TV Tech In Real Life #1

In this week’s episode of “The Following”, Ryan Hardy receives a threatening video via SMS on his BYOD phone. He hands the phone to an FBI tech who plugs in and instantaneously has the video play on the big screen for all in the Command Center to see.

In Real Life, they would have spent 15 minutes futilely looking for the proper cable, another 15 trying to get AirPlay or GoogleTV to sync, and ultimately they’d end up with 10 people hovering around the small screen to watch.


The Next Revolution

The original iPhone was revolutionary because it was the first product to combine a phone, music player, Internet browser, mail client, camera, gaming system, and – let’s face it – an anything-to-anyone customizable application platform.

Likewise, the iPad was equally revolutionary in it’s positioning as a re-imagined PC alternative and Internet/media consumption device.

These were paradigm shifts. Nothing since then – whether from competitors or Apple’s own evolutionary releases – carry the gravitas that would allow anyone to call them similarly “revolutionary”.

Yet “not revolutionary” has been the charge levied – unfairly, in my opinion – against releases such as iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, and iPhone 4S. To my way of thinking, “revolutionary” is a difficult goal to achieve for any well-entrenched product line. And it got me to thinking: what would make for a “revolutionary” jump in mobile devices?

  • A capacitive multitouch display that also had solar charging capabilities? (Not just a solar cell on the back, but one integrated into the touchscreen?)
  • A pico projector and integrated laser-projection keyboard?


What do you think? Take a moment to participate in this thought experiment. Beyond simply “bigger, faster”, what next technology iteration would make a mobile device be worthy of the label “revolutionary”? Please comment!

Apple Patents Real-Time Copy Protection? Ho Hum.

It started last week, when a patent watchdog came across a 2009 proposed filing from Apple to use infraRed signals to jam the video recording capability of an iPhone. The use-case for this technology was copy protection for live events such as concerts, with jamming transmitters positioned on stage and aimed at the crowd.

It must have been a slow news day… for the entire week! I have now seen that story dozens of times, propagated in blogs and mainstream media, all with the how-dare-they calls to action and claims of Big Brother. And more significantly, all acting like it was a foregone conclusion for the anti-piracy feature to be in the next iPhone release.

So let me say this: I will bet my left nut that this IR copy-protection will never see the light of iPhone flash.

There are more than 150,000 patents filed every year, many of which never take form beyond the paper upon which they are printed. This is one of them.

  • The ability to block recording, if even possible, would be exploited by others. Do you think moral upstanding concert promoters would be the only ones to deploy such a jamming technology?
  • Dollars to donuts some hacker would figure out how to subvert, jailbroken or otherwise.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, the whole world does not yet use iDevices. Determined bootleggers would simply switch to another device.

Unless Big Brother really exerts itself to force all devices to implement this scheme (and it won’t), there is no way that Apple alone will introduce a crippling feature to their phones when others will not have it. It’s one thing for an industry to mandate – such as AACS on Blu-ray – but its another thing entirely for a manufacturer to attempt on its own. Besides, Apple has already tried DRM once before, and failed miserably. :)

Google Spam: Not A Problem

A lot of press has been devoted recently to problems with Google search spam, eyeball-stealing content farms, and search algorithm optimization. But very few complaints are ever made about how Google deals with the original type of spam – unsolicited email. That’s because Google does a pretty damn good job in combating it.

I just got my first GMail spam today. After 5 years on their system, the first unwanted email I received was not about V1@gra or diplomas-by-mail – it was a Mastercard/Visa offer in Spanish (which is probably why it snuck through their filters).

Receipt of spam is hardly newsworthy, but it is significant given Google’s track record. They just don’t seem to get enough credit in that regard. Contrast this performance to Yahoo, where I received my first spam within 24hrs of account creation. Which was a real puzzler at the time since I had not even used the account yet…

I can’t even begin to measure the amount of Yahoo spam that I have been subjected to in these past 15+ yrs. And while they have made small anti-spam improvements, it is nothing like what Google has managed to do. In fact, that is one of the key reasons why I do not use my address often. (The other reason: at every login, Yahoo bombards me with “chat spam” requests and it takes 3 clicks to decline each person.)

How Do I Get To The Holodeck Controls?

I have not actually tried this yet, but the UI caught my eye. It looks like someone watched quite a bit of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” for interface ideas. The LCARS Reader for iPad looks a lot like the TNG Enterprise computer!

A one-stop media shop for $4.99. Claims to be an RSS Reader, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Picasa. Even Ebay and Craigslist interfaces, which I must admit is unique when compared to FlipBook, FLUD, Taptu, and others.

Mobile Optimization Gone Wrong

Are you reading this blog on a PC/Mac? If so, the following 3-page article will not seem out of the ordinary:

But if you are reading this on an iPhone, something is decidedly lacking in the InfoWorld piece. On a positive note, most of the ads & banners are gone, but that’s not what I am referring to…

(continue reading…)

Apple Just Gets It

It’s no surprise that Apple is making such huge strides in the consumer market. They follow the Human Factors tenet of providing a tool to get things done rather than an obtrusive device that one must adapt one’s life into. And not just in the products themselves, but in *how* those products are positioned.

Case in point, check out Sprint’s EVO 4G demo. It’s all about specs and “features to make other smartphones jealous”. Now contrast that with the practical, emotion-filled ad for FaceTime and the iPhone 4G. Screw the technical jargon, here’s how we make your life better.


A great article (and video) showing how one particular 2yr old responds to the UI of a new iPad. It’s far from a double-blind Human Factors test, since the kid was already familiar with the iPhone. But a fascinating scene nonetheless.

I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of the ease in which young children take to a computer, but the Apple iPhone/iPad takes things to a whole new level. Instead of indirect control via mouse & keyboard, the multi-touch style introduces direct manipulation that seems to be natural for them. Most adults probably have about 25yrs worth of UI bias to overcome, but a child has no such preconceptions. With the TouchSmart, iPad, Slate, Courier, and other such devices coming out, these will be interesting times.

Does Donald Norman Have An iPhone?

I was dusting my bookshelves last weekend – which some could argue must only be a yearly event for me – and found myself waxing nostalgic over Donald Norman’s “The Invisible Computer“. Written in 1998, I thought it might be interesting to re-read what he thought the personal computer needed and whether his wishes/predictions have come true 12 years later.

I studied under Dr. Norman for my Cognitive Science degree at UCSD. His POET (Psychology of Everyday Things) manuscript was the text for his Human Factors classes, which later became the book “The Design of Everyday Things“. “The Invisible Computer” is his followup which bypassed the analysis of door handles and cooktops and instead focused on the need for “information appliances” in this high-tech age.

(continue reading…)

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