Historic accord reached in bum-washing bidet toilet UI conventions

Japan's leading bidet toilet manufacturers (including Toto, Panasonic, and Toshiba) have come together through their industry association, the Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, to agree upon a common set of UI conventions for the meanings of the icons on the buttons on the bidets' control panels, thus ending an era in which you might think you were getting "wash and dry" but actually ended up with "layer-cut and dye-job." Read the rest

California just launched a "Digital Service" based on the amazing UK Government Digital Service

Since 2011, the UK's Government Digital Service has radically transformed the way Britons interact with their government, streamlining bureaucratic processes, opening up data, and making APIs available for community groups and commercial players -- alas, the GDS has become a political football in Westminster and has hemorrhaged talent, becoming a sad reminder of a once-glorious dream of government delivered humanely, with the public in mind. Read the rest

Help Kickstart these cool geometric music controllers

Michael Samuels of Sonic Geometry is Kickstarting a set of polyhedral sound controllers that let users shape sound and light into a multimedia performance. Originally a Master's Thesis project at Berklee School of Music, the prototypes are scheduled for release next year. Read the rest

Here's the Pokémon UI redesign everyone's hoping for

Now that we're a month past peak Pokémon Go, developers would be wise to incorporate Wendy Borg's elegant proposed UI redesign to maintain interest. Read the rest

Instagram for Windows 95

Misha Petrick reimagined the Instagram app if it had come out 20 years earlier in Windows for desktop. Be sure to scan that .exe file for viruses! Read the rest

Futurististic computer screens are mostly blue

Chris Noessel and Nathan Shedroff demonstrated that in movies depicting computers in the future, the screens are mostly blue.

Some interesting exceptions: 1991's Terminator 2 made red popular, and the Matrix Trilogy made green the in thing for a while. But within a couple of years, we were back to blue. And it's been this way since the 60s.

I think that green usually signifies "old" computers, perhaps? The Matrix was clever in that way.

Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I'm struck by the thought that the first and third Alien movies (which were British haunted house movies, sort of) used green screens, whereas the second one, Aliens (an American action movie) used blue. Google Images isn't entirely helpful.

Guardians of the Galaxy (above) appears, of course, to be both. Read the rest

The quest for the well-labeled inn

I have a first-world problem: I stay in a lot of hotels.

New trends in Chinese mobile UIs for 2016

Dan Grover has updated his excellent annual survey of UI trends in Chinese mobile apps with a new installment that covers the t-shirt icon, the happy shopping bag, the moving SEND button, the rise of data-management apps and chatbots, and more. Read the rest

Zero UI will "change design"

Zero UI is the new term for "invisible interfaces"—what happens in the future when all the clicking and tapping and typing is history: "If you look at the history of computing, starting with the jacquard loom in 1801, humans have always had to interact with machines in a really abstract, complex way." [Fast Company] Read the rest

Trends in Chinese mobile UIs

Last December, Dan Grover summarized the unique mobile app UI conventions he'd spotted since moving to China the summer before to work for Wechat, a Chinese mobile messaging app that also incorporates a wallet, Evernote-style functionality, a games platform, a people-finder, a song-matching service, and, of course, an email client. Read the rest

Nagra IV-L: the pinnacle of tape recorder UI

A design classic from 1968, with all the dials, knobs, switches and buttons you could possibly need. Read the rest

Fellowships available in security usability

The Open Technology Fund and Simply Secure are offering fellowships to researchers who seek funding to work on usability in privacy and security technology. Read the rest

Help wanted: crypto-usability research director & ops manager

Simply Secure, a nonprofit developing usable, free, open interfaces for cryptographic communications tools like OTR, is hiring! Read the rest

Internet-of-Things answering machine from 1992, with marbles

Durrell Bishop's 1992 grad project for his design program at the Royal College of Art was a brilliantly conceived riff on the answering machine.

Why user interfaces should be visible, seamful, and explicit

Timo Arnall from the design studio BERG has makes several great and provocative points in his essay "No to NoUI" -- a well-argued piece that opposes the idea of "interfaces that disappear" and "seamless computer interfaces," arguing that by hiding the working of computers from their users, designers make it harder for those users to figure out what the computers are really doing and to solve the problems that inevitably arise.

Interfaces are the dominant cultural form of our time. So much of contemporary culture takes place through interfaces and inside UI. Interfaces are part of cultural expression and participation, skeuomorphism is evidence that interfaces are more than chrome around content, and more than tools to solve problems. To declare interfaces ‘invisible’ is to deny them a cultural form or medium. Could we say ‘the best TV is no TV’, the ‘best typography is no typography’ or ‘the best buildings are no architecture’?

...We might be better off instead taking our language from typography, and for instance talk about legibility and readability without denying that typography can call attention to itself in beautiful and spectacular ways. Our goal should be to ‘place as much control as possible in the hands of the end-user by making interfaces evident’.

Of course the interfaces we design may become normalised in use, effectively invisible over time, but that will only happen if we design them to be legible, readable, understandable and to foreground culture over technology. To build trust and confidence in an interface in the first place, enough that it can comfortably recede into the background.

Read the rest

Using gestures to interact with surfaces that don't have screens

A joint Disney Research and CMU team have produced a demo showing gesture controls on a variety of everyday, non-computer objects. The system, called Touché, uses capacitive coupling to infer things about what your hands are doing. It can determine which utensil you're eating your food with, or how you're grasping a doorknob, or even whether you're touching one finger to another or clasping your hands together. It's a pretty exciting demo, and the user interface possibilities are certainly provocative. Here's some commentary from Wired UK's Mark Brown:

Some of the proof-of-concept applications in the lab include a smart doorknob that knows whether it has been grasped, touched, or pinched; a chair that dims the lights when you recline into it; a table that knows if you're resting one hand, two hands, or your elbows on it; and a tablet that can be pinched from back to front to open an on-screen menu.

The technology can also be shoved in wristbands, so you can make sign-language-style gestures to control the phone in your pocket—two fingers on your palm to change a song, say, or a clap to stop the music. It can also go in liquids, to detect when fingers and hands are submerged in water.

"In our laboratory experiments, Touché demonstrated recognition rates approaching 100 percent," claims Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist at Disney Research in Pittsburgh. "That suggests it could immediately be used to create new and exciting ways for people to interact with objects and the world at large."

Disney researchers put gesture recognition in door knobs, chairs, fish tanks Read the rest

Computer-human interaction that gives hands their due respect

Bret Victor's "Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design" is an eye-opening look at the poverty of the current options for computer-human interaction. Victor argues that our hands have enormous expressive range and sensitivity, but our devices accept only pokes and swipes from them, and only provide feedback in the form of a little bit of haptic buzzery. He persuasively argues that expanding the repertoire of I/O using hands will produce interfaces that are richer and better:

Notice how you know where you are in the book by the distribution of weight in each hand, and the thickness of the page stacks between your fingers. Turn a page, and notice how you would know if you grabbed two pages together, by how they would slip apart when you rub them against each other.

Go ahead and pick up a glass of water. Take a sip.

Notice how you know how much water is left, by how the weight shifts in response to you tipping it.

Almost every object in the world offers this sort of feedback. It's so taken for granted that we're usually not even aware of it. Take a moment to pick up the objects around you. Use them as you normally would, and sense their tactile response — their texture, pliability, temperature; their distribution of weight; their edges, curves, and ridges; how they respond in your hand as you use them.

There's a reason that our fingertips have some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the body.

Read the rest