Thursday, November 18, 2010

Food as Experience

Portland is becoming famous for its food carts. If you live here and haven't tried them, TONIGHT you have a great chance to celebrate at the Art Department a new book and try some food cart yumminess!

third brain studio is particularly fond of this book since we are contributors, having conducted interviews at several cart pods to find out just what this trend is all about. We talked to restaurant owners, surgeons and college students, all who enjoy the price, quality, variety and intriguing community when they come to the food carts. We talked with a guy who said there was a vendor in Pioneer Square who practically helped feed him through college, offering him sandwiches even when he barely had enough money. They've become close friends - which he proved by showing us his number in his phone.

All in all, the food carts exemplify Portland. They get you outside no matter what the weather, democratize food and bring people together at long picnic tables where you just can 't help but talk to your neighbor and say, "Hey what's that your eating? I'll have to try that next time!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

World Usability Day

A sample entry in the "good fun" category for the usability scavenger hunt.

As you may or may not know, Thursday, November 11, 2010 is World Usability Day. Imagine that! Aren't you glad you are in on that little secret? I bet you didn't even get the day off. To celebrate this awesome event, our local computer human interaction group, lovingly known as CHI FOO, is hosting a usability scavenger hunt.

All of the entries from our team, the uxceptionals, can be seen here. and yes, true to form, many of the medical entries are from yours truly. Having spent Wednesday at the hospital volunteering and experiencing my own physical therapy appointment on Thursday gave me lots of great insights into the usability of even more medical products.

Have fun following all the feeds from the CHIFOO link above.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Know your use case

This is the second in a series of two posts about employing new technologies that took significantly longer than I hoped or expected. The second new thing I needed to accomplish in the last few weeks, was to install and start using Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance. All these presentations blog posts reports and bookkeeping have played havoc on my shoulders and I'm looking for any solution to reduce my time at the keyboard.

I prefer to go to stores and talk to people in person, I know I must be old, but that's still what works for me. I took myself to the nearest Office Depot hoping to ask some questions about the software and perhaps see some new keyboard trays. Nobody in the store ever came up to ask if I needed any help, and when I sought help I was directed to a large screen monitor what I was told to Google my questions. Awesome. I am in your store looking for dictation software, hoping not to use keyboard, and you send me straight to a computer. I left purchasing nothing, more confused than I was before.

As a side note, I will give kudos to one employee at a different store who spent probably 20 min. on the phone with me sharing what he had done for his injuries including trying to convince me to learn an entirely new keyboard that was more ergonomic. Despite that, he had some good advice and good information.

After a good bit of searching, I finally found a grid that answered some of my questions, and confirmed which version of the software would be best for me. It also confirmed that I would be able to use the product with PowerPoint.

I picked up a copy of the software excited to get started. It took me a number of days to get the microphone to work. In fact I never got the microphone to work. Again, a number of conversations with underpaid workers overseas I was told that the microphone that came with the product would not work with my laptop because the internal array mic would override any other signal. I had to go out and purchase a USB headset. Great. I just spent$200 on some software,arguably for use by a population becoming more and more laptop dependent. I'm still not sure that tech really knew what he was talking about but back to the store I went and purchased a USB headset so that I could get moving on this project.

The headset, sadly, took more time to set up than the very complex cloud share Pogoplug that I had set up just hours before.after some convoluted web searches I gather that my problem was just that that device had not been selected as my default device. However, every time I went through the setup process where did software is learning my voice the quality check failed every time. I decided to bypass this and see what would happen. Ta da! what you have just read was all created, while mostly, by using the headset and the new software. I tried to set up 10 years ago when I had my first repetitive stress injury and it was a painful and frustrating process. I am shocked and amazed at the quality of the voice recognition this early in the process. I've had to do very few corrections, and the cheat sheets that come with the software now are superbly helpful.

There is a bit of a learning curve for complex actions, but to just sit in dictate and watch the words pop up on the screen while I rest my weary arms and shoulders is a great relief. It would be best, however, if the engineers and designers did due diligence and realize that likely at least 50% of their users will be working from laptops.

Products who do their research --- FTW

In the last few weeks, I've had some extraordinary experiences with new technology. One was purely awesome the rest have sucked the time and energy out of my life.

