Contributor: Brett Renfer
Creative Discipline: Interaction Design
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Brett graduated from the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit where he majored in Graphic Design with a concentration in interaction design. Brett’s background was in more web-based applications for a while working as a Flash developer in Chicago and Detroit at several Ad agencies before becoming more interested in the mixing of the physical and virtual realms.
OM: What inspires you?
BR: I think the thing that has inspired me the most is the humanization of technology. I think we’ve come to a really interesting point within the last few years. On the one hand, people have become comfortable enough with technology to humanize it themselves; you probably don’t have to walk more than a block in the city before you see someone talking to some gadget as if it was sentient being. At the same time, developers and designers are embedding humanness more and more into their creations. It isn’t strange anymore to think of low level human interactions (i.e. waving, winking, smiling) as well as more involved experiences (conversations, physical and emotional involvement) becoming integral to our connection to future technology. These fields have progressed to a point where we don’t have to worry as much about how something will work, and instead can focus on how it will feel to interact with it. As technology becomes a larger and larger part of our lives, I think this idea is going to become increasingly crucial, especially to designers.
This is something that inspires us a lot at work, and inspires me in my personal work. It’s always been designers’ job to communicate with the most effective means possible, and what can be more effective than natural, human interaction? This all raises a lot more questions than it answers at this point in time, but that’s a big part of why I find it so interesting.
OM: What have you been up to lately?
BR:We’re working on quite a few exciting things at the LAB, a couple of which should go public fairly soon. Keep eyes/ears peeled.
I’ve been experimenting lately with a few iPhone projects. At work, I built a few toys based off some of our previous installations, such as Digital Confetti (lab.rockwellgroup.com/work/digital-confetti
). The iPhone version of the Confetti plays back tones relative to where your fingers press down, and creates mini explosions when you touch or when you shake the phone. My personal iPhone project is still in its infancy, but it’s going to be a generative music instrument based off images (using some things I developed a while back, which you can look at here vimeo.com/5707202
Finally, I’m finishing a physical prototype called the Whisper Ball. The ball encourages a parent-to-child type relationship, rewarding the user with pleasant color patterns when one whispers to it. Conversely, it flashes a bright red if it’s yelled at, and becomes more and more reluctant to turn pretty again if it is yelled at too much.