All items about interaction

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Zdenek Kalal, a PhD at the University of Surrey, has developed an impressive real-time system which looks within a live camera feed for an identified object or person, then watches and learns to track that object as it rotates, moves or disappears, reappears. He demonstrates a prototype of the system in the video shown to the right.

The project won him the ICT Pioneer award and has attracted a great deal of attention from press and industry alike, as this could enable a plethora of image-tracking applications, from security systems to video stablization and control systems for the handicapped.

What is remarkable about the system is that it needs no special training (for example learning what a face is), you can simply identify an object on screen and the system will learn to track it. It looks like the stuff of science-fiction, but it’s very real. Read more on his project page.

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Swedish design company TAT just launched this video imagining the future of screen technology. There’s some great ideas in there like stretchable screens, see through monitors and being able to physical drag media between devices:

The ideas were the result of the OpenInnovation competition – read more at the site.

At first it seems quite useful, putting information onto surfaces like desks and mirrors. But if you take that to to the extreme you end up with something like the world shown in this second concept video, which uses augmented reality to put information everywhere. To me, it looks like something of a nightmare. What do you think?

(This video was created for an architecture project by Keiichi Matsuda. Read more here.)

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Understanding human behaviour is vital for good product design. But you can’t just ask people what they need, you have to observe them first-hand. iPods, eBay and TiVo exist because designers watched people, noticed a problem with current products, and designed a solution for a problem people didn’t even know they had.

At OXO Foods in the UK, researchers studied how people measure liquids while cooking, and noticed that most people need to bend down repeatedly to read the markings on the side of the container. None of them reported this as a problem when interviewed. So OXO designed a measuring jug(cup) which could be viewed from above (shown right). This is an example of the growing science of design ethnography – product design based on direct human observation.

How to measure human behaviour “in the wild”?

Observational studies are expensive to conduct, and sometimes distorted because you can’t always observe someone in their natural environment. Fortunately, computers now make it much easier to collect data from “real world” activities. Such data is invaluable – for product designers to better understand their users, and also for us to help us cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves. Read more »

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Is voice control a reality?

The new Android software from Google, Voice Actions lets you send a text, write an email, bring up information or call a business whose number you don’t have to hand using just your voice. The demonstration is impressive (though from real world tests it does not seem to be as speedy as the demo suggests).
If it works, this could be a great feature for hands-free drivers who want to access information on the move.. but will we use it in public? So far, voice technologies have not gained mainstream adoption – some people think it is because we feel silly talking to our electronics. Perhaps, as voice recognition technology improves, the biggest barrier is no longer technological but psychological…

Find out more at TechCrunch

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We’ve written previously about the benefits of bringing Internet-enabled screens to different parts of the home. This video from Jesse Rosten shows how with a couple of packets of Velcro and an iPad, you can change the iPad from a handheld Internet device into a way of putting information exactly where you need it, hands free.

In the future, perhaps iPad-like Internet touchscreens will become so cheap we can just install these permanently on our walls and into our appliances.

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This video from Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft demonstrates the Skinput project, which uses a combination of audio and vibration sensors and a handheld projector to create buttons and displays on your forearm, which can then be used to control anything from MP3 players to cellphones. Devices are getting smaller and smaller, and the size is often defined by the size required for input and output. This is a significant step forwards towards removing that restriction.

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Usability expert Jakob Nielsen has carried out a detailed user study on the iPad, Apple’s new tablet computer. The study found that applications are inconsistently designed, possible actions are non-obvious, and users are often left confused. Also, there is a war of philosophies taking place: Should each publication be a stand-alone environment, controlled and defined by the author? Or should users continue to be empowered to consume, reorganize and manipulate their content as they have been on the Web? As this new device paradigm emerges, it’s clear that a new form of interaction design will evolve with it.

Read more at Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox.

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Shot of newspapers by Shironekoeuro (http://www.flickr.com/photos/shironekoeuro/4040697914/)

Newspaper and magazine publishers see the the arrival of tablet computers like the iPad as a salvation for their ailing industry. They expect it to lower delivery costs and move them from a once-a-day news source to a constant, immediate service.

The excitement is justified, but misdirected. If tablets do save publishing, it’ll won’t be because they’re digital or more up t. It’ll be because they make newspapers interactive, and in doing so, let any reader place an ad right on the page they’re reading, opening up an entirely new revenue stream. Read more »

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Videos of Microsoft Surface, a touchscreen tabletop computer have shown off its capabilities for sharing photos and recognizing and interacting with mobile devices, but there have been few compelling real world applications offered. This video shows how the interface can be used in the classroom as a digital storytelling tool. Students create animated movies combining drawings and real world elements with ease. You can read more about the TellTable here.

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By way of the BBC, here’s a look at a device that can help nonverbal autistic children communicate. With powerful, portable computers, applications like this are much more accessible and portable to a wider audience.

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