For Health Hack Day a week or so ago, we entered with a project aimed at the people who are not that interested in keeping track of their data streams and sensors. In our research, we found that there is a group of users who are not excited by new gadgets and the prospects of strapping new types of tech to their bodies. These people are simply not interested in instant feedback via facebook while on their morning run, or similar proposals made by the current “quantified self” trend.

We looked into different things that make people healthier, and explored different types of motivations and ways of encouraging behavioural change. We decided we didn’t want to make another stats-tracking website, and considered artefacts in the home, such as piggy banks with their tactility when shaken, glanceable interfaces and toys.

We stated a few goals, distancing ourselves from the measure-everything crowd, who will figure out a way to stay healthy, with sensors or not. A recent report in the Lancet indicates that walking for 15 minutes per day, or 90 minutes per week greatly reduces cancer risk and keeps you alive for an extra three years. We thought this would be a brilliant goal to try and achieve.

By targeting the family, and especially kids, we wanted to establish healthy habits early on, in a sustainable way. By sustainable, we mean habits that don’t require you to adhere to technology that may feel outdated, and experiences that are more about the experiences themselves than their data layer or associated meta-data. Our target group are not that bothered with badges or other virtual achievement indicators, or inclined to share their progress in virtual social networks. They are not really motivated by competition, so we were looking for a solution that would encourage sharing of an experience rather than making the experience into a struggle.

We built Zeebo on our favourite hardware platform, the Arduino. Adding a few components, we made Zeebo come alive when you walk past him, and wag his tail and make some noise. When you take him outside, you press a little button in his ear which starts a timer and deactivates the motion sensor. When you have walked a little further than you walked yesterday, he makes some happy noises to let you know that you’re doing well. A simple mechanism to trigger a simple, but potentially powerful behaviour.

Here is our presentation if you would like to see it.

Health Hack Day

We were invited to participate in the first ever Health Hack Day with Psykologifabriken and Hoa’s Tool Shop. Niklas did a great job at introducing and keeping track of everyone.

There was a series of talks around eHealth, mHealth and other interesting things, here is Francesco from TechnoGym showing their answer to the slightly sexier Fuelband and related devices. His and Megan Miller’s talk on how they made Teemo were along with Hoa’s introduction among the most interesting. Watch them all here.

We spent the time there hacking one Arduino, and then we took breaks and had coffee from another.

Hoa delivered exquisite beats alongside the Euphoric Felines, performing the feat of turning a day of talks into a night of dancing. Brilliant.


The launch of the book Delicate is imminent, featuring the Mixology eating design project by Anders, Josefin and Prang. We created a “vertical parallax” scrolling website to help readers get in contact with the designers. See the website here. Cred to Ian Lunn and this tutorial.

Fun & Games

On Thursday we got away from our computer screens to see some advertiser art (guess it’s a bit like the opposite of outsider art) and to play some indie video games.

Some friends were over from Stockholm who work for the production company Society 46 and we went to see what they were up to in the heart of hipsterville. They had created a web-connected generative art installation, where you could visit a website on your phone and “draw” on a projected screen. You would move the brush by tilting your phone in all directions. Simple and fun. We chatted to Koji and Devlin before heading off to The Wild Rumpus on Brick Lane.

We started off by being invited to a round of 4Fourths by the organiser. This game could be described as a onedimensional spaceship shooter (Anders, you’re obviously well versed in computer game jargon – vv ) . Four players in two teams work together in order to blow up nuclear … stuff and then finish by trying to kill the other team. Great fun, and easy to pick up!

Then we tried one round of B.U.T.T.O.N. by Copenhagen Game Collective. Looks like the perfect party game, too bad it’s not available for the mac. I’m thinking I should build some one-button controllers to play this at an event somewhere.

I proceeded to let down the Christian/religious world by letting God be mangled by Darwin’s evil machines in Jesus vs Dinosaurs. Not good. But very fun! (Image shows someone else playing)

We also looked at a classic arcade style game called Beast before leaving to say goodnight to Mr. Haggerston Fox on the way home.

Vivian Maier

Yesterday we cycled down to the German Gymnasium to check out the Vivian Maier exhibition hosted by the London Street Photography Festival. It’s a great opportunity to see Maier’s photographs and the German Gymnasium which, I discovered, was actually gymnasium for the German gymnastics society, designed in 1864 by Edward Gruning, is a great space for the exhibition.