As most of you know I run a small business. Most days I carry my laptop to and from work with much that is wonderful and important in the world in the trunk of my car praying that nobody crashes into me or steals that laptop out of my trunk.

My goal, was to find a way that I could access all of my information from a single point and whether I am at the office or at my home access to the same files. I tried simply carrying an external hard drive for a while but found that Windows 7 and Windows Vista could not be used with the same hard drive. I've talked to technicians, I've talked to people at big box stores, and other good bit of online research only to come up somewhat empty-handed, at least for a reasonable price.

My first solution was to try the NASDuo. The salesman at Fry's talked me into this device which was supposed to be all-in-one remote access to my laptops and iPhone. I literally spent two weeks on the phone with the Philippines trying to set up both my local and remote access. I was upgraded to level II support, unfortunately this wasn't much help. After being told it would take 2 to 3 days to figure out what was going on I gave up and took the device back to Fry's.

I will now sing the praises of the Pogo plug. This nifty little device creates your own personal cloud-a way to access your information remotely from anywhere. Hallelujah! my two weeks of struggle were rewarded with 2 min. of setup. Yes, you read that correctly, minutes. I am shocked and amazed and filled with glee. Oh yes, and eternally grateful to the friend who suggested that I use this product in the first place.

The out of box experience was also quite extraordinary. It has a sleek and clean box with one tiny instruction manual approximately 4 x 4 inches. This manual directs you to a website where they walk you through the quick and easy setup complete with troubleshooting ideas and in no time you have access to your files. circumventing lengthy confusing printed materials and offering clean, interactive graphics was a great choice by the manufacturer.

It is difficult to believe that whoever created the NASDuo thought that anyone but a very technical person would be using their product. The interface and screens were clunky and ugly and asked for information that no average consumer would have any clue of how to find. Even their customer service guys had trouble locating information. In contrast, again, the Pogoplug is a very consumer friendly product with a clean and simple interface which obviously went through user testing prior to entering the marketplace.

Finally, the industrial design of the Pogoplug is strongly preferred, at least by me. It is consumer friendly white though admittedly the pink accents may not be as welcome for a manly man. But the NASDuo was an ugly black box designed for engineers.

At last, I can see my PowerPoint presentations from my iPhone I can share photos with family I can share documents with clients all from this personal cloud. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Pogoplug.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why I Advocate for Healthcare User Experience

Elizabeth Cohen's article today on Why I Write Empowered Patient (on, inspired me to write a story of my own. I will preface this with the fact that I have never been diagnosed with anything fatal or even life-threatening, but as anyone knows, when your body feels somehow less than normal, it affects all aspects of your life.

My story begins at age 10, in gym class. I tripped. I fell. And for the next 10 years I was on and off crutches, saw doctors too numerous to count and was even hospitalized once. What was wrong? To this day, I have no diagnosis. The best information we received was that it was structural and a pair of orthotics and some time would allow me to grow out of it. Meanwhile, I was poked and prodded. I felt like a lab rat, but I and my family wanted answers.

My concerned parents worked to get an answer for why their child, at age 10, could usually not run and sometimes not even walk around with other kids. I went through Disneyland in a wheelchair because it was too painful to walk more than a few blocks. I rode a Honda Spree between classes in college because I couldn't walk the short mileage between classes. (thankfully, it was super cool and turned many heads!) In college I was wrongly diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I thought for sure that was a death sentence at the time. I was devastated.

In the years since, I have had many an undiagnosable illness/conditions, and some easily diagnosable. I have broken 2 bones and endured sinus headaches, migraines, anxiety issues, asthma a host of annoying, but never life-threatening illnesses. I've consulted western, eastern and all manner of doctors and health care practitioners, some with great success and others not so much.

Thankfully, now in my 40's I can hike, and do (despite actually breaking that ankle I twisted 30+ years ago) and have a reasonable handle on my health care (including a rebate from a botched bill over 12 months ago...)

I am as adamant as I can be about my health care but still wish:
1) I had insight to my medical records and history
2) I had a way to connect my various providers, both traditional and non, in-network and not
3) I did not have to fork out huge amounts of cash to handle my health care the way I want it handled with practitioners I know and trust - whether or not my insurance company deems them acceptable.
4) That people of any education level would be able to understand and manage their health care. The fact that we now need advocates for our care and to handle the massive billing snafus is simply ridiculous.

