Monthly Archives: September 2010

Today I wrote a handwritten letter

This post is about the experience of writing letters on paper and the experience of writing emails. There is something special about handwritten letters and I wonder if that specialness can translate to emails maybe. Continue reading

Today I wrote a handwritten letter.

I know, big deal.

It reminded me of the middle ages and the romantic letters. But it reminded me also of the times when I needed to write handwritten letters to apply for internships, it was recommended because it was perceived more “authentic”. And I remember the lectures we had about how it was illegal for companies to analyse your handwriting to detect some personality disorder. It was not so long ago, maybe 5 or 7 years ago. Now, who would write a handwritten letter? I still write a lot, but I will never use handwriting to communicate anymore. Actually I’m pretty sure my friends don’t even know my handwriting. But today I needed to write a urgent administrative letter and I don’t have a printer at home, so I couldn’t write a modern digitized letter. Well, not a problem, with a pen and paper it’s easy, or not…

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Machines are digging

Introducing ui engineering

Context : living the future

I studied technology because it’s not from the past, it can only move forward. For me, it’s a great source of hope. Through the many dreams we had in science fiction we expressed how much we hoped for technology. We dreamt of a smart robot companion that would be our friend and personal helper. We dreamt of smart technology.

Today, technology is living with us. From the smart phone to the camera we more and more carry a personal device with us. We are able to rely on technology more than we used to rely on people. We use it to replace our memory, to find our way, to get information, to communicate…it has become our personal helper as we dreamt it. GPS, the Internet, all our online communication tools, those are today’s personal helpers. Those are today’s smart machines. Yes, machines are digging, but they don’t look anything like robots, and they’re not evil. Instead they’re just smart software that we interact with. It’s only the beginning.

We don’t realize we’re already at the point where machines are intelligent because we expected intelligence to come in the form of robots with human-like behaviour, we still live by the science fiction vision. But if you look around the machines already do many things that remind us of the future we expect : they are replacing cash desks, public transportation, they help you find the best price, the best way, they help you take the best decision. Machines are intelligent, but one thing they miss so we perceive their intelligence is interaction with us. Today’s machines have very poor interactions with us, they are mostly functional and there is almost no notion of user experience in the way they are designed. Since experience is what we as humans value in our interactions, we don’t perceive machines as intelligent, yet.

Definition : user interface

My view is that the perceived intelligence of a machine stems from its UI. UI is the characteristic that lets un-tech people interact with technology on a high level layer. As technology applies more and more to all kinds of fields, UI becomes fundamental to make sure that humans know how to interact with machines intuitively to fix them or control their behavior.

When technology emerged, there was no interface. The interface is an evolution of technology, it makes technology useful and usable to you. We already reached the stage where we managed to make the machines functional thanks to the software layer, I think now is the time to make the machines expressive and personal by honing their UI. We could start by working on applications, it’s simple enough. Then we could invent new interfaces.

Even if we’ve imagined intelligent machines as robots, intelligent machines have already started as software and the better the UI the more intelligent we will perceive them. That is the definition I put behind UI : the characteristic that makes humans interact with technology intuitively.

To achieve such goal of making technology “intuitive”, UI starts even before implementing anything and becomes an engineering principle : we tailor technology for our needs. While classic engineering is more about making technology functional, UI engineering has the goal of the interaction with the user, it integrates the user in the equation for building better systems. Every feature, every detail is guided by the idea that there is a user on the other end, there is us. In UI engineering, we build technology the way we want to use it.

Scope : human actions

As technology becomes closer to us, it will become our personal source of information. UI is what brings the information to us. We believe the interface. The better the UI, the better we understand the information. This is how I envision UI in general wherever there is information to convey (in a movie, in a speech, in the design of an object…) :

Then when the UI is interactive like in technology it becomes :

When the information is crucial, our understanding of it will determine our actions :

Then if we zoom in, in the context of technology :

Since machines are becoming the predominant holders of information, UI applied to technology becomes all the more relevant and important to guarantee that we get the right information to make the right decision. Bad UI can make some damages, and good UI can make some marvels. UI is important because it can directly influence our actions.

As we have entered the age of information, information becomes the fuel of technology, and UI becomes the way to bring it to us. UI starts today as basic interfaces but its scope is really larger, it will shape the future of technology.

Philosophy : making helpers

Technology is flexible, we can make it the way we want. Because it’s so flexible we often end up using it for services that just improve our comfort when it actually has the potential of changing lives. So what if we made it really useful ? As the data opens there is the hope that real relevant data is coming to feed services that will help everyone. There is also the hope that the data will be free for everyone to use.

There is always fear surrounding the rise of technology as if it was a threat for our freedom. But since humans create technology, they are responsible for its fate. We can’t control how a technology will be used, we will never control people’s intentions either good or evil, but we can influence how technology should be used with UI. The idea of UI engineering is to design technology the way we want to use it, it’s possible to design it responsibly as it moves forward, so let’s build technology to help us, not to format us. Let’s make helpers.


