Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Patient Experience

My book group just finished reading A General Theory of Love. We seem to be a bunch of psychology nerds and fascinated by the human condition. The general theory is about how important human connection is and how intrinsic it is to our core being. The author's compose lengthy prose on the limbic system which allows mammals (unlike reptiles) to have complex interactions with their offspring. Oversimplified, we seek attachment and based on what we experienced as children, we may have healthy or unhealthy love attachments as we age. We seek connection.

Towards the end of the book, the author's discuss the loss of connection in healthcare from a 1990 New York Times article:

I wouldn't demand a lot of my doctor's time, I just wish he would brood on my situation for perhaps five minutes, that he would give me his whole mind just once. I would like to think of him as going through my character, as he goes through my flesh, to get at my illness, for each man is ill in his own way...I'd like my doctor to scan me, to grope for my spirit as well as my prostate. Without such recognition, I am nothing but my illness.

I have personally done multitudes of interviews with patients and this is one of the best quotes I've run across. What patients want, in addition to and perhaps beyond healing, is to be seen. It is important that they feel cared for and connected, not just like another in a long list of issues for the day. The book goes on to quote a 1994 article in the Lancet which advocates that even if doctors don't care, they should "act" as though they do. Many patients who desire compassion are now turning to alternative therapies.

So, why bring this up on this blog about user experience? It hearkens back to the user experience, but a piece that we often neglect. We talk about technology and how well it works for people, we talk about product design and whether or not it is intuitive and we test web sites to be sure people can easily navigate their way through. But, we often forget to "design" or review the human component, the most variable, least understood component of any system. Whether you are a physician, customer service rep, retail clerk or barista, remember that at the end of the day it is you who makes or breaks the customer experience. Be patient, think about how you might feel in the other person's shoes. Take a deep breath and grope for their spirit, I can guarantee you will both be happier in the end.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Experience Art

One of my favorite pics from the Maui trip, copyright Janna Kimel, not Peter Lik!

On a recent trip to Maui, I had a fantastic user experience. Yes, sun, sand and palm trees in March are the real experience for this Portlander, but there were a number of beautiful galleries on the island as well.

Peter Lik is a photographer with stunning work. You are transformed by the landscapes and photographs in his space upon entering. We all have lovely photos of trees and beaches, flowers and trees, even aunt Ethel. Peter has taken photography to a whole new level photographing many extreme weather conditions and flowers and landscapes like you have never seen them before. He uses a medium format camera and a special crystallized paper for printing.

The experience
Although his images are super pricey, collected by Frank Gehry, Bill Clinton and even Paris Hilton, I inquired with one of the salesmen to find out more about his extraordinary work. He carefully explained how the images are matted, between heavy plexiglass, and then took me into a side room and dimmed the lights. (I think it was at this point that he also closed the door but I was so mesmerized I didn't notice). The room looked a bit like a living room with a row of halogen lights above and a couch towards the back and beautiful, natural wood accents.

The salesman propped up a photo of some red maple leaves in fall with the halogen lights hitting just right. As he dimmed the lights, the image took on a whole new dimension, not just going flat or grey like a normal photo, but the light simply began to reflect differently. The image changed with every dim of the light. It was fantastic. In this instance, not only was the art exceptional, but the fact that I got to experience it to the fullest extent of its beauty in a setting somewhat similar to the one where I would own it was a great lesson learned.

How can your company help buyers have the full experience of your product simulated as it would be in the environment of use? What creative ways can you use to display and promote your extraordinary user experience?

Friday, February 25, 2011

What message do we send when we pay kids to study?

There has been a lot of research lately on paying children to study. As a person interested in motivation and behavior, I find this whole path rather curious.

In an article and presentation Gretchen Anderson and I co-authored last year, we talked about designing for motivation. One of the tenets is to "Play Against Loss." The thought of losing something you think you have is more motivating than a potential reward that you don't yet have. People generally don't like to lose.

At Ultrinsic, we see this instantiated by their model where students bet they will get good grades. One option allows students are asked to choose the minimum grade they will achieve in a given class in a given semester. "Ultrinsic lets students set target grades and choose cash incentives based on their individual educational goals. The incentive is created by the student and Ultrinsic each contributing money to the final reward that the student can earn by achieving the target grade."

Yesterday, NPR reported on a different study, one where young children (2nd-9th grade) get paid to learn. With younger kids, the opposite approach seems to be true. In this study by Roland Fryer, he found that rewarding young children for accomplishing mini-tasks, e. g., sitting still, doing homework, is a successful motivator at this young age. It also helps in setting these behaviors early.

From the viewpoint of motivation and behavior, this is fascinating. Early rewards are successful. Later in life, allow students to set their own goals and include a risk factor to enhance motivation.

Simply thinking about education, it pains me to think that we need to get money involved to encourage kids to read, do their homework and study. Instead of rewarding them for doing unappealing tasks, what can we do to motivate and encourage them to learn? Perhaps what is broken is not our reward system, but our education system.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CES best of...

Photos of some of the great new technology.

third brain studio on the big screen!

