Dec 31, 2009

Josh Blake's' Nice Multi-touch and Natural User Interface Applications for Surface (Cross-Post )

Information from Josh's YouTube channel:
"This is a video of some of the cool multi-touch and Natural User Interface (NUI) applications I designed and developed for Surface and Windows 7." The InfoStrat.VE map control for WPF and Surface is available for free at
I especially like the moving ring-menu concept, as it facilitates smoother collaboration between people on an interactive table or surface, where flexible orientation control is important.

At 3:15, the demonstration of Josh's ink-shape recognition begins. This is a feature that would be great to incorporate in my applications for children with disabilities who have some fine-motor limitations.

Josh's Blog:  Deconstructing the NUI
Josh's Recent Post about post-WIMP concepts:
Metaphors and OCGM
Josh works at InfoStrat

The Post-WIMP Explorers' Club: Update of the Updates, Morning of 12/31/09

What is the Post WIMP Explorers Club?  
I came up with the name of this semi-fictional club as a way to organize my thoughts (and blog posts) regarding the development of a new metaphor for post-WIMP applications and technologies, related specifically to natural user interfaces, natural user interaction design, and off-the-desktop user experience.  

Update, morning of 12/31/09:
Josh Blake, author of the blog "Deconstructing the NUI", posted Metaphors and OCGM  this morning.  It fleshes out post-WIMP concepts, addressing metaphors & interfaces.  The premise is that NUI metaphors will be less complex than GUI (WIMP) metaphors.    My feeling is that on the surface, this will hold true, especially for consumers/users and people creating light-weight applications and software widgets.  

Underneath the surface,  where designers and developers brains spend more time than users & consumers, things might be more complex.  Why? The technology to support the required wizardry is more complex.  With convergence, the creation of new technologies, applications, communication systems, and even electronic entertainment, is  now dependent upon the work and thinking of people from a wider range of disciplines.  Each discipline brings to the table a set of terms rooted in theory, and even research practices.

Update,  late afternoon, 12/30/09:
Richard Monson-Haefels response to Ron George's "Part 2".  The concept of OCGM might be growing on him now... OCGM: George's Razor : "If Ron George can explain how OCGM encompasses Affordances and Feedback than I'll be convinced that OCGM works for NUI. Otherwise, I think OCGM is a great start that would benefit from an added "A" and "F"." -Richard   
  • OCGM relates to Occam's Razor.  It is helpful to read a bit about it if you are are interested in the post WIMP conversations. (The link is to an an article from "How Stuff Works", via Richard Monson-Haefel.)
UPDATE 12/30/09  -- This post is part of a discussion between several different bloggers, and was written before Ron George wrote his latest post, Welcome to the OCGM Generation!  Part 2, which I recommend that you read now, or within the same time frame, as this post.   Since I'm not ready to write "Part 2" of this post, I tweaked what I had and added some links to a handful of my previous posts that touch on this and related topics.  The links can be found at the bottom of this post.


About a year ago I responded to a conversation between Johnathan Brill, Josh Blake, and Richard Monson-Haefel discussing "post-WIMP" conceptualization regarding natural user interfaces and interaction, otherwise known as NUI.  The focus of the discussion was on Johnathan's post, "New Multi-touch Interface Conventions". At the time, we were reading Dan Saffer's book, Designing Gestural Interfaces, and contemplating new ways that technology can support human interaction and activities in a more natural, enjoyable, and intuitive manner.  

A few days later, I shared some of the concepts from the discussion on a post on this blog, "Why "new" ways of interaction?".  The post includes video of Johnathan Brill discussing PATA, a post-WIMP analogue to assist with multi-touch/gesture based application development, which he describes as follows:
"Lighting, focus, and depth, simplified searching and effecting hyperlinked content."
Animation "Using animation to subtly demonstrate what applications do and how to use them is a better solution than using icons. Animations makes apps easier to learn."
Things "Back in the days of floppy disks, objects helped us organize our content. This limitation was forced by arcane technology, but it did have one huge advantage. We used our spatial memory to help us navigate content. Things will help us organize content and manipulate controllers across a growing variety of devices."

