Tag Archives: ubiquitous computing

Internet of Things depicted through a robotic dog and a talking toaster

Smart Home Dystopia

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Stanley Bing’s “While you were out” column on the Fortune Magazine back page is always good for a laugh and his dystopian vision of our smart home future is a good one. But the truth is that we do need to be thinking about these implications as we move Internet-enabled appliances and smarter homes. The definition of “smarter” really depends on how we implement these technologies. We need to be just as aware of personal preferences and sensitivities as we are of traditional HF performance measures like learnability and task time.

I went to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and all anybody talked about was the Internet of Things. Yes, it looks like the day is finally here when every Thing we own has a tiny silicon brain that can think and talk to you and, more important, to all the other Things, and all is connected with the great web that unites us.

a small computing device clipped to a pocket to track movement

Fitbits for People with Multiple Sclerosis

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I have written before about wearables. They are a nice toy, but in general they don’t really do anything particularly useful, at least not with the current technology. This week, I read about a great application in health care, and I think it works.

Drugmaker Biogen Idec is exploring ways to use fitness trackers to gather data from people who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

the interior of a van designed as a working environment

Getting Work Done While Commuting to Work

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How do you get to work? Do you sit in miserable traffic, sending your cortisol levels through the roof? It turns out that the heavy hitters in Moscow have it made. If you are important enough to be considered a “minigarch”, you might be picked up by a Mercedes luxury van that has been souped up by Brabus and turned into a fully loaded mobile office…

a domed curved exterior of a futuristic building

Scouting the Future

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I joined Barrett Caldwell’s Scout the Future program. The idea is to heighten our sense of awareness of emerging systems, environments, technologies, and social movements and how human factors can be applied to them.

Through the program, HFES members who are involved in cutting-edge technologies, have particularly broad connections in diverse research and engineering domains, and who can spot a trend before it hits the mainstream can share that information with the Executive Council.

two women meeting at a coffee shop

Ebanking and Capital One 360 Cafés

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When I read about the new Capital One cafés opening up in Boston I was intrigued. The basic idea is that bank branches don’t support the significant expense of maintaining them. But there are enough people and activities that they support that banks don’t really want to get rid of them completely. So how do you balance the tradeoffs? The café is Capital One’s idea for how to bridge the gap. I have not been to one, so I am doing a little imagining here.

At Capital One 360®, we believe banking should fit comfortably into everyday life. That’s why we’re not just online and mobile; we can now be found in Cafés opening across Boston. A place where you can get your banking questions answered or simply recharge your lives with free WiFi, tips on saving time & money.

a man hitting his face with his palm

Viral Marketing – Is it Ok if the User Blames Himself?

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I was a little upset when I read this article, which is from someone whose ideas I usually have a high regard for. The article is about what he calls the viral “oops.”

Unlike viral loops, which are actions users take in the normal course of using a product to invite new members, viral oops rely on the user ‘effing-up.

In essence, this is when a user shares your content by accident, blames himself for the mistake, and you get the benefits without the costs of the error.

many old cars parked in front of meters

The Ethics of Performance versus Principle

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This is another metric tradeoff that is of great interest to me, both professionally and philosophically. What do you do when your design process is faced with a tradeoff between two options: one that will work better but violates a principle that you think is important (but is not formally illegal or unethical) and one that works less well but has no such violations? This is top of mind with me this morning because of a debate we are having in Boston about P2P parking apps like Haystack. If you are unfamiliar with these apps, they allow someone who is leaving a parking spot to announce it on the app network and someone looking for a spot can grab it, for a fee of course.

a close up image of a finger print

Incentives, Mixed Motivations and Behavior

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Today, I don’t just want to bring your attention to some fascinating research I came across, but perhaps to change the way you look at it. OK, that sounded more pretentious than I intended. But seriously, there is a much bigger issue here. The study looked at how much your personal information is worth to you. If your access provider (mobile, home, or whatever) is going to sell your personal information to advertisers, perhaps you should share in the revenue…

many surveilance cameras

Privacy and Ambient Computing

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We got a big response to the post last month on electronic monitoring. There were good arguments on all sides, with the large majority falling expectedly in the “it depends on how you design the user experience” camp.

The smartphone era has also been the age of apps. But those specialized, standalone pieces of software will soon be an anachronism, says the CEO of the popular information-management service Evernote. He predicts that as wearable computers supplant smartphones, they will displace apps, too…

a statue of a man with his face in his palm

Improving User Experience through Affective Design

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As many of you probably know already, I have been studying affective design for many years. A massive body of evidence has emerged that the dichotomy between rational and emotional decision making is largely a myth. All decisions require rational and emotional processes. Cognitive neuroscience has gone even further and shown us just how interconnected the brain areas involved in these processes are. One practical application of this new insight is to design sensors into our environment that can recognize our emotions, predict how these…