During the user experience and interactive design project at Hyper Island I worked on a brief for Skype. In a team of five, I spent five weeks exploring what instant messaging could be and how we could make it more expressive. The result was Skype Touch.
An interaction design function for Skype Messenger on smart phones. We presented the idea to Skype design director Buzz Pearce. Skype loved it and filed a patent. Let's see if it comes through. I did concept and interaction design during this project.
The team consisted of Duy Nguyen, Connie Pedersen, Mick Van Olst, Preben Aune & Jacob Eriksson
READ MORE ABOUT THE DESIGN AND THOUGHT PROCESS BELOW
When we communicate with others, along with the things we say, a lot is going on. We move, we shake our heads, our voices drop or raise, we use all sorts of indicators to give meaning to the message we are trying to convey.
Because these factors are implicit, they give room for nuances and become a big part of our identity.
We are trying to make the message clearer for the person we are talking to. But in IM all these factors are left behind. So how can we incorporate them in an intuitive way?
One way IM is trying to solve this now, is by using icons and emoticons to label a message.
Even though there are plenty of choices, most of them don't really function the same way expression does, those that do are very limiting and don't get specific enough when you compare them to real life. :-D
Synesthesia is when one sense induces another sense. An example could be when a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain colour.
We found that rounded shapes were usually related to positive feelings whilst pointy shapes usually related to negative ones. This is formally known as synesthesia.
We think, this phenomena has a huge potential for transcending non-verbal communication in chat. It's not too explicit, and gives enough room for people to find their own voice in a non-predefined way.
Emotions are more abstract and personal, that is the beauty of it. The ways of expressing yourself should not be limited to extremes, but give you a full range of emotions to convey your message in.
You should be able to take charge of your own expressions in an intuitive way.
Skype Touch gives you this, the ability to express your true feelings through colours, shapes and motion – created by your own fingertips and as unique as you are.
HOW IT WORKS
When typing a message, everything that you do remains unchanged, but press and hold send and you'll get the opportunity to give expression to your message. Behind the scenes, there is an emotional color wheel that gives room for a wide range of emotions and intensities. The user might not see the actual wheel, but the position where you hold your thumb, has a great impact on the appearance of the text bubble.
We want to give people the opportunity to find the aesthetics that fit their mood, not a single time you are being told what happy or sad means, it's up to you.
VISUALS & THE FUTURE
The visuals are tied to the overall concept, and this is a visualization of what the framework could look like.
As we mentioned earlier we found that rounded shapes were usually related to positive feelings whilst pointy shapes usually related to negative ones.
But we don't want to limit our self to this. What if other visualisations could be shaped in this way? If you're a weather geek, what if you could find a rainy cloud fitting your mood? Or how about comic style bubbles to show you wrath?
Since instant messaging has been the same since the beginning, we believe it's time to think and move forward along with technology. We do this by giving the users control and freedom, so they can feel more coherent with the message they want to convey.