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Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design by [Kuniavsky, Mike]
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Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Length: 332 pages

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Finally a book about ubiquitous computing that covers the broad challenges of designing for user experiences over a vast range of devices, device sizes from micro to meso to macro, and crucially, ecologies of devices. An evocative tour thru past design efforts and devices/systems that beautifully sets the stage for the design challenges we are quickly marching into. -- John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist, Xerox Corporation; Former Director, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC); author The Social Life of Information and The Power of Pull

"This book explains in no-nonsense language why you should care that computing has become ubiquitous and what the implications are for people who design things. Even better, it lays out suggestions as to how to use this knowledge to make better things. If you've ever wondered how interface, interaction, information, and industrial design overlap, what they have to do with user experience, and how it's all affecting your life, you should read this book." -- Tom Igoe, Associate Professor, NYU, Interactive Telecommunications, author of Physical Computing and Making Things Talk

"Smart Things is a rare artifact from the future that packs immediate practical value. I predict its coverage of multi-scale design will change user experience practice forever. It is the most useful book about the future of design I've read and has changed the way I work. Mike Kuniavsky doesn't just write about the future, he lives there... and now so can you." -- Peter Morville, President, Semantic Studios, author, Ambient Findability

"Provocative and pragmatic, Smart Things describes an important new approach to the design of consumer electronics. Its chapters explain why the design of digital products is different than other kinds of design and provide valuable techniques that unify the disciplines of interaction and industrial design." – Charles L Jones, Vice President, Global Consumer Design, Whirlpool

"Web designer Mike Kuniavsky, who has spent his career dissecting people's relationship to digital technology, hangs out at Four Barrel Coffee precisely because he can disconnect from the Internet and concentrate on his thoughts. That's where he wrote his upcoming book on consumer electronics design: ‘Smart Things.’"--The Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Mike Kuniavsky is a user experience designer, researcher and author. A twenty-year veteran of digital product development, Mike is a consultant and the co-founder of several user experience centered companies: ThingM manufactures products for ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things; Adaptive Path is a well-known design consultancy. He is also the founder and organizer of Sketching in Hardware, an annual summit on the future of tools for digital product user experience design for leading technology developers, designers and educators. Mike frequently writes and speaks on digital product and service design, and works with product development groups in both large companies and startups. His most recent book is Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5899 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0123748992
  • Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann; 1 edition (14 Sept. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004DERCZ0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #387,990 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It's a no brainer to suggest the future challenges for UX designers will not be bound to the desktop or mobile device.

Our things are smart and will become smarter. Knowing how to design for context, how to design and utilise invisible technology to inform and support people, and knowing when it's appropriate will be the base skills for future UX professionals.

Smart things is a practical book design to address those topics. Introducing the language of Ubicomp through the lens of User experience, It's a great introduction to the future of UX.

Kuniavsky book "Observing the user experience" is a classic UX Books and i've no doubt that Smart Things will have the same status in the Ubiquitous computing community.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8c43642c) out of 5 stars 17 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c6f80e4) out of 5 stars First In Ubicomp Mobile Devices & Interaction Design--Excellent 15 Oct. 2010
By Ira Laefsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This beautiful and simultaneously unbelievably useful book represents several firsts, incorporating the Interaction Design and User Experience Design of Mobile Devices and Household Appliances; at the same time it provides ideas and design guidelines for the design of Ubiquitous Computing solutions, suggesting what we can usefully do with the emerging "Internet of Things". The author is a leading light in Interaction Design having been a co-founder of Adaptive Path and the first firm offering Physical Computing Solutions with a Design and HCI flavor, ThingM. He is the originator of the concept of "Sketching In Hardware", an idea that owes some intellectual roots to Bill Buxton of Microsoft but which points the way to those Artists and Engineers who combine Physical Computing, Electronics and Interaction Design. He has a track record of developing real Physical and Computational solutions which illustrate an Engineering as well as an Artistic Problem-Solving Ethic. His physical creations include the interactive intelligent and beautiful WineM wine rack and a smart multicolor LED for Arduino (and other microcontroller) experiments.

