Archive for June, 2009

In March this year Boxee announced the Boxee remote app for iPhone. Now TechCrunch is reporting on the new Remote app for iPhone with gestural support. Watch the video, it’s pretty impressive for it’s intuitiveness. Notice how the user is not required to look at the mobile device to use this. The lack of cues on the screen may be a problem for new users, but users are encouraged to keep their eyes on the television, where they should be focused.

Of course this remote doesn’t ship with the set top box. The remote requires a smartphone, something more and more people are carrying — for AppleTV of course, an iPhone or iPod Touch are required. We’re delighted to see a mobile device embraced this way in a living room context, but don’t look to Apple to make an Android/Symbian/Palm/WinMo/etc version any time soon.

1) Last year we wrote a perspective on designing for convergence. Check it out: The Mobile Phone As Universal Remote.

2) There are plenty of apps that are designed to control a Mac remotely from your iPhone. Justin swears by Air Mouse Pro ($5.99).

Shilpa Shah

Designing Meaningful Real-world Experiences

Editor’s note: This article was written for and originally published on Adobe’s XD blog, Inspire.

“Human beings need to touch, feel, show, share, and new technologies tend to cut them from such fundamental needs. It finally made an impact, and this is probably one of the main reasons behind the tiredness and rejection of technology you start to get from early adopters.” – Laurent Haug, The Early Adopters Crisis

The mobile landscape is finally changing. With smartphone penetration at 20%, the phone’s promise as a mini portable computer is being realized and we are increasingly using phones to virtually connect, often choosing text instead of voice; Facebook or Twitter over email. But, as our virtual interactions increase, a greater value is concurrently being placed on our real, physical connections. The most compelling applications will be those which infuse the virtual realm into our physical environment, creating synergies for tangible experiences and exchanges.

In the UK, postcard sales have risen by 30%. In 2007 Billboard reported a similar growth in vinyl record sales citing listeners desired a “warmer, richer” sound. Ranging from conference presentations at TED to a national Dentyne marketing campaign to “Make Face Time”, more and more people are “yearning for tangibility” according to the New York Times. Throughout history we are prone to backlash against our current realities. The grass is always greener somewhere else and nostalgia causes us to long for a seemingly happier, and in this case, more physically connected past. The answer is not to move away from technology, but rather to accept the current social challenge and design experiences which, as Renny Gleeson states, “make us more human, not less.”

How do we design meaningful tangible experiences? While I champion much of the philosophy behind MIT Media Lab and other related schools of thought, the results are still too farfetched to really meet our current social physical needs on a large scale. The answer isn’t to embed ordinary objects with technology, but rather to design our devices to encourage us to engage with our physical environments and each other. Contrary to many tangible media projects, the mobile phone is clearly identifiable as a technical device and it’s potential as a shared object has yet to be fully realized. Simple examples like pointing the phone outward to show someone a photo immediately creates a shared context resulting in a gratifying physical exchange. How can we push our existing personal devices to reach a whole new social level?

Let’s start with 5 principles we can follow. Like Adam Greenfield said in Everyware, “these principles are necessary but not sufficient: they constitute not an end, but a beginning.”

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Jared Benson

Create any ringtone with iPhone 3.0

The iPhone 3.0 software introduces a new app, Voice Memos, into the Apple canon. It’s function is simple enough: Tap one button to record, tap another to stop, tap one more to share via email. This is where the fun can begin.

To create your own ringtone from the audio of your choice, simply use Voice Notes to capture your soundbyte. The sky’s the limit, but you’ll need to keep the duration to 40 seconds or less. Use the share function to email yourself the file. You’ll notice the file will be saved as an .m4a, a format Apple has popularized as a flavor of Mpeg-4. But I digress.

Converting an .m4a into a ringtone that iPhone recognizes is dead simple. Simply change the filename extension to .m4r and drag it into iTunes. Next time you connect your iPhone, clicking the Ringtones tab in iTunes will give you the ability to sync your new ringtones to the phone.

Have fun!

Christian Robertson

Things that drive
[our visual designers]

Recently our visual design team filled a white board with things related to interface design that drive us nuts. By no means is this an exhaustive list (and yes, I did filter the list before and after posting it).

DVD Menus - Stop it with the low budget animation and let me watch the movie. Also, would it kill them to include the whole song before the thing repeats?

Telephone UIs - the non-mobile kind

TV Remotes - Seriously, how many buttons do you need? A computer keyboard doesn’t have as many buttons as some of these things

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Greg Schuler

Know your research!

Are you studying usability problems or looking for user preference?

When it comes to user research it’s important for everyone involved in the design process to have an understanding about the insights we can gain with a particular research approach. As interaction designers we look to user experience (UX) research to discover usability problems or barriers to the experiences we create. As stakeholders get involved in UX research, questions are sometimes introduced that are intended to uncover user preference instead of usability problems. This can profoundly affect research results.

Consider this scenario: You’re observing a UX research session for a media player interface. Your goals include determining if a user can create a playlist and manage a list of videos. The session is also set up to question which media player design the user likes most and to ask the user to rate the visual appeal of the design. Any cause for concern?


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Peter Odum

Idletime: The Apps We Use

A couple of weeks ago we presented a selection of our favorite games around the office. After another informal survey of the office, we are now proud to present a selection of the applications popular around here. The iPhone once again dominates the proceedings, but with a slightly stronger showing from the G1 (listed at the end).

We asked staffers to identify 2-3 non-default, non-game applications that they actively use and wouldn’t want to live without. We urged respondents to think of the apps that all their friends DON’T have yet. The overall goal was to expose some new apps that we think are actually worth having.

Some of these you have no doubt heard about recently (Brushes, which was used to create a New Yorker cover, for example, and Shazam is pretty well-known too) but many you may not know. Have a look, and comment to let us know what we’ve missed. Continue Reading »