Last lecture & final recap

All good things come to an end, and so does our IxD course – today we had the final last lecture! 

To conclude the course Alexander gave our students several pieces of advice for future interaction design tasks in their studies/career. He especially focused on principles and techniques for designing a graphical user interface, which is always useful for whatever software you are going to program. Following that was another recap session with Sebastian to prepare our students for the final exam next week. It was an easy-going quiz to review all the stuff we learned and heard this semester and applied in the breakout sessions.

When looking back at all the past blog entries, it was a very exciting, interesting and successful IxD course this year! Wish you all the best for the final exam and nice holidays thereafter!

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The reacTable experience with Martin Kaltenbrunner

And here comes another amazing guest talk in our little IxD course – remember how Aurelien gave us an introduction to Tangible User Interfaces (TUI) a few weeks ago? This time, we actually got to see one such TUI – the reacTable, introduced by its co-founder himself, Martin Kaltenbrunner.

Martin is currently a professor at the University of Art and Design Linz, where he specialized on the design and research of TUIs. Before that he was a visiting researcher at the MIT Media Lab Europe in Dublin. There he and his team developed the reacTable, an interactive musical TUI with visual hap-tic feedback, where you can create sound with small Plexiglas squares.

The background lies in the history of musical instruments, the jump to digital sound synthesizers and finally to electronic music produced on the PC. There Martin realized that, with the sound production on the PC, “the intimate dialogue as with [conventional] instruments was dismissed and completely mechanized“. Moreover, “watching a person pressing some keys looks boring“. So the basic idea behind the reacTable was “to create an actual instrument with physical devices“, but which has the “additional value of digital sound synthesizing” and provides a visual experience. (See http://mtg.upf.edu/project/reactable for more information on the methods and principles behind it.)

After the design process the next step was to create awareness and find musicians who’d try this novel instrument. Therefore “it’s a good idea to make video documentations of your prototype. In our case we were lucky and our video got to Youtube, were it landed on the front page. And that’s how Björk took notice of it.” With Björk being the first artist to use and perform with the reacTable (they even toured with it for 18 months) many other musicians followed, making the reacTable a huge success, for what Martin got several awards and specifically founded an own company.

         

After the very interesting lecture it was finally “time to make some noise“, where we got to see a live performance of the reacTable. Our students even had the chance to play around with it themselves.
Altogether it was a very fun and exciting lecture, thank you very very much Martin! 🙂

For more details on upcoming events and other products surrounding the reacTable, for example the mobile app version, check out  http://www.reactable.com/!

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“Think about the real problem!” – Don Norman

“How should I introduce someone like him…” Prof. Butz began this week’s lecture. Finally he encouraged us to enjoy a lecture by “the James Brown of Interaction Design”.

This Wednesday we had the honor to welcome Prof. Don Norman for a very fascinating guest lecture in our course. Having a degree in both Computer Science and Psychology he is one of the most significant figure in the HCI community nowadays. He published many (awarded) books on user-centered design. Currently, among others, he is working on his  “top secret” business venture with his son and moving around the globe to share his wide knowledge at big HCI / design research conferences.

Apart from his academical career he also has a lot of experiences and insights from the industry. He had several stories to tell us from his time at Apple, where he later became the Vice President of the Advanced Technology group. Thus he was one of the driving forces behind Apple’s success by contributing his knowledge on human factors during the design process. In the lecture he especially drew attention to the challenges of being a designer in a real company. “In a real business the design process [you learned] doesn’t work. There is a fixed time schedule and budget and in the end the manager just wants to sell things.[…] But as a designer you have to get down to what is the real problem, you are not supposed to find solutions.” Furthermore you have to convince your boss and especially the management of your idea but simultaneously “be realistic”, as companies are “reluctant to make changes because of the risk of failure” and it usually “takes 10 years to accept a new idea”.

          

Moreover Don also emphasized on the work of interaction designers, who are stuck between technology and business. They have to understand how people think, “which is not logical, [though we as] engineers like to think logical”. Another design principal he entrusted us to is the following:  “Rethink the problem. Good designers do brilliant work by asking stupid questions. You think it’s stupid, when you think it’s obvious – so these questions are never asked.  I encourage you to ask stupid questions!” 

