Sunday, April 27, 2008

Link to article: Demonstrating the Feasibility of Using Forearm Electromyography for Muscle-Computer Interfaces

I couldn't resist posting a link to an interesting article, Demonstrating the Feasibility of Using Forearm Electromyography for Muscle-Computer Interfaces, that was shared at the recent CHI 2008 conference in Florence, Italy.

  • CHI 2008, April 5–10, 2008, Florence, Italy.
    Copyright 2008 ACM 978-1-60558-011-1/08/04

For an easy-to-read summary of this research, take a look at High-tech armband puts your fingers in control, written by Paul Marks, in NewScientistTech.

About the Authors:

Desney Tan, a researcher at Microsoft, is one of the article's authors. Tan is known for his research with large screen displays, and also for his work with emerging forms of human/computer/technology interaction. T. Scott Saponas is a fourth-year Ph.D student at the University of Washington and was recently selected as a 2008 Microsoft Research Fellow. Ravin Balakrishnan is an associate professor at of computer science at the University of Toronto. (Balakrishnan was the co-author of Exploring the feasibility of video mail for illiterate users. Proceedings of AVI 2008 - the Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces.)

Back Story:

I came across this article while preparing slides for a presentation during a pre-conference session at the Games for Health conference in May. I'll be discussing usability and accessibility considerations for children's games for health in K-12 settings, from a UDL (Universal Design for Learning) perspective. UDL is closely related to the concepts of Universal Design and Universal Usability(pdf).

A muscle-computer interface might provide some creative ways to include students with special needs many more opportunities to participate with their "non-disabled" peers, especially in inclusive classrooms.

Traditional assistive technology input devices don't quite make it for some of the students, as many are difficult for teachers, therapists, or parents to program. The purpose behind the devices is to allow one student to access applications- or games- on one computer (or console). In many cases, the devices only work on certain applications or websites. Even if the student CAN access the application, game, or website through an assistive device, the application might not be designed to accommodate the special needs, or accommodate alternate modes of input, interaction, or feedback.

Although assistive technology and augmented communication devices used in education setting allows for some peer-to-peer and student-to-staff-to-student interaction, it is not designed for collaborative technologies, including multi-user learning games and applications, such as EduSim, that usually run on on larger displays and interactive whiteboards, found an increasing number of classrooms.

The muCI interface might prove to be an effective way for children, teens, and adults with special needs to interact with kiosks and interactive information displays that they come across in the community. These displays are becoming ubiquitous in in retail environments, museums, airports, hospitals, and other public spaces. If the applications for displays in public spaces are designed to allow for input from something like the muCI interface, and if future versions of the muCI interface are designed for cross-platform interoperability, the chances of effective community integration for people with special needs of all ages will be vastly improved.

We have a long way to go. It is essential that the teams who participate in this type of research include people from a variety of disciplines and examine this space from a broader perspective.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

PaloJono's post about empathic design methods

I came across a thoughtful post on the PaloJono blog about empathic design methods in HCI today, in response to Peter Wright and John McCarthy recent presentation on the topic at the  26th annual SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems during the Dignity in Design session.   

Take some time and read the post, which links to the abstract of the article on the ACM website! 

(I'll post a bit more, when I get a moment.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Green IT, Carry Small, Live Large Concept Update: Nokia's noBounds Project, via Internet Tablet Talk

Roy Want wrote an interesting article, Carry Small, Live Large, for the introduction of the IEEE Pervasive Computing Issue 3, 2007. In this article, he discusses applications for large high-quality displays in urban public spaces, taking advantage of UltraWideBand for Wireless USB. In the future, Roy portends that our mobile devices- SmartPhones, will interoperate with large wireless displays, furthering the dream of pervasive computing.

Nokia Research Center in Germany is woking towards the "Carry Small, Live Large" concept. It is also an example of "Green IT". This is good news for me, a proud owner of a Nokia n800.

Here is the video of the noBounds project:

noBounds! - blast Smartphones display bounds! from Bernd Steinke on Vimeo.

