Doug Engelbart: keyset, mice and men. Complexity in interaction design.

Doug Engelbart: keyset, mice and men. Complexity in interaction design.

In 1968, during what’s come to be called “the demo of all demos”, Doug Engelbart introduced – among others – a chorded keyboard – a five-button peripheral to be used as input device instead of keyboard.

In a recent episode of 99% invisible, Roman recalls the story of that invention conceived to shape the future of our experience with computers and than abandoned because the future was too complicated, not easy to be used and so not marketable.

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The increasing complexity of wearable devices

The increasing complexity of wearable devices

Ryan Budish, fellow at the Berkman Center and the Project Director of Herdict, talks about the future of wearable devices. Starting from his personal experience with hearing aid devices, he considers complexity the highest price we’ll pay for technological progress. He writes:

both types of wearables aim to fill gaps in human capacity. As Sara Hendren aptly put it, “all technology is assistive technology.” While medical devices fill gaps created by disability or illness, consumer wearables fill gaps created by being human. For example, evolution hasn’t given us brain wifi, yet. Both medical and consumer wearables share a few important goals. […] Both kinds of wearables […] need to justify being attached to our bodies. This seems pretty obvious for hearing aids, but it is just as true for consumer devices. A wearable that serves as only a slightly more convenient screen for your phone is hardly reason for the average person to spend hundreds of dollars. Instead, wearables need to offer a feature that works best when in close contact with your body, like measuring heart rate or offering haptic feedback. Also, both types of wearables need to embed themselves seamlessly into our experiences. If a wearable obstructs your experience of the real world, or is a distraction, it’s likely to end up on a shelf instead of your wrist . That’s not to say that they don’t take getting used to […] But […] a well-made wearable should seem like a seamless extension of our bodies.

The (future) trends of wearable devices according to Budish:

Wearables will create substitute realities.

This means that sensory-enhancing wearables will need to mediate between reality and our experiences, altering our perception of the world around us. […] The result is an audio experience that is substantially different from the objective reality; the device replaces a reality that would be challenging with a substitute that is easier to understand and utilize.

Wearables will be ruled by algorithms.

The process of substituting realities means that our perceptions of the world around us will become increasingly mediated by algorithms that we do not control or even understand […] When used in wearable devices that shape our perceptions of the world around us, algorithms can have a profound impact.

Wearables will fail invisibly.

The more we rely on wearables to interpret the outside world for us, it will become critical for devices to communicate failures. And the more seamless the experience of wearables becomes, the harder it is to know when it isn’t working as intended.

Wearables will record everything.

If failures are hard to detect, the solution is just as challenging: pervasive recording. The more the behavior of wearables is dependent on context and inputs, the more that troubleshooting requires data collection.

Read the full article on The Atlantic.