Sunday, September 26, 2010

Making tech more human

The previous post had a video about a robot teacher and the moral of that story is that we should be trying to make the technology more human than the other way around. Here's another film, this time a TED talk, about making mobile devices more human. A cellphone could, for example, be built to distribute its weight according to function. When following directions in a city the mobile will shift its weight to the left when we should turn left and forwards when we need to go straight on and so on. The deice can also be built to vibrate more intensely when something exciting is happening and calm down when we stroke it reassuringly.

Shades of the tamagotchi really but probably just an extension of similar attenpts to make technology more intuitive. Remember Microsoft's Office assistant? The friendly paper clip/dog/cat that would appear on your screen with sometimes irritating regularity and suggest better ways of doing what you what you were trying to do. The idea was basically good but most people soon got tired of the know-it-all agent and discarded it.

I also remember experiments with a desktop where applications behaved like pets trying to get your attention. Applications that you often use would jump at you on the screen almost begging to be clicked on whereas system applications that run in the background almost hid themselves from you. That didn't really catch on either.

I'm not sure if we really want to have more human machines. Maybe its better to keep them as simply machines. Anyway, watch the film and draw your own conclusions.

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