Many scholarly, and a few idea-centric books (notably Adam Greenfield's "Everyware") and articles have been written about Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing, but no other book to date has given the design parameters, heuristics and suggestions about how these communicating engineering devices can be incorporated into a desirable user experience. Simultaneously, Mr. Kuniavsky has written one of the first books documenting the optimal methods of designing Interactive Intelligent Objects including mobile computing devices and appliances (such as centralpark refrigerator). He develops useful metaphor's and monikers for designed Interactive Objects (e.g. Information Shadows and Service Avatar). This is a beautiful, interesting and necessary book.

Ira Laefsky, MSE/MBA
HCI Researcher and Consultant
formerly on the Senior Consulting Staff of Arthur D. Little, Inc. and Digital Equipment Corporation
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d2d7828) out of 5 stars Eye-Opener on User Experience 24 Jan. 2011
By Joshua Senecal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book really gave me food for thought. I've always thought about a user's interaction with a device in terms of its interface (buttons, GUI, etc.). This book opened my eyes to the fact that it's not just the interface, but the user's entire experience with the device that matters. Anyone who has a hand in designing or making something that must be interacted with should learn about this.

There are chapters on things like "Applianceness", "Scales of Experience", and "Information Shadows". Each one discusses an important design consideration, and how it relates to user experience. Some of the chapters are more like case studies: the development of a specific product (like the iPod) is discussed, with a focus on how its overall user experience was designed. I found them interesting and enlightening. It's fascinating to read about some of the products. As the author points out, some devices are easy to use but not useful. Other devices, like the iPod coupled with iTunes, provide a good overall experience and do well. Still others, while they may have a solid design and reasoning behind them, do not do well in the marketplace.

The author references many sources in the book, so if you want to do any additional reading on the subject you shouldn't have any difficulty in assembling a reading list. The author chooses to cite his sources inline using (author and year), as opposed to a number like [42]. Unfortunately, placing a reference citation inline is disruptive, and because he uses the longer citation format it got annoying at times.

I think that if you need (or want) to learn about user interface/experience design principles, this book will be an informative read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c6f3fe4) out of 5 stars Good textbook on concepts and idea in UX design 21 Dec. 2010
By BBP - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am an interactive designer/web developer by trade and when I ordered this book, I expected it to contain discussions of different interactive technology platforms and implementation methods for creating "smart things", machines or objects with embedded processors that can respond to sensory input and do something cool.

Having "computing" in the title, I expected to be able to learn how to make and program simple gadgets or at least encounter some theory on human-machine interaction, like the excellent The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems by Jef Raskin. My expectations were perhaps misplaced. This is not an instruction manual or an engineering book. Instead, it contains a lot of foundation-type material like the kind of book you might find in a Design 101 class. It will teach you the vocabulary and concepts of the field, not the hows. It is a high level overview of design concept like "avatar ecologies" and "information shadows", and explores a wide range of products throughout the last few decades, including the iPod, Atari game machines, Nabaztag, QR codes, cellphones, and other electronic gadgets.

Recommended for students of the interactive design field so they can get a lay of the land. If you're looking to create specific products using various technologies, you will have to look at instructional books on programming iPhone, Android, HTML/PHP, or Flash instead.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8cecf294) out of 5 stars Less about computing, more about design 29 Nov. 2010
By Bob Walter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I expected this book to take me through creating excellent user experiences for software and the Web. Instead, I got a tour of the authors' view of everything from buildings to sex toys. I can see this as a design text book. It certainly provokes thought about the way people communicate about things. The examples are sometimes surprising and the text fairly dense. However, there is serious value in this book.

Having said that, I believe this text is aimed at professional designers of all kinds. It also is an interesting sociological view of the way modern society thinks about the things it owns or desires. The book kept my interest. It isn't easy reading and the illustrations are not inspiring. However, I walked away with a deeper understanding of how design and society interact.

If you want a book to help increase your user interface design skills, this isn't it. If you want to gain deeper insight into the entire spectrum of people and things, you won't be disappointed.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c8c4c48) out of 5 stars So, What's Up With That Chair? 31 Mar. 2011
By Joe Mooney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Review of Smart Things Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design

So, What's Up With the Chair?

