Microsoft Scout
This is our final prototype of the Microsoft Scout.
Here's one example of how it might fit into your life.

Posted 30 Sep, 2004

So...check this out! We may be spinning our wheels a bit here if this ever gets off the ground. Posted by HJ - 30 Apr, 2004

Nice article in Wired about personalization of the iPod in response to its form.

...Atlanta designer Ash Arnett suspects that the iPod's sleek white design encourages accessorization.

"Any decision about a case or something like that is going to be a stylistic change, because there's almost nothing there," said Arnett, a principal with the design firm Matter. "It's like putting a suit of clothes on a generic, asexual mannequin."

The iPod serves as an intimate reflection of its owner's emotional life as it contains their favorite songs, said design guru Donald Norman, author of the book Emotional Design. Thus it's not surprising that iPod owners feel the need to personalize their players, he said.

"That's part of the reflective side of an object -- not only do I have a superior object, but I've made it my object," said Norman, a partner at the Nielsen Norman Group consulting firm. Posted by Jeff - 26 Apr, 2004

miLife System Presentation
Here's our research presentation of the miLife system. [PDF 15.8MB]. It includes the details of our digital interface and physical form for the miLife device. Posted 19 Apr, 2004

Just a matter of passing interest, Cooligy has developed a method to efficiently water-cool processors. Dunno how commercially viable it is now, but it might be in 3-5 years. That takes care of THAT. :) Posted by HJ - 17 Apr, 2004

Picsel Browser and the Sony Clie
I played around with the Sony Clie PEG-NZ90 tonight and noticed it was running an application called Picsel. It's a potential solution to the application problem we were discussing.

Their file viewer opens and correctly formats Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF--pretty much anything--running on a 200MHz Palm OS v5. There's a really nice zoom and pan feature that makes it plausible to work with formatted files on a small screen (the Clie's was 320x480).

I also brought along one of our smaller MDF mockups to Comp USA and compared it to the Clie. Folded, they're almost exactly the same size and weight. Posted by Jeff - 10 Apr, 2004

Alpha Tap
Along the lines of optimizing for pen-based input... I found a little utility called Alpha Tap. According to the site, it leverage handwriting skills but provides speed that approaches two-handed typing. Basically, it's an onscreen keyboard that's not arranged according to QWERTY. The keys seem to be arranged within an arc that cooresponds to the natural range of motion of the right hand. Posted by Jeff - 5 Apr, 2004

Smart Search
So, if anyone's still wondering whether or not this whole "smart search" functionality is really possible, you can stop now. Go download LaunchBar or Quicksilver (if you've got 10.3), or AppRocket for Windows.

Watching this thing learn is pretty awe-inspiring. It indexed the entire contents of my computer and laptop without me even realizing it. Everything. Oh, and the contents of my bookmarks and history for Safari and Explorer. And my iTunes and iPhoto libraries. And my address book. Plus my applications and their lists of recent documents.

In LaunchBar, I pull up the search (Apple-space) and type in a few letters. M, I, L, Whoa... there's my milife folder. And this weblog. And the weblogs of the other teams. I arrow to the milife folder and dig in. Browse the contents. Select our persona PDF. I could open it directly, but just to be sure I choose "show in finder" and instantly see the opened finder window with the file selected. Nice.

Seriously, if you've only used Safari or Find File, you've got to download this thing and play with it. It'll change the way you think about the problem. Posted by Jeff - 3 Apr, 2004

File Importance
The more I think through the factors for assigning relavance to files, the more I realize that it's a combination of tons of little factors. No *one* thing may be enough to unequivocally determine that a file is or is not important. Instead, the attributes that I mentioned in my last post could work together to build a more complete picture.

