Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Usability Hall of Shame Update: Accessing Road Runner web-mail when you are away from home and have forgotten your password.

This is a short video of slides I created for an assignment for "Privacy and Security: A Human-Computer Interaction Perspective" last semester. The video shows it all!

Other posts with examples for the Usability Hall of Shame:

Touch screen interaction and usability in public spaces

Usability/Interaction Hall of Shame

A list of links to books about usability and interface design can be found on the Isys Information Architect's website, on the "Interface Hall of Shame" section.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Great resource about interaction design from SIGGRAPH 2007: Interaction Tomorrow

If you are interested in interaction design for the future, take a look at the course notes from Interaction Tomorrow, presented at SIGGRAPH 2007.

Here is the course abstract:

"This course provides a comprehensive overview to user interface technologies on the newly emerging interactive tabletops and large wall displays. The course will cover input devices, interface metaphors, modality of interaction, sensing technologies, applications, and future directions. Materials will be drawn from both commercial systems and research prototypes."

The Interaction Tomorrow is a pdf that contains 172 pages of pictures and text.

The course was organized by Michael Haller, from the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences, and Chia Shen, from the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories. The lecturers included Gerald Morrison, from Smart Technologies, Bruce H. Thomas, from the University of Southern Australia, and Andy Wilson from Microsoft Research.


The course website

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mobile RFID by Samsung; Open Verizon Network?!

If you are a fan of pervasive computing, you'll be happy to learn that two corporations are trying to make your mobile life more... ubiquitous.

Verizon recently announced that it will provide an "Any Apps, Any Device" option for customers in 2008.

A quote from Verizon's website:

“This is a transformation point in the 20-year history of mass market wireless devices – one which we believe will set the table for the next level of innovation and growth,” said Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless president and chief executive officer. “Verizon Wireless is not changing our successful retail model, but rather adding an additional retail option for customers looking for a different wireless experience.”

And here is the "good news" about Samsung's venture into mobile RFID:

"Samsung Unveils RFID Reader Chip for Mobile Devices

With mobile RFID growth expected to skyrocket in the coming years, Samsung Electronics served notice that it intends to be a major beneficiary of the growth with a single-chip RFID reader for mobile devices.

Samsung said it expects the radio-frequency identification chip will initially be designed into card-type readers that plug into mobile handsets; later the chip will likely be included in retail store handheld readers and directly in mobile phone handsets.

"We are enabling anytime, anywhere mobile access to information," said Chihee Chung, senior VP of Samsung's Electronics System LSI Division, in a statement. "RFID chip readers systems allow consumers to pull context-specific information into their mobile devices while on the go. Our mobile RFID single-chip technology is an important step in the evolution of ubiquitous computing."

My comments:

Although Verizon and Samsung's efforts appear to move us closer to Weiser's vision of ubiquitous computing, we must keep in mind that with each advance in technology, there are a host of other problems, such as privacy and security, usability, and accessibility, that remain to be fully addressed!

"Ubiquitous computing names the third wave in computing, just now beginning. First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives." -Mark Weiser

What do you think?


Information about the early history of Ubiquitous Computing

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ubiquity: RXDXT's post about William Gibson's thoughts about ubiquitous computing...

I came across this post on rxdxt’s blog, I couldn't put it any better:


There's a great interview in Rolling Stone with one of my favourite authors of all time, William Gibson (Neuromancer, coiner of the term Cyberspace and his newest Spook Country (which I'm reading now). Here's a quote:

"Ubiquitous computing?

Totally ubiquitous computing. One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real. In the future, that will become literally impossible. The distinction between cyberspace and that which isn't cyberspace is going to be unimaginable. When I wrote Neuromancer in 1984, cyberspace already existed for some people, but they didn't spend all their time there. So cyberspace was there, and we were here. Now cyberspace is here for a lot of us, and there has become any state of relative nonconnectivity. There is where they don't have Wi-Fi.

In a world of superubiquitous computing, you're not gonna know when you're on or when you're off. You're always going to be on, in some sort of blended-reality state. You only think about it when something goes wrong and it goes off. And then it's a drag."

This made me think. When I become a grandmother, will I find myself among other grandparents, physically miles away, attending my grandchild's science fair, musical recital, or high school drama performance in SecondLife?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Musings about pervasive computing and health care, usability, rationale for "technology-supported human-world interaction"

"Imagine a world," said cardiologist Leslie Saxon, "where you turn on your computer and, along with surfing the Web and turning on YouTube, you can check your or your family members' health stats."

This is the quote that grabbed my heart this morning from an
article in a recent Technology Review announcing the "First Annual Body Computing Conference".

This is the stuff that gets me really excited.

