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Moving on..!

6 Feb

Just about a year ago I started this blog. Primarily it’s the documentation of research and the processes of my Masters Degree (@DJCAD) from which I graduated in November 2011. MysteryBoxes will remain live but will not be update anymore.

I ‘ve taken the key information and projects from here and presented it in a (hopefully) more legible structure.

So, if you are following here then please join me over here..!

Have a look around the new site and keep your eye on the blog for projects rolling out over the next couple of weeks including a return of BMEDay (on Instagram), a QR Code history trail project that I’m designing with a group of Primary School children and the latest information on the Dighty Burn!

Can’t wait to get you up-to-date! 🙂

What’s in the Box?

12 Nov

Anything…

EVERYTHING!

I thought it was time now to put down a few more words and pictures about a little prototype I put together for my final Masters show. The idea had been in my head for a while but I was preoccupied with putting my final presentation together, completing essays and what not…

But while I was putting the final touches to the display for the show I became obsessed with getting this final piece, and after an entire week of sitting next to a noisy, smelly laser cutter I managed to get a 3 editions of a product that worked! See more about the production process here.

So what is it?

Well, the inspiration is the classic wooden toy, something that can be played with but is probably best just looked at. During my Masters year I hadn’t spend anywhere near as much time as I would have liked in the Uni workshop so I decided that with the academic pieces out of the way I’d spend my final week making stuff!

So, what’s in the Box? It’s a jigsaw. But the shape to be made is a bespoke designed QR Code that links in to the QReate (QReate.co.uk) QR CMS and at point of purchase you can have that code point to a URL of your choice. Not only that, but you get access to a mobile site where you can redirect the QR for yourself – as many times as you like. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

So who would want one? Well, here’s an idea. Fathers day – Dad gets a cool desk toy as well as a link to the latest family online album. Birthday – Mom gets a custom painted box from the kids and a link to the latest family video that dad put online. Conferences – they’d make great conference gifts which link to the sponsors chosen content or video of the best bits of the event… in any event they’re a classic looking memento with a tech spin…

Apart from anything else, if I do say so myself, I love the logo!

What do you think?

Please leave comments below…

QReativity continues

4 Nov

It’s been a while since my last post… new teaching role and an abundance of freelance work has kept me away… but I had to let you know about this…

Dundee is currently in the middle of a Science Festival…

Earlier this year I was preparing for a lecture in Edinburgh, QReativity – The Mystery of the QR Code (a screencast version is posted below) talking about the various QR projects I’d been working on. For practice I gave my talk in the University and amongst a handful of folk who turned up were three members of the Science Fest committee, keen to find out more.

Time didn’t allow for me to be any more involved than the Q&A after my talk and the odd email here and there. However, as part of the festival a series of posters have been produced to promote a variety of ways in which QR codes can be used for Art, Education and Entertainment.

QReativity is the tag given to each of the various QR projects of the last year – it’s also the title of the SciFest poster that points you in my direction and for that I am most grateful. Thank you Dundee Science Festival 🙂

I managed to get a few photos of un-posted artwork while paying a vist to Street Advertising (who manage the poster sites) and today, after a tip-off, I went in search of a ‘posted’ version. Ironically, my poster is not only on the same site, it’s even in the same position as the very first SuperFly poster of just over two years ago (image below). Not only that but above todays poster is an ad for the NEoN festival 2011 – in 2010 (along with Rick Curran and Tim Pryde) I launched the first of a series of QR Treasure Hunts – NEoN Knights.

It feels like those projects are being neatly tied up at exactly the point where I’m working on the next incarnation of my evolving QR/engagement projects… a permanent QR Trail along Dundee’s Dighty Burn.

But you don’t want to hear about that just now – that’s for another post… to be continued..!

You can learn more about the SciFest – here

 

Who Killed The QR Code?

