Buying Music Online – how easy is it?

Imagine there is a song – you know band and title – and you want to buy it. Should not be really something worthwhile reporting in a blog…

How long does it take to buy a song and how many steps does it need? I tried myself and was pretty much amazed that it is still more difficult than other ways to get music. The idea was to put the song into my shopping cart, press check-out, pay by credit card, and download. On the stores I encountered you have to register before to buy… I finally got the song and here are the steps at a major German music store: go to shop page, search for song, put in shopping cart, go to checkout, told to register, fill in registration form, told to confirm email, opened email client, waited 3 minutes for email, confirmed email, logged in on webpage, realized shopping card is empty :-(, search for song, put in shopping cart, go to checkout, entered credit card information, pay about 1.69€, got download link, got music.

I really wonder how many people will become first time buyers in this shop. Sometimes I think the things we teach in User Interface Engineering are obvious – but real life tells me they are not! If you run a music download portal or if you are in the music business and you wonder why no-one buys – we can tell you 🙂 it may be about utility and usability of your online offers… if you need more details we are happy to help you 🙂

PS: there was a store with a .ru address with better usability that offered the song with no registration at 0.20€ – but I did not want to give my credit card details… 

Workshops at Informatik 2008 in Munich, e-ink prediction

Yesterday there was a workshop on Mobile and Embedded Interaction as part of Informatik2008 in Munich. The talks and discussions were very interesting. Lucia and Thomas raised interesting issues on a new notion of personal computing, where the mobile device becomes the center of a personal computing infrastructure. This idea has been around for some time (e.g. Roy Wants Personal Server [1]) but the new ideas and the feasibility with current hardware makes it really an exciting topic. On the general topic there are many open questions, as visible on the slide.

After the workshop, when swapping business cards, we started the discussion when in the future we will have business cards (in larger quantities, to give away) that have active display elements (e.g. eInk) included. Everyone gave a predictions in how many years we will have it (Lucia Terrenghi:never; Raimund Dachselt:7; Thomas Lang: business card will disappear; Albrecht Schmidt:9; Heiko Drewes:10; Florian Echtler:5; Michael Rohs:5; Paul Holleis:5). Lets get back in 5 years and see… In September 2008 the Esquire Magazine featured an e-ink cover page – have not seen it myself:-( but there is a video: http://www.esquire.com/the-side/video/e-ink-cover-video

Today we organized a workshop on Software, Services and Platforms for new infrastructures in telecommunication. We had a set of really interesting talks. As I did my PhD on context-awareness I was quite impressed by work on context oriented programming and the advances over the last years in this domain (good starting point on the topic with some publications [2]).

At the end of the workshop I gave the following scenario as an impulse for discussion: image there are 10 million facebook users that contniouly stream the video of what they see into the net, e.g. using eagle-i. The discussion raise many technical as well as social challenges!

[1] Want, R., Pering, T., Danneels, G., Kumar, M., Sundar, M., and Light, J. 2002. The Personal Server: Changing the Way We Think about Ubiquitous Computing. In Proceedings of the 4th international Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Göteborg, Sweden, September 29 – October 01, 2002). G. Borriello and L. E. Holmquist, Eds. Lecture Notes In Computer Science, vol. 2498. Springer-Verlag, London, 194-209.

[2] http://www.swa.hpi.uni-potsdam.de/cop/

PS: there are few photos as someone in the workshop today objected to be on the net…

Workshop on Automobile User Interfaces

For the second time we ran this year a workshop on automobile user interfaces and interactive applications in the car at the German HCI conference: http://automotive.ubisys.org/

In the first session we discussed the use of tactile output and haptics in automotive user interfaces. It appears that there is significant interest in this area at the moment. In particular using haptics as an additional modality creates a lot of opportunities for new interfaces. We had a short discussion about two directions in haptic output: naturalistic haptic output (e.g. line assist that feels like going over the side of the road) vs. generic haptic output (e.g. giving a vibration cue when to turn).

