Posts tagged “driving”

Emily’s War Story: Getting To The Point

Emily Mayfield (Twitter, LinkedIn) is a User Experience Researcher at The Kroger Co. in Cincinnati, OH.

Before my current job, I spent six months in Bangalore, India, doing research for a lab that was part of a design school in the northern part of the city. I did not drive while I was in India – I took public transportation and little “autos,” which resemble a golf cart in terms of size and a lawnmower in terms of sound. At that time Uber was barred from India. The driving style in Bangalore struck me as very different from the States: sometimes the traffic lights/stop signs are ignored, sometimes drivers go well beyond oncoming traffic lanes, sometimes when a freeway exit is missed drivers throw their cars into reverse on the freeway. I saw enough daily to get my heart pumping.

I was doing research to understand what the notion of “smart city” might mean in India? As part of the research, I made cold calls to different innovation centers and companies, setting up expert interviews that would inform the research. I learned a lot about how companies had explored the concept of “smartness” in cities. In retrospect, the interview part was easy. Finding the location of the interviews was the challenge.

I had a smart phone. I had a camera. I took photos of the locations on Google maps on my computer or on my phone in case the connection on my phone was lost or hiccuping. One time, I got on the bus headed south and rode it two hours deep into the city to a neighborhood I was unfamiliar with. I hopped off when it seemed like I was close to where I needed to be. There was a queue of auto drivers at the bus stop. I showed my phone and camera screens, with their neat pin-point of my destination on the digital map, to the first driver in the queue. I showed him the address: a building number and street name. The driver waved me in. “No problem!” I thought to myself. I smiled and held on tight to my bag and the rail of the auto. We were off! Turning and bending through little streets and big ones, weaving in between cars and buses. We flew past people crossing the street, animals doing the same, and carts selling food and tea. We drove and drove and drove some more. Minutes led to double-digits. The driver was flying…in what felt like circles. Checking the time, I thought “Oh boy…”

Eventually the driver pulled over to ask other auto drivers for help finding the location. Local folks came to help. A cop or some kind of military person joined in the effort. The mass of people tried to help, pointing around like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz guessing all directions to try next. They discussed, pointed, checked and double-checked the address and the maps. At last I got a solid idea: I called my interviewee and he chatted with the driver. We met in a place that the driver could find and then I walked with the interviewee to the building together.

Afterwards, a colleague let me know that the European conventions of maps as we know them don’t make sense to some people in India who have never seen a map in that form. Also, Bangalore is constantly changing, adding streets and changing names of streets. Later on I learned that landmarks are the way to go, as well as calling people sooner rather than later. Still, the worst case scenario was handing my phone to friendly-looking strangers to communicate with a driver when I’m really lost and it worked. A quick shout out to the kind and patient people of Bangalore: Thank you for your constant help getting me to and fro!

Side note: It’s possible my geographical difficulty is just a me thing. More than once I’ve gone to conduct research at the wrong Kroger store on the same street here in Cincinnati!

ChittahChattah Quickies

Give And Take: How The Rule Of Reciprocation Binds Us [NPR] – While “you can’t control other people” is a constant life lessons, it’s interesting to consider what science teaches about how we can influence and induce behaviors in others.

Kunz was a sociologist at Brigham Young University. Earlier that year he’d decided to do an experiment to see what would happen if he sent Christmas cards to total strangers. And so he went out and collected directories for some nearby towns and picked out around 600 names. “I started out at a random number and then skipped so many and got to the next one,” he says. To these 600 strangers, Kunz sent his Christmas greetings: handwritten notes or a card with a photo of him and his family. And then Kunz waited to see what would happen. About five days later, responses started filtering back – slowly at first and then more, until eventually they were coming 12, 15 at a time. Eventually Kunz got more than 200 replies. “I was really surprised by how many responses there were,” he says. “And I was surprised by the number of letters that were written, some of them three, four pages long…We got cards for maybe 15 years,” he says.

Tapping citizen-scientists for a novel gut check [SF Chron] – While we always come up with new methods to get people involved in data collecting for research, this was something I hadn’t really thought of before. By the way, the notion of the microbiome is a fascinating one that seems to be continually gaining traction. Although we haven’t had the guts (if you will) to actually do it, we declared we would stop using “ecosystem” in client presentations and start talking about “microbiomes.”