I'm picturing this in much the same way that Spam Assassin assigns "fractional points" to e-mails based on identified characteristics of spam. Once the total number of points reaches a certain threshold, the e-mail gets flagged as spam. It's remarkably effective. Posted by Jeff - 31 Mar, 2004

Strategies for Inferring File Importance
I posted some initial thoughts on interpreting document importance from user interactions with the file system. These are based on my own experiences with Mac and PC file systems. Take a look and let me know what you think. Posted by Jeff - 30 Mar, 2004

m151 Update
Since the conclusion of the exploratory research phase, our team has been hard at work to further explore the space identified by our design framework; making the small bits of time in the mobile environment useful by creating more opportunities for generative activities. We designed and conducted a generative research activity, an environments and activity card sort, with ten participants that fell within our target demographic of unstructured professional, structured professional, and student. It proved to be a valuable exercise because we were able to get people to tell us what activities were important to them and how we might be able to supporting those activities in mobile environments. It also help further form our thinking, validate and modify our own hypothesis as they related to our framework.

For our next step, we took our research data, synthesized them together as a group and had a healthy discussion to address if or how our new findings corroborated with the finding from our previous research phase. Then from our discussion and brainstorming emerged three concepts that we felt that addressed many of our research findings, fit into our design framework, and held an enormous amount of promise. Our concepts addressed the challenges of mobile computing in two different ways but, oddly enough, at the same time, are complementary to each other. Also, personas and accompanying scenarios were created to help out flesh out our concepts, resolve major conceptual challenges, and as a tool to communicate the value of our concepts to our audience.

At this point of the project, our plan is to present and discuss our concepts with the class and Microsoft so that we would be able to choose a direction and concept to explore further and refine. We anticipate that concept refinement would involve evaluative research, additional brainstorming, and also possibly more generative research to help us define key features of our concept. Posted by Andy - 28 Mar, 2004

MIT Technology review on future handheld devices
Here's a great article from the MIT Technology review. It talks about mobile devices and human centered design research [PDF 925K] Posted by Andy - 29 Mar, 2004

At Odds
I found one comment in response to Kevin Fox's entry on the possible reemergence of the Newton particularly interesting:

"there 2 were different markets at odds with each other - you couln't drop the Newton in your pocket & it was a little small & clunky for a 'slate' type device."

That's been a big issue in the back of my mind as we're discussing the range of sizes. Posted by Ashley Deal - 23 Mar, 2004

Here's the nanotechnology article Shelley mentioned from USAToday. The information on screen technologies is at the end. Posted by Ashley Deal - 22 Mar, 2004

Adobe Cue
Here's the website for the Adobe Cue I was talking about. It has a lot of the features we have been tossing around, including keeping files together, especially iterations, and having a built-in framework for file-sharing among design team members. At the bottom the page is the white paper. I highly suggest we look at this closely. Posted by HJ - 22 Mar, 2004

Cellular Windows
Found this article projecting the capabilites of cell phones over the next few years, with MS Windows playing a major part. Check it. Posted by HJ - 21 Mar, 2004

So, it seems like we are going to need to understand a little about the properties of the OLED if we are going to make this work. There are two main producers of this technology, Universal Display Corporation and Kodak. The UDC site talks about their FOLED, which is a flexible OLED that can be laminated onto pretty much anything, but specifically onto flexible plastic of metal foils. They also talk about a TOLED (transparent OLED), which is 70% transparent when not in use. This is interesting and may have some kind of application, particularly for the "top" screen, so to speak. If it becomes clear when not in use, maybe we could have that "always available" information on the bottom one, the way Andy and I were talking, as like a screensaver or something. They also talk about SOLEDs, which are stackable OLEDs. So, bacially, you can stack two of these guys onto each other, and have them display a different thing in each direction, or improve brightness and contrast in one direction. Or a window in one sceeen to view crucial info. This could also make face-to-face file sharing easier, getting away from the turning the computer thing. Something to seriously consider, I think. Posted by HJ - 18 Mar, 2004

Revival of the Newton
Rumors about the revival of the Apple Newton have been persistent since it was originally killed off by Steve Jobs. Even so, Kevin Fox makes a pretty good case for its reintroduction. Several of the comments (by loyal Newton users) point to the continued belief that it's simply a superior PDA. Posted by Jeff - 17 Mar, 2004

