IMG_4042I had an interview for a summer position at the Soon offices in Gamla Stan. Soon’s developers describe the app as “your everyday bucket list, a place to keep and discover things that will enrich your life.”  Whereas the interview was for an app developer role with React Native, I took the opportunity to show that my training in Human Computer Interaction and Design could also be of value by giving him some feedback on UX/UI Design. As an extra, I could also complete this “Help a Start-up” assignment and kill two birds with one stone.

The image on the left shows the first interface feedback that I was able to provide to Soon. Here the app fails at one of Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface DesignHelp users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors. This error occurs when a user cancels Facebook login, an exception that the app is not expecting and an error from which the app is not able to recover nor to show users how recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors.

 

IMG_4043The next screen is what users see as soon as they open Soon. I also believed that this interface could use some suggestions. I inquired about the reason for having an empty space on the top-left corner, where the “sandwich menu” would traditionally be positioned. My interviewer, Carl, told me that such a space would be filled out with a profile picture if I had logged into the app. I suggested adapting the interface to have the menu on the left, where users would expect it to be. An eventual circular profile picture could be in the center of the top bar.

I also asked about the airplane icon next to the sandwich menu. If “Cities” is a category, why should it occupy such a highlighted position? I also told him that the first screen the app should shows should be one that presents exciting recommendations in terms of movies, books, music, etc – Most people have somehow of a memory of what they have saved on their lists, and they will only resource to it from time to time. Showing new possibilities could possibly engage users into spending more time in the app discovering their new favorites.

IMG_4044 2The next screen shows one of the app’s categories. I suggested that although white space can be beneficial, this interface could be wasting some precious vertical space. Instead of having an entire line for the close button, they could have a < Back button on the left and the search controls on the top right, where it is normally found in interfaces. The location icon could also be on the same line, and its input control could possibly be shown only after the location icon would be tapped.

Another Nielsen’s heuristic is violated in this interface: Visibility of system status. When the Add + button is pressed, users get no indication that such an action was successfully completed. In most cases such a button would change its visual state to indicate a new status.

VR Sci Hackathon

VR Sci Hackathon

I attended the VR Science Hackathon at Epicenter. As my HCID specialization is in Situated Interaction, I had an interest in seeing what Virtual Reality technology is out there.

I unexpectedly had the opportunity to try the Microsoft Hololens. Such an opportunity is unique as this piece of hardware is quite expensive, and it is not commonly reachable to curious students. A professional showed me how to perform basic gesture interactions with the device. Its responsiveness is better than expected, and I foresee plenty of industrial applications for such technology. I tried a Hololens game, and that’s where I think the device is lacking as the field of vision is limited, and playing a game might become frustrating. Nevertheless, the product is in its first version, and it already surpasses many competing devices. I felt much more comfortable interacting with Hololens than with any VR device available at the event.

The first day of the hackathon was around story telling as it is a central theme in Virtual Reality. VR is known to many as the ultimate empathy machine. I can attest such a thought as I could only truly understand the horrors of the Syrian war after watching a 360 video showing the ruins of Aleppo. Therefore, this hackathon challenged participants to create an experience that would tell a story tackling one of the United Nations goals for the year.

Participating in a VR hackathon made me reflect on the future of my field of study – Human Computer Interaction and Design. VR is nothing new – it has been around for decades – so, why is it finally such a hot field. Maybe it is the ability of using phones as screens that made the technology finally accessible, but maybe it has to do with our increasingly short attention span and how much is needed to capture our attention.

To exemplify what I am thinking about what level of pervasiveness media needs to achieve in order to capture our attention, I could talk about the changes in children’s cartoons. The animated cartoons shown on TV nowadays are extremely irritating for me as they might be too loud, too colorful, and might otherwise some information overload in visual and sound. However, this is what kids like nowadays, and showing children an old cartoon might bore them to tears as my generation’s cartoons might be too static for them.

That’s where I think VR might be the answer to a generation that needs more and more the intromission of technological devices. Their phones might not be giving them enough of a hit, of dopamine, serotonin, or whatever the brain produces as a response to candy crush, Facebook notifications, or what’s app messages. People might soon move into the next digital drug and want to be completely immersed in that alternative reality, a tendency that can also be implied from the broad trend of binge-watching and the success of streaming media.