Anarkik3D and Calm Technology
I was a new CEO of Anarkik3D in 2007. I wrote about how I perceived our approach to the development of 3D software should be. Something like this: “Visualise an elegant swan gliding along calmly and effortlessly (this is the user interface) and under water superbly evolved webbed feet (the programme we build) paddle away relentlessly against the current (general computer applications) to get where it wanted to be (a new enjoyable user experience)”.
This is the core principle of the remarkable 3D modelling programme that my company, Anarkik3D, has built specifically for designer makers for their way of thinking and doing. Anarkik3DDesign, with virtual 3D touch (haptics), is an unintimidating, easy and enjoyable -to-use programme. We did this because creative people like us will engage with digital technology when systems are a joy to use, enhance and integrate into their normal everyday practice. This is calm technology.
The terms “calm computing” and “calm technology” were coined a long way back in 1995 by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown, researches at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). This was in reaction to the increasing complexities that information technologies were creating.
Weiser believed that this would lead to an era of “calm technology,” in which technology, rather than panicking us, would help us focus on the things that were really important to us. He felt that the promise of computing systems was that they might “simplify complexities, not introduce new ones.” (https://calmtech.com/)
Here are some of these principles and why Anarkik3DDesign is a calm technology:
To start with technology should require the smallest possible amount of attention:
~ For designing and creating this is fundamental for maintaining immersion and flow: we can focus on our ideas, and expand and develop them unimpeded by distractions from the technology.
~ Complex interfaces overwhelm us with stuff: these can and do impede learning and retaining information. They disrupt cognitive flow.
~ Most of us do not need the high levels of functionality built into many programmes. Think of all the complex programmes such as for washing machines!
Anarkik3DDesign uses a haptic (3D virtual touch) device to cut to a minimum interactions with the user interface and keyboard necessary for freeform 3D modelling.
A person’s primary task should not be computing, but being human.
Give people what they need to solve their problem, and nothing more.
~ Computers are flexible and programmable. The usual premise of people adapting to computers should be flipped, that is, computers serve users’ needs. They can and should be programmed to adapt to our different contexts.
~ Industrial designers do need the functional complexity of computer aided design packages for their work. Designer makers and applied artists generally do not.
Anarkik3DDesign is designed by designer makers for designer makers like us, for the way we think and do. Improvement in the creative digital experience is a consequence of our more considered approach to designing a computer application.
Anarkik3DDesign uses haptics and 3D movement to tap into how we naturally interact with things in the real world. These actions are already familiar, so we have less adapting to do to work digitally and can focus on creating. Only tools and forms that are most effective for freeform 3D modelling are used, meaning that we can get absorbed into being creative and explore these tools in greater depth.
An analogy for this approach is our humble pencil and how engrossing drawing can be. A pencil is a tool for both doodling and for great art. The additional tool or two, such as ruler and rubber, can broaden and deepen what we can do with them.
Technology should inform and create calm.
It should make use of the periphery such that it is informing without overburdening.
~ A calm technology will move easily from the periphery of our attention, to the centre, and back.
With a less complex interface and making our engagement with virtual objects natural and graspable, haptics imparts a calming sense that we are in control, managing and directing our own creative process. We rapidly assume that this is how we should be working in 3D. And with this familiarity, technology shifts into a subservient position so we need only concentrate on our creativity.
Technology should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity
~ Working digitally offers many remarkable benefits. Consider just one, how ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ provides a risk-free environment in which to explore, experiment and play.
Just imagine playing in a virtual space! Anarkik3DDesign enables us, designer makers and applied artists to do just that. This experience is essentially A3DDesign, established as important during academic research at Edinburgh College of Art where we investigated whether haptics would support 3D modelling for the way we think, work and play.
A3DDesign also accommodates different ways of thinking and working. Every one of us can achieve the extraordinary through doing things in our own way. One very human thing is the phenomenon of serendipity. Episodes certainly occur while 3D modelling. We just need to be open to recognising these happy accidents and to use them to break away from the usual.
Technology can communicate by creating ambient awareness through different senses.
Anarkik3DDesign’s unique selling point is its use of a ‘haptic’ device for real sense of 3D touch and for movement in 3D (our proprioceptive sense). Touching, combined with our hand movements, communicates the cursor’s position within the otherwise nothingness that is the virtual environment. We know exactly where we are.
Technology can communicate information without taking the user out of their environment or task.
We know the position of objects in this virtual space because we can feel where they are with the cursor. The sensation of touch is through force-feedback and software programming exploits this to communicate information about the properties of virtual models being formed and constructed. We can feel their 3 dimensionality, their textures and different surface stiffness.
Technology should respect social norms
It takes time for people to accept new technologies and haptics, the strange concept of touching a virtual object, is no exception. It can be intimidating as the haptic device looks alien. Yet, once people try it they get it. Straight away. Kids’ responses are ‘WOW’. Adults respond with ‘Weird!’.
This getting it straight away is a great validation of how we have tackled and exploited technology to make a 3D modelling programme inclusive and enjoyable to use. We feel pretty smug because we have from the very beginning embedded so many calm computing principles in Anarkik3DDesign.
we have from the very beginning embedded so many calm computing principles in Anarkik3DDesign.