25 Jul

Marble QR memorial in Pere Lachaise, Paris

Found this on the web via ‘Geek-eLeaks‘ and copied it here before it was removed… apparently a leaked obituary for the QR Code!

Obituary: QR Code

Who Killed The QR Code, aka Quick Response?
The sad irony of course was that the QR Code was anything but ‘quick‘ to catch on. Is this a tale of ‘tech‘ ahead of it’s time?

Created by the ‘Terminator II‘ sounding Denso Wave (a subsidiary of Toyota) in 1995, to keep track of car parts, the QR filtered through into public consciousness in the mid-naughties with the rise of the ‘smart phone‘! But it seems that the phones were smarter than the people and the QR just didn’t catch on. Speaking from Cupertino back in 2002 an iPhone said, “Sure I can make calls and text an stuff, but when you’ve paid $500 for a phone and $30 a month for two years you need a little extra, a little justification, to sweeten the purchase! QR did that for me in spades.. the geeks ‘lurve’ the Codes maan!
Clearly a hit with the early adopters QR Codes, along with more obviously useful applications, promted a whole slew of smart phone purchases and QR Codes could be found across the world on the office doors of computer scientists who would embed them with ZX81 jokes.
However, the ascension of the bell curve from early adopter obscurity to it’s big break with the early majority fan-boy status was an endurance test of K2 proportions. But even then it didn’t quite happen for the Code.
2009 was heralded as Year of the QR Code… as was 2010… and then 2011. To be fair 2011 looked promising, but even before the paint was dry on the ‘welcome‘ banners the backlash had started and signalled the demise of the Code called Quick. So what was it exactly that made the Code more Napoleon Dynamite than Justin Bieber?
Was it the casual association with Supermarket 1D barcodes?
Did it’s challenging appearance make it the Elephant Man in the room?
This may be one autopsy that remains unresolved.
This mystery may never be explained.
However, there is one designer who believes ‘mystery’ is ‘the key’. He also believes that the passing of the QR Code is much simpler than the media would have us believe.

Initially designer Jon Gill wasn’t enamoured by the QR code, he was much more interested in the much ‘cooler’ GPS technology, but the QRs accessibility made it perfect for his projects. In early 2009 he started an outdoor visual arts exhibition project called SuperFly. While QRs were on the cards from the start it would be late 2010 before they found their way onto a SuperFly street poster treasure hunt called NEoN Knights.

Gill says of QR Codes“They are a great tool for ‘mystery’! Once you’ve scanned one you can’t wait to find out what lies behind the next!”
Gill developed a close working relationship with the Code, some would say too close… but undeterred by the naysayers Gill persevered with a single minded creative passion. Of the Codes untimely relegation and controversial Wikipedia entry deletion, he says, “The problem, as I see it, was that too much responsibility was placed on the shoulders of the QR code. The QR is a key, a doorway if you will, to somewhere interesting, engaging, and worthy of the mystery implied by the enigmatic pixelated box that bought you here. The trouble was, while there were lots of really cool and creative uses of the QR they were swamped by a deluge of rubbish from ‘less_than_creative_marketeers.com’ who just didn’t understand what to do with them.”
‘Less than Creative’ advertising and PR is nothing new. Open a magazine. Turn on a TV. Any day of the week. You’ll never be far from a steaming pile of marketing manure. But on this occasion it was the QR Code carrying the can. By early 2012 “doing a QR” had superseded “doing a Murdoch” (which, only months before had superseded “doing a Lucan“) as the street-side nomenclature for ‘disappearing without a trace‘.
The collapse of the QR Code would almost take Gill with it, although it appears he was doing a fine job by himself… he laments, “I was the QR-go-to-guy… the QR-go-to-superguy..! But when the QR Code folded I was seen as a one trick pony… I was a laughing stock and… well… folk assumed I’d go with it.
I’ll have the last laugh though… with ‘HooLED-Hoops’ my line of Hula-hoops embedded with LEDs that spell out pre-programmable messages… they’re going to completely change the way we communicate with each other… we’ll be bigger than Twitter!”
Gill may well be the architect of his own demise but the definitive killer of the QR Code remains a mystery, open for debate. Although it would seem that the return of the QR code is not. While many believed that the technology would live on such was the backlash toward it in the industry that, as a standard, it was completely deleted. When quizzed on any possible reinstatement an industry expert said, “It’ll be a ‘Adobe Flash’ day in Apple‘ before that happens.
Q.R.I.P. indeed.
A cautionary tale…?
…or could this mean that the death of the QR Code is imminent?
Clearly QReativity is called for…
What are your thoughts?
Comments below…

