Smartphones and tablets are extensions of their users’ bodies and minds and modes of living. We talk+text and bank, but also mediate, organize, express and measure intimate behaviors that range from sex with strangers to apneic sleep to family historiography. 

We expect—demand—tools that let us do these things and continually crave deeper functionality with more transparent, automated interfaces. Note-taking and the selfie share the input queue with ambient sound, heat, light, vital signs and geospatial coordinates.

Caroline Oh’s lecture explored this new frontier of interactive personal tools and the evolving role of designers—as it shifts away from aesthetics in favor of the refinement of motions and behaviors aimed to give software a soul with its own agency. Few conventions have formed. User behaviors change quickly, and interfaces learn as much from (or about) users as users learn from interfaces. Are designers the key to making virtual tools visceral?