Other than that he also talked about creativity and innovation and shared even more tales from his cooperation with BMW, where he thinks that “in the future the cars will drive themselves”.

         

All in all we enjoyed three very inspiring hours, the lecture room was completely filled. Thank you so much Don, you are very welcome to join us again at anytime! 🙂 And also many thanks to the LMU Department of Media Informatics for providing us such an awesome guest talk!

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Breakoutsession #7 : Final presentations & Recap

Finally it’s done! After weeks of generating the idea, to the first prototype and then finally through an evaluation phase, the teams had two weeks time (as the week before there was no breakout session) to further improve their concept and prepare a short final presentation. Four teams took the chance to wrap up their mini project and introduce their final concept. Besides content-related feedback the teams also got a lot of tips to improve their presentation skills. Altogether it was a nice closure of our little mini project and are now fully prepared for the block course Concept Development this upcoming winter term!

         

Now that the mini project is over, we’re now moving towards the final exam. Therefore Sebastian brought several questions for recap and discussion at the end of the breakout session. (Though there will be another recap session right before the exam date).

So, the semester is slowly coming to an end, but before the final exam we prepared two very interesting guest lectures. Make sure to be there! 🙂

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Aurelien Tabard on “Interaction beyond the desktop”

So far our students obtained quite the understanding of the approaches of interaction design. They were taught the typical process from the brainstorming of an idea to a first prototype and in addition learned how to evaluate it for the further development.

But to show them what interaction design includes moreover, we were happy to welcome Aurelien Tabard for a guest lecture last week.

Aurelien gave a very interesting excursion to other novel forms of human-computer interaction beside the typical mouse, keyboard and desktop. So among the obvious mobile devices with touch screen, there are also tangible user interfaces (For that we’ll get a life demonstration of a TUI in a few weeks – stay tuned!), interactive surfaces and so-called wearables, just to name a few. Furthermore current researches are all moving towards augmented reality, which will be just within reach in the near future with the Google glasses. But with the whole new complexion of those devices, new and different modalities are needed for designing them. Therefore our students where introduced to the principles and design steps, which are useful for creating these kind of interfaces and also learned the difference between the terms natural and intuitive in this context.

Altogether this lecture made the students aware of what is currently being offered when it comes to new devices. Thus it made them sensible for new upcoming trends and inventions in technology, especially from an interaction designer’s point of view.

Find out more about Aurelien Tabard, his projects and his publications at http://www.tabard.fr/ ! 🙂

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Breakoutsession #6: Evaluation

So, now that we have actual prototypes, it’s time to let some people try them out and see how well they pick it up! Simply put – we’ve hit the evaluation stage.

But before the breakout session our students received an in-depth lecture on statistical methods and evaluation techniques. For that Prof. Butz, the lead of the Human-Computer Interaction Chair at LMU, came by himself for a guest lecture. The main goal of this stage is to get a first impression on how potential users would interact with the app and to detect possible ambiguities. This is indispensable for the iterative development of the concept. Furthermore such an approach might quickly reveal whether the UX design is appropriate and therefore delivers a satisfying user experience or if it’s too confusing and unhandy  in practice.

         

So, after the wide introduction to the theory, each team split up and went to test the prototypes of the other teams. Most of them declared one team member to be the test supervisor, while the rest were documenting the conspicuous behavior of the interface. Altogether the teams got a lot of important feedback for the further development of their concept.

We’re looking forward to see how this evaluation session even more improved the team’s ideas and are excited to see the final results! 

       

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Breakoutsession #5: Prototyping

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Last time I already showed you some of the concepts developed by the groups. But how would it really look like?

We gave the teams the chance to create a very first version of their idea. No, we wouldn’t expect them to implement it in an hour of course. 😉 Instead we provided a lot of copies showing phone and tablet screens, craft stuff and even foam boards. With that the groups were able to tinker mobile phones and tablets respectively. In addition they had to draw up the screens they designed in the brainstorming process. In the evaluation stage they would then simulate the functionality of their app by switching those screens manually, which is known among interaction designers as the Wizard-of-Oz technique.

But enough text this time, let the plenty of pictures speak for themselves! 🙂

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