Posts tagged “interaction design”

Stories behind the themes: Biological

Welcome to the fourth installment of an unfolding bibliography of secondary research that fueled our generation of themes for the Omni project. This time around we are focusing on the blurring biological boundaries between technology and our everyday lives (and bodies). We have seen a number of articles and other tidbits that hint at how far technology has advanced towards human behavior, brain function, and biomechanics. We also see quite a bit that suggests how far humans are leaning towards (and on) technology as inspiration, mediation, medication, and meme.

Is It Time To Welcome Our New Computer Overlords? [TheAtlantic.com] – The human codes of nuance and meaning in language are not yet cracked – they cannot yet be simulated.

Elsewhere, Ferrucci has been more circumspect about Watson’s level of “understanding.” In an interview with IBM’s own magazine ForwardView, he said, “For a computer, there is no connection from words to human experience and human cognition. The words are just symbols to the computer. How does it know what they really mean?” In other words, for all of the impressive NLP programming that has gone into Watson, the computer is unable to penetrate the semantics of language, or comprehend how meanings of words are shot through with allusions to human culture and the experience of daily life.

How much is a life worth in pixels? [SocialMediaCollective] – An effort to quantify the value of a human life (or in this case death) as measured by screen space allocated to reporting it on the webpages of various news sites. Not the most rigorous metric, but certainly a clever approach to valuing human presence in the virtual world.

Frustrated by this, I decided to get a more objective assessment of the coverage by counting the number of pixels different news websites were assigning to the story of the massacre. I know web designers put a lot of work into every single pixel on the screen, especially of high-traffic websites. Visitor’s attention is scarce and every pixel counts. So I took screenshots of¬† the front pages of some of the major news websites and calculated the amount of screen real state assigned to the story of the massacre.

The Cyborg in Us All [NYT.com] – Tracing the steps we are taking towards a totally hands-free interaction with technology where brains will send messages directly to devices. One less interaction to sit between man and machine.

Now it was my turn. Mukerjee removed the headset and moistened the tips of its electrodes with contact-lens fluid, then arranged the EEG device on top of my hair. The electrodes poked into my scalp like wet fingers. I held the iPhone in front of me and beamed a blast of willpower at it. “Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs,” I shouted inside my mind. The phone picked George Bush.

PUMPED UP KICKS|DUBSTEP [YouTube] – Here we see technology influencing body – this guy dances like what you are watching is a video effect; in the way that the audio IS an audio effect – loops, run backwards, etc. very digital. But the video is real – this is his way of moving his body, but the aesthetic is entirely defined by something created elsewhere as technology. Yes, we had The Robot in the 70s, but this is different – that was a human dancing like a machine, this is a human dancing like an effect – something that doesn’t exist except as the manipulation of data.

You are a robot [TheTechnium] РKK deconstructs dancing like a robot and highlights the myriad ways the human body can be molded to perform like a techno-being.  

Everywhere we look in pop culture today, some of the coolest expressions are created by humans imitating machines. Exhibit A would be the surging popularity of popping, tutting, and dub step dancing. You’ve seen these dancers on YouTube: the best of them look exactly like robots dancing, with the mechanical stutter of today’s crude robots trying to move like humans. Except the imitators robotically dance better than any robot could — so far.

A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design [worrydream.com] – Bret Victor has his finger (pun certainly intended) on the pulse of our future interactions with technology. The rant focuses on our bodies, namely our hands and fingers, and their place of privilege between humans and technology (I feel a Michelangelo Sistine Chapel reference coming on). If, as they say, all things are created twice (first in the mind and then in reality) then Victor has me wondering if technology has already infiltrated our minds and influenced the pursuit of Pictures Under Glass as opposed to, say, envisioning an experience rich with tactility and manual manipulation.

There’s a reason that our fingertips have some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the body. This is how we experience the world close-up. This is how our tools talk to us. The sense of touch is essential to everything that humans have called “work” for millions of years.

Biomimicry’s Greatest Hits [FastCompany.com] – We continue to see blurring of the boundaries between humans and technology in this presentation which offers examples of how nature has inspired and informed some memorable technological advances.

The idea of taking inspiration from nature may be gaining traction in many industries today, but the natural world has always been a powerful inspiration for designers and inventors. Here are some of the most important objects that take their cue from the world around us.

Page Not Found

I was fixing broken links on our blog today and had the opportunity to look at many different versions of the “Page Not Found” page in fairly rapid succession.

Here of course is the basic version; with its classic minimalism, one imagines how it would look in Helvetica.

