A radio-controlled dragonfly sounds like fun, right? (Well, it sure does to me, but I've always been a sucker for toys.) But to a hawk, something that looks, acts, and flies like a real airborne insect just looks tasty. In fact, Gizmodo reports that after investigating the article at left, the company that makes the RC bug reveals that it's received 45 complaints of similar incidents. The usability lesson is that designers should be aware of the ecosystem (in this case, literally) into which they're designing - a different look or motion for the toy may have largely eliminated this problem. In the meantime, it's a lose/lose/lose situation: a dead toy, a sad boy, and what I'm sure is a very ticked-off bird of prey.
In an effort he dubs Micro-Project One: Drink to Your Health, SJSU student Steven Piozet backlights a bottle of water in order to make it stand out relative to the less-healthy drinks surrounding it. It's a simple trick, but we humans are terribly gullible to illusions, allowing them to affect our behavior in powerful (and subconscious) ways - remember how the size of the receptacle can determine how much people eat? Overall, I'd say this is a very worthy project - water certainly lacks the taste and allure (not to mention the fancy packaging) of sugar-and-corn-syrup liquid candy drinks, and could use a boost to get noticed and seem enticing. Especially in a party situation, where water in between cocktails is a very good idea - and slightly inebriated partygoers are even more likely to be easily wowed by a shiny lit-up bottle...
Digital cameras are wonderful, wonderful things - compared to film cameras, photos cost nothing and are damn near infinite, shots can be arranged and reviewed with ease on the ubiquitous LCD screens, photo storage and organization can be moved from the shoebox to spacious hard drives, and.... well, do we need any more reasons? And yet, there's an element of the experience of film cameras that digital cameras have abandoned: anticipation. The time between the event and seeing the photos of it used to be a magical mix of wondering, waiting, and imagining what the shots will be like, or even of, and how they came out. I may be viewing the past through rose-colored glasses (I did just speak of waiting in a positive light!), but there was definitely something to it. Something zen, maybe. Hmm.
Anyway - designer Sungwoo Park has brought that element back to digital cameras with the EazzzY! concept. It's a digital camera - so you still get the no-cost, infinite photos - but with no LCD screen and only one button, for the shutter. You won't be able to see any photos until after the the fun is long gone. Sure, it's more of a novelty than a primary-use camera - this'll never replace my point-and-shoot Canon - but it may be a good way to remove the obsession from photo-taking ("How does it look? I look horrible, take it again!") and bring back some good, old-fashioned, film-camera-style anticipation.
The Nintendo Wii is a phenomenon that has been praised for its ability to get video gamers off the couch. They're still indoors and mostly stationary, of course, but at least the accelerometer-and-gyro controllers mean they're waving their arms around instead of just twiddling their thumbs - it's a first step. The next step might be this: the FPS Vest simulates the feel of injuries in a first-person-shooter video game. It's smart enough to deliver the right direction and force for different kinds of attacks, which probably helps gamers gain a more immediate awareness of where it's coming from than if it had been delivered with the normal little red triangle on the screen. And hey, isn't this exactly what we all wanted for the next advancement in virtual reality? More realistic pain?? Umm... riiight.
[via Gadget Review and Gizmodo]
Gizmodo reports on an interesting new advertisement now on display in a mall in Mumbai, breaking ground into heretofore unused ad space of escalator stairs. It's clever, at least - some dude at the bottom stationary stair shows off a stylish new 'do with each passing escalating stair, showing off the versatility of the hair salon being advertised. The problem is precisely that this ad might work - that is, it might grab the attention of people who are about to get onto the escalator (thereby causing a standstill traffic jam), or of people who just got onto the escalator (almost ensuring a train wreck as they try to backtrack to, you know, really appreciate the ad). So if you see one these things around, check out the ad, get a quick chuckle - but watch out, too!
This invention would seem to be very American, but it's actually debuting
at BBQ Chicken, "Korea's No. 1 Chicken Restaurant!" It's the Col-Pop - an unhealthy (not to mention unholy) aggregation of soda and nuggets into one Frankenreceptacle. Nuggets are carried in the top plastic trough while the soda gets the bottom bunk; however, Serious Eats reports that condensation from the soda results in some soggy nuggets at the bottom. So, how to approach a verdict on this monstrosity from a usability point of view? Well, one-handed use is convenient in plenty of situations - but many shouldn't be encouraged anyway, like drinking/eating and driving, drinking/eating while using a computer, or drinking/eating anything from BBQ Chicken. So if you're ever in a position to order one, go ahead and enjoy it - but remember, everyone's not laughing with you, they're laughing at you.
