Monday, May 4, 2009

Fitt's Law
Commented on:
Josh Meyers
Cole Jones
Jared Wright

Paul M. Fitt's law is has been remarkably true for many different applications. The law, which models human movement, predicts the time it takes to reach a position. The target time to reach a target location is calculated by the following equation(formulated differently than presented in paper):


T: average time of movement
a: start/stop time of device
b: inherent speed of device
D: Distance from starting point to target
W: width of target

Overall, the law states that the time it takes to reach a target area is proportionate to the distance of width of the target. So, it would take the same amount of time, given the correct ratio, to reach a destination, if the target was a wide, but the distance of was long, or the target was narrow and the distance was short. This law has been proven to hold true to many things, and I think is pretty fascinating.

Harmful Things Considered....

Commented on:
Kevin Kwan
Jared Wright
Brad Twitty
Nicholas Harris
J. Chris Elgin
Brian Salato
Devin Mckaskle
John Zachary
Patrick Clay

1. Ethnography
In the paper "Ethnography is considered Harmful", various reasons are brought up against the usage of Ethnography. While the positives of ethnography and its importance was discussed in class, this paper discusses the change in its usage nowadays and its negative effects. I thought the paper presented some decent opinions on how ethnographies are used today. The author introduces some of the new methods of ethnography and presents arguments that it does not adequately perform the work it was originally intended. For example, the method that studies the place where people work does not "...reveal the 'lived work'." The authors also talk about the affect that new ethnography has on designs. The concerns they raised seem legit in their own view, such as understanding a different aspect of the world that influences design. (i.e. social and cultural aspects) Overall, it seems that they regard the new methods as not covering enough or missing some critical points that are related to design. in that case, I feel that it would be appropriate to add certain traits to the methods to improve their coverage area. By including the areas of concern, ethnography would no longer be harmful for design, as they would also include a broader area.

2.Usability Evaluation
One of the most important factors of design we've studied this semester was usability evaluation. we've read our shares of books that emphasize on its importance as well as people who has taken advantage of it and succeeded. however, in this paper, arguments are presented against it and how its "harmful". While they do not deny the value of usability studies, the authors suggest that not all development situations should be subjected under such an evaluation. Personally, I think usability evaluation is a great method for designers and engineers to gauge their product and its effectiveness. Still, the potential misses that the paper said are possible is worth thinking about. The paper contemplated on the missed opportunities that the usability studies could cause for some products when they are tested prematurely. It can't be denied that usability evaluations are useful, but perhaps it'd be best if they aren't taken in the same context as they are now. They should still perform them, but also evaluate the results a little more carefully and considered the possibilities and not let everything be dictated by the outcomes.

3.Human-Centered Designs
Don Norman! And i thought I was done with him after the last book, but alas, the class has brought us together again. In this paper, Don Norman talks about the dominance of human-centered designs, and its harmful effects on design overall. Norman offers an alternative, Activity-Centered design, and reasons why. After reading through this paper, I must say that his suggest method have some merits to them. He presents some examples such as writing tools and music instruments and how their designed for their specific activity and people were able to adapt to them and still perform great feats. While that may be true for certain things, I think that the rule is not universal. For some activities, people are willing to make the effort to adapt for whatever satisfaction or reward they gain. In some activities that are trivial, users would not be motivated to adapt for it.Norman argues that while HCD has its benefits, it also some some heavy weighing drawbacks. One of which is that a certain group of users might tend to make changes that benefit them only and not really involve other people. Overall, I thought it was an interesting read, but once again, I would evaluate its usage on a case by case basis. While its true that HCD does indeed have some things it needs to address, it is not necessarily deficient for certain objects while ACD also has its advantages for some things.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The VoiceBot: A Voice Controlled Robot Arm

Brandi House, Jonathan Malkin, Jeff Bilmes
Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Washington

Commented on:
Patrick Clay
Richard Russell
Sarah Gray

Individuals with motor impairments such as paraplegia and spinal cord injuries may have difficulties with daily activities. Assistive technology exists to facilitate their actions and increase their abilities. One of the problems facing this technology is the control options of the technology. A solution that was developed was the spoken language and automatic speech recognition (ASR) system. However, it does not provide adequately for tasks that require smooth continuous control.

By using the Vocal Joystick (VJ), a system was developed to use non-speech voice recognition to control a robot arm. Two experiments were carried out. First experiment was to manipulate a robot arm in 2-dimensions while the second experiment was to manipulate it in 3-D.
Three control models were used for the experiements:

- Forward Kinematic (FK) Model
- Inverse-Kinematic (IK) Model
- Hybrid Model

The forward kinematic model requires the use to control each joint angle explicitly. Advantage is that it is light on computation, but it requires more effort from the user. In the inverse kinematic model, the arm is used to position the end effector in the appropriate location. This model requires more computation but less work for the user. The hybrid model is a combination of the FK and the IK. In this model, the first two joints are controlled using IK and the last one is controlled directly.


Experiment 1: Simulate Arm User Study
Objective: Feasibility and to support their hypothesis that the hybrid model would be the best choice.