Now for a fee – $69 and up – and a stool sample, the curious can find out just what’s living in their intestines and take part in one of the hottest new fields in science. The American Gut Project, aims to enroll 10,000 people – and a bunch of their dogs and cats too – from around the country. uBiome, separately aims to enroll nearly 2,000 people from anywhere in the world. Scott Jackisch, a computer consultant in Oakland, Calif., ran across American Gut while exploring the science behind different diets, and signed up last week. He’s read with fascination earlier microbiome research: “Most of the genetic matter in what we consider ourselves is not human, and that’s crazy. I wanted to learn about that.” Testing a single stool sample costs $99 in that project, but he picked a three-sample deal for $260 to compare his own bacterial makeup after eating various foods. “I want to be extra, extra well,” said Jackisch, 42. Differing gut microbes may be the reason “there’s no one magic bullet of diet that people can eat and be healthy.”

“We don’t just want people that have a gut-ache. We want couch potatoes. We want babies. We want vegans. We want athletes. We want anybody and everybody because we need that complete diversity,” added American Gut co-founder Jeff Leach, an anthropologist.

White points mean prizes for safe driving in Dubai [The National] – Is our preference for carrot or stick culturally constructed? Schemes that give students rewards for good grades are often seen as “bribery” and decried for encouraging the wrong thing. Yet inverting our punishment-based driving-record approach seems so kindly. I suppose its efficacy needs to be proven, whether in Dubai or Dubuque.

Motorists who go the longest period without a traffic violation will be given priority in a new police system that rewards good driving with prizes, including a car. Under the white points system, drivers of vehicles registered in Dubai are awarded a point for each month without traffic offences or Salik toll-road fines. Drivers who go 12 months without any violations will be eligible for prizes worth a minimum of Dh500 each. Dubai Police say there will be between 250 to 500 prizes. The head of Dubai Police traffic department, Maj Gen Mohammed Saif Al Zaffin, said today that if there were more good drivers than prizes then those with the longest standing clean sheets would be given priority. “We have a specific budget for the prizes so there might need to be a selection process based on the number of people who will be eligible for a prize as part of the scheme,” Maj Gen Al Zaffin said.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Side View Mirror Project – [Love Erik Dahl's deep dive on the ordinary to find ot the extraordinary, as he has spent years taking pictures of side view mirrors. He discovers some great themes and patterns although he acknowledges he didn't know where it was going to go when he started.] Taking these pictures changed the way I drive. I used to be very end-state oriented when I would drive. When I started taking pictures for this project I stopped thinking about where I was going, and started watching mirrors and looking for red lights. As designers, its important to remember that the goal and orientation of the user dramatically impacts their experiences.
  • [from steve_portigal] Two years after buying Pure Digital, Cisco ditches the Flip [Ars Technica] – [I always thought this was about driving a consumer-facing innovation culture into the org. Let's hope that this persists even without the specific line of products.] Cisco is killing off the line of pocketable video cameras in order to refocus the company around home networking and video. The news was a surprise to even Flip critics, leaving everyone wondering why Cisco bothered to buy Pure Digital (the Flip's former parent company) for $590 million just 2 years ago. The marriage never fully made sense, but we accepted it­most assumed that Cisco was making its own attempt to compete in the handheld market by simply gobbling up one of the hottest little gadget startups at the time. Two years later, Cisco's feelings about the acquisition have changed. Cisco announced that it's expanding the Consumer Business Group, but that the Flip business will no longer be part of it. There was no formal explanation given as to why Cisco chose to shut the group down instead of selling it.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Oprah’s No Phone Zone – Creating Behavioral Change By Asking People to Publicly Pledge – If you think you have the cell phone, texting and driving thing down…you do not. Sign our pledge to make your car a No Phone Zone and pass it on. You could save a life—maybe even yours. I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone. Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by pledging the safest driving behavior I can commit to:
    (x) I will not text while I am driving
    (x) I will not text while driving and will use only handsfree calling if I need to speak on the phone while I am driving.
    (x) I will not text or use my phone while I am driving. If I need to use my phone, I will pull over to the side of the road.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Police in Dallas give out citations to drivers for not speaking English – While they are still investigating what went on, there's a possibility that at least part of this was bad UI design: "Kunkle said his department's computer system for citations has a pull-down menu that includes a law requiring drivers of commercial vehicles to speak English." That's true for commercial but not true for regular drivers, and depending on how the software is used, that option may appear as a possible action that the police can take when citing a driver.
  • London Pub Night, November 2 – We'll be at the Riverfront bar & kitchen @ BFI. Hope to see you there!