Auras "Auras will help us track what we are tracking and when an interaction has been successful."
(For reference, I've copied some of my responses to the first discussion, which can be found near the end of this post)

A year later....
What has changed?   Everything post-WIMP has been covered like a blanket by the NUI-word.  "NUI" now functions as a generic term for anything that is not exactly WIMP.  There is a sense of urgency now to figure out how best to conceptualize post-WIMP interfaces and interactions.  Newer, affordable technologies enable us to interact with friends and family while we are on-the go. Netbooks, e-Readers, SmartPhones, large touch screen displays, interactive HDTV, and new devices with multi-modal I/O's abound.  Our grandparents are on Facebook and twitter from their iPhones.  Our world no longer requires us to be slaves to the WIMP mentality.

So what is the problem?
The technology has moved along so fast that application designers and developers have not had a chance to catch up. (The iPhone is an exception.)  The downturn in the economy has made it difficult for many to take the leap from traditional software or web development and gain new skill sets.  On top of it all, most of us over the age of 15 have been brainwashed from years of working within the constraints of WIMP. It doesn't matter if we are users, consumers, students, designers, or developers.

Even the folks least likely to have difficulty expanding into the post-WIMP world have had some difficulty.  If you've had training in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction), you were inadvertently brainwashed with the best. The bulk of the theory and research you contemplated was launched at a time when WIMP was king, even as the Web expanded. Many of the of the principles held dear to traditional HCI folks have been shattered, and no-one has come up with a "theory of everything" that will cover all of the human actions and interactions that are supported or guided by new technologies.

The problem, in part, is that letting go of WIMP is hard to do, as illustrated by the following post from the Ars Technica website:  Light Touch:  A Design Firm Grapples with Microsoft Surface  (Matthew Braga, 6/29/09) "Ditching the mouse and keyboard means a whole lot more than just doing without two common peripherals.  As those who have worked with Microsoft Surface have found out, you have to jettison decades of GUI baggage and start with a whole new mindset...In actuality, few multi-touch gestures are really anything like what we experience in the physical world. There is no situation in which we pull on the corners of an image to increase its size, or swipe in a direction to reveal more content. So, in the context of real-world interaction, these types of gestures are far from natural...gestures should not only feel natural, but logical; the purpose that gestures like these serve, after all, is to replace GUI elements to the end of making interaction a more organic process."   (Be sure to read the comments.)

Now that the Surface is taking root in more places, and touch-screen all-in-one PC's and tablets are starting to multiply, more people are giving "NUI" some thought. Ron George, an interaction and product designer with experience working with Microsoft's Surface team has contributed to the post-WIMP discussion and spent some time sharing ideas with Josh Blake, a .NET, SharePoint, and Microsoft Surface Consultant for InfoStrat and author of Deconstructing the NUI blog. The outcome of this discussion was Ron George's December 28th blog post, "OCGM (pronounced Occam['s Razor] is the replacement for WIMP", and Josh Blake's post, "WIMP is to GUI as OCGM (Occam) is to NUI".   (Be sure to read the comments for both of these posts!)

OCGM (as conceptualized by Ron George)

Objects "are the core of the experience. They can have a direct correlation with something physical, or they can just be objects in the interface."

Containers "will be the “grouping” of the objects. This can manifest itself in whatever the system sees fit to better organize or instruct the user on interactions. They do not have to be, nor should they be, windows. They can be any sort of method of presentation or relationship gathering as seen fit."

Gestures "I went into detail about the differences in Gestures and Manipulations in a previous post [check it out for a refresher]. Gestures are actions performed by the user that initiate a function after its completion and recognition by the system. This is an indirect action on the system because it needs to be completed before the system will react to it."

Manipulations "are the direct influences on an object or a container by the user. These are immediate and responsive. They are generally intuitive and mimic the physical world in some manner. The results are expected and should be non-destructive. These are easily performed and accidental activations should be expected and frequent."

To illustrate a point regarding the validity of the OCGM analogy proposed by Ron George, Josh Blake shares the following video of a presentation from REMIX 2009, in which August de los Reyes, the Principle Director of User Experience for Surface Computing at Microsoft, briefly discusses the TOCA (Touch, Objects, Containers, and Actions) concept, suggested to replace the WIMP concept:

The video wouldn't embed, so go to the following link:

Predicting the Past: A Vision for Microsoft Surface
"Natural User Interface (NUI) is here. New systems of interaction require new approaches to design. Microsoft Surface stands at the forefront of this product space. This presentation looks at one of the richest sources for inventing the future: the past. By analyzing preceding inflection points in user interface, we can derive some patterns that point to the brave NUI world." 