5 users were invited to test their system. The test had the users control a robot arm in 2D to move a ball along the ground to four locations. Users were given time to practice for as long as they want before the time trial was conducted. Four of the users had previous experience with VJ.

The results:

Users had the most difficulty control the pitch. Overall, users generally preferred the inverse kinematic model, as it was the fastest in the trial for 3 users out of 5. The forward kinematic model was second, and the least favorite was the hybrid model. These results indicate that users would like prefer not to have to explicitly control each joint angle. With more practice though, users may be able to adapt to the forward kinematic model.

Experiment 2: Robotic Arm Control: The VoiceBot
The VoiceBot is a hobbyist robot that they converted to be controlled by the Vocal Joystick. The VoiceBot is controlled using two modes: position mode and orientation mode. The user can switch between these modes by using a “ck” sound.
In position mode, the arm moves according to three algorithms

- Forward Kinematics (FK)
- Inverse Kinematics - Cartesian
- Inverse Kinematics – Cylindrical


In orientation mode, finer controls are allowed to manipulate the gripper.
In this experiment, 12 users were invited and their task was to use the robot arm and place 2 candies into a target spot. Each user was given two practice sessions and two time trails, each to complete the task with a different control method each. A short interview was conducted at the end.


All users were able to complete the task given with both control methods. 75% of the users preferred the Inverse Kinematic controls as opposed to forward kinematics. Many users felt that IK was more intuitive, although it felt slower than FK and produced jerkier movements. One problem the users described was the discrete sound detection. It induced frustration for a few users as there was a large amount of false detections. Another problem was that the pitch control was a significant challenge for many users. Future attempts could try and refine the control methods and improve the sound detection.


The experiments proved the feasibility of this technology and future studies could benefit from better control methods and better equipment. The results presented are the first instance of a non-verbal voice-controlled robotic arm. Future research into this area can yield a greater system that can help individuals with motor impairments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

GUI - Phooey!: The Case for Text Input

By: Max Kleek, Michael Bernsterin, David R. Karger, MIT CSAIL.
mc shraefel, Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton

Commented on:
Patrick Surber
Josh Meyers
Adam Griffin

Conventional methods for information entry and retrieval do not provide the perfect package of easy data entry and efficient data retrieval.
2 methods:

free text entry - Easy entry, hard retrieval
Context capture - hard to input, easier retrieval.

Solution: Free text entry + context capture = JourKnow
Jourknow combines the free form text entry with context capture techniques to give users a fast and easy interface for input and output.
Jourknow takes free text input and breaks down the data into structures and entities and associates it with tags. Jourknow parses information and recognizes certain subjects such as meetings, dates and locations. All information inputted into Jourknow is called "codex".


Jourknow uses a simplified language called pidgin. It allows users to express things more naturally. It also uses a syntax based on notation3, which let users make statements to "express arbitrary structural properties and relationship among entities...".
Jourknow provides feedback on how expressions are interpreted so users can know if they need to explicitly alter any associations or to correct any parses. The program also contains filtering features that allow users to efficiently find data that they previously wrote. Jourknow associates contexts to notes that users have wrote. Contexts include pictures, videos and information describing the situation when they wrote the note. These contexts help the user recall the time when they first recorded the data. These contexts are chronologically organized and Jourknow also breaks down time into segments such as minutes, hours, days, or morning, afternoon and night.

Initial informal tests included 5 users and the general consent was positive. Users commented on the text-input interface. Opinions about the tagging functionality were split and some users desired the ability to be able to associate non-textual information items with notes.

Information management was benefitted by the rich GUI interface and a good input interface is wasted if the trouble to retrieve the information outweighs it. The goal of Jourknow is to provide users with a GUI interface that'll facilitate information entry and retrieval. The paper described a design that minimizes the effort needed for text entry and their implementation of a system that meets their criteria.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Inmates are Running the Asylum

Commented on:
John Zachery
Josh Meyers
Brian Salato

In Alan Cooper's "The Inmates are Running the Asylum", he talks about how the software engineers, the "inmates", are actually in control of how a software is designed and developed. While I was not totally aware of this situation, I do agree with him after reading his book. The ones who actually write the code inevitably have a great deal of leverage and say on how the program will turn out, and any other roles merely act as support and guidance to them. Cooper emphasizes on the difficulties users face when using today’s software and how they are ill-designed and therefore suffer from similar sub-par interaction interfaces. From cameras to planes, Cooper presents examples of how things are complicated when a computer is involved in the equation. He insisted that when something has a computer as part of this structure, it will ultimately act like a computer and have similar weaknesses. Cooper repeatedly states the importance of the role of a design engineer. A design engineer's main goal is to create a good interface with which the user can enjoy and improve their overall experience. A product’s development life cycle should include professional design engineers to layout a detailed plan before any code is written. I very much agree with this idea. Its true that writing programs are expensive, and having to rewrite something only adds to the amount of unnecessary costs. His analogy to movie making seemed to make sense. Even though each stage of development requires a different group of people, there doesn't necessarily have to be waste as the design team can begin working on the next project while the programmers get to work on their just-finished design. He proves that it is not the best idea to have the software engineers do the design work as that presents a conflict of interest. Good design may not be particular hard to come up with, but it’ll involve more work on the coders’ part and they may not be willing to put in that extra effort. Towards the second half of the book, I felt like this book became a why-you-should-hire-design-engineers guide for employers. Perhaps future software would be benefited if all managers and employers for software companies were to read his book. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book as it had some pretty interesting points, but I thought he tried a little too hard to push the design engineer’s importance and role onto his audiences.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Assessing Attractiveness in Online Dating Profiles

