Flow

Toilet Games

If you have small children…boys, you are undoubtably familiar with things like: “My Wee Friend”; “Piddlers Toilet Targets for Potty Training”; “Potty Training Targets – Look like real targets!”; “Tinkle Targets for Boys”; “Wee Wee Pals”; or “On Target Infant Toilet Training Balls” from Amazon. Problem: boys have to learn to aim; boys attention span is shorter than the time it takes to empty their bladder; Solution: make going to the bathroom fun; design an activity that extends the attention and improves aim; The conceptual design is pretty straightforward: align the goals of the parents (teaching bathroom skills) with the goals of a toddler (have fun) to improve the toilet experience for all concern–basic goal alignment! Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t seem to go away as these boys grow up. Product design to the rescue! The Urinal Lips design uses the same product design strategy: make aiming fun! What sign on the walls of the bar’s men’s room couldn’t achieve, a playful design did–these men’s room stay clean. One Step Farther… While attention controls might lag during a long bathroom break, video games seem to have a tighter control over attention. So welcome to the future of urinals: These are the…

Just Me and My Pessimism in the ‘Race of Truth’

Kolata, G. (September 2010). “Just Me and My Pessimism in the ‘Race of Truth’.” New York Times Online. Retrieved on 6 November 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/health/nutrition/21best.html In this article the author recounts her experiences about a bike race she participated with her husband. Through the race she explains the factors that motivates people to stay with a sport, and mental strategies that would help in racing. The author and her husband signed up for a bike race without knowing what they were up to. Although their motivation was not win, they wanted to check where they stand and how well they perform. At the race they were intimidated by other racers who were part of professional teams with professional gear and equipments. So the author and her husband became anxious and thought they performed very badly in the time trial race. But when the results were announced, they were happy although they were in the bottom heap. The researchers call this phenomenon defensive pessimism—where atheletes do a  social comparison with their co-participants and imagine they would perform worse if they are intimidated. But they would feel happy if they perform slightly better than a few. Research has shown that atheletes with defensive…

Thinking About the Future of Reading

The Taxonomy of Usefulness We are a family with two Kindles, three iPads, two iPods, and an iPhone. We also have a few thousand old-fashioned paper books stored on bookshelves in every nook and cranny of our home: bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, stairs, garage, closets, family room, and any other space and surface that might hold a book or two or ten. We are into reading! And we use our Kindles, iPads/Pods/Phone, and computers to read as well. And while statistically speaking, we make just four data points for four family members, I feel we have something interesting to say about using technology to read. To help me understand my own relationship with reading and technology, I’ve come up with a little Taxonomy of Usefulness. If you’ve been reading this blog (or my books and papers), you’d have noticed that I like to slice up the world into groups sorted by a set of variables that I find useful at the time. Forming categories helps me think—the Cognitive Wheel is a prime example. Taxonomy of Usefulness These variables help derive the value of the electronic reading devices. Ergonomics There are many attributes to consider when describing the ergonomics of a device,…

Branding & Emotional Design: The Culture of Sneakers

How do we spend our money? Well, the first cut goes to survival: essential goods and services that are absolutely necessary to our survival. Food, housing, medical care are all part of the basic necessities of life. Some, of course, are more necessary than others (we might postpone going to a dentist…but not for long), but there’s a core of stuff that we need to live. The next tier up from survival is comfort. This is a very large tier—what’s comfort to some is a necessity to others and visa versa. People use their income to increase their general comfort level. This might mean a large house, more comfortable beds, larger selection of clothing. But generally, when we talk of comfort, we don’t include jet setting to Paris for a nice date out on the town. Comfort is about everyday life needs, but more comfortable. The top tier of our income is the disposable income and it is spent on luxury—the money we have left over from dealing with our needs and comforts; the money we can chose to spend in an extravagant and even wasteful manner. When economists make predictions about the average size of the available disposable income,…

Re “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits”

Carey, B. (2010). “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits.” New York Times Online. Retrieved on 26 October, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/07/health/views/07mind.html The main topic of this article is to dispel a few beliefs about effective study habits. According to this article, research has clearly demonstrated that we don’t have credible evidence for the utility of popular learning-style approaches that we follow. The article also outlines a few simple techniques that can reliably improve how much we learn from studying. Personally, I wish I read this article when I was a full time student as it might have helped me to be a better learner. Conceptual Design: With each of us having specific learning styles, a designer for a learning product can build a system that adopts to our learning styles. For example a system can test its users and determine their learning style and focus on a approach that might make the user learn faster and better. If the learning is tough, learners (Students) might lose interest and motivation. So effective approaches of learning such as variability in setting and materials must be used to improve learnability and retention.  Such design approaches would make learning easy and engage the users…

Using Computers to Teach Children Without Teachers

Johnathan, F . (2010). “Using computers to teach children with no teachers” BBC News. Retrieved on 21 July, 2010: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10663353?print=true Summary of the article: The article summarizes studies conducted by Prof Mitra on the learning curve of children using computers for education with teachers. Results of the study prove that the teaching methods employed have been quite successful based on the fact that: Children who are not exposed to computers are highly motivated to teach themselves skills they want to learn Children have had a steep learning curve in picking up complex tasks with minimum supervision Learning by discussion and in groups ensures that content is retained and not skimmed through by children. Motivation levels of students are kept high with a grandmother figure in the picture. The best results of the study have been combined to create Self Learning Environments where children in groups of 4 share a computer to assimilate information. Virtually present volunteer grandmothers keep the student motivated and support the learning process. On Environment: The need for self-organized learning essentially arises in developing nations and the ones who do not have access to education. Children living in such conditions have a natural survival instinct, which keeps…