Social Media can be Antisocial?

0

For our final blog entry, I would like to share some random thoughts I had about social media. I will briefly run through the pros and elaborate more on the cons which I feel are more interesting/controversial. Do feel free to disagree!

The Pros

  • Easier to make friends

Making friends is essentially a result of making contact with people. The beauty of social media is that it allows us to broadcast our likes and dislikes and find others with preferences that agree with ours.

Because we are making contact with exponentially more people than before, most people also make more friends than before.

  • Easier to stay in contact with friends

Social media allows us to update all our friends simultaneously and the process is easier than before (phone calls/messages vs typing a status)

It eliminates the “who should I tell first” conundrum and most importantly, creates a environment where it is the convention, not the exception, to broadcast updates.

  • Easier to share thoughts and happenings with friends

In the past, if you found a interesting joke or comic, the best you could do was tell everyone you met about it and hope they remember it by the time they are able to search for it.

With social media, you can create a persistent link to what you want to share and allow all your friends to access it with a single click whenever they want.

  • And many more!

The Cons

  • Everyone is connected together but far apart

While more people are connected to more people through social media. The truth is most of these people are separated by huge distances and represented by static text to other people.

This physical and emotional distance can be harmful to relationships.

Psychological studies have shown that the less humans see and/or the further they are from the consequences of their actions, the less morality plays a part in their choices. The sad truth: many more people become jerks when they dont see or think they will ever meet the people they are dealing with.

Mutual respect and consideration are vital to healthy social interactions. By reducing the motivation for both, social media might be making us more antisocial instead.

  • Inflated self esteem and confidence from trolling

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘trolling’, it refers to a broad variety of negative behavior ranging from making nonsensical comments to insulting other people for sport.

The physical and emotional distance and sometimes anonymity of the Internet reduces the detrimental consequences of negative behavior. As a result, it has led to a rise to people who ‘troll’ others to appear cool and feel good.

In essence, they try to make others feel lousy to not feel lousy. This virtual and inflated self esteem and confidence rarely carries forward into the troll’s real world interactions, causing them to develop an increasingly stronger preference for virtual interactions instead.

As a result, a vicious cycle is created since behaving poorly online encourages even more poor behavior online. In this case, social media have indirectly caused character degrading.

  • Privacy and the lack of it

Public used to refer to the perspective of everyone. With the ease of sharing information on social media, the definition of public is slowly changing to ‘seen by someone who uploads video’

Social media has empowered normal people through civilian journalism, but that power can be destructive instead of protective as well.

  • Herd mentality

Since it has become easier to speak out, easier to be heard and easier for information to travel, communication has become much more convenient. Essentially, our human ‘herd’ has gotten much bigger.

On the flip side, communication is not always beneficial. On rare occasions, effective communication can lead to great harm.

Given 2 groups in conflict, effective communication will generally provide greater advantage to the majority than the minority. The scales tip even more towards the majority’s favor when communication is easier and more reliable.

Consider this: Hitler managed to achieve dictatorship and stirred his soldiers into waging World War 2 and carrying the Holocaust with merely propaganda through the radio. Imagine what a demagogue like him with social media.

Already we can see how cyber bullying is becoming a severe problem for our young. How many tragic suicide stories resulting from cyber bullying have we heard already? If we are not careful, all these tragedies will merely be a prelude of atrocities that may come.

Conclusion

Interaction on social media, like almost all things, comes with pros and cons. I believe that the choice is ours, so are the consequences. The onus is on us to make sure the pros far outweigh the cons.

Advertisements

GOMS

0

GOMS is the acronym of the term Goals, Operators, Methods and Selection rules. It is an evaluation model developed by Stuart Card, Thomas P. Moran and Allen Newell in 1983. The model is a specialized human information processor model designed to observe human-computer interaction. Based on this GOMS model, many other models for analysis have been developed. In the following post, we would look at what constitutes the GOMS, the advantages & disadvantages of the GOMS and how GOMS has evolved over the years.

