Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Project 3: Service Redesign

I decided to redesign SEPTA's subway because it is a terrible service that continues to be terrible. However, my redesign make it so the service is a lot better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BMW SIMPLE CONCEPT "Motorcycle alternative

First off, Kanye West isn't as big of a jackass as I thought we has because this little gem came from his blog. This vehicle called the "Simple concept" a misleading name if I ever read one. Its a three wheeled vehicle, a trike if you will, that leans as it moves, like a motorcycle. It has decent an electric motor and boasts a 120 mph top speed, and since its a BMW I think that speed is actually attainable. The shock factor: it can make 60 miles on a half a gallon of gas. Half a gallon, that not even close to being a guzzler. I see this vehicle being practical for people who need a way to get around and doesn't mind riding in something resembling a jet cockpit. Personally, I want one of these cars just so I can hug corners and have the car lean with me, unlike my current car. This should be a car for Philadelphia because the streets are narrow and parking sucks, unless you ride a bicycle. The car is small, nimble, and probably can be parked in spots that Mazda Miatas wish they could fit in. If these things were supercharged and boasts BMW's signature speed, I could see these little machines pulling over speeders on the highways. This is definitely a great way to cope with shrinking urban environment where cars cramp every corner of the street. THe Simple concept can help alleviate that.

Learning Log "Chapter 9: The Future of Interaction Design"

This particular chapter intrigued me as the new mediums for interactions are coming together. The RFID chips are are an interesting way to link things together into a internet of things. The idea that everyday things can be networked opens up a completely new realm of interactivity. I've seen fridges that can tell you if the milks low and a car that will tell you when its needs an oil change. My father has a Metrocard (NY equivalent of a Transpass or Trailpass) that emails him whenever he needs to renew it, its a pretty great that we've already come this far. I think that one thing that should be made more interactive and that is the DMV, because they apparently lack the innovations of the last 20 years so much as they still rely on herding people into complex lines and patterns that come with condescending looks and the usual " You need the ________ form, this is a __________ form". I see the DMV using automation to handle routine things like license renewals, permit testing, and non driver ID applications. The human element can handle the sub routines of the automated tasks as well as tasks that machines are not able to administer like Eye exams, road tests, etc. The section on robotics was interesting as well because they talked about certain robots being sophisticated, namely Lego Mindstorms and the Scooba floor washing robot. I didn't see these robots as sophisticated because I assumed that Scooba used a sensor to make sure it does fall down the steps and the Mindstorms toy could only be so sophisticated seeing as how a 8 year old can put it together. But Saffer wrote that "Interaction designers need to be aware of two factors when designing robots: autonomy and social interaction". Then I realized as miniscule as the actions of those robots, they are very large in importance. I used to (and still do, don't know why) have a Tekno robotic dog, it had a motion sensor and could detect walls and stairs, the usual household hazards. It had some form of intelligence so it used to come to me when I sitting in living room like a real dog. I didn't realize how important that was because I was still upset about not having a real dog, so I ignored it. But the future does look bright for interaction, there will be computers in everything. A computer in my sneakers to tell me when they need to be replaced, a computer in my coffee so it can tell me when to drink, a computer in my eyeglasses so I can watch you-tube while I drive to work, and a computer in my body to tell when I'm going to die. I feel like people will go crazy with these concepts like spimes, ubicomps, and microprocessors, making useless applications for people. At some point, the human and the computer will come together, making the world a much better place. If that doesn't work out, we'll just be a bunch of iPhones walking around.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Learing Log 9 "American Highspeed is not high speed"

Out of pure curiosity, I compared two major rail networks in the US and UK. Amtrak versus Eurostar. Amtrak boasts an entire railway network throughout the US, comfortable rides, and great scenery. Eurostar boasts a maximum 2 hour, 40 minute ride from London to Brussels, with all the amenities that Amtrak provides, which is rough two hundred thirty mile distance, part of which spans the english channel. In comparison, take the New York to DC run on Amtrak. Roughly the same distance between London and Brussels, it takes about 3 to 4 hours on that network, including the pinnacle high speed rail, the Acela Express, which boasts a 2 hour 54 minute ride. The problem that I am getting to is that the US is one of the few industrialized and prominent countries without a succesful high speed rail networks. I mean, flying has essentially removed a need for rail travel but it could be a great way to make money and take away some of the risks of flying (Engine failure, terrorism, the TSA). The primary problems are that the infrastructure of Amtrak is weak and the government is not behind it. The face that a two hundred mile journey can be completed in less than 2 hours is even a possbility, it should be explored. The Northeast Corridor from Boston, MA to Washington, DC is the only high speed corridor in the country, and it reaches the major cities on the Corridor, Boston, NYC, Philly, Baltimore, and DC. If it were a great service, it would have been expanded by now so that a going across the country doesn't take a week.