So...we have been talking about input methods lately, and have been tossing around fairly standard options like the mouse or touchpad, keyboard, stylus, or voice mic. But take a look at this . Almost every sci-fi book I have ever read has some variation on this subvocalization technology. This could achieve the ease of spoken commands without the somewhat socially awkward consequence of talking to yourself in public. Also, it would allow people to take notes or record ideas while driving, or in other places where silence is neccesary. It says it needs sensors on the chin and throat, but I wonder if theres a way around it, or a way to make it more aesthetically appealing. Just something to chew on. Posted by HJ - 17 Mar, 2004

m151 Card Sorting Demo
Over the weekend I put together an online version of our card-sorting kit. It gets at the 'mobile' vs 'not mobile' perceptions of the environments, but doesn't include the activity-matching section of our study.

Even though it's only part of the information we're actually looking for, this increases the number of people we can survey--which may be valuable in itself. The self-guided demo records the card positions automatically, and allows participants to submit their arrangements over the internet when they're done. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Posted by Jeff - 14 Mar, 2004

Card Sorting Research
We've been executing our generative research plan this past week. Our first step has been to conduct a series of card-sorting exercises to understand what kinds of generative activities people actually care about doing in a mobile environment. Posted 14 Mar, 2004

More devices
Ran across a few things we missed in the initial tech review Motorola

Hiptop Posted by HJ - 8 Mar, 2004

Alternate Input Methods
So if you don't have access to keyboards or your tablet, what are the alternatives? Here are some input methods that turned up a few years ago. Thumbtyping and Dasher. Posted by Jeff - 29 Feb, 2004

To Do by Sunday
Just a reminder that we're each supposed to have twenty ideas about our product for Sunday's meeting. These can be big, important ideas or little form/functionality ideas.

We also need to re-visit our design implications from Monday's presentation to determine what the product must/should/might have.

Hopefully, we'll have a bit of time on Sunday to discuss some research methods for this phase of the project, so we should probably be keeping a running list of possibilities. Go team. Posted by Ashley - 28 Feb, 2004

Generative Research Kickoff Meeting
From our first discussion about the upcoming phase of the research, we determined that we are going to focus in further on the scale of mobility, namely:
  • the availablity of cognitive resources in each area, including use of the senses; and
  • possibilities for consumptive and generative tasks in each state.
We have a brainstorming session scheduled for Sunday evening, during which time we hope to bring out some more concrete ideas on the possible forms and functionalities of our product. We feel this is an important next step so that we have more concrete concepts to explore with our research subjects in this phase. Posted by Ashley - 28 Feb, 2004

Guideline-type article about new and upcoming wireless protocols. Good link at the bottom to another article of the same type. Just more tech-review type stuff. Posted by HJ - 25 Feb, 2004

Exploratory Research Presentation
Here's our research presentation from Monday [PDF 13.6MB]. It includes our key findings and an overview of the research methods that led to the development of our design framework. Posted 24 Feb, 2004

Newtontalk Online Community
I've been doing some research into the online community that has formed around the Apple Newton. It's surprisingly strong for a product that's been discontinued for over five years. In their own words, here's why they love their Newtons.

"Newton users were fanatical. Like early Mac users Newton users saw a device that was under powered and hobbled in several ways, yet could still do things that were simply undoable just days before..."

For more insight, pencomputing.com provides an archive of a column from the mid-nineties called Newton Notes. It faithfully follows the development of the Newton, through its various iterations, right up to the end: Why did Apple kill the Newton? Posted by Jeff - 19 Feb, 2004

User-Centered Design at TiVo
The new remote designed by TiVo (the company) for TiVo (the product) is very cool. It looks amazingly uncluttered, as they kept the number of buttons down to 34 (including the ten numerics).

