Dec 31, 2009

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.


Johannes said...

I want to be a part of this club :)

Lynn Marentette said...

I just found a boat-load of fantastic post-WIMP related articles and studies I had on one of the memory sticks I grabbed before going on my cruise. I'll post about some of this when I get back from my trip!

Lynn Marentette said...

10/29/10 I am overdue for an update on this post!