Of course, having said all this on the most public of forums...I am probably un-insurable with a long list of pre-existing conditions. But we all need to continue to stand up and ask for what we need. All of these experiences (and more) have led to the reason why third brain studio does a large amount of work making the patient and provider user experience the best it can be.

The patient experience is clouded by pain, discomfort, misunderstandings and a general lack of experience. The provider experience is clouded by a medical system that requires them to spend limited amounts of time with a patient, process endless amounts of paperwork and keep up with ever changing science and technology.

As we do our work, we hope to bring the patient and provider together, as a team, advocating for patients receiving better and more understandable health care and providers to be able to do their best work possible with the most support. Hopefully, this work is another bit or byte in the building of an empowered patient.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fresh Coffee

Apologies for the slightly crappy image. Thanks iPhone! This coffee pot was spotted at a client's brand new building this week. Their last building had a lovely machine that made your coffee to spec while you waited. Now, it's up to the staff to make their own pot, and apparently freshness is an issue. Bring on the trusty Post-It note! That note stuck to the coffee server tells everyone what time that pot was filled/brewed. Who is going to design the coffee pot complete with digital readout so we (horror of horrors) won't be drinking stale coffee?

Going Up, or Down or ??

Apparently, spring has been busy! Sorry for the lack of posts, but I've got a bunch of fun things to add here.
This elevator panel was spotted on a ferry near Seattle. On my way up to the passenger deck, I spotted this amazingly annotated panel. Was it really that difficult to get from 1 to 2? How many passengers had difficulty with this concept? From home made labels to sharpies, apparently there was a good deal of confusion of just how to get from level 1 to level 2. Going up?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Motivating Wellbeing

Please visit Catalyst magazine's website for an article by yours truly - written with colleague Gretchen Anderson of Lunar design.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gender Disparity in Drug Trials

For my previous post on One Size Fits None, I did some digging (with the help of the
Medical Anthroplogy community and a librarian at OHSU). I found a number of really interesting sources discussing the gender disparity in drug trials, and thought I'd list them here.

Since I do not have deep research in this area, I will decline in-depth comment. The upshot is, that although the NIH guidelines require "inclusion of women and minorities" - it is clear we have a long way to go.



Women and health research : ethical and legal issues of including women in clinical studies / Anna C. Mastroianni, Ruth Faden, and Daniel Federman, editors ; Committee on the Ethical and Legal Issues Relating to the Inclusion of Women in Clinical Studies, Division of Health Sciences Policy, Institute of Medicine.
Imprint Washington, D.C. : National Academy Press, c1994.

Women's Health - Missing from U.S. Medicine by Sue Rosser. (this can be read online)

Journal Articles
Brettelll, C. and Sargeant, C. (1996) 'Gender and Health an International Perspective'.

Corrigan, O.P. (2002). ‘First in man’: The politics and ethics of women in clinical drug trials. Feminist Review, 72, 40–72. Info here and here. (Pay to access)

"concern about danger to the unborn foetus has meant that, until very recently, ‘women of childbearing potential’ were routinely excluded from most of the early phases of clinical drug testing...exclusion of women during the early phases of clinical drug trials has now been lifted and drugs are currently being more widely tested on women. This paper examines the differing political and ethical positions..."

Online Sources
"Do Women Need Such Big Flu Shots" by Sabra Klein and Phyllis Greenberger - NY Times Opinion Page

"In planning for the swine flu, however, public health authorities ignored the evidence that vaccines affect women more strongly than men"

There are laws (Public Law PL 103-43) mandating the inclusion of women and ethnic minorities in NIH research.

Hayden, E. (2010) 'Sex bias blights drug studies' . Nature. 464, 332-333.

"The typical patient with chronic pain is a 55-year-old woman — the typical chronic-pain study subject is an 8-week-old male mouse.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Exit Interview - Dating

Photo by Mike DelGaudio - Flickr

For the most part, I try very hard to keep my personal and professional life separate. However, I had a recent experience that made me want to merge the two. A man I had been dating decided to end things. Happens all the time. (ok, not all the time to me per say, but it happens every day in the world...) But it left me wondering... I like information, I like data. It's fine to end things, but I really wanted more information. Why? What happened? How do you feel?