[via BBG and Gizmodo]
My friend (and frequent Unpressable Buttons commenter) Pete Kazanjy has started an impressive environmentalism experiment dubbed These Come From Trees - a "guerilla public service announcement" whereby people are encouraged to tag dispensers of paper towels, napkins, and even toilet paper with the eponymous stickers offered on the site. Sure, it's a bit of a guilt trip (and ironic that the sticker itself is a paper product? Just messin' with ya, Pete!), but it works - testing shows that a sticker on a paper towel dispenser reduces consumption by about 15%. And that 15% reduction seems to be getting around - the guerrillas of this movement have taken it upon themselves to translate the sticker into quite a few additional languages, so can world domination be far behind? Let's hope so - good luck to your cause, Pete, because finding a way to reduce consumption is a worthy cause for us all!
There's certainly a case to be made that electronics in general are too dependent on sight and sound in giving us information. We have other senses, guys, c'mon! Fortunately, some progress is being made in letting those forgotten senses in on the party - and one intriguing design is a system called Shoogle, which calls for users to shake their phones to get their info fix. When shaken (not stirred), the phone uses a combination of sound and haptics (the sense of touch or feel) to create sensory illusions. For example, the phone may feel as if it's full of jangling balls if there are new text messages or voicemails; or, it may slosh as if it's half-full of water if the battery is low. Check out the video - but of course it can't do complete justice to the concept, because your computer depends on (you guessed it) sight and sound only! Still, it's an intriguing design, and particularly promising as a discreet way to check your phone's status - that is, if those around you don't mind you sticking your hand in your pocket and shaking...
Benches, benches everywhere, but not a spot to sit - after a wet day, at least, when outdoor public benches can offer nothing but a soggy bottom. So, the sizable team of Sungwoo Park, Yoonha Paick, Jongdeuk Son, Banseok Yoon, Eunbi Cho, & Minjung Sim (and a partridge in a pear tree) have dreamed up The Rolling Bench, which cranks away wet surfaces to reveal the dry side underneath. It's certainly a clever idea, and immediately intuitive from their clear and simple design. Plus, cranking your friends right off the bench when they're not looking would be a hoot...
[via Yanko Design and Gizmodo]
Canned goods have been an amazing accomplishment of humankind - they allow the safe long-term storage of food, making the perishable non-perishable, and enabling the transport and delivery of crucial nutrition where it's most needed. And this - a canned cheeseburger - is so revolting that it almost cancels out that accomplishment. Some things are not meant to go together (remember milk and tacos?), and this ungodly combo is high on the list. Why? Well, it's tough to even rationalize - but I think we all know "ew" when we see it.
[via Spluch and Gizmodo]
As a tall guy with big feet, I find most tucked-in hotel beds to be more than a bit restrictive on my toes - as a matter of fact, it's what I imagine traditional Chinese foot-binding might feel like. (Even George Costanza knows the pain!) Apparently one place knows how to do it right, though - according to Bed-Making Tips from The Four Seasons (on Real Simple), they leave "a three-inch 'foot pocket' fold across the bottom so feet don't get squished." It's interesting that thought this technique involves no extra cost - hotels just need to pay attention to real people and real usage scenarios - it's only the really high-end places that think to do it. Good usability design can, and should, be available to everyone!
The problem of how to choose the right music for a party has, until now, been a socio-cultural judgment on the part of the host. But now, as with so many other tasks in life, it can be offloaded onto technology - computer scientists at UCLA have designed a system which reads the playlists contained on partygoers' wifi-enabled MP3 players, and counts the songs and genres on those playlists as votes. As reported by NewScientist, the system "takes a poll of the titls to work out the most popular genre and can also copy and play back tracks from each [MP3] device. It can then play music from the most popular overall music genre or tracks supplier by each party-goer in turn." The particular promise of this system is that it'll enable party music to more effectively do its job - that is, to act as an ice-breaker and social lubricant. Since the system is playing those songs that the most attendees know, it's more likely to lead to the discovery that they have at least that song in common - then other things, then conversations, dating, marriage, babies... Yup, a good electronic DJ could make a big difference! [via Gizmodo]
It's probably a real problem for a certain set of people: being able to see the bathroom scale readout at your toes. That set of people would most likely be the significantly overweight or those who weigh themselves before putting on glasses or contact lenses, but could also be, um, "shapely" women like the one in the product photo at left. Either way, this product is made just for them: the Eye Level Wireless Scale, which (appropriately) is rated up to 400lbs. It's just another one of those little things that can make life easier for people!
