and the Technological Horizon
by Giuseppe Burdo





Sketching and the Technological Horizon 1st edition, paper and pdf version Printed in Venezia, Italy fonts text: Scala Sans Light 9-13 notes: Officina Sans Book 8-13 titles: Scala Sans Regular 74-80 subtitles: Scala Sans Regular 19-22 pictures: Handwriting - Dakota 9-13

Declaration of originality

I submitted this document for the exam on the twenty-first of September 2009 of the Interaction Design Theory 2 course (Telecomunicazioni) given by Gillian Crapton Smith with Philip Tabor at the Facoltà di Design e Arti, IUAV University of Venice. For all word-sequences which I have copied from other sources, I have: a) reproduced them in italics, and b) placed quotation marks at their start and their end, and c) indicated, for each sequence, the exact page number or webpage URL of the original source. For all images which I have copied from other sources, I have indicated: a) the creator and/or owner of the image, and b) the exact page number or webpage URL of the original source. I declare that all other word-sequences and images in this document were written or created by me alone.

Venezia, 21 September 2009 Giuseppe Burdo


Introduction PART I: Explore and describe What a sketch is Paper media Digital media PART II: Imagine Augmented Reality Quantum Computing Mind control Conclusions Are you ready? Source List

7 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22

24 27



Don’t speak loud, someone could be scared

Someone said that one image is worth a thousand words. Well, this is not an assay on which media is going to win the marketing cup on persuasion. Since immemorial time, people used to make sketches on the rocks for different reasons, for example to better express what was in their mind. But nobody knows how many purposed they were used for: safety, business, pleasure, education, and so on. Have you ever told to a tourist how to reach a place? And viceversa? Well, if so you maybe know how sometimes it is hard to tell it. And let’s see hand gestures or rough drawing on some waste paper. Images play an important role in our everyday life, as for a designer to present a project, for a person to illustrate a map, for an artist to show his world to the committee. Imagine when the idea to express is made by more people. Here the game starts to be hard. The booklet is divided in two parts. The first one concerns

in sketching nowadays, and the main uses. The second is a personal possible view on how it could evolve in the next years according to the most advanced technologies. Have you ever thought to sketch without a pen..a board..a paper...mmm without anything? For this reason you will look at strange things here, as a new virtual shared interface that enables us to sketch in an easy and engaging way. This opportunity is potentially useful for everybody; the image has a more common dictionary than any other language. The approach is itself sometime a sketch, so don’t be angry if you don’t find too many details. But if you want to know more, write to this e-mail address: iamtellingyousomethingnew[at] future[dot]com Kidding aside, remember to keep your mind with you. You will know why. I hope it will be an easy and enjoying reading.



Part I

Explore and describe
Figure 1 Daily sketch


What a sketch is
“quick, timely, cheap, disposable, plentiful, clear but not precise, minimal detailed, not too refined, suggesting, ambiguous” 1

As Bill Buxton says, a drawing to be called sketch has to assolve different features. You don’t need a lot of time to sketch, because of its inprecise shapes, it’s not fine art. You can do it whenever you want, a piece of sheet or a napkin and a pencil are enough. Thanks to its cheap property it’s also disposable, in a way that it is always useful as a track of the design process and as a way for ourself improving. It has to be not too detailed, because in the brainstorming you don’t know how exactly what it will be and anyway it has to assolve a great and essential function: to suggest. If you show it to other people, stay open to more opinions as possible ... because they can give you more details about their experience, their needs and what they are seeking for. Welcome to the design process.

Figure 2 How do you feel, Bill Verplank


fast to see + fast to touch + acustic beep iconic language high visible, low energy

Sketching is not prototyping
The design process is made by different and continuous stages, from the research, based on needs and desires, to the real prototype. We can represent this process with a funnel, where at the start we have a lot of pre-ideas to manage and we define the opportunities that are the way how we think the things will work. But while the sketches have to suggest and explore, the prototype phase has to explain what the concept is, if possible in the appropriate scenario. There are already different studios who elaborate algoritms for virtual environments, but they work just for prototyping in expensive area of studies, where the final product is based on algoritms, not just drawings.

Toward an experience design
The act of seeing is not just an action. Think about where you are, who is around, what you are dressing. Well, what you are doing right now is more than reading. You probably are listening to something else, volountary or not, or you are sitting on a comfortable chair. This moment covers up a lot of stimolous, but just very few of them are conscious. In a process design everyone tries to consider more things as possible, as a matter of fact the branch od Experience Design has grown to become itself a new discipline. It gets sense when the person feels and does, is related to a better awareness of what surrounds us.

