The Interactive Institute Sweden
Interactive Institute in Sweden conducts world leading applied IT research that emphasizes interactivity, design and artistic viewpoints. Since the start in 1998, not only traditional academic research but also exploring borders between art, design, technology, and innovation have characterized the work. The Interactive Institute originated from an initiative from the state-owned Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. Interactive Institute is owned by Research Institutes of Sweden (www.ri.se) and are a part of the Swedish ICT (www.sict.se). The institute has about 60 employees organized in a number of research groups located in different areas of Sweden.
Few, if any, areas of human enterprise will remain uninfluenced by the challenge of sustainable development. Design is no exception. Since 2004, the Interactive Institute has initiated a series of research projects exploring how design and new technologies can be employed to increase people’s awareness of their everyday use of energy. Our first design research program focused on energy was STATIC!, which lead to several new projects (e.g. Aware, Young Energy, Clockwise, BeAware, InCharge and The Active House in sustainable cities) and exhibitions (e.g. Visual Voltage) in the area of energy and sustainable design. It also inspired a new funding program at the Swedish Energy Agency called Energy, IT and Design.
Today, the Interactive Institute’s sustainability research has gained many awards and lots of attention on an international level. One of the departments at Interactive Institute works specifically within this area; sustainable development and well-being in the home from the perspective of the user. The focus is efficiency of energy consumption in residential areas. The main objective is to find ways to visualize energy consumption to the user as well as finding new approaches that can change consumption behaviours positively.
The Static! project designed new types of devices for energy awareness; interactive illuminated power cords, special radiators, thermo chromatic tiles, smart textiles and expressive lamps that were connected to energy metering sensors (www.tii.se/static). In the Young Energy project, we have developed several energy learning games for the PC (PowerHouse) and for mobile phones (PowerAgent and Power Explorer). The work has recently moved towards design for the smart grid system and interaction design of the physical and social environment surrounding the user. This incorporates a multidisciplinary approach spanning both technological aspect as well as design and behaviour science.
A range of design approaches involving users inspires the design approach, e.g. user driven innovation, user centred interaction design and research through design. Our methods involve users or potential users throughout the design process. At early phases the target user group is involved both to express needs and to generate innovative ideas for design concepts. They are, then, involved throughout the design process by an iterative development of concepts. At later phases they are involved in the evaluation of prototypes of concepts in their real environment. The essence of our research-through-design approach is the new questions and insights gained by the touchpoints of users, the prototype and the context. The Interactive Institute has also taken several of their research results to the market, for example Energy Aware Clock, DigiWall, Brain Ball and Virtual Autopsy Table.