UX Brighton 2012, Past & Future Interactions – part two

This is the second part of my overview of UX Brighton 2012. For details of the morning session read part one.

UX Brighton Speakers

Our speakers for the afternoon – UX Brighton 2012

Ben Bashford

Future Shock at UX Brighton

Future Shock! Image by Krupp

First on stage after the lunch break was UX Designer Ben Bashford who spoke about the future of connected devices. He described how we are heading towards a world increasingly filled with intelligent, connected devices and how designers are currently neglecting the pain that technological adoption and ‘Future Shock’ can cause. The definition of Future Shock is a personal perception of  ”too much change in too short a period of time” which many people find overwhelming.

Ben showed some examples of this and went on to talk about how designers can use the MAYA principle to ensure that more traditional users are comfortable with new designs and technology.

He put forward the case for using empathy with users to ensure that devices are designed and built in a way that is familiar to them so that they will actually enjoy using the product. Ben encouraged designers to embrace new technology but to find ways to ‘normalise’ it to reduce the future shock felt by the end user and ensure that designs and products feel natural and normal.

Sriram Subramanian

Tilting display

Tilting Display – image from Bristol University

Sriram showed the audience some really interesting projects that his team are working on at Bristol University. They included using controlled vibration, airflow and temperature control to enable you to follow a tennis match live without needing a screen. The flow of air could represent the movement of the players and the ball while the temperature could help identify the players and show which one was winning.

Another concept he spoke about was putting airholes in cinema seats or in theme park rides to simulate the feeling of real movement for those taking part. Imagine watching a film about snake on a screen in front of you and having air pumped through holes in your seat to make it feel like there was a snake slithering up your back!

Other ideas included a device made up of nine small screens which would tilt to create real 3D effects such as showing mountains on a map.

Jim Kalbach

Jim spoke about how vital user research and user experience is to innovation. His main point was that knowing your users can positively impact your revenue by reducing the risk of non-adoption and increasing the rate of adoption.

He argued that a successful invention or idea needs to answer the following questions before it can be put to market:

- Is it better than existing alternatives?
- Does it fit in with people’s values and environments?
- Is it understandable for the general public?
- Can it be tested?
- What does it look like?

He used the example of the Segway, which seemed like a great idea to the designers but failed due to a lack of testing and consultation with real users.

Mike also touched on the concept of selling high tech products to the main stream. The diagram below shows that early adopters make up a small amount of the sales for a product and it’s not until you move further down the sales path, to the early majority and late majority that you can really expect to see higher revenue.

The Technology Adoption Lifecycle

The Technology Adoption Lifecycle

He finished up by talking about how good UX is good business and that it is essential for innovation and growth.

Mike Kuniavsky

Mike’s talk was around the interesting concept that web design could reinvent manufacturing and that in the future more and more products will be bespoke and made for individuals rather than mass produced. His idea for the future was an Amazon where a user can design their own product and where pressing ‘buy’ actually starts the manufacturing process; a future where Amazon becomes a manufacturing base rather than a delivery house. The advantages of this method of production are a more environmentally friendly process, if products are manufactured on demand locally, and better more relevant products for everyone.

Not everyone will want to design their own products in detail though and the majority of the time people don’t want to ‘make’ their products but actually just want the product. This means that there is a large part for designers to play in making it as simple and quick as possible for people to buy products based on their requirements without having to design them themselves.

Web designers and developers are in a unique position to get involved in the process as it uses a lot of the methods that they have been using for years. Collaborative design tools such as GitHub need to be created for the manufacturing industry to make the process of designing and making products easier and more efficient.

Karl Fast

Karl Fast delivered a mind blowing talk about Deep User Interaction, a complex connection between mind, body, and world. He told us that interaction is more than clicking pixels and that we should learn from this as we move from a world of keyboards and mice to a world of touch, gesture, and beyond.

Karl Fast UX Brighton

How a computer sees humans – Karl Fast

He started by showing us that we don’t just think with the mind. He argued that touch and gestures are a vital part of many processes. An example of this is a jigsaw puzzle that may be almost impossible to work out just using the mind, but a fairly simple process once you interact with it and start positioning the pieces appropriately. Another example is how people may start to move a chess piece only to move it back as they see that it is not the best move to make. The change in the position of the piece helps the mind see that it is a mistake where it looked correct from the original position.

He went on to argue that when someone uses  device such as a calculator or phone it changes from an inanimate object to actually becoming part of the users mind.

He touched on the fact that we have a very simplistic notion of thought and that designers need to truly understand the whole system behind a user’s actions rather than just observing the actions themselves. He summarised this by saying that we have a thin understanding of how people interact with the world and that to better understand this we need to know more about deep interaction.

He concluded by saying that “information is cheap but understanding is expensive”. It is often easy to see what a user does on a device or website but understanding the complete process behind it, the deep interaction, will give a lot more insight into how it can be improved.

Final thoughts

UX Brighton is always the event I look forward to most every year, and this year didn’t disappoint. The ideas put forward by the speakers were thought provoking, inspiring and showed that even now digital designers need to be thinking about more than just websites and apps. If you get the chance I thoroughly recommend watching the videos of the talks, which will be available on 2012.uxbrighton.com soon. All the talks are worth a look but if you’re short on time then start with Karl Fast’s fascinating insights into ‘deep interaction’ and how we really ‘think’.

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