 I think the first domain could make an interesting project – how does it naturally feel to drive too fast, to turn the wrong way, to be too close to the car in front of you, etc…

In a further session we discussed framework and concepts for in-car user interfaces. The discussion on the use of context with the interface was very diverse. Some people argued it should be only used in non-critical/optional parts of the UI (e.g. entertainment) as one is not 100% sure if the recognized context is right. Others argue that context may provide a central advantage, especially in safety critical systems, as it gives the opportunity to react faster. 

In the end it comes always down to the question: to what extent do we want to have the human in the loop… But looking at Wolfgang’s overview slide it is impressive how much functionality depends already now on context…

In the third session we discussed tools and methods for developing and evaluating user interfaces in the car context. Dagmar presented our first version of CARS (a simple driving simulator for evaluation of UIs) and discussed findings from initial studies [1]. The simulator is based on the JMonkey Game engine and available open source on our website [2].

There were several interesting ideas on what topics are really hot in automotive UIs, ranging from interfaces for information gather in Car-2-Car / Car-2-Envrionment communication to micro-entertainment while driving.

[1] Dagmar Kern, Marco Müller, Stefan Schneegaß, Lukasz Wolejko-Wolejszo, Albrecht Schmidt. CARS – Configurable Automotive Research Simulator. Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Applications – AUIIA 08. Workshop at Mensch und Computer 2008 Lübeck 2008

[2] https://www.pcuie.uni-due.de/projectwiki/index.php/CARS

PS: In a taxi in Amsterdam the driver had a DVD running while driving – and I am sure this is not a form of entertainment that works well (it is neither fun to watch, nor is it save or legal).

We presented MirrorBoard at Mensch und Computer 2008 in Lübeck

Last winter term I was teaching a class on Unconventional User Interfaces at the University of Linz as part of the MSc in Pervasive Computing. As part of the exercises the students had to do a project and write a paper on the topic in a group. This required to do a full round in the development (from idea creation to study).

Florian König and his group had an exciting idea for a novel form of advertisement. The user is mirrored in the advert and becomes a part of it. They implemented an interactive poster for a travel agent (users become part of the holyday scene) and tested it in-situ. The paper was accepted at the German HCI conference (Mensch und Computer) and Florian presented it today very well [1].

In the questions there was much discussion about privacy and user acceptance. We discussed whether or not such a installation would be legal in Germany (people mentioned the Datenschutzgesetz §6).

[1] Johannes Schönböck, Florian König, Gabriele Kotsis, Dominik Gruber, Emre Zaim, Albrecht Schmidt. MirrorBoard – An Interactive Billboard. Mensch und Computer 2008. Lübeck. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2008, p 207-216.

Is there a Net Generation? Keynote by Rolf Schulmeister

This year the German HCI conference (Mensch und Computer) is co-located with the German e-learning conference. The opening keynote this morning by Rolf Schulmeister was an interesting analysis of how young people use media in the context of learning. Over the last year that have been plenty of popular science books that tell us how human kind changes with the internet, e.g. Digital Native vs. Digital Immigrands by Marc Prensky (extract). The talk seriously questioned if a “Net Generation” exists and it seems that many of the properties associated with it (e.g. short attention spans, use of internet to socialize, reveal feelings through the internet, preference of graphics over text) are found based on studies where people select themselves to participate in the studies/questionnaires.

The paper (Gibt es eine »Net Generation«, in German over 130 pages) that accompanies the talk provides many interesting reference and is worthwhile a further look.

Some random papers from Mobile HCI 2008

During mobile HCI I came across many interesting things (that is why one goes to conferences 😉 here is a selection of papers to look at – if you have more time it is worthwhile to look at the whole proceedings of mobile HCI 2008 in the ACM DL.

Gauntlet: a wearable interface for ubiquitous gaming – exploring a new gaming UI for gestures.

