Archive for the ‘ Wayfinding ’ Category

The Tragic Loss of The Journey

There is no such thing as a “sense of direction” – at least not one that can be proven by science. As Peter Morville points out in his defining book “Ambient Findability” we have only our 5 senses to point us in the right direction; how well each individual uses them varies, but what looks like impressive directional instincts is actually proof of keener use of the original 5 senses.

Much like ants, we use Geocentric (landmarks and visual cues) and Egocentric (path integration, the retracing of steps) to determine where we are, where we’re going, and how to get there. At least we used to – but I know if I take a moment to assess my own navigational habits, I’ll come to the conclusive realization that it’s been a while since I used my head to really get anywhere.

I don’t know about you, but I use my iPhone, and that’s kind of a shame.

Necessity births invention, which results in a cycle of invention and innovation. Wayfinding used to be an issue of human survival; while navigation is certainly a daily issue, it’s becoming less of a necessity to human survival, and more an issue of practicality and transportation. For prehistoric humans, embarking on a trek was always a risk, and getting lost could mean the end. Today, however, the act of “finding” holds no allure; efficiency is everything, from shopping to traveling. In other words, it isn’t about the chase anymore.

That said… have you ever gone online to look up a movie trailer and found yourself 2 hours later, still browsing YouTube? Of course you have. I’m sure you’ve experienced this or something close to it, which brings me to the question: how are sites so effectively designing their navigation to DISTRACT when we live in world that doesn’t understand how to wander? The same goes for Facebook – these networks aren’t oriented to a user’s end goal. They aren’t designed to help you navigate from point A to point B. They’re built to trap you in their maze of info-tainment for as long as you’ll allow yourself to be led from page to page.

Does that count as a modern variation of ‘the journey?’

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Pranav Mistry’s Sixth Sense

Pranav Mistry, MIT Grad student and verified genius, asks a simple question: How can knowledge of everyday objects influence our interaction with the digital world?

Answer: a lot.

Pranav Mistry wants to connect the physical and digital worlds seamlessly — not by bringing the physical world into computers, but by bringing the digital world into our daily existence. He’s turning the physical world into computers. Technically, it’s incredibly complex, but the beauty of the idea is it’s simplicity. Why would you switch from paper to monitor when your paper could become a monitor? Why would you bring a laptop with you when you have perfectly good table beneath your fingers?

Mistry has invented a small device, like a tiny projector, that acts as the user’s ‘third eye.’ As it hangs around your neck, the device recognizes  multitouch, freehand and iconic gestures that the user makes in the air, reacting to them by projecting your email on the wall in front of you, or a keyboard and screen on the table before you, or even by projecting a pinball game onto the floor of the subway. To see just how incredible it is, watch the TED Talk in which Mistry demos the device for a speechless audience:

Imagine picking up a book in the bookstore, and tapping the cover — within seconds, the book’s Amazon rating is projected on it’s cover. Imagine clipping the device to a piece of paper, and dragging the text off the page directly onto the table, where you start to type.

Imagine is the key word: Pranav Mistry let his imagination run wild as he looked around him and saw that the devices we were using created a 4th wall where one wasn’t needed. His goal is to create an completely intuitive workflow that actually helps us stay human — technology that keeps us in the physical world.

The best part? The device is incredibly accessible — the potential it has to impact developing countries and low-income areas is incredible, because the device cost Mistry $350 to build alone in a lab. When mass produced, the price will plummet.

Read his TED interview here >>