The concepts outlined in the presentation are similar to Microsoft's Vision for 2019

Richard Monson-Haefel added his thoughts about the discussion about OCGM in his recent blog post, "What is NUI's WIMP?"  Richard disagrees with the OCGM concept, as he feels it doesn't encompass some important interactions, such as speech/direct voice input.   He'd probably agree that NUI is NOT WIMP 2.0.

Post-NUI, Activity Theory, and Off-the-Desktop Interaction Design:
As I was reading the recent posts and discussions regarding NUI/OCGM, I also contemplated some of what I've been reading over my holiday break, "Acting With Technology:  Activity Theory and Interaction Design", written by Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie A. Nardi.   Victor Kaptelinin is the co-editor of "Beyond the Desktop Metaphor: Designing Integrated Digital Work Environments" (MIT Press, 2007), and has an interest in computer-supported cooperative work.  Bonnie Nardi brings to the IT world her background in anthropology, and is the co-author of "Information Ecologies:  Using Technology with the Heart" (MIT Press, 1999). The authors know what they are talking about. 

It is important to note that activity theory-based interaction design is viewed as a "post-cognitivistic", and informed by some of what I studied in psychology, education, and social science years ago. Within the field of activity theory are some important differences, which I'll save for a future post. 

Below are some concepts taken from the book. I am still mulling them over through the prism of NUI, post-WIMP, PATA, TOCA, OCGM, etc.  That's why there will be at "Part II", with specific examples.

"Means and ends, the extent to which the technology facilitates and constrains attaining user's goals and the impact of the technology on provoking or resolving conflicts between different goals

Social and physical aspects of the environment - integration of target technology with requirements, tools, resources, and social rules of the environment
Learning, cognition, and articulation,  internal vs external components of activity and support of their mutual transformations with target technology

Development -Developmental transformation of the above components as a whole" 
"Taken together, these sections cover various aspects of the way the target technology supports, or is intended to support, human actions".  (page 270)

I especially like the activity checklist included in the appendix of the book, as well as the concept of tool mediation. "The Activity Checklist is intended to be used at early phases of system design or for evaluating existing systems.  Accordingly, there are two slightly different versions of the Checklist, the "evaluation version" and the "design version".  Both versions are implemented as organized sets of items covering the contextual factors that can potentially influence the use of computer technology in real-life settings.  It is assumed that the Checklist can help to identify the most important issues, for instance, potential trouble spots that designers can address". (page 269)

"The Checklist covers a large space.  It is intended to be used first by examining the whole space for areas of interest, then focusing on the identified areas of interest in as much depth as possible...there is a heavy emphasis on the principle of tool mediation"  (page 270).

Other Thoughts
What is missing from this picture is a Universal Design component, something that I think holds up across time and technologies.  Following the principles of Universal design doesn't mean dumbing down or relying on simplicity. It is a multi-faceted approach, and relies on conctructing flexibility in use, one of the key concepts of Universal Design. I'd like to see this concept embedded in the post-WIMP conceptualization somehow. 

Because of my background in education/psychology/ special education, I try to follow the principles of  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) when I work on technology project.  I've spent some time thinking about how the principles of UDL could be realized through new interaction/interface systems.   Although this approach focuses on the educational technology domain, it is important to consider, given that a good percentage of our population - potential users, clients, consumers - has a temporary or permanent disability of one kind or another.

Components of Universal Design for Learning:
Multiple Means of Representation
Provide options for perception
Provide options for language and symbols
Provide options for comprehension
Multiple Means of Action and Expression
Provide options for physical action
Provide options for expressive skills and fluency
Provide options for executive functions
Multiple Means of Engagement
Provide options for recruiting interest
Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence
Provide options for self-regulation
-Adapted from the UDL Guidelines/Educator Checklist, which breaks down the components into more specific details.

