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Response to [Bottles: a transparent interface… ] by Ishii


Ishii presented work from MIT Media Lab called “Bottles” – using real bottles as containers of music where opening/closing a bottle starts/stops a piece of music. Particularly in this paper, Ishii discussed Bottles as an example of transparent interface – in his opinion the correct interpretation of Mark Weiser’s vision of “Ubiquitous Computing”. To make an interface transparent, Ishii thinks we should couuple “well-understood physical world with new digital world“. In Bottles, users open/close bottles which happens hundreds of thousands of times in their real lives such as opening a soy source bottle to smell it. In this sense, the used-to-be complicated mechanisms disappeare, or as Weiser put it, “weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life” and become “indistinguishable from it“.


1. Weiser’s main message was not the ubiquity of computers, but the transparency of interface that determines users’ perception of digital technologies embedded in our physical environment seamlessly

2. A transparent interface (or tool) is one that does not get in the way, allowing users to concentrate on the task at hand.

3. The spirit of “minimal design”: 1) placing of each bottle into and out of a dedicated sensing zone (“stage”) on the table; 2) opening or closing each bottle by removing or inserting its stopper or cork.


1. For brainstorming, we can always have three columns: 1) what happens in usual everyday world? 2) what happens in usual digital world? 3) what happen if we merge the two? (In this paper, 1) in everyday world, we open/close bottles without even thinking about it; 2) in digital world, we open/close file only after we navigate through the file systems; 3) if we merge the two, we can recognize files as bottles and open/close both of them seamlessly.


About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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