Touch Keyboard

Interface Fail

A curious touch keyboard interface that was a bit confusing. This was found at a Department of Motor Vehicles location here in California this morning. The keyboard was there in this kiosk so I could type in my car’s license plate and be issued a renewed vehicle registration certificate. The geometry of the keyboard’s outline is evocative of a standard QWERTY layout, tapered toward the bottom as it is. And I hunted as if it were a QWERTY but, obviously, it’s not — the keys are alphabetically organized in rows by columns.

Why would Nicolas blog this? A curious reorientation of a keyboard meant to evoke what the standard keyboard look like, but without making assumptions about peoples’ knowledge of it’s standard key layout. An interesting design decision here. What elements from keyboards suggest their use (the geometry of the keyboard’s outline) and when can you ignore attributes for the sake of usability? What makes something usable? What assumptions can you make about familiarity and knowledges of use for things that are pervasive and whose use is implied in the design?
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Design for Cardinality

Interface fail. Evidently, the ordering of the apartments inside here is different from the screwed-on doorbells so one of the tenants improvised a new user interface. Hysterical.

The implied cardinality here of apartments — top to bottom? alphabetical? — must have been poorly communicated. But the question is — why not take the more robust and fault-tolerant solution to swap the order of the paper signs taped to the inside of the door’s glass? A passing prankster might find a small bit of amusement in putting up a new post-it, perhaps with “C” and “D” instead of “A” and “B”..(ahem..)

Why would Nicolas blog this? To consider when cardinal ordering schemas do or do not imply specific interface templates. Is it a design principle that letters lower in the cardinal alphabetical “scale” go on top? Or, do they go on the bottom, as in the heuristic that basement, underground apartments always have letters, such as the dingy Apt. B, next to the boiler room?

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Redundancy in Contexts

Redundancy norms here for restricted access areas, using variations in human language, which is just good to CYA, plus English twice, just in case.

I was struck by these peculiar redundant doors. The right one to pick depends on who you are and what you’re attempting to do. The curvature of the foyer on the other side of the wall causes this perspective fall off that makes this a bit disorienting.

A double instructional touch interface for this sliding door on a commuter train. Really curious, this huge, rear-illuminated instructional text — with arrow toward the button..which reinforces the instructions with its own didactic “push here to open” instructions. It may be that that rear-illuminated text has space above for a “Do Not”, and this is why it is so big. But, really..exactly what ran through the mind of the interface specialist on this one?

Multiple egress and ingress points provide a useful redundancy for what is likely a quite frantic train platform for maybe 4 hours of a 24 hour day. Now, though, a handful of travelers plopped into EWR on the last flights in for the night.

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A couple of curious vanity plates seen in rapid succession. The inconsistency between the sentiment expressed in the vanity plate and the sensibilities, politics and mythology/religion captured in these particular vehicle’s brand culture seems almost diametrically opposed.

In the first case, I see Gaia as probably related either to the Gaian hypothesis, which sees the earth as an organism in itself, shifting the perspective of human(ity) from masters to mere specks. Sort of the selfish gene taken to shift the relationship where the earth, well — we’re just a virus perhaps, or another of zillions of species, and perhaps the most damaging. But, either way — the earth will continue on in various forms, and humanity may indeed just wash away, barely a footnote in the time-scale of the universe. In this case — might not a fracking Cadillac Escalade be a particularly noxious expedient to the eradication of humanity what with this, you know — ecological carbon crisis?

Ian reminds me that the Gaia hypothesis states that the earth is an organism that will self-correct any damage inflicted upon it. So, we might better read the first inconsistency as a kind of expression of vanity in its purest form: “If the earth’ll fix the problems we inflict upon it, even if it means getting rid of humanity, then I may as well drive this ridiculously obnoxious, completely oversized, hell-mobile, even though I’m a 5′ 1″ miniature little valley blonde wearing ridiculous $500 sunglasses..the relative scale between my bird-like frame and this mansion-on-wheels make is feel like I’m driving the enormous, wasteful, ticky-tacky house my husband bought us to overcome the sense of inadequacy he has because he feels he’ll never be as successful as his dad? all the damage my idiotic lifestyle inflict upon this sacred rock will get washed away just like the bird crap that was on my windshield? that I had a homeless guy wipe away? and I only had to give him one of the dollar bills I had crumpled in my ashtray that’s overflowing with the half-smoked Marlboro Lights I sneak sometimes to help control myself from eating like a normal human being.”

