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Posts in category 'Technology'

28 July 2011

Are we becoming too analytical?

Network data
Or, why did Google PowerMeter fail?

In his latest post, James Landay questions whether over-analysis of data gets in the way of designing a product that truly understands the needs of its users. He provides several examples of when the data needs trumped design and user needs, which then results in “Product Failure Due to Over Reliance on Self Data Analysis”.

“The biggest reason I believe these two products [Google PowerMeter and Google Health] have not taken off is their reliance on the belief that simply giving people their data and letting them analyze it is the way to improve behavior (both for health and for the environment). The user interfaces for both products have an analytical take on information design — for instance they focus on showing people graphs of their data [...]

As I spoke with members of the Google team, I was surprised at the lack of knowledge of behavior change theories from psychology as well as much of the user interface design work that had been done by researchers in this space over the past ten years.”

A post worth reading also for those interested in the topic of smart metering and behavioural change.

Read article

(via Tricia Wang)

19 July 2011

‘Aggravating’ MyFord Touch sends Ford plummeting in quality survey

MyFord Touch
Interestingly, the badly designed user interface of the in-car telematics system was the primary gripe among Ford and Lincoln owners and lessees in the latest J.D. Power survey.

“After steady year-on-year improvement, Ford has plunged from fifth position in 2010 to 23rd in the 2011 Initial Quality Study released by J.D. Power & Associates on Thursday. Lincoln, the luxury subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company, was ranked eighth last year, but fell to 17th this year. [...]

Primarily, the steep decline was attributed to consumer complaints about MyFord and MyLincoln Touch, the company’s in-car telematics systems that use a touch screen, dashboard display and voice commands presumably to help drivers operate radio and climate controls, as well as the navigation system.”

Read article

Acclaimed designer Alan Cooper provides further reflection on the matter:

“Automobile manufacturing companies like Ford need to acknowledge that they are no longer making automobiles with attached computer systems. In reality, they are making computer control systems with attached motion mechanisms. The digital computer is increasingly dominating the driver’s attention, even more so than the steering and brakes. If auto makers don’t give equivalent attention to the design and implementation of these digital systems, they will fail, regardless of the quality of the drive train, interior furnishings, and other manufactured systems. [...]

Back in the 1960s and 70s, it was efficient for an automobile company, with core competencies in big manufacturing, to outsource dashboard electronics to specialized vendors. but now those little radios have become all-encompassing telematics, and Ford, whether it likes it or not, has to integrate the design of its electronic solutions with the design of its manufacturing business. It’s the riddle for the information age again: Ford isn’t a car company with digital capabilities, but it is a computer company with big manufacturing capabilities.

Designing and building a better automobile cockpit is the tip of the iceberg. The biggest task facing Ford and other car companies is changing the way they think and the way they work.”

17 July 2011

Talk to Me – or interaction design as script writing

Talk to Me
In her New York Times review of Talk to Me (online journal), the latest exhibition by Paola Antonelli at the MoMA, Alice Rawsthorn describes what could be considered the essence of interaction design:

“Digital technology is enabling objects to become so complex and powerful that we now expect to interact with them. If you hand an unfamiliar object to a small child, he or she will instinctively search for buttons or sensors to operate it.

Though the same same microchips that enable things as small as smart phones to fulfill hundreds of different functions also make them more opaque. In the industrial era when form generally followed function, you could guess how to use an electronic product from its appearance. You can’t do that with a tiny digital device, which is why designers face the new challenge that Ms. Antonelli calls “script writing,” in other words, ensuring that the object can tell us how to use it.”

Read article

Make sure to also check the very rich online journal.

16 July 2011

Study finds that memory works differently in the age of Google

Betsy Sparrow
The rise of Internet search engines like Google has changed the way our brain remembers information, according to research by Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow published July 14 in Science.

“Since the advent of search engines, we are reorganizing the way we remember things,” said Sparrow. “Our brains rely on the Internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker. We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found.”

Sparrow’s research reveals that we forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet. We are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. And we are better able to remember where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself. This is believed to be the first research of its kind into the impact of search engines on human memory organization.

