Sunday, May 3, 2009

Usability Evaluation Considered Harmful

Usability Evaluation Considered Harmful

In this paper the authors critics the usability evaluations prevalence and necessity in the academic arena and in the industry. They talk about how many CHI papers won't even be considered without a quantitative usability evaluation. They claim that the current usability evaluations in practice are often times missused or simply not necessary. They sum everything up by stating that usability evaluations are good but to be open for non-empirical methods as well. This was an interesting paper but seems was dragged out 5 pages too long.

Human-Centered Design Considered Harmful

Human-Centered Design Considered Harmful

I'm fairly confident that I would be able to identify the author after reading it having not been told who wrote it. It has Norman written all over it. I found it very interesting when he discussed the idea that we try to make technology adapt to people too much and that people should adapt to technology more. He argued thats how many of the most popular tools of our civilized world came about through the adaptation of man. I also liked his proposal of not listening to users, that was very entertaining. He makes good points about all of his critics of human-centered design and it is something to think about when designing. I enjoy reading things Norma writes even if they get a little crazy. It is always an interesting read.

Ethnography Considered Harmful

Ethnography Considered Harmful

This is a critical essay on the current practices of ethnographies. The authors talk about new practices for ethnography's while criticizing the old. They do offer critics of the new ideas but I think this essay was more of a literary exercise for them than anything worth reading. They made use of well constructed sentences and obscure quotes that often times were barely relevant. I don't think I gained anything from reading this paper and wish they could give me my time back.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

CHI 2009: Musink

Musink: composing music through augmented drawing
by Theophanis Tsandilas, Catherine Letondal & Wendy E. Mackay
Univ. Paris-Du, Orsay Cedex, France

Musink pdf
Musink Video

This paper attempts to provide a transition between paper and computer for composers. It allows for composers to freely use their creativity on paper and translate it to the computer. Using OpenMusic software they recorded gestures from a pen on paper and put the gestures on the computer for the OpenMusic software to then use the gestures and put meaning to them.

According to their surveys and studies with composers the technique was supposedly liked. However, I am not sure how effective it would be in the real creative process when errors and scratch notes are prevalent.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

UIST 2007 - Hybrid Infrared and Visible Light Projection for Location Tracking

UIST 2007 - Hybrid Infrared and Visible Light Projection for Location Tracking
by Johnny Chung Lee, Scott Hudson, Paul Dietz {Carnegie Mellon University & Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs}

This paper discusses their prototype for a hybrid infrared and visible light projector for location tracking. The idea of the prototype is to solve the application issues of many other interactive projection systems. An example of previous interactive projection systems can be seen in Figure 1. The problem with these projects for practical use is the difficulty of image alignment and location tracking, which the hybrid infrared and visible light projector attempts to solve.

In previous work the use of projecting a series of patterns which uniquely identifies each pixel in the projector's screen. See Figure 2. Using this technique but with invisible infrared light a projector can overlay the location discovery infrared lights on top of the viewing visible light to have an intractable projector.

The prototype created uses LED's as apposed to the expensive high wattage Xenon gas bulb used in DLP. The LED's consist of 24 high output visible-light LED's and 24 high output near infrared LED's shown in Figure 3. The prototype did not add RGB color arrays since it would be a trivial task for it to be added for commercial use. The infrared LED's then are received using Vishay 56KHZ IR receivers (hand held style pen).

For rear projected displays a style pen using the IR receiver is used to interact with the projected display. See Figure 5. For front projected display a style pen is not possible due to hand and body blocking the projected image. However, a hand-held focus lens can be held a short distance away to receive the IR reflected off of not only flat but spatial images as well. See Figure 6.

The authors also make note of the ease of replacing current rear projected display systems with their prototype and thus creating an interactable display device with only a few alterations.

The authors of the paper mention that the Nintendo Wii Controller uses IR LED emitters and a handheld IR camera for tracking but don't really go into any speculations on some potential applications. To me it seems very plausable for this technology to be used with console systems to allow for more procise controls using a handle held controller similar to that of the Wii Conroller. Also, remote controlers for the TV could become interactable controlers, pointing and clicking instead of scrolling.

Figure 1. Tracking the location of a hand-held surface and then projecting content to simulate an active display.

Figure 2. Two views of our projector output: a test pattern seen in infrared (left) and a visible light image (right)

Figure 3. Light source of 24 red (clear) and 24 infrared (dark) high-output light emitting diodes.

Figure 4. Inside our projector: A) LED light source B) culminating lens C) DMD device and D) projection lens.

Figure 5. A stylus with a light sensor (insert) used to interact with a rear-projected display.

Figure 6. A stylus utilizing a focusing lens (insert) for distant pointing on non-planar and discontinuous surfaces.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Emotional Design by Donald Norman

Don takes a look at emotion and design in this book. He argues the idea that in order for media to communicat better with people it needs to be able to understand our emotion and in order to do that it needs to have emotions as well. He makes references to the Reeves & Nass book The Media equation when talking about this. He stresses three levels of design: Visceral, Behavioral, and Reflective and that the best products attempt to use all three of these in its design.

