product I am working on that is to be mounted onto vehicles within this segment. An eye-shriveling design that is, I made it a bit funkier by painting it hot pink.

Hope to never have to see a Berlingo again. Even my 1995 Nissan Sunny beats that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Project Idea

This is an idea that boiled up to me the other day. I made a little flyer about developing jewellery that would enter into a co-evolution with the wearer as soon as he starts wearing it. As technology shapes humanity, I would like people to be more self-reflective, adaptive and networked, meanwhile giving them a sense for natural aesthetics (emergent properties, fundamental growth patterns, detail, perfect elegance...) again.

Groovy or non-groovy?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Having been attended to the existence of this blog by a fellow-student (Ehsan Baha, great guy) made me realize that there are actually real people visiting this blog :), so I'd better keep posting.

Therefore, an update. Probably not very interesting for most of you, since I have not been designing very much lately. Instead, I've dived into a huge conceptual abyss with the intention to find a rock-solid and untouched pearl that might be the start of a graduation project. And of a design philosophy. But now its time to show up and catch some breath again. Time to stop metaphoring. Bad habit.

What I found are interesting ideas, which I am still trying to synthesize into my own body of ideas. Don't get me started on that. Nevertheless, I would like to appoint you to some of the best bits and pieces I found. Life's a lot more fun if you at least have a holistic conceptual model of it that works for you. But please, read only the things that can answer questions you yourself ponder, and are ready for to have answered in some way. The best texts tell you what you already know, of course.

1. Confabulation Theory by Robert Hecht-Nielsen. "Confabulation theory [...] proposes that cognition is a phylogenetic outgrowth of movement and that cognition utilizes the same neural circuitry that was originally developed for movement." [], i.e. thinking and movement are exactly similar. Understanding this theory reveals some of the brain's mystic functioning and can remove the last bit of body-mind dualism that you still might possess.
2. Cosmology. Thinking deeper about among others confabulation theory might lead you to the notion that actually, very much is similar. Have Salamah Pope enlighten you with the 'World Pattern' she found ( This text, while vague at some points (damn Eastern people), shows how there is a formal universal structure underlying everything, comprised of a quaternity of phases. It reinforced my feelings that the next step for designers is to converge, instead of differentiate, that capitalism is based on the lowest set of human values, and that human beings have at least some nature and destiny. By the way, also William Bainbridge talks about a Renaissance-like converging of the world, nature, technology, and culture. A last text I would like to recommend is "Harmony in Greek and Indo-Iranian Cosmology" by J.C. Franklin. It explains parts of general-systems theory by using the concept of harmony, and moreover shows how technology can be harmonious. A citation: "The living bow was a very simple, ancient, and striking example of a transcendant whole, the parts of which are caught in a continuous, circular interplay-mutually causing what has been called in whole-systems theory an 'emergent property' "
3. Philosophy of technology. Especially Dana Belu wrote a nice text entitled "Thinking Technology, Thinking Nature", outlining some ideas for social change towards a posttechnological life, thereby mentioning views of Martin Heidegger, Herbert Marcuse, and Andrew Feenberg. The latter philosopher's text "Marcuse or Habermas: Two Critiques of Technology" can answer some fundamental questions about the relationship between people and technology, for example how technology is not neutral but always takes a valuative stance, and argues against rationalization.
4. Richard Buckminster Fuller's inspiring text "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" is a classic must-read. It shows his ideas, though a bit outdated, on development towards a sustainable world.
5. Time and progress are illusions, based on modernist thinking. This is partially explained in “Fictive Time - Bachelard on Memory, Duration and Consciousness” by Conrad Russell, which especially set my mind at ease. J.T. Fraser proposes the more human concept of nootemporality, viewing time as a web instead of an arrow pointing forwards. "Momo, Dogen, and the Commodification of Time" by Goodhew and Loy refers nicely to Buddhist conceptions of time, while Soraj Hongladarom argues how a new conception of time could be used in both local and global spheres.
6. Embodiment. Of course, Paul Dourish laid the foundation, based on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception, amongst others. Andre Kn√∂rig applies ideas of embodiment nicely in his thesis “Free the body and the mind will follow - An investigation into the role of the human body in creativity and its application to Human-Computer Interaction” to how people can be set free mentally as well as bodily.
7. Simplicity. It is popular in design land. But what is it? The famous John Maeda thinks about this but seem to get not much further than relatively superficial notions for designers. I would like to know what exactly happens when people perceive something as simple or complex. Saber’s book “Simplicity” handles the topic for philosophy, and has some nice notions about visual simplicity and what it is based upon. Also he triggered the idea that when you can describe something easily with words, it is simple. I.e. is experienced simplicity inversely proportional to the size of the semantic structure used to describe a phenomenon/the amount of symbols targeted within the brain? Just a first thought. Per Mollerup wrote a nice text for designers about Simplicity in the first Design Research Quarterly this year.