Columbia University research story (with video interview)
– Press coverage: CNET News | Wired UK

16 July 2011

Technology and moral panic

Genevieve Bell
Why is it that some technologies cause moral panic and others don’t? Why was the introduction of electricity seen as a terrible thing, while nobody cared much about the fountain pen?

According to Genevieve Bell, the director of Intel Corporation’s Interaction and Experience Research, we have had moral panic over new technology for pretty well as long as we have had technology. It is one of the constants in our culture.

“She has a sort of work-in-progress theory to work out which technologies will trigger panic, and which will not.
– It has to change your relationship to time.
– It has to change your relationship to space.
– It has to change your relationship to other people.

And, says Ms. Bell, it has to hit all three, or at least have the potential to hit them. [...]

The problem, says Ms. Bell, is that cultures change far slower than technologies do. And because the rate of technological innovation is increasing, so too is the rate of moral panic.

When a new technology comes in, society has to establish norms about how to handle it. That is a long and slow process.”

Read article

6 July 2011

Alone together

Sherry Turkle
MIT technology and society specialist Professor Sherry Turkle presents – during a June 1 talk at the RSA in London – the results of a fifteen year exploration of the colossal impact technology has had on our lives and communities.

Thirty years ago we asked what we would use computers for. Now the question is what we don’t use them for. Now, through technology, we create, navigate and carry out our emotional lives. We shape our buildings, Winston Churchill argued, then they shape us. The same is true of our digital technologies. Technology has become the architect of our intimacies.

Online, we face a moment of temptation. Drawn by the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we conduct “risk free” affairs on Second Life and confuse the scattershot postings on a Facebook wall with authentic communication. And now, we are promised “sociable robots” that will marry companionship with convenience. Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere.

We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere. In a surprising twist, relentless connection leads to a new solitude. We turn to new technology to fill the void, but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down.

MIT technology and society specialist Professor Sherry Turkle has spent fifteen-years exploring our lives on the digital terrain. Based on interviews with hundreds of children and adults, she visits the RSA to describe new, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, parents and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.

Chair: Aleks Krotoski, academic, journalist and host of the Guardian’s Tech Weekly.

Video (20 min): vimeoyoutubedownload (mp4)
Audio (64 min): download mp3

6 July 2011

The iPad as support for people with disabilities

ZoomText Magnifier/Reader
The Apple tablet is helping people with disabilities by reading e-mails, voicing directions, and zooming in on text.

“Apple has added features that make the iPhone and iPad easily accessible, not only to visually impaired people but also to those with hearing loss and other challenges. The iPhone 4 and the iPad 2, for example, come with VoiceOver, a screen reader for those who can’t read print, as well as FaceTime, video-calling software for people who communicate using sign language. Apple has said that iOS 5—due later this year—will contain improvements to VoiceOver and LED flash and custom vibration settings to let users see and feel when someone is calling.

More such devices as the iPad and iPhone will make their way into the workplace to assist people with physical challenges in the next five years. Disability and aging go hand-in-hand: As baby boomers work past age 65, companies will increasingly face this issue. [...]

“Boomers will demand products, services, and workplaces that adapt to their needs and desires,” says Rich Donovan, chief investment officer at WingSail Capital. Crossover technology such as the iPad, which works well both for people with disabilities and the broader consumer market, are the “holy grail” of business and disability efforts and will drive growth in disability-related capital spending, he says.”

Read article

26 June 2011

Enchanted Objects: The next wave of the web

Enchanted mirror
David Rose (LinkedIn), CEO of Vitality (where he works on healthy behavior change) and lecturer at MIT Media Lab (and former CEO of Ambient Devices), gave a talk recently at TEDxBerkeley on how magic anticipates ubiquitous computing.

“Magic, or enchantment, is the right metaphor for the future of computing. [...]

Magic is a convenient metaphor of connected things because the affordances are there. You understand the object… and this motivates the incremental function. [...]