LEarning Log 9 11/18 Service Design

Dan Saffer's Service Design chapter was a great read and I enjoyed thinking about the aspects of service design. Making it to be a good interface for people to engage in and for them to get their desired result. I looked back to the service design of the MTA in New York City, and how they have changed the setup around so now people get less even though they pay more than they ever did. That particular interface has degenerated because the service has been in place for so long that the original design concept has faded and the idea is to make as much money as possible. The idea of competition is what keeps services so conducive to the customer and user. The fact people may not come to you for another place is what keeps companies constantly updating and appealing to its customers so that they don't lose business. It doesn't operate like that with such large entities like the MTA or even Septa, even though Septa in my opinion is better than the MTA in that they keep their service in line with what they provide whereas the MTA cut back on what they offered and charged more for what they did have left. While Septa's rail fleet, stations, and services are not the most current and up to date, they get where you need to go with little complications and difficulties, whereas the MTA, you don't get anywhere easily because they cut back on many things, so while the new trains with automated announcements, pretty stainless steel finishes, and plans for a long procrastinated "Second Avenue Subway", they have very little keeping them competitive. But they are the only mass transit network that can handle the volume of people in New York City. In addition, they are the second largest mass transit network behind the London Underground, so there no competition for them. One redeeming quality about them is their Metrocard which has made the fare control much cleaner and easier. They put kiosks that put out the cards as well as stock every convenience store in the city and outlying suburbs with prepaid cards so they are readily available. Saffer's chapter was great because it laid out the entire process of design as well as what will renovate the concept to the next generation. He talked about RFID tags, and while those are a good idea, they can be easily manipulated through handheld computer hacking. My idea for service design is one that will redefine the phrase "Cutting edge".

Monday, October 26, 2009

October 14 Show and Tell

The object I picked for the show and tell is the FujiFilm Real 3D W1 camera. This particular camera is important because it is one of the first cameras to utilize realtime three dimensional viewing of images.

The camera's styling is very smooth, and the edges are rounded, easily fitting in one pocket for portability while boasting 10 megapixel shots and a shooting style that utilizes two lenses instead of one.

The image above is interesting as it was taken by a single lens camera. But the viewer eyes are supposed to affix to the left and right images, causing them to converge and create a 3D view that changes with the views motion.

The link above will take you an example of the 3D viewing which I see as monumental and innovative. This technology can allow someone to experience a place without being there. The applications for this are numerous. The angling of these shots can converge into a large 3d image by taking multiple shots and compositing them together. Technology like this is leading to another realm of interfacing with people and the world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Project 1: Option 3: Redesign a Piece of Hardware

Humor aside, cell phones of the current era have begun to slip into creeping featurism as noted by Donald Norman as "the tendency to add to the number of features that a device can do, often extending the number beyond all reason" (173). Over the years, cell phones have evolved from devices strictly for telecommunication purposes to multiple tasked devices that can make voice and data calls, take photographs, play video games, and directing us in the car as we drive. However, cell phone design has been interesting to say the least.

Alcatel Crystal A (Rhinestones and Cubic Zirconia in the external case)

LG GD900 (Touch Screen/Transparent Keypad)

Nokia Gun Phone (Not Real but likely in our generation)

The fact is that phones have become devices that reach far beyond their purpose. For example, I considered buying a new iPod after my old one failed on me. However, I realized that I could save money by buying a memory card and special headphones for my hybrid cell phone, camera, GPS, mp3 player, and tip calculating device. The primary problem is that phone design has tried to keep up, even exceed, the technology in phones.

Nokia 7610
Fairly Good Design
Somewhat Familiar Mapping of Keys
Large Display
Size that is conducive to the hand
Styling doesn't dominate the phone

This particular design isn't the best example, but some designs are an utter failure on the part of the designer.

Nokia 7280
Appears to be an MP3 player rather than a phone
Unfamiliar key mapping
Smaller size
Lack of a number pad
Designer just thought "I'm going to win so many awards for this"

It is important to look back on previous mobile phone design to see how a phone should be for the user's satisfaction and not the designers. Mobile phone technology goes back as far as the 19th century where Michael Faraday proposed that space can conduct electricity, an idea that made him a "crackpot" to most other scientists of his era. It wasn't until the 1950s did mobile phone technology began to develop.

Timeline of Mobile Phone Technology

A Swedish Radio Car Phone

1956- The first car phones come into use. The units are large and bulky, requiring a personal operator to switch calls.