Changing Lanes, Changing Minds

Locavore iPhone app

Locavore (also localvore) is someone who eats (or tries to eat) food from within a certain radius, typically 100 miles. In 2006, Google opened Cafe 150, a restaurant on its Mountain View campus that only uses ingredients that come from within 150 miles. The 100-mile diet is a book, a website, and a movement.

This is a powerful idea that, as it has taken hold, has entered our vocabulary and shifted our mindset. Even if we don’t do this, we consume the idea. It’s a meme.

Now, here come the electric vehicles. A similarly urgent effort to create change that asks us to fundamentally revisit how we do a primary activity. The fully electric Chevy’s Volt has a much-discussed 40-mile-without-recharging-capacity, based on some data (which of course, is disputed) showing 80% Americans drive less than 40 miles per day.

These two ideas are not parallel. At 41 miles, imagine that your car stops dead by the roadside and you’re stuck with a AAA situation. At 151 miles, your radicchio isn’t quite as local – but you don’t go hungry. Even so, the food people have done a much better job at creating a new story that quickly captures the essence of a new behavior.

Do you know how many miles a day you drive? The EV people, and Chevy especially, would do well to help create awareness at a general level (that people drive this much, on average) and a personal level (here’s how to figure out how much you drive, or how to map a 40-mile capacity against your typical usage). There’s potentially a gap between how well the Volt would work for most people and how well those same people believe the Volt would work for them.

We’ve seen people wearing pedometers to track another unknown distance: how far they walk in a given day. Why not give away car pedometers (yes, cars already contain equipment that provides that information, but the point here is to celebrate and raise awareness)? Where equivalent term to locavore for the daily driving case? 40-milers? loca-motives? Where are the use cases or archetypes that help translate into something familiar? How far does a mom in the ‘burbs drive? How about someone in the exurbs? Or a traveling saleswoman/road warrior? There’s a lot that can be done just on expanding the idea itself, to help set the stage for the coming solutions.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lou Rosenfeld revisits an old engagement where the client sought to dissuade usage – What they told me was that they didn't really want to make it easy for veterans—those people risking their lives for their country—to learn about the health benefits that they were entitled to. And that taxpayers had committed to funding. All to save money—and for what??

    IT issue? Not. It was an issue of business model design, and this particular business model was shrouded in a sick morality emanating from the top levels of the VA's management structure. Absolutely immorally, shamefully, and horribly sick.

    [With the theme of persuasion, manipulation, and user-centeredness floating around lately, good to consider an example where the organization goals are 180 degrees from the user's supposed goals]

  • Citations for California drivers not using hands-free are on the rise – Seems like there was good compliance when the law was first passed but the numbers are climbing back up. One might think the best way to drive adoption of a product/service/behavior is to make it legally mandated but people are citing the poor user experience with Bluetooth headsets as a reason/rationalization for ignoring the law. "Sometimes, it can be more dangerous to figure out your Bluetooth than just to pick up the phone."

Simulators help automakers design safer cars

Simulator technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and car designers are building new understanding of the causes (and techniques for preventing) accidents. Lab testing absolutely has its place, but what are these tools doing to help understand the impact of real-world stress (road rage, traffic jams, late for a meeting) or distractions (your favorite song, an annoying cell phone call) – in other words, the context that doesn’t naturally occur in a laboratory. I fear the model is more to consider the human as a component with performance parameters and therefor engineer the hell out of the situation.

Driving simulators are interior mock-ups (or in some cases, complete cars) placed on hydraulically actuated platforms and surrounded by video screens and speakers. Drivers at the wheel feel vibrations, acceleration and deceleration just as if they were driving on the roads projected around them.

“You save 50 percent of your research time,” said Beuzit, noting one reason companies build multimillion-dollar simulators. “It has transformed the automobile industry in the last 20 to 30 years.”

Because the simulator experience is so close to reality, providing the physical sensation of going around a curve or bouncing over a badly paved road, scientists can use it to do fundamental research on how all the senses contribute to what a driver perceives, said Andras Kemeny, a research director at the technical center.

For Renault, he said, “It is absolutely necessary to understand the driver’s strategy in driving, and then design industrial objects according to this knowledge.” Kemeny said it would take a decade to complete the loop of bringing fundamental research results to showrooms.

Link to full article


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