What if the dating industry took a page from the user experience book? What if, upon ending a marriage, relationship, or friendship, we were given a contextual interview to help us understand how to be a better spouse, partner or friend?

It might look like this:

Intro (tongue planted firmly in cheek):

Before we part ways, I wonder if I can have a few minutes of your time to ask a few questions. You will in no way be reimbursed for your time, but we've gotten this far, so what's a few more minutes?

Nothing you say to me will be confidential, so keep that in mind.

How long did we date?

What first attracted you to me?

Please share with me a really wonderful memory you have of us spending time together.

Please share with me a really unhappy memory you have of us spending time together.
What is one really annoying thing about me?

What is one really wonderful thing about me?

What worked in this relationship?

What didn't work in this relationship?

What is the one thing that made you decide to end this relationship?

Thinking back to the beginning of this relationship, what changed between then and now?

And, wait for it...the magic wand question...if you could change one thing about me, what would it be?

Thanks for participating. Now be on your way and have a nice life.
You might choose to add a diary study or participatory design phase, but I wouldn't push your luck :-).

One Size Fits None

Photo by Zen on Flickr

In the last few days, I've had a few conversations that lead me to expand my dislike of "one size fits none" even further. I used to say "one size fits none" to refer to clothing in stores that says "one size fits all". Really? I don't think so. Unless it's a scarf, apparel needs to be sized for a 5 foot tall female or a 6 foot tall male and the many sizes in between.

This week, the conversation turned to health care. Did you know that prescription drugs are, by and large, tested on males (likely caucasian)? The NIH does require "inclusion" of women and minorities, but there doesn't seem to be an agreed upon minimum percent of participants...but I digress....(in fact, there's been such an influx of information on this topic, that I'll set up a separate blog post shortly)

Again, normal dosing is supposed to work just as well for 300 lb. males, 150 pound males and females and 100 lb. 4 foot 11 females. I'm not a trained scientist, but I'm pretty sure the math on that creates incredibly varied results. Interestingly, there is a new trend in personalized medicine also talked about in Business Week.

And then there are protocols and provider care. When an individual walks into a doctor's office with a pain in her knee - the doctor should listen. (a recent New York Times article talks about just that). Listen not just to what the pain is and where and when, but also listen to what she's done in the past that felt better, what felt worse. Who has treated it and why. Many doctors, upon hearing, knee pain, will immediately go to the Rolodex in their heads from med school, pull up the "knee pain protocol" and prescribe exercises, pills or surgery - depending on the relevant issues.

However, anecdotal information shows that very often, providers don't listen, really listen to what the patient says. A certain medication has already shown to be ineffective. Using ice made it worse. It always hurts after a particular exercise.

We are people, individuals with a complex set of feelings, pains, biology and psychology. Using the "one size fits all" protocol doesn't work for many patients. Using the apparel metaphor, a size 5 female foot will never fit correctly into a size 12 shoe, don't assume the person attached to that size 5 foot has the same issues as the size 12, either.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Women in Design - Go North

Last night, Office PDX hosted a Women in Design talk at North - a creative brand agency. It is interesting to hear that there is still discrimination and a feeling that it is somehow different to be a woman than a man in the workplace. Of utmost interest to this 5 foot tall design researcher is the fact that each woman who spoke who was in a major position of power, was also 6 feet or taller!

Nevertheless, we had a lively talk and Q & A session. Below are a few pictures of the gorgeous interior of this space which is creatively inspirational in and of itself.

Zillions of post-it notes adorned the walls in the copy room for this beautiful, feathery effect.

North's cool digs and their floating conference room. I'd stay at work all day to be in this relaxing space!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Image courtesy of edenpictures

Today was my first day volunteering at a local children's hospital. I decided to volunteer because:
1) I can
2) I am self-employed and have a flexible schedule
3) It's a great way to really get inside and see how a hospital works (A better option than having kidney stones or breaking any limbs)

Personally and professionally, I like to be a voyeur. I love to hear what people think about things, see how they act in different situations and how they interact in others. This is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. The best part, though? The amazing smiles on the kids faces.

My volunteer work includes taking a clown around to the various rooms in the pediatric units and acting as a clown-wrangler - keeping kids safe from him if they are scared and keeping him moving along if they become over engaged. What I saw in my first outing was delightful. There is sickness, pain and frustration in every room, but with the clown comes a ray of hope.