Posted by Ashley - 19 Feb, 2004

Is MyLifeBits related to MiLife?
Another relevant article in the Times discusses efforts in software development companies to help users be able to navigate their personal/entertainment files (music, photos, movies, books, tv, etc.) in the networked home of the not-so-distant future.

An interesting possibilitiy: "Some researchers suggest that digital cameras will one day include Global Positioning System technology so that a computer can sort photos and videos not only by time and date, but also by where they were taken."

Also, is this an example of an industrial tool (as opposed to convivial)? "Gracenote Playlist 2.0, for example, requires users to select one or more songs or artists. The software can then automatically generate a "smart mix" playlist of songs based, for example, on points of commonality like artists, CD release dates and genres, which are divided into 22 major groupings and 250 microgenres. It is media management by association."

For more, see Navigating Digital Home Networks. Posted by Ashley - 19 Feb, 2004

Videophones Revisited
There's an interesting article in the Times today about a new videophone product by a company called Viseon. The author describes some interesting benefits and three major drawbacks:

  1. Too difficult (technical) for the average Joe to set up alone.
  2. "the First Fax-Machine Conundrum", who do you call when you get this?
  3. High cost ($600 each)
Posted by Ashley - 19 Feb, 2004

Louderback's Law
I found this in an article about how MP3s are here to stay despite the fact that other, better compression systems have come along.

"What's it going to take to change? I've developed a law of technology adoption, which I modestly call Louderback's Law: Unless a new technology includes breakthroughs in at least two different dimensions without adding hardship along the way it will not supplant and older, established one." Something to consider as we move forward. Heres the full link.

ABCNews.com Posted by HJ - 19 Feb, 2004

m151 RSS Feed
We've added an RSS Feed of all the postings for Michael and Evan and, well, anyone else with an RSS news reader. Posted by Jeff - 13 Feb, 2004

Good news, the dentist I was going to shadow got the ok from his boss, I'm going to shadow him on Monday. Ash, I hope your shadow went well. Posted by Andy - 12 Feb, 2004

Don Norman on Emotional Design
Matt Jones has a nice summary of Don Norman's talk about the importance of Emotion in Design. Some key quotes:

  • Getting the tech right is just part of the battle - make people feel joy
  • No one cares about the tech, unless it goes wrong - like infrastructure
  • I don't want to control my DVD player, I want to watch a movie
  • Pretty things (and good moods) make things work better.
Posted by Jeff - 12 Feb, 2004

Sending out the Survey
I talked to my friends in the professional working world on AIM to fill out the survey and to then email the survey to their coworkers. I know one friend who works in a PR firm has already emailed everyone in his office. Hopefully we'll get some good results. Posted by Andy - 11 Feb, 2004

Survey Question
Well, maybe we can take this question out of the survey :) Check out this link, it's a study on who plays the most online video games from Yahoo News. The answer is somewhat surprising. Posted by HJ - 11 Feb, 2004

Consciously Mobile, Part II
I agree with Jeff. In addition to the benefit of getting inside the users head a bit, I actually feel that our meetings have become more creative and productive since we started the new system. By moving to different places, I think we avoid getting into ruts in our thinking. Different environments spur new ideas, and meetings seems to play out fast and loose now. At the very least, being in the SAME old meeting place all the time can lead to a feeling of being stuck and too-similar thought patterns, and I think we avoid that now. Posted by HJ - 11 Feb, 2004

Consciously Mobile
We spend a lot of time in meetings. In the School of Design, we generally use the Graduate Studio as a centralized meeting area. For the miLife project though, our team is trying something different. As part of a de facto mobility experiment, we've started scheduling our meetings at alternate common areas away from the safety of Margaret Morrison Hall.

It's not a magic bullet, but our goal is to emphathize with the problems of mobile users. We've found that we have to plan for travel time, and scrounge for outlets and wireless signals, and manage our notes on too-small tables.