This particular interface for mobile communication required a separate operator for use. The operator had to monitor the signals on the dials as well as the switches to control the phone as there was no single channel for two way calling, the caller had to push to talk, like a two way radio. This unit was bulky and was only as mobile as the car it was in. It did help in terms of mobile communication as this was an invaluable tool for communication in the armed force, primarily on vehicles in combat. Based on it’s appearance, it would appear to require a thorough reading of the manual because the design itself doesn’t tell you what to do. In line with what Norman has said about aesthetic and how designers can go astray, the mapping of the phone is good because all the controls are well placed and visible. However, operating them was a mystery if you had not been trained or had the manual on hand, as there are no visual cues like text or symbols to help guide the user. Most models weighed several kilograms, and based on their weight, were only practical for in vehicle usage. These car phones would be the starting point for mobile communications. The later phones would be designed so there would not be a separate operator, and the phone would be easier to use based on its appearance as well as much more mobile.

1973- Martin Cooper develops the first personal mobile phone in New York City, working for Motorola. The Motorol DynaTac is shown to the public and Cooper is credited with being the first personal to make a call on a portable phone.

Motorola DynaTec 8000x

1983- The DynaTac was released for to the commercial market after being approved by the FCC. The phone sold for $3,995, a very high price however it was new technology that allowed you to call without having to be attached to a wire.

The DynaTac’s design is better than the previous car phones as it had a similar appearance to a standard landline phone. It weighed 28 ounces and 10 inches tall. This phone is a major improvement over the older and bulkier car phones of the past. Its mapping resembled that of a home phone and operating it's primary features didn't not require a separate operator. The red LED screen displayed the numbers that were dialed. Also, the additional buttons underneath the numbers were easy to understand but without the screen functioning in coordination with the additional buttons, it was hard to figure out if your input had gone in correctly. There was feedback generated by the phone but without the screen, you were never sure of what you did. While it was much more portable than the previous radio car phones, it was still very bulky and slightly difficult to use based on the weight. The volume control was on the front face of the phone, and there was only one button to adjust it. Its large size made it impractical to use unless you needed to be in constant contact with someone. Later cellular phones of this era would begin to shrink in size, and their ease of use would grow substantially.

1989- The Motorola MicroTAC (Total Area Coverage)

(Pictured are the Motorola MicroTac 8900 (Top) and the MicroTac Elite (Middle), an advanced variant

and a comparison of the two (Bottom)

The MicroTAC was a major improvement in terms on interfacing with ease. The phone is much smaller than its predecessor, the DynaTac. Also, the phone featured a better LED screen, and later versions featured LCDs that allowed the user to see and know what they were doing on the phone. The button mapping remains the same from the DynaTac. The buttons for volume adjustment were placed on the side of the phone, which allowed the user to change the sound output mid call with one hand as compared to the DynaTac, which only had one volume button, on the front of the phone which would not allow for that affordance. Also, the number pad featured a green “Send Button” and red “End” button, helped the user identify what function to use a lot quicker and easier. It played on the “green is to go as red is to stop” analogy that we learn from seeing traffic lights. The MicroTac’s affordances were numberable as it had a numeric memory set up. A number would correspond to a menu option, which could be confusing if the user doesn’t have the list of corresponding number/menu options in front of them. This an early example of creeping featurism, as the phone had an organizer, memo, and calculator functions. Also, the other function buttons on the phone are set up beneath the number buttons and are smaller than the number buttons as well. It alludes to the importance of the numerical buttons but organizes them so that the user knows where the button is based on size and location. It weighed about 12 ounces and when opened was about 9 inches long. However its fragile design and power workmanship made this phone hard to use without damage. Its flip portion was easily broken due to its construction, and also users had difficulty with the battery. Phones created after the MicroTac would employer better workmanship, better parts for sound signal, and different designs and styles.

1996 Motorola StarTAC

Motorola StarTAC 3000

The successor to the MicroTac, the StarTac was major improvement as it supported multiple networks. both digital and analog, and was more sleek and lightweight. The phone was the first clamshell phone, that folded up into half of its full size. The StarTac weighed only about 3 ounces. The phones layout was much different than its predecessor. The screen and the number pad occupy the same part of the phone, whereas there was a separation on the DynaTac and MicroTac. The color coded buttons return as well as the differentiation of button size, further organizing the phone. Other new additions include a menu button and two additional buttons MR and M+, which can be assumed to coordinate with the menu button. Also, the screen is larger and is an LCD screen. Earlier models still relied on LEDs but those were much more advanced than the MicroTac, utilizing longer lines of LEDs, and having two rows instead of one. It is considered one of top devices of the last fifty years because the phone had such advanced features. Later models had a push to talk service feature that allowed you to communicate without having to dial a number. Also, it utilized Silent Message Service, also known as SMS or text messaging, one of the most used features used on phones currently. The StarTac shaped the cellular phone world as to its user friendliness, portability, and its usefulness. The only known problem with this particular phone is the sounds quality of the earpiece. Its concave design is more conducive to sound but not to one’s ear as the horizontal orientation of the earpiece does not keep out ambient nose. Phone companies like LG, Sony, Ericsson, and Motorola would start more features to their phones like cameras, and mobile internet. The StarTac set the pace for the cell phone market as prices dropped and mobile phone service became more readily available.

