Magic enchanted objects


Just a quick post to highlight this great talk from O'reilly's Emerging Tech conference which I attended last year. The talk is titled the coming age of magic by Mike Kuniavsky and here's a quick quote.

Yes, 'magic', meaning enchanted objects. “I do not advocate that we pretend that technology is a kind of magic, but that we use our existing cultural understanding of magic objects as an abstraction to describe the behavior of ubiquitous computing devices,

Mike's discussion about Animism is well worth listening to, later in the talk he points at objects such as the Wiimote, Nabaztags and security wand you see at airport security as examples of enchanted objects. I also found these 7 rules very interesting.

I’ve enumerated the properties of enchanted objects that I believe make them particularly good for
designing ubicomp devices:

  1. They are everyday objects.
  2. We’re familiar with how to use them, at least on a basic level
  3. They are physical. You grab them, you swing them, you twist them, you push them.
  4. They do not have a screen. There isn’t the assumption that somewhere there’s text output.
  5. Behaviorally, magic objects are not humans, and we do not expect them to act human. This is contrast to, say, the implications of something like “ambient intelligence,” another metaphor for ubiquitous computing devices. How smart is that intelligence? Is It like me? It’s not clear.
  6. They are not superhuman. They may be hard to control, but ultimately it is we who are in control, not they, by definition.
  7. There is a healthy disbelief in magic, so it's likely to be treated as an analogy, rather than as the literal truth.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser. Can be found at, and