And no, reading is not the only way to pick up great ideas!

8. features a fantastic lecture by Ross Lovegrove on about his philosophy of Organic Essentialism and how he applies it in his product design studio.
9. Janine Benyus on biomimicry: Though I like Ross's ideas better, since he's less about copying nature.

And finally some flat entertainment:

10. "The Machine Stops", by E.M. Forster. Great short story about how technology can transform people, from 1909. Nice reflection that if you consider it, it has partially come true.
11. Check Kenichi Ebina on YouTube;

Oh and if you would like to discuss things, you can certainly consider my blog as a platform for this, for I would like to participate, obviously.

Cheers, Ralph

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fida at the MS Design Expo

Fida was successfully presented at the MS Faculty Summit in Redmond, and sparked quite some interest! Alas, I was not there myself, but someone else took a few pictures of the presentation stand.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Fida is a product that serves as a trigger for communication in situations where there are barriers to communicate directly, for example when you want to tell somebody that you like that person. You can record a personal voice message, add a dynamic expression to it with colored light, and leave the object in a place where the other person will find it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Hidden dangers of ambient intelligence

This illustration shows my feelings for the development of ambient intelligence; our world more and more becomes filled with technology, which in this century will more and more start interconnecting, forming one global artificially intelligent organism, maintaining humanity's behavior in a sense. I truly believe that electronical organisms will arise that are in a way much more intelligent than people, can have feelings and even become 'evil', as many would call it. I do not think this is a bad development, but one necessary if humanity wants to ensure a sustainable interaction with the universe, which will especially in this century be a challenging task! We just need to cooperate with technology, and perhaps even evolve beyond our carbon-based bodies (hello genetic engineering!). In case you did not notice: I am a technologist, not a humanist.


In this project a team of 5 students, including me, created five interactive prototypes of vending machines that offer the user a walnut in an emotionally expressive way.

Why emotion? Emotional intelligence is essential in our social communication and decision-making processes. Current vending machines totally lack this and can be very frustrating to interact with when for example, we have to bow to them to reach for the product we just bought. Future products need to anticipate and adapt to user's wishes and act according to them. One way to do this is to behave in an emotional way.

When you approach Phunx, it detects you and starts to wiggle happily, since you are a potential customer. As you come closer he starts an enthusiastic dance, throws out the nut and goes back to sleep.

Nuzzle; an interactive hospital experience for children

Nuzzle is an object that helps children through a stressful hospital experience by providing them a way to escape from reality into the interactive world of a virtual character, who gradually also teaches children about the hospital. This is a concept we sent in for the Microsoft Design Expo 2007. (more)

HappyZap: the Start of Social Zapping

This animated scenario shows a concept for a device that facilitates a social way of controlling the television. Instead of a physical struggle, the hunt for control happens on a virtual level with HappyZap!

Luxalive; human values in interaction

Products should start to move!

This is a prototype of a reading lamp that moves according to the values an individual strives for. For example, when you like to be dominant, the lamp will follow you like a slave. And when you like to help others, the lamp will not work well and ask you to help him to stay upright.