Note:  The concept of Universal Design for Learning shares historical roots with some of the work behind Activity Theory and Interaction Design. Obviously, there is still much to contemplate regarding OCGM and other permutations of post-WIMP concepts!   

Here are my comments to the discussion on Johnathan Brill's blog from January 2009:
Thoughts: I'm seeing a trend to "optimize" WIMP-type applications so they can be manipulated by gesture and touch. People who program kiosks, ATM's and POS touch screens are examples of what I'm talking about. Touch and hold, two-fingered touch, and double-tap are just a slight transformation of the WIMP world-view, and in my opinion, are still WIMP (wimpy!). The mouse interaction "pretenders" are fine for using legacy productivity applications, OK in the short run.

For example, I have an HP TouchSmart, but I don't use the touch screen as often as I'd hoped. Try using using Visual Studio to code something on a touch screen. There is so much more that can be done! I know from the touch-screen prototype/demos I've worked on in various classes that applications that support collaboration and decision-making are important, and not just for work.

What do people DO, really? First of all, we are social beings, most of us. Think of what we share and discuss with others, and think about what sort of interactions on a display might best correspond with this interaction. Here are some of the things I've been DOING recently that involved some sort of technology and communication/collaboration with others:

---Travel planning - I recently went on a cruise and with various family members, selected activities I wanted to do on the ship as well plan my shore excursions (a complicated process)

---Picture sharing- I came back from the cruise with lots of pictures that I uploaded on Flickr. Related to this process: Picture annotating, tagging, choosing/comparing & editing it would be SO cool if I could use two sliders to enhance my pictures just so!

---Talking on the phone and responding to e-mail with friends and family members about the pictures, and what they wanted to see on Flickr- "you know, the ones of the dogs in Jamaica"... of which I had about 68!

---Financial planning with my husband. (I took info-viz last semester, so I know the possibilities are there.)

---Using the touch-screen to check-in at my eye-doctor's office: This was a user-unfriendly experience. Such a nice little screen. I was provided with a WIMPY PowerPoint-like interface which was confusing to use- and time consuming!

---Shopping at the new Super Wal-Mart: I asked the greeter if there was a map, and he said, "Food is over there, and the rest of the stuff is that way." Flat panel displays were all over the store, but of course,they weren't interactive. I had no idea where anything was, and the few items I was looking at had no bar-code tags. There wasn't a clerk in sight.   Wal-Mart TV rolled on-and-on via the display above my head. If I could only harness the display and have the talking head answer my questions! I gave up on my shopping trip when I was in the facial lotion/potion section. Too many choices, and too much fine print to read.

---Shopping at the mall with my young-adult daughters... I'll have to hold my thoughts on that one for now!

Some suggestions:
I think the artist/designers, (even dancers,) who are interested in multi-touch and gesture interaction have some interesting things to consider. (I linked to some of my previous posts.)

I am still mulling things over through the prism of NUI, post-WIMP, PATA, TOCA, OCGM, etc.  So that is why there will be at "Part II".  With specific examples!

Multimedia, Multi-touch, Gesture, and Interaction Resources

My thoughts:
2007 Letter to the Editor, Pervasive Computing
Useful Usability Studies (pdf)
2007 Blog Post
Usability/Interaction Hall of Shame (In a Hospital)
2008 Blog Posts

Emerging Interactive Technologies, Emerging Interactions, and Emerging Integrated Form Factors
Interactive Touch-Screen Technology, Participatory Design, and "Getting It"
An Example of Convergence: Interactive TV: uxTV 2008
2009 Blog Posts

Why "new" ways of interaction?
Microsoft: Are You Listening?  Cool Cat Teacher (Vicki Davis) Tries out Microsoft's Multi-touch Surface Table
Haptic/Tactile Interface:  Dynamically Changeable Physical Buttons
The Convergence of TV, the Internet, and Interactivity:  Update
UX of ITV:  The User Experience and Interactive TV (or Let's Stamp Out Bad Remote Controls)
Digital Convergence and Interactive Television;  Boxee and Digital Convergence 