Is it just me, or did anyone else wonder about the intriguing chair embossed on the front cover? I don't believe the author writes about chairs anywhere in the entire book. Indeed, there is scant mention of any kind of furniture aside from a 1 page sidebar.

I decided to review this book after previewing the section about Moore's Law. I was impressed with the author's insights and observations about this apparently misunderstood "law". Now that I've read the entire book, and taken some time to think about it, I must say I learned a few interesting things from it.

The book attempts to provide an introduction to ideas and techniques useful in ubiquitous computing user experience design. It does this by providing a little history, some design frameworks and methodologies, complimented by case studies of commercial products.

There are a some intellectual gems here, such as the author's observation that "design is as much a process of discovering constraints as creating within them". Or, the idea that most every industrially created product has an "information shadow", which is the digitally accessible information about it.
I especially like the concept of "smart garbage", in which objects self-disclose how to fix, disassemble and recycle them.

If you are a designer, some of the author's recommended techniques such as the "desire line method" (see where people are walking and making paths across the grass, then install your sidewalks there) are worth considering. Advice that a product "has to work for someone before it can work for anyone" is worth keeping in mind, and could prove to be a great persuading tool in heated design meetings.

I particularly liked the author's ideas about metaphors. They are "the tools of thought" and allow consumers of novel gadgets to comprehend them by relating them to concrete concepts.

I am thankful to the author for helping me understand why I so much dislike being present when a robot vacuum cleaner (Roomba) is operating: "they were designed to emulate insect behavior". (And I hate bugs.)

So, what's not like?

Well, a few things actually.

In addition to insects, I hate typo's. No author, and no book is perfect, and so I have developed the ability to ignore the existence of a reasonable number of typo's without undue discomfort. However this book has exceeded my pain threshold. Typo agony begins even before the first page of the book, in the third paragraph of the Preface ("user experience design from a different perspectives:"). And there are unfortunately more to follow, including footnotes in the sidebar, mixed up labels, and so on.

The writing is sometimes obscure, as if the reader is assumed to have prior detailed knowledge about what is being said (in that case, why read the book?). For example, on the last page of chapter 15 the author shows a photo of two wooden blocks, with mating wooden joints facing each other, and sliding doors opened to reveal circuit boards hidden within. His description is

"Cottram (2009) for example, used light-weight technology prototyping components to explore the heavyweight idea of 'a harmonious intersection between tradition and technology, between natural materials, high craft and digital functionality'"

Perhaps I'm missing something, but that description tells me next to nothing about the two wooden blocks, what they are for, what they do, or why I should even care.

One of the author's design recommendations is "Focus On Core Functionality" (title of section 18.1.2 ). I fail to see how that is consistent with the idea of adding LCD picture frames (and other gadgets) to the exterior of a refrigerator, whose core functionality seems to me to be to keep food fresh and cold. Yet the author describes this appliance - the Whirlpool Centralpark - as a "successful user experience design".

In reading this book, I kept asking myself if perhaps this ubiquitous computing thing is going a bit too far. Although he ignores this idea until the final chapter, the author seems to be having his own doubts as well. He confides that in order to write the book he "had to escape pervasive digital technology", by composing it in an anti-digital coffee shop, with no networking or electrical outlets.

In conclusion, this is a book which would be of most interest to designers, and retired nerds (like myself). The author is very clever, with a breadth of knowledge about his subject area, and some interesting insights. I look forward to reading his future work, (especially if he reveals the secret of the cover chair).


I did not pay for my copy of this book. As a member of the Amazon Vine program I received it for free.

I have a long and varied background in software design, having worked on cell phones when the vast majority of the public did not know or care what they were (quite understandably, since at that time the handset was the size of a small lunch box). I moved on to other projects, until decades later, I found myself working again with these vastly improved gadgets (by then most everyone knew what they were, and indeed most everyone owned one). As a designer, I was drawn to this book after reading the preface which states it is primarily a tool for design practitioners.
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