Baby monitor that connects to your iPhone

Sony's new version of the Walkman. iPod shuffles attached to your ears??

Using HeartMath's EmWave to de-stress during the conference.

The BEST iPhone case - Etch-A-Sketch!

Have a screen.....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Green Light at the End of the Tunnel

This was, by far, my favorite booth design at CES. It's a tough show to think about sustainability. People give away stuffed animals, plastic bags, reusable tote bags (even reusable is just more "stuff") and other swag. We go through endless amounts of carry out containers and who knows what an insane carbon footprint is created getting people and exhibits all in one place.

And then, I came across this wonderful booth by MINIWIZ built of cardboard and water bottles. Their designs are sustainable and use solar energy. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

The video on their home page beautifully captures their mission with nary a word. Their site shows off innovative personal products, service design (green burial anyone?) and even amazing sustainable architecture.

Thank you, MINIWIZ, for reminding us that not all technology has to be battery powered and end in a landfill.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On the big screen

The majority of this blog is dedicated to sharing insights on user experience and new technology. This short post is a combination. The image above was an impulsive moment at CES. The Sony booth was showing off GoogleTV where you can bring up the internet on your TV, no matter how big or small. I decided to see how the third brain studio website would look at 42" wide! The "Jimmy" on the bottom is from the picture in picture. What do you want to see from the web on your big screen TV?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Object Recognition - Untagged

I love this video! What you are looking at is a proof of concept for a gesture and object recognition context-aware user interface by Beverly Harrison and her team at Intel. It is a simple plywood surface and some Legos. None of the items are tagged, they are ordinary, household items. What Beverly and her team have done is create a smart system that tracks objects on a surface. At the beginning, you see her trace her finger on the table and train track fills in. When she moves the train around the track to the station, if you look closely at the surface, you can see little people exit the train.

By using these robust algorithms the team can author any behavior for any object and dynamically re-assign its role. For example, the people could run, walk or move in any pre-coded direction. The dragon that is part of the scenario can be designed to blow fire, bubbles or smoke.

The surface can be large or small. Larger surfaces may require the camera to be further away which in turn degrades the accuracy. The distance is determined by the needed level of accuracy.

What would you do with this technology? Some of their suggestions were tracking items on a workbench or machines in a manufacturing shop. Personally, I love the opportunity for open play with Legos!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Eye-Fi - Best of CES Photo and Video

This product excites me both personally and professionally. The Eye-Fi won the Best of CES Photo and Video category. Walking through the show, many of the products seem to blend together and everyone seems to be working on the same few problems.

While walking through the show, I preferred to use my digital camera rather than my phone since it's still a better camera. But, the drawback is the lack of connection. If I wanted to send an immediate Tweet or Facebook update, I had to switch over and use my iPhone camera and its wireless capability.

The Eye-Fi solves all of that! Using your existing camera, users simply swap out their existing SD card for a the Eye-Fi which allows any digital camera to become wireless. Their website helps you quickly and easily discover whether their cards will work in your camera. Alas, my point and shoot Olympus has a proprietary XD card and is not compatible.

With the Eye-Fi card, you can wirelessly upload to your computer and any number of web sites including Facebook, Flickr, Picasa or YouTube. Because your camera is NOT a computer, you will need to choose one application for uploading and won't be able to pick and choose for each photo.

Other cool features: The Eye-Fi also offers Geotagging (a must have for some, but personally, I don't want every photo I upload to instantly be able to show my location). The premium cards also offer hotspot access where you can use Starbucks, airport and some hotel wifi for upload access.

I do have one other camera, a nicer one I take out on occasion. I may have to invest in this and give it a whirl!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

CES - Overview

As always, CES is an incredible and overwhelming experience. As I begin to sort through the huge amount of information, I'll start with this insight: connectivity. The connected home is here. Your appliances, healthcare and/or home entertainment are getting intraconnected. Yes, "intra" as in "intrastate" or within a certain space. Devices which serve a particular purpose can now talk with one another. Some devices cross the borders and "talk" to dissimilar devices, but many do not. The iPhone and other smart phones already cross these the boundaries, allowing you to manage your home energy, your entertainment and your health all with the swipe of a finger. Your TV and your stove still need an intermediary.

GE shows that you can create an interface (thanks Dave Bingham!) and give consumers insights into how their home is using energy. With these insights, consumers can make smart decisions on when and how to run their appliances. This saves money on the consumer side and doesn't overtax the infrastructure on the power company side (a growing issue)

Sample of GE's Home Energy Dashboard

Ideal Life and both offer connectivity for health care devices, primarily for the chronically ill. In addition to gathering data on weight, blood pressure, temperature and pulse oximetry, these devices upload your information to a secure site where your doctor can access the information and see longitudinal data. Having a more complete picture of your daily life and not just from the 5 minutes you sat in his/her office creates a richer picture of a patient's health.

As a final example, though there are no doubt many more, entertainment is more connected. Apple leads the pack with Airplay, allowing movies and music to stream to your iPhone or iPad. Movies can be quickly pushed to the television set and manipulated with either your phone or tablet.

More CES photos here.