In case you missed it… We’re cyborgs now. Will human evolution continue on this human-augmented path from here on out? As we now look to perfect our bodies using “unnatural” means, will the natural evolution stop working so hard? Or … Continue reading
A conversation about the state of video conferencing, presented in chronological order… Continue reading
Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. With the shuttle retiring in June, this might be the first time in human history our species is decelerating. What gives humans? Check out the entire article here.
Working during the week between Christmas and New Years, at least for me, means cleaning out files and long lunches. During one such lunch, a few collegues and I went around the corner to FoodParc. FoodParc is the future of lunch dining. Quick, easy, and pretty much self-servicing.
You walk into the restaurant (err cafeteria) to find a bright and sterilized atmosphere. White and neon. Like the Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange. Minus the nude statues and LSD. A human greeter points you to the computer kiosks where you order your food. On the touch screens you are given a choice of several cuisines with the option to highly customize each one. When you are satisfied, slide your credit card through and take your ticket. While it’s unclear whether or not they actually take cash here, it’s definitely frowned upon. A welcome policy. Cash is clumsy, slow, and unsecured. Let’s embrace credits people.
With ticket in hand, you wait at the designated location for your meal to be prepared. A human behind the counter calls your number and gives you your lunch. No waiters. No tipping. A quick turnaround. I am a bit conflicted by this. On one hand, I’m a friend to the waiter/waitress. I’ve been in the trenches. I know what it’s like to deal with the dregs of the Earth while you’re finding your way. At the same time… not having to deal with a cranky post-graduate lazy bastard who would rather be smoking weed then waiting on you is welcome. Or worse, dealing with an overly bubbly and scripted automaton that has been drinking the company kool-aid and revels in his/her flair. Either way, there’s really no sure technique for figuring out which one will spit in your food, so better to take them out of the equation altogether.
There is ample seating for you and your friends to sit down and enjoy your lunch. When you’re done, leave it on the table. A human busboy will take care of it.
None of this is especially groundbreaking. You can find self-order kiosks at Quick Chek. But I do appreciate the way in which FoodParc has organized it. A nifty, interestingly-designed restaurant. An intuitive traffic pattern. And food that is decidedly not bad. The food is cheap. Probably savings passed on by not hiring workers in a recession. The way I see it, you have to start somewhere. If we are indeed going to live in an advanced society, we are going to need advanced food service.
Ever since I went to Disney World for the first time, I’ve been intrigued by futuristic animatronic spectacle. There’s something about the innocence in the first half the 20th century, especially when it came to postulating the future, that is really endearing to me. Of course I didn’t live through it, but going back to look ahead is a strange and wonderful exercise.
General Motors’ Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair is the best example I can come up with. The General Motors Pavilion was a beautiful art deco experience and it’s main attraction was Futurama. The exhibit envisioned a world of tomorrow (the ’60s) with interconnected superhighways and futuristic urban landscapes. Visitors were strapped to a conveyor belt and shuttled around fully functioning miniatures in a model of the United States. Exposed to a wonderous and achievable world of the future. A lot of it was ultimately realized, but a lot still remains science fiction.
And of course, the 1939 World’s Fair had robots. Elektro was a gold-plated terror standing nearly 7 feet tall designed by Westinghouse Electric. Sure it was a bunch of parlor tricks and by all accounts benevolent, but Elektro must have blown minds back then. They didn’t know any better in 1939. I suspect many a child left that World’s Fair with nightmares after meeting Elektro. This thing could recognize voice commands, blow up balloons, and of course smoke cigarettes. Watch the video below. After counting on it’s fingers, Elektro is rewarded with the following command; You. May. Now. Smoke. This. Cigarette. Go. On. To which the presenter lights his cigarette and says to the crowd, “And folks he’s only two years old too. Just learning.”
I don’t know what Elektro did to piss off his makers, but eventually, his head was given to a retiring Westinghouse engineer and the rest of is aluminum body was sold for scrap.
I bet you didn’t know that there’s a World’s Fair going on right now in Shanghai. When’s New York going to have another?
What you knew is that Stephen Hawking is a brilliant mind who thinks about science in ways that you can’t begin to comprehend. What you didn’t know is that homeboy is also into girls and champagne.
I admit it, I’m kind of obsessed with the iPad right now. Forget the fact that it’s a foxy little gadget. I’m obsessed with this paradigm shift to the touch interface. This reach out and touch the internet thing. Yes, Apple is more guilty of wild hyperbole than most, but it’s claims that this product is revolutionary are undeniable. We are now computing with our fingers, folks. They are not the first to do it, but they are the first to do it right. It is time to reevaluate how we use our computers. The Apple vs. Adobe row is bringing a lot of things to light. Some even related to design! Can we live in a world without mouseovers?
Flash design is a rich affair where the user accesses web content through beautiful menus and animated graphics. Among the many techniques employed is the use of mouseovers. A surfer puts their mouse… over buttons on a web site and other actions are triggered. Additional information is usually presented, such as a drop-down menu. Or maybe a new window is popped up. All without clicking. A truly novel way of doing things. And it’s been a ubiquitous part of the browser user experience (UX) for more than a decade.
But mouseover and hover actions don’t work with touch interface. You do not have a mouse pointer to hover over buttons, you have a dirty finger. There have been suggestions to replicate the behavior, like a “finger-aware” screen that can tell if you’re about to touch the screen. But for now, the functionality is simply not possible. Acceptance of touch UI means design principles like these will have to change or risk being left in the dust. Why would design be dictating what devices we buy or how we consume media? Shouldn’t designers be figuring out how to use this new method in beautiful and creative new ways?
The iPad is a really futuristic device. If you’re a professional/power user, a mouse and keyboard still work best. If you’re a media consumer/communicator, which I think most people are, the touch UI is way more fun, intuitive, and powerful. So why not embrace the future? If not with Apple, than with someone else. But embrace it no?