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Work in progress
Welcome to the For Human Use blog. I hope to have the page up and running within the next week but for now it will remain bare. For now I would encourage you to do a quick search of Human-Computer Interaction to learn more about the field and as always a Wikipedia link is a fair place to begin. I will post news and information in the near future but for now I have a question.
What is one piece of technology you use everyday that you dislike?
Making a multitouch table: The plan
After studying some designs for multitouch displays made by other people we have began thinking of how can we incorporate all this into our design and also give it a personal touch. At the beginning I have planned to make a window-like screen, but then we have decided for the desk scenario … the way I see it it will take less space than a vertical one.
To make a multitouch screen you need the following components: a plexi-glass surface, a projecting surface, a lot of IR diodes, an IR camera, and a projector. There are also a lot of other bits of everything needed but these are the main components for the most classical multitouch setup we are aiming at. This post is just about the overall plan so I will not go into the details.
Because we have a limited choice of projectors and none of the available projectors was really wide angle we were trying to improvise a bit with a mirror reflection. This way the system becomes more complex but also smaller. Of course there was another problem: where to put the projector? Because of the reflection the projector has to be placed between the mirror and the projection surface. Of course placing it directly in-between is silly. It has to be placed on the side so that it does not occlude the picture but still close enough that the distortion angle is not too big (the name of the distortion is called keystone effect and can be to some degree fixed using a function with the same name that can be found on many projectors). We have decided to make a wide frame for the plexi-glass surface and hide the projector under it. The frame is one of the components that are in theory not really needed but the fact that all the necessary elements cannot stay in place just by themselves makes it an implicit necessity. Also a wider frame will allow people to lean on the sides of our multitouch desk not putting too much stress directly on the surface.
The next decision to be made was regarding IR diodes and wiring. The diodes should be positioned around the plexi-glass surface. Our idea was to make the frame thinner on the inner side, leaving enough room to anchor the surface and a narrow drench to put in the mount for diodes and wiring. The whole thing is then fixed in place using an aluminum cover. This probably does not make much sense now but I will elaborate in the future posts.
Less attention has been given to the sides of the desk. The main function of the sides is to protect the interior from mechanical and optical interferences. Our idea is to start with a simple aluminum cube, fix some wooden plates to it and drill some holes for the ventilation.
Anyway … here is a 3D model of our frame as it was planned before we started acquiring materials. My next post will be on the making of the actual frame (with pictures).
“Are we really going to accept an Interface Of The Future that is less expressive than a sandwich?”—A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design
CTRL - Can Keyboard Shortcuts Increase Accessibility?
Recently, a friend of mine asked if I had some photos/resources left from our old uni project ‘CTRL’ to put in his portfolio. Incredibly, I found some shots of our over-ambitious attempts to alter a keyboard.
Here’s a little extract from one of the reports:
“We took on the task of building a system to teach keyboard short-cuts. Keyboard short-cuts are often ignored and even users with high computer literacy usually know only a handful of such commands. To begin with we only had our suspicions on the use of short-cuts, we also found that when we have tried to teach others in the past by simply explaining to them they rarely get remembered. As a result, we felt it was necessary to show, rather than tell…”
As well as the hacked apart keyboard, we wrote a desktop application that suggested short-cuts based on your ability.
It was only a short project, so we didn’t have much time to test it in the open. However, we received a good response to the idea when we conducted our questionnaires and interviews - especially when we talked to OAPs. We learned you’d much rather use a keyboard than a mouse if you’ve got arthritis.
Developers and designers should take the time to build keyboard controls into applications. It can make a world of difference to some people. I know I’m not the only one that believes this. After all, my team mate won an award for her work on the project at the ‘BCS Women Lovelace Colloquium’.
Anyway, I’ll leave you with a list of handy keyboard (Linux / Windows) short-cuts:
- Windows + D (or Super + D): Minimises all windows and shows the desktop
- Alt + Tab: Switch between windows
- Tab: Cycle through buttons / input boxes / etc
- Shift + Tab: (same as above, but the other way)
- Alt + F4: Closes the current window
- F2: Rename selected file (have to say I’ve not really used this)
- Ctrl + A: Select all
- Ctrl + Alt + (Left or Right Arrow): Switch Work Space (Ubuntu only)
The list goes on and on…
I probably shouldn’t have to mention my best friends ctrl + c, x, y, and z.
If you are not familiar with the last 5, you should probably stop what you are doing and learn them right now. If your life involves computers in any way, you’ll probably save thousands of hours in doing so.