According to a post by Reggie, on IInternet Tablet Talk, noBounds provides a low-power solution for mobile users to expand Smartphone and Internet Tablet screens to higher resolution external displays such as high definition (HD) panels, projectors, and near-to-eye displays (NED). The project aims to output video at FullHD (1920×1080p) at 30 frames per second (faster on partial display changes) via USB or WLAN. Connect a USB keyboard or a mouse, an you have a mobile personal computer anywhere you go."

"...noBounds allows not only to attach an external high resolution display to a mobile device very efficiently, but allows also to seamlessly use available input devices such as a keyboard or a USB mouse. Thus, it can act as a complete Laptop or PC replacement for the majority of PC applications. Since the solution has a ultra low power dissipation (no fans needed & longtime battery powered) it has the potential to revolutionize the classical IT environment (Green IT): The users have all their data and processing capabilities in a mobile device, yet are able to use the ergonomic peripherals they are used to in a PC environment."

A fully mobile usage with a single 1200mAh phone battery powering the phone, USB and an Near to Eye Display (NED) estimates to allow more than 6 hours typical office application usage time without a power supply."

Wouldn't it be great if some of the large displays that are cropping up in public spaces were accessible to our mobile devices?

I love my Nokia n800. I love large displays... maybe I can get it all connected some day.

Not-so-useful large information displays in a university building

My experiences with most large screen displays, as I've mentioned previously on this blog, are nowhere near the interaction I see in my dreams. If we are going to move forward with our emerging technologies, we have to be able to do the no-tech/lower tech things better!

In the following two video clips, you'll see that even with a variety of large screen displays, it is difficult to find your way around a university building. Floor levels are not clearly defined, the framed map of the building is difficult to understand, and the rooms and offices are numbered in an illogical order. From looking at the numbers on the elevator, it is difficult to determine what floor you are standing on.

With all of the talk about "engaging user experiences", "user-centered design", and "usability", I've been hoping for much more, even from a university building. There is no way for an infrequent visitor to know of all the creativity and collaboration that takes place within the walls of Woodward Hall.

This gentleman was frustrated trying to find his way around the building:

This next video shows a bit more of the problem, including some confusing content on large-screen displays:

Microsoft Research: Being Human: Human Computer Interaction in the Year 2020

Being Human: Human Computer Interaction in the Year 2020
(Microsoft Research)

I'm reading this now and will update this post with my comments.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

thirteen23's Touch Screen Information Kiosk: A GOOD Example of Touch-screen Interaction and Content

Here is a breath of fresh air.  If you are familiar with this blog, you know how much I love positive user experiences and usable interactive design and content.  Most of what I find, unfortunately, I've relegated to the Interaction Usability Hall of Shame.

Thirteen23's work is a breath of fresh air.   It has the top spot in my Interaction Usability Hall of Fame.

thirteen23's entry for Microsoft's PhizzPop design challenge won first place in their division and will go on to Austin, Texas.   The team had just three days to put together their design, an  interactive kiosk that provides dynamic mapping and proximity-based services. (The map was developed using Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation.)

           To view the video, visit thirteen23.

According to
Josh Holmes,  36 design teams were rated on the following criteria:

Satisfaction of Constituent Needs:
  • How well does the needs of the constituencies as defined by the profile? 
  • Is the experience appropriate for the audience? 
  • How elegant is the experience?

Satisfaction of the Market
  • How well does the solution address the market needs? 
  • Will the solution work across all of the identified constituencies?

Uniqueness of the solution: 
  • Is the solution unique, differentiated and defensible?
Technical Excellence: 
  • Was the team able to build a working solution (however limited), or is it purely a scripted prototype?
  • How visually appealing is the solution?

Imagine how the world would look and feel if more people followed these guidelines! 

Here are some video clips from thirteen23 that show good large touch-screen usability in action:

Touch screen movie kiosk:

Here is another example of thirteen23's "ease of use" approach:

         To view the video, visit thirteen23.
"Based on the NikeID experience, this in-store configurator allows users to select and customize their athletic shoe using a touch screen interface"

thirteen23's discussion of integrated retail.  The company also provides desktop and mobile solutions.