2004 Motorola RAZR

Motorola RAZR V3

The Motorola RAZR was a pioneering phone of design and ease of use. It adopts the clamshell model of StarTac, but places the screen on the upper part of the clamshell. Two of the most important features are the external LCD screen and the slimline design. The LCD screen essentially allows the user to view what is on the phone without opening it. The small LCD was used for caller ID, which allowed the user to see who was calling without opening the phone, allowing for call screening to be almost effortless. The slim design of the phone was one of its major selling points. The name RAZR came from its slim design, one that was only seen on prototypes of cell phones. The radical design of the phone could qualify as a designer straying from usability however the phone maintains the same layout of a standard flip phone, which was years past the StarTac. The phone capitalizes on sleek as all the buttons on the phone do not stand out much from the phone. The interior buttons hardly qualify as buttons because they are all on the same piece of metal, divided by curved lines of plastic that are illuminated for use at night. The design was popular with users and was more practical that the previous phones use of plastic buttons and rubber buttons. In comparison with the StarTac, MicroTac, and DynaTac, the RAZR is superior to all in portability, power, signal strength, ease of use, and style. There were problems with this phone that did not affect other previous phones. Primarily, its slimline design did not allow for physical error. A fall over 3 feet would result in a high percentage of phone errors and physical damage. Also, its small size caused problems for those with larger hands, as the dial pad was trickier to use. The RAZR would continue to into many iterations with the same style keypad and slimline design but incorporating a larger screen, different configurations including a sliding variation which incorporated into my phone redesign, and transmitting strengths.

2007 Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone 1st Generation

The iPhone, created by Apple, is one of the most popular cellular “smart” phones on the market right now. Its high points are the software interface, the physical design, and usability of the phone in the real world. The phone’s interface relies on icons with captions as well as a touch sensitive vibrating screen. The screen also allows for multiple fingers to touch the screen in certain motions to correspond to an action on the phone. The amount of functions that this phone can do comes close to creeping featurism. Norman writes that “Creeping featurism is the tendency to add the number of features that a device can do, often extending the number beyond all reason”. There are several applications that can be downloaded in addition to the email, iPod music player, and You-Tube viewer that come with the phone. Several of these applications are frivolous and are subject oriented. This phone has a thousand uses however its design does have flaws. The touch screen is made of glass and if dropped on its face becomes totally useless. There are screens to prevent scratching but a fall from five feet could easily shatter the glass. Also, there is a lack of buttons or toggles on the outside of the phone. The top power button and the menu button at the bottom of the phone are only two analog controls on the phone. The entire phone is dependent on the screen and there are no other affordances on the phone to use in case it is damaged. The large screen and shape of the iPhone are the two elements that I used in my phone redesign.

2007 Verizon LG Voyager

LG VX10000

The LG VX10000 aka known as the Voyager, released the same year as the iPhone and was coined by many critics within the cellular phone industry as an “iPhone killer”. Its similar design, and features deemed it competition from Verizon to combat the rising sales of the iPhone. The primary difference between the iPhone and the Voyager is that the Voyager is candybar clamshell phone. Creeping featurism is not as rampant on this phone because Verizon's phone operations limited what you can do as to features. It has the size of the iPhone but it much thicker. The phone opens up and reveals a second screen with a full QWERTY keyboard. This design addition automatically made the Voyager superior in terms of interfacing because it copied the interface of a computer keyboard and replicated it to the Voyager with the function buttons to the side of the keyboard. Alsom,The touch screen vibrates in response to touch similar to the iPhone but this touch screen is plastic coated so it won't crack if it falls unlike the iPhone. The Menu layout is very self explanatory as an icon denotes what menu it goes to. The iPhone does this as but the icons on the screen lead directly to applications, whereas the Voyager organizes applications, music, and videos into their own menus. There are more problems with this phone than the iPhone primarily because of design flaws. The wiring for the touch screen is routed through the hinges that allow you to open the phone. Frequent opening and closing of the phone can lead to an unintentional wear and tear of the wiring of the touch screen, causing a delay in reaction time for the phone and damage to the touch sensitivity. Also, one particular problem with the phone is the screen lock that activates while its is in the user's pocket. The Voyager is my current phone and I think it suffers from unfulfilled potential. The basis of my redesign uses many of the Voyager's features as well

The Redesign

Taking all the previous phones into consideration, the phone I chose to redesign was the Verizon Voyager because it doesn't suffer from the creeping featurism of the iPhone as well as having very advanced technology. The flaws it does suffer from can be alleviated from the design of the iPhone based on screen size and its intuitive touch screen. The slimline design of the RAZR will make it smaller and less obtrusive.

