I aim to shape products, interfaces and services that mediate meaningful dialogues between people, systems and their environments within everyday life.

Posts tagged ‘collaboration’


Nov
10
2009

CASCON 2009 Wrap-Up

The CASCON conference wrapped up last week so here’s a bit of a summary of a few more interesting talks and workshops I attended.

Technology of Google Wave

Alex Nicolaou, Mobile Engineering Manager at Google, presented an inter

esting keynote about Google Wave. He introduced the concept and the idea behind Wave for those who were not familiar with it. He talked about some cool product features I didn’t know about such as grammar-based spell check that can be implemented for various other languages (and perhaps even for programming languages?), uploading photos to create a shared album and access control to different parts of the Wave and private annotations. In terms of platform, robots and gadgets can be added to and embedded in Waves for added interactivity and extended functionality.

As someone who has previewed Google Wave and had been initially confused with the entire application, I posed the question: The current email platform is very simple and easy to use, but using this new paradigm of combining chat, email and Google docs all into one, there seems to be mixed reactions so far. How does Google envision the widespread adoption of the application when the user experience is complex and confusing?

Alex explained that Google didn’t predefine specifics on how one can or should use Wave. Since it does so many things, there are many possibilities in the patterns of usage and behaviours that will emerge. The most interesting uses would be the unexpected activities that were not initially designed for that can arise. I later found a site that lists a wide variety of possible use cases in different contexts, so it will be exciting to see what can come out of Google Wave.

Sensor-Based Support of Clinical Contexts in Hospitals

This engaging workshop was conducted by Mark Chignell, director of the Interactive Media Lab at the University of Toronto. He introducted the use of sensors as a tool in facilitating smart interactions to understand context and situations of our environment so that humans can work smarter, not harder. Smart interactions for health care is significant because of the criticality, complexity and richness of data within the sector. For example, using sensors to identify problematic clinical contexts can provide decision support, simplify tasks, and improve doctor/patient interactions. We had a guest scientist/physician, Dr. Jacques Lee, from Sunnybrook Hospital participate in the discussion, which was quite valuable in understanding the current processes and problems and gaining feedback about idealized scenarios and user study evalutions presented by IML researchers.

Dr. Lee presented an interesting topic that he specializes in: sensing and preventing delirium in the emergency department (ED). Delirium is an acute brain failure that is preventable, common, and is yet easy to miss and lethal. Approximately 30-35% of patients develop delirium as they remain immobile in the ED, but many of these patients are sent home because the condition was never detected by the doctor. Delirium can usually be detected by sensing abnormal extremes (hyperactivity or inactivity) and by testing direct cognitive tasks. Accelerometers attatched to the thigh or behind the ears to sense hyperactive motion are possible solutions for indicators. Questions of practicality and acceptance then must be considered including the visual appearance and obtrusiveness.

Overall the workshop delved into some interesting discussions between designers, researchers, healthcare specialists and technologists regarding the future of sensor-based technologies that can be used to improve current healthcare processes and human-computer/human-human interactions.

Nov
04
2009

L’introduction de Google Wave

La semaine passé, j’ai reçu une invitation pour essayer Google Wave que Google a récemment introduit. On dirait que c’est le nouveau mode de communication et collaboration en ligne, avec l’objectif de révolutionner la façon dont on envoie des courri

els. À présent, les courriels restent simples et utiles dans nos vies quotidiennes, mais il y a quelques problèmes : il y a beaucoup de copies et versions du même courriel qui sont créés et envoyés pour chaque destinataire, on ne peut pas intégrer des contenus de richesses comme des vidéos, des diaporamas, ou des cartes, on doit faire des citations manuelles pour répondre à une partie d’un message et finalement, il n’est pas facile à envoyer une réponse privée à seulement quelques personnes dans un groupe message. Par suite, Google Wave traite une conversation comme un document en direct où toutes les participants partagent une seule copie de ce document. Ce concept permet tous les participants de se collaborer dans le courriel en temps réel.

Après avoir essayé Google Wave, j’étais tellement confus avec l’interface utilisateur. À mon avis, je trouve ce nouveau paradigme de combiner Gmail, Google Docs et Google Talk ensemble un peu déroutant parce qu’au départ, on dirait qu’il est comme une messagerie instantanée glorifiée et les chaînes de conversations sont désordonnées et ne sont pas linéaires. Cet outil est encore en avant-première et n’est pas très pratique, mais afin qu’il soit adopté si répandu comme les courriels on doit chercher des situations intéressantes dans laquelle on peut l’employer.

Nov
03
2009

CASCON 2009: Day 1

Today was my first day at IBM’s CASCON conference featuring talks and workshops from industry leaders and academic researchers.

Computing for a Smarter Planet

The

conference was kick-started with a keynote session by Martin Wildberger from IBM Canada speaking about Computing for a Smarter Planet. As the world becomes smaller, flatter and globally integrated, companies are adjusting their business processes to fit into this transforming ecosystem. As a result, technological solutions are providing businesses innovative and strategic ways for social change.

Wildberger describes our world as becoming instrumented through RFID and ubiquitous technologies, interconnected by networks, process chains and horizontal integration, and intelligent as we collect more data and information. The more data available can provide new insights and thus new intelligence to spur a process of innovation for smarter work, smarter food, or smarter telecom to name a few.

An interesting example discussed was the idea of smarter cities, in which we can incorporate sensor technologies through the infrastructure to make cities cleaner, safer and more efficient. The use of ubiquitous technology can effectively change social behaviours: traffic congestion and pollution in Stockholm was greatly reduced by automatic charges based on flow and time of day, acoustic sensors and recorders in Chicago allow police to triangulate the source of a gunshot, and drivers looking for parking in New York City can be immediately notified of the location of a free parking spot.