This book is a lot less repetative than Future Designs and really addresses some good fundamentals. I would say it is comparable to his first book The Design of Everyday Things. I am hesitant to compare the two though because I read his first book when it was dated and it's really unfair to compare the two because when the first one was published it was very ground breaking. 

The only problem I had with this book was Norman's logic when trying to make the argument that media needs emotion. He claimed that without emotion something like the Roomba would have no "incentive" to do a better job of cleaning because it wouldn't have "pride". I thought this was a circular argument. First of all media doesn't have incentive that implies that it has free-will and a choice of whether it wants to actually do what it was designed to do. Media only does what it is programmed to do and I would hope that it is programmed to clean as best as it can. The media would have to have emotions already to make the "incentive" argument so to say media needs emotions or else they might emotionally decide to not do as good is retarded.

Also, I don't really like the idea of media having emotions to begin with. My media devices should be tools not friends. I don't want to have to deal with any kind of retarded ethical dilemma later down the line with the slavery of media devices that some nut-case (probably from PETA) proposes. Plus I already have to deal with emotional women much less adding my iPod to the list of things I don't want to see cry.

The Design of Future Things by Donald Norman


Norman attempts to extend and modernize his widely acclaimed book The Design of Everyday things and takes a look at the future. He looks at cars and future automation of our motor vehicles as well as talking about the psychology of people and machines. In addition he takes a look at automation in general and talks about its role in future designs.

This book can be skipped. The only interesting thing to me was when he talked about the different ways of automating cars with swarm and platoon techniques. Unless you want to count the afterword when he goes crazy, that was...interesting. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

CHI 2008: Collaborative Interaction with Volumetric Displays

Collaborative Interaction with Volumetric Displays by Tovi Grossman, Ravin Balakrishnan

This paper tries to address the difficulties with collaborative interaction with volumetric displays. They use the Actuality Systems Volumetric Display (see first short video). The way the volumetric display works is there is a virtical projection screen that rotates around the virtical Z axis and a projection engine using relay optics that projects an imagine onto this spinning screen so that a 3D image is then seen by the user (see image below).

Collaborative control is used with handheld devices to manipulate the display and hats with sensors are used to determine different users position around the display.

The paper goes into great detail on some of the many problems with collaborative interaction in general 2D space and then addressses some new problems that arise in 3D space. The prototype they create attempts to solve many of these problems including: location awareness, navigation, 3D cursors, options dialog box, etc.

The paper also talks about their unique algorithm for hidden surface removal. This always for the user, depending on his position around the volumetric display to only see that side of the 3D object, as opposed to seeing outlines through the object of the otherside.

Seems like very useful research beginning research. They made a point to say that their goal was not to show cool ways of interacting with it which is why the used hand held remote controls and keyboards, but to come up with a way of collaboratively interacting with volumetric displays. So the hardware technology may not be that impressive compared to some other volumetric display research, the fact that the software is designed for collaborative interaction is the main thing to keep in mind.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Man Who Shocked The World by Thomas Blass, PH.D.


This is a biography of the life of Stanley Milgram. Blass starts with a very detailed description of Milgrams parents their Jewish heritage and quickly dives into Milgrams education and the struggles he faced. Blass covers not only Milgrams famous Obedience experiments but also describes the conformity experiments he did leading up to the Obedience experiments as well as many other experiments after the Obedience experiments such as the Six Degrees of separation, and his many Urban City experiments. Thomas didn't gloss over some of Milgrams failures either as he talked about Milgrams Cyranoid experiment attempts.

I really enjoyed this book, mainly because of my side interest in psychology/sociology. I found all of the experiments Milgram did very interesting. Towards the end of his life however, his experiments did seem pretty out there and not very applicable to any kind of serious study. For the most part Blass was pretty objective in describing Stanley's life however, at times I guess he couldn't help himself and was more than willing to give his two cents on Milgrams failures or bad judgement. Overall, it was a good biography on the life and legacy of Stanley Milgram.

The Mole People by Jennifer Toth


Jennifer Toth documents several trips down into the tunnels beneath New York City as she immerses herself into the lives of the "Mole People". Her ethnography on the mole people covers mostly qualitative data on the culture as opposed to quantitative. She describes the living conditions of various underground tunnels throughout New York City in addition to describing in great detail the individual people she encountered. Toth addresses the different reasons people are forced underground and discovers that many do not even wish to return to the surface. Women, men, children, runaways, drug addicts, and gangs are all among the many different kinds of people she interviews and comes in contact with during her study.

