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

Posts tagged ‘everyday’


Bret Victor’s Rant of the Future of Interaction Design

As a reaction to Microsoft’s recent future vision video, software engineer (and a former concept designer at Apple) Bret Victor wrote a fantastic post entitled “A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design.”

Victor rants that this future vision is not visionary at all. It focuses too much on screen interaction, which is is not that much different from our experience with our current devices. Case in point, look at all these ‘future’ interactions in Microsoft’s concept:

Each one of these scenes involves a flat screen. Yet, Victor also points out (and passionately so) that each interaction touchpoint involves the use of… hands! As humans, we have not only our fingers but our hands, arms and entire bodies that enable us to manipulate and interact with the natural world and to understand the tactile feedback we receive in return. So why should we be limited to finger pointing on a screen?

He illustrates the many ways in which we can use our hands to manipulate things that we could not possibly express via screen-based interactions:

Rather than limiting people to finger tapping/swiping, we should be inspired by our own human capabilities to design and enable a richer and more expressive interaction with our future tools.

Despite how it appears to the culture at large, technology doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t emerge spontaneously, like mold on cheese. Revolutionary technology comes out of long research, and research is performed and funded by inspired people.

And this is my plea — be inspired by the untapped potential of human capabilities. Don’t just extrapolate yesterday’s technology and then cram people into it. […] Pictures Under Glass is old news. Let’s start using our hands.

Victor ends with a question that nicely sums up his entire point:

With an entire body at your command, do you seriously think the Future Of Interaction should be a single finger?


Wayfinding in Colombia

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Source: wikipedia

Colombian cities and towns are mostly organized on grid plans, where streets running north-south are known as Carreras and streets running east-west are Calles. Other types of streets include Diagonales and Transversales. Street orientation is quite simple as they are numbered sequentially.

The most interesting aspect is their addressing system, which consists of a series of numbers in the form Calle 23 No 5-43, for example. This address refers to the building on Calle 23, 43m from the corner of Carrera 5 toward Carrera 6. Given any address, it’s possible to accurately pinpoint any place using this format, making it one of the most precise addressing systems in the world. Quite an easy and practical wayfinding system.


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


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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.


Canada dans 50 ans : la technologie

La semaine passée, j’ai fait une courte présentation sur l’avenir du Canada en 50 ans en focalisant au sujet de la technologie.

Je vous présente mes idées en commençant avec une histoire moderne en bref, puis je me suis concentrée sur les idées de

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l’information, la communication et la sécurité. Je vais parler des conséquences possibles de l’avenir fondé sur les tendances courant. Ma présentation commence premièrement avec la situation négative, puis suivi de la situation positive.


Dans l’histoire moderne d’humanité, nous avons observé beaucoup de changements et progressions technologiques qui sont responsables de la transformation de notre société et le monde entier.) En général, ces progressions technologiques ont un aspect positif et un aspect négatif.

Par exemple :

  1. La presse typographique de Gutenberg est considérée comme une révolution d’informatique qui propage et préserve la connaissance. ette connaissance encourage l’individualisme, mais en même temps, à cause de cette révolution d’informatique la censure est devenue plus stricte.
  2. Les téléphones relient les personnes à longues distances ensemble, mais ils peuvent être aussi sujet d’être sur l’écoute (« tapped »).
  3. La radio et la télévision ont permis les émissions et l’éducation répandues, mais peuvent être aussi soumis à la propagande.
  4. L’internet nous permet de communiquer avec n’importe qui à travers le monde, mais toutes les communications sur le World Wide Web sont des messages qui peuvent être lus et tracés.

Surtout, dans les dernières décennies, le progrès technologique est composé de l’internet, les téléphones cellulaires, les télécommunications sans fil, les télécommunications au temps réel, les conférences par vidéo, la collaboration à distance, etc. Ces nouvelles technologies sont devenues omniprésents (partout à la fois « ubiquitous ») et nous permettent de relier avec les autres à travers les frontières géographiques.


