Thursday, February 26, 2009

An Exploration of Pen Rolling for Pen-based Interaction

By: Xiaojun Bi, Tomer Moscovish, Gonzalo Ramos, Ravin Balakrishnan, Ken Hinckley


The study explored the possibility of augmenting the pen's usability by introducing input from rolling it around its longitudinal axis. Two experiments were carried out to determine the feasibility and the possible applications. One experiment distinguished the intentional pen rolling from incidental, and the other experiment explored the parameter range at which users would be able to use it for application purposes.

Experiment 1: Incidental vs. Intentional Pen Rolling

The first experiment was on how the pen rotated under normal usage such as writing and drawing. Four tasks were given to participants to monitor pen movement:

1. Free Drawing
2. Writing
3. Screen Tracing
4. Table Tracing

Photos from "An Exploration of pen rolling for Pen-based Interactions", By Bi

Each task required a different type of pen movement and was monitored with cameras positioned around the setup. The cameras focused on markers that were attached to the pen. The parameters defined in this experiment were rolling angle and rolling speed. The experiment was carried out by setting the pen at 0, 45, and 90 degrees, and then measure from there the distance of movement as well as speed.

Rolling speed was fastest in writing and slowest in free drawing.
Rolling angle increases with the distance from the starting point of a stroke. There is a tendency for clockwise rotation. The mean rolling angle was 3 degrees. The mean rolling speed was 20 degrees/sec. To classify as an incidental roll, the rolling angle must fall within the [-10, 10] degree range and the rolling speed be in [-30, 30] degree/s range. If it falls outside of that range, it will considered intentional rolling.

Experiment 2: Intentional Rolling
The second experiment looked at the parameters during intentional rolling. The tasks given to participants included having them move a pen into a certain range of degrees. Variables that were monitored were the angular distance to the target and the angular width of the target sector. These variables represented the "usable range" and the "easily discriminable rotation".

Easily discriminable range was set at more than 10 degrees. As the angular target width decreased, so did the user's performance. (i.e. more errors, overshot target sector, and took more time.) Usable range was determined to be within [-90,90] degrees. The users' performance deteriorated as the range increased beyond that.

Pen Rolling Based Applications and Interactions
Users were subjected to applications such as using rolling to select a tool or to scroll down a page. Visual experiments were carried out where a user had to direct a puzzle piece using a pen and rotate the piece by rolling the pen. Pen-rolling could be used in parallel with other inputs. Another application involved users having to roll the pen a certain number of degrees to select a tool in a paint-like application. tools were set within certain ranges of degrees.

Photos from "An Exploration of pen rolling for Pen-based Interactions", By Bi

Participants who used the applications were generally able to quickly get use to it. Most felt the preset parameters were easy enough to use and some even suggested a bigger roll angle. One complaint that was raised was the difficulty to take advantage of the multiple input ability of the pen. It was difficult for the user to control direction, position and magnitude simultaneously.

The paper concluded that, while this is feasible and the parameters set are reasonable, additional research and evaluations need to be conducted and that pen-rolling based applications can indeed be beneficial to users. Additionally, it might be a good idea to let users customize the thresholds such as rolling angle.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ethnography on the Sports Car Club

Commented on:
Tyler Hennings
Patrick Clay
John Book

I did my ethnography on the Texas A&M Sports Car Club. It was a pretty interesting experience, and while they are an official organized group of people rather than strangers who performed similar actions, there were still things to be realized about them. Aside from the implicit conclusion that everyone in the group like cars, members of the Car Club is a diverse and friendly group of individuals. My method included in going to one of their events and unobtrusively observe their behaviors and, through an interview, gather information on how they operate and what they have to offer its members.
As their name implies, the group revolves around cars and motorsports, however, a person does not need to have a sports car to actually join. Members have the opportunity to participate in various racing events such as Auto Cross, drag racing and rallies. Social events include annual formals and monday night dinners. At the recent monday night dinner, I had the pleasure of meeting many members, as well as the president of TAMSS, Chad. Chad explained to the structure of the sports car club and what the club really had to offer those who are interested. The commadarerie among club members can be felt just by being among them. Small talk erupts sporatically.

My conclusions about the club shows that they are a group of car-loving guys and gals who enjoy celebrating their passion in a safe and organized manner. The club welcomes anyone and everyone who is even remotely interested in cars and motorsports and it has many things to offer.

Heres a video of what an auto cross looks like:

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Complaints of Future(and Current) Designs

Commented on:
Devin McKaskle
Adam Griffin
Patrick Surber

Thats what Donald Norman's "The Design of Future Things" felt like to me. Okay, so that may have sounded a little harsh, but I couldn't help but felt that this whole book was his way of letting the world know of his discontentment with the way designers are approaching problems of today and tomorrow.