Red noses will never look the same after you see them placed on a sad and sick child. The light on their faces comes from the nose and the clown and the momentary break in people poking and prodding them with needles and all other manner of things. How wonderful that pushing the red nose does not elicit pain but a slight honk, bringing a smile to every face nearby.

Already, I overheard interesting conversations - mostly families who know more about hospitals and how they work and how they compare than any civilian should. But for now, I'd like to rest on the sweet, relaxed and calmed faces of the kids who, for just a moment, get a break in the action thanks to a small, squishy, red foam ball.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fantasy Becomes Reality

The Costume Graveyard - so colorful!

The fabric shop - how it makes me pine for making "stuff!"

A character from the Lion King.

Metal tubing bent to create the legs of the bear seen at the Vancouver Olympics. Each one was bent by hand to look more "bear like".

A character from Finding Nemo.

Dad-fish from Finding Nemo.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to see Lion King. Many of you may not be lovers of musicals, but I am. It's out. It's true. I spent 7 years running wardrobe and building costumes for theaters in the east and midwest. Five of those years were spent doing all musicals, all the time at the Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire, IL.

The opening scene of Lion King was breathtaking. It brought tears to my eyes. Music, costumes, lights, a "safari" of people and extraordinary puppets surrounds the audience. It was then I learned about Julie Taymor and Michael Curry and their amazing skills at bringing fantasy to life - using people and puppetry seamlessly to create fantastical creatures.

So, I moved to Oregon and found out Michael Curry's workshop is just north of Portland in Scappoose! I recently set up a tour for the Portland Chapter of the Industrial Design Society of America and 20 of us had the great fortune to tour this creative mecca.

What was most wonderful to see, was how little machinery was involved and how much of the work is still done by hand, true artistry. Though they use CAD and other machines to assist, it was obvious that hand work takes precedence.

One of our tour guides was apparently in the left leg of the polar bear last Friday night at the Vancouver Olympic opening ceremonies! We visited the fabric shop, a sculpture shop, a metal shop, the warehouse of old costumes (not a place to go in the dark of night) and even saw the performance area they use for actors and designers to test out the puppets/costumes for movement and to learn to utilize them to the fullest.

Curry has an exceptional ability to visualize large scale designs and a staff whose talents are wide ranging - each having multiple disciplines to pull from. As for me, I just want to get lost in all of the fabric and findings and create something mystical and wonderful. Guess I'll just have to wait for his next show!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sleep Tracking

At CES in January, I was lucky enough to be given a Zeo sleep machine by an employee after a long conversation about their product. Was it too good to be true? How does it work, and most importantly, do they need user experience researchers??

It seems they have actually done a good bit of research and the ease of use is high. I intended to do an "out of box" post...but haven't yet. Instead, I'm excited today to share some comparative data having just found out about the iPhone Sleep Cycle app.

Cost: The Zeo retails for $249 and the iPhone app for 0.99 cents. Wow. So what's the difference?

Goal: In a nutshell, the iPhone App captures data and shares it, but doesn't look for the comprehensive picture of your life to help you significantly change your quality of sleep. The Zeo is really more of a medical tool, a way to help understand your patterns, lifestyle and why you are or are not getting enough of the right kind of sleep. For fun, get the App. For issues, get the Zeo.

How it works: Both devices do offer an alarm that will wake you when you are in light sleep and not in deep sleep around the time you request an alarm. You wake up rested rather than jarred out of a deep sleep. The App works simply by placing the phone on your bed. The accelerometer does the rest. The Zeo works by reading data send from a quite comfortable (but unattractive) headband you wear during sleep to the machine at your bedside.

The process: I must admit, however, that I'm not a person who enjoys lots of surveys, questions and daily tracking (despite the fact that I love to design them for others!). Zeo is intensive. You need to give it a lot of information if you are truly wanting to learn and change your sleep. I'm more of the mildly curious type, just wondering how well, and how many hours I slept and how it compares overall. I notice that caffeine days and the one night I had a beer near bedtime result in reduced sleep quality. Good to know...

But, I want to share the information quality because it is an interesting comparison.

Shot #1 - The sleep machine the morning of Feb. 3. The white lines on the graph were added in Photoshop so you can see the info. The graph shows, top to bottom, Wake, REM, Light and Deep sleep. For a person in my age range, a good "sleep number" average is 74. That estimates 6.8 hours of sleep, 1.4 hours of REM, 56 minutes of Deep and 28 minutes of waking during the night.