Overview

Goals are defined as what the user wants to accomplish. Operators are the actions performed by the user to accomplish the goal. Methods are a combination or a sequence of operators used in order to accomplish the goal. In many cases, there is more than one method that can be used to achieve the same goal. This is where the Selection rules come into play, where the rules are used to describe when a user would choose a method over another method.

By breaking down a user’s interaction with the computer into these 4 simple elementary actions, the interface can be studied. The evaluator can also pin-point on specific aspects to improve on.

Advantages & Disadvantages

The GOMS may not be the most accurate of all the evaluation methods available, but like all methods, it has its advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage is that it is fairly simple, cost-efficient and less time-consuming to calculate the GOMS estimate of an interaction. In order to do so, the average methods-time measurement data for each specific task has to be previously measured experimentally, and needs to have a high degree of accuracy. By using the GOMS, each step that the user uses to interact with the interface is broken down into detailed steps. For each of these detailed steps, the time used can be measured and the total time a user needs to complete a desired task is just a simple addition of the time used for each of these detailed steps.

However, the major disadvantage of the GOMS is pretty similar to most disadvantages of HCI evaluation methods. That is, the GOMS is not able to handle user unpredictability. The GOMS method relies heavily on the prediction of user methods. It does not take into account user behaviour such as fatigue, social factors, etc. Furthermore, GOMS assumes that the user knows what to do throughout the whole process of completing the task, as such, GOMS applies to veteran users and not those who are new to the interface.

Also, as we can see from the overview of the GOMS, only the usability of the system is considered, not the functionality. What this means is that the evaluation does not improve on the functionality of the system.

Furthermore, out of all the GOMS models (which we will look at in a short while), only the KLM method does not require a deep understanding of GOMS in order to evaluate. As such, if a company decides to use GOMS for evaluation, they would need to hire someone who has the expertise of GOMS evaluation in order to effectively make use of the GOMS.

Evolution of GOMS

CMN-GOMS

The very first version was the plain GOMS created by the original three founders, which is now commonly referred to as the CMN-GOMS, taking after the names of creators, Stuart Card, Thomas P. Moran and Allen Newell. What this method does is that it follows a rigid goal-method-operation-selection rules structure. This structure allows the evaluator to represent all the tasks in a pseudo-code format, and at the same time, a guide is provided to assist in formulating selection rules. The method is also able to estimate how much time it takes for a user to complete a task.

KLM-GOMS

Based on the CMN-GOMS, the keystroke-level model (KLM) was developed. This model is an 11-step model that can be used to estimate time taken to complete simple data input with just the mouse and the keyboard. With KLM-GOMS, it is easier to use than the other GOMS, and evaluators often find more efficient ways to complete a task by analysing individual steps and sift out unneeded steps. The KLM-GOMS is best suited to evaluate tasks that take, on average, less than 5 minutes to complete, due to its constraints. The 11 steps are as follows.

Step 1–Obtain a working prototype of computer interface or a step by step operational description of a task.

Step 2–Identify the goals or the desired outcome of work .

Step 3–For each of these goals, find subgoals or tasks that achieve the main goals.

Step 4–Identify methods to main goals and all subgoals.

Step 5–Convert description of methods to pseudo-code (the terminology that is described above).

Step 6–State any and all assumptions used in the making of pseudo-code and goals.

Step 7–Determine appropriate mental or keystroke operators for each step.

Step 8–Assign time values to mental or keystroke operators.

Step 9–Add up execution times for operators.

Step 10-Adjust total time of task to be sensitive by age of expected.

Step 11-Verify validity of results

CPM-GOMS

CPM-GOMS is the Cognitive Perceptual Motor GOMS model developed in 1988 by Bonnie John, a former student of Allen Newell. It is basically similar to the CMN-GOMS method in most of its model, except that it determines which actions can be done parallel at the same time and create blocks whereby the many actions are performed at the same time. What this means that CPM-GOMS allows for multi-tasking when evaluating the time needed to complete a task.

