BlueTap — The Ultimate Virtual-Reality(VR) Keyboard

This is one of my IBM patents on a VR keyboard published recently that does not require the users to carry a keyboard device and allows to input your information even when you are in motion. Forget Google Glass, even the experience of Apple’s much rumored Apple-VR can multi-fold with this mother-of-all VR keyboard system and approach.

Back in 2014, while preparing my slides for one of my earlier seminar talks on accessibility Rediscovering Accessibility for Future Tech (you can read the linked post here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140917025440-9377042-rediscovering-ccessibility-for-future-tech-everyone-is-affected), I hit upon the challenges and available solutions that were present for data input systems. The concept of mobility in devices has transcended beyond the scope of marginalizing telephony and computing, and has taken a shape in the form of wearable devices. However with advent of new technological invention in any field also gives rise to new challenges. In the smart wears one of such challenges is input of information to the associated system.

One such challenges was that — modern technologies are enabling people to interact with systems in distracted environments, while in-motion and while multi-tasking giving raising to its own set of problems which were not known in PC era. With the rise of smart-wearable devices, mobile computing and frequent use of access of information from cloud while on the move, one of such challenges is input of information to the associated system, as the systems are getting less in size and tending towards smaller displays. The recent trends in mobility domain, indicates the growth in the smart wearable devices. We are witnessing a time when every technology company is trying their best to own their part of innovation in Smart wears such as smart glass, smart watch etc. and this field aligns with IBM’s one of the currently prioritized strategies — i.e. mobility.

In most of the existing smart eye-wear device (e.g. Google Glass) , the input mechanism is typically via voice. While this is great for provide commands to the device, it is not still great for input longer texts. Again voice based input mechanisms are difficult to use in noisy and distracted environments. Also language localisation and accent issues adds to the list of issues in using voice effectively. Moreover when it comes to the productive work like drafting emails, writing a piece of programming code, voice-input method is not as effective as a standard keyboard based input mechanism (mostly found in PC, laptops, mobiles and missing in smart eye wears).

Usage of a physical keyboard or a secondary tooth enabled keyboard is possible but it requires the user to carry a keyboard wherever he goes. But even if the keyboard is carried, there is no guarantee the user will have a flat surface to place the keyboard or if he can comfortably use the keyboard while on the move. Imagine a person who is waiting on a busy bus stop and wants to reply his office email.

A set of new hardware are available in the market (e.g. Fin, Ring) which act as supplementary wearable to trigger pre-defined commands and provide limited input of information via finger movement and hand gestures over air. However none of them are effective enough to provide a keyboard solution that can be used for easier input of textual information into wearable device like a smart –eye wear or smart glass.

Also when it comes to input longer texts on a smart glass/eye-wear, there is absolutely no reliable method/system exists as of today which can work for users on the move and in distracted environments.

So with these problem statements in mind, I made a lit of dimensions of goodness —

  1. Effective even in typing-in long text into smart eye-wear system — can help user more productive. The user can input long emails or simply use smart-eye-wear to write a program or code even on the beach.
  2. No cognitive load on user to remember pre-defined commands/key names /gestures etc. (unlike the wearable rings based command trigger systems as detailed in prior art section)
  3. Can be used effectively while on the move & distracted or multitasking state (standing in que, at bus station, while having dinner, while driving, walking, in home while watching TV)
  4. No need for any extra or supplementary hardware required along with smart-eye-wear. No need for the user to carry separate input devices.
  5. A method that uses age old natural human habitual way of processing information through fingers
  6. Explore the new way to have a device free of any physical input accessories

With these pointers on the goodness, I iterated over a conceptual design of a Virtual Reality enabled keyboard for effective data input system (named it BlueTap) with many innovative approaches in a pattern of gestures that can be used in a augmented virtual space and was filed as a patent by IBM. BlueTap is basically an Input keyboard system with a set of gestures and methods that uses both fingers-tips & finger-joints, as a keyboard for smart eye-wears and a set of gestures to control the human-system interaction in the real life 3D virtual space using this keyboard system.

BlueTap is about an approach that uses natural human gestures in hand that are derived from the age old human cognitive approach of counting through fingers. This also focuses on the idea that there should not be any need for the user to carry separate input devices for typing long texts into the device. This helps the device to act as the independent device and not a supplementary device to some PC, tablet, mobile handsets. The user can input long texts any where any time – on the road, walking, in home while watching TV. This is an approach that allows to explore the new way to have a device free of any physical input accessories.