The second one — a plate that expresses the owner’s commitment to peace and the block type car brand “Patriot” seems pretty far apart, especially these days where the patriotism idiom has been fairly well worked to the advantage of hawkish neoconservatives and such, who are probably the least likely to be 4PEEACE, at least insofar as peace would prevent them from conspiring to maintain an unstable state of world affairs for their own nefarious purposes.
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Thoughtless Acts — Improvised Holsters

Shuttling around San Francisco in a cab, I found this intriguing set of improvised holders for a mobile phone and a bluetooth headset. California just began enforcing a law requiring that drivers use a hands-free device when they take a call while in the car. Anecdotally, we’ve seen many people continue to hold the handset to their ear while driving, and the debates continue in cocktail party conversations about whether this law makes sense. Which is more important, the physical interface between one’s driving hands and the steering wheel? Or the interface between your brain and the oftentimes cerebrally taxing levels of concentration required to watch out for, or anticipate, janky manuevers and surprises introduced by drivers/bikers/bicyclists/pedestrians/pets/bouncing balls?
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Security in Peru is all over the place. I don’t know much about the history of things that may cause security concerns — I can imagine — but it’s like driving through a neighborhood with lots of bars on residence windows and security grates in front of retailers. Here, police and militia toting automatic weapons tell their own story.

Peculiar Dog Driving Practices and Other Mobile Daring-Do

Definitely not a viable near future human social practice, especially with gas approaching its inevitable $5 USD per gallon prices, here in the US. This non-staged dog driving was seen recently in Lima Peru in the Barranco district, which reminds me of New York City’s Upper East Side (aka “Planet of the Apes” bizzarro land), only on the ocean. It’s a desirable, fancy district with new tall apartment buildings, lots of ground-floor security operatives, clean and well-manicured. Very quiet area compared to the rest of Lima which is as noisy as it can be — lots of cars honking as a matter-of-course, belching incredible amounts of exhaust fumes, general bedlam, basically. While wondering about, I saw this zaniness while basically waiting for a red-eye back to the US. I am not really sure exactly how to make sense of this peculiar dog driving practice.

What is most curious is that I first saw this car-dog-human hybrid and, as slow as they were going (no more than 5 miles per hour) I couldn’t get my camera out and change to an appropriate lens quickly enough, so I missed the shot. Somehow I knew they’d be coming back if I kept walking along this road and, sure enough — here they are. It was barely drizzling, so I can’t say that this is what lazy hydrophobes do to walk/drive alongside of their dog. Also, the dog didn’t seem to really have a chance to be anywhere except in the asphalt-y road — no real play time, just managing to keep up with the car.

Another peculiar driving routine is this maneuver on the boulevards of Lima, Peru. Drivers switch back and forth between the parallel “local” bit of road (or, heck..just the sidewalk, why not?), lined with small shops, etc, and the main thoroughfare. And do so by whatever means necessary. It is also routine to honk your car horn aggressively, often, and seemingly without reason or justification.

There appear to be an exceptional shortage of proper intersections and stop-lights to go along with them. There are more of these speed bumps than there are stop-lights. On one trip, we seemed to speed up as fast as possible and then downshift/brake abruptly for a speed bump about every 100 meters. There was a palpable frustration that you couldn’t just go for a good bit, which is almost worse than having a network of lights that sometimes can be timed. I think the speed bumps were likely responsible for avoiding the many near-close-call pedestrian accidents. The protocol for pedestrian street crossing is basically to just do it and not flinch when cars swerve quite close to you. It’s a delicate dance between pedestrians and large, heavy vehicles.

Traffic cops (armed, I should add), were stationed at particularly fast-moving areas to help manage the inevitable flow issues, including illegal left-hand turns made from the far-right lane and such all. There signalling mechanisms were incredulous shrugs, bird-like whistle-blowing and no-no-no finger waving gestures — as if to say, “what’re you thinking!?”