A more in-depth look at the different GOMS, together with examples can be found on http://members.tripod.com/elena_chmil/thegomsmodel/id10.html.

Conclusion

For most parts, the GOMS is not a very advanced method of evaluation, but it is able to provide us with a fast and efficient evaluation method to calculate time required to complete a task. The way GOMS has evolved over the years have also provided us with different methods that we can use to evaluate human computer interaction.

The Cognitive Process of Humans

0

Introduction
The cognitive process is the performance of some composite activity. It is also known as the “the process of thinking”.

A child studying Cognitive Development

In Human-Computer Interaction, understanding how a human think when interacting with computers is crucial. The feedback, the information transfer between parties, the input and output are the concepts involved in the cognitive process. Overall, it affects how the design of various computers or devices are implemented.

For this week blog, we will focus on 2 of the core cognitive processes, the Memory and the learning process.

Memory
Memory is probably one of the most important cognitive process. It involves invoking the brain to recall knowledge that has been acquired through the experiential process such as navigating a set of menu for a particular software, or in a non computing scenario it can be the daily routine of going grocery shopping. The ability of the human brain to save the things learned is a key tool during designing.

For an example we will look at SenseCam, a neckworn camera that helps to take picture of the daily life of the user. The main purpose is to help users who are suffering from poor memory to aid in recalling events that they have been through.

User using a SenseCam

Employing a technique called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), it allows a increased reading rate of text/images and users are able to recall the day events in just a matter of minutes.

As of October 2009, SenseCam technology was licensed to Vicon and more products such as Vicon Revue are readily available on the market.

The Cognitive Aspect & the Design Implications
This is a very reflective cognition as users are required to invoke on their thoughts to stimulate the recovery of his or her memory. Playing on the human abilities to remember images than text, the projection of the images will greatly aid in these situations.

Another important point is the way the device operates. Dealing with the issues of ‘forgetfulness’, the device does not need to be operated manually any time of the day. It captures photo based on the sensors that are built in it and users do not have to worry about having to operate the device to ensure that there is sufficient or even critical pictures that should be taken.

Learning
In the learning cognitive process, learning play a important part in affecting how a human react to certain scenarios. It changes the behavior of the human based on the experiential experience that the person been through, and it can also affect the brain in doing mental association. In short it can also be known as “using thinking to learn”.

Learning can be broken down in 4 basic levels

The different levels of Learning

For example, a flight instructor may explain to a beginning student the procedure for entering a level, left turn. The procedure may include several steps such as: (1) visually clear the area, (2) add a slight amount of power to maintain airspeed, (3) apply aileron control pressure to the left, (4) add sufficient rudder pressure in the direction of the turn to avoid slipping and skidding, and (5) increase back pressure to maintain altitude. A student who can verbally repeat this instruction has learned the procedure by rote. This will not be very useful to the student if there is never an opportunity to make a turn in flight, or if the student has no knowledge of the function of airplane controls.

With proper instruction on the effect and use of the flight controls, and experience in controlling the airplane during straight-and-level flight, the student can consolidate these old and new perceptions into an insight on how to make a turn. At this point, the student has developed an understanding of the procedure for turning the airplane in flight. This understanding is basic to effective learning, but may not necessarily enable the student to make a correct turn on the first attempt.

When the student understands the procedure for entering a turn, has had turns demonstrated, and has practiced turn entries until consistency has been achieved, the student has developed the skill to apply what has been learned. This is a major level of learning, and one at which the instructor is too often willing to stop. Discontinuing instruction on turn entries at this point and directing subsequent instruction exclusively to other elements of piloting performance is characteristic of piecemeal instruction, which is usually inefficient. It violates the building block concept of instruction by failing to apply what has been learned to future learning tasks. The building block concept will be covered later in more detail.

The correlation level of learning, which should be the objective of aviation instruction, is that level at which the student becomes able to associate an element which has been learned with other segments or blocks of learning. The other segments may be items or skills previously learned, or new learning tasks to be undertaken in the future. The student who has achieved this level of learning in turn entries, for example, has developed the ability to correlate the elements of turn entries with the performance of chandelier and lazy eights.