 The above images are information you see at after plugging in the SD card that lives in the device and logging in to your account. You can see detailed information about your sleep. You also have the opportunity to fill in a journal about your activity levels, alcohol and caffeine intake and other habits that may affect your sleep.

Feb. 3 I had 6.58 hours of sleep, 2:09 of REM, 1:07 of deep and 30 minutes awake.
Looks like I had a good night's sleep! However, I am admittedly sluggish this morning...

Sleep Cycle app: Finally, this is the data you see from the iPhone app. As you can see, for .99 it's not a lot, but for many, it's just enough! However, this does not really seem to map to the Zeo data from the same night, Feb. 3. According to this screen, I had various levels of deep sleep and no dreaming sleep. The general rise and fall seems to map, but the details leave much to be desired. However, as an alarm to wake you during light sleep, it seems to be successful.

This is just the first night of data, but so far, the Zeo wins for accuracy and real behavior change, the iPhone wins for a cost, a nice alarm and a general sense of things.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Portland Events

I've decided to post a comprehensive list of my favorite Portland events for learning about things of interest as well as networking. My areas of interest include health, technology and design. Now, get out there and have some fun! Let me know if you have an event to add.

Interaction Design Association
Last Tuesday of every month, Design Jam Sessions

Industrial Designers Society of America
Last Wednesday of every month - 3by10, 3 speakers, 10 minutes each, then beer

Computer Human Interaction Forum of Oregon
First Wednedsay every month - speakers

A global not-for-profit network of entrepreneurs and professionals dedicated to the advancement of entrepreneurship.
Various events, subscribe to their email list.

UX Book Group
Last Tuesday, every other month

For researchers of all types!
First Tuesday every month at the Maiden for networking

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

CES Photos

A few photos from CES

The Que - A standout in the myriad of E-books. A very cool reader for digital files and news - crossover allowing you to read for both business and pleasure. It is made out of a shatterproof plastic. You can even write on it with your finger! However, it seems like an odd size, 8.5 x 11" - you almost need two hands to hold it. Had a great showing at CES.

Just the design of the entry to the Samsung was enough to distract this visitor for a good 10 minutes, staring in awe at the screens and the actual beauty technology sometimes brings to the world.

When I walked up to this car and said "why?" they said, that's why! It's a car that converts to a full-on gaming system. The four screens pop out and each player has their own sound system. I guess that's why. Thankfully, it's only one of a kind.

This is the Intel Health Guide 6000, a project I worked on during my tenure at Intel. It was exciting to finally see it on the market! It's meant to help people with chronic diseases track their health and allow clinicians to monitor care remotely.

Intel was also promoting its 2010 core processors and showing how much data they can process by bringing up real time information from a multitude of social media sites. It was also visually stunning.

On the other end of the spectrum were these retro-machines. They are capable of taking vinyl records and turning them into MP3's. Who knew?

Finally, at the Monster Awards and John Legend concert Friday night, the one and only Stevie Wonder showed up and played a tune for the crowd. Truly a highlight of the week.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Drinks with The Don (Norman that is)

Friday evening at the Computer Electronics Show was an industrial design gathering in yet another loud, crowded bar in Vegas. With my colleague Kevin Shankweiler at my side, we staunchly entered the networking event. While standing in line for drinks, we had a celebrity sighting. I pointed out Donald (Don?) Norman among the crowd. (Kevin checked for a photo on the iPhone, it was indeed him). We saw an opening and went to talk with him, assuming we'd have mere seconds.

He spent 5-10 minutes talking with us, though I will put a disclaimer up front that it was incredibly hard to hear in the bar and I may have mis-heard everything. Not being one for a detailed memory, three things stick with me about this conversation.

1) Donald Norman is convinced that the computer mouse is great the way it is
2) He doesn't believe in the future of neural interfaces
3) Donald Norman is not a believer in dreaming and using far fetched ideas as a means to innovative design

#2 was a result of #1. Somehow we got on the topic of using a mouse and DN pointed out that it is perfectly accurate for pointing, does it's job well and needs no improvement. My stance was that I have terrible repetitive stress pain and it seems we need to get well beyond the "sitting at the screen" phase eventually. Talented researchers and designers continue to look at creating a better mouse.