[via Random Good Stuff and Gizmodo]
Greenprint is a pretty amazing piece of software that not only eliminates some annoyances that I'm sure we've all encountered, but saves money and the environment as part of the deal. Specifically, Greenprint helps you print only what you want to print - especially when printing out webpages, it helps remove unwanted pages (like that last page that seems to always just be a line or two of ads) and unwanted images (big graphic ads which drain your ink cartridges dry). It also includes a tool which makes virtual printing to a PDF file easy, for when you need to save something, but not necessarily a real-world hard copy. Finally, it tracks how many pages, how much ink, and how much money you've saved by using it - and this may be the most important feature of all, making the incontrovertible case for its value. People need that kind of positive feedback to be convinced of progress, and this program delivers exactly that. Save money, resources, time, the world... what's not to like? [via Lifehacker and Download Squad]
Just for fun - or maybe a little trouble - Zing spoons by Fred & Friends are designed for food fights. I have two concerns, though: first, "kids are getting lazy these days! Why, when I was young, I had to fling broccoli at my little brother with nothing but my own two hands and rigid wooden spoon! Walking through three feet of snow, uphill both ways, etcetera!" Second, this seems to be a slippery slope to a dinner-table arms race. Soon we'll be seeing small explosives in the form of potato bombs, then biological warfare with modified brussels sprouts. Can a gravy A-bomb be far away...?
According to Far East Gizmos, Toyota has been developing a system to detect when a driver is falling asleep - as indicated by the relative positions of their eyelids, seen by a driver-facing camera and interpreted by a computer. Stats on drowsy driver accidents are always scary, especially since it's not something you can test for, like breathalyzing for alcohol - you just have to trust that you can keep yourself awake! In this implementation, "if the Pre-Crash Safety System senses that a collision is imminent, and also determines that the driver's eyes are not properly open... it issues a warning earlier than it would otherwise." That's great, but it seems that a more severe wake-up technique might want to be used on a dozing-off driver even before the car detects a pre-crash situation. A pinch, a slap to the face, a bucket of cold water over the head... just wake that driver up! [via Jalopnik and Gizmodo]
Good Experience Blog recently pointed out the problem of name inflation causing confusion in the consumer - and rightly so. Complaints in the post include olive oil types ("pure," "virgin," and "extra virgin"), credit ratings (AAA, AA, and A being the worst), and eggs ("large" or "jumbo"). It seems to me that an even bigger problem is with more complex products, where huge combinations of features comprise the differences between versions, and the names do nothing to help the consumer figure out what those differences are. For example, for credit cards, services, software, or memberships of any kind, can you put the following levels in order from top-of-the-line to least expensive? Ahem: Platinum, Diamond, Premium, Select, Plus, Ultimate, Professional, Premiere, Executive. Anyone? Including anyone who sells anything with versions by those names? Let me know...
Lifehacker had a nice little "reminder" post about the icons you're likely to find on the paper tray of a printer or copier, show at left. They're designed, and quite well, to let you know which side of the paper will be printed - the top side (left) or bottom (right). However, the comments on that post point out that many people don't get the message - it seems that the icon just kinda blends into its surroundings, not able to deliver its message because people aren't aware that it has a message to deliver! So the first improvement I'd suggest would be to give it some text: "Paper Orientation:" or something similar. However, the job still isn't quite done - you might need to know which is the top end of the printed side. Only very far down in the Lifehacker post's comments does someone point out that the dog-ear fold shows the top end - and this is certainly not intuitive enough to figure out on one's own. An arrow with a "TOP" label might do the trick, or even without the label, a la "This Side Up." Sure, the icon won't look as slick with all this extra text - but hey, it'll at least get its job done.
If you use a GSM phone, or have ever been around someone who does, you're probably familiar with the interference they can cause on pretty much anything with a speaker - which can range from a little rhythmic buzzing to the sound of a swarm of bees in attack mode. Well finally, finally, there's a design that's specifically intended to avoid it - the Altec Lansing T612 is an iPhone speaker dock, so it makes perfect sense that it would be engineered to "not pick up intermittent noises emitted by mobile phones," in particular the music-playing GSM creature it's designed to dock. It's just a bit disappointing that in trying to bring us the best in hi-fi sound and connectivity, the engineering behind it all collided so poorly - and reassuring that designers are finally taking notice, and looking out for the users! [via Gizmodo]
Snowy front walkway gotcha down? If it were 1972, there'd only be one way to take care of it and feel like some kind of crazy superhero at the same time, and that's with this Flame Gun found in a TV Week from that year by Mark Frauenfelder and posted on Boingboing (via Make). Shovels are a pain, snowblowers annoying at best, but this, this, is definitely the way to go. Let's look at the product claims to see if it measures up: "Clear stairs (except wood)," check. "The gun of 1000-and-1 uses," hmm, not really sure what all those other uses are. "So easy even your wife can use it," well, that was the 70's, I guess. Even if the melted snow does refreeze into slicker, more dangerous ice after you're done, I can't help but want to use one. And that's the kind of irrational desire that should have caused it to fly off the shelves... oh well!