Archive for the ‘ Human Computer Interface (HCI) ’ Category

MIT: Museum + Media Lab

MIT Museum

I visited the MIT Museum in November, 2008 and was blown away by what I saw! Their creative use of technology was truly inspiring! It was not *just* technology, it was art!
Working at the intersection of art, science and technology –you can’t help but feel like you’re in a digital renaissance at a technophile mecca!

During my visit, I shot some photos including this hologram of Keith Haring.

MIT Media Lab

Founded by Nicolas Negroponte and Jerome Wiesner in 1985, MIT’s Media lab is a leader of innovation in technology.

For Negroponte, “Innovation comes from differences. Lateral thinking is key, because ‘incrementalism’ is the enemy of creativity. By juxtaposing people from very different backgrounds, new ideas are bound to emerge.”

Similarly, Wiesner believed, “we cannot hope to solve the problems facing us without a greater understanding of the modern world, based on the integration of knowledge.”

MIT Lab’s philosophy is to inspire the innovative use of technologies through passion and creativity that aims to help people. It fosters a “unique culture of learning by doing, developing technologies that empower people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all societies, to design and invent new possibilities for themselves and their communities.”

The One Laptop per Child is just one of so many amazing and inspiring projects, born of MIT’s Media Lab! –Now that’s technology with heart!

MIT Media Lab
Media Lab’s demos and downloads


Negroponte on innovation and the MIT Media Lab. Momentum, MIT Media Lab

The MIT’s Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, by Robert A. Wilson, Frank C. Keil is a great resource for anyone interested in HCI design!

The Etymology of Design: Pre-Socratic Perspective, by Kostas Terzidi, MIT Press, 2007


on Apple

Apple’s motto, ‘Think Different’ says it all, as they push conventional understanding and uses of technology. Founded in 1976 by visionary entrepreneur, Steve Jobbs –Apple has since become the leader in ubiquitous computing and sleek user-interface design, with a revenue of over 50 billion per year!

Apple’s products include the new iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apps and Macs. Apple has changed the way of computing to include a unified brand for browsing, email, viewing photos, watching videos, playing games, listening to music and even reading eBooks on the new iPad.

Apple’s iPhone revolutionized the way we use cellular phones. Convergence in mobile devices is key to Apple’s vision. Some neat ideas to emerge from the iPhone include seamless integration from one function to another. Users can toggle between browsing, using the phone or any number of functions with ease. Another neat trick by Apple: the indiscriminate user view, where there is no up or down! The device displays to either ‘portrait’ or ‘landscape’ depending on how the device is held. When viewing galleries, users can ‘pinch’ open galleries. Also, ‘scrolling’ is achieved more like how a reader turns the pages of a page.

Apple users can purchase hardware and software, including iTunes, apps, movies, eBooks and more through Apple’s online store.

Apple’s software includes QuickTime,the new iLife, iWork, Aperture and Final Cut Studio, to name just a few.

Some interesting facts about Apple:

  • Apple sold it’s first Powerbook in 1991
  • There are currently 140,000 apps available and more to come …
  • 250 million iPods have been sold around the world since 2001

Apple User-Interface Guidelines

Universal Design: A philosophy of design:

Universal design, or Inclusive Design is simply design intended for all to use and enjoy. Accessibility, usability and readability are important concepts of inclusive design –an area of Human-Computer Interface design, and are loosely defined below:


Perceptibility: design achieved for all to perceive, regardless of sensory abilities. To achieve this, provide redundant alternatives. (i.e. text, visual, auditory). For example, when including an image in a web page, provide an ‘alternative description of the image’ known as -ALT text.

Operability: design achieved for all to use, regardless of physical abilities. A few guidelines to achieve this are: minimize repetitive tasks and the need for physical exertion, provide hotspots or target areas that are big enough for track ball pointers or other assistive devices; and provide compatible design for wheelchair access (i.e. position controls for seated and standing users) and adaptive technologies.

Simplicity: design that is easy to use or understand, regardless of a user’s experience, literacy, or ability to focus. A few guidelines to achieve this are: eliminate unnecessary complexity, be clear; use consistent codes, controls and modes of operation; provide only relevant information and controls; provide clear prompts and feedback for all actions; and accommodate all levels of literacy (including media literacy).

Forgiveness: minimize the likelihood of user errors. A few guidelines to achieve this are: design controls that can be interpreted and used only one way to prevent errors from occurring; use warnings (alerts) and confirmations to reduce errors from occurring; include reversible actions to minimize the consequence of the error. (e.g. ‘undo’)

UsabilityAccording to usability guru, Jacob Nielsen, “Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.”

Nielsen’s concept of Usability is defined by the following five qualities:

* Learnability: How easy is it for users to do basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
* Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
* Memorability: When users return to the design after a while of not using it, how easily can they remember how to do what they did the last time they encountered the design?
* Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
* Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?


Jacob Nielsen’s The Alert Box, Usability 101: Introduction to Usability

Universal Principles of Design, by Lidwell, Holden and Butler. Rockport Publishers (2003)

Special thanks to Jutta Treviranus and the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, for helping to raise my awareness of accessibility issues. Having worked for the ATRC for nearly a decade, I gained first-hand knowledge and experience that could never have been taught by any book or classroom setting!