Death by GPS. GPS mis-routing is the easiest and most relatable example of human-automaiton interaction. Unfortunately, to its detriment, this article does not discuss the automation literature, instead focusing on more basic processes that, I think, are less relevant.
I became interested in using “big data” for A/B testing after a speaker from RedHat gave a talk to our area about it a couple of years ago. It’s a tantalizing idea: come up with a change, send it out on some small percent of your users, and pull it back immediately if it doesn’t work or isn’t better than the original. Even more amazing when you consider a “small percent” can be thousands and thousands of people – a dream for any researcher. Certainly, this connects to last year’s news on the controversy over Facebook’s A/B testing adventures.
The only con I can think of is that if something works or doesn’t work, you may not know why. We are always fumbling toward success, but maybe it’s not good to encourage fumbling over development of theory.
Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from the seriousness of our work and find new focus. H(aiku)man factors is the brainchild of my colleague Douglas Gillan. Each summarizes a concept in the field while following the haiku form of 5-7-5 and an emphasis on juxtoposition and inclusion of nature. Enjoy and contribute your own in the comments!
All of the above are by Doug Gillan.
Inattentional blindness by Allaire Welk
Challenging primary task
Did you notice it?
Affordances by Lawton Pybus
round, smooth ball is thrown
rolls, stops at the flat, wing-back
chair on which I sit
Escalation by Olga Zielinska
headache, blurred vision
do not explore Web MD
it’s not a tumor
Automatic Processing by Anne McLaughlin
end of the workday
finally get to go home
arugh, forgot groceries
Automation by Richard Pak
No wait, I’ll get it myself
Drat, I forgot how
Prospective Memory by Natalee Baldwin
I forgot the milk!
Prospective memory failed
Use a reminder
Working Memory by Will Leidheiser
how much can I remember?
many things at once.
It’s summer and we (along with some of you) are taking a break. But here’s a list of interesting usability/HF-related things that have crossed my path:
After much complaining, Ford is bringing back physical knobs in their MyTouch in-car controls. Anne and I worked on some research (PDF) in our past lives as graduate students that directly compared touch-only interfaces to knob-based interfaces so it’s nice to see it is still a major issue; if only Ford read our 9 year old paper 🙂
Trucks driving under very low bridges is such a large problem in Australia that they are deploying a really novel and clever warning system. A waterfall that projects a sign that’s hard to miss!
Coincidentally, the topic of social/human-technology interaction is in the news quite a bit today. I’m pleased that the topic of the human factors implications of the social interaction with technology is getting more focus.
Dr. Rogers has been experimenting with a large robot called the PR2, made by Willow Garage, a robotics company in Palo Alto, Calif., which can fetch and administer medicine, a seemingly simple act that demands a great deal of trust between man and machine.
“We are social beings, and we do develop social types of relationships with lots of things,” she said. “Think about the GPS in your car, you talk to it and it talks to you.” Dr. Rogers noted that people developed connections with their Roomba, the vacuum robot, by giving the machines names and buying costumes for them. “This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just what we do,” she said.
In a more ambitious use of technology, NPR is reporting that researchers are using computer-generated avatars as interviewers to detect soldiers who are susceptible to suicide. Simultaneously, facial movement patterns of the interviewee are recorded:
“For each indicator,” Morency explains, “we will display three things.” First, the report will show the physical behavior of the person Ellie just interviewed, tallying how many times he or she smiled, for instance, and for how long. Then the report will show how much depressed people typically smile, and finally how much healthy people typically smile. Essentially it’s a visualization of the person’s behavior compared to a population of depressed and non-depressed people.
While this sounds like an interesting application, I have to agree with with one of its critics that:
“It strikes me as unlikely that face or voice will provide that information with such certainty,” he says.
At worst, it will flood the real therapist with a “big data”-type situation where there may be “signal” but way too much noise (see this article).
Hello readers, and sorry for the unintentional hiatus on the blog. Anne and I have been recovering from the just-completed semester only to be thrown back into another busy semester. As we adjust, feast on this potpourri post of interesting HF-related items from the past week.
In todays HF potpourri we have three very interesting and loosely related stories:
The BBC looks at the rise of websites that seem to talk to us in a very informal, casual way. Clearly, the effect on the user is not what was intended:
The difference is the use of my name. I also have a problem with people excessively using my name. I feel it gives them some power over me and overuse implies disingenuousness. Like when you ring a call centre where they seem obsessed with saying your name.
It’s election season which means more opportunities to point, laugh, and cry at the state of voting usability. The first is sent in by Kim W. As part of an NPR story, the reporter dug up a sample ballot. Pretty overwhelming and confusing (“vote for not more than one”??); makes me long for electronic voting.
Next, Ford is sending out a software update to their popular MyTouch car telematics system. The following NYT article is excellent in highlighting the importance of not only basic usability but that “user experience” is just as important as technical capability/specs. The article lists a variety of usability quirks that should have been caught in user testing (e.g., “a touch-sensitive area under the touch screen that activates the hazard lights has been replaced with a mechanical button, because Ford learned that drivers were inadvertently turning on the hazard lights as they rested their hand while waiting for the system to respond.”).
I am being facetious when I point an laugh but seriously, many of these issues could have been caught early with basic, relatively cheap, simple user testing.
“I think they were too willing to rush something out because of the flashiness of it rather than the functionality,” said Michael Hiner, a former stock-car racing crew chief in Akron, Ohio, who bought a Ford Edge Limited last year largely because he and his wife were intrigued by MyFord Touch.
Now Ford has issued a major upgrade that redesigns much of what customers see on the screen and tries to resolve complaints about the system crashing or rebooting while the vehicle is being driven. Ford said on Monday that the upgrade made the touch screens respond to commands more quickly, improved voice recognition capabilities and simplified a design that some say had the potential to create more distractions for drivers who tried to use it on the road. Fonts and buttons on the screen have been enlarged, and the layouts of more than 1,000 screens have been revamped.