Creative uses for mobiles

January 5, 2001

The popularity of text messaging is proof that mobile phones are being used for more than just voice calls. But can the technology encourage creativity as well?

Fiona Raby, senior research fellow in computer-related design at the Royal College of Art, believes it can. She has led a research project that tried to use mobile technology for more social and recreational purposes.

The research team came up with three services that were tested during the summer by 50 users in Helsinki. One was called "pixel kissing". A symbol was delivered to a phone's screen when the user was close to another with whom they were linked, for example by a common birthday.

Raby said that rather than providing a kind of dating service, the idea was to create narratives. "By also revealing the person's gender, we thought that if you got a little message, you might look at the people around you and start to imagine who you thought that person was, whether they were there or not," she said.

Gillian Crampton Smith, director of the RCA's computer-related design course, said there was a need to explore the social and cultural opportunities that technological change could create.

"The project explored the use of the mobile phone screen as a trigger for the imagination and invented a rich space of intriguing social data-tainments that played on people's curiosity about the world around them," she said.

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