Siri a Massive Distraction When Driving

Hands-Free Siri Interactions Result in Highest Levels of Mental Distraction While Driving:

Used as an in-car hands-free system, Siri causes a high level of mental distraction while driving, according to research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In a thorough study that measured the cognitive workload of 45 drivers completing in-car tasks using various voice-based technologies, Siri’s high complexity and low intuitiveness resulted in some of the highest levels of mental distraction.


Microsoft RoomAlive

RoomAlive is a proof-of-concept prototype that transforms any room into an immersive, augmented, magical entertainment experience. RoomAlive presents a unified, scalable approach for interactive projection mapping that dynamically adapts content to any room. Users can touch, shoot, stomp, dodge and steer projected content that seamlessly co-exists with their existing physical environment.

RoomAlive seems to build on similar concepts as previous Microsoft Research projects IllumiRoom and LightSpace. (via)

Schrödinger’s Shift Key

I can totally feel Allen Pike’s pain:

In iOS 7.1, Apple changed the design of the shift key. This was the worst thing to happen in the history of software.

When the shift key is on, it blends in with the letter keys. When it’s off, it blends in with the function keys. Neither state sticks out enough to read as active, especially in a split second.


There is a simpler solution to the problem, which is what they did for iOS’ dark style keyboard: make the shift key’s active state different than any other key on the keyboard. It doesn’t matter how it’s different – as long as the active state is unique, it will be readable.

I particularly like his last proposal for a redesigned shift key.

More on Apple Watch

Given my negative initial reaction after the Apple Watch introduction and having had some time to reflect on it, here’s a follow-up:

I’m still no fan of the Apple Watch. It introduces a few interesting new concepts and ideas that I’m genuinely curious and mildly excited about, but there are a few things about the Apple Watch that seem completely off-putting to me.

To begin with Apple Watch doesn’t seem particularly useful, at least if we go by the demos Apple showed during the keynote (Ben Thompson had some good thoughts on this). There are a few legitimately compelling use cases for the Apple Watch, such as its fitness tracking capabilities, haptic wayfinding guidance, Apple Pay, maybe even the Digital Touch messaging. However, watching Kevin Lynch mess around for minutes with a boring watchface before showing off what seemed like a bunch of glorified screensavers wasn’t compelling at all.

Then there’s battery life. While there isn’t any official word regarding its battery life, early comments suggest that we shouldn’t expect much more than one day, in line with common expectations and what other comparable smartwatches offer. Now I find it barely acceptable that I have to charge my iPhone every night, and my iPhone is the single most important and useful electronics device in my life. If my iPhone wasn’t so useful, it would probably spend a lot of time in a drawer with depleted batteries. As I said, I doubt that Apple Watch will be even remotely as useful as an iPhone, so it would probably spend a lot of time in a drawer with depleted batteries.

Lastly, the Apple Watch seems hard to use and I have some serious doubts about its usability. There are a few truly baffling interface design decisions, like this screen:


There are 50 tiny icons on this screen, without labels, some of them less than 2 millimeters in size. How you’re supposed to comprehend and interact with this screen, I have no idea.

Before demonstrating the watch, Tim Cook emphasized that they didn’t simply scale down the iPhone UI and strap it to a wrist, joking that certain interactions such as pinch-to-zoom wouldn’t work on a watch given its tiny screen size. Maybe you remember the slide:


Then, a few minutes later, we could observe Kevin Lynch, doing a lot of this:


Touching, tapping and swiping a whole lot on that tiny screen.

Apple’s solution to the touchscreen problem is the Crown, a small dial that you can rotate and push like a button. It’s very reminiscent of the iPod clickwheel. Unfortunately, unlike the iPod where all navigation was accomplished through the clickwheel and a small number of buttons, the Crown on the Apple Watch seems limited to zoom interactions, which seems to me rather unambitious and underutilized. The iPod provided a simple, intuitive interface for navigating thousands of items across deep menu structures. By comparison, the Apple Watch user interface seems obtuse and cumbersome. Sure, it probably looks a lot sleeker and sexier than the iPod’s simple list interface, but I highly doubt it will work better.

Maybe the final product will prove a masterful piece of interaction design, but until its release color me skeptical.

On Death and iPods: A Requiem

We had it all wrong! Information doesn’t want to be free, it wants to be a commodity. It wants to be packaged into apps that differ only in terms of interface and pricing models. It wants to be rented. It wants to reveal nothing too personal, because we broadcast it to Facebook and we should probably turn on a private session so our boss doesn’t see that we listen to Anaconda on repeat and think we’re high at work.

On Death and iPods: A Requiem | WIRED.

Marco Arment about the new Kindle Voyage:

The ideal e-ink Kindle would have hardware page-turn buttons and a touch screen, and the Voyage is the first one to promise that, but instead of buttons, they’ve added “pressure-based page turn sensors with haptic feedback.”

You know what else is a pressure-based sensor with haptic feedback? A button.

Buttons are getting rarer and rarer. I miss them.