Mobile ActDresses is a design concept where the things we already do to express ourselves through the outer design of our mobile phones, rub off on the behaviour of the phone.
People do personalise their digital devices physically in different ways. They put stickers on their laptops, they buy or make their own customized cases, and they attach mascots and charms to their mobile phone handsets. We know that the clothes people choose to wear serve a range of communicative functions, indicating e.g. appropriate behaviour, group belongings, or expected interaction. Similarly, physical accessories attached to a digital device could be used to indicate what mode the device is currently in, and what behaviour could be expected from it. This way Mobile ActDresses can represent a broad and very flexible extension of mobile device user interface design.
The project aims to explore different strategies for implementing and deploying this design concept based on existing standards on mobile phones on the market today. This is important as although the design concept as such may appear straightforward, a remaining question is how this can be implemented and deployed as commercial products using existing mobile phone handsets. User field studies, conceptual design work, evaluation and technical experiments are all essential parts of related research. The most relevant challenge at this stage has concerned potential conflicts between what is technically feasible with specific use qualities such as physicality, visibility and modularity and respect to existing functionality in currently commercially available mobile phones.
SICS collaborates with Wireless@KTH in the project, which started in December 2009. Currently the project has explored different technical solutions, focusing on the use of e.g. NFC, USB and magnetic tags. It has also developed a series of concept sketches and basic prototypes. In a near future we plan to test conceptual and working prototypes, as well as commercial deployments of the concept, in the wild.