Hillcrest Labs Remote Control

Hillcrest Labs provides a vision of the pointing and navigating future with their demonstration of Freespace motion-controlled TV remote.

I came across the video demos of Hillcrest Labs' remote control via NewTeevee. The video above shows a demo at the Consumer Electronics Show last winter, but check the NewTeevee link for the more complete demo of their Freespace motion control technology (sadly they won't let me embed it here). The demo shows a proof of concept software interface for the TV that allows the user to navigate and access media on their TV/Computer using the "Loop" concept remote control.

The prototype TV interface shows the flexibility and scalability of navigation that is possible with a motion controlled remote pointing device equipped with scroll wheel and selection buttons. The software they demo is a zoomable user interface (ZUI) that was created to demonstrate the possibility for navigating a media space on the TV. The remote provides tremor control, so panning motions with the remote don't produce the jiggle you see on the Wiimote.

This demonstrates the great potential and possibilities that ZUIs provide for a simple hierarchical interface like this. Other options could have been explored, but the ZUI provides a very intuitive experience using pointing rather than an up/down/left/right control for navigation, e.g. in your TiVo and Apple TV remotes.

The technology will be licensed to consumer electronics companies, so we might hopefully see this navigation paradigm on set top boxes in the future.


Low-Cost Multi-point Interactive Whiteboards Using the Wiimote

Researcher provides another Wii Remote hack, this time to help business users create interactive whiteboards on the cheap.

You might remember the incredible Wiimote hacks by by Johnny Chung Lee, who gave us head tracking demo for desktop VR displays. Lee, a PhD student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University is back with some more useful Wiimote hacks, this time to turn any surface into an interactive whiteboard. He shows how to turn a wall into a whiteboard with a DIY LED pen interface, and also how to create a multi-touch desktop or laptop LCD display using 2 LED pens. These are incredibly useful ideas for creating inexpensive interactive displays.

Using an LED array and some reflective tape, you can use the infrared camera in the Wii remote to track objects, like your fingers, in 2D space. This lets you interact with your computer simply by waving your hands in the air similar to the interaction seen in the movie "Minority Report". The Wiimote can track upto 4 points simultaneously. The multipoint grid software is a custom C# DirectX program.


Year's 10 Best Application UIs

Jakob Nielsen reveals the winners of a competition to identify the 10 best-designed application user interfaces for 2008.

The winners:

  • Campaign Monitor by Eyeblaster (Israel): Integrated management of multiple advertising campaigns for media buyers.
  • CMSBox by CMSBox (Switzerland): Content management system
  • FotoFlexer by Arbor Labs (USA): Photo editor
  • PRISMAprepare by OcĂ© (The Netherlands): Print shop software.
  • Seating Management by Magellan Network and DesignBox (USA): Hostess-stand reservation book for restaurants.
  • SQL diagnostic manager by Idera (USA): Database performance monitoring and diagnostics
  • SugarSync by Sharpcast (USA): Synchronizing files across multiple computers.
  • SuperSaaS by SuperSaaS (The Netherlands): Creating and hosting scheduling and reservation systems.
  • Wufoo by Infinity Box, Inc. (USA): Online forms, surveys, invitations, and payments.
  • Xero by Xero (New Zealand): Accounting for small businesses.


Bill Buxton Lecture on Sketching and Experience Design at Stanford

Bill Buxton gives a lecture at the Stanford University Human-Computer Interaction Seminar (CS 547, June 1, 2007) giving an excellent deep dive into some of the topics in his book, Sketching User Experiences.

Designing for experience comes with a whole new level of complexity. This is especially true in this emerging world of information appliances, reactive environments, and ubiquitous computing, where, along with those of their users, we have to factor in the convoluted behaviors of the products themselves. In this talk, Bill discusses the design process itself, from the perspective of methods, organization, and composition.

His discussion of the necessity of sketching and ideation in the design process ultimately describes what design is about. While engineering might be about getting the design right, design is about getting the right design. To arrive at the right design, we have to be willing to produce many ideas, to present and argue them, and to want to be wrong so that we can learn and improve on what comes out of the design critique.


Better Faceted Browsing on Konigi

About 10 years ago I participated in the daily indexing of news articles as part of my job designing a digital library. During graduate study for the MLS my concentration was actually on information retrieval and classification, so I was interested in doing the job and understanding the content in order to know how to make it useful to users. Customers would get this information via the web site, by email, and in newsletters. Every day I had a bunch of news articles from a load of database feeds queued up for me to skim and tag. A first pass of auto-indexing and clustering was done and we’d have to check the applied tags and add new tags for subject, company, product, etc. We had a person whose primary job it was to maintain these terms, with the cooperation of subject matter experts in the business, in separate controlled vocabularies.

That faceted approach to indexing and description has really informed a lot of what I’ve done as a blogger in the years that I’ve maintained sites at iaslash, urlgreyhot, and now here. You see the result of the faceted approach to tagging in the metadata for every entry, and in the navigation for things like Design Tags and Design Colors. But I’ve hidden some of that tagging until I had some time to add views for navigating via those facets. I’ve been operating this blog with the mantra, “… better to get it up fast and fix it later.”

But now I’ve added a few more facets to the navigation. If you notice the subnav in the Interface, Design, and Notebooks sections, you will see that there are now options to browse by Companies in all of them, and additionally by Person in Notebook. So now you can view only Nike Interfaces or alternatively only Nike Designs, for instance. Also, in the entry metadata, the term Nike will appear in the pill shaped tag, and you can click that link to see all Nike tagged items across all sections of the site.

Just to give you an idea of how these tags get into each entry, have a look at the article editor below, and you’ll see how granular I get with my tagging. I think it’s probably much more than you’ll find in a typical blog. Aside from the title, every field you see below is a taxonomy field expanded in the categories (ugh, I hate that they changed the label) area.

I believe over time this will provide a more complete picture around the experiences with each of the sites that I’m choosing to feature here. There are quite a few features in my roadmap for this site that just take time to implement. I will for instance find a way to segregate views by product rather than merely by company, so you can view only GMail UIs and not all Google UIs. Rest-assured, those tags are already baked in, but you won’t be able to see them until later. Some of these and other useful features that made me want to create this site are forthcoming. Now that I’ve spent some months understanding what I like to do here, the volume may decrease slightly so I can focus on quality and providing more analysis. As always I welcome suggestions.

Drupal users may also expect that sometime in the future I’ll expose more about the process used to put this site together, especially regarding how the taxonomy bits are being utilized. Thanks for continuing to stay with me as I explore these ideas.