Posted in Thinking, Future, A.I

Real vs Virtual : the Cinema Ballet

La Dame aux Camélias

So tonight I went to the ballet again. I love that too much. Out of an online sharing habit, I invited my brothers knowing perfectly that they are absolutely not ballet persons. Well, too bad for them. The experience was special because this time I didn’t go to the traditional theater, rather I went to the movie theater. The ballet was retransmitted live from the “Opéra National de Paris” in the cinema. I went to see what this worthed.What would be the difference between seeing a retransmitted ballet and a live Opera ballet ?

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Posted in Study, Observations, Stories, U.X

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On Google new search engine

Google just released an incredibly fast new instant search engine, it was so fast I kept typing on the enter key not realizing the results were already there. Here is the consequent chat I had with my brother about it (he was eating fries at midnight) :

me : pfff crazy !!!!!
brother : i will take google’s slimming pill in 2025
me : yea but it won’t remove your existing fat
brother : sure it will
it’s google
me : but google doesn’t know about the past
brother : not yet
soon you’ll be able to search in your memory
me : yea that would be nice
we’ll be able to set the search speed as well
maybe for some people it’s too fast
brother : yea i’d like a query that takes 3mn to let me make some tea
me : lol
like tele-transportation or the train
i’m sure some would still prefer the train
brother : yea to have a little nap
would be nice to have a 15mn nap according to the difficulty of the question
me : yea it means that we’re sure to get the right answer, instead of always searching very fast without finding anything
brother : yeah
me : you have the choice between a 20mn search that will output you the answer you’ve been looking for forever or a 10ms query that gives you the wrong answer
brother :and it can take years before it delivers an answer if it’s too complicated
me : lol
brother : then it notifies you by mail when it found it
me : exactly

enabled by gtalk.

More seriously I will be glad to use instant search essentially to type my query directly in the browser’s address bar, otherwise it’s still a fancy feature. For the moment seeing the results even before I finish typing my query is a little disappointing when the results are not satisfying.

Also now I want the same for google search images.

Posted in News, U.X, Chats

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Digital narcissism: We are digital mammals

Do you google yourself?

I saw a documentary untitled “I am the Media” directed by Richard Rassat that discusses the question of digital narcissism. It shows how the Internet has become a way for us to exhibit ourselves more and be more narcissistic. The documentary begins with the question “Do you google yourself?” and in fact this is the question asked to all the people interviewed and almost all of them answer yes.


Narcissus (by Caravage)

As mentioned in the documentary, people used to like looking at themselves in the mirror, now they like “googling” themselves. The documentary showed many examples of self exhibition (some of them were really extreme) such as personal web tvs that broadcast someone’s life in a live video blog, compulsive bloggers and famous youtubbers. I have to say, I don’t use much social media and I mainly use the Internet to share information but I feel ill at ease to share things about my person, indeed I am one of those reserved dinosaurs. But since there is so much enthusiasm spreading online to get the most followers, subscribers, friends through any way possible, it seems that the Internet has invented a new sport : the self marketing. This new hobby of the modern homo sapiens itched my curiosity and obliged me to study the question of digital narcissism.

Why do people share all their life openly online? Why do they reveal what they ate at lunch?

I am curious, is it really only about self mirroring through the Internet? Even me, I had to open a blog about my interest for technology. Is it narcissistic to share my point of view? Is digital narcissism a bad thing and did technology encourage it? Or is it society that is becoming more narcissistic? What is the role of the Internet in the expansion of narcissism?

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Tippex experience Ad: A hunter shoots a bear!

Have you seen this buzz video?

Of course you did, it’s so fun! The first time my brother sent me the link, I just stopped at the end and I didn’t get it. Uuh. I was just frustrated at the end to see the two choices and I didn’t even bother to click because I was not used at all to click in videos… The second time I saw the video I finally clicked and oh my, it lead me to that page:

I love the concept. Once you chose what to do at the end of the video, you arrive on a page where you have to type in the word that completes the sentence “a hunter ….. a bear” which is then played in the player.
I didn’t click “Shoot the bear” in the video, I wanted to see the hunter hunted by the bear or maybe I was just afraid of willingly killing a bear, kind of morally compromised, google was watching. Here are the words I typed in a nice and then dangerously criminal way:

A hunter…
– loves
– hates
– eats
– hugs
– kicks
– caresses
– annoys
– shoots
– kills
a bear

And only “annoys” triggered a 404…!! So cool. I guess they did a little UX research before and found out the most typed words.

The experience was fun and engaging but hum, I don’t need tippex, I have my screen and ctrl+z that’s enough :p This is actually interesting that they advertise something being made useless by technology in such an impressive technological way…

Posted in Observations, News, U.X, Videos

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