Bill Verplank Keynote at the Interaction '11 Conference in Boulder, Colorado

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Bill Verplank spoke at Interaction '11 in Boulder, Colorado on Interaction Design and systems. It was my favorite speech of the entire conference. It gave me a better model with which to understand the world.

This person is a teacher

To be taught is a relief

He studied urban planning at MIT

And cybernetics+control systems 

He understands design 

Trading control back ad forth between the machine and you

This back and forth is haptics

Sometimes you want tight reins and sometimes you want loose ones

Those making automobiles that auto break have been using this analogy

This is the first time I've seen someone draw using a projector in 10 years -- as designers we put things between people and the world

How to do you do something to the world?

How do you feel the world?

How do you know the world?

These are three questions of designers.

Give people a button or a handle

A piano is buttons

A trombone is a handle

Good pianos have a lot of feel to them

There are trombones with valves/buttons, which are both

Symbolic and analogic hardware

Designing robots to explore the sea floor

Designers design between people and the world

People are confused what analog and digital are

Good signal processors know about this

To get the signal out of the world and back into the world

Cool media and hot media --- incomplete and laid back, cartoons and sketches

Hot media there's no question what it is

The world of feeling is more an art world

The difference between hot and cool mediums is sending someone a cartoon as an invitation and a formal invite. The medium must match the message.

City planners say people have maps

And they understand something because of the maps they have in their heads

So you can have a simple path vs an entire map

One two three - this is how you get off the airplane, and to here or there. 

You can have a map or a path You can have a preference of one over the other

One of the first questions you can have about a system is this: "Is that is it going to be a map or a path?"

Consider two vending machines, one with a logo on it is very path like. "Here's where you put your money and get your item". And the vending machine with clear glass and codes is a map.

If this machine screws up - you can see it. It's a glass box system, not a black box system. It shows its guts.

If you were to make a choice for installing this in the lobby which would you choose? (Everyone in the audience chose maps). 

But to maximize profit -- don't use the map machine. Why? Because people will engage with it --- 

Ponder ---- 


But with the path machine people just get the item. It's very direct. 

How do you understand what someone is thinking?

Have them draw you a map. 

Then make it a path

And back into a map and so on

Until you understand

Drag is a handle, tap is a button - a mouse is both handle and button

I believe that the most successful interfaces combine the two.

Why do we put arrows in diagrams?

We think there is some sequence

I did a phd in control systems at MIT. And I learned that if you're trying to control something you need some feedback about what the final state is. One of the fundamental idea of systems is feedback. What's the goal - what are we trying to accomplish. What is the type of feedback I need in order to understand what's going on in a system? This tells me how I can apply the appropriate control to achieve a state.

There's also the idea of not controlling something, but playing it. 

A Quick history of interaction design

Base it on what some people call mentalities

Or intelligences

When we were born, we started out with kinesthetic knowledges. We already knew how to grab and suck. This is Enactive technology. (Enactive knowledge is knowledge that comes through action and it is constructed on motor skills, such as manipulating objects, riding a bicycle or playing a sport. The Enactive knowledge of entities are the ones acquired by doing. 

Piaget studied how people develop skills ( 

Second in development is iconic or visual thinking - the image is what matters. Kids don't get this until they are around five years old.

Bruner interpreted Piaget's analysis and determined that symbolic thinking happens later. This is evident when one studies

Algebra and so on. They operate on the symbols to get icons that represent something, and then they act on those icons. 

We don't go from do   see   know. 

Adult intelligence is to be able to deal with symbols

Whether they are words or symbols or maths

Einstein thinks kinesthetically - thinks of moving bodies and then makes them into symbols in his physics. 

Alan Kay - created smalltalk at xerox.

As you develop your thinking by seeing it and observing the results

You can create this form of knowledge that can be transferred

Some professions depend on one of these skills

What of these are your most developed lobe?

Ecology of thinking is something we need to have in our schools

(Persistent Architectures) 

Teletype machine with paper tape

These persist. 

And they've established a certain type of computing which still exists

With a teletype the type of interaction is a dialog

When the idea of the computer was to make it more intelligent

An intelligent agent who was going to go off and do something for you

Can it understand natural language and so on?

Right now we have to learn a language of computers

And a whole profession came out of this - of teaching computers and expecting them to be like humans and be intelligent

And this became artificial intelligence

And now these are teletype windows on their machines

Mac has taken over in comp sci departments

Because you can bring up a teletype window

And type those tactile commands into the window

At IBM they determined that their interface would be visual

So they created icons

And you could do to that icon of a piece of paper what you could do to a real piece of paper. 

I have some real problems with buttons that are not tangible

This interface is now called a GUI

Relies on images on the screen

In Europe it was called wimp

Wimp stands for ...?

There were some amazing things that happened at xerox because there are bitmap screens. We had laser printers

Most importantly everyone agreed that the most important thing was the printers (Because you were able to put data back into reality)

Anyone ever been to a CHI conference? I don't recommend anyone goes anymore

Most are computer scientists and psychologists

CSCW and DIS were then created

CSCW was about computer systems for cooperative work

User, use, usability. To be a user you have to have some sort of task. Some task you're trying to accomplish. You're interested in having an easy time of it. we will make your computer user friendly That was a term people liked: a friendly computer

Early psychiatric bots - like ElIza

Weizebbaum turned on the AI community

Englebart said, "I don't want to replace humans, I want to augment them"

Underlying it all

Is that the computer is a tool

You want a good tool that is powerful that you can use effectively

I argue that down to a last few years we're onto another paradigm

This moves from symbolic to iconic to inactive. Which means the wii (or location based technologies). 

And the kinect

We've missed out on the Enactive sector of computing

TEI -- conference tries to do this.

Tangible user interfaces - Hiroshi iishi

I'd like to see alittle more haptics thrown into our products

As we've gone from computer as a person where intelligence and language is important

To symbolic - iconic - interface - is the notion of what I'm operating with is a tool - I think this has been the definition for many for the last 25 years. 

Media -/ I suspect most of you don't talk about users and tasks, language and autonomy -- but about connecting me to other people. 

(He begins drawing on the board the diagram from Bill Moggridge;s book Designing interactions)

Some people think of computers as media

Some as tools

Some as humans, etc

But... As something you enjoy

As something that engages you

A potential consumer - someone who will buy or learn something because you've been able to communicate a message through the medium

I think media is quickly moving into fashion

There's a lot of fashion in media

I think jobs understands fashion

You can move from being - Winograd at MIT ---  We're not just designing tools that are useful: we are designing life forms.  Sims

Having programs compete against each other The idea of evolution

Its more socially acceptable that machines becoming part of evolution

The idea that it's not a tool - it's a vehicle. 

One of the important things about vehicles is that we agree on is containers

How we connect these containers and shift them onto ships. 

We agree in signage

Speeds and rails

This is the issue of infrastructure. 

One of the most important people who established standards for the digital world was a guy named Bob Prettis at Stanford University. He established ethernet as a standard. 

There's also an agreement on how we're going to handle fonts. So Unicode was created. 

If you're in the communications business

The differences between how the standards in europe trump the standards of American communication and so we are left behind

You have to hire people who can design things - the fashion

You have to have people who understand ecology - the creatures we're creating

You have to understand that people come at this world from different perspectives

--- end speech

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Bill Verplank