ElderGadget Blog: Useful Tech and Tools

Other People's Thoughts
Ron George's blog, OCGM (pronounced Occam['s Razor] is the replacement for WIMP  12/28/09
Ron George: Welcome to the OCGM Generation! Part 2 
Stephen, Microsoft Kitchen: OCGM, A New Windows User Experience
Richard Monson-Haefel's blog, Multi-touch and NUI:  What is NUI's WIMP?
Richard Monson-Haefel:  OCGM: George's Razor
Josh Blake's blog,  Deconstructing the NUI: WIMP is to GUI as OCGM (Occam) is to NUI
Bill Buxton: Gesture Based Interaction (pdf) (Updated 5/2009)
Bill Buxton: "Surface and Tangible Computing, and the "Small" Matter of People and Design" (pdf) - ISSCC 2008
Dan Saffer, Designing for Gestural Interfaces: Touchscreens and Interactive Devices
Dan Saffer, Designing for Interaction 
Mark Weiser,  Computer for the 21st Century  Scientific American, 09, 1991
Touch User Interface:  Readings in Touch Screen, Multi-Touch, and Touch User Interface
Jacob O Wobbrock, Meredith Ringel Morris, Andrew D. Wilson User-Defined Gestures for Surface Computing CHI 2009, April 4–9, 2009, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Dec 30, 2009

I Love the Wii.

More women are playing games, and the Wii has grabbed a good portion of attention from them, especially with titles such as Wii Fit.

While some say this is due to Nintendo's marketing strategy, in my opinion, I think it is because Nintendo developed a system that is non-geek and family-friendly. When I first heard of the Wii, they were in short supply. I spent quite a bit of time stalking out the local GameStop stores to buy one. I wasn't the only female doing the same thing.

Think about it. The Wii was introduced just at the time when prices of large flat-panel TVs were coming down, making them more affordable to families. Although Dad might have hankered for a large-screen TV to watch sports, any Mom in her right mind would want to multi-purpose such an expense. If you have to have a huge TV messing up your family room decor, it makes sense to use it for multiple purposes, like playing the Wii.

Not long after the Wii made it home, it eventually sprouted legs and was adopted by my young adult daughters.  Now the only way I get to play the Wii is if I make the trip uptown, a 30 minute drive. And if everyone is playing Rock Band, I have to wait my turn to play the drums.

I need to buy another Wii!  I think it will carry me through old age:

It will help me keep my girlish figure (this is NOT a picture of me, by the way)

Seriously, the Wii is turning out to be handy for folks, young and old,  with health problems:

Pulse Sensing:  Wii Vitality Sensor

Here is a video showing how the Wii is used at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital's brain injury program:

Since more therapists and nurses are female, it stands to reason that a game console such as the Wii, which is very user-friendly, would be top on the list for use in health and rehabilitation settings.

The Wii is the focus of research with the elderly:
An exploratory study on senior citizen's perceptions of the Nintendo Wii: the case of Singapore International Convention on Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology, 2009

Here is a video of what seems to be an HCI student testing out the Wii with her grandparents:

Nintendo might have some competition once Microsoft's Project Natal comes to market. Natal doesn't require any sort of device to interact with the games. For more information about the latest in games for health and "exergames",  take a look at the following blogs:


Nintendo Boasts 9 Million Player Advantage Among Female Console Gamers
Video Games in Play
 "And despite the stereotypes about teenage males, gamers are not monolithic. In fact, 45% of active gamers are female and women account for half (49%) of all Wii owners and 52% of Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) owners."
Seniors Bowled Over by Wii
Wii-habilitation could prevent elderly from falls
(Thanks to Josh B. for pointing out the how the stats could be a problem. I still can't find the original research!"

From a post-WIMP Perspective: What Happens When Post-Mass Market Goes to Market? Bob Garfield's insightful video, and more.(link)..

From a post-WIMP Perspective: What Happens When Post-Mass Market Goes to Market? Bob Garfield's insightful video, and more...

(No time to cross-post)

IDEO's Human Centered Design Toolkit - A MUST READ and a great resource!

Update 12/3/12:  The IDEO HCD Toolkit is available for download, but you will need to sign up in order to download the free 105-page copy on the IDEO  HCD Connect website.

The 105-page document is a great resource from IDEO, a global design consultancy.  It is clearly written and contains a variety of pictures, charts, and diagrams that facilitate the understanding of concepts.  A 61-page field guide is also available for download, and provides support for facilitators of design projects to lead group meetings and individual interviews. It includes exercises that teams should complete before going out into the field.