First,I sketched out what I wanted to do.

Main Body of the Phone

Keyboard portion

I called it the Vizier because the title of Vizier was held in high esteem as an an advisor to the king or sultan in Egypt and the Muslim World. That appeals to the user giving them a sort of esteem boost because you have an electronic advisor that will dictate your life to you (Sort of a tangent but that is what usually happens with people and smart phones). The primary differences between my remake and the iPhone and Voyager are that Vizier is the body of the iPhone, with its self contained shape, and the Voyager's interface as well as a few design cues like the manual buttons on the face of the phone.

iPhone and Voyager Menus Side by Side

Verizon Wireless Vizier

Vizier Portrait Mode (Touch Screen Active)

The Portrait Mode is the mode where the phone is held in a longitudinal orientation. This is primary orientation where the touch screen is active. The screen had been changed based on the iPhone drag and drop lock system. The Voyager's unlock feature is just touch part of the screen, which lead to accidental unlocking and dialing. At one point, the Voyager, while in my pocket changed it's settings so it automatically opens and reads my text messages. With the lock changed, that won't happen anymore. The primary screen has all the usual indicators on it. Signal strength, time and date, battery life, and service provider (In this case, Verizon Wireless). The primary screen has six widgets, each with an identifying icon. Each widget leads to a sub menu where you can access the application and its subordinating services. Also, the submenus are linked together so if you need to change camera setting and you are in the Internet submenu, you can touch the icon and it will go to that menu. This was a feature on the Voyager that I particularly liked. One key feature on this phone that the Voyager doesn't have is a calibrating sensor for finger size. Earlier, I mentioned the Razr buttons being too small for large hands. Similarly, the iPhone and Voyager had the same problem. So the Vizier would have a sensor that could judge the size of a finger and set the screen to adjust icon sizes automatically. That was one of the constraints that I couldn't appreciate, especially when the icons are so small. Also, I placed three manual buttons on the bottom part of the phone's face. The Send and End keys would be used to handle calls, and the CLR button would function as a back button for navigating menus as well as a manual backspace key for text. Those are taken from the Voyager and come in handy if you have want to call someone without pressing several buttons. Also, volume control buttons and a manual phone lock buttons are on the left side of the phone but aren't seen because they would be completely flushed with the phone's exterior to maintain a sleek look.

Vizier Landscape Mode (Touch Screen Dormant)

Landscape Mode is the lateral orientation of the phone and is activated when the keyboard is slid down from the inside of the phone. The touch screen would still function without the touch sensors active to preserve battery life. The keys has a qwerty keyboard layout with the option buttons, a directional pad, and primary controls on the sides. One feature that I carried over from the Voyager was the symbol key. It helps when you want to use punctuation because the shift key does capital letters but the layout of a computer keyboard and cell phone keypad are much different because of space issues. The symbol key (SYM) allows the designer to consolidate the punctuation keys and the alphanumeric keys together. A feature that I wouldn't be too keen on using but would be useful is an active touch screen while in landscape mode. It would be an option to active in the settings menu, for those who want to watch videos in widescreen format on their phone (For what reason, I really can't figure out), reading and typing with wider screen, or a way to view large picture on the phone. The iPhone boasts a motion sensor that will adjust to whatever orientation the phone is set to but the Vizier doesn't have that feature in order to sustain battery life. The two buttons above the keyboard are selection buttons for the bottom menu. The left key corresponds to the left side and the right key corresponds to the right key.

Side Profile

Bottom of the Phone

Menu Layouts

The menus I created for the phone all in portrait mode but the landscape variant would just have a highlight around selectable objects controlled by the directional pad. They are also very minimal and don't have a lot of things on them.

The contact menu is fairly simple. An icon denoting what the particular text is appears on the left next to the text. Also, a photo, if available can be placed there, for a photo ID that would appear when the person calls.

The primary submenus are laid in list format. The landscape variant of the submenus would have a highlight over the selected option and numeric hot keys, for faster progression. Also, the icons on the top header also allow the user to move between menus with ease.

The Media player layout is fairly simple. The play/pause, stop, and skip/search buttons are along of the bottom of the screen. The musical note button leads back to the music menu, which is the same layout as the regular submenus. The image of what is playing along with the music information is posted in the middle of the screen.

The text entry screen is one of the most important parts of the phone because that layout is usually consistent throughout the phone. Here, it is as simple as it can get. The Voyager's text entry on the touch screen used the 12 button alphanumeric phone set up but I felt it was really pointless and redundant to still have to tap buttons rapid fire 2 or 3 times fast get text in. I took a design cue from the iPhone since I made a bigger screen and place a QWERTY keyboard in place of the 12 button set up. It is almost identical in comparison to the actual keyboard on the phone, so it provides familiarity with key mapping.