Many sites provide some form of what the Montreal Gazette offers – “we didn’t find what you wanted, here’s a way to search our site.”

But one stood out…

Penguin Books, Australia, takes this little corner of their site – a place where mere arrival already means something has failed – and offers users an unexpected dose of humor, acknowledgment of the situation of being there, and a full set of choices about where they’d like to go next on the site. It was a little spark of delight, and it made me want to buy a book from them.

Monotasking

Sometimes a seemingly minor interaction has a big impact.

At Black China Cafe in Santa Cruz, a small rock keeps napkins in place at the coffee station. With a cup of coffee in one hand, getting a napkin means picking up the rock, putting it down somewhere, picking up a napkin, and then putting the rock back in place.

I had just been thinking as I walked to the cafe about how hard it’s become for me to do something simple like walk across a parking lot without simultaneously jumping on my phone and checking my email, Twitter feed, etc.

I like being able to get lots of things done while I’m mobile, but at times I do this even when I don’t need to, and it starts to feel like a compulsion to multitask. Coming out of that context, the focused attention and step-at-a-time-ness of this little rock/napkin moment at the cafe shifted my whole pace of being.

Interaction design has always talked about temporal elements like pacing and pause. In their book, Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, authors Helen Sharp, Yvonne Rogers, and Jenny Preece present a case study in which software testing showed adding pauses to a particular interaction would benefit users, and discuss some of the engineers’ reaction to this finding:

To make these changes would require adding additional menus and building in pauses in the software. This conflicts with the way engineers write their code: they are extremely reluctant to purposely add additional levels to a menu structure and resist purposely slowing down a system with pauses.

Right now, human/device interactions commonly involve waiting impatiently for our things to do what we’ve asked them to, and faster processing is often a goal. But as technological capability increases and our devices become faster than we are, I wonder if it may become increasingly necessary to also think about purposely slowing down elements of an interaction to create a different user experience – a’la the napkin rock – that is more aligned with “human-speed.”

Video Notes from the Field: Advice to Aspiring Designers

Liz Danzico of the School of Visual Arts MFA in Interaction Design asked several people to create a 30-second video response to this prompt:

So you’re thinking about becoming a designer? If I could tell you only *one thing* about going into the field, my advice would be ___________ .

The results are compiled here and are really fun. As you’d expect, everyone’s video looks different, everyone interpreted the question a little differently and everyone has different advice. It’s about 7 minutes of content across 15 or so videos and you’ll get a kick out of ’em and maybe even learn something. Check it out!

My submission is below:

You Say You Want a Revolution . . .

Alan Cooper spoke earlier this week at a meeting of the San Francisco Interaction Design Association chapter. Cooper talked about programming as a craft, and Interaction Designers as potential facilitators of that craft within the business world.

Cooper is advocating what he calls an “insurgency of quality,” which he describes as being about how software design and production processes can and should be evolving-specifically, increasing the time spent refining products before they’re released as “finished.”

It’s an old carpenters’ adage to “measure twice, cut once.” The current software production model Cooper is speaking out against might be described as: measure once, cut once, ship once, repeat all steps for version 2.

Based on the insurgency Cooper is advocating, in which Interaction Designers and Programmers would take more time to get it right before a product goes to market, the development model would become: measure twice, cut twice (e.g. validate and iterate), ship once. The idea being that what gets shipped would be of higher quality then what generally gets produced in the current way, which prioritizes time-to-market.

We work with a lot of clients who are operating within very tight timelines. I’d be curious to know what kinds of successes and failures Cooper and his firm’s consultants have been having with their clients in trying to implement this new development model on actual projects. Are the Cooper folks finding that client organizations are ready, willing and able to add more development time to the front end? If not, what kinds of strategies are working and not working in trying to encourage that kind of change?

A lot of theoretical revolutions break down or dissolve when they meet real world complexities and constraints. It would be great to have some stories detailing how the ideas Cooper is advocating are getting played out in real project engagements.

Dissuasive Design

As Stephen Colbert would say, “A wag of the finger” to LimeWire for their somewhat misguided attempt to persuade me, within their software interface, to upgrade to LimeWire pro.

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There are examples all over the web of the use of Persuasive Design to guide user actions toward preferred outcomes like purchasing, joining and contributing.

Designer and author Andrew Chak says persuasive design is “really about “supporting the decision process.”

When I’m being upsold, it’s quite possible that my decision will be “no.” In that case, the choices “Later,” “Yes,” and “Why” don’t support me-they confuse me, and keep me from doing what I’m there to do. And that only makes me angry.

