a web thing

Category: Work

Voice Interaction

As phones have transitioned to smart phones, our personal technology has graduated from conduits between people to a more sophisticated breed that allows for – even invites – direct control. In tandem, people are getting rid of voicemail, making fewer phone calls, and texting more. In one vein, this seems like a more truncated, efficient behavior, but it also implies greater intimacy with the device.

We’re also growing to expect the similar level of control we have over our phones to expand to the devices of our environment. The “smart home” and “connected” objects are commanded with our phones for the time being. Contrary to the shift in phone use, control of these devices that is buried in a growing library of apps is not efficient.

The technological response to surfacing quick control over these smart objects is the use of voice interfaces. The Xbox’s Kinect allows for voice control of your Xbox apps and access to media. The Xfinity remote control makes “change the channel to HBO” possible. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and the Google Now services are all serious attempts at broadening voice control to access many services.

While speech-to-text recognition has largely improved, the voice controlled services themselves still lack in the sophistication that people presume exists when communicating through a nuanced medium as speech. Even if this level of sophistication is attained, and the services understand and respond exactly as we expect them to, the challenge of intimacy remains.

When common interaction with phones shifted from calls to text as the interfaces allowed more direct (read: intimate) control, we’ve created this controversial-yet-accepted balance of interacting with people directly and multitasking with our pocket computers. Voice interaction necessitates a more public display of that human computer interaction. One that is so uncomfortable, directly inhibits its use. Think of the times you have used your voice input on a phone: public settings, private settings with people around, or solitary settings?

Although we may not be able to out-design social mores, we can take the first challenge—that of accuracy, intuitive use, and predictable outcome—to the whiteboard and to the APIs.


Design Team:

Kristen Kersh • Niamh Parsely • Rob Brogan

Swag Socks!

An Instagram comment from someone at Tumblr inspired me to whip up a few potential sock patterns for Tumblr. All based on the brand colors and official logo. The sock shape is adapted from an icon file.

swagsock

Design Thinking

On our work Slack today, someone linked this Wired article:

IBM’s Got a Plan to Bring Design Thinking to Big Business

To which I quickly replied with:

FullSizeRender.jpg

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m always crusading against saying words that don’t mean real things, and buzzwords. Design Thinking, in my mind is just thinking! Maybe that’s because I’m already a designer, but I feel like anyone can bring this type of thinking about a problem if they simply step outside of their typical problems and concerns of the day and dedicate some thoughtful time to an issue.

Later, someone shared this wonderful, 4 year old diatribe about design thinking by Dan Saffer.

Love. It.

On a more personal note, I suppose a lot of this comes from my perception that I’m not doing anything magical or special. I simply get paid to focus on certain things, and people in these “big corporations” we nebulously try to understand are just other people focusing on other things. I have no problem (and welcome) the inclusion of designers to help solve a problem. I also think that a business person can do a lot of this “design thinking” without involving a designer. You have to be willing to put your train on hold, switch tracks, and dedicate yourself to that problem. I fear the most toxic outcome of sharing vague words about an entire profession is to miss the point, and in some cases, acquire a design firm so that you have “in-house designers” to add value to your company – this won’t work.