The world of cellular technology has yet to begin to innovate the way we live and intrigue us. Hopefully, designer will take their cue from Donald Norman so we can actually use and enjoy those interfaces instead of being eternally frustrated with them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Learning Log 8 9/2 "Surrogates: A Possible Future

The latest offering from Hollywood in the form of a sci-fi action thriller is a movie called Surrogates. The major drawing point of the movie is that people live their lives through a robot created to look like them called a Surrogate. The trailer is below:
From the look of the movie, its is a stinker because the plot is quite predictable (In a future of no crime, someone is killed.......typical), the future in the movie is looks like our present, (If I could get my hands on a surrogate.........(chuckles)), and the main character Bruce Willis plays a Federal Agent, failing to realize that you can never out live being John McLane.
However, I am more focused on the idea of a human being, confining themselves to a control device and living through a surrogate. It would essential take the humanity out of human. Technology in the present is slowly starting to increase the divide between human contact. Cell Phones with Video Chat replace conversations face to face. Text messaging and IM take away the emotions involved with talking to people. I once aggravated several guys over a CD cover that I wasn't charging for, but because you really couldn't tell how I said it and the fact that there was a typo, it ruined my junior year because I was worried about getting jumped everyday on my way home from school, something I already had to deal with. I mean the digital divide hasn't gotten completely out of touch with humanity, as technology helps keep us alive, however the idea of humans using robots to interface with people in place of themselves is strange.
The surrogates would have a place in the world, just not as an everyday application. Military and Police could use them for their services because their line of work involves casualties, so you could cut down on loss. Also, the president, could use a surrogate when going overseas, so that the threat against him. Even celebrities, if the system was fine-tuned enough, could act without even being there. However, there are many cons to this situation. A sort of couch potato effect would take place because you just sit in a chair all day. You do not have physical movement. So whenever you surrogate does fail, you wake up and you're fat. Also, a myspace situation could develop from trying date as a surrogate. For example, you meet a very attractive "woman" and she finds "you" attractive as well, so if you decide to actually meet up in real life, you may find yourself wondering why you asked her out, when her surrogate is a model and the real thing is far from that.
The concept behind surrogates is sound but if it were to come to fruition, the world as we know it will change forever.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning Log 7 9/28: Design thoughts

The final three chapters of the book were great because it explored more into the design aspect of everyday things. They also talked about human error which is an important part of how the entire design system works. If someone makes an error, be it a slip or a mistake, it can cause problems with the system they are interfacing with. A wrong key press can wipe your entire hard drive out, a misplaced figure can mess up an order for a business, even a wrong transfer can send you to the other side of the city (Its happened before). It was humorous reading Norman’s examples of each form of slip and it helped figure out what each different slip was. Associative Activations Errors and Loss of Activation errors are common with me because most of the time I will forget to do part of or the entire activity. I’ve walked out of my room and 12:30 in morning, going for a midnight snack, and then find myself in an dark empty kitchen. Also, I’ve had times where I’ve said the wrong thing at the wrong time, like answering “What Up, G?” on the phone with my grandmother, pre caller ID. I think designs should implement features that cover mistakes and human error. Computers have most of that covered with the often extremely annoying “Are you sure?” dialogs that come up. Cars have a warning when doors are open and headlamps are still active after the engine is off. However, I found out that my car’s warning only works on the driver side. After a conversation with my mom where I appeared to be a complete idiot, not according to her, I made sure to listen out for the noise. Also, I did agree with Norman’s ideas on social pressure and mistakes. The Korean Air situation is a good example of both social pressure induced mistake and a fairly bad interface. If the inertial navigation system could be reset from within the plane, that problem would not exist. Also, the fault of the INS failure shouldn’t fall on the pilots or at least don’t tell the pilots that they would reprimanded. I would rather not know something like that, already piloting a big steel, gasoline powered cylinder, several thousand feet in the air.

The design process chapter I enjoyed because I’ve always like designing things. Letters were always cool to me; hence the graffiti and then the graphic design major. Cars were always something I adored and I really wanted to design cars but I sucked at drawing around that time. Norman makes a great point in the heading on pg 155 “Designers are not typical users”. It speaks volumes for all the horrible designs that pass as user friendly. The expertise of the designer and the user are two different criteria. Designers think about aesthetics, comfort, usability , ease of use, and many other parameters when designing something. While those parameters are relevant to the user, the ability to use the product is the most important aspect of the design. Sure a phone can be a beautiful design aesthetically but if you can’t dial a number without becoming increasingly aggravated over the action itself, it isn’t a good design. Designs should be suggested not by the clients but the users themselves. Even though, most of the current phones are legitimately user friendly and not difficult use, sometimes you get a phone that will make you question why in the world would some one think that this would be profitable. Things like false imagery and creeping featurism are temptations easily succumbed to. I once had an organizer that could play polyphonic ringtones. It couldn’t place calls but I could play ringtones on my organizer. I understand creeping featurism but I just don’t get how piling on so many features into a device or software. I enjoy this temptation because I usually end up using all the features, even though I have no need for them.

