Reinventing the wheel to help disabled.

Article: Elliot, J. (2008). “Reinventing the wheel to help disabled.” BBC NEWS. Visited on 5 September 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7475609.stm Summary: Wheelchair wheels are not optimally designed for wheelchair users who must travel. While the wheels may be removed from a folding wheelchair, they do not themselves pack well and must often be checked in on flights or stowed separately from the folded chair in other travel scenarios. Former Royal College of Arts (RCA) student Duncan Fitzsimons designed a folding wheel for bicycles and is modifying the design to work for wheelchair users. His design, which folds the full-sized wheel flat while allowing use of a regular tire and inner tube, gives the wheelchair user the ability to quickly stow their chair when using other modes of transportation. Conceptual design: Wheelchair wheels must be removed from wheelchairs, even folding models, to be stowed  when traveling. Design a wheel which does not require removal from the chair and significantly reduces the amount of space needed to stow the chair. Interaction design: The wheel must be large, as this is the key to a wheelchair user’s independence. It should be designed to fit different budgets and performance needs. It must fold flat so it may be…

Understanding Complex Visual Information…

US Military PowerPoint slide designed to explain Afghanistan strategy.

…or not comprehending it, as the case may be. A few years ago, I wrote a paper about people’s ability to comprehend complex visual information such as graphs, charts, diagrams, maps, and so on. Intuitively, we are culturally-trained to believe that it’s much easier to extract information from a picture than from text. But upon testing this belief (p-prim, for those in the know), I found that contrary to the notion “a picture is worth a thousand words,” it’s much more difficult to get data from an illustration than from a story. While emotional impact might be larger with a picture, it’s not true for comprehension. You can read the results of my study at http://www.pipsqueak.com/pages/papers.html “Visual Symbolic Processing in Modern Times” paper presented at AACE ED-MEDIA Conference in 2008. Since then, I’ve collected more data, and the results are similarly aligned: problem-solving requiring higher level visual symbolic processing skills is difficult and results in communication failures. A secondary, and surprising, finding was a gender discrepancy in performance outcome testing of visual symbolic processing skills. Higher level and lower level visual symbolic processing are defined in the paper. And anyone interested in testing their visual processing skills are welcome to…

Imagining the future of technology—Brain Power.

Article: BBC Staff. (2008). “Imagining the future of technology—Brain Power.” BBC News. Visited on 10 September 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7660928.stm The article asks the question: Can we ever expect computers to emulate the achievements of human intelligence? There are two obstacles to overcome in order to achieve this; first, advances in hardware must be made so that computers may be powerful enough to simulate the working of the brain and secondly, we need to be able to program them to do so. In order to better understand the working of the human brain, scientists around the world have utilized processing power of supercomputers in parallel to developed various computational brain models. Some model capture a high degree of detail, modeling the brain on a neuron by neuron basis while others work on the assumption that interesting phenomena occur at the network level and therefore model large numbers of simpler neurons. Once validated by observation, the brain model can be used to explore the effects of altered molecular or genetic information. While researchers have a long way to go in understanding the human brain, progress is being made with respect to understanding brain subsystems and distinct functionality such as learning and vision. Information on…

More is Better: Why iPad doesn’t Satisfy Everyone

Swiss Army iPad

There have been a lot of complaints flying around about how iPad doesn’t do this, and iPad can’t do that, and iPad won’t work with that other thing. Some people are so obsessed about all the things that iPad isn’t capable of doing that they overlook all that it can do. By looking for failure, these reviewers lost sight of what iPad is all about. There are plenty of people who are defending iPad out there, so I was interested in why the people who dislike iPad so passionately feel the way they do. We, the people, tend to make our decisions based on little snippets of information that we find to be true and productive for solving various problems. “If something is steaming, it must be hot.” “Big things fall harder and faster.” “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” “If one is good, two is even better.” “If it looks clean…” “Little kids don’t lie.” “If it’s natural, it’s not chemical.” “Summer is when the Earth is closest to the sun.” “One can’t get fat eating vegetables.” These are the building blocks of our intuitions. We are all walking encyclopedias of folksy wisdom—common sense explanations that are consciously and unconsciously…

Do we want to be citizen or customers.

Article: Knight, M.  (2008).  “Do we want to be citizen or customers.”  CNN. Retrieved on 21 June, 2008. http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/06/12/Rykwert/index.html Summary: In this interview, Joseph Rykwert, an architectural historian, offers his view of the city and the transitions it has gone through. He points out that most people don’t like the new building and skyscrapers being constructed, often mocking them with sexual connotation. In the past skyscrapers symbolized the energy within an urban environment, yet as more and more are being built, buildings are now more of an eye sore. He talks about how gates communities and certain buildings (whether they are under high security or are just constructed to be uninviting) cut through public space, taking away a section of the city.  The need for gated communities is a recent phenomenon, and is a reflection of the growing inequalities of our society. He comments that tall buildings built after the 60’s don’t do a good job of integrating with the streets.   Their entrance halls have become less and less welcoming, characterized by tighter space, less public displays, and more security.  This is because the streets were no longer viewed as a safe place, which was reflected in the design…

Social Gaming Picks Up Momentum.

Article: Lee, E.  (2008).  “Social Gaming Picks Up Momentum.”  SF Gate. Retrieved on 31 March, 2008. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/31/BU5GVSA3F.DTL&tsp=1 1. Casual games built on top of social networks, known as social gaming, is becoming a new way for friends to reconnect and share past time each other. It has attracted users who were previously turned off by online gaming because players are playing against their friends instead of strangers. Because people are playing against their friends, there is less of a chance that the losing side will simply leave the game, which also makes the game more enjoyable.  Playing games is also a way to show how a friendship is important, and doesn’t require having a topic or a conversation. 2. Some games are modeled after existing board games such as Risk and Scrabble, or even role playing games on consoles. However, the social network has allowed new game play to be developed, taking advantage of the network’s inherent social value.  Friends for Sale, for instance, allows players to use their friends as stock and trade them. 3. Another innovation is people don’t need to be online at the same time to play a game together.  One could race a friend at…

The Seed of Apple’s Innovation.

Borrows, P. (2004). “The Seed of Apple’s Innovation.” Business Week. Retrieved on 12 October 2004. http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/oct2004/nf20041012_4018_db083.htm This article is an excerpt of an interview with Steve Jobs following his return from work from cancer surgery.  The interview focuses on Apple’s innovation process and how they differ from other technology companies. Jobs points out how HP’s philosophy of creating great products influenced Apple in its early days. Apple was at the forefront of innovation when it created the first PC and desktop GUI in the 70’s.  But because Apple had achieved a certain monopoly in the PC market, it shifted from an innovation/products company to a sales/marketing company.  This ultimately led to the Apple’s stagnant growth in the years before he returned. Jobs explains that people are loyal to Mac because Apple hires the right people for the job.  Their employees work tirelessly to ensure the highest quality of their products, often sacrificing sleep and holidays working on hardware and software details.  From a consumer’s point of view, this translates to enjoyable experience throughout the entire usage of the product.  Even when customers become stuck or try something unfamiliar, they can quickly resolve the situation because Apple considered and designed for it. Another interesting point Jobs makes is the…