“Apple Patents for Multi-Touch and Teaching Gestures”

Great Dance has published a post on Apple’s patent of gestures for multi-touch sensitive devices. Doug Fox posed the following questions. I’ve included my response to them.

My question for choreographers and dancers is whether you believe that Apple has entered into territory traditionally thought of as the domain of dancers and movement experts?

Yes, I think so actually. But, I see the difference in that Apple is using their gestures to interact with their hardware and their own digital devices.

And what will happen as new patent applications eventually go well beyond seeking to protect hand gestures and attempt to protect full-body movements generated by the arms, legs and torso?

I think it’s a good question to think about. I don’t think that designers consider these types of things at all. It seems silly to think that one day someone might patent walking, or running.

Are we just talking about ways to control computer interfaces or do these Apple filings have much greater importance–in particular to the dance community?

If a bicycle manufacturer patented the cycling motion required of riding a bicycle, I wonder how we would all feel? It’s utterly ridiculous to think that it could happen, but it’s not really all that different from patenting human gesture. The dance community is affected since all of human gesture, included what has yet to be aesthetically timed to music, is part of the repertoire of choreography.

Watch 50 Categorized Dance Animation Videos

One of my favorite websites/blogs that combines technology and dance has put up a list of 50 animation videos featuring dance and movement. Something to do while my cable gets cut off.

Below you will find categorized links to more than 50 posts on Great Dance that include videos of many different types of dance and movement animations such as 2D and 3D, stop-motion, visual effects, interactive performances and installations, computer games, machinima, live action and CG, motion graphics, visualizations, pre-cinema and many other types.

How to build a website: Step 1. Discover your purpose and scope

Recently at work I’ve been tasked with reviewing a handful of internal, CMS websites for a single division within the company to see how usable the sites are and to come up with a few good usability practices that will work for all the sites. The sites are all in various stages of being developed. Some are still in the planning stages. Others are nearly fully baked.

Only one of the sites took a user-centered approach to the development of their site. They found an intern, who went around and talked to people on the team. Then they took that information and turned it into the design and navigation of the site. Brilliant! For this team, I was able to simply talk with them about how they plan to manage the documents within their CMS, and discuss some of their future plans.

In another case, the team simply asked their current web administrator – who was not necessarily the web designer – to take on the building of the new site for his team of roughly 75 people. Uh, not so brilliant. He was pretty confused about how he was going to go about building out the site using the functionality provided by the CMS, and he was even more unsure of what it was that his team needed.

I talked with him about what the other sites were doing, and I sent him a short list of questions that he could ask his team to help them scope out their site. I don’t believe in blanket usability responses but I do think that the questions I sent are pretty universal.

Here’s what I provided:

  • Why have you decided that you need a CMS site?
  • What are the short-term and long-term goals for your site?
  • Who will be using your site?
  • Who will be contributing to your site?
  • What types of activities will people be doing?
  • What types of information will people be adding and taking away from your site?
  • How will you keep your information up to date?

Pearls Before Breakfast

Recently a colleague sent me a link to an article about a social experiment run by The Washington Post. I thought it would be a nice thing to post it today, on the anniversary. In the experiment, on January 12, 2007, the paper stationed an incognito Joshua Bell, arguably the best violinist alive today, in a Metro stop in Washington D.C., playing some of the most difficult violin music ever composed on his own $3.5 million dollar violin. It was all set up for what could have been a great display of humanity appreciating the beauty of music.

“In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by…Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape…Do you have time for beauty?”

As it turned out, Bell made $32.17. There were no crowds and no applause. (Lucky for him that he is an exceptional musician. It turns out that the shoeshine woman calls the cops on all the other musicians.) The catch of the experiment was that they placed in the Bell in the station at 7:51 a.m. during the morning rush hour, when people would be the most unlikely to stop, precisely to see how many people would actually slow down to appreciate the beauty around them. Most people barely slowed down while they passed. People on cell phones talked louder. It was only the children who paid attention. Unfortunately it was their parents who dragged them away. Only one person recognized Bell. She had seen him in a recent concert where tickets cost over $100 each.

Practically speaking there are a couple of unsurprising reasons for the outcome of this experiment, which I’ll try to take on using a user experience point of view. First, the context was completely wrong. A concert violinist playing a solo performance at rush hour in a busy Metro station in D.C. is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Second, not everyone likes classical music, or would recognize the songs he played. If they had placed him right outside of a music conservatory there would have been a riot. I also can’t help but wonder if people who wanted to, but didn’t stop did so because they just wanted to fit in with everyone else ignoring street musicians. Such is urban life, but that seems to me a cop out.

Philosophically, the whole thing arises within me an existential argument. I can’t help but question the value of my work when people seemingly don’t even have the time to stop and appreciate beautiful music on their way to work. In fact, some homeless man had died in the corner in that same station a few year before. No one had stopped then either. On my Facebook account, one friend admitted that he wasn’t sure if he’d stop just due to being preoccupied with work. Are our American priorities misaligned so much that we can’t even stop to pay attention to such beautiful art, or is it just that he was so much out of place?

Well, I believe that my friend’s priorities are aligned properly, but I do worry about our ability to stop and enjoy all that life offers, and not get too preoccupied with work and money. It is important for User Experience designers to keep these aspects of urban space and society to keep in mind when we are producing our work, so that our work remains accessible. In any case, getting people to stop and appreciate the art around them is what I hope to accomplish with my future work and to explore more in this blog.

The article is here. Pearls Before Breakfast – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html Check it out. There’s video.