New Brand Voice

8 Jul

In MDes this week our task has been to prototype the poster section of our final show. Part of that process is encapsulating our product not only in what we write about it but ‘how’ we write about it. What is your voice? Is it appropriate to your audience and your product?

A brand I’ve always had admiration for is Innocent, who recently published their first cook book (above). Obviously their products are great but it was the presentation that first got my attention. The illustrations were fun and and playful but that communication didn’t end with the illustration.. it continued on through the copy. The way that Innocent talk to their community is interesting and it’s carried through into other products such as the cook book. I’m not going to go on… i’ll spoil it, but watch this video by two of Innocent’s key management…

The interesting thing is that they say their style of communication is as natural as the products they create…  The other thing is that he mentions talking about the product as if he were talking to his ‘gran’. As a rule of thumb we, in MDes, we are often reminded to pitch as if we were talking to a ‘clever Aunty’… it’s not a bad idea… and it’s worked for Innocent!

I was curious though, because this week my wife came home with a new range of smoothies by Tesco. How interesting it is that they too have a ‘chatty’ style to their smoothy packaging… how does this fit with other Tesco lines, the overall Tesco voice?

Well, of course it doesn’t and it’s not intended too. Tesco are making an attempt at going under the radar and persuade you that their smooties are just as good as those really cool (but more expensive) ones on the shelf above.

Clearly you can communicate a lot in your ‘voice’. Maybe as much (or more) than you actually say?

So, my self appointed task now is to find a couple of examples of ‘brand voice’ that I like and that I think is pitched at a similar level to what I should be doing through my show… the hunt is on!

While we’re talking about voice… I was scouring through the websites of a few new Twitter followers last week and came across this site. Intro video’s I thought were a thing of the past… but then you don’t come across many as good as this… and it features an ‘actual voice’ that I was familiar with… back in the day (anyone still on CB radio?). The video says a great deal in a very short space of time and clearly it’s all about the ‘brand’ and ‘story’ in a very clear ‘voice’!

One last thing… here’s a ‘voice’ that branded not only a product but an entire culture… ably illustrated by marketing agitator Eaon Pritchard; also encapsulating these ideas of brand, story and voice!

SuperFly Space Hop

8 Jul

A Space Hop, by SuperFly definition, is a treasure hunt using a specially tagged Google map, QR codes and mobile devices around a town or city. This one was designed as a ice breaker for PHD students gathered for a Summer School focusing on eTourism.

The game is part of my Masters research focusing on evolving role of storytelling through social media and video games. I want to find effective and engaging ways of using these emerging tools for education, entertainment and advertising.

The game in ST Andrews had five teams of four or five members each. Each team had a HTC Flyer Android Tablet to view the map, scan the codes and complete the prescribed tasks by capturing photos and video. In addition each team had a videographer with another tablet capturing their progress.

Just over a week ago I began the task of watching a few hours worth of video to make some sense of it all. There were certain things that I was looking for… were the tasks too hard, too easy, understandable? I was also looking for clues as to how a tourist may behave using an application such as this. Does it enhance or hinder the experience of visiting the city?

Below is a rough cut of some of the video captured during the game.


I’ve since been able to capture feedback from three of the five teams that took part and so I pretty much have a 360 view on what happened and how the players and observers felt about it.