Au présent, il y a beaucoup de modes de sécurités et surveillances qui nous protègent. Beaucoup de pays ont déjà introduit les passeports électroniques et le Canada va les suivre en 2011. Ces passeports incluent une puce informatique (« computer chip ») avec une photo numérique qui contient l’information biométrique comme les empreintes digitales et des scanners du visage et de l’iris. Dans l’avenir, le gouvernement peut implanter des traceurs aux corps de chaque personne pour les traquer partout et autour du monde.

A cause de l’influence politique des États-Unis sur le Canada pour la surveillance et la sécurité vis-à-vis du terrorisme, la société canadienne va devenir un monde pareil à celui d’Orson Welles dans son livre 1984 où les citoyens sont toujours sous surveillance. Tout nos détails et informations personnelles et tout ce que nous faisons – soit les communications, soit les conversations, ou même des habitudes comme nos modèles de mobilité et chaque mouvement dans nos maisons – seraient surveillés et enregistré dans une base de données ( « database ») massive.

Dans ce monde de conflit, les caméras sont omniprésentes pour exiger le contrôle social. Avec les dangers de bioterrorisme et les maladies, il y aura une augmentation de télécommunication au lieu des rencontres personnels : le résultat de ces événements est une diminution du contact humain et des individus deviennent plus isolés.



Dans 50 ans, la technologie omniprésente et la réalité augmentée sera intégrée dans nos vies et nos environnements quotidiens. C’est-à-dire : toutes nos tâches et actions vont être plus facile à faire, plus accessibles et plus pratique.

On peut vivre dans une société sans argent physique où on peut simplement porter une carte électronique comme un portefeuille numérique. Avec cette seule carte on peut choisir le contexte pour l’usage, soit une carte de crédit, soit une carte de santé. Quand on fait des achats, on peut simplement sortir du magasin et le totale des achats serait déduit automatiquement de notre compte en banque avec la détection d’un portefeuille numérique.

La connectivité de peuples par la technologie encourage la liberté de l’information, l’inclusion et l’égalité. Dans ce monde toutes les personnes peuvent communiquer avec n’importe qui, n’importe où, dans n’importe quelle langue avec une traduction de langage au temps réels.

Parce que la technologie sera moins chère, elle va être disponible à tout. Mêmes les pays en développement peuvent offrir leurs citoyens les téléphones mobiles ou les portables pour leur permettre de se communiquer et de s’informer. Dans l’avenir, cette connectivité permettra à ces personnes d’être plus éduqué et productive et d’avoir plus de possibilités.

Alors, en 50 ans, il n’y aura plus les inégalités sociales et nous serons tous relié avec l’un à l’autre.



Japanese Elevator Buttons

Many elevators in Japan have two sets of buttons. One standard set and one set lower than usual, whether it be directly beneath the first or oriented horizontally right next to a vertical set. When I first encountered two sets of up/down buttons, I h

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ad to pause for a few seconds before pressing a button. I was initially wondering whether the different buttons mapped to different elevator shafts, but later I realized the lower set was made for handicap accessibility.jp_elevator

This consideration make reasonable sense, but in practice the design looks confusing and redundant. For the up/down buttons (pictured on left), why not just have one set of buttons placed lower? As for the floor number buttons inside the elevator (pictured right), I ended up using the horizontal panel more often as this was what I saw first walking into the elevator and it was more informative with a display of the current floor number. Thus, the vertical panel could be eliminated as well.