Commented on:
Patrick Surber
Josh Meyers
Ben Cartsen

By: Andrew T. Fiore, Lindsay S. Taylor, G.A. Mendelshon, Marti Hearst

The following CHI2008 paper explored the components of an online dating website profile that had the biggest impact on the profile as a whole and its effectiveness as a predictor on how well the profile as a whole would be perceived. It was an interesting article that presented some unexpected results.

50 online profiles were chosen from 5 different cities across the United States. 5 male and 5 female from each city. Each profile consisted of 3 components, a picture, a fixed-choice portion and a free-text portion. 65 participants were selected to evaluate the profiles through a custom-build website. Participants were asked to rate the whole profile and profile components using a five-point Likert-type scale from 0 to 4 on the following dimensions:

Genuine, trustworthy
Warm, kind

The results were standardized by using "ipsatization".

To predict the attractiveness of each profile, a regression model was used.

Figure 1. (Click to see full size)
Photobucket source:

Predicting whole profile attractiveness:

For men:
High masculinity ratings predicted high overall profile attractiveness.

For women:
High extraversion ratings predicted high overall profile attractiveness.

Whole profile attractiveness and component attractiveness:

Photo attractiveness was a strong predictor for both men and women. The free-text section was also a significant predictor for both, although not as much as the photos.

Figure 2. (Click to see full size)

For both men and women, photo attractiveness and free-text attractiveness held significance for the overall profile. This data correlate with the previous results. It is important to have both an attractive photo as well as an attractive free-text section to have an overall high attractiveness for the profile.

Whole profile attractive and other components:

For men:
When their pictures were seen as more genuine and trustworthy and relatively less warm and kind, they were seen as more attractive. Also when they seemed more extraverted in their photos and feminine. (That’s not a typo)

In the free-text section, men's profile was seen more attractive when they were perceived as genuine, trustworthy, and extraverted. High ratings of masculinity and being perceived as feminine were both associated with attractiveness.

For women:
The whole profile was seen more attractive when their photo was seen as having more self-esteem and being more feminine, less masculine. Lower self-centeredness was also associated with a generally more attractive rating.

No association of attractiveness with any other free-text section components.

For men, it is better to be perceived as more genuine and trustworthy, a picture that seemed feminine, but a high masculinity rating for the overall profile.

For women, it is better to be perceived as extraverted, not self-centered and not masculine. A photo that showed high self-esteem was also positive.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Emotional Design - Donald Norman

Commented on:
John Book

Once again I find myself getting more acquainted with Mr. Donald Norman. I must say though, that this book does present him a little differently than the two previous ones. While I have complained about how he complains about designs in the previous books, this one seemed to have a lesser amount of such complaints. Not that they aren’t legitimate concerns, but I guess I just sympathize with designers a little more and feel like the consumer do have some responsibility in learning the product rather than expecting a “perfect” design, especially with the difficulties presented by the varying degrees of standards from user to user. In Emotional Design, Norman talks about three effects a design has. Visceral, behavioral and reflective. Each design is important, but serves a different purpose. Some fear that certain designers focus too much on the behavioral part, sacrificing the visceral and reflective designs. Personally, I wouldn’t mind something looking a little less extravagant if it makes up for it in functionality, but I guess not everyone is willing to accept that compromise. Or rather, according to some, that compromise shouldn’t have been made in the first place perhaps. Norman’s fascination with robots and its role in society today and in the future occupies a good portion of the book. As more and more advanced and intelligent robots are created and used throughout society, certain concerns are raised. Human interaction with these machines are inevitable in some parts for now, but with this area of opportunity increasing rapidly, designers must find a way to integrate robots into our lives unobtrusively while satisfying the different needs. I did like some of Norman’s ideas of changing up the conventional designs of household items to work better with robots. His idea of a kitchen more suited to work with robots was amusing and seemed like something a researcher could first implement in a test house and possibly adopted by the mass later on. The problems he described with will be realized soon enough with the advancement of technology, but perhaps the rate of change will be at a pace that allows designers and engineers to adjust and fix the present problems fast enough to not hinder the success of this technology. The good thing about this is that consumers can adapt to this technology at their own pace and will not feel obligated or forced to change, thus easing the transition and perhaps lessening the burdens that designers will have. If the consumer is personally interested enough to change their current lifestyle in order to take advantage of this new technology, then hopefully they’ll also make the extra effort of learning how things should work. Overall, Emotional Design was an interesting read, especially for those who have read his previous books.