User centered design was a good wrap up because it gives you the building blocks for great design. Norman reiterates his design principles on 188 which helps put the system and process of design into perspective. Simplifying the structure of tasks, especially complex ones, is important because no one like difficulty. For example, I’m going to use the token vs. Metrocard argument again as an example of such. The token was easy to use for the rider, but an arduous task for the MTA as they had tabulate their sales based on the sheer volume of copper tokens, minus all the counterfit tokens that made it through. The metrocard is supposed to be easier for both the rider and the MTA. The rider gets the card and swipes it. The city now has electronic systemt to tabulate revenue from the fares. The technological aspect can be circumvented by counterfeiting as well glitches with the ID strip (Fares don’t work, errors). The city made their tasks simpler while making the riders just a bit more complicated. The constraints created by designers is important because they can help the user determine the appropriate action. It is a shame that appropriate constraints aren’t used more often.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

LEarning Log 6: "Xbox 360: Proof That Microsoft Still Fails"

The gaming industry is one of most challenging and money driven industries in existence. Before it was Sony and Microsoft, it was Sega and Nintendo, before that it was Atari and colecovision, even before that commodore 64 (OLD SCHOOL!!!! lol). The latest offerings from this industry are all great but lack something that the others have. This particular system: Xbox 360 is an awesome machine to kill time and procrastinate with. I am the proud owner and operator one that has already become a true Microsoft product: I had to get a replacement because of a fatal error. Fatal Error, sounds awfully familiar. Wait....

That is right, Microsoft somehow got the magic of the blue screen of death onto their Xbox platform. Called the Three Rings of Death. Pictured below, the rings are a fatal error that has been resolved by being sent back to the manufacturer. I really didn't read into this much but it happened so frequently as well as a bunch of other errors that really made not a bit of sense that I figured out that Microsoft make so much money because of their faulty software. They have cornered the market on repairs, it is incredible that a. this continues to go one and b. why no one seems to have picked up on it. Norman talks about the ease of use and constraints set but an product. Microsoft has a perfect interface, and Xbox 360 is the easiest system to set up and use, even the online package is a cakewalk to activate. The fact that they do is really ingenious and super capitalist, glad the Soviets don't exist or we wouldn't be their biggest fans, like they ever were. The interfaces are perfect but the inner workings are shotty. My solution would be to combine the pure power of macintosh with microsoft's user friendliness and wide array of software and create a dependable, blue screen and red ring friend, system for everyone.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Learning Log 5: Ch.3 and Ch.4

The subject of memory in chapter three was an interesting and entertaining topic. Norman highlights the overabundance of thing to commit to memory on regular basis. I can throughly understand as I can remember my PIN number, Familly Phone Numbers, Student ID number, SSN, and my license plate number. Norman elaborates on the types of memory we have as arbitrary, meaningful, and explanatory, all of which has applications in life. Arbitrary memory is simple and easy to commit to memory. Norman uses the multiplication tale as an example. I agree with that because as a kid in catholic school, the teachers were strict so everytime I got in trouble (A lot since I learned the tables in 2 weeks) I had write the multiplication tables a certain number of times. It sucked, on a massive scale. But I still pick out any equation of the top of my head and answer it (12x12=................144). Memory of meaningful relationships is another idea that I agree with as the mental model does play a role in what you remember. Metrocards (from learning log 2) are tricky and hard to use but I eventually figured out how to use them without swearing loudly by remembering the turnstile and the card in my head. Memory through explanation is probably one that I can see how it would work but have no examples of my own. I mean I did figure out how to do burnout in my automatic transmission car from my friend, but I wasn't really trying to wear my tires so my economy car can appear more than such. Norman analysis of memory its effects on how everyday actions and things we use is so easy to grasp.
Ch. 4 was a good too as it elaborated more on the designs and the number of parts involved with the product, dictating the degree of difficulty. The Lego example on page 83 is a design style as the pieces are easier to places, whereas the mixing control on pg. 93 is something only with training and familiarity can it become second nature. The use of pictures in this chapter is clearly for an explanative purposes even though the picture of the beer handle on the control panel of the nuke plant is pretty funny. Norman breaks down the everyday constraints by culture, physical, logical, and semantic constraints. I like how he uses the same example in each, as it makes each constraint easier to understand. The lego motorcycle helps explain most of the ideas. "The windshield only fits in one place"(Norman 84) (physical); "In the case of the motorcycle, there is only one meaningful location for the rider, who must sit facing forward. Te purpose of the windshield is to protect the rider's face, so it must be in front of the rider"(Norman 85) (semantic); "On the motorcycle the pieces with the word police on them have to be place right side up" (85) (cultural); "In the case of the motorcycle, logic dictated that all the pieces should be used with no gaps in the final product" (86) (logical). Norman continues on to talk about affordances and constraints being applied to everyday things, which is how it should be so that people don't mistakenly do something wrong. The doors on pg.90 are a good example of affordances and constraints. The push bar at the top has two sides so one cannot easily choose which side to push but the bottom push bar is easier to discern based on its placement. Norman also talks about visibility and feedback, things that even some technology in 2009 don't even feature.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Learning Log 4: 9/15 " Samsung A930- Another Fine Product from Wishful Thinking Incorporated"