"Why Human-Centered Design?"
"Because it can help your organization connect better with the people you serve.  It can transform data into actionable ideas.  It can help you to see new opportunities.  It can help to increase the speed and effectiveness of creating new solutions." -IDEO

The HCD Toolkit, 2nd Edition, was prepared for use by organizations that work with communities of need, primarily in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, which is important for high school students to know about, particularly those who are pretty sure about pursuing further education in a technology-related field.  

I also think that exposure to concepts related to human-centered design focused on work in developing countries would be helpful to encourage more female students to enroll in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses.  (This still is a significant problem. Both of the high schools I work at have very few girls in the computer programming classes, even though both schools have at least one female who teaches programming!)

At any rate, I think this toolkit should be a MUST READ for anyone interested in emerging technologies and human-centered design, anywhere on the planet. It transcends the concept of "design as a job that must be done" to something that can facilitate broader innovation across organizations, our communities, and the world.

The toolkit is full of tidbits of wisdom:

"Tip 1" (addresses the measurement of outcomes, akin to the "miracle question" used in solution-focused therapy/counseling/consulting.)
"Ask yourself what you would expect to see happening if the solutions were improving the lives of people. For example, if your goal was to increase household income, would women starting more businesses be an early indicator? If your goal was to increase childhood vaccinations, would the number of casual conversations about vaccines be a possible indicator?" -page 99
"Tip 2"
"It is critical to track the effects of solutions on men and women, young and old, empowered and disempowered – even if your ideas are focused on other groups. Often the group that is not the intended audience for the solutions is a key player in the implementation and use of solutions." -page 99

The toolkit also provides useful cautions:
"Watch Out"
"Often teams look for only the positive and intended consequences. To get a full view of impact, it is critical to challenge yourself to look for the negative and unintended
consequences of solutions." -page 99

The toolkit provides specific strategies, including helpful worksheets and forms, and good advice about story sharing, prototyping, identification of patterns, and so forth. Below is an example:


-IDEO, via Fast Company
Note:  The Human-Centered Design Toolkit was developed with the International Development Enterprises (IDE), Heifer International, ICRW, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

RELATED (and somewhat related)
Design Thinking for Social Innovation (Stanford Social Innovation Review,Tim Brown & Jocelyn Wyatt, Winter 2010)
IDEO's Guide to Designing for Social Impact
About IDEO:
Founded in 1991, IDEO is a global innovation and design firm that uses a human-centered, design-based approach to help organizations in the business, governments, education, healthcare, and social sectors grow and innovate.
Open-Source Innovation:  IDEO's Human-Centered Design Toolkit (Fast Company, Allisa Walker, 7/7/09)
Video: CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown, on Creativity, Play, and Innovation
(Touches on how our schools and work environments can and do suck out our playfulness and creativity, and provides interesting, simple suggestions.)

Dec 28, 2009

"The Known Universe Scientifically Rendered for All to See" (Americal Museum of Natural History via O'Reilly Radar)

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
-Astronomy Picture of the Day 


The Known Universe Scientifically Rendered for All to See
This six and 1/2 minute trailer is from a 60 minute experience, "The Known Universe: A Grand Tour with Brian Abbott", based on information from the Digital Universe Atlas, a four-dimensional map of the universe  maintained by the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. (The video was uploaded to YouTube on December 15th,2009 and has had 1,473,213 views in less than two weeks.)

"The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world's most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010. "

Digital Universe Atlas 
You can download the Digital Universe Atlas, from the American Museum of Natural History website.  It will run on Windows, Mac, Linux, and IREX.  I'd recommend downloading the "Digital Universe Uncut" if you are a parent, teacher, or student.

Astrophyics Visualization Archive
"Explore astrophysics through scientific visualization and animation."

American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
AMNH's Space Show:  Journey to the Stars
"Journey to the Stars is an engrossing, immersive theater experience created by the Museum's astrophysicists, scientific visualization, and media production experts with the cooperation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and more than 40 leading scientists from the United States and abroad."