It is part of a research project that is aimed at finding out how to design for specific human values in interaction to make interactions with products aesthetically more valuable.

The lower movie shows parts of my design process: making quick interactive prototypes from LEGOs connected to Phidgets and Max/MSP on a laptop. A great method!

Multimodal interaction idea for wearable digital pet

This is a exploration showing how people could interact with a Tamagotchi-like device, using, apart from the visual, also the tactile sense and interacting in a more implicit and natural way, instead of pushing coded buttons. This first prototype was designed and built in three days.

Romanticism movement collage

For capturing essential elements from the esthetics of the era of Romanticism, this video was compiled from various sources, like the Tchaikovski's Swan Lake ballet.

Dentissimo; expressive interaction with a toothbrush

Currently, Western culture tries to maximize profit. Efficiency is highly valued, which is reflected in our current interactive products. But the world cannot function like a logical machine, it is way too complex to be controlled like that. In my vision, the notion of esthetics needs to be emphasized more throughout not only the form of our environment, but also our interactions and behavior as a whole. This toothbrush is an early example, showing how elements derived from classical music can be translated into interactive products.


Aesthetics of interaction; interaction collage

Filming interactions with everyday objects as a starting point for translating the aesthetics of a classical music piece to interactions with interactive products. Check the movie.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Composition Itten style

a basic exercise with color composition, researching the spatial effects of color.

matching colors and emotions

Can you match these words correctly to the color combinations shown in the picture?

Words: "Dreamy", "Playful", "Down-to-Earth", "Agressive", "Sad" and "Modest"

Nuzzle Scenario of Use

This is the scenario of how we envision Nuzzle to be used. I drew it all in Flash, a job demanding patience :). It was presented to Microsoft in a Flash animation, but for the sake of convenience I Jpegged it all.



A model of our final concept for the Microsoft Design Expo. it is a cuddly object that shows the child the real world of the hospital by photos, as well as a fantasy world of a cartoon character that engages the child in an interactive story, where the child needs to find objects in the physical world. This will allow the child to familiarize himself with the hospital environment by interacting with visual information in a playful way.
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Monday, May 21, 2007

Identity Map version 2.0

A new version of my identity map that shows some deeper explanation as well as being a better integrated whole.

The next step will be to find the core ideas and how I would incorporate these into a utopian vision. From then on I can set a goal and develop my graduation project based on it. Anyway, just some thoughts.

Visitation of accreditation committee

My presentation to the accreditation committee for our faculty last wednesday. I presented the project 'human values in lighting interaction' and I did it fairly well and smoothly I guess.

First picture shows me and Mats Hanson, assistant professor at the department Mechatronics, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden. Second shows me explaining the project to Katinka Bergema and prof. Farrokh Mistree, professor in Engineering and Design, Georgia Insitute of Technology, Atlanta, USA.

Monday, May 7, 2007

First Models

This is an update on our submission to the Microsoft Research Design Expo 2007. Here are two models that came out of a one-day workshop where we simultaneously explored form, function and interaction. With this method, you can come to integrated designs. 
Design problems are highly complex and ill-defined; everything depends on everything else. 
Therefore, a sequential decision making process does not result in strong designs.  I tackle design problems by iteratively proposing integrated designs and make them evolve. A program of requirements helps only slightly, for it never results in a complete design, and never in a strong design, but in a compromise between different requirements. A desired, simple and strong form, functionality or interaction should 
dictate a design and clarify what should be included, but moreover, what should be omitted.

The pink boxy model is a device with touchscreen that allows patients to get familiar with the hospital environment and procedures by actively absorbing the information by interacting with it. Before the child is taken into the hospital, she can play with pictures that show different moments of a hospitalization, at home. In a playful way, the device invites the user to sequence the pictures in the correct order. This is a check about whether or not the patient has understood the information that was given in an intake meeting. When the patient is then taken into the hospital, the device reacts to hotspots in the hospital, and again points the patient to the relevant images by starting a visually interesting slideshow. The hotspots are indicated by icons, which also serve to brand the hospital. Then, after the procedure, the child herself can take pictures with the device, and browse through past experiences of other patients 
who have taken pictures. This serves as a collective 'guestbook', that could also be put on the 
web in an online community.