(taken from http://www.dynamicflight.com/avcfibook/learning_process/)

The Cognitive Aspect & the Design Implications
Both experiential and reflective cognition are involved in the learning process. As seen in an example above, the act of thinking and decision making is part of the process of learning what makes a good and effective choice. Coupled with the experiential learning such as reacting or perceiving each and every action, it combines together to form the human cognitive learning.

How does this thinking process affects a design? Knowing how a user can learn through a device will indicate to a designer what are the various aspect that the designer should look out for. For example, making users to execute repetitive steps every time he or she uses a particular software will over time teach the user how to use the software, making it a much more pleasant experience for the user. Another example is designing of a smartphone. Having learned how a smartphone should react to a user input, users are given an expectation of what to expect from a smartphone. Therefore to remove certain functionality from a smartphone will not be ideal.

Conclusion
There is no doubt a association between the human cognition and a design of a device of software. Understanding how to human process its thoughts and predicting certain feedback is key in facilitating the design process.

The process of thinking

Observing Human Minds, With Human Eyes

0

Psychological Experiments

Today I will talk about a type of observation that features heavily in a few books by Malcolm Gladwell that I really enjoyed reading, namely, Blink. The book centers around the study of effects and power of our subconscious mind. I would recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in psychology or sociology.

Much of the book focuses on the results of its psychological experiments, a type of observation with some special features.

The Difference

In the observation studies we learn about in our CS3240 module, one important condition necessary for a successful observation is that the participants are clear about the objectives and purpose of the study.

The complete opposite applies for psychological experiments.

Since the purpose of psychological experiments is to gather data about natural human behavior, the participants cannot be informed of objective and purpose of the study due to the intrinsic need to avoid affecting participant behavior.

Also, as the word experiment implies, the participants are not observed passively but are rather asked to do whatever they want in a specific and controlled environment. The data gathered is then analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively for the results.

Due to the nature of this particular type of observation, the standard rules of conducting and observation must be broken.

The Effectiveness Of Observing Psychological Experiments

Psychological experiments emerged as a type of data gathering method in the 1860s and to this date there are still prevalent critique about its effectiveness, ethics and validity.

One can see the potential ethical issues of conducting studies without informing the participants about the purpose and objectives, especially since the topic is a sensitive one such as your character. The study can extend in very dark or disturbing domains, as you will see from some examples later.

About the effectiveness of psychological experiments, the biggest problem is the contradiction in its setup. Critics argue that by informing participants that they are participating in an experiment, their behaviors have been inadvertently influenced, mostly to the direction of producing ‘nicer’ picture.

Furthermore, interpretation of the qualitative parts of the data is not objective and the resulting conclusions may be biased and potentially misleading and damaging.

However, the results of psychological studies have sometimes been far from nice and sometimes downright shocking, which seems to suggest that the data gathered from psychological experiments may be quite objective after all.

Mind Blowing Results From Psychological Experiments

In n described in the book Blink, participants are told that among the 10 people, 5 white and 5 black, whose photos they will be shown, a specific number are criminals. Their job is to correctly guess who are the criminals according to their faces.

It turns out that a large portion of participants showed a strong inclination to identify black people as criminals. That is to say, most of us are racists.

In another experiment described in the same book, participants are asked to walk down one of two equally long corridors, either A or B to the end point. Corridor A is filled with motivational posters full of positive words while Corridor B is full of posters about depressing posters about aging and illnesses. The time taken to pass both corridors by the participants are tabulated and analyzed.

The participants who walked through Corridor A showed higher movement rate of more than 20% compared to those who walked through Corridor B. It implies that even without us knowing, we are being influenced strongly by our environment, even if its just words on walls.
The last experiment is the most shocking: the Milgram Experiment. Basically, the experiment is designed to test how authority affects the willingness of humans to inflict pain on other humans. More details can be seen here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

According to this experiment, it seems that humans are very willing to hurt other under the influence of authority.