Miss Maier did not take photographs to show others. She worked as a Nanny and that was her job. Before settling in 1951 New York, she traveled quite a bit around Europe and the US. This travelling must have empowered her keen eye for noticing the magic in everyday moments. I imagine Maier, who wore men’s shoes and took long purposeful strides, had a childlike appreciation of the life. The choices she makes for her photographs bring out a beauty and rawness in human interactions. There is also a great humour in her compositions. She used a Rolleiflex camera which I imagine made it a less obtrusive task to snap subjects unknowingly as you look down to take that magic moment as opposed to bringing the camera up to your eye. The camera was positioned perfectly at child height. When looking at her photos you are at points given the child’s perspective.

No one ever saw Maier’s photos until 2007 when a guy called John Maloof bought them through an auction house. Maier had not been able to pay her rent, and the contents of her flat had been repossessed and auctioned off. Maloof has now dedicated his time to restoring all of her photographs.

She is fast becoming one of my favourite photographers, however I wonder how this intensely private person who was forcibly opinionated would feel about her personal photograph collection gaining such large public attention.

Vivian Maier exhibition
At the German Gymnasium Map
On till 24th July

All photos via the Vivian Maier Website
The story of Vivian Maier


The Academia Film Olomouc held its 46th International Festival of Science Documentary Films in the Czech Republic and asked AW&SOME to contribute their visualisation of the Neural Network for the Nobel Nightcap Party. Each point represents one of the 700 guests who each received an RFID enabled brain. The activity in the visualisation represents the number of times a brain is checked in at one of the brain stations scattered throughout the party.

Thanks to Ondrej for inviting us to be displayed alongside the amazing work that was included in this festival.

Card tricks

Another weekend, another day of letterpress play.

Inspired by the library card of the YCN Library, we figured we could try making a two-ply card with different prints on either side. On one side; a blind impression of our AW&SOME logo, and on the other our details. We figure we need to glue and trim after printing. Here are some results from our tests.

Front and back of card

Blind impression

There be robots

A+W of AW&SOME went to the secret robot house in Hertfordshire, embedded in an unsuspecting village half an hour outside London. Looking like any house on the same street, this one was full of embedded sensors and impressive machines. We got to make friends with Mr (?) Care-o-bot and Sunflower, and we got to listen to Nicolas Nova talk about Sci-fi and the history of the “robot” concept among other things and Kerstin Dautenhahn talk about the research performed in LIREC.

What I found the most interesting was the ability of the robots to migrate their personality/soul/state/knowledgebase between physical machines. Ie, when your grandpa calls you up on skype to carry on playing that game of networked chess, Sunflower (the guy with the bucket-head and the googly eyes) shuts off and an AIBO (robot dog) wakes up. I’m not sure what to make of it, I guess you have been able to do this virtually for years, by being able to switch between Mario and Luigi at will. I’m not aware of examples where the character played retains certain objects or skills, I’m not so much into video games. In any case, you, the player, would be the one retaining the knowledge of levels completed, and any clues as in which castle to find Princess Peach.

In this physical variety of shape-shifting, the researchers imagine a scenario where you can travel across the world without bringing your robot with you, but just download the personality – beeping and blinking traits and all – to your local instance which then interprets accordingly, based on available hardware. This will surely be one of the traits we consider our ‘bots to have, and not think more of it. Or? I propose an experiment, where actors wired up with microphones and earpieces can mimic this in a participatory Turing test fictional simulation. Theatre basically, but a little more involving. Maybe I’ll have more on this as I finish reading “The Most Human Human” by Brian Christopher.

Read Alex’s blogpost about the event here.

And remember;
Don’t open fridge or turn on the kettle – the robot goes crazy!

Making a good impression

Mounted in the frame, ready to go

And so I had a little bit of time to try out the new CNC’ed type/metalcut (letterpress aficionados; please excuse my butchering of the esoteric language of manual printing). Willow has an Adana “Five-Three”, a handy little press for business cards and the like. I need to figure out more about the printing process and the small adjustments, but this test proved to work very well.

Inking up the disc

For a first run, they look pretty good

With a little bit of pressure, the type makes a nice impression in the paper

AW&SOME Milling

Looking into how to make business cards for AW&SOME, we checked with Isak at Spruftech whether it was possible to make type for Willow’s letterpress. As he also became excited about the idea, we went with it. Here is the final result, waiting to be tried out.