The idea uses a overlapping of a graphic/icons over a real camera stream on the screen is a known technique. Also recognize finger on a hand , finger tips and finger joints is a technically feasible technology using OpenCV , Kinetic type technology. Mapping of the alphabets and making visible these as graphic to finger tips and joints over glass screen on both hands in real time.Analyzing the finger movements to infer the “tap”, “double tap” and “swipe” gestures. This is also about a mechanism to sequence a string of inferred gestures to provide a typical typing kind of input experience.

The BlueTap proposes method and an effective and scalable interaction paradigm that  solves the issue of input of texts into a smart eye-wear in an effective manner even when the user is on move and is in distracted or noisy environments and there by making him more productive by allowing him  to use his fingers tips and joints as the keys to input the long texts effectively — which the user can do anywhere any time and does not need to carry a supplementary device (a key board or a phone/tablet with a virtual keyboard on it.). The invention can be used in digital smart eye-wear devices (e.g. Google Glass, “Jet” by Recon, Evena’s Eyes-On Glasses) in mostly consumer, enterprise and healthcare domain. This can be refined to integrate with in any future smart eye-wear product to provide quick and comfortable input mechanism to the device.

The interaction paradigm in BlueTap allows in run-time dynamic switching between different views (a view that can represent but not limited to any language and nature of selected keyboard layout ) and operation modes double hand as well as single handed keyboard operation, in case the user is busy in doing something (e.g. holding coffee cup, having dinner, driving, writing etc. ) or is having any disabilities of not having one hand.

BlueTap is more than just being a keyboard system, as it allows user to interact with eye-wear system in a new way – like interacting with an application menu of the system to open any app, or making a call to any phone number by enabling a dial pad or doing some calculations via an calculator interface displayed by BlueTap.

A set of unique gestures are also part of this system that allows to control different mode/view of Blue Tap, namely –

  1. Fist Gesture – Toggle among keyboard views such as aplabet and numeric or symbol keyboard views.
  2. Palm Flip & Back Gesture – To toggle between “keyboard” and “app menu” views
  3. Thumb Down & Up Gesture – Toggle between “enable” or “disable” state of BlueTap
  4. Thumb slide across Palm gesture – To slide between single handed and double handed keyboard modes.
  5. Double Tap on finger Gesture – Toggle caps lock state of keys.

BlueTap implements a novel way to super impose characters/symbols over finger-tips and finger-joints on the eye-wear view port and renders them in real time (through virtual reality technologies) to make them look natural tattoo kind of look n feel. Also the whole method of using finger joints as keys where virtually the key characters are visually rendered to create virtual visible keys, the tapping and double-tapping (to change caps lock) is novel in itself.

As far as implementation is concerned, BlueTap supports different technologies for finger detection — e.g. including but not limited to infrared sensors / thermal imaging based detection, body magenetism, camera visual image processing, additional wearable based solutions and/or any other technologies that can be utilized to detect finger tips and joints in 3D space.

BlueTap supports both or even any of the single hand to enter information. The user can easily swap between these single or double modes. Along with if the person requires left hand to type in he can move from double to single hand.

Along with this this is beneficial for the physically challenged person by providing an accessible way for data entry.

Different operational modes of the BlueTap are :

  1. Double Hand State (Default)
  2. Single Hand State

The double hand mode of the keyboard before the gesture made by the user to toggle into a single handed operational mode.

BlueTap also supports views like an Application menu or Home-screen, where the user can trigger different application for the eyewear. In such mode, the application icons appear instead of the alphabets. The user can easily pick and select the app to run.

The keyboard layout is flexible as well as dynamic to switch between various views, one such example is the user can open a numeric view or even a dialing interface.

Specific new sets of palm and hand related gestures are part of the BlueTap keyboard, that allows to quickly move between different views as well as typing mode.

BlueTap is comprised of the following key components which are involved in the generation of the virtual keyboard over human palm:

1.  Activation/Deactivation of BlueTap :

There can be a physical switch/button or via voice control or via launch of an app can trigger the activation or deactivation of BlueTap. This is simply switching ON/OFF of the BlueTap system.

2. Enable/Disable of BlueTap:

If the system is active, the user can disable the hand and finger monitoring by the BlueTap system. This is similar to enable/disable of virtual keyboard in typical mobile devices.

Different Modes of BlueTap:

1.      Keyboard Mode – This is the default mode of BlueTap System. This allows to render a keyboard over user’s palm.

2.      App Menu Mode – This mode renders the different app icons of the eye-wear device on the palm of the user so that the user can tap to trigger any app.

Note: Optional modes that might be introduced – