Category Archives: technology

Text Input in a Mobile World

I‘ve always thought text inputs from anything other than a keyboard were clunky. Cliff Kushler, the man who invented T9 (a word completion aid) has developed Swype, a new text entry method that capitalizes on eliminating the press and release component of the touchscreen. What was once a discrete target acquisition task becomes a continuous one.

In the CNET interview, Kushler points out his age (55) and his words-per-minute with Swype (50). Not bad.

If you’re interested in research on alternate text input devices, check out some of the following:

Tag-based interfaces and Aging

I was recently interviewed by our campus news service about receiving a Google Research Award to study information retrieval and aging. The research involves designing information retrieval interfaces around the capabilities and limitations of older adults (those age 60 and above). Here is a snippet from the press release:

Richard Pak, an assistant professor of psychology, has received a $50,000 gift from Google to study how older adults navigate the Web and what Web site design features make searches easier. The grant will fund an extension of his research on aging and technology.

“The findings are that when you take a Web site and organize it hierarchically — like how you might organize your documents on your computer with folders within folders — older adults are much slower and make more errors when they are searching for information compared to younger adults,” Pak said. “We think that this is the case because the situation does not allow older adults to use their greater knowledge toward the situation. However, when you take that same Web site and organize it around keywords or concepts instead of folders, older adults are able to bring their wealth of general knowledge to the situation and perform almost equivalently to younger adults in the task.”

That is, older adults seem to perform better using so-called “tag-based sites,” which are Web sites that organize their information around frequently used keywords. Pak said that while tag-based sites are still relatively new, several popular sites use tags. These include Amazon.com, Gmail.com, and the photo sharing Web site Flickr.com.

The recently published paper, “Designing an information search interface for younger and older adults” appears in the latest issue of the journal Human Factors.

Infographics in Movies

Have you ever seen those cool interfaces or graphics that are shown in movies, mostly sci-fi, and wondered who created them?  I ran across this old post on Flowing data about a guy who creates those “infographics”.  Sounds like a very cool job!  I think I first became aware of infographics/visualization in the 1997 movie Event Horizon (which is when I became interested in HF) and have been a keen observer ever since.  The movie was so-so but I distinctly remember the interfaces for the ship being fluid, novel, and cool.

Or more recently, the multi-touch, gestural interface used by Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

Mark Coleran creates infographics/visualizations for film/tv.  His demo reel is definitely worth a look (quicktime web plug in required).

The Future of Web Browsing

Interesting scenario of the future web browser from Adaptive Path and Mozilla. I can see many potentially interesting human factors research questions. It seems overly complicated on first look but I guess that’s an empirical question!


Aurora (Part 1) from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.


Aurora (Part 2) from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

Unlike McCain, many seniors depend on the Web – Yahoo News

NEW YORK – If Sen. John McCain is really serious about becoming a Web-savvy citizen, perhaps Kathryn Robinson can help.

Robinson is now 106 — that’s 35 years older than McCain — and she began using the Internet at 98, at the Barclay Friends home in West Chester, Pa., where she lives. “I started to learn because I wanted to e-mail my family,” she says — in an e-mail message, naturally.

Blogs have been buzzing recently over McCain’s admission that when it comes to the Internet, “I’m an illiterate who has to rely on his wife for any assistance he can get.” And the 71-year-old presumptive Republican nominee, asked about his Web use last week by the New York Times, said that aides “go on for me. I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself.”

Unlike McCain, many seniors depend on the Web – Yahoo News

Scenes Of Nature Trump Technology In Reducing Low-level Stress

Technology can send a man to the moon, help unlock the secrets of DNA and let people around the world easily communicate through the Internet. But can it substitute for nature?  Apparently not, according to a new study that measured individuals’ heart recovery rate from minor stress when exposed to a natural scene through a window, the same scene shown on a high-definition plasma screen, or a blank wall.

Scenes Of Nature Trump Technology In Reducing Low-level Stress

Facebook for grandma?

“The Jive was created by Ben Arent, a college student, over a six-month period as part of his product design degree. The concept was designed to get elderly technophobes connected to their friends and family without feeling overwhelmed of learning how to use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. It would essentially be their own type of social networking.”

[link to Crave which includes a video demonstration]

Some progress in ATM interface design

Wells Fargo hired Pentagram in the fall of 2005 to begin work on a new user interface for their ATMs. Wells Fargo was in the process of upgrading their ATMs with touchscreen monitors. This was a relatively slow process, since there are about 7,000 ATMs in the field, and any upgrades are expensive. But with the vast majority to be converted during 2007, this was the perfect time to create a fresh UI that would fully utilize the touchscreen capability.

That design is money! – physical interface

Instant Messaging Proves Useful In Reducing Workplace Interruption

I think the basis for the widespread belief that IM is disruptive is that we don’t have co-workers on our IM, we have our friends 🙂

The study challenges the widespread belief that instant messaging leads to an increase in disruption. Some researchers have speculated that workers would use instant messaging in addition to the phone and e-mail, leading to increased interruption and reduced productivity.

Instead, research showed that instant messaging was often used as a substitute for other, more disruptive forms of communication such as the telephone, e-mail, and face-to-face conversations. Using instant messaging led to more conversations on the computer, but the conversations were briefer, said R. Kelly Garrett, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State.

Instant Messaging Proves Useful In Reducing Workplace Interruption

High-Tech Devices Keep Elderly Safe From Afar – NYTimes.com

First thing every morning, Lynn Pitet, of Cody, Wyo., checks her computer to see whether her mother, Helen Trost, has gotten out of bed, taken her medication and whether she is moving around inside her house hundreds of miles away in Minnesota.

High-Tech Devices Keep Elderly Safe From Afar – NYTimes.com