Posts tagged “interactive”

Omni Quickies

Not Quite Smart Enough [NYT] – Smart appliances are back, yet again! Engineers are crammed atop happily dumb products because, well, because they can. The classic of course is the Smart Fridge, the result of jetpack-denied technologists channeling their rage. We’ve heard the use cases over and over again, we aren’t that interested (are we?) but comically, that doesn’t seem to stop them. From past work, I believe there some wonderful opportunities for technology to have a meaningful impact in domestic chores, but this repetition of an undesirable product just isn’t it. Bonus funny/sad: Mike Kuniavsky’s 2008 blog post looks at the history of these ridiculous things. /SP

Still, there are differences in what is offered this time around – especially in the role of smartphones, which were not widely on the market a decade ago. In addition, even if the idea of a connected home, controlled by a smart electrical grid, is years off, it is more than just a pipe dream. For now, though, manufacturers are promoting the high-tech gizmos on their smart appliances, rather than focusing on the potential for being a cog in a smart grid. Samsung offers a French-door refrigerator with an LCD screen and its own apps, allowing consumers to check the weather, browse the Web for recipes, listen to music and keep tabs on what is in the refrigerator. The 28-cubic feet, four-door refrigerator costs about $3,500. LG is introducing a refrigerator that allows consumers to scan a grocery receipt with their smartphone so that the refrigerator can track what is inside. So if you buy some chicken, for instance, the refrigerator will keep tabs on when you bought it and tell you when it is about to expire. If you have chicken, broccoli and lemons in your refrigerator, it will offer recipes that include those three ingredients, even narrowing recipes based on specific dietary needs and goals. Several manufacturers are introducing washers and dryers equipped with Wi-Fi that alert consumers on their television or smartphone when a load is done, and gives them the option of fluffing towels for another 10 minutes or adding a rinse cycle. LG’s robotic smart vacuum can be told, again, through a smartphone, to clean up the living room. And since it’s equipped with a built-in camera, its owner can secretly watch what the nanny is doing, too.

Tenured Professor Departs Stanford U., Hoping to Teach 500,000 Students at Online Start-Up [The Chronicle of Higher Education] – Last week we explored the innovative physical learning environment at the Swedish Vittra school. This week we learn that the future of educational institutions may involve abandoning the halls of the academy entirely in favor of virtual pedagogy and entrepreneurial ventures. Is the university destined for obsolescence? Freelance online classes challenge the value proposition (and often prohibitive cost) of a university degree by offering affordable alternatives that connect teachers who are motivated to share knowledge with students who are eager to learn and apply it, regardless of location. This reminds me of a recent Kickstarter project I funded called Don’t Go Back to School: A handbook for learning anything. For $25 I am getting a whole course and textbook on independent learning. Bargain! /TC

During his talk, Mr. Thrun explored the origins of his popular online course at Stanford, which initially featured videos produced with nothing more than “a camera, a pen and a napkin.” Despite the low production quality, many of the 200 Stanford students taking the course in the classroom flocked to the videos because they could absorb the lectures at their own pace. Eventually, the 200 students taking the course in person dwindled to a group of 30. Meanwhile, the course’s popularity exploded online, drawing students from around the world. The experience taught the professor that he could craft a course with the interactive tools of the Web that recreated the intimacy of one-on-one tutoring, he said.

Interactive film, Bear 71, blurs lines between wild and wired [Montreal Gazette] – News articles on this work, currently showing at Sundance, have difficulty classifying it. Is it a film? A documentary? An interactive experience? Multi-media project? All-encompassing digital experience? An interactive film? Akin to Steve’s comments on smart-appliances above, the interactive multi-media experience has also been around for awhile – remember ye olde CD-ROM? This project, however, is doing more than just using technology to give viewers some ownership and direction in the story-telling. The film-makers seem very tuned in to the philosophical implications of inserting all this technology into a very natural environment, and conscious of the irony of their ambition to use technology to bring us closer to our animal state, despite their claims that technology is the very thing drawing us away from that state. Bear 71 official site. /JN