We can take a lesson from the history of the future to figure out what enchanted things will succeed or fail. The ones that satisfy primal wishes or fantasies will succeed. These primal wishes are revealed through narratives that we know and can analyze. It’s a psychology problem. Especially for Cinderella’s narcissistic stepmother. I’m not sure what robots wish for, but I can tell you what humans want:

We wish for six things that enchanted objects tend to satisfy:

For Omniscience, for human connection, for protection, for health (immortality is better), for effortless mobility or teleportation, and for expression (or creative manifestation).

These are the killer apps.”

View video of talk
Download talk slides

Check also David’s recent reflection on the topic of “juicy feedback,” a term that comes from game design and describes when a small action produces a surprisingly large reaction. He uses this paradigm to develop six design ideas relevant to products intended to change people’s behavior.

David’s thinking was inspiring for an article in this month’s Wired Magazine, which argues that by providing people with information about their actions in real time, you give them a chance to change those actions, and push them toward better behaviors.

David Rose is a product designer, technology visionary, and serial entrepreneur.

Currently David is Chief Executive at Vitality, a company that is reinventing medication packaging with wireless technology.

Rose founded and was CEO of Ambient Devices where he pioneered glanceable technology: embedding Internet information in everyday objects like light bulbs, mirrors, refrigerator doors, digital post-it notes, and umbrellas to make the physical environment an interface to digital information.

Rose founded Viant’s Innovation Center, an advanced technology group for Fortune 500s including Sony, GM, Schwab, Sprint and Kinkos. He helped build Viant to over 900 people, $140M and a successful IPO.

In 1997 Rose patented online photo-sharing and founded Opholio (acquired by FlashPoint Technology).

Before the Internet he founded and was President of Interactive Factory (acquired by RDW Group) which creates interactive museum exhibits, educational software and smart toys, including the award-winning LEGO Mindstorms Robotic Invention System.

Rose taught information visualization at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and currently teaches a popular course in tangible user interfaces at the MIT Media Lab. He is a frequent speaker to corporations and design and technology conferences.

24 May 2011

Book: New Media Technologies and User Empowerment

New Media Technologies and User Empowerment
New Media Technologies and User Empowerment
Jo Pierson, Enid Mante-Meijer and Eugène Loos (eds.)
Peter Lang – International Academic Publishers
May 2011
317 pages
ISBN 978-3-631-60031-3

Synopsis

Recent developments in new media devices and applications have led to the rise of what have become known as ‘social media’, ‘Web 2.0’, ‘social computing’ or ‘participative web’. This shift in ICT, from unidirectional to conversational media of mass self-communication has lowered the technological thresholds for everyday users to cooperate for their own benefit, to participate in online environments and social network sites, to co-create business value and to become ‘produsers’ or ‘pro-ams’. At the same time, we see an evolution towards people-centred design and user-driven innovation in the design of new media technologies. This has created new opportunities and heightened expectations regarding user empowerment in different societal arenas.

However, the question remains to what extent users and communities interacting in an all-IP new media ecosystem are empowered (and not disempowered) to express their creativity and concerns in their social and cultural environment and to obtain a prominent role in the process of new media design and innovation. The book attempts to answer this question through a collection of chapters that scrutinise this issue. The different chapters focus on the way that social and economic opportunities and threats enable and/or constrain user empowerment.

This work consists of four major sections, each of which examines the (potential) empowerment/disempowerment of users in relation to new media technologies from a different angle. The chapters in the first section describe different theoretical perspectives on user roles and user involvement in the new media ecosystem, referring to interpretative, positivist and critical schools of thought. Based on these overall guiding frameworks, we then explore the leverage users have, both on content level and on technological level. This refers respectively to the second and third section of the book. In the fourth section different case studies are presented, each of which highlight how user empowerment manifests itself in different new media sectors and environments (such as publishing, the music industry and social networking sites).

The book is based on interdisciplinary research. It offers innovative insights based on state-of-the-art academic and industry-driven ICT user research in various European countries. This work will appeal to post-graduate students and researchers in the field of media and communication studies, social studies of technology, digital media marketing and other domains that investigate the mutual relationship between new media technologies and society.

