MITKA

Developed jointly by Gazelle, Nike, Stork and TNO, the MITKA is designed to increase the distance under which people tend to choose the bicycle as a mode of transportation.

Basically, it looks like an electric motor-assisted bike with three wheels – not a particularly novel idea, in my opinion…but, the pictures were pretty cool, so I posted it anyway. Enjoy!

MIT’s Cesium Operating System (drool…)

This hoax article, “A Real Alternative?,” appeared on Slashdot this afternoon. Despite it being a hoax, it does touch on several technologies that a real next-generation operating system ought to be built upon (such as XML, an OODB “file system” and separate modules for presenting the visual interface on a variety of devices).

…forget that whole 3D GUI business though. 3D interfaces will never work until displays can present a real third dimention, rather than just perspective on a two-dimentional screen.

Ginger — 2001’s most virulent meme

The meme, “Ginger,” is apparently a new product dreamed up by well-known inventor, Dean Kamen. I first heard about Kamen last year when I saw a report on his invention, the iBot Wheelchair. The iBot is nothing short of astounding! Not only can it travel up and down stairs, but it can balance, let’s call it “stand up,” on two wheels. Through a system of gyroscopes and microprocessors, it has the ability to keep its balance. I couldn’t believe the demonstration I saw on TV…you literally CAN’T tip it over. It’s absolutely freaky!

I first heard about Ginger on Slashdot. The Slashdot article pointed to an article on MSNBC. MSNBC pointed to Inside.com. Inside.com had a boat-load of links in their message boards, including a link to Dean Kamen’s company and a link to the related patent on Delphion.com. It has since spread to ZDNet and Reuters, among others.

The excitement and wild speculation was further stirred by comments made by Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs, both of whom have seen prototypes. Bezos said,
“[Ginger] is a product so revolutionary, you’ll have no problem selling it. The question is, are people going to be allowed to use it?” And Jobs was quoted as saying, “If enough people see the machine you won’t have to convince them to architect cities around it. It’ll just happen.” Pretty big statements, eh?

The patent suggests it’s some kind of scooter, but regardless of what it turns out to be (we’ll find out in 2002), the excitement it has generated in just a few days, has just blown me away!

OS-licious!

You may recall my post from way back in August about future OS interfaces…well, Newsweek (which is apparently now part of MSNBC) has a good article that gives a decent overview of Apple’s Mac OS X, Microsoft’s .NET and Eazel’s Nautilus environment. Mmmm…tasty!

Although I haven’t actually used any of the interfaces mentioned in the article, I have seen demos of all three. Of course, since I haven’t used them, I can only make off-the-cuff comments, but here goes anyway:

It seems that Apple’s solution goes the furthest to solve what I think is the biggest problem with current OS interfaces – window management. With OS X, dialog boxes always appear with the correct window and I imagine the need to re-size and move windows around will be drastically reduced with the advent of the “dock.”

In typical Microsoft fashion, the .NET solution seems to be focused on technical accomplishment rather than solving actual usability problems or improving user experience. Their solution, to make everything a web page, must surely have been born in the executive washroom, rather than in a meeting of skilled interaction designers. I do like the idea of a “universal type-in” bar though. Jef Raskin discusses this is his fabulous book, “The Humane Interface.” It’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft implements it.

Eazel’s inclusion of a “beginner, intermediate, expert” selector seems like the kind of solution that people who don’t really know too much about interaction design would support. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard frustrated computer users say, “I wish I could just set this to beginner,” as if that would magically solve all the human-computer interaction problems. Further supporting my opinion is the fact that their solution seems to be getting a lot of support from industry heavyweights like Dell and Sun (or at least from their execs – who probably don’t know the first thing about HCI). I must applaud Eazel’s efforts though. They’ll need big industry support to capture the market away from other desktop environments, such as KDE. I also like their inclusion of a zoomable interface. Unfortunately, I think the idea of having to worry about files and know about the file system is an idea whose time had passed.

I don’t really think any of the solutions above solves all of the problems with current OS interfaces, but I feel confident in saying that they are all taking at least some steps in the right direction. Plus, all this activity at the same time is exciting!

By the way, Andy Hertzfeld, of Eazel, will be giving a talk entitled, “Improving the Usability of Free Software” at the 01/BayCHI meeting tomorrow. Anyone want to join me?