Friday, August 31, 2012

Interface Crazy

Lately the proliferation of connectivity and apps has gotten to the point of absurdity. I read an interesting article today, entitled The Best Interface Is No Interface, that pointed out the inefficiency and inconvenience of some of these apps. As a sample it listed the steps involved in using one such app that opens your car door:

  1. A driver approaches her car.
  2. Takes her smartphone out of her purse.
  3. Turns her phone on.
  4. Slides to unlock her phone.
  5. Enters her passcode into her phone.
  6. Swipes through a sea of icons, trying to find the app.
  7. Taps the desired app icon.
  8. Waits for the app to load.
  9. Looks at the app, and tries figure out (or remember) how it works.
  10. Makes a best guess about which menu item to hit to unlock doors and taps that item.
  11. Taps a button to unlock the doors.
  12. The car doors unlock.
  13. She opens her car door.
Wow! Now that's technological advancement. To think before this app we had to actually do the following:
  1. A driver approaches her car.
  2. Inserts her key.
  3. The car doors unlock.
  4. She opens her car door.
Boy am I glad I don't have to use those cumbersome keys anymore. Whew!

The article's point was more focused, as the title indicates, on making apps intuitive and automatic instead of relying on a cumbersome, overly complicated UI. An alternative to the car lock app sited above was shown in this video from Mercedes.

As an engineer I love this. Its superb design. As a Luddite I just imagine it breaking at some inconvenient time and not being able to open my door when I stop for gas in the middle of nowhere or roll up my window when it starts raining.

The article also sited some apps in places that just made me crack up. One such absurd place to find apps was this Samsung refrigerator.

Just in case you get a tweet or a Facebook update while you're away from your computer getting a snack now you have the social network enabled Samsung Refrigerator.

This article made me think of two videos I recently saw that made me gasp in both awe and horror. They're visions of a near future where computers are ubiquitous and they seem to know everything about us. In both of these videos there are lots of user interfaces but they're much less clumsy than most we see today. The brilliant design and engineering of the technology portrayed is what I find awe inspiring. The part about computers being a constant presence with seemingly no way to unplug to me is the horror.

A Day Made of Glass

A Day Made of Glass 2

The future portrayed in these videos looks like a place I might want to visit, but I'm quite sure I don't want to live there.

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