Tag Archives: interface

Things 66: ChatRoulette piano, Tube Door Challenge, Free Will

(Originally sent March 2010, maybe)

Video
ChatRoulette is a fascinating site whose mission is simply to connect you to a random person to video chat with. This is just as good and bad an idea as it sounds. I don’t recommend visiting (particularly if you have a webcam active as it will attempt to throw you into a random encounter immediately) but I do recommend reading about it.

It turns out to be a great environment for improv performance as shown in this video (sound essential, 5’28” long but the first 40” gives you the idea):

I’m fascinated by the extent to which people respond silently – and contrast this with how we usually provide feedback to a musical performance. There’s some very interesting human-machine-human interface stuff going on here.

Link
Sometimes an aesthetic is a byproduct of technology – high contrast in over-reproduced 6”x10” glossy star photos, inconsistent speed in old black and white film, the depth and colour range in Polaroid photos, or the way 80s TV series look rubbish. Digital processing grants a whole new level of control over colour and the ability to choose from a vast range of possible palettes, but the result seems to be that everyone is doing the same thing. This is quite likely how films made in the last ten years will reveal their age when we look back on them ten years from now.

Quote
(via Tim Connor)

Marin Alsop: “Tradition is simply the last bad idea”

Picture
Free Will
.

This weeks’ puzzle
Many years ago Nick challenged me to work out how to tell where the doors of a London Underground tube carriage would stop on the platform so that you could optimise where to stand to improve your odds of boarding first and so getting a seat. I came up with an answer that didn’t work terribly well but assumed that was what he had in mind (without ever confirming it). Only now after 5 months of catching 4 tube trains every workday have I realised a much better solution.

What do you think my first and second solutions were?

Last week’s puzzle
Why are calculator and phone keyboards laid out oppositely? There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer, but there are a few very likely suspects.

The original decisions that led to 123 being at the bottom for calculators are unclear. Thomas suggests it’s a matter of “where your attention is coming from” – combined with Benford’s law I suspect this could be a key factor driving the layout of the first common mechanical number-entering devices, cash registers, and how devices evolved from there.

When it came to phone pads, it seems (remarkably for this kind of thing) that AT&T actually did some user testing and found the 3×3 grid with 123-at-the-top was the easiest for people to master. As letters were also a consideration in those days, putting ABC with 1 (and so on) made most intuitive sense, and would have looked pretty bizarre had 123 been at the bottom.

My preferred write-up of possible answers comes from The Straight Dope.

Various other attempts to answer this question are curated here.

Richard also points out the following (my summary of his words [my comments in square brackets]):

Handedness is a consideration for other aspects of the layout; in particular computer keyboard number keypads, which sit on the right-hand side, are supposed to be operated with the left hand [a revelation to me after years of feeling slightly odd using my little finger to press the return key], and an interesting challenge emerges when one keyboard is used for both data-entry/calculation and telephone operation, as with Skype today, or the over-prescient One-Per-Desk in 1984.

Things 86: Better Train Journey, AI vs Car Insurance, Underwater Sculpture

Video
I see quite a few videos of ‘what the future will look like’, and most of the time I find them to be unconvincing. However, this view of how a simple train journey could be improved with some simple interface / screen / disposable printing ideas  seems much more sensible:

Link
Steven Steinberg has some really excellent musings on the plausible future of weak AI – including its effect on the car insurance industry, which is much more interesting than it sounds. Long, but well worth preloading on your smartphone to read on the tube, or however you fit long-form content into your life these days.

Quote
I was doing a bit of ego searching when I came across a quote from me two years in the past, which I had completely forgotten and perhaps unsurprisingly found very appealing. Under this photo I had uploaded to Flickr:

I respond to a comment and made this irrational leap of logic:

“It is in all artists’ best interests to work in the field of robotics.”

Picture
I remember reading about these underwater sculptures a long time ago. Placed in 2006, this 2009 gallery shows how the ocean has made some really great aesthetic enhancements.

Last Week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked about some very strange sequential spikes in searches for numbers on Google Trends. Richard worked out that it must be people search for the latest fansubbed episodes of the anime series Bleach, which is pretty much confirmed by checking the search terms associated with these numbers over on Google Insights for Search.

Another mystery solved!