Tag Archives: userinterfaces

Ron Jeremy’s Phone Book

I just finished watching Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy. It’s a perfectly fine documentary, but didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know. Yes, Ron Jeremy is perhaps the most famous porn star. Yes, he doesn’t look like a porn star. Yes, he wants to be a mainstream actor. Yes, he’s beloved. All of this has been covered before. The one thing I did find interesting was Ron Jeremy’s “phone book.”

He carries with him a binder of loose leaf paper that is haphazardly covered with names and phone numbers. It’s organized by location of the person recorded. In the film, he reveals that some of the pages are dedicated to:

  • New York City
  • Los Angeles
  • Other US locations
  • International
  • Radio Stations

Now a guy keeping all of his phone numbers scribbled on pages in a binder isn’t that interesting, but what I did find interesting was that he linked various people in the together into a social graph. Different numbers are annotated with labeled arrows form one number to another. He uses this information to place the name and number in context. Now that is something I haven’t really seen before. Yes, Apple AddressBook.app &endash; and presumably others &endash; has the ability to to add fields like “spouse”, “friend”, and “child”, but these aren’t links, just additional text fields. It seems like allowing a user to to crawl their personal social graph might be a useful feature for address books. Even if it isn’t used often, it doesn’t necessarily add a lot of UI overhead.


The Cryoscope by Robb Godshaw is a solid aluminum connected to a peltier, which is in controlled by a computer. The cube heated and cooled to indicate the temperature forecasted tomorrow. The cube doesn’t directly give the predicted temperature, since at room temperature, the metal cube is perceived as cold. Instead, a 73°F outside temperature is mapped to 85°F on the cube, since that temperature was perceived as neutral.

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Cloud Mirror

Daniel Burnham, Anuj Patel, and Sam Bell created for their embedded systems class at Georgia Tech a bathroom mirror / information display. Dubbed Cloud Mirror, it is essentially a partially silvered mirror placed in front of an LCD television, hooked up to a WinCE box with some Phidget sensors.

The User controls the display by waving his/her hand across eight infrared sensors (four across the top, and four down the side). Swiping across the top. the display is toggled on and off, while various modes (weather, news, traffic, and calendar) are controlled through the sensors on the right side. (Video after the jump.) Obviously, it is prototype level technology, but is a bit interesting. Basically, they were thinking about how to integrate typical morning information gathering into daily grooming rituals.

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Head-Coupled Perspective

Jeremie Francone and his advisor Laurence Nigay from the Engineering Human-Computer Interaction group at Grenoble Informatics Laboratory in Saint Martin d’Hères, France have created a demo that incorporates head tracking along with the gyroscope in the iPad and iPhone to implemented a 3D view without the annoying glasses.

Watching the video (attached below) shows that the effect is very impressive, especially with theholodeckesque background. While I’m sure this technology took quite a bit of work to develop, this is the type of thing that I’d hope would be converted into a simple widget for other visualization apps to take advantage of.

Previously. Previously.
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iTunes 10 is Full of Fail

iTunes 10 sucks. There. I said it. I find it infuriatingly difficult to use compared to iTunes 9, for two very simple reasons. First, Apple has once again decided to take a page out of the Linux book, and no longer have all the applications look the same. When MacOSX came out, there were two themes: aqua and metal. This sucked, because quite often if you had two different applications open simultaneously, the user would see two windows that looked very different. It was depressing, and made your desktop look like amateur hour at a Linux User Group meeting. After eight years, and the release of Leopard (MacOSX 10.5), windows finally looked uniform. Well, until “Pro” or whatever Apple is calling the Aperture toolkit theme, came out.

With iTunes 10, Apple has embraced the notion, that for some reason, media players don’t have to look like other applications. (Personally, I blame WinAmp for starting this.) Apple moved the max-min-close buttons for reason. I have no idea why they would do this. It kills all muscle memory on how to use the window manager.

The second thing that makes iTunes 10 needlessly difficult to use, is the purging of all color from the interface. Why? I’m not color blind, why should I be forced to act like I am? The use of color for the sidebar icons made distinguishing among playlist types, libraries, and the like easy, since each icon had one predominant color. Now I have to stare at identically colored, and similarly shaped icons, to find what I want. Again, I have no idea why would do this. This is clearly a step backwards in usability. Seriously, check out this screenshot of iTunes 9, and try to tell me this is worse than iTunes 10.

Don’t even get me started on using the music player to purchase a book and sync it to my tablet.
(Can we just kill “iTunes” and replace it with a new “iMedia”, Steve-O?)

Kin Dead

Wow, just last week I singled out Microsoft Kin as an interesting idea. Yesterday, The Kin died.

Wow. I can really nailed that one. Apparently, the reviews were rather poor for it, in all fairness, I wasn’t thinking much about the phone, just the UI. The visualization of the lifestream was what was interesting, and there’s no reason why this idea can’t be applied to some other product.

Update: Wed Jul 7 15:13:28 PDT 2010
Microsoft sold 503. Ouch. Well I didn’t buy one.

Update: Fri Jul 9 01:28:50 PDT 2010
Thoughts from the guy who killed the Kin.

Shared Artifacts

Schuresko one time mentioned using shared artifacts for collaboration and social network interaction. Instead of simply just clicking buttons in lists, users would manipulate representations of the activities/messages more like how one drags icons around on a desktop. He mentioned OLPC’s Sugar interface, and how other OLPC users show up as icons on the home screen, complete with icons indicating what activity they are currently engaged in. Since many of the OLPC applications are collaborative, clicking on a user’s icon will crate a shared session with him/her. Also, when users are collaborating, their icons appear huddled around the same activity icon.

I hadn’t seen anything like that interface before, especially deployed outside of a lab. I thought about that recently when trying to simply share a folder on my computer with Ming’s was an exercise in frustration. (Either we couldn’t log in to each other’s machines, or the network link would collapse immediately after beginning the transfer.)

Later, I saw an ad for Microsoft’s Kin phone. It interface (shown above, you have to click around on their link unfriendly site to find the video yourself) seems pretty novel. The user is initially presented with a graphical life stream. From this, they can drag items down to the area immediately below the stream (the “Kin Spot”) to share them with people in their address book. Again, destinations are selected from a graphical stream and dragged to the spot. Tapping the spot allows the final message is edited and then sent.

It would be interesting to create an interface like this for Diaspora, if that ever gets off the ground.