The fan-like model has three leaves with a touchscreen that each serve their purpose in a different phase of the hospitalization. The top leaf shows 
concrete information prior to the procedure, so the patient can get ready for it. When the 
patient then visits the hospital, the second leaf is activated and will show a visually entertaining 
show of these images, triggered by hotspots in the hospital environment. The third leaf serves 
as a collective guestbook and is activated when the operation is finished. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Talking about design is like dancing about food

So I've been talking about design all day.

I came closer to enlightenment once again and realized:

Talking about design is absolutely and completely useless, unless you have a concrete design to talk about in the form of an interactive model, sketch, and iterate on that. And still then, language is very suboptimal as a design tool, euphemistically spoken. For words are a barrier in being a representation of what is being talked about, and not the thing itself. The problem with this world is that too much focus is put on language, not physical action. 
But in the latter is real meaning. I do not believe in top-down methodologies of design in which a design is a reflection of a formal list of requirements, elicited from various sources. This never results in a strong design but is always a compromise between different people's opinions (expressed in words). A design should evolve and from the start a prototype should be available, even it if be a shoebox or tennis ball.

Less talk and more creative and intuitive action would lead to much more interesting products!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Identity Map 1.0

In exploring my own young identity, I found it helpful to make things visible with help of a mindmap and images. Here is a first map of my inspiration, favorite designs, my design processes and project work.

I can recommend this method to anyone who wants to dig deeper into his/herself, and find the core of his/her existence :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Children's Hospital Experiences

Here are three conceptual scenarios we put up for the Microsoft Design Expo 2007, an international design competition. The theme is 'Health and Wellness' and we focus on the experience of hospitalizations for children of 3 to 6 years of age. The general problem is that the hospitals put too little focus on the wellbeing of their patients and firstly try to maximize their efficiency and, profit. Also, patients are still treated mainly as disfunctioning bodies and their minds are neglected, thus showing in a sense a Descartian, dualistic way of thinking behind Western health care. This should change!

We conducted observational as well as contextual research in the case of tonsillectomies and did expert interviews, which brought us to the following VERY preliminary concept directions for experience design. Also we did literature reviews, and currently we are comparing health care in different Western countries.

So....Let's make hospitals a better place!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Luxalive: a lamp that elicits human values in interaction

I designed and built a lamp that elicits human values through interaction with its user. Human values roughly are what people strive for in their lives. The key idea is that when products are designed so people can employ behavior suiting their value priorities, interaction with these products can be much more satisfying, because a resonance occurs with the dynamics of the product and the preferred dynamics of the human. The two values the lamp can elicit are 'social power' and 'helpful'. Depicted above is the lamp behaving subserviently, following the user's movements and making the user feel powerful and in control. The lamp can make its light flow dynamically through its body, but moreover it can also move physically through a four bar mechanism powered by a servo motor.

Central themes of this blog

Product designers are blinded by traditional ideas of beautiful form and featuritis!
(yes, this blog is fairly serious)

Located at the department of Industrial Design at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, I am exploring how innovation could be powered by very different ideas, drawn from fields like interaction design, nature, music, art, new media and even dance. My focus is on intelligent digital products.

With this blog I aspire to develop and share these ideas, as well as show design explorations in the form of experiential interactive prototypes.

Some important questions I continuously try to answer are:

What should be the role of technology towards people, and vice versa?

What should the form language of future intelligent products be?

How can products be created that allow for a rich, natural, expressive and symbiotic interaction with people, respecting man as a whole?

How can anything be an inspirator for industrial design?

To what extent should human forms of intelligence be implemented in digital products?

If you're interested, there's going to be good stuff here!