The Science of "Journey to the Stars"

Directing Journey to the Stars (Includes an interview of Carter Emmart, Director of Astrovisualization at the American Museum of Natural History)

Dec 27, 2009

HDMI Version 1.4, 3D HDTV, and Wireless HD

My husband surprised me with a new HD TV to replace the old non-HD "clunker" that was taking up space in an armoire in our bedroom.  I went to attach my HD video camera to the new TV, and realized that three-foot HDMI cable was much too small.   Knowing how fast everything changes with technology, I decided I should research HDMI before setting out to purchase a longer cable.  

There is more to know about HDMI than I thought!   Here's what I found so far:

There is an organization dedicated to HDMI standards, HDMI Licensing, LLC that provides a wealth of information about HDMI.  It's worth taking the time to review the information contained on HDMI website, specifically, the following two links:
Key points about HDMI 1.4 from the HDMI website and the Specification Features overview:
  • Consolidation of HD Video, audio, and data in a single cable.
  • Enables high-speed bidirectional communication.
  • Enables IP-based applications over HDMI. (Ethernet)
  • Transfer speeds up to 100Mbps.
  • Supports audio return channel.
  • Can support up to 10.2 gigabits per second of bandwidth transmission
  • HDMI 1.4 is the latest standard. It includes definitions for common 3D formats and resolutions, up to 1080p.
  • HDMI 1.4 supports 4K x 2K resolution, which is the resolution of state-of-the art digital theaters and up to 4 times the resolution of 1080p.
  • Allows for the optimization of picture settings based on type of content.
  • Supports digital still camera-specific colors.
  • Allows for smaller HDMI connectors, ideal for portable devices.
  • Provides "High Definition Everywhere" support, with an automotive connection system designed to work effectively in vehicles.

About HDMI Version Numbers (from the HDMI website)
"HDMI version numbers are used by manufacturers to identify a set of features. To help you shop for the features you want in a cable, the HDMI licensing authority has created standardized names for certain key features. Here are a few:
  • Deep Color refers to monitors that can display a greater number of colors than traditional TVs, billions or trillions of colors rather than millions.
  • x.v.Color refers to an expanded, "wider" color gamut that includes colors not traditionally available in TVs. The x.v.Color space incorporates a much larger portion of the visible color spectrum than the older RGB color model.
  • Standard and High Speed refer to two grades of HDMI cable, tested to different performance metrics. A Standard cable can transmit a 1080i signal for 15 meters (49 feet) or more, while a High Speed HDMI cable can transmit a 1080p signal for at least 7.5 meters (25 feet)."
Podcasts about HDMI
The podcasts focus on HDMI 1.3, but also provides information about HDMI for the future
The podcasts feature interviews with Jeff Park and Steve Venuti from HDMI Licensing, via  Dolby Labs "Dolby cast".  Topics covered include HD devices, HDMI feature sets, capabilities, and HDMI versions.  The podcast also touches upon previous problems with firmware deployment, as well as wireless HD, which is not part of the HDMI specifications.

Richard Lawler, 12/23/09

According to Lawler,  the various companies are working towards standards, but we're not there yet. More information about HDMI 1.4 will be available at 2010 CES, held January 7-10 in Las Vegas.

-Photo of 3D video camera courtesy of Engadget.

The following is a direct quote from the Wireless HD website:

"Broadcom Corporation, Intel Corporation, LG Electronics Inc., NEC Corporation,Panasonic Corporation, Philips Electronics, SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CO., LTD, SiBEAM, Inc., Sony Corporation and Toshiba Corporation, have joined together to form the WirelessHD Consortium, an industry-led effort to define a worldwide standard specification for the next generation wireless digital network interface specification for consumer electronics and personal computing products. The WirelessHD specification has been available since January 2008 and includes the following attributes:
    • High interoperability supported by major CE device and technology manufacturers
    • Highest quality HD video, audio and data transmission, scalable to future high-definition A/V formats
    • High-speed wireless, multi-gigabit technology in the unlicensed 60 GHz band
    • Smart antenna technology for reliable non-line-of-sight operation
    • Secure communications with DTCP and HDCP over WirelessHD technology
    • Device control for simple operation of consumer electronics products using the basic remote control that ships with the TV
    • Error protection, framing and timing control techniques for a quality consumer experience
    • Low power options for mobile devices"

Cross-posted on The World Is My Interface blog.