This conclude this weeks post, I hope I have not bored you with a personal interest and you found my $0.02 interesting!

Error Message Design: The Good, The Bad & The Guidelines

0

Error Messages

This week, we delve into something which everyone has encountered at least once in their lives: Error Messages.

Purpose of Error Messages (courtesty of http://msdn.microsoft.com)

An error message alerts users of a problem that has encountered. This may apply for both online and offline operations.

Our belief: We believe that an error message is one which alerts users of a problem in a way which is simple and understandable. The solution to solving the error should be put forth in a simple and concise manner too.

Key Design Guidelines

Positive Image & Clear Layout. Usage of image and colors positively can reduce the frustration and anger that the user may experience. Colors such as pink, blue and green are known to have a calming effect and using these colors in an error message could enhance the user experience. Positive images can too reduce anger when portrayed correctly.

Tone of Language. Users are like customers and hence, the usage of a friendly tone helps in getting the user re-visit the website or re-try the operation. Furthermore, using a non-accusatory tone allows the user to understand that the error was due to the website and not by them.

Links & Exit Routes. It is always ideal to provide users with exit routes. An exit route is a step or a solution to attempt to solve the error. Provision of exit routes or links is likely to encourage users to re-attempt the specific operation or re-enter the website. 

Human – Readable Language. Clear and concise language should be adopted by all error messages. If the cause of the error is due to technical faults and explanation may be too complicated, it is advisable not to include the cause. Deciding to include a complicated explanation may further frustrate the user and he may make incorrect decisions to rectify the problem.

Bad Examples

Famous “Blue Screen of Death”

– Wordy
The error message is too wordy. It provides a novice user facing the error with too much information. Doing so much increase the frustration of the user as he may think there are too much steps needed to solve the problem.

– Poor choice of colors
While it was mentioned earlier that blue has a calming effect. This dark shade of blue gives a perception of coldness while white gives a perception of unfriendliness in this context. It lacks a personal touch which may be threatening to the user.

Technical Information
A novice user just need to know the possible solutions to rectify the error. The designers however, assumes that their users are tech-savvy and understand the technical terms which confuses them and makes the situation more unbearable for the user.


– Unclear Instructions
A nice and simple layout is most of the time key to sending a message to the user. However in this example there is practically no way a average user is going to understand what he or she is going to do next!
 
– Poor choice of colours
Red is usually associated with anger, and flashing red during error message is not going to help the frustrated users.
 

Fanciful Design

– Bad layout
No doubt the first thing that users notice is the astronaut, which sometimes confuse users that the website they are entering has become a space related website.

– Poor communication
For users who know what Error 404 means, looking at this will be a good entertainment. However, for the average users, it will only confused the users even more.

Good Examples

Improved version of the Blue Screen of Death as shown in Windows 8

+ Human Readable Language
The improved version of the Blue Screen of Death has shown user just the necessary information (which is to just restart the computer!). For the techincal geeks, they are able to see they summarised error in the smaller font just below the main text.

+ Light colours and simple layout
Blue colour is always nice and pleasant to see. The use of SMS type smiley face is sure to bring a giggle to the user watching it, lowering the chance of the computer been tossed out.

+ Proposed action
Probably what the typical user need to know is to restart the computer, which is been presented nicely.

+ Light colors and a positive image
The light blue color and the smiling image on the coffee have a calming effect which pacifies frustrated or angry users.

+ Personal tone of language
The choice of words used are good. The message informs the user that there is a problem in a casual tone. Furthermore, the font type is informal which allows a calming effect to the user.

+ Proposed Solutions
Various solutions are proposed to the user to attempt to rectify the problem. A customer-centric approach is evident given that services to rectify the error is provided for free; implying that this error is their responsibility and not the user’s.

+ Human Readable Language
The cause of the error may not be known but the designer did not bother the user with any unnecessary information and provided the proposed solution. No technical knowledge is needed to understand the error and the solutions are clearly stated.