Figure 3 Sketching a Train Button Figure 4 Sketching funnel, Bill Buxton


Paper media
wide or narrow, heavy or light, rough or fine, white or coloured, from trees or rocks, these are usually the most flexible surfaces

Probably You have read that you need a H pencil and then a stronger one. Well, it’s more simple than it seems. Surely colors can add details and information about your scenario, but they are not necessary. Take the first pencil or pen that you find comfortable and start sketching. If you don’t know how to make them effective and clear, let you get inspired by google images for example. As Bill Buxton remembers2, maybe the first sketch was made by Mariano di Jacopo called Taccola, from Siena in the fourteen century. He was an engineer, sculptor and architect. His work has been broadly recognized from his colleagues in the following centuries. There could be several purposes, for example the figure 6 shows an exercise done in the Telecommunication’s course, where we were asked to imagine a service for the mobile.
Figure 5 Taccola’s sketches Figure 6 Alcove finder by G.Burdo, A.Filippi, V. Venza


every line starts with a dot. every physical product grows out of a thought.

Whatever is your idea, you have surely more chances to be clear, and sometime also funny. Fast prototype needs fast tools. The figure 7 shows how we can design an application for a small device in less than one minute. It doesn’t matter how it is refined at the start, it’s a good way to go on in order to show how it works ... or how it will work. “Sketching is a way of understanding the physical world”3. Everyone has a way of doing that. And also you can be more aware of what is around you, as for example to know how many plugs are in your apartment. Sometimes it is a reason for the appliances placing.

Figure 7 Post-it way of thinking Figure 8 Looking for plugs


Digital media
fast, portables, easy to edit, are no longer related to the heavy and voluminous computers.

Digital is about the information stored and eventually sent using just two numbers, zero and one. Take for granted some boolean logic, it’s amazing how many things our devices are able to do. Think about deleting and re-drawing instantly without any eraser. Have you ever tried an etch to sketch board? Almost every kid has used it or something very close to it. Someone has even achieved wonderful results, often overpassing the sketching fundamentals to get into drawing. Also the multi- award iphone and ipod touch are very suitable for fast and small sketches. Use your finger, save or send it and shake it to get a new blank window. That’s a deal!

Figure 9 Etch a sketch board Figure 10 Application for Ipod touch and Iphones


00101011 10001100 10101111 11110000

digital for people involved in the work, analogue for everybody

When computers started to show their potentialities, probably few people thought about sketching. The machine language seemed not suitable for expressing something different from complex calculus or hard-core programming. On the left side there is a Google sketch screenshot This is used for any type of project and sometimes also for serious purposes, for example you can create your own building and export to google map. That’s in just few minutes( yeah, more or less). On the right, you can look at a funny web application called iSketch. After the registration process, choose the language and the level and get into one room chat. In turn while one member starts to sketch, the other tries to guess what the object is. Then you get a score. That’s also a good way for training. :)
Figure 11 Google sketch Figure 12 iSketch, web application


Figure 13 From people to people through the World



Part II






Augmented Reality
Let’s keep it simple and fast what your world suggests to your mind
build what you need catch what you see

As Nathan Shedroff says, Science fiction has influenced also Interaction Design. And surely, this is a part of truth. On the other hand, even this genre is really inspirational, actually it is so artificial that people are no more humans, and this is the last thing that IxD designers want. Here we have a screenshot of the Matrix film, made in 1999 but set in 2300. The police agent is using what it seems to be a common interface for retrieving data. This is very close to the augmented reality, where you are both in two spaces, real and virtual. The second one is able to give you a more effective way of operating, and also more engaging. It’s not by chance that the first purpose of this technology was used for military simulations.
Figure 14 Sketching in the augmented reality Figure 15 Matrix frame movie


share the virtual space

combine whatever you want

show the virtual sketch to your committee

While you are sketching something new, it is common to use many things and objects from the real world. So, why should we redraw something that is already real? What you see in the picture above is the new way of sketching in the augmented reality. You can catch whatever you want thanks to a gesture recognition system and put it into your virtual sketch. Even if there are several steps, you can come back whenever you want. Now you build upon what you have just caught or closed to it. Other people can also share the same space and editing or adding something new. You can also keep your design process private, because of your own glasses. At the end you can show your sketch to the committee thanks to a hologram projector.
Figure 16 Haptic glove scheme Figure 17 Virtual-reality glasses


Quantum computing
“Nanotechnology allows control of physical properties of nanostructures and devices with single-molecule precision” 4

Do you remember the first computers in the world? Well, surely you have seen them just on tv. They were big as a room, expensive as a house, and so complicated that you needed a master in engineering for using them. In few decades of years, while they were used for even more applications, the prices were going down allowing more research on them, in order to be the most fast and small as possible. If a “normal” computer works by units of zeros and ones, the next generation will not be based on bits, but on qubits5. Here, the basic information is not just zero or one, but it could be both and something else. That’s why computers will became even smaller and able to elaborate more information at the same time. When this technology will be ready on confirmed improvements, it will be integrated everywhere.
Figure 18 Molecule structure





as humans, each innovation needs the communication of matters and shapes
people skin streets

