Monday, December 13, 2004

Smart and Dumb Furniture

I'm not even sure how I got here, but I was intrigued by the need Adam Greenfield had to rant that dumb furniture might be a better idea than "smart" furniture. In the dumb furniture manifesto, he recaps previous folks saying that "smart furniture" is "that which uses information processing to significantly change its properties and affordances: objects that react and adapt in real time to the demands of their environments and users."

This is what's generally meant by "smart" in AI/agent/ubicomp circles, sure. And as he suggests, smart is usually way dumber than the average yeast cell, so it never is "smart" enough to be useful.

What I wonder is why we don't have just slow-learner furniture, or even "educationally challenged" furniture that nevertheless takes direction well. I'd prefer to tell it what to do than have it try to guess and get it wrong or irritate me with misplaced self-confidence. Or else I just want very small, quite low IQ improvements in current furniture behavior. I want my chair to pull itself out from under the table when I pause by it with a plate and glass in my hand; I want the couch to straighten its own rumpled cover when I get up; I want a window that turns one-way reflecting outward when it gets dark and I haven't pulled the curtains, so people on the street can't see me inside.

Everything I own could be just a smidge brighter without actually being "smart."

1 comment :

Lynn said...

Dude. Of course I'm agreeing with you. I think the agenda of "smart" furniture is kind of ludicrous.

I'm sorry you thought I was being dismissive of your post; I wasn't intending to be. I was being dismissive of the goals of smart furniture, and maybe my examples were not well-chosen -- but what I'd like, in the absence of really "smart" high tech stuff, something that just improves my life in very minor ways. I was joking about the chair pulling itself out, in part; but my main complaint with "smart" stuff is that's it's all overthought. The designers of ubicomp stuff aren't hitting the very basic stuff, they're over-designing and over-thinking to find problems most of us don't even know we have.

So, whoa, dude. I'm with you! I'm sorry you took offense.