Probably the most negative person in relation to how the day panned out was me because, as ever, there were technical issues. Nothing that could have been foreseen without a complete dry run, and nothing that couldn’t be remedied in other ways. Mainly the issues were with uploading images and particularly video during the game. Looking back, trying to gather a live feed of images and video, given the constraints of 3G, was perhaps a little optimistic. However, those issues coupled with some of the feedback would suggest that the most convenient way to go would be an ‘app’ that contained the Google map, QR reader and links to Flickr and Twitter so that each element could be accessed more easily.

I’m now in the process of visualising the feedback and experiences of NEoN Knights, the two SuperFly Safari’s and now the Space Hop.

It’s amazing how much information you can take from playing a game like this. Besides the benefits that come from the experience itself there is also a huge amount of behavioural data that could be manipulated out of these scenarios. An artificial cultural probe? Not even sure what I mean, are any cultural probes non-artificial..? However, theres something in there… I’m sure that scenarios could be orchestrated, like role play, but observations made during the process… like a Swiss Army Knife of a design tool..?

Anyway, this post has been long enough so I’ll leave you with your thoughts and post more later…

SuperFly St Andrews Space Hop…

24 Jun

St Andrews is an amazing city.

As someone who grew up a stones throw from Birmingham, ‘Dundee‘ hardly feels like a city, let alone St Andrews… but in this instance size matters not and St Andrews has a great deal going for it, including the three C’s: Cultural, Cobbled and Quaint..!

On Monday 27th June (my boy’s 5th birthday! (Bad Dad!)), between 3 – 4.30pm I’ll be putting 25 PDH students through the paces of a SuperFly Space Hop! I’ll go into the ‘whys and wherefores’ of the name in another post… at which time i’ll also explain the object of the game… but for now, lets just say it’s a treasure hunt that thinks it’s an eTourism project.

I live in Fife, less than 10 minutes from St Andrews and despite the fun that I’ve had putting on SuperFly events in Dundee I’m really looking forward to this one. Firstly, thanks to the support from it’s host, St Andrews School of Computer Human Interaction (SACHI), and the local businesses accommodating the QRs (for now they’ll remain nameless to preserve the mystery…), the set up has been really easy. Principally however, the secondary benefit has been that I’ve been able to spend a lot more time in St Andrews… something I don’t do often enough.

The biggest challenge facing me these last few weeks has been ‘what not’ to put in the game. It has been a perfect opportunity to combine the treasure hunt aspects of NEoN Knights with the tagging of content that i’ve been experimenting with lately. I’ve also been able to build on the experience of the games since NEoN Knights (Game To Learn time two, plus the MDes open day) and have a much keener sense of what works for these events.

So, this is the one. This game is the focus of what my final Masters project will be. Even if only in a small way, each element of my research, my interviews and prototypes, plus the experience of previous games have come together and informed the conception and execution of the game. That’s not to say it’ll be the last – at least I hope not – just that it’ll be the last one before September.

This one has to count in terms of how I evaluate it afterwards. For that reason I’ll have at least 3 cameras capturing video and stills of the teams playing the game, engaging in the tasks and fulfilling the SACHI ethnographic brief. To the best of my ability I’ll be following a team around myself, but that may have issues for the teams and how I manage other elements of the game. Another two people are shadowing for their own interest (for future events…), but they’ll also be ideally placed to provide me with feedback afterwards.

The interest from participating businesses has been such that I’m hopeful that this game, or at least refined version of it, could be a semi-permanent digital fixture. Any number of players could engage with the game over a period of hours, days or even weeks… convert the points to ‘St Andrews currency’ perhaps..?

Well, let’s not jump the gun just yet…

Between now and Monday morning I’ll post a little more detail about the game but on Monday please keep an eye on Twitter (@onthesuperfly) for the hashtag #SuperFlySpaceHop and maybe one or two updates on the blog. I’ll be posting on how the teams get on… and there are sure to be a few surprises.