Contents

  • Yves Punie: Introduction: New Media Technologies and User Empowerment. Is there a Happy Ending?
  • Enid Mante-Meijer/Eugène Loos: Innovation and the Role of Push and Pull
  • Valerie Frissen/Mijke Slot: The Return of the Bricoleur: Redefining Media Business
  • Serge Proulx/Lorna Heaton: Forms of User Contribution in Online Communities: Mechanisms of Mutual Recognition between Contributors
  • Aphra Kerr/Stefano De Paoli/Cristiano Storni: Rethinking the Role of Users in ICT Design: Reflections for the Internet
  • James Stewart/Laurence Claeys: Problems and Opportunities of Interdisciplinary Work Involving Users in Speculative Research for Innovation of Novel ICT Applications
  • Marinka Vangenck/Jo Pierson/Wendy Van den Broeck/Bram Lievens: User-Driven Innovation in the Case of Three-Dimensional Urban Environments
  • Mijke Slot: Web Roles Re-examined: Exploring User Roles in the Media Environment
  • Philip Ely/David Frohlich/Nicola Green: Uncertainty, Upheavals and Upgrades: Digital-DIY during Life-change
  • Eva K. Törnquist: In Search of Elks and Birds: Two Case Studies on the Creative Use of ICT in Sweden
  • Levente Szekely/Agnes Urban: Over the Innovators and Early Adopters: Incentives and Obstacles of Internet Usage
  • James Stewart/Richard Coyne/Penny Travlou/Mark Wright/Henrik Ekeus: The Memory Space and the Conference: Exploring Future Uses of Web2.0 and Mobile Internet through Design Interventions
  • Sanna Martilla/Kati Hyyppä/Kari-Hans Kommonen: Co-Design of a Software Toolkit for Media Practices: P2P-Fusion Case Study
  • Ike Picone: Mapping Users’ Motivations and Thresholds for Casually «Produsing» News
  • Stijn Bannier: The Musical Network 2.0 & 3.0
  • Enid Mante-Meijer/Jo Pierson/Eugène Loos: Conclusion: Substantiating User Empowerment

Authors

  • Jo Pierson is Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel – Department of Communication Studies / SMIT (Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication)
  • Enid Mante-Meijer is emeritus Professor at Utrecht University – Utrecht School of Governance
  • Eugène Loos is Professor at the University of Amsterdam – Department of Communication Science / ASCoR (Amsterdam School of Communication Research).
17 May 2011

Why a hyper-personalized Web is bad for you

The Filter Bubble
Eli Pariser, executive director of the progressive political action committee MoveOn.org, explains in a CNET interview why he thinks we should beware of the substantial risks inherent in the increasing personalization of the Internet.

“Eli Pariser is making noise these days as the author of “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You.

His new book, which was released yesterday, argues that the latest tools being implemented by the likes of Google and Facebook for making our Internet experiences as individual as possible are taking us down some very unsavory paths.

First, of course, Pariser explains the dynamic we all face online today: that no two people’s Web searches, even on the same topics, return the same results. That’s because search engines and other sites are basing what they send back on our previous searches, the sites we visit, ads we click on, preferences we indicate, and much more. Not to mention the fact that we are more and more shielded from viewpoints counter to our own.

But while the results are no doubt geared to what we’re most interested in, they come at a price–in terms of lost privacy, more ads, and even being followed by certain types of ads no matter where we go online.”

Read article

7 May 2011

Forever online: Your digital legacy

Tombstone
Your photos, status updates and tweets will fascinate future historians. Will these online remains last forever? In this special report, newscientist.com editor Sumit Paul-Choudhury reports on life, loss, memory and forgetting in the internet age.

The fate of your online soul
We are the first people in history to create vast online records of our lives. How much of it will endure when we are gone?

Archaeology of the future
Future historians will want to study the birth of the web using our digital trails – but how will they make sense of it all?

Respecting the digital dead
How can we keep digital bequests safe without poking our noses where they’re not wanted?