Conclusion

It is important that error messages are designed and presented to the user in the most friendly manner possible. Providing a good user experience is key to retaining the user in using its product. There are certainly many way in designing a good error message, and they always follow the few key design guidelines that we have presented in the above section.

Something to end this post with

Interaction Devices: Input & Output Devices

1

The Other side of the Design Interaction Story

For computer systems, their user interface is a critical component that determines whether the system is effective or obsolete. Equally important but sometimes neglected are the Interaction Devices, which actually enable the users to interact with the system.

Often, user interface design is defined/limited by the interaction device available. We believe that in general, as the flexibility of the interaction device increases, the complexity and clutter of the corresponding user interface decreases.

In this post, we discuss both input and output devices and the many forms they come in, how user interface design has been influenced and what the future may bring.

Input Devices

Keyboards

One of the two primary input devices of the computer, the Keyboard traces its lineage back to the typewriter invented in the 1860s. There are many variants in different sizes and shapes, but they all serve the purpose of letting users type words. We will go out on a limb here and say that the keyboard actually has a flawed interaction design.

Try and recall when you first saw a keyboard. Did you know what ‘F1-F12’, ‘Ctrl’, ‘Alt’ and pretty much half the keys represented? Most of these keys are defined by convention and we believe that is one of the hindrances for the IT-illiterate folks.

For the alphabet keys, they are actually designed to hinder typing speed. The QWERTY layout is inherited from the typewriter ancestors, which stamped letters on paper one by one. The typewriter would fail and smudge ink if the users typed too fast, a limitation that keyboards have evolved out of. However, due to widespread usage and training, the number of keyboard users has a reached a critical mass where it is extremely difficult to adopt a newer and more efficient keyboard layout.

Once upon a time, ‘quick typing’ was slow

Despite its flaws, keyboards do serve their purpose very well, which is validated by their continued existence and popularity, even ‘ascending’ to touch screen devices.

As a result of the layout of the keyboard, certain interfaces have been designed to work in such a way that the keys on the keyboard are utilized in an efficient manner. One such example would be the interface of first-person shooters (FPS). In most FPS, if not all, that use the keyboard as the primary input device, the first thing that comes to the mind of most gamers would be the W-A-S-D layout to move around in the game. The way the keyboard has been designed has such a heavy influence on the gaming industry that such a layout has become a common practice.

Shortcut keys have been made in such a way that it conveniences users to go about doing their daily tasks on the computer. Shortcut inputs such as ctrl+c, ctrl+v, etc. From this example, we can clearly see how the layout of the keyboard has affected the way developers go about assigning these shortcut keys. As a conclusion for the keyboard, we can clearly see that its design, especially the layout of the keyboard has significantly influenced many generations of interface designs.

Mice

The other primary input device for the computer and vital cornerstone of the WIMP interface type, the mouse was developed in the 1970s. Contrary to the keyboard, we consider the mouse as an example of good interaction design.

The concept of the mouse is simple and effective: move the mouse to move the cursor. Even children understand how to use the mouse after watching the white arrow flow and spin around along with the mouse.

The design of the mouse has seen little change since their invention since they serve their function very effectively. The addition of the scroll button has more or less completed the design of the mouse. The design is so efficient in such a way that there has been little, or no need for any change in order to improve it.

Once again, the mouse has affected the interface designs to such an extent that simple tasks can be done just with a few clicks. Instead of having to type in long inputs for some commands, having a mouse has made it easier for developers to just simply create a button on their interface to make the command as easy as a click-and-go.

Improvements to the mouse, especially in the gaming industry, has allowed for even more simplified interface designs. This is achieved by having additional buttons on the mouse which can be configured and customized to suit the users’ individual needs.

Of course, sometimes having more buttons does not mean its good. It is more of the practicality of the mouse itself, and whether an additional button really serves any purpose at all. This is greatly illustrated by the two pictures below. A comparison between the Razer Ouroboros versus the product that Logitech would rather not mention.