Technology and health care are topics that interest me, since they directly affect my life and the lives of those who are close to me, if you've read previous posts on my blog(s):

Usability Interaction Hall of Shame (user-unfriendly technology in a hospital setting)

World Usability Day 2007: Healthcare Focus

Skype in the Hospital: Grandpa, webcams, and grandkids over the miles

Those of you who follow my blog(s), know that I have an interest in ubiquitous - also known as pervasive- computing, and how it can support what I call technology-supported human-world interaction.

What is technology-supported human-world interaction?

First of all, it is a concept that I can wrap my head around, since I come from a background in psychology and education, and didn't take a computer programming class until I was in my 40's.

It is a concept that my non-techie circle of friends, school colleagues, and extended family members can also understand.

Technology-supported human-world interaction incorporates HCI concepts, but it takes into consideration the broad range of human interactions. It is an attempt to identify what specific systems, applications, networks, interaction designs, interfaces, and input/output modalities are best suited for the task, action, or interaction, and also looks closely at the panorama in which this is likely to occur.

Since human interactions are dynamic and change over time, the concept of panorama includes a temporal component. Of course, this necessitates that programmers, systems developers, designers, and everyone else involved in the process becomes cognizant of the the big picture, the wider view, before the first line of code is ever discussed.

Why do I think this is so important?

When I was a little girl, my family visited a communications technology exhibit, and I participated in a demonstration of a TV phone. I was so excited when I heard the scientist say,

"In the very near future, imagine a world where everyone will be able to call their friends and family, and see them talking on TV, right from their kitchens!"

That was nearly 40 years ago.

I've never lost hold of that feeling of excitement, even though as an adult, I've experienced much that could wear my excitement away....

A large percentage of my interactions with computers and technology over the years has been with poorly designed cell phones and cable TV remotes, crashing laptops, user-unfriendly database systems, problematic productivity applications, and lost Internet connections.

The people who worked for months, even years, creating these problem applications and devices aren't stupid. General users aren't stupid. So why do we still encounter so many frustrating problems?

Until recently, in the technology world, both in academia and in the workplace, the focus has been too narrow. My hunch is that things are changing, and somehow, I'd like to be a part of it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ubiquitous interactive computing comes to the corner bank?!

Here is another way that innovative technologies are supporting "human-world" interaction. My last post addressed the topic wayfinding and gas pumps with internet-linked touchscreens... if you decide to forgo the ATM and wander inside your corner bank, you'll be amazed at the changes

According to a post from the Bank Channel, Umpqua bank is using technology to promote better customer -(or user) experience:

"Umpqua has collaborated with technology companies including Cisco, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, NCR and Planar to develop and integrate technology that the bank says will enhance customer experience and store operations. In many cases, it is the first time these technologies have been implemented in a consumer setting.

Features of the new branch include:

  • Product wall: A 40-foot, interactive plasma wall that features touch screen technology, podcasts and community search functionality.
  • Community wall: This interactive display wall serves as the store's official community center. It provides information on volunteer opportunities and community events, supports fundraising for community organizations and includes a survey option for users to tell Umpqua which topics they would like to learn more about.
  • LocalSpace: Umpqua's own social networking site that is designed to connect and assist local businesses in a virtual setting.
  • Computer cafĂ©: Features tables embedded with state-of-the-art Lenovo laptops for easy-access online banking or Web access.
  • Ask an expert: Connects customers face-to-face with experts on a wide range of financial topics at any time.
  • Interactive and in-store shopping: Customers can browse merchandise from local merchants as well as Umpqua's Discover Local Music CDs, books and other products."
Additional information about Umpqua's innovative use of technologies is described in an article from BusinessWire.

Something like this would be great asset at the mall, or for relatives and friends visiting loved ones during hospital stays.....

Google Maps at the Gas Pump?!: One Small Step Towards Ubiquitous Computing for the Masses....

If you are out and about and find yourself lost and in need of gas, Google might be right at your fingertips to point you in the right direction.
Gasoline pump maker Gilbarco Veeder-Root will provide Google Maps on Internet connected screens right on the gas pump.

Promotions and ads can be displayed on the screen, and customers can receiveand coupons through the pump's receipt printer, according to an article in InformationWeek. Information about local restaurants, shops, and services will also be available to customers. Information will be accessed via a touch -screen.

The next step? Enable the gas-pump Internet screens to inter-operate with cell phones and PDA's!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Virtual Visitor Concierge via Large Touch Screen Display: Kern County, California

This video is a news clip about interactive visitor kiosks in Kern County, California, designed to promote tourism in the region. Using a large touch-screen display, people have access to a wide range of information, displayed in a multi-media format. One of the featured displays is NextWindow's 2800 "Rugged Integrated Touch Panel", developed to withstand environmental wear and tear, with software developed by JupiterBay.

How it works:

Related Link:

Outdoor Interactive Displays Highlight Technology Collaboration

My HCI project prototype would be something fun to interact with on one of these kiosks!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Pay for your parking meter- with your cell phone!