It's actually a lot better than our stodgy meetings in 215. Posted by Jeff - 10 Feb, 2004

Mobility Survey
As part of our exploratory research, we've put together a short online survey to measure user perceptions about the benefits of the PC, and mobile activities in general. Posted 10 Feb, 2004

Mobile TV
Guys - Another link that may be of interest. Talks about mobile tv, on cell phones. Mobile TV on Cell Phones Posted by HJ - 7 Feb, 2004

Condensed Concept Map
It may be a day late and a dollar short, but I've finished creating a condensed version of our concept map. Posted by Ashley - 6 Feb, 2004

Main Exploratory Research Questions
The main questions we've decided to explore in the exploratory phase of our research deal with:
  • Conceptions of Mobility
  • Past Product Adoption Factors
  • Implications/Connotations of Ownership
  • Desirability Factors
  • Boundaries of Environments
  • Benefits of the PC
  • Daily Activities of Target Audience
Check out the PDF if you'd like to see more detail. Posted by Ashley - 6 Feb, 2004

For Friday
For Friday, we have to do the following

  • Reduce interview questions by pulling selected ones out for a survey/questionaire and combining interview questions
  • Examine protocols and synthesis for revision
  • Recruit participants
  • Think of locations for fly-on-the-wall observations

We are meeting Friday from 4-6 in the Newell-Simon atrium. See you there! Posted by HJ - 4 Feb, 2004

Mobile Tech + Fitness
Here is another link I found on Wired about a mobile technology used to keep people interested at the gym. I think it is this kind of space (3rd space) that might be good to look at. Posted by HJ - 4 Feb, 2004

Learning from Failure
As part of our literature review, we're studying barriers to adoption. Each of the following mobile products were met with varying degrees of failure (depending on who you ask). Understanding why they didn't work keeps us from repeating their mistakes (and also from reinventing the wheel).

GRiD PadEO Personal CommunicatorDauphin DTRApple Newton

Also, because it seems quaint in the way that flying cars from old movies seem quaint, a concept video for the Knowledge Navigator from Apple in the mid-eighties. Posted by Jeff - 13 Feb, 2004

Exploratory Research Timeline
Exploratory Research Timeline Posted 3 Feb, 2004

February 2, 2004
Great to see your thinking and some of the fundamental questions that you are asking. I also appreciate the reference links as it shows that you are not just looking at this from a problem-solution stand pt, rather as designers that are looking to garner the insights of those that have gone before and harness their insights... Good start. I look forward to more... Posted by Michael - 2 Feb, 2004

Target Demographic
From our research, we concluded that our demographic should be centered less around a common age than around a common quality of activity. Our primary focus is on professionals with less structure to their daily activites.
  • Low Structure Professionals (journalist, real estate, creative professionals, traveling professionals, delivery)
  • High Structure Professionals (lawyers, medical professionals)
  • Students (graduate, undergraduate)
  • Stay-at-home Parents
Posted 2 Feb, 2004

Aaron Marcus: 12 Myths of Mobile Devices
Developers share many illusions and delusions about mobile-device user-interface design. In the UI development world, there are many assumptions or myths floating around about the future of mobile devices...

  • Myth: Users want power and aesthetics. Features are everything.
  • Myth: What we really need is a Swiss army knife.
  • Myth: 3G is here!
  • Myth: Focus groups and other traditional market analysis tools are the best way to determine user needs.
  • Myth: If it works in Silicon Valley, it will work anywhere.
  • Myth: The killer app will be games, --er, no, I mean, horoscopes, or--
  • Myth: Mobile devices will essentially be phones, organizers, or combinations with maybe music/video added on.
  • Myth: The industry is converging on a UI standard.
  • Myth: Highly usable systems are just around the corner.
  • Myth: One underlying operating system will dominate.
  • Myth: Mobile devices will be free-or nearly free.
  • Myth: Advanced data-oriented services are just around the corner.
I've archived the full article, in which Aaron Marcus elaborates on these points. Also check out his website, where he shares a research vignette for a mobile device prototype for Samsung. Posted by Jeff - 2 Feb, 2004

Meeting Minutes
I've created a folder creatively called "minutes" on this server. I'm placing word docs of each meeting's minutes in this folder as we go. Posted by Ashley - 30 Jan, 2004

Relevant Links
Ive found some relevant links, and have been meaning to pass them along. Check them out when you get the chance.

