Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Currently Screening:

July 9, 2007

Signals, Truth, & Design

Google Tech Talk: Signaling Theory lecture presented by SMG’s Judith Donath and Peter Morville’s Ambient Findability talk.

And Danah Boyd ‘s informal conversation in North Carolina.


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).

An Uncommon Courtesy Reveals Bad Design

May 29, 2007

Bathroom seat lifted before sensor

Champaign-Urbana Amtrak Station’s Men’s Room (2 urinals, 2 stalls)

I was surprised/confused to see the rare courtesy of a public Men’s Room toilet seat lifted, except the bowl was full of urine. Who makes the effort to raise a set and then not flush? Maybe the automatic flush is broken? Following a few questions I noticed the raised seat obstructing the automatic flush sensor!

I lowered the seat, immediatly triggering the flush mechanism.

Bathroom seat lifted before sensor

Following the discovery in stall #1 I went into stall #2 to see if this flaw was consistent. Stall #2 featured a sensor above the actual toilet, allowing the automatic system to function regardless of the seat’s position.

I eagerly share this design flaw with my companion, a finance person who expressed more disgust than the (anticipated) giddyness I was hoping for.

Bathroom seat lifted before sensor