Mobile phones as artifacts children use in their games are discussed. Shows again how creative children are 😉

An Investigation into round touch screen Wristwatch interaction – interesting topic and good example how to do a small study. Ideas to create a tactile rim, e.g. 2 parts moving to have different tactile cues, were brought up in the discussion.

Programming with children – taking programming it into the environment away from the computer, relates to Tangible User Interfaces

Projector phone: a study of using mobile phones with integrated projector for interaction with maps

Interaction based on Speech seems possible – even in noisy environment – the paper reports interesting preliminary results in the context of a fishing boot. Interesting in-situ tests (e.g. platform in a wave tank)

Wearable computing user interfaces. Where should we put the controls and what functions do uses expect?

Learning-oriented vehicle navigation systems: a preliminary investigation in a driving simulator

Enrico Rukzio followed up the work from Munich pushing the idea of touch interaction with NFC devices further.

Color matching using a mobile phone. The idea is to use a color chart, take a photo of face with a color chart, sent by mms to server, server process look up color match, reply by sms; no software installation only using MMS, SMS. Application in cosmetics are discussed.

Using Second Life to demonstrate a concept automobile heads up display (A-HUD)

Paul Holleis presented our paper on Wearable Controls

Last year Paul did an internship a Nokia in Finland. He worked there on the integration of capacitive sensors in phones and clothing. After Paul was back we jointly followed up on the topic which resulted in an interesting set of guidelines for placing wearable controls [1].

The paper gives a good overview of wearable computing and interaction with wearable computers. In the work we focused on integrating touch sensitive controls into garments and accessories for a operating the music player integrated in a phone. The study showed that there are prime locations where to place controls on their body: the right hip and above the right knee (for more details see the paper [1]). It furthermore showed that it is not clear expectations of functions (e.g. forward, backward, volume up/down) with regard to controls laid out on the close.

During his internship he also did research on integrating touch into buttons, which was published at Tangible and Embedded Interaction 2008 [2].

[1] Holleis, P., Schmidt, A., Paasovaara, S., Puikkonen, A., and Häkkilä, J. 2008. Evaluating capacitive touch input on clothes. In Proceedings of the 10th international Conference on Human Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, September 02 – 05, 2008). MobileHCI ’08. ACM, New York, NY, 81-90. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1409240.1409250

[2] Paul Holleis, Jonna Häkkilä, Jussi Huhtala. Studying Applications for Touch-Enabled Mobile Phone Keypads. Proceedings of the 2nd Tangible and Embedded Interaction Conference TEI’08. February 2008.

Andrew Greaves presents a study on photo browsing using projector phones

Since Enrico Rukzio (my first PhD student) went to Lancaster he discovered and advanced a very exciting topic for mobile interaction: mobile projector/projector phones. His group has a great presencs at this year’s mobile HCI (3 demonstrations, 2 short papers, 2 full papers, a workshop). In time for the conference the first projector phone appeared on the market (Cking Epoq EGP-PP01) – as to highlight the timeliness of the work.

The mobile projector study [1] revealed several interesting aspects. 1) it is faster to browser on the phone screen than using a project, 2) users do a lot of context switches between projection and device – even nothing is displayed on the screen, 3) the users see a great value in it (even if they may be slower). I am really looking forward to further results in this area. It may be significantly change the way we use mobile phones!

PS: see Enrico watching his student present I remember how exciting it is for a supervisor to just watch…

[1] Andrew Greaves, Enrico Rukzio. Evaluation of Picture Browsing using a Projector Phone. 10th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Mobile HCI 2008). Amsterdam, Netherlands. 2-5 September 2008.

Sightseeing, Photos

After the conference reception and dinner we went around Amsterdam for some late night sightseeing. Amsterdam is an amazing place…

On the tram back Florian made some very interesting pictures – this is not Photoshop 😉 it is a reflection in the window!