Monday, December 03, 2007

User Interfaces of the future... still on desktop?

XTR 3D showcased an impressive system that recognize gestures using an ordinary webcam:

I have some doubts that it will be usable since, in contrast to mouse or touchpad, it requires that your arm be in a non-resting position in order to be seen by the camera.

But the problem is another: will interaction with computers still be based on the desktop paradigm as long as computers are no longer "desktop" computers?

Undoubtely, the desktop metaphor is not appropriate for smartphones, PDAs, digital cameras, media players and media centers. That makes me think that a new metaphor is required. Morover, computers are less and less "document-centric". On the opposite, they are more "media" and "activity"-centric".

I personally believe that taking the interface "off the desktop" accounts for searching for new affordances in the interaction space. If we consider embedding computers in ordinary objects, then we must map the existing affordances to computing actions. For instance, if we justappose two objects, then we might think that the two objects recognize their relative spatial relation and according with their types they will exchange information and trigger contextual events.

Additionally, interaction between objects will always happen in the physical space, then the physical space itself will offer some affordance. As in the case of desktop GUI, where motion of icons and windows are sensitive to the context (e.g. zone of the desktop, foreground application, state of the system) where it take places, then the physical and virtual context will affect the interpretation of phyiscal motion of objects.

Blogged with Flock

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The paradox of DRM

In 2005 I purchased an eBook from Amazon protected with Adobe DRM (Digital Right Management) system. When I opened again today I had the surprise that I could not open anymore because I copied on a different computer.

Adobe Digital Edition tool asks me to contact the vendor of the eBook and download a new copy for the new computer.

I came to Amazon and I discovered that the ebook is no longer in their catalog and I cannot download it:

Digital downloads:

This item has been removed from our catalog and is no longer available for download from Your Media Library. We apologize for the inconvenience.

  • 1 of: The Uses of Argument [DOWNLOAD: ADOBE READER]
    Sold by:, LLC

Of course this experience will prevent me to buy DRM-protected items in the future.

I really hope that this insanity (the DRM) will end soon!!

Blogged with Flock

Friday, October 19, 2007

Flock browser...

I'm trying the Flock social browser that includes a blog editor...

It seems very nice and I plan to use it extensively

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Waiting for the Google University...

What if Google decides to engage in higher education? I believe that they the power and the capabilities of doing it.

Besides, Google is already performing high-level research and supports education activities such as Google Tech Talks.

After all, Larry and Sergei might want to eventually get their Ph.D. degree and one way could be to bring an entire faculty at their own campus!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Flip3D vs CoverFlow

There is a lot of discussion on the Web about similarities and differences between Vista's Flip3D and Leopard's CoverFlow. Below you can see screenshots of the two interfaces:

Well, the point is: apart from aesthetics, from the user point of view, which one is more useful?

Vista's Flip3D is a substitute of the the ALT-Tab applications switcher. You can now visualize ALL the application windows in the middle of the screen as being "documents" from which select the relevant one.

Leopard offers the same Desktop functionality in a less "obtrusive" way: it's what they call Stacks. Stacks are expandable icons placed in the Dock. You can see below a screenshot of this functionality:

CowerFlow is a new visualization techniques that Apple has bought from SteelSkies. Unlike Flip3D, this technology is not bound to the desktop and can be used in different applications (API). In fact, it is already available in applications such as iTunes, AppleTV, and FrontRow. Enhancing the Finder by CoverFlow allows Mac OS-X user to visually access any type of document by its preview. CoverFlow has been proved to be useful in iTunes because it simply provides user with a better experience.

I did not try Vista's Flip3D, but intuitively I can imagine how much this tool might enhance my user experience with the OS. Switching application should very fast and when I move from an application to another, I don't really care about the preview. I want to switch to the application, that's all. In contrast, is when I browsing the content of my hard-drive that I need to preview the content of the documents.

So what? I believe that, as usual, Microsoft policy is about being impressive but not effective. Vista designers don't care about users, they just wanted to show how good they are at programming 3D interfaces. Maybe, Mac OS-X user interface is less impressive than Vista's one, but certainly more fluid and usable. Special effect are used with parsimony and when they can be of real help in providing a better user experience.

Once again, I am proud of Being a Mac and not a PC!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How to predict the future with Google!

Today I will show you how to predict the future with Google!

First you need a university job announcement such as this posted at the University of Geneva:

Then you copy the words describing the domain of expertise and past them in Google. In our case, you will have to submit this query. In order to be more effective, you can apply a simple heuristic: being a Swiss university, restrict to the ".ch" internet domain.

Now you can proceed by yourself. You end up (among others) on a Ph.D. thesis written by somebody who happens to hold a temporary position in the same department that is offering the position. (Look carefully at the url: it contains the family name of the author).

Now we have to wait until the position will be assigned to check whether Google really helps in predicting the future.

I have already checked it with another Swiss university and it worked!! Let's see if we can generalize the result...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A nice workshop held in Stanford two years ago...

While trying to cope to the mess in my computer, I discovered a link to a workshop on Ubiquitous Media and Social Infrastructure I attended during my visit in Stanford (August-October 2005).