Confirmation Confusion

We’re sorting out the accommodations for our Dec/Jan trip to Japan, and I noticed this distressing bit of interaction with Expedia.

After booking our hotel in Kyoto, we get an itinerary named (loosely) Kyoto, and details of the hotel (including its name, which has the word Kyoto in it), and just generally good confirmatory feedback.
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Further on down the page comes the upsell.
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Osaka? But we’re not going to Osaka?! This caused a definite brief panic verifying the rest of the information in the itinerary to be sure that Expedia didn’t just put us in some other hotel in some other city.

Tip: if you provide automated upsell information that appears to reflect some contextual understanding of your customer, make sure it’s right, or you will cause them distress and extra work, reducing confidence

Reinventing the wheel, badly

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I stumbled on a new upgrade to my backup software (they never let me know that it’s been updated; when I actually open the app from time-to-time, sometimes there’s a new button or widget). Isn’t this an interface widget that has been designed a million times? Why not leverage someone else’s solution rather than invent your own ugly and confusing alternative? Isn’t this what pattern libraries are about?

Opposite day?

Today I received a newsletter from some furniture design company. As far as I know, I’ve never heard of them nor asked to receive their newsletter. Isn’t that um spam?

I used the link in the newsletter to unsub:
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Press the button and I get this:
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which I don’t read carefully, presuming that in fact it is removing me from their list, until moments later I get this email:

Subject: You’re on my list!

Hi

Thanks so much for joining our list, your subscription was a success. If you have any questions about our emails or have any feedback of your own, please don’t hesitate to reply to this email. We’d love to hear from you.

Also, We’ll be including a removal link in every email we send you, so you can leave our list any time that suits you

Ohhhhhhh. The unsubscribe link takes you to an unsubscribe page which then asks you to confirm your SUBSCRIPTION. Nice inescapable loop, folks.

Yahoo! Weather Weirdness

Yahoo has a strange bug or design flaw in their logic for adding to your My Yahoo page. It’s been like this forever and I’m amazed that they haven’t bothered to fix it.

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From the My Yahoo page, the weather module lets you see your current selected cities, and also search for others. Here I’m searching for Holland, MI (where we’ll be spending the third week in December).

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Here’s the results for Holland. And in the top right is a button to add this city to my My Yahoo weather.

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But clicking that doesn’t add Holland. It takes me to a page where I can remove existing cities, or begin a completely new process to add any city I want.

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So here I have to type in Holland, again (!), and ask for search results.

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Here’s the result. Once again I have the option to add it to my My Yahoo weather.

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Only this time it actually works.

Can I just call you “buddy”?

The New Yorker takes a wry look at the cultural perspectives embedded in information design

When you sign up online for Skywards, which is the frequent-flier program of Emirates, the international airline of the United Arab Emirates, you enter your name, address, passport number, and other information, and you select an honorific for yourself from a drop-down list. A few of the choices, in addition to the standard Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss, and Dr, are: Admiral, Air Comm, Air Marshal, Al-Haj (denoting a Muslim who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca), Archbishop, Archdeacon, Baron, Baroness, Colonel, Commander, Corporal, Count, Countess, Dame, Deacon, Deaconess, Deshamanya (a title conferred on eminent Sri Lankans), Dowager (for a British widow whose social status derives from that of her late husband, properly used in combination with a second honorific, such as Duchess), Duchess, Duke, Earl, Father, Frau, General, Governor, HRH, Hon, Hon Lady, Hon Professor, JP (justice of the peace?), Judge, Khun (the Thai all-purpose honorific, used for both men and women), L Cpl, Lt, Lt Cmdr, Lt Col, Lt Gen, Midshipman, Mlle, Monsieur, Monsignor, Mother, Pastor, Petty Officer, Professor, Senor, Senora, Senorita, Sgt, Sgt Mjr, Shaikha (for a female shaikh, or sheikh), Sheikh, Shriman (an Indian honorific, for one blessed by Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, wisdom, luck, and other.

Swiping Slot Blocked

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The local Macy’s store has modified all their card reading boxes so that the card swiping slot is blocked. That t-shaped blob of plastic along the right side is where the slot used to be.

The software hasn’t changed, however, and while your purchases are being run up you are asked (as always) to swipe the card. I looked for quite a while, feeling stupid, trying to to figure out where the heck to put my card.

There was no place.

They also have not changed their staff training, so there was no mention of what to do or not do with the card.

Eventually, they take the card from you and swipe it themselves, and you return to the device to “sign” the purchase.

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