What have you done?

The advantages of additional buttons

The most unintuitive part of the mouse as an interaction device to some people (myself included) is the name itself.

The mouse is so important to the computer as an interaction device that its hard to imagine what it would be like without the mouse. A lot of human-computer interactions would not have been possible without the invention of the mouse.

To end off the overview of the mouse, we would like to dedicate our appreciation of the efforts of Douglas Engelbart who has invented such an evolutionary device for the computer. Sadly, he has never received any royalties for his invention.

Douglas Engelbart – Inventor of the mouse

Touch-screen

The current hype for computer interaction devices would be the touch-screen. Fun fact: the touch-screen technology has been around for quite some time. In fact, the touch-screen was first pioneered in the 1970s, just about ten years younger than the mouse. So, the question is, why now?

In the past, touch-screen was considered obselete as it was much more expensive to implement a touch-screen desktop. Moreover, having a touch-screen interface back then didn’t have a significant improvement on user experience from using a keyboard or a mouse.

The introduction of the iPod touch into the market can be considered as a major milestone for touch-screen devices. It has opened up the users to a whole new perspective as to how touch-screen can be utilized to maximize user experience. Games have been made more interactive where users can directly control the in-game characters with their hands. Developers have designed their user interfaces -to fully utilize the capabilities of touch-screen.

Touch-screen has also made it possible for users to input characters by simply “writing” with their fingers on the touch-screen devices. It has thus opened up a whole new horizon of possibilities for future touch-screen products.

The sheer amount of competitors in the touch-screen industry (Apple, Samsung, Windows, etc) has allowed the touch-screen technology to improve at a much faster rate than in the 70s – 90s. This has resulted in lower manufacturing costs for touch-screen capable devices, and thus we are seeing more devices having touch-screen.

The touch-screen has such a significant influence on human-computer interaction that sometimes, we would find ourselves touching the screens of various devices and only to be surprised to find that the device is not touch-screen. It is not hard to imagine a future where the touch-screen would totally take over the roles of the keyboard and the mouse.

With the upcoming windows 8 desktop prototypes which demonstrated how the touch-screen can replace the functions of keyboard and mouse, the effectiveness of the touch-screen has evolved a whole lot from what it was in the early days. As the companies continue to develop devices for touch-screen devices, it would definitely affect how interfaces would be designed. Afterall, interfaces are greatly affected by the nature of the input device.

Future of touch-screen? -from the Minority Report-

Motion-sensing input devices

As we look further into the future of interactive input devices, the general trend that the industry is heading towards is that of contact-less devices. From the Xbox Kinect to the Playstation Move, and not forgetting Wii’s WiiMote, there is a wide variety of ways to go about implementing a motion-sensing input device.

The invention of motion-sensing devices has allowed unique interfaces to be developed. Users can now use their actions to directly affect the interface. A prime example of such an interface is the WiiSports, where user actions can be directly sensed and reconstructed in the gaming world. The motion is captured by the WiiMote, where there is a gyroscope and accelerometer in it to capture user movement.  This allows for newer interfaces that can be designed to be more life-like.

The Xbox Kinect on the other hand, is able to read movements of users directly off the camera and use the resulting data to control the movements of in-game characters. Compared to the WiiMote, this allows for more degrees of freedom, and thus its even more accurate to the movements in real life.

The PlayStation Move is more a hybrid of both the WiiMote and the Xbox Kinect. By using a camera to capture the movement of the sphere at the tip of a wand-like controller, user actions can directly affect on-screen movements.

Motion sensing opens up another horizon of possible interfaces that are slightly different from what is offered by touch-screen devices. It would be interesting to see which technology would be dominant, or perhaps, a hybrid of both could be possible. No matter which technology turns out to be the dominant one, it would definitely greatly affect the way interfaces would be designed in the future.

Output Devices

Monitor

Monitors have been around since 1980s, when they were mainly CRT monitors. Over the years, newer technology has been introduced to enhance the visual effects that can be projected to the users.