Amateur heroes of online heritage
It’ll take more than money alone to preserve today’s internet pages for posterity

Digital legacy: Teaching the net to forget
We’ve begun to accept that the internet cannot forget, but the power to change that has been in our hands for decades

4 May 2011

Intel CTO stresses the importance of creating compelling user experiences

Justin Rattner
Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer, spoke at Intel’s Tech Fest — an event where Intel gathered in Oregon more than 1,000 of its top engineers and scientists from around the world to show off its latest innovations — about the importance of creating compelling user experiences:

“We want to encourage inter-disciplinary thinking. The products people want to buy today are not just a clever piece of hardware or clever piece of software. They want the hardware and the software to work together in such a way that they deliver a very compelling user experience. You only get that when you bring the disciplines together and that’s what Tech Fest is about.” [...]

“Think about user experience. What does that mean? Engineers want everything quantified, millimeters and microseconds. But when you start telling hardware engineers, or even a software engineer we need to create a compelling experience, well how do you measure that?,” Rattner said. “We’ve done a lot of good work there and we do know how to quantify experience and we do have principles and practices that guide us in design.

“But at the moment, they’re known only to a small group of people and we need to bring that thinking to a much broader audience.”

Read article

2 May 2011

Context aware computing and futurism at Intel

Consumer research
At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco in September last year, Justin Rattner, the director of Intel Labs, announced a new research division, called Interaction and Experience Research (IXR) and headed by Genevieve Bell, and also presented a new vision of context-aware computers and mobile devices.

Now the Intel website provides some more background on Intel’s work on Context Aware Computing.

“Context-awareness can make computing devices more responsive to individual needs and help to intelligently personalize apps and services. Using self-learning mechanisms, sensor inputs, and data analytics, Intel research teams are engaged in a number of projects that promise to take machine learning beyond the lab to practical, real-world applications.”

Most interestingly, the site goes into some depth on Intel’s current projects that explore the boundaries of context-aware computing:

  • Online Semi-Supervised Learning and Face Recognition: Use face recognition in place of a password to log in to any protected site. The self-learning techniques being refined by this project can be adapted to many areas of context awareness.
  • Context Aware Computing—Activity Recognition: This project is developing techniques so that your computer can adapt to your patterns of activity and, based on your needs and expectations, instruct and guide you on a daily basis.
  • Context-Aware Computer—Social Proximity Detection: Your friends, family, and co-workers all play a role in determining how your daily activities unfold. This project identifies ways to use the proximity of people important in your life to adjust communications and to help coordinate activities.

There is also more information on Intel’s Tomorrow Project & Futurism initiative.

“The project features science fiction stories, comics and short screen plays based on current research and emerging technologies and examines their affect on our future. “

Check the stories by Douglas Rushkoff, Ray Hammond. Scarlett Thomas and Markus Heitz. The next one is by Cory Doctorow, it seems.

6 April 2011

The problem with design education

Donald Norman
University industrial design programs are usually cloistered in schools of art or architecture, and students in such programs are rarely required to study science or technology.

That bothers Don Norman, former head of research at Apple and an advocate of user-friendly design.

Having traditional design skills—in traditional artistic pursuits like drawing and modeling—isn’t enough, he says, because the creators of good products and services also must have a working knowledge of everything from the technical underpinnings of microprocessors and programming to the policy aspects of information security.

Read article

22 March 2011

Meet Microsoft’s guru of ‘design matters’

Bill Buxton
Seattle Times technology reporter Sharon Pian Chan profiles Bill Buxton, principal researcher at Microsoft Research.

“Bill Buxton is multiplatform the way Leonardo da Vinci was multiplatform.

The Microsoft researcher is a technologist, a designer, a musician, an author, outdoorsman and a nationally ranked equestrian.

He has spent decades working on the future of tech, but he paddled the rivers of Saskatchewan last summer in 1,000-year-old technology: a birch-bark canoe sealed with tree sap and bear fat.

At Microsoft, Buxton is a researcher who also has been charged with spreading the “design matters” message to engineers who would rather hack code than clay.”

Read article

25 February 2011

Reflections on the LIFT conference on Core77

Lift
A few weeks ago, I went to the LIFT conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

It took me a some time to write up all my (personal) thoughts on the presentations, but now the writing is done and the result is online on Core77.