Now, onto to the good stuff. The book does contain several good points regarding the errors of design and how they pose potential problems in the future. Autonomous and augmentative machines are two separate but similar implementations of technology that will impact our lives more and more in the future. His story of the vehicle assistance system seemed scary, yes, but considering its rarity, the design might not seem so bad. There is an acceptable error margin for everything and already this system is working better than the Ford Pinto ever did. Perhaps a better question that should be answered before designing is a clear separation of the tasks that SHOULD be automated and augmentative. Some things just weren't meant to be done by machines alone. If efficiency and ease are the main focus of these tools, then to relentlessly pursue a certain technology regardless of the outcome should be unacceptable. His argument that the smart homes will take over seemed too early. He underestimates people's reluctance for change from something they're familiar and comfortable with. Slowly these technology will be integrated into our everyday lives, but the magnitude of this change will be small and slow enough that it'll allow people to adapt and designers to improve so that the potential problems faced by current designs will never be fully realized. Aside from design problems, many obstacles stand in the way of the deployment of the said technologies. Despite the decrease in production cost, many items are simply too expensive to be embraced by the mass public. 10 people might buy a fridge that'll tell you what to eat, but 1000 will buy a fridge that doesn't do anything more than keep your food cold. In such a situation, are the problems as alarming as it could be? The marketing teams of manufacturers will come up with ingenious ways of diminishing the effects of bad designs. Norman suggested that what he insist isn't perfection from the designers, but rather, just to consider the rules he has established in the book. I think a designer should avoid compromising a device's functionality by designing for the lowest common denominator. A reasonable expectation should be set for the consumer and user of such items. Overall, the book was an easy read and fairly enjoyable!

P.S. I think Norman would like Wall-e. Wall-e is awsome!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Moley Moley Moley

Commented on:
Brian Salato
Patrick Surbur

In Jennifer Toth's "The Mole People", she immersed herself in the community under New York to explore the life styles of the homeless. Through her various encounters, she witnessed events that would change her as a person as well as, in my opinion, provide a shock factor to the readers. I suppose she tried to keep her distance from the mole people primarily due to the fact that she was doing an ethnography and didn't want to be too deeply involved in any way that'll affect their daily habits. However, I felt that in their current condition, it wouldn't have been detrimental to her purpose had she shown a little more compassion or perhaps provided some additional help during certain times. Despite the pitiful conditions of those who lived in the tunnels, Toth's attitude within the book does not really show much sympathy. Very often I felt the writer was distant from those that she involved herself with even though she tried to gain their trust and acceptance. During some parts of the book, I thought the author came out as a bit stubborn and unreasonable. Many times, she would insist on going into the tunnels alone despite repeated warnings by the police and other tunnel dwellers. I understand that shes just doing her job, but she often would put other people in a difficult position just so she can get this ethnography completed. Had she been in real danger, mugged or murdered, who would take responsibility for her? I wonder if the author had been a man, would he have received the same reception from the tunnel folks as had Jennifer. Did they not treat her a little nicer because she was a vulnerable looking young woman? Either way, I admire her courage for going into the darkness to gather the data she needed and am surprised that she was able to pull this off without any real harm. Overall, it was an interesting read, as I have never personally witnessed anything of the sort.

EDIT: did I let so many grammatical and spelling errors slip by?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Media = People....Orly?!

The last book assigned in class was "The Media Equation". First and foremost, what a pain it was for me to obtain a copy of this book. I had originally purchased a used copy on a week in advance and thought I had given myself enough time for shipping. Apparently not, as I did not receive the book until a week AFTER the book was due. !&%@#. (I purchased another copy from a local book store)

In "The Media Equation", researchers propose that “people” can be replaced directly in many of their hypothesis regarding a human's reaction or actions towards another person. So, if a person was polite to other people, it would be polite to a media equivalent such as a computer. Many of the points they discussed do seem interesting. Experiments on honesty towards machines as well as personal affection seemed obvious to others, yet nobody would ever make a comment about it in a normal situation. Human nature seems to dictate that we treat these objects of media as if we treat humans out of subconscious progression rather than a conscious decision. While reading the book, I reflected on my personal behavior around mentioned objects. Sure enough, I had reacted mostly in the same way most test subjects had reacted. However, some things they mentioned seemed a little farfetched for me. The fact that this book was written about 2 decades ago had some effect on how it would appeal to me. Things such as the experiment on visual and audio fidelity would probably have a different outcome in today's world due to more advanced technology. If they had tested whether or not people would have liked the Hi-Definition programming better in 2009, I’d wager it most likely yield an alternate reaction. One of the more common but seemingly simple conclusions they came up with was the generalist vs. specialist discussion. I thought this particular experiment could be more attributed to how people were taught throughout life. If a child was always directed to go to a specialist for their respective causes instead of a more general alterative, wouldn't it be reasonable to say that, by intuition, they would automatically assume the specialist media would be better at something than its general alternative regardless of their quality of materials? If Fox News presented a better story piece than CNN, people would probably still prefer to watch CNN instead. I’d like to see some of their experiments repeated in today’s world and compare the results to the book. I assume that some differences would appear, while not many.
Overall, it was an interesting read for the most part. Some may argue with some of their test methods, but for the most part, I thought it was reasonable.