Enter Jeremy Mendes, a Vancouver-based artist and three-time Webby Award winner with a special talent for interactive work. “I drove out to Alberta and met Leanne [Allison], and when I saw these images, I knew right away that it was bizarre: It was surveillance equipment, essentially. These are the same cameras we use on ourselves. They’re the same cameras in Times Square and 7-11,” says Mendes. “I thought, ‘This is a technology story about us and this bear.'” “We prepared an outline and did all the research, and realized this was a story about communication. It’s about the communication humans use, and the communication animals use,” says Mendes… Call it the natural bulletin board, or deciduous Internet, but the scents tell each animal’s story to other animals – very much the same way we use Facebook of Twitter to keep tabs on other humans. “Humans probably had the same ability to understand that information before technology removed us from the natural world,” says Allison…It’s such a different approach to filmmaking and art, that it may take a while for the average Joe or Jane to take it all in, but that’s kind of the point: We’re only half-awake to our animal nature, and all our ambient technology only serves to shove us deeper and deeper into a state of instinct denial.

From SXSW – Diving Deep: Best Practices For Interviewing Users

I spoke at SXSW recently about the interviewing process in user research. As I’ve been working on a book about this topic the timing was great for me.

While we know, from a very young age, how to ask questions, the skill of getting the right information from users is surprisingly complex and nuanced. This session will focus on getting past the obvious shallow information into the deeper, more subtle, yet crucial, insights. If you are going to the effort to meet with users in order to improve your designs, it’s essential that you know how to get the best information and not leave insights behind. Being great in “field work” involves understanding and accepting your interviewee’s world view, and being open to what they need to tell you (in addition to what you already know you want to learn). We’ll focus on the importance of rapport-building and listening and look at techniques for both. We will review different types of questions, and why you need to have a range of question types. This session will explore other contextual research methods that can be built on top of interviewing in a seamless way. We’ll also suggest practice exercises for improving your own interviewing skills and how to engage others in your organization successfully in the interviewing experience.

Slides



Audio

Presentation (45 minutes + 15 minutes Q&A):

To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac).

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The conference lineup is chosen partially based on input (i.e., voting) from the community. Even if you don’t attend, you still have a voice about what the discourse should be in our various fields. Not to mention, it’s a great way to support us! Visit each of the two talks below and click on the “thumbs up” icon. Add your thoughts, or comments as well!

Diving Deep: Best Practices For Interviewing Users

While we know, from a very young age, how to ask questions, the skill of getting the right information from users is surprisingly complex and nuanced. This session will focus on getting past the obvious shallow information into the deeper, more subtle, yet crucial, insights. If you are going to the effort to meet with users in order to improve your designs, it’s essential that you know how to get the best information and not leave insights behind. Being great in “field work” involves understanding and accepting your interviewee’s world view, and being open to what they need to tell you (in addition to what you already know you want to learn). We’ll focus on the importance of rapport-building and listening and look at techniques for both. We will review different types of questions, and why you need to have a range of question types. This session will explore other contextual research methods that can be built on top of interviewing in a seamless way. We’ll also suggest practice exercises for improving your own interviewing skills and how to engage others in your organization successfully in the interviewing experience.

For more on interviewing, you can check out our UIE Virtual Seminar and the follow-up podcast we did with Jared Spool.


Mommy, Where Do Good Products Come From?
(with Gretchen Anderson)

Business case studies are the ultimate in reductionism: A complex business activity rooted in a specific context of people, company culture, time, and place is boiled down to a few key ideas. Consultants, designers, students, and people who read Malcolm Gladwell are especially prone to this form of simplification. While these simplified stories can be helpful as touchstones, we just need to remember that they are often apocryphal archetypes more than investigative summaries. Or people confuse the terms innovation and invention; looking for breakthrough ideas sends companies into a frenzied search for “new” things not great or disruptive things. In this session, we will explore some different pathways to creating great product ideas. As designers and researchers, we’re experienced enough to know that design research isn’t the only approach or even always the best approach (a point of view that Don Norman vehemently argued in recent writings). For instance, design research wouldn’t be sufficient to create a disruptive innovation like Gowalla. We’ll outline a framework that looks at different approaches to idea generation, including corporate competencies and culture, customer needs and cultural context, and technological innovation.

For more on this topic, you can check out our interactions column Some Different Approaches to Making Stuff (PDF). Also, listen to Steve and Gretchen in conversation about the speed of innovation.

Thanks for your votes!

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Slides and audio from UX Process Improved: Integrating User Insight at SXSW

At SXSW last month, I presented UX Process Improved: Integrating User Insight with Aviva Rosenstein. I’m posting the slides and audio here.

