Archive for June, 2007

Mediated Giraffe Vision

June 19, 2007

Over the weekend I visited the Brookfield Zoo outside of Chicago. The zoo (to its credit) provides many interactive educational experiences before/during/after each exhibit to help contextualize the animal. One of the most interesting devices was a tool designed to simulate a giraffe’s view.

giraffe view tool

Approaching the the faux giraffe-scope I anticipated a non-digital mirror-based submarine-like periscope. The giraffe-scope was a live camera feeding to the monitor in the view area!

giraffe vision

My immediate response was: surveillance as faux zoo animal? I imagined an American military scheme combined with a Far Side cartoon panel. While viewing the feed I wondered if my actions (using the giraffe-scope) being recorded and evaluated by a vision group? Maybe I can attribute that fear to 3 years in an HCI lab. The structure of the giraffe-scope is hidden from the view of the local giraffe population, allowing another population to view and possibly record their actions.

A mirror-based periscope demands the design of a long tube to function correctly, a video feed does not require the same infrastructure. Ok, the tube is a great place to run cables to the monitor, and not worry about them being ruined. Why restrict the feed to a singular view? Continuing the cctv surveillance model suggests multiple views will provide a more robust experience for the viewer. Why not embed additional cameras in the exhibit?

Immediately upon confronting a low resolution video monitor the simulation of giraffe height collapsed. The singular image was too similar to a cctv security camera and removed the fun from the viewing experience; I became aware that I was watching a monitor, not looking through the eyes of a giraffe. Children who arrpoached the device seemed to share in the same disappointment (they are tech savy). I observed a few children approaching the device with interest and enthusiasm, quickly being replaced with disappointment.

How to improve giraffe-scope:

Improved viewing experience: better monitors, maybe a zoom control(?).

Additional stations, with varied height, distributed around the exhibit. This will help support the narrative of a giraffe’s view.

An interface that appeals to a child, maybe pop-up labels that identify giraffes (colorful arrows + audio cue).


iPod .0

June 8, 2007

original iPod

My current iPod’s hard drive -click wheel- died. No music, no files, no access. A Chicago Apple Genius demonstrated a new listening technique: placing my iPod against my ears to hear the spinning of my hard drive.

I used my iPod every day for three years, and received my money’s worth from the product; it survived numerous falls, bangs, and other assorted sudden impacts and less than ideal handling conditions.

While waiting to speak with a Genius, I watched them distribute shiny new iPods to customers with the slightest complaints…is this my lucky day? I tried every repair/recovery technique suggested by Apple, all failed.

Following the Genius’ evaluation of my machine, the Genius informed me that my Apple Care just expired. He tried to console me by explaining to me that that iPods are expected to last 3-4 years…then he notified me that it is my lucky day!  I can trade-in my defunct iPod for 10% off the purchase of a new iPod.

Leaving the store sulking, not knowing how to cope without my favorite luxury item, I remembered my original iPod from 2001 sitting at home unused in three years!

The First Half-Hour of Parking is Free

June 4, 2007

I left Champaign, IL at 1:00 p.m. (2:00 p.m. est) to pick-up Lin (NorthWest Airlines(NWA) 1007, Detroit) at 4:30 p.m. from the Indianapolis International Airport. Prior to my leaving Champaign, Lin’s arrival time was 4:30 p.m.; upon arriving to Indianapolis International Airport, NWA 1007 was delayed until 7:36 p.m. and continued to be pushed back later into the evening.

I approached the NWA ticket counter and spoke with Lee, a NWA representative.

NWA rep


Me: I am here to pick-up a friend on flight 1007, why has the flight been been delayed; is the delay mechanical or weather related? What is the probability of the of flight’s cancellation?

Lee: [Turning to the arrival monitor behind her] It arrives at 8:06 p.m.

Me: Right. Why is the flight delayed? Do you expect the flight to be cancelled?

— Personal experience with NorthWest flight has demonstrated that a rapidly increasingly departure time (late into the evening) has concluded with a cancelled flight.

Lee: It is currently in the air.

Me: In the air?

Lee: [Gesturing towards flight 1007 textual representation on the arrival board] It is in red. If it is red, it means the flight is in air.

Me: How long is a flight from Detroit to here?

Lee: 45 minutes to an hour.

Me: It is 5:00 o’clock!

Lee: Oh, [long pause] I am not sure when the flight will arrive.

Around 8:00 p.m. Lin descends from the Arrival Gate A’s escalator and meets me before Baggage Claim #1; 30 minutes later her last piece of luggage appears and we are off.

Between Luggage Bag #1 (8:15 p.m.) and Luggage bag #2 (8:30 p.m.) an exhausted crowd’s long wait for their luggage was treated to a small gift, a pair of fundies.