Thursday, January 23, 2014

"The Unicorn Institute -- Courses to shape the future of UX design"

Today I saw the ads for the new Unicorn Institute. An interesting initiative to create a new program with the purpose to educate students to become the future of UX design. It is right now a Kickstarter project led by some well known people in the field.

This is how they introduce the idea:

"You might be asking yourself: Why do we need a UX design school? Doesn’t this already exist someplace?
It’s true, you can learn parts of user experience design through a variety of programs, both online and in person. However, it’s challenging to piece together all of the required skills for a UX designer.
We’re creating a holistic program that connects education and industry to bridge the skills gap between what students learn and what industry needs. Our long-term goal is to create a bricks-and-mortar school where students learn the comprehensive skills to earn meaningful jobs in the field of user experience design.
We want to create a school to produce industry-ready UX professionals—otherwise known as “unicorns.” A UX unicorn is the ultimate generalists: a person who has the right mix of hard and soft skills."
It will be quite interesting to follow the development of this. As someone who has worked with academic programs for many years and experienced the complexity and difficulty in making them work, I am impressed by the ambition and speed of this project. 
Interestingly enough, I think that we in our school already have a program where we educate UX designers in the way this projects describes it.  We have done that for over a decade. We have the experience on how to educate, what skills and competence is needed, and how to work with a highly diverse group of students. Anyhow, we need more programs like this, so this is a welcome initiative!

Monday, January 20, 2014

I bought a $37 tablet -- what did I learn from that?

I few days ago I got my new Ubislate 7Ci that I ordered online. I do not need another tablet, I have an iPad and an iPhone so this was more out of curiosity. How can anyone design, produce and sell a 7 inch tablet for $37? The company that makes Ubislate is called Datawind.

So, now I have tried the Ubislate for a few days or at least tried to use it.  It has an Android system. Actually most of the manual and support language present the device as if it is a phone. The Ubislate has a camera, apps, and an app store, it has most built-in functionality that you would expect from a tablet.

First impressions are that is is very, very slow, really, really bad screen, it is far from intuitive to use. It is still quite amazing (and somewhat disturbing) that something like this can be produced and sold for $37. I will not review the tablet per se here, I suppose there are many reviews online already. Instead I have been testing this device just to see what kind of observations and questions it may lead to.

First of all, if this can be built for almost no money, it means that devices like this will soon cost almost nothing and will be pervasive. You may get one for free in the store, school, movies, etc. Devices that work as "windows" into the world of information and content will be everywhere. Of course, I knew this already, we have said that for years, but having this device in my hand really makes that clear.

It is also quite obvious that this kind of functionality will be built into every other thing. We knew this too, but again, seeing this device makes that very real.

It is also obvious that we are entering a time when the way to handle devices like this has become as normal as using a car. To make someone read a manual, to go through very detailed descriptions of how to use it is not going to work. I can imagining myself spending some time learning a new device if it is expensive but for $37 I do not want to have to learn anything new (btw, this device does not satisfy that requirement).

So, what have we learned here. Well, I realized that being face to face with this device, trying to use it, have helped me to ask some questions and to realize things about where we are with our technology today--things I already knew in a way but that became quite real. And it was quite fun to try to understand the device and to see if I could use it for some practical purpose (for now, the answer to that question is 'no' :-)


Comment made three months later:

Well, if anyone is interested to know what happened to my experiment with the cheap tablet, I can let you know that it has not been used at all since the day the post above was posted. It is obvious that the tablet is useless and requires to much effort to be able to use for anything. So, that was $37 and some natural resources wasted.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A lesson about design and quality---a video by Saddleback's CEO

This is a fun and interesting video that reveals the design thinking and material quality of the Saddleback's bags. Dave Munson shows in the video how you can produce a cheap version of his expensive bags by saving money on design and materials.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Connecting" short movie about the future of interaction design

About a year ago (I think) the company Basset & Partners presented a short movie (18 minutes) on Vimeo called "Connecting". At the time I watched the movie and I liked what I saw. Some of my colleagues are interviewed and so are a number of leading people from industry. I watched it again this morning for some reason and realized (again) that it contains a lot of interesting and exciting ideas about the history and future of interaction design. The insights delivered are still highly relevant even though some are somewhat futuristic. It is possible to identify some deep thoughts or underlying philosophy presented by the interviewees. Even though some parts of the video is focused on technological progress, the values and visions that the participants reveal are strongly human centered and far from being simplistically solution oriented or technology driven. It is great to see so many industrial leaders in our field being so thoughtful. A big thanks to Basset & Partners for making this movie.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

ACM Interactions magazine now with new design and layout

As you may know I am co-Editor-in-Chief together with Ron Wakkary of the ACM Interactions magazine. It is a publication that we present like this:

"ACM interactions magazine is a mirror on the human-computer interaction and interaction design communities and beyond. It is a multiplicity of conversations, collaborations, relationships, and new discoveries focusing on how and why we interact with the designed world of technologies. interactions has a special voice that lies between practice and research with an emphasis on making engaging human-computer interaction research accessible to practitioners and on making practitioners voices heard by researchers."

The new Jan/Feb 2014 issue is just out. It is the first issue with our new redesigned logo and layout. We also introduce some new departments. We have also made some real changes to the structure and order of articles. It has been a fascinating process where we have worked with professional magazine designer Luke Hayman and his crew. You can read Luke's reflection on the redesign here.

It is exciting to work with Interactions. It reaches a large audience from around the world. It is obvious that if you publish in Interactions you will have more readers than ever before. Your readership will measure in thousands and not in hundreds as with traditional research venues.

Anyway, we hope that you will find the new design as good as we do. And maybe it will trigger you to submit some of your thoughts to Interactions.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

An absolutely excellent talk on how to write a research paper

I have just watched this video on how to write a great research paper. The talk is by Professor Simon Peyton Jones, Microsoft Research. In the talk Peyton Jones presents eight principles on how to develop and write a research paper. The content is wonderfully clear, and in my view, completely correct. The principles he discusses are very similar to what I often repeat to my students (and I am sure many of my colleagues too). So, the content of the talk is great and so is the way it is done. I highly enjoyed watching this. Great advice presented in a great way!

Thank you Chung-Ching for posting the link on Facebook.