Tuesday, October 02, 2007
A lasting last lecture
[Update: I had linked to a CBS interview here originally, but the file was taken down. So here's an even better clip (10 minutes) of Randy's appearance on Oprah on Monday, October 22, 2007.]
After seeing it linked from several blogs, I loaded Professor Randy Paush's last lecture on my iPhone to watch last night in bed. I had encountered Randy's work in building virtual reality worlds over the years, but never met him or followed the work closely. But what a way to get my attention upon hearing that at age 46 (my age), he has been told terminal pancreatic cancer is leaving him with 3 - 6 months to live. He is married with three children. The embedded video above is
Diane Sawyer's interview with him Randy's appearance on Oprah that, in less than nine ten minutes, gives you a taste of his 85-minute farewell lecture to friends, colleagues and family at Carnegie Mellon University's McConomy Auditorium (PDF transcript). Randy talks exuberantly about his decision to maximize his last life sprint in the most positive ways. If you can spare the time from your problem-filled life, I strongly recommend watching the deeply inspiring full lecture on Google Video. His lessons will endure.
I'm keeping his lecture on my iPhone to watch, in part, over and over again.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
SNIF - Social Networking In Fur
I noticed the poster (JPEG image) for this fanciful MIT Media Lab Tangible Interfaces class project, Social Networking In Fur, on Noah Fields' web site recently, and asked him more about it. Noah said he and his team have turned the poster into some prototype hardware and a paper. Good buddy that he is, he posted a page with all the project resources. Here's the usage scenario from their conference paper (PDF):
Lola takes her dog Fifi for a walk. Before leaving the house, Lola puts her new SNIF collar around Fifi's neck and attaches her new leash to it. On their way to the park, Lola can see a dog and his owner coming towards them. LEDs on Fifi's collar start flashing, showing that a secured ID transfer occurs between the two collars. While approaching, the other dog sees Fifi and starts barking suddenly. Lola has to pull on Fifi's leash to avoid the fight, and walks past the other dog. She pushes the button 'Incompatible' on the leash and keeps walking.
At the park, Lola greets the other dog owners and releases Fifi's leash. Fifi goes to play with the other dogs, her collar recording the IDs of dogs she spends the most time with along with some additional information such as activity levels during the encounters. While Fifi is enjoying her time, Lola discusses with other dog owners.
After an hour, Lola calls Fifi. She attaches the leash again, which starts the transfer of information collected from the collar to the leash and updates the external SNIF server. On the way home, Lola notices that the leash starts blinking red, indicating the presence of another dog coming towards them, with whom Fifi is not comfortable. She anticipates the encounter and crosses the road to avoid a confrontation.
Back at home, Lola checks on the SNIF website and learns about her dogs' new friends through the profiles left by their respective owner. Later in the day, she notices that one of Fifi's friends, Sugar, just reached the park. Lola met Sugar's owner a couple of times, a woman who teaches French cooking, and Lola has always wanted to learn how to make a good terrine. 'Time for a walk', she said to herself, smiling as she grabs the leash and calls Fifi.
Given the growing pervasiveness of wireless networking, SNIF doesn't seem too farfetched, but my dog would be clueless about SNIF since she's all about the sniffing.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
With Ben Shneiderman and his lab coming to the fore of my mind again in anticipation of his recent talk at AARP, I went back to some photos I took at the May 2002 open house of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) at the University of Maryland. It was in the offices of the lab that I discovered and photographed the ultimate home of Noobie, lab researcher Allison Druin's masters degree assignment from her mid-80s years at the MIT Media Lab. Noobie is a giant furry stuffed animal designed by a member of Jim Henson's workshop and augmented by a Macintosh computer in its belly. When Noobie was new, children could sit on his lap, squeeze his tail, move his arms or hug him to trigger switches that would cause the computer to display fictional animal designs. It was the making of Noobie that sparked Druin's ongoing interest in interaction design for children.
Noobie now sits quietly outside of Druin's office and seems to serve as the mascot for the Intergenerational Design Team's laboratory, which is essentially a technology playground at HCIL led by Druin to enable children to act as design partners in the lab's interaction design process. Seven children, ages seven to eleven, join computer researchers twice a week. The team delves into such things as how children might engage in collaborative storytelling in an electronic drawing tool and how a child who is too young to read might use a visual search engine.
That kids, guided by adult experts, can design technologies for the future, was not necessarily what left me most impressed during my tour of the lab. In this organized playland, scientific method accommodates the laughter of children at play to produce tools that offer delight before utility. This is a joyous display of design motive that is rare in the adult business world.
Try not to miss the lab's next open house in May or June 2004.
Sunday, October 05, 2003
The gang at Older Wiser Wired (OWW), AARP's community of practice advocating web usability for older adult audiences, has published an interview with Ben Shneiderman. Shneiderman is the founding director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at The University of Maryland (1983-2000), and author of the book Leonardo's Laptop - Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies. The interview coincides with Shneiderman's free-to-the-public discussion on Universal Usability this Tuesday, October 7th at AARP Headquarters. I'll be making the commute down to DC to take in the event with wife Amy, who is part of the OWW gang (which I'm joining next month). I'll try to moblog the event and lunch if I have a GPRS signal.