In the future it will be possible to elaborate everything from and to whatever our senses can feel

“We are just atoms and molecules”. I remember this sentence from the high school, and I almost hated that because of its cynic view. But actually, it is surely a true point of view. When we will be able to catch easily information from molecules, we can extend our potentialities to every kind of surface, more or less tangible. For instance we can import the textile properties, or also the drawing above that and export it to a new surface, just to say if it looks good or not. Think about tattoo. You will be able to transfer a new one directly to your skin, and then you can decide if you really want it or how long do you want to keep it. We can extend the output of our imagination to all objects around us, give them a different shape, size and color according to our preference. Virtual is just what we are going to do, not just awesome effects in dark environments.
Figure 19 Internet of things based on atoms



bulb projector





Mind control
“It’s the thought that counts” says the Emotiv Team. It’s not just a way of expression, but also an interaction tool.

Have you ever realized to turn off the light when you were already on the bed? Ok, maybe someone could clap his hands, someone else uses a remote control. But think about to do that just by the thought. Is it useful, isn’t it? This research field was born in the last years with the purpose to give a better living to paralyzed people. Actually scientists know few things about, but some of the first experiments have already achieved effective results. How does it work? Well, the picture shows something like a helmet with sixteen electrodes. Each one gains signals from the brain areas involved and they are interpreted by the software. Then the recognized patterns are able to turn on the programmed devices.

Figure 20 Brain Computer Interface device


signal classification signal processing and acquisition

nowadays is almost possible to control things by our mind, but what if viceversa?
wireless controller

Until the previous possible innovations people have to use at least their body, as the arm gesture, for using tangible devices, in the future the thought will be already enough. When scientist will be master on that, it will be possible to create physical interaction without any physical movement. The challenge is about the training, both for the person and the systems. Sometimes the way how the brain works is a little bit different from each other. For this reason, the calibration is essential. Each eeg signal with a particular range of frequency could be assigned to a specific command, where all the external devices will become part on the own body. Many theoretical implication could come up, but as all the discoveries and inventions done until now, the life of humans is also due to their responsibility.
Figure 21 How it works, general scheme Figure 22 EEG Signals

mind controlled


Are you ready?

Figure 23 A Human approach to the diversity



The media are us

Dec 2104

Every object that we use could tell a story. A story of people who have lived and continue to do it designing objects. If you think about journalism, when you are not in the same place where things happen, and you are not updated by any gatekeeper, you don’t know anything about them. Well, probably it’s the same when you are managing something tangible. As a matter of fact, this tangibility doesn’t have a sense when there isn’t a relation of the user. This relation of any kind of form and context is called experience. Variables as time and context are absolutely essential not only for evaluating, but they are the integral part of the meaning. The contemporary art also gives examples in this direction,

where artists consider their work to be finished by the spectators 6. Obviously the value of experience has also affected the technological world. Even if the hardware is the same, the software can make the difference, as the behavior of who you like or not. That’s way you can listen to different opinions by mac and pc users. So meanwhile computing becomes more and more invisible, in the next years we’ll probably talk about human and artificial media instead of hot and cold ones 7. Maybe over time we will resign ourself to it, even if before we will be challenged from the same people who at first consider innovation as an alien, and later they will forget which is the difference from him. Do you believe you are a medium too?



Source List

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Buxton Bill, Buxton Bill, Sketching User Experience, pg. 105 Hart J, Arturo Schwarz, The complete works on Marcel Duchamp, pg. 885 McLuhan,

2 4 5 9 16 17 18 20 21 22 http://www.gearlog.com_images_17977.jpg


About the booklet About me
Sketching and the Technological Horizon is the second booklet asked to make in the core theory courses in the Visual and Multimedia Design graduate programme at IUAV University, which are run by Gillian Crampton Smith and Philip Tabor. We were asked to explore, describe and imagine possibile futures about our topic after the basic lessons concerning the key concepts and techniques of computing and telecommunication technologies. The size had to be in A4. more infos at I was born in Terlizzi, near Bari, in 1985. After gaining a Diploma in Electronics and Telecommunications, I moved to Ferrara University to study Multimedia Design, gaining my undergraduate degree with an experimental thesis on visuo-haptic interaction in virtual environments. Meanwhile I worked in Milan as a multimedia content manager for a communication agency and in Lucca as product designer for Sca Hygiene Products. Now I am in my second year of IUAV University’s Visual and Multimedia Design graduate programme and as erasmus student in the MSc Medialogy course in Copehagen. For any suggestion and/or comment I look forward to hearing from you at

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