Analyzing Vending Machine Interaction

We focused our analysis on the drink machines we found on the HK PolyU campus and examined the current task scenario of buying a drink. James documents his experience as follows:


After walking through the scenario we documented the problems we encountered:


  • requires preselecting monetary amount for desired drink
  • narrow coin slot is quite cumbersome and time-consuming
  • requires adequate control of manual dexterity
  • using the Octopus card
  • close proximity to the card reader will inadvertently process the transaction automatically when selecting a deduction amount
  • confusion between product interface and associated transaction interface

Information and Selection

  • pressing wrong button accidentally
  • not realizing desired drink is sold out


  • physically bend down, flip up flap, reach into machine to pick up drink
  • problematic for those with physical limitations
  • not enjoyable or hygenic to stick hand in the dark, unclean slot

User Experience


Source: http://www.uselog.com/2007/11/please-do-not-hump-vending-machine.html

We encountered a lot of interaction points that provide an experience that is not enjoyable nor delightful. If we look at the vending machine with goals of convenience offering quick, self-service for purchasing small snacks and refreshments, we can liken them to convenience stores like 7-11. Let us consider the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages Customers have visual information of the actual drinks and availability. They can use the physical action of picking up a drink, read the information, re-select, etc. before making a decision. Payment is easy and natural via cash (bills and coins) or Octopus. Additionally, going to a store is a sociable activity; people tend to go as a group eat together afterward.

Disadvantages Stores are located in certain locations and only open only during particular hours, so people are limited to location and time. Another problem customers encounter are long lineups during busy hours.

Social and Cultural Dimensions

An interesting side observation we noted was the role of communication and cultural dimensions that played into people’s decisions and behaviours in relation to the use of the vending machine. In a collectivist society such as Hong Kong, people tend to look to others for decision-making cues; that is, people are influenced by what they see others doing. In our studio, there have been “trends” of popular drinks that everyone will start drinking. Once somebody has started to drink melon soy milk and continue that pattern, others will notice and subsequently try out the drink as well. And now, the melon soy milk will often be sold out!


Vending Machines as Tangible Interaction

In my Tangible Interaction workshop lead by Philip’s creative director Paul Neervoort, we’re examining existing examples of physical interaction and finding solutions to improve the interaction.

I considered the example of the vending machine, in which the physical action sequence of inserting coins, pressing a button to select a drink and bending down to collect the drink completes the interaction process. In Hong Kong, rather than inserting coins however, one may simply swipe the Octopus to deduct the stored-value on the card rather than using coins.

The swooping action of inserting coins/swiping card and collecting the drink is quite simple and universal among vending machines, but let’s examine the problems one may encounter with this existing model.

Firstly, the insertion of coins one by one into a narrow slot is quite cumbersome and time-consuming, requiring adequate control of manual dexterity. In the case of using the Octopus card, when approaching the machine with card in hand to select the money value to deduct from the card, close proximity of the hand to the card reader will inadvertantly process the transaction automatically. So, if one was in the process of reaching (and holding the card) to toggle the charge value from HKD$5.50 to $4.50, the proximity of the card would “doot” and deduct $5.50, effectively charging $1 extra for the user’s preferred drink or forcing the user to select a more expensive drink he did not want. A frustrating experience indeed, but perhaps not as much as Japan’s confusing vending machine payment method using mobile phones.

The next consideration is the way a user can select a drink. The traditional machine displays all the products at once, allowing the user to quickly scan the available choices. Buttons act as the input selection, but sometimes the user may accidentally press the wrong button and get stuck with something that she didn’t want.


Source: http://springwise.com/marketing_advertising/samsung_and_coke_launch_touch-/

Samsung has actually developed a uVending touch-screen technology for vending machines to add some more interactivity.

From this demo, I actually don’t see much value in being able to “interact” virtually with the product, and I would much rather get a quick overview of all the available product options with one glance rather than scroll through individual products.

Finally, there’s the final action of receiving the drink. Most vending machines I have encountered requires the user to bend down and reach through a flap to collect the item. Is it necessary to make the user expend extra energy to buy a drink, especially for those that have physical limitations?

These are general issues to think about when we further explore ideas and solutions to create an easier and more appropriate vending machine interaction.

Below I found a fun video of a student project of a redesigned vending machine experience.  Some of its design elements addresses the issues I have just discussed.