Hacking the Xperia: Mobile Computing with Fire, Steel & Twin Boxes


As a member of illutron, Mads Høbye – MEDEA PhD student in interaction design – was asked by SonyEricsson to challenge the more conventional usage of mobile technology, by exploring alternative usage scenarios. He called in a combination of artists, geeks and tinkerers for a four day workshop. They played, explored, and did whatever they wished to the phones – even breaking them.

The Android platform proved to be a great stepping stone in that direction. During the workshop we managed to use the phones in multiple ways, by taking advantage of the embedded technologies like GPS, Compass, Wifi, GSM/3, Accelerometers, touch screen and connecting them to the Arduino platform. At the close of the intense and creative process, they completed multiple experiments on the barge (Illutron has its HQ on a boat) using a combination of scrap materials and the brand new mobile phones. The new Arduino ADK boards was used as interface between the mobile phones and tangible elements like motors, sensors, lights and gas cannons.

This resulted in multiple interesting experiments (see video embedded above): Using the phones as a camera where the external flash was a gas cannon. Another using the phones for an autonomous boat that could navigate the Copenhagen harbor. Another were two boxes that invited strangers to pick them up in the street and try to find each other to open the inner secrets of the boxes (see video embedded below). Another was a bike that would write with light of persistence of vision in the street when you were riding it.

The compressed format of the workshop proved to a fruitful for revealing new openings and possibilities – pushing the boundaries of the normal perception of what constitutes a phone and how it should be used. From a research-through-design perspective, the resulting prototypes work as conversation pieces around what constitutes material media and how we can design position aware devices that are constantly connected to each other.

During this process a camera crew documenting everything the results can be seen on Xperiastudio.com and illutron.com.

Read more
- Illutron’s summary of the workshop
- The Arduino Documentary – Making Prototyping Easy