I then laughed off the mouse conversation realizing that before long, we'll have neural interfaces or brain-computer interfaces, and it won't matter. He replied in a way as to infer that this would never happen and I was crazy. A very brief Google search shows almost 2 million hits for "neural interface computer." The world of prosthetics making the most impressive strides as we speak. Emotiv has devices open for development. And there is an entire conference devoted to the subject. (Ornery readers might point out that there is a conference or two devoted to Santa Claus too, but I digress).

#3 - Don't be a dreamer. Our conversation wandered to ideation and "Minority Report" type technologies which he correctly noted have been around for awhile, just not mainstream. I talked about pushing the envelope, thinking about the fantastic as a far off goal and then reigning it in for today's reality. Without such idealism, the Wright Brothers would never have gotten off the ground, Bell's telephones never would have happened and DaVinci would have been sitting around eating pasta instead of dreaming up fantastical machines that inform our progress to this day. These inventors believed there was a better way.

So, Mr. Norman, I thank you for your fine company and appreciate the chance to engage in lively conversation! But I do believe in dreaming, and literally building not just a better mousetrap, but a better mouse.

Friday, January 8, 2010

CES Day 1

Before you arrive, everyone says, "CES is overwhelming, get ready." Well, I'm here to tell you, they are right. A friend who is with the press said there are about 110,00 people. That's bigger than many small towns. Bigger than many small towns put together. Wow.

Somehow, I managed to wander onto the right buses and into the right halls for speeches, badge pick up and exhibit shmoozing. Today's post will be an overview of interesting technologies and I hope to eventually go back and dig deeper into some of them.

Today's learnings:

Ford has come out with a technology called Sync. They worked with IDEO (so excited to hear design research cited in a keynote speech!) to design an in dash and on steering wheel system that connects to the internet. You can have your tweets read to you, make a call, get directions and play music at the touch of a digital interface. Pretty cool and they say it's smarter than the manual controls so you won't have your eyes off the road as long. I know how often I stare at my iPhone screen - I'm not convinced this won't cause more accidents instead of preventing them.

It's actually easier to take notes on the iPhone rather than pull out a laptop. I guess my texting has gotten more accurate.

I had a great meeting with a start up called RememberItNow! They are in Beta with a site that assists with medication compliance, one of my favorite topics and one where I have deep knowledge. We had a really rich conversation. Interested? You can try it now for free. The Jitterbug cell-phone, originally developed with a focus on the senior market is also adding a medication reminder call and a 24 hour nurse on call to their available services.

I was given a Zeo to test out which should be great. It's a device that you wear on your forehead and it connects to a bedside device and tracks your sleep. If you aren't sleeping well, it may be able to help you figure out why. One compelling feature allows you to set the alarm for a wake up time with a one hour window (within one hour of 6.30) and it will wait to wake you until you are in a light sleep, not a deep sleep so you don't end up suffering from that type of wake up for the rest of the day. It's now almost 1 a.m. and I'm too tired to set it up!

The folks at Wellcore are working on a fall-detection, motion capture device that hopes to surpass the Life Alert and other home safety systems. They claim an advanced accelerometer, reminders to put the device on (one of the biggest issues with similar systems) and a sleeker design. The technical pieces sound good, though my design degree doesn't allow me to say their design is at all more attractive than anything on the market. I talked to an employee about objects of desire and making the fall detection piece that seniors need to wear be more attractive - something I have a great interest in improving. He regaled me with a story about a collaboration with Cartier when he was working with a different company. They designed a beautiful device and only 10% of the customers (80% of whom were women) - purchased the beautifully designed reminder. So curious to know more about why that happened!

One final note: I noticed, with fascination and concern, that many larger exhibitors (Intel, Microsoft) were making use of what looked like live Facebook, Flickr and Twitter feeds. Whether or not they were live, it made me realize how very public and available our lives are. It's not just to our friends, but potentially anyone in the entire world. It's all out there. Seeing it on a 30 foot screen just makes it that much more frightening.

Other items of note: The Que - a reader for paperwork as well as digital media, very cool antique looking devices to transfer your LPs, CDs and cassettes to MP3s, a crazy ergonomic workstation and inductive, wireless charging by Fulton.