This book was very beneficial to the ethnography I later did on the culture of open-mic events. The qualitative data she collected gave me a good example to follow in collecting the qualitative data for my ethnography. As a computer scientist the qualitative approach was very informative since we are mostly exposed to a more quantitative approach when collecting data. Overall I felt the book was a good and easy read. At times I felt it got side-tracked in talking about tunnels of different cities and it felt like Toth glossed over some of the dangerous situations she was thrown into and didn't go into enough detail on the fear she must have felt. Even though it was an ethnography and she should be separated from the culture, I feel describing what she was feeling would paint a better picture of the situation and event to the reader to better understand the culture.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Second Light

Going Beyond the Display: A Surface Technology with an Electronically Switchable Diffuser
by Shahram Izadi, Steve Hodges, Stuart Taylor, Dan Rosenfeld, Nicolas Villar, Alex Butler, and Jonathan Westhues

Second Light is an interactable display tabletop that uses switchable diffusers for simultaneous projection on and through the surface without contamination. It uses FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy) multi-touch on the surface and on a secondary surface display above the tabletop for input.

How It Works:
The idea is there are two projectors that project two different images only out of phase with each other and the tabletop diffuser will turn opaque and clear at the same frequency of the projectors so that one projector will show up on the tabletop when the diffuser is opaque and the other projector will show up on a second cheap hand-held page above the tabletop display. Hand-held displays can have an FTIR battery operated device attached to it so that input can also be made on the separate display held above the tabletop.

My Thoughts:
I had already stumbled apon this prior to reading this article when I was "youtubeing" Microsoft Surface via the videos posted below. The technology has a lot of potential assuming developers utilize all its capabilities. My concerns right now are the expense (which is something ridiculous like $12k or something) and the fact that Microsoft has their hands on it, which typically means developers will be forced to try to develop apps for it with their hands tied behind their backs.

Eye-Candy Videos:

Open-Mic Ethnography

I decided to do an ethnography on the culture of people who attend open-mic's as well as provide some insight for someone wanting to do an open-mic for the first time. I decided to go to Revolution Cafe & Bar's open-mic, which is held every Wednesday starting around 9:30pm. I brought my Flip Video Recorder to try and document some of the people performing to get an understanding of what kind of performances were done at this open-mic. While I was there I talked to as many people as I could and basically interviewed them without their knowledge trying to get as much information about them as I could without seeming creepy.

I came in with the hypothesis that there would be a common culture among the people there and that given Revolutions reputation as a music venue there would be a lot of music snobs. I was pretty much wrong on both accounts. The only common culture among the people there is their love for music. Other than that it is a place full of the most diverse group of people you can find in College Station. There are punk rockers, emo's, rave enthusiasts, country music fans, and pretty much anyone from any group you can think of that has a love for music. And as far as the music snobs go, people were very nice to me when I performed. After I played people would come up to me to say something encouraging about my performance. This out of their way behavior more than likely was a result that I told them before I played that it was my first open-mic, but it does show how receptive they are for new comers.


Friday, February 6, 2009

The Media Equation by Byron Reeves & Clifford Nass

Posted on:

Reeves and Nass attempt to prove the idea that media = real life (The Media Equation) in this book. They set up a bunch of experiments that go about showing how people treat various forms of media (computers, TV's, etc.) like the real life things they are attempting to emulate. They address many human behaviors such as manners, personality, emotion, social roles, and form. They provide very compelling studies on human behavior with media, many of which the results are counter-intuitive.

The underlining question that this book is trying to answer is a philosophical one, "If you treat something like real life does that make it real life?". Reeves and Nass say yes and they go about demonstrating how people treat media like real life. However, this proves nothing. It just shows how people treat media like real life. The authors do do some pretty thought provoking experiments with human behavior and media and it does give some very good insight into computer-human interaction, but it is not evidence to a philosophical question. Now I'm sure someone could put together some very compelling arguments for media = real life and it would be fun to discuss, but that's not what the book discussed. Which is good because then it wouldn't be a very good source for computer-human interaction. I just found it very difficult to read because I couldn't bring myself to stop disagreeing with the conclusions they were going for. Overall it's a good book to read for computer-human interaction and I would recommend it to someone but would be very torn with whether or not to warn them about the conclusions the book tries to make.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Everyday Designs

My shower faucet is an excellent example of how all faucets should be designed. I've never come across this until I moved in to my current apartment. Most faucets require you to mix warm and cold water yourself to find the preferred temperature, which is very annoying to have to figure out every time you want luke-warm water. With this faucet I can leave the temperature at the same place each time I use it. The only time I ever have to adjust the temperature knob is if I take a shower right after my roommate and that's because there is less hot-water. 

This next video is a perfect example of the quality designs 
that Apple has been producing for the mass consumer ever since Steve Jobs came back to the company, courtesy of The Onion.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

Every engineer or person who has anything to do with the design of products should read this book at least once. The Design of Everyday Things talks about a lot of the poorly designed everyday things that people encounter. Norman addresses many factors that contribute to a well designed product including:
  • The psychology of everyday actions
  • Knowledge in the head and in the world
  • Human error of the user
Norman also talks about four principles that he feels lead to good design:
  • Visibility
  • Good conceptual model
  • Good mapping
  • Feedback
Overall the book was a very good read. It was pretty repetitive but the information it presented was very informative and useful. Many of the concepts presented in the book seem obvious in hindsight; however, I don't think I have considered them while designing. Anyone who designs anything to be used by people should read this book and apply the principles in it so we can eliminate all the terrible products out there.