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is running a trial program that enables drivers to pay for parking meter fees via their cell phones. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

For more information, read the article, "Pay Parking Meters by Cell Phone?"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Skype in the Hospital: Link to post about communication across the miles and generations

More hospitals offer free WiFi for patients and their families. One hospital near Grand Rapids, Michigan, offers large-screen displays with Internet access as well as access to the patient's medical information. Any thoughts?

For more information and links, read the related post on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

World Usability Day's Healthcare Focus: Thoughts about health care user-experience design...

The theme of the 2007 World Usability Day is healthcare. This event aims to create awareness about the need for user-centered design within the health care system. Here is some information posted on UPA's World Usability Community blog:

"..."The importance of user-centered design in healthcare is truly about life and death” noted Elizabeth Rosenzweig, Founder and Director of World Usability Day. “Whether it’s new medical devices or technologies; drug research, approval or delivery; patient forms or medical record sharing; emergency disaster planning or increasing the functionality of hospitals and everyday healthcare delivery, everyone is effected in some way by the intersection of usability and healthcare. There are many commonalities, yet each region of the world faces its own set of unique challenges. We believe that focusing World Usability Day 2007 on healthcare will create a stronger awareness of these issues and lead to initiatives that have long term impact on the quality of everyone’s life".

Information about World Usability Day:

Usability and interaction with the health care system has become a personal interest of mine, as I've spent the better part of the past month assisting a close relative negotiate three hospital stays, a couple of surgeries, numerous medical tests, and visits to various medical professionals. This has been an eye-opening experience, as anyone who has followed a similar path would agree.

I propose that efforts to improve usability should consider using some of the strategies employed by user-experience designers, taking into consideration that the definition of "user" includes the patient/consumer, the patient's family and social support network, health care professionals, hospital and medical staff, health educators, researchers, and so forth.

When I have the chance, I'll post some of my observations and thoughts related to this topic.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Search for Researchers: Ubiquitous computing, large screen displays, touch screen displays & tables, and mobile devices

I am in the process of compiling list of links to researchers who are interested in off-the-desktop systems and applications that can seamlessly inter-operate with mobile and remote devices and systems, especially systems that include large-screen displays and touch-enabled tables or surfaces.

A variety of fields are involved in this area - interactive design, computer-supported collaborative work, embedded system design, industrial systems engineering, virtual reality, human factors, educational technology, mobile learning, computer & video game development, mobile computing, audio-visual media, new media, mobile marketing, GIS & geography/ geology, graphic design, computer music, interactive storytelling, etc. etc.

Here is a start:

Stacey D. Scott, Ph.D
Collaboration Technologies Researcher
University of Waterloo

Dr. Scott is the Program Co-Chair for Tabletop 2007 (IEEE Int'l) Workshop on Horizontal Interactive Human-Computer Systems, held on October 10-12, 2007 in Newport, R.I., in conjunction with UIST 2007 (ACM Symposium on User Interface Software & Technology)

The program for both conferences has a list of presenters and their topics, but no links.

Here are a few more links:

Desney Tan
Bill Buxton
Jeffery Han
Harry "Gravano" van der Veen
On the Tabletop(Stefano Baraldi)

Human-world Interaction from the Refrigerator? G.E.'s Future Concept

This video clip presents a future scenario of how technology can support "human-world" interaction through a system embedded in a kitchen, from G.E. Any comments?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Search phrases leading users to this blog...

I thought I'd post a list of recent search phrases readers use to find this blog:

The Trouble with Computers
advantages of technology to human
kyffin economist
usability professionals' association
interactive design
tech support comedy video
new interaction technology
world people interaction game
technology on human interaction
user support video clip
tara prakriya
Vista supported virtual worlds
tech comedy books
Video clip-technology of a book
video clip ancient help desk
adam greenfield

Putting People First blog from Experientia

I recently came accross the "Putting People First" blog when I was looking for information about usability and user-experience design. The blog focuses on "daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation". The Putting People first blog is coordinated by Mark Vanderbeeken, from the experience-design company Experientia, located in Turin, Italy.

If you have an interest in user-centered design and related topics, take the time to explore the Putting People First blog, as well as the Experientia website.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Trends: New interfaces and new interactions for computing and technology: Link to an article from The Economist

If you are interested in emerging technologies, ubiquitous computing, interface/interaction design, and topics related to usability and user-centered design, a recent article in the Technology Quarterly of The Economist, "The Trouble with Computers" provides a good overview of problems and solutions. The article quotes experts such as Adam Greenfield, the author of "Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing".

My favorite quotes from the article:

"Its an interface designed by engineers for engineers" - Adam Greenfield, on the Nokia 6680 mobile phone.

