Friday, November 27, 2009

Want to Hear Better? Touch Someone

On this Black Friday, I was listening to NPR instead of shopping with the masses when I heard this interesting story on listening. A recent study in the journal Nature found that sensations on the skin help you hear better. Sounds such as "Pa" require a burst of air while others like "Ba" or "Da" don't. Bryan Gick, a professor of phonetics at the University of British Columbia says:

From my point of view, we're whole-body perceiving machines. We just take all of the information that comes at us in our environment and merge it into a percept of something that happened in the world.

We already knew that seeing a person's lips while they are talking helps our perception, but feeling their words is really interesting to me. It got me wondering...When we design user experiences are we too one dimensional? A lot of companies, including Google, use statistics as their core view of their users. A holistic view of our customers could uncover product features we couldn't find through stats alone.

Here is the full article from NPR:

Saturday, November 21, 2009 Living with Technology vs. Technology

I noticed that has a new main section of news on its home page, "Living with Technology." At first I thought they just changed the title of the category that I frequent quite often, "Technology." It turns out they added this new category, and by the title you would think that they would use it to spotlight stories about social networking and iPhones and such. The other seems like a good place for news on IBM or Hubble stuff. It turns out that both share similar story content. Seems like people just want more Technology news. Cool.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Silent Silence of the Lamb Hills

When trying to create a good experience, sometimes it's just easier to leverage someone else's good experience. I was walking through Best Buy and noticed that these two movies just happened to be placed next to each other. Silence of the Lambs is such an excellent movie, I guess it was easier for the designer of the Silent Hill movie to just borrow its likeness. Why create when you can steal?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nationwide Airline Delays Caused By Bad Weather? Try a Bad Router Card

Thursday Morning, airports from Atlanta to Los Angeles reported delays for more than four hours. Was this because of rain? Snow? Wind? Geese? It was because of a single router card in a computer that processes flight plans for the F.A.A. When this went down, they had to create these flight plans by hand. It didn't just cause people to have to wait longer on lines at airports. The U.S. Military couldn't see this info that they track so much more carefully since 9/11.

As more and more of our daily lives are taken over by computer systems, their fragility needs to be looked at more. This system that the F.A.A. uses is antiquated. Is there something they can learn from Amazon or Google at how to better manage things?

I'm always amazed at how we allow our imagination to carry us through a film with outrageous plots. We often see villains in movies control large systems with silly little apple laptops. Hearing that you can take down a nationwide system by the failure of a single router card makes those movies seem a bit more real now. Hans Gruber is smiling somewhere.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The House (Computer) Always Wins

Bill Seebek was playing a $4 slot machine for a half hour in a Florida casino, when the sirens of you-just-won-a-shiteload-of-money sounded. He had won $166,666,666.65. He thought. The casino roped off the machine and after inspecting the "machine" (evil computer), they ruled that it malfunctioned. The max on that machine should have only been $99,000. Instead, Bill Seebek got nothing because that is the payout for a malfunction.

It always annoys me when I hear someone blaming "the system" instead of the organization that deployed that system. It's like when you're on the phone with your bank or credit card company and they say:

"The system is down now...Sorry...Can't get your information to help you right now"
"The system is so slow"
"I can't get that information because the system doesn't track that"It's as if the computer is culpable for doing something wrong.

Every day we are let down by the computers that surround our lives. Just imagine that it wasn't the bad UI at the self-service checkout, but losing a 9 figure prize instead. As more data of our lives goes online, what "malfunctions" will cause us to have a Seebek situation?

Here is the news story of the incident:

Direct link to video:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Howard Stern, DOTS iPhone Gloves and a New Era of Innovation

During the first hour of conversation this morning on Howard Stern, Howard talked about his older children not owning televisions in their homes. They used laptops to watch TV shows or Movies. Howard was really shocked by this since he encouraged his children to watch as much TV as possible as he did while growing up. Howard said that as a child, the cast on his favorite Television shows were his best friends. That's the kind of twisted relationship with a product that TV Content Producers cherish. Robin also commented on how young people she knew watched most of their media on phones even though they had a TV.

After listening to this, I went online and noticed a story on about DOTS gloves for iPhones. The problem was that in cold areas of the country, people had to take off their gloves just to answer the phone. This product comes from a pair of 22-year-olds, Larry Lairson and Chris Harrison.

Life in a post-TV-is-the-center-of-our-life world will produce lots of change in the products in our lives. The gloves are low hanging fruit, like remote control holders for couches, but you can see that the needs for new products is just beginning.