The image above is the Samsung SCH-A930, distributed by Samsung under Verizon Wireless. This phone is special to me because it marked the beginning of my adulthood. I used to have a fairly dinky phone that came with the family plan my parents setup. I had the phone for six months and it looked like a phone that had been to a death camp. So I researched phones and asked my mother for new one. After finding out how unwilling she and my dad were to replace my phone with a new one, I shelled 300 dollars for this phone. Aesthetically, the phone looks amazing. The black color allows for a subtle appearance, the cyan LCD on the outside is extremely bright, and the text on the phone was legible. The problems with this phone are numerous. The major issues I had were call quality and the mp3 function. The Call quality was often horrible. I could barely hear what people were saying and I often used the external speakers to hold conversations on speaker phone, which isn't always an acceptable method, especially in a crowded place i.e a rush hour packed subway car (Long Story). The reason for the phone's horrible signal was that the signal band was an older more ground based system, while all the other phones were using a hybrid ground/satellite system. After that discovery, I thought for 300 hundred bucks I'd at least get a decent mp3 player, especially since I got an extra memory card for the phone just for that purpose. Wrong.
The player was not a great addition to the phone and honestly was used more often to fake phone calls. The problem was that the external buttons on the phone (Right side of the image, closed phone) would trigger in my pocket when I sat down. Verizon thought it would be smart to put a 3 second delay on the play button to prevent accidental activations. The delay just made it seem like I was getting a phone call, which isn't such a great thing when all my teachers thrived on confiscating cell phones in class. I had to silence both the phone and the mp3 player, meant I had to activate the mp3 player only to mute it. My mp3 started to play during a job interview where I was just embarrassed to death. The first song on my playlist was called Illegal Life, right after I said I didn't have an arrest record or any criminal associations. Looking like a liar or loser aside, the phone's design is purely wishful. I blamed myself for not keeping the phone from going off the first few times but after a while I just blamed the phone. I ended up never using the mp3 function at all just because the work wasn't worth it when I had a CD player that worked fine. Like Norman said, taught helplessness set in right around the time I realized the mp3 volume was independent of the phone volume.
The major thing I would change about this phone would be to move the mp3 controls from the front to the side and make them smaller to avoid the accidental activations. Also, I would put the hybrid transmitter in the phone to improve call quality. I think the company behind it, Samsung, has a habit of half baked merchandise, as several devices of theirs have failed me. Just as the next few logs will come to demonstrate.

Learning Log 3 9/15 " The Psychology of Everday Actions"

This chapter was a great follow-up to the first chapter, as it explains that actions as well as the devices and interfaces we use, contribute to failure and misunderstanding. Norman chronicles each aspect of failure with interfaces. The example about the placement of the return and enter keys was a good way to explain to the idea of " If the task appears simple or trivial, then people blame themselves (35)". I agree with Norman that you often blame yourself for messing up an allegedly easy task. Sometimes, it really isn't the user fault, and other times, it is the users fault, but the design dictates that. If the user mistakes the placement of a key once or twice, they can blame themselves with too much fault. However, if the placement is habitually forgotten, it sometimes isn't the users fault. Design flaws can often lead that problem but because the task seems simple then can assign blame to themselves. Several devices are not well made but their use is so simple, people can't help but to blame themselves. It can also lead to another problem that Norman talked about, how if one part of the process is difficult, it attributes difficulty to the whole problem even though it is not wide spread. I like his example with math problems because I've experienced that phenomenon all through high school, especially learning calculus, and trigonometry. Norman wrote "Could a few instances of failure in what appear to be straightforward situations generalize to every technological object, every mathematics problem? Perhaps. In fact the design of everyday things (and the design of mathematics courses) seems almost guaranteed to cause this. We could call this phenomenon taught helplessness" (42). I find the most truth in the gulfs of execution and evaluation. If the process doesn't allow a person to complete the task with minimal effort, and if the process doesn't have a layout that can be directly understood, I believe it to be an unsuccessful device. In conclusion, the second chapter demonstrates that the actions also are the cause of failure with devices and interfaces.