From CRT to Liquid Crystal, to OLED monitors, then to HD, followed by 3D, the monitor has had a very fast development rate over the past few years.

Once again, the changes in the monitor affect the way in which designers design their interfaces. Better graphics and a larger array of colours enable designers to add even more things onto their interfaces. HD allows designers to go into the very fine details, while 3D allows a perception of depth when it comes to interface design.

As an output device, the monitor captures the visual attention of the users, which is one of the major interaction between the user and the computer. Therefore, any improvements in technology of the monitor would definitely affect the way in which designers would go about designing their interfaces.

Speakers

Speakers, on the other hand, capture another component of the human’s five senses, that is, of course, the hearing. Compared to the monitor, there has not been much changes or improvements to the way speakers are made. This might be partially due to the fact that there is only a very short range of frequencies that the human ear can perceive. This means that any improvements to the speaker would most likely not make a difference to the user.

Then again, interfaces depend heavily on the way sound can be output from the speakers. Having a speaker means the computer can send sound notifications to the user and is widely used in all applications and interface designs.

What the future may bring

When we consider the general direction interaction devices have evolved, a interesting and somewhat ironic trend is that they are evolving themselves out of existence. The mouse took over some of the functionality of keyboards by allowing WIMP interfaces to replace command line interfaces. The touch screen entirely replaced the pointer concept. Perhaps as we progress further, interaction devices will shrink to non-existence and we end up using the good ol hands and feet again. Or maybe even less. (see video) Imagine playing games with that.

Internet: A Superpower?

2

Cyberspace Metaphors

This week, we talk about the ‘Metaphors that conceptualize the Internet’. The formal English definition of a Metaphor is as follows:

Definition of METAPHOR (courtesy of merriam-webster.com)

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them

Our version: Borrowing attributes of one thing to describe or explain another thing.

There are plenty of valid metaphors for the internet, on the internet. Even finding them all would be nigh on impossible so we will be focusing on our favourite: the Internet as a Nation.

Internet as a Nation

The internet is a nation. In fact, it might be the true superpower. There are many ways in which the internet behaves like a nation.

(Flag? Simple picture choice to avoid political complications)

The internet has citizens (Netizens). Most if not all of us are Netizens, the people of the internet. We have grown to care about what happens to it and and involved in many related things.

The citizens can own property (websites). Probably only a small portion of Netizens actually own websites. But then again, the same goes for most countries.

No passport or customs to cross borders (web domains). Consider the real world on planet Earth. Your own country is pretty much the only place where you can enter and exit areas without the need for identification or registration. Thankfully we are not restricted by borders in the Internet.

It has its own languages (cyber-slang). We are probably using some of it ourselves. Fyi, btw, leet, lol, etc etc

It has politics (Market share as votes). We are actually ‘voting’ each time we use a certain search engine. The search engine with the most users wields the most influence since all websites need their help. In a way, Google/Yahoo/MSN are acting as governments. The next thing you know…

Tax. Someone has to pay for the Internet infrastructure and maintenance. Wait, it turns out that almost everyone has to pay! We are being ‘taxed’ by ISP subscriptions and as in the real world, we can’t really see what the money is used for. Truly one of the two certainties in life.

It has media channels (Streaming Sites). Every nation has media channels that usually can only be accessed by its own citizens, Internet is no different. Even before YouTube, there were a plethora of websites for Netizens to express themselves to other Netizens, spread Internet news and deliver propaganda.

It has criminals (hackers/viruses) and security forces (Anti-malware software). Every nation has security forces to protect its sovereignty. If hackers and viruses ran rampant, Internet may well be destroyed, so the good guys (anti-virus) step in and hold them at bay. Thankfully, there is no conscription for Netizens so far.

The Internet is many things…

We have given our $0.02 about one wacky way to define the Internet. Everything above is solely our opinions mixed with earnest attempts at humor. We hope you have enjoyed the read. Until next week!