Why a New Golden Age for UI Design Is Around the Corner

Is the future of UI design an integrated experience, a smooth hybrid of real-world and digital interactions?

Over the past 30 years, as every facet of our lives, from our shopping to our schooling, has migrated onto computer screens, designers have focused on perfecting user interfaces—placing a button in just the right place for a camera trigger or collapsing the entire payment process into a series of swipes and taps. But in the coming era of ubiquitous sensors and miniaturized mobile computing, our digital interactions won’t take place simply on screens. As the new Disney World suggests, they will happen all around us, constantly, as we go about our day. Designers will be creating not products or interfaces but experiences, a million invisible transactions.

Read more at Wired.

Texting Your Feelings, Symbol by Symbol


To many of us, even those of us who have lived in a country heavily influenced by Japanese culture, Emoji – a colorful symbol alphabet that contains nearly a thousand images of cute animals, food items and expressive smiley faces can sometimes convey what words cannot – are a confusing mess of overly cute meaning that can often lead to miscommunication.

“In Japan, there was a similar, interesting moment when you started to see older folks and men start using these kind of cute aspects — these emoji — that originally came from middle-school girl, mobile-phone culture,” said Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies how young people use digital media in Asia and the United States. “Now, as emoji are seeing more adoption in the U.S., you’re seeing a form of communication being used that was clearly developed and marketed to a different demographic.”

Emoji date back to 1995, when people used pagers instead of smartphones and NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s biggest cellular phone operator, added a small heart icon to its pagers. The heart spread rapidly among Japanese teenagers because it allowed them to express an emotion that was almost impossible to portray in small snippets of text.

“We discovered that in the Asian culture, the expression on an emoji face isn’t necessarily what conveys emotion. It’s the context of where that face is located,” Mr. Marra said.

In Asian cultures, an emoji face in dark clouds would show that someone is sad and having a bad day. A face on a beach with the sun glaring means they are happy. In the United States, the emotion on the face tells the story, not the surroundings. Also, “stars for eyes could mean something completely different in Asia than using dots for eyes,” he said.

From Bits.

Haptix: Multitouch Reinvented

Haptix promises to transform any flat surface into a 3D multitouch surface to control your computer, TV, or any other screen. One out of many potential uses is when you’re cooking, and you don’t want to touch your tablet since your hands are dirty. With Haptix you could use your table to scroll through recipes instead. Interesting potential device.

Before internet connectivity poured from the sky, I was able to get on a train, plug in my Mac and have nothing to do for four hours but write. And so I wrote. I once bought a round trip ticket to nowhere just to eliminate every possible alternative… pure, unadulterated mental bandwidth.
Seth Godin

Will banning drivers from using cellphones reduce distraction?

Talking on cellphone while driving

Photo by philcampbell

A new law in Illinois has widespread support but it may not reduce crashes. The Chicago Tribune reports:

The role of cellphones in distracted driving remains as unclear as wireless phone signals in the hills and hollers. Some research suggests holding a cellphone to the ear creates the same level of distraction as using hands-free technology. Or that both versions have the same distraction level as being drunk. Or that crash rates remain the same with or without drivers using cellphones. Or that crashes decline in densely populated areas after handhelds are banned.

“We don’t really know the full answer” to the uncertainty over cellphones’ impact on driver distraction, said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IIHS. “There is some conflicting evidence.”

The crucial point, Rader suggested, is that cellphones are only one distraction for drivers, who have their attention diverted by spilling or sipping coffee, gobbling a sandwich, fiddling with the radio, or daydreaming, among other activities. It’s been that way for decades, Rader and others note.

I prefer broad based driver education over enforcement; there are plenty of distractions while driving that lead to accidents. Lack of sleep and a particularly gripping podcast are my biggest weaknesses.

Hands-free cellphones for drivers may not be attention-getter

Wool Tote Bag

wool tote bag

This durable every day tote bag is made with material found at a designer fabric sale from Belgium designer Dries Van Noten. The maker professes the wool felt, is amazing, with dark and lighter grey colour, and wonderful quality. Also includes a waxed canvas bottom , fully lined with a blue fabric, beautiful soft leather straps and double inside pocket.

Smartphone Sales Have Overtaken Feature Phone Sales for First Time

Worldwide smartphone sales to end users reached 225 million units, up 46.5 percent from the second quarter of 2012. Sales of feature phones to end users totaled 210 million units and declined 21 percent year-over-year.

“Smartphones accounted for 51.8 percent of mobile phone sales in the second quarter of 2013, resulting in smartphone sales surpassing feature phone sales for the first time,” said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner. Asia/Pacific, Latin America and Eastern Europe exhibited the highest smartphone growth rates of 74.1 percent, 55.7 percent and 31.6 percent respectively, as smartphone sales grew in all regions.

Samsung maintained the No. 1 position in the global smartphone market, as its share of smartphone sales reached 31.7 percent, up from 29.7 percent in the second quarter of 2012. Apple’s smartphone sales reached 32 million units in the second quarter of 2013, up 10.2 percent from a year ago.

Whether many of the phones shipped could be truly classified as smartphones is debatable.

Via cellular-news.

Can mobile technology cut poverty in rural China?

Mongolian mobile phone user

Photo by The Reboot

There is a need to explore ways to use innovative technology to leapfrog traditional barriers to bringing formal financial services to China’s large under-banked population. Despite the huge strides made in China to socially and economically include citizens and lift them out of poverty, roughly 36 percent of China’s population remains underserved by formal financial institutions, according to a 2011 World Bank study.