" programmers and engineers....are often guilty of designing complicated systems packed with too many features...There's a point where humanity just can't handle it." -Steven Kyffin, senior researcher at Philips.

"Ease of use is one area where technology firms can differentiate themselves and gain competitive advantage" --The Economist

"Making computers simpler to use will require more than novel input devices. Smarter software is needed, too." --The Economist

The article goes on to discuss touch screens, gesture-aware interfaces, and context-aware devices and applications.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Interaction Design: Link to post and resources

If you are interested designing applications for in off-the-desktop applications, take a look at a recent post on the Interactive Multimedia Technology blog. You'll find information and links about Dan Saffer's recent book, "Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices".

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Usability/Interaction Hall of Shame (In a Hospital)

As I go about my daily life, I make sure I have my digital camera close at hand, just in case I come across something to submit to the Usability Hall of Shame or Fame.

What were they thinking?

Here is an example of a user-unfriendly interactive touch-screen map on an information kiosk at a large hospital:

An information kiosk that looks like it was torn up by a frustrated hospital visitor:

Here is a picture of a hospital bed/TV remote control in my dad's hospital room. The TV channels could only scroll up, so if you were on Channel 6 and you wanted Channel 5, you had to go up through the remainder of the stations! If you hit a button, different hospital room lights would turn off and on without warning.

For more information about good (and bad) usability design, take a look at the World Usability Day 2007 website.

The following excerpt is from the "making life easy" website from World Usability Day 2006:

"Confusing cash machines, unclear signs, frustrating websites - poor usability is everywhere and it gets in the way of life. Sometimes it is just annoying. At other times it stops us doing what we need to do.

It can even be dangerous.

World Usability Day is an international event promoting the message that people have had enough of things that are hard to use."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Know your user: Video clip comedy depicting tech support interaction with someone transitioning from ancient scrolls to books

This funny video clip highlights the idea that developers can not assume that users share similar approaches to learning new applications and technologies!

I noticed version of this videoclip, entitled "Old School Help Desk", posted on Ladonna Coy's (ladcoy)Technology in Prevention blog.

The scene depicts two medieval European men making the transition from scrolls to books. One man plays the role of the "low-tech" user, new to the concept of "books". Even with the patient support from the help-desk guy, the poor soul continues to be baffled by the book-opening, page-turning, and book-closing process.

If you watch the clip to the end, it closes with a humorous interaction with the new-fangled book's tech manual. The clip has English subtitles, but it is clearly funny in Norwegian.

Off the Desktop: Technology Supported Human-World Interaction

This is the first post of the Technology-Supported Human-World Interaction, or "TSHWI" blog. I'm planning on using this blog as a resource for people interested in developing, using, or learning about user-centered application development for emerging and innovative technologies.

Just after I posted the template for this blog, I came across an intersting article, written by Tara Prakriya, a Microsoft Architect who focuses on the "incubation of emerging markets that leverage pen, touch, and ink". Although the article focuses on Microsoft Vista, much of what's covered in article is useful to people developing for other operating systems.

The article,
"How to Be Where Your Customer Wants to Be" was written for software developers who are making the transition from desktop to the world.

In the article, Prakriya emphasizes that developers must take an "off the desktop" point of view. At first glance, this sounds like mobile computing, but it is much, much more.

Prakriya shares that Microsoft has "done a lot of research with our customers to try and define some core areas and scenarios for which they want and need to use their computers more times of the day. Taken together, we often hear: “Give me more applications to help me when I am traveling, shopping, on the train or bus-basically, fill the gaps where I know access to information can help me.”

What does this mean for developers? According to Prakriya, Vista has many features that will enable developers to tailor applications to meet the needs of users. These features support collaboration, multitasking, time-slicing, and data/note capture.

Prakriya also discusses a number of areas that are open for project development, which is just about anything people do or need when they are away from a desk, including home automation, social communities, personal productivity, navigation or wayfinding, games, education, media, and entertainment.

Prakriya concludes with a pitch for developers to explore user-tailored application development that takes advantage of the Windows Vista Platform, which supports touch-screen systems such as the HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC, the Tablet Kiosk UMPC.

In my opinion, in order to create useful, usable "off the desktop" applications, traditional software developers will need to take on the perspectives of a sociologist, psychologist, and ethnographer in order to anticipate the technology needs of humans across a wide range of settings and situations. This development might very well provide women and people from other disciplines who are considering a career in software development more meaningful opportunities for study and work.

Short list of related resources:

Roy Want's recent articles, published in IEEE Journal of Pervasive Computing, provide a good background for developers who are moving off the desktop:
Carry Small, Live Large and People First, Computers Second

The work of
Don Norman, the author of "The Design of Everyday Things" "The Design fo Future Things" (November 2007), and "Why Things Don't Work" (2008)

Usability Professionals' Association