Month: July 2005

Wrist-top computers

Aaron Marcus of AMandA just gave a talk promoting the wrist-top computer as a prime ubiquitous computing platform. I’m skeptical — It feels to me like the wrist is good for quick access to info that’s already showing or just a button-press away, but if you have to drill down (pushing small buttons with your wrist in front of your face) then that quick-access gets washed out by the slow interaction speed. That leaves a pretty narrow set of applications where you just a little bit of information with very little cognitive load.

Reasons to work on wrist:

  1. quick access for quick snippit of visual info
  2. fashionable on wrist (bracelet)
  3. quick access for interaction (a little better than phone clip?)
  4. need wrist access (e.g. pulse monitor)

Reasons not to work on wrist:

  1. small screen
  2. very limited input possible
  3. anything you need to look at for a while (wrist gets tired of being held in that position).
  4. needs hardening (so it won’t break when you bang it on something)

So what applications have the wrist-top as the clear winner interface? Well, there’s telling the time, there’s textual alarms, there’s … um … gimme a second, there’s gotta be more ….

Technorati tag:

Doorbells becoming obsolete?

Interesting tidbit from Ian Smith (Intel Research) here at NPUC 2005, who says that Beki Grinter at Georgia Tech predicts that within a generation doorbells in Europe will be obsolete. Apparently teens in Europe SMS or phone their friends instead of ringing the doorbell so they don’t have to risk talking with parents.

Technorati tag:

Finding evidence to support our theories

According to some psychologists, people subconsciously try to find evidence to support their own theories. It’s more than just the optimist seeing the glass half full and the pessimist seeing it half empty — the pessimist will actually go out of his way to find an empty glass and then say “see, I was right.” I think that’s the main explanation for why some people always sabotage themselves just when things are about to go well, while others always land on their feet.

Post 9-11 America is showing this symptom on a societal level. The Bush administration’s obsession with Iraq is a prime example, of course, but it’s also pervasive in society at large. The Terrorist is the perfect boogyman — he’s so ill-defined and inscrutable that we can and do project anything that scares us onto him. And then we go out and find the evidence to support that fear, be it a glitch in airport security or the arrest of someone who once visited an Al Qaeda training camp. Some of that evidence is real — this week’s attack in London is just the latest reminder that there is some basis to our fear — but most of it is simply driving ourselves into a panic playing games of “what if?”.

The Hemant Lakhani case, featured on this week’s This American Life radio show, sounds like a perfect example of finding (really, manufacturing) evidence to support a theory. Here’s somebody that the FBI approached and asked to supply a missile to terrorists. Lakhani agreed, but couldn’t actually deliver. After waiting 22 months for him to actually commit the crime, the FBI provided the missile to him themselves, and then arrested him. The guy is clearly amoral, but also pretty clearly incompetent, and he didn’t even have the idea to provide terrorists with weapons until the FBI suggested it. Setting him up like this so we can throw him in jail is like airport security confiscating grandma’s nail clipper — it was never a big threat to begin with, but when they find it we all breath a sigh of relief while we visualize the horrible things that might have happened had we not gotten lucky this time.