A primary reason that people – in China and worldwide – remain financially underserved is because it’s difficult for financial institutions to provide services such as bank branches in a business-sustainable way to remote and rural villages and towns.

Such populations miss out on the benefits of basic financial services, such as the ability to save and protect their money, use payment services and acquire credit and insurance. They also miss out on the security, reliability and convenience of electronic payments, such as credit, debit and prepaid cards that are linked to bank accounts.

They are left to conduct their day-to-day activities in cash.

But the advent of mobile technology has enabled new branchless banking solutions that can provide affordable services to the unbanked (economists call this “financial inclusion”) in areas traditional financial services have yet to penetrate.

As mobile use continues to rise, branchless banking solutions that use mobile money have emerged as a way to extend secure, convenient and affordable financial services to people outside the traditional banking system.

From the China Daily.

Vine Vs. Instagram Video: Understanding the Competition

According to some users and experts, comparing Instagram’s new integrated video app to Twitter’s Vine app is like comparing apples and oranges. While this may be true, it’s also clear that Vine and Instagram Video do share some similarities and will therefore compete with each other to some extent. Some are predicting that Instagram Video, which is available for Android and iOS but not currently available on the Blackberry 10, will cut directly into and greatly shrink Vine’s market share. However, others believe there is room for both apps to be successful and grow since they have some key differences that may appeal to particular niches.

Longer Videos, No Looping

The key difference with the new Instagram app and Vine is that instead of shooting 6 seconds of footage that continuously loops after uploading like Vine does, Instagram videos take 15 seconds of footage and will not play on a continuous loop. While this doesn’t give you the GIF-like appeal that Vine does, it is less invasive since you will have time to stop a video before it plays unexpectedly. Tim Worstall of Forbes.com and others think this is one of the key features that could give Instagram Video an edge over Vine. Additionally, 15 seconds of video allows for more creativity in the video, and is also the perfect amount of time for advertisements.

Photo of Vine logo by lookingforgoodpics via Flickr

What Else Is Different?

While both video apps allow you to string multiple clips together, Instagram Video also allows you to delete the previous portion of the video in case you don’t like it or simply messed up. Vine currently doesn’t have this feature. Also, unlike Vine, Instagram has video-filtering and image-stabilization capabilities. Both of these features make for better video quality. And while both apps allow you to share videos to Facebook and Twitter, Instagram adds the ability to share to Tumblr, Flickr, foursquare and email as well. Of course, if the ability to loop and embed videos appeals to you, this is something that Vine provides that Instagram doesn’t. Vine is also a bit more convenient since it’s a stand-alone app whereas Instagram video is part of the Instagram app, which means that Vine requires fewer clicks to make a video.

What’s the Same?

Obviously, both apps make short videos and therefore occupy a similar market. In addition to this, both Instagram and Vine have a front-facing camera as well as save to camera roll, geotagging, automatic sound and autoplay features. Within some of these similarities there are also minor differences. For instance, Vine plays autoplay videos a little faster than Instagram does. But all in all, these features are pretty comparable.

And the Winner Is…

It’s too early to tell, but perhaps both apps will remain relevant. It’s not as if the user has to decide which app to use and completely abandon the other, and both are distinct enough to possibly serve different groups within the video-making app world. While Vine built it’s following from the ground up, Instagram already has a user base of 130 million plus. This built-in market is really something that could give them an edge as the competition plays out.

Twitter. A Digital Experience

Fred Nerby’s reinvention of Twitter. “A conceptual approach, creating a deeper engagement and visual experience through content and communication between users, artists, magazines and new media…and all other distributors world wide”.

Beyond broadcasting updates, I’ve long stopped using twitter. I just never developed the kind of personal connections with friends there that I can on other sites. Any reconceptualising is welcomed I think.

iPad Portfolio

iPad Portfolio/Sleeve

iPad Portfolio/Sleeve

This vegetable-tanned leather portfolio by Kenton Sorenson is a perfect fit for your iPad or iPad2. It’s hand stitched with nylon thread and has a long, leather strap to keep it securely closed. Products like this provide a nice counterpoint to the modern and somewhat cold technology it is designed to protect. Beautiful sleeve in which to protect this iconic device.

iPad Portfolio

Young adults engage in day long conversations with their parents


Photo by by John Fraissinet

On computer and cellphone screens in workplaces across the country, many young employees keep up daylong conversations with their parents, sharing what the weather is like, what they ate for lunch or what the boss just said about their work. From the The Wall Street Journal:

The running chatter with Mom or Dad is possible for young adults in their 20s and early 30s because they are the first generation to hit the workforce with tech-savvy parents. Most baby boomers are using the same smartphones, tablets and laptops as their children, making daily communication with Mom easier and more open-ended than ever.

Chatting, or texting, is a subtler way to stay in touch from a cubicle than a phone call. As long as the computer’s sound effects are on mute, chatting is silent.

Regular chats, whether on the phone, by text or online, can bring parents and adult children closer, bridging long distances and keeping both sides up to speed. Too much, though, can get in the way of work, relationships and independent decision-making on both ends.

Messaging—instead of calling—their parents makes sense since, as a group, millennials aren’t big on talking on the phone. In recent years, customers in their 20s and 30s have gravitated to prepaid wireless plans offering minimal voice minutes but unlimited texting and data, cellphone-service providers say.

Fathers, of course, text and chat with their adult children. But most of millennials’ workplace chatting seems to occur with their mothers.

Read more.