Last year's studio teams' websites:
34.2 and Lost in Terface.

Resources from "defining user demographics" research:
Mobile Device User Demographics, IDC Mobile User Fact Sheet

Other interesting links:
Defywire Mobility, Scientific American Organic Films, OQO Ultra Personal Computer, Philips Design Reserach


Sorry to dump them all on you at once. Ill be better in the future about posting them as they come. Posted by Ashley - 29 Jan, 2004

Found a link on Dan's weblog to the personality types we were talking about yesterday. Here's the test. It's 72 questions long and only takes a few minutes. I'm an INTJ.

Ashley, I thought it might be interesting to compare this test to the one you used last semester on your self-portrait in Dan's class. See if the results jive. Posted by Jeff - 28 Jan, 2004

Welcome, Michael Lenahan
So this is it. A weblog snapshot of the miLife project at Carnegie Mellon University in the School of Design. Posts that look like this one are meant for you Michael. Most of the rest are just the day-to-day rantings of the m151 team. You're welcome to chime in. Posted 28 Jan, 2004

Goal Directed Design
I see personal goals as deeper fundamental human desires. They're related to values, but distinct from tasks. Along with practical goals (which are less like desires,) they make up the core of what we should try and satisfy. There are several detailed examples of Goal-directed Design that drive this point home in The Inmates are Running the Asylum 150-158. It's on my desk in the studio.

A few examples that are relevant to our project might be, "I want to maintain closer ties to my family" or, "I want variety in my life", or (on a practical level) "I want to minimize time wasted during my commute." These emerge out of interviews and can later be ascribed to personas during generative research. Posted by Jeff - 27 Jan, 2004

27 Jan, 2004
Holy crap! It's happening! Check it out! Posted by Harlan - 30 Jan, 2004

Question Behind the Questions
One of the better suggestions i heard (from christina) was to really look for the overarching question that addresses lots of the smaller, more specific questions. So we're really looking at bringing up the "question behind the questions" ...getting at the bigger picture stuff with broader impacts, and not a ton of little questions. Posted by Ashley - 30 Jan, 2004

Research Plan
What I did was take each subcategory under the big three, people, products and envirnoment and then wrote a question to represent that subcategory. Then I wrote corresponding methods to research, understand and ultimately answer that question. I'm sure it's different from what your plans look like but we can all sort that out in the morning. Posted by Andy - 24 Jan, 2004

Cult of Mac
Here is an article from Yahoo! News about the Mac they identify a number of features that have helped the Mac and Apple achieve the almost cult status they have now. How can we use these? Posted by Harlan - 24 Jan 2004


Title of your comment

Your name


 Flag this comment for Michael


CMU School of Design | Other Teams


miLife Team
E-mail Address Ashley Deal
E-mail Address Jeff Howard
E-mail Address Andy Lee
E-mail Address Harlan Weber

Current Tasks
Refining our "portal" miLife concept to run on an optimal mobile device.
Major Developments
Mar. 28, 2004
PDF miLife Personas
Meet Patrick, Samantha and Marta. We're designing miLife to meet their needs.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PDF Patrick's Scenario
PDF Samantha's Scenario
PDF Marta's Scenario
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mar. 14, 2004
Demo Card-sort Demo
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mar. 5, 2004
PDF Generative Research Plan
Conducting research over Spring Break with 8-10 participants from our target demographic.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Feb. 23, 2004
PDF Exploratory Research
Presentation of our findings, including an overview of methods leading to our design framework.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Feb. 6, 2004
PDF Interactive Concept Map
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jan. 28, 2004
Demographic established: Professionals with less structure to their daily activities.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jan. 26, 2004
PDF Concept Map
DOC Exploratory Research Plan