Notification Design in Collaborative and Social Networking Environments

This workshop looked at technology as interruption in our daily lives. Joanna McGrenere from UBC presented her research on notification design in the Jazz collaborative development environment before we broke into small groups to examine and discuss instances of notifications in technology, systems and devices. Phone rings, emails, and calendar reminders are obvious examples of notifications as are less noticeable forms such as seat belt signs, PA systems, traffic lights, microwave beeps and elevator floor signs to annoying examples like fire alarms and alarm clocks.

So when does notification become interruption and when are interruptions considered disruptive? We determined that notifications interrupt when they make us stop one activity to attend to the notification. Phone calls and alarm clocks are interrupters while seat belt signs and traffic lights are not.

In terms of the level of disruption that these interruptions cause, it depends on the context of the situation in which we find ourselves, the content of the interruption and how valuable it is to us, how much control we have over the situation, and the frequency and duration of the signal. A false fire alarm is then considered a huge disruptor as it has no value to us, forces us to evacuate a building, and continually signals off loudly for an extended period of time. Another big disruptor occurs when software/OS updates take full control of our system and we are left twiddling our thumbs in front of the screen until it has completed.

The subject of the new Google Wave came up in regards to its playback concept, in which the non-linear collaborative discussion can be played back see how the conversation unfolded in context.This could be an interesting platform in which notifications can be eliminated; rather than receive notifications every time an update has been made and by whom, users can now simply access the conversation whenever they want and still remain in the know.

Aug
13
2009

Humanthesizer

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Electro-pop artist, Calvin Harris, uses bodies as a human synthesizers to create music using Bare Conductive, a skin-safe conductive ink. By applying ink onto the skin, a closed circuit can be created via touch, gesture and movement to allow electrical currents to flow through. Watch the making of video below.

Here is a video explaining more about Bare and the exploration of the technology through dance and movement.

Apr
09
2009

Teams and T-Shirts

I’m currently reading The Art of Innovation, in which the author discusses the significance of team shirts (making and/or wearing) to create a sense of belonging to a team. He goes on to explain that the impact of solid teamwork produces better results. After reading that I thought the t-shirt aspect was fun but a bit silly and non-essential. Isn’t it usually just natural group dynamics that drive a successful team?

Not long after reading about this idea, I had a lecture in my Introduction to Sociable Robots class that covered the topic of teamwork between humans and robots. Conducted studies revealed that when a team identity was created for a human-robot team through either wearing the same t-shirts or dressing alike, teammates think more highly of each other, have better co-operation, agree more, and value each other more. With this sense of team unity, teams are also able to complete a task better and faster.

It’s quite interesting then that something as simple as a team t-shirt can create such an impact.

Mar
20
2009

Travel Experiences

I just started a new project for my Collaborative Workshop run in conjunction with Tsinghua University in Beijing. My team consists of 3 members from Hong Kong and 3 from Beijing so it will be an interesting exercise in communication and teamwork . The project is focused on the “independent tourist on the go,” where the independent traveller is defined as one that arranges their own travel plans rather than going on an organized tour or travelling on business.

We targeted a broad group of travellers that we categorized as the Wandering Traveller, who is spontaneous, free-spirited and loves to connect with the local culture and people while exploring the world. To get a better sense of these travellers, we set up an online survey to collect stories, memories, and photos of people’s travel experiences to understand their values, motivations and what they deem important while abroad.

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From our collected surveys, we categorized our wandering travellers into 3 types: those who are “On My Own” enjoy travelling solo and being challenged, “Laid-Back ‘Locals'”  do not feel the need to sightsee but rather just enjoy the place as an everyday local, while those who are “On a Mission” are goal-oriented and create schedules to see and do as much things as possible.

We decided to target our use group to that of the solo traveller as these travellers seemed more varied and interesting. We conducted in-depth interviews to get a better sense of their various backgrounds and demographics, their motivations for travelling alone, and to understand their different concerns and needs while travelling.

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After the interviews we were able to illustrate a more detailed description of our target group: the Solo Culture Seeker.

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These people come from all around the world of different ethnicities and speaking different languages. We found that many of them tend to travel outside their own geographic area (and outside their own comfort zone). We found a correlation between sociability and the level of adventure exhibited by travellers, that is, the more sociable the traveller and more willing to communicate with other strangers, the more adventurous he/she tends to be.

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Dec
21
2008

One Stop Shop

Over the course of this fall term, my graduate studio workshop, lead by Elaine Ann of Kaizor Innovation, was sponsored by the Hong Kong government’s Efficiency Unit to create a “One Stop Shop” employment centre in which all employment services are centralized in one location. This collaboration was the first of its kind in Hong Kong with the aim to inspire the goverment with innovative ideas and to demonstrate the importance and value of design collaboration.

The aim of the One Stop Shop is to improve the job seeking experience for users and to improve the operational efficiency for government staff. Through a 3.5 month process we started with user research by interviewing users and staff and conducting on-site interviews then analyzed user needs and identified problems with the existing process.  With my partner, we used these insights to inform out concept designs from a service and system approach, and held an interim concept presentation for our clients.  The clients were incredibly receptive of my team’s concepts and presentation, which was a great sign.  For our final presentation we focused on a few important interaction points to flesh out the design details, and presented a comprehensive, persuasive and compelling arguments for our complete design solutions. In the end, my partner and I won the silver award and a cash prize of HKD $12,000.  Next spring our projects will be published in a book to be circulated through all the government departments.

What a wonderful experience for a school project.


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