Thank you Laurent, Nicolas and others in the LIFT team, for once again hosting a highly stimulating conference, and thank you LinYee (managing editor at Core77) for the edit, the addition of videos and photos, and the encouragement.

I can’t wait to read some comments.

25 February 2011

On the UX revolution coming up

UX Magazine
Two articles in UX Magazine describe upcoming UX revolutions: data and the user interface.

The UX of data
By Scott Jenson / February 17th 2011
Data storage in the cloud enables user experiences that would be impossible with only local storage, and creates a new facet of design: the UX of data.

2016: the user interface revolution underway
By Peter Eckert / February 24th 2011
New interfaces are not going to be uniform; devices and applications will not possess common protocols. For users, each interaction will have to be learned, so despite the improved usability of products, individuals will find themselves learning the quirks and standards of more and more technologies just to get the functionality they seek.

14 January 2011

“Alone Together”: An MIT Professor’s new book urges us to unplug

Alone Together
Sherry Turkle, has been an ethnographer of our technological world for three decades, hosted all the while at one of its epicenters: MIT. A professor of the social studies of science and technology there, she also heads up its Initiative on Technology and Self.

In her new book Alone Together, she shares her ambivalence about the overuses of technology, which, she writes, “proposes itself as the architect of our intimacies.” The book completes a trilogy of investigations into the ways humans interact with technology.

Fast Company spoke recently with Turkle about connecting, solitude, and how that compulsion to always have your BlackBerry on might actually be hurting your company’s bottom line.

Read interview

10 January 2011

Arduino The Documentary. How open source hardware became cheap and fun

Arduino
When I was working at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, I met Massimo Banzi who embarked on an open source hardware initiative which eventually became the very successful Arduino project.

Now, writes the Arduino blog, Rodrigo Calvo, Raúl Díez Alaejos, Gustavo Valera, and the people at Laboral Centro de Arte in Gijon, Spain, have created a video documentary, entitled Arduino The Documentary, that you can view on Vimeo in English and Spanish.

Here is some background by Matthew Humphries published on geek.com:

Open source software has had a major impact on the applications and platforms we all use today. Linux is now a very viable alternative to Windows and Mac OS even for beginner PC users. The Android operating system looks set to dominate on mobile hardware, and more and more software applications are being released for free as open source projects by anyone who can learn to program.

Now the same looks set to happen for hardware. With the development of cheap, easy to use electronics components as part of the Arduino computing platform, it’s becoming much easier to create your own hardware solutions without spending a lot of money.

No longer do we have to leave hardware creation to the large corporations with access to manufacturing plants and skilled workers. Instead, we can spend a few dollars buying an Arduino board, a bunch of components, and start experimenting with the support of a growing online community.

The video above gives you an introduction to what Arduino is and how it has developed since its inception. You come away thinking anything is possible with a bit of learning and a 3D printer, and why not? If software can be free to use, why can’t hardware be free to create and distribute?

The clear message Arduino The Documentary gives out is that we are about to see an explosion of hardware devices that come from bedroom tinkerers and student projects. Not only that, but they have the potential to turn into commercial products that businesses form around and investors flock to. We also have an opportunity to get electronics taught to our kids in schools for very little cost and hopefully start producing the next generation of talented engineers.

5 December 2010

Cisco’s vision on user-centred design

Cordell Ratzlaff
The UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph profiles Cordell Ratzlaff, director of user-centred design at Cisco Systems, and former head of Apple’s Human Interface Group.

“Like a lot of prominent technology companies, Cisco has recognised that its products aren’t as intuitive to use as they could be, so has brought in Ratzlaff to take a fresh approach.

Ratzlaff is no stranger to shaking up the user experience, having previously been tasked with making the Mac interface so enticing that users would almost want to lick the screen, rumour has it. From Apple, he went on to become creative director at Frog Design, where he designed for Disney, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Yahoo!.

At Cisco, he has researchers whose role is to get among users and identify needs they don’t yet realise they have. Significantly, Ratzlaff doesn’t see a distinction between professional users and consumers. “There’s no such thing as an enterprise user — people’s values and skills don’t change as they put on their work clothes,” he notes.”

Read article