Below, you can see me while discussing with some students presenting their posters:

The workshop was organized by the Keio university, which is roughly the Japan equivalent of Stanford. The website contains the video recordings of all the speech. It is a nice memory... I hope you will enjoy the talks. One I suggest is that of Clifford Nass, maybe better known for inventing the Microsoft's (annoying) paperclip "Clippy"!!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Forum des 100

I am attending today one very important (and exclusive) symposium in Switzerland about Sustainable Development organized by the magazine "l'Hebdo".

Among the speakers, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the president of the Swiss Confederation.

I am interested in this subject because I am sensible to the reduction of car traffic.

My personal contribution is to optimize the mobile workflow by location-awareness. To better explain this concept, imagine that somebody is assigned to perform tasks that require physical displacement such as purchasing items. In case these tasks are not assigned in advance and in due time, the assigned persons are not able to optimize their paths. Basically, they are required to re-visit the same place when a new task requires to go there. There is a solution to this problem. The tasks are assigned dynamically according to current location of the individuals. This is typically useful when several agents are capable to perform the same type of task. Assignment will be prioritized to those agents that are closer to the place where the task needs to be performed.

I co-authored a paper accepted to the NGMAST'07 conference on this topic where we propose to build a mobile workflow system that exploits location-awareness in smart way.

You can watch a demo video of this system below or here:

Don't hesitate to contact me for more details on this subject!

Technorati Tags:

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The future of television or the television of future?

This is a serious subject. What is the future of the television? I don't think it's Joost or YouTube. I think that TV has some distinguishing features that are still absent in Web surrogates. Video content does not equal television. Much in a way for which Radio survived TV, TV will survive Web video, unless something really new will be proposed. I believe that is in the right direction. We'll see...

By the way, stay tuned at my channel on

Powered by ScribeFire.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Would you buy a computer like this?

In this article on Macsimumnews, Dennis Sellers discuss how requests for features for the new iMac might be collected from Apple fans.

Beside the interest about the technical features, it is nice to see how many designers and artists challenge themselves on the Mac playground. Mac computers are really something beyond the scope of a machine. They are a philosophy and a vision!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

uMove and Kinetic User Interfaces

It's my pleasure to announce that my research project on Kinetic User Interfaces will be funded by the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research.

This project is about an emerging paradigm in User Interfaces which is based on motion-awareness in physical space. By moving, people and objects can interact with computer systems. It is a way of taking the computer "off the desktop" as prospected by the Mark Weiser's vision of Ubiquitous Computing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


We just adopted one Nabaztag/tag!
His name is "Petrica" and you can see him between me and Violeta:

Nabaztag is a very basic social robot. It is only able to move the ears and display some lights on the body. However, it has nice communication skills since it is able to recognize speech and stream audio over the network. Moreover, the last version is capable to detect RFID tags (but this option is still not fully supported on-line).

The main purpose of Nabaztag is to foster social relationships. In fact, after registering it in the website, you start receiving podcast (called Nabcasts) from other rabbits. You can find other rabbit owners in a public directory and start sharing nabcasts or other things... Very nice!!

Adopt your Nabaztag and join Petrica in the NabWorld!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Missing affordance in Flickr...

This is about usability! Have you ever tried to modify the category of one of your contact in Flickr, for example, making them friends or family?

Once you learned is a quite easy taks! But how to figure out how to do it? That's the problem!!

If you look carefully, there is no way of telling where this option is. You might discover it by chance.

Wanna test it? Display your contacts. You'll get some icons as displayed below:
If you move your mouse on one contact's icon e pull-down menu is activated. Then you can choose the option you need.
The possibility of opening the pull-down menu appears only after you moved the mouse over the icon. This is not good because the interface is not telling you what are the operations available until you don't explicitly select them.

While Flickr is a great idea, it seems that usability of its website is rather bad. The contact icon has no affordance that tells you how to operate it.

The concept of affordance is a basic one in Interaction Design and making explicit and intuitive the way of operating the interface to user is the most fundamental design principle one has to consider in order to build friendly interfaces.

I hope Flickr design will soon realize their interface's flaw.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Scanner Darkly

Searching the web for people with Pallotta family name, I found Tommy Pallotta's blog. He is a Californian movie producer who recently produced an astonishing SciFi movie "Scanner Darkly" featuring, among others, Keanu Reeves and Wynona Ryder.

The movie is obtained through a technique called rotoscoping inspired by the novel of Philip K. Dick and it's a sort of high-tech version of Dr.Jeckil and Mr.Hyde.

Here also a picture of Tommy with Keanu Reeves:

Tommy is present also on YouTube with a nice videoclip:

Great job Tommy!!!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Exicting workshop...

DSCF0893.JPG, originally uploaded by liftconferencephotos.

This is me attending the Stowe Boyd pre-LIFT'07 workshop. The workshop was really exciting. It was about building social applications. One important insight emerged: Europe is bad in designing social applications. More information in Boyd's blog about this.

That's me at LIFT'07

DSCF1684.JPG, originally uploaded by liftconferencephotos.

I found my self in this picture I was unaware of from the Liftconferencephoto Flickr user...
The LIFT conference was really great!