Listen to audio:

To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Polyvore, a fashion Web site for the masses [The New Yorker] – Lee and her colleagues like to keep tabs on exactly how people are using Polyvore. They know that the average user spends ten or eleven minutes per session and clicks on twelve Polyvore pages per visit; they know that users “import” 1.2 million products per month. But they are boundlessly curious about the Polyvore setmaker’s process. And so Lee invited Gail Helmer, the user from Calgary who goes by the handle MyChanel, to come to Mountain View and let the engineers observe her at work on a set. Lee called it “usability testing,” as if Helmer­chosen because of the quality, consistency, and popularity of her sets­were a lab rat. “She’s very fashion-savvy,” Lee told me. “She’s one of the top members.” Helmer arrived at the offices straight from the airport, wearing jeans from Zara tucked into black boots, a gray sweater she’d bought for ten dollars, and a white ruffled shirt. “Banana,” she said, pinching a ruffle. “The Republic of.”

Cutting Thru Clutter at SXSW

As David Armano writes about SXSW “Hundreds of vendors, brands and companies vie for your attention.” This was certainly one of my big surprises from the recent SXSW event (my first time attending). From the huge attendee bag o’ crap with every kind of sticker, sample beverage, light-up pen, button, pamphlet, coupon, invite, brochure, and screen cleaner imaginable, to the half-dressed-skinny-girls inviting us to try a WiFi cafe, I was struck how by showing up in Austin I was essentially a captive audience to be marketed to. There was free food-and-drink (the Ice Cream Man on 6th street hands ice cream to passerby, with a Nokia napkin; the Sobe people were giving out psych-ward-meds-sized portions), free electricity (via Belkin and Chevy), and on and on.


Pepsi had large area with several zones, including tents for…I guess…video conferencing. I saw people hanging out at the bar drinking small portions of Pepsi, but not many making use of this service.


Bing had a fleet of Town Cars, as well as hostess-y types that would offer you a free ride.


This bus was promoting the new book from Tony Hsieh (of Zappos). I just saw it driving around, or worse, idling. I never saw anyone get on, or off. Was it an eco-nightmare billboard? Or some sort of service? I think it’s kind of creepy!


Sidewalk advertising, of course. Let’s hope they cleaned it up after, or that the city was prepared to fine them. I haven’t checked out this URL, but feel free to and let us know in the comments. Or, really, why bother?


There are three concurrent/adjacent festivals: Interactive, Film, and Music. Each of them serves up an insane range of options, well beyond what we normally encounter in our choice-flooded lives. The net effect (and my theme here) is that content creators are expected to shout louder (or more interestingly) to create awareness for their product. Here are ads for all sorts of things, including a cryptic phrase about a hurting vagina (which turned out to be from a movie).


Those posters don’t go up by themselves. It takes work.


As Austin reached beyond-critical-mass, 6th Street, the live music area, was closed to traffic. People were passing out more pamphlets and flyers promoting their events. And here’s where many of them ended up.


Just because.


Drawing attention to yourself to promote an event.


iPad guy was the triggering noticing event that led to this post. On my second-to-last night I saw this guy walk by, with a cardboard iPad around his neck (yes, kids, this was before the iPad was actually available). I yelled out “Hey, iPad guy!” and he stopped and let me take his picture. We introduced ourselves, and I asked him why he was wearing an iPad around his neck (see, that ethnography experience comes in handy!!!). His answer? So people will talk to him, like I did (turns out he works for a Search Engine Optimization firm, so…). While SXSW is a hyper-condensed environment, it represents some early-adopter aspects of typical daily life, and so I was struck to see the continuum between the promotion of Pepsi, Sobe, Bing, an indie film, an indie band, and an individual.

I’ve had my experience with guerrilla methods of promoting myself (from wearing a giant sombrero when campaigning for student government, with the slogan “the little guy in the big hat” to wearing a very loud SpiderMan tie when interviewing for jobs at a CHI conference long ago…only to be upstaged by the guy with a resume-dispensing-box with an embedded recording of him giving his elevator pitch) but the past seemed quainter, where the extreme needs (getting elected, getting a job) permitted extreme norms. But at SXSW it seems like everything is a promotion for something and I feel just a little bad seeing us take our lessons on how to connect with each other from big brands. Is this an exception or an emergent norm?

My favorite content from SXSW:

Check out more of my SXSW pictures here.

Slides and audio from Integrating User Insight, my presentation with Aviva Rosenstein, are here.

You may also like License to Shill, a FreshMeat column from 2004.

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