Mobile After Life?

One of my goals while studying at KTH is to get closer to the Academia. Maybe even become a researcher myself. So when I heard there would be an open event of the Mobile Life Centre, an internet research think tank, I knew I had to be there. Sadly, this was the last event of the Mobile Life Centre I will ever attend. No, I did not misbehave and got banned. What happens is that the Centre is closing for good, and this was a celebration of everything that happened in the past 10 years, as well as some discussions for the future. It was amazing. Keep reading 🙂

 

 

What is the Mobile Life Centre?

Before Friday, I had no idea what the Mobile Life Centre was either. I mean, one of my programs responsible also works there, so I heard about it before. And as I could see, lots of teachers in my program were part of it somehow. But let’s cut it. In short, the Centre is a research hub. What makes it different is that it is a really prolific one.

This are the 4 founders of the Centre. The picture is from Mario Romero, my teacher. I hope he does not mind I took it from Twitter.

It all begins in 2007 when 4 research groups were given a place to do work together. Not just KTH Research, but also Stockholms University and SICS Swedish ICT. As we are talking Scandinavia, it all seemed to be very cooperative, not competitive, and soon after companies joined in. Microsoft was a partner for years, as Ericsson, IKEA, ABB and others. This gave the Centre ability to grow and reach something around 75 Academic Researchers plus 40 from the industry.

What was the Centre about?

The focus of the Centre was mobile technology. No in the “telephones on steroids” kind of thing, but in “ubiquitous technology”. They researched about games, internet of things, smart fabric, screens, health applications, gadgets, and so on. And some of the results have been right on spot, as mentioned on the folder I got which states that “the centre has several times successfully pre-dated commercial developments by 5-8 years”. Some examples? Pervasive games 10 years before Pokemon Go, sensor-based health apps and gadgets years before Fitbit or AppleWatch, and so on.

But what I liked is that productivity has never been the main goal. Lars Erik Holmqvist, one of the founders, took the stage with a bold statement. He said that “in 10 years of existence, the Centre have not produced not even one useful thing. But that is ok. That was never the goal”. The goal, he said, was to create knowledge that someday might be useful. And this is great for researchers. Richard Harper, who used to work at Microsoft Research when it was a partner of the Centre, said the same. He mentioned that every year he had to make a case of why should the company invest on the Centre, and for him it was all about letting researchers explore not having to think about funding or grants. In an academic world ruled by productivity and number of published articles, this is great to hear, I guess. 

Professor Höök and the Moto from the Centre: always enjoy. (another picture from Mario Romero)

 

What did I get from it?

It was an emotional afternoon. There were people crying when others were talking about the Centre and what they had done. It made me feel really nostalgic for something that I wished I could have been part of. I would love to make my Master with them, to dive into the Research projects and so on. But that is life.

In addition, I would like to mention how different this kind of conference is here in Sweden. There were a lot of important people. Paul Dourish from UC Irvine, who worked at Apple back in the 90’s and a really good author. Masa Inakage, the Dean from Keio University, Japan. Petra Sundstrom, a VP of Husqvarna Group.  High Executives from Ericsson and IKEA. Still, with all these “big shots”, there was no formality. People were joking, laughing, enjoying. Really different from what I would see in Brazil. I guess here we are just part of an ecosystem where these guys are a part of, so it is normal to be in the same room as them. But this is also something of the Scandinavian culture, I guess. People are more open to working together, in a horizontal way.

 

Take a look on some of the Projects

These are some of the projects I like. You can explore them on the website: http://www.mobilelifecentre.org

 

/tomas