Touch, Multi-Touch & Gesture Responsive Web & Related Applications (helpful if you have a touch screen or IWB!)

I regularly share information about applications that work well on touch, multi-touch, and/or gesture-based screens.  Over the past few months, there have been updates and new developments that I'm still exploring. (Some of this information might be "old" news, but for many, it will be "new".)

Here's what I have to share today!

Be sure to explore the activities from the Kids section of the National Gallery of Art website, located at the end of this post.


Multi-touch on Firefox from Felipe on Vimeo.

Code Snippets from Felipe's Demo (Includes tracking divs, drawing canvas, image resizing, image crop, & pong) Mozilla Wiki
Bringing Multi-touch to Firefox and the Web
Christopher Blizzard, Mozilla Hacks

I have a hunch that someone out there is working on a multi-touch version of Cool Iris. Until I can find out the details, take a look at the videos below:

Cool Iris Overview on Google Chrome

 Here is a short video of what Cool Iris looks like on an iPhone:

Cool Iris Links
Cool Iris and iPhone
Cool Iris and Developers
Cool Iris Blog
Cool Iris Media/Press

About Cool Iris:   "Cooliris, Inc. was founded in January 2006 with a simple mantra: "Think beyond the browser". We focus on creating products that make discovering and enjoying the Web more exciting, efficient, and personal.Our core products include Cooliris (formerly PicLens), which transforms your browser into an interactive, full-screen "cinematic" experience for web media, and CoolPreviews, which lets you preview links instantly. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, our team consists of seasoned developers, entrepreneurs, and Stanford computer engineers. Each of us is passionate about serving our users without compromise and seeing that our products deliver the best experience."

Bumptop Gets Multi-touch Support on Windows 7

Bumptop Website
You can download Bumptop from the Bumptop website.  Here's the description:
"BumpTop is a fun, intuitive 3D desktop that keeps you organized and makes you more productive.  Like a real desk, but better.  Now with awesome mouse and multi-touch gestures!"
Anand Agarawala's Ted Talk

"Anand Agarawala presents BumpTop, a user interface that takes the usual desktop metaphor to a glorious, 3-D extreme, transforming file navigation into a freewheeling playground of crumpled documents and clipping-covered "walls.""

Discussion about Bumptop on the TED website

I've been compiling a list of websites that offer good touch-interaction.  One site that is good for children- and children at heart- is the National Gallery of Art's Kids pages.  There are a few entries that I had fun playing with students on the new SMARTboards at one of my schools:


interactive landscapes

"FACES & PLACES encourages children of all ages to create portraits and landscape paintings in the style of American naive artists. By combining visual elements borrowed from more than 100 works in the National Gallery's permanent collection, this two-part interactive activity offers an overview of American folk art of the 18th and 19th centuries.(Shockwave, 6 MB)."

This one is so fun!  You can select different characters and make them dance, run, jump, or even fall.  You can design the landscape and add buildings, trees, and animals, and even change the sky pattern.  Press "go", and your character will travel around the panorama you've created.


Dutch Dollhouse  (Shockwave, 4.6 MB)
"Mix and match colorful characters, create decorative objects, and explore the kitchen, living quarters, artist's studio, and courtyard of this interactive 17th-century Dutch House."

Jungle interactive

"Create a tropical jungle filled with tigers, monkeys, and other exotic creatures. Inspired by the art of Henri Rousseau, NGAkids Jungle is an interactive art activity for kids of all ages. (Shockwave, 930k)"

What I liked about the Jungle application is that each item can be easily customized.  On the SMARTBoard, as well as on my HP TouchSmart PC, it is very easy for a student who has limited fine-motor control to create beautiful pictures.

snow flow
"Flow is a motion painting machine for children of all ages. Enjoy watching the changing patterns and colors as you mix pictures on two overlapping layers. Choose  designs from four sets of menu icons, or add to the flow by clicking the pencil tool to create your own designs."

This application is a favorite of some of the students I work with who enjoy watching things spin. (You don't have to have an autism spectrum disorder to enjoy playing with Flow!)

National Gallery of Art Student and Teacher Online Resources