Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The challenge of designing social robots

In a recent article in Wired Magazine, we can read about the number of companies that are shutting down. The article discusses the fact that social robots seem to be quite difficult to design in a way that would make people interested in them over time. The "over time" is crucial here since most of these robots initially draw a lot of attention since they are often fun and exciting, while over time they seem to lose their attraction.

So, do we need social robots at all or is Alexa enough. Well, the experience that is partially described in the article is that robots work fine when they have a clear utility (Zomba), but at the same time they lose their ability or effect as a social thing. They disappear in the environment as other appliances.

It seems as if there are two major aspects of social robots that need to be addressed.  First of all, it seems as if people do not want social interaction with things that do not necessarily require it. And secondly, if there is a need or want to social interaction, the technology is still far from adequate.

Interaction designers in many cases seem to blend these two desires into something that become a bad mix. We end up with things that are neither useful enough nor social enough. I guess that this tendency will continue and we will in the near future see many failed attempts in this category.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Limitations of Big Data approaches

Today I listened to a talk by Alex Vespignani on data science and epistemology. It was a great talk. Alex referenced a paper by Hosni and Vulpiani "Forecasting in light of Big Data". I downloaded it right away and read it. It is a great paper. Both Alex talk and the paper touches on the relation between modeling (theory) and data (ML/AI) and when to use what for what purpose. Alex especially discussed the limitations of data and ML (same as in the paper). This is interesting to anyone who is thinking about using ML and AI for problem-solving or forecasting.


Hosni, H., & Vulpiani, A. (2018). Forecasting in light of big data. Philosophy & Technology31(4), 557-569.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Rich interaction in airline cockpits

I have recently been introduced to the work by Catherine Letondal and her colleagues at the University of Toulouse in the ENAC group. This group has for some time studied pilots in airline cockpits and their interactions. It is work that really relates well to our work in the book "things that keep us busy".

This group is taking interaction at the most challenging level. Highly complex technology, extraordinary safety concerns, intense interactivity with the plane, the ground control, etc. The research shows almost all of the multi-faceted aspects of interaction, everything from traditional, tangible, gesture, embodied, faceless, etc. They also show with many examples when certain modes of interaction (sometimes seen as the best solution) are definitely not appropriate.

Really interesting research and a type of research we definitely do not see enough of in HCI.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Some missing aspects of IX and UX design

It is amazing how interaction design and UX design have grown and been recognized these last couple of decades. It has made a great difference to the field and the benefit of many users. This development has been so fast and radical that it has made it difficult to see what is eventually missing. So, looking at the field today I think it is safe to argue that there are aspects of IX and UX that is in need of being strengthened, both in academia and practice. I will here only mention a few.

1. There is a lack of systems thinking in contemporary IX and UX design. This is the overall and most important aspect.

2. There seems to be a lack of curiosity and interest in new technologies. The extraordinary outburst of new forms of technology that shifts interaction away from traditional screen-based interactions opens up for new creative designs. However, the field does not seem to take advantage.

2. UX is still focused on personal applications while organizational applications are not treated with the same attention. We all use simple and easy to use apps on our smartphones and on our laptops. It is amazing how these applications have developed into beautiful and efficient tools that support our everyday lives. But when we move into the world of workers in all kinds of organizations, the systems, and the interfaces commonly look like they are decades old. They are hard to learn and use, inefficient, ugly, etc. It is obvious that the complexity of these systems is way beyond what we see with personal support apps. They require intimate knowledge about the organization, its structure, logistics, information flow, and needs, etc. And again systems thinking!

Of course, I am not providing any evidence for my claims above. Personally, I find that looking at commonly used textbooks in the field supports my observations.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Skype lecture Gothenburg

I just gave skype lecture with students to professor Johan Lundin at University of Gothenburg about interaction design. It is always interesting and exciting to work with students from other programs and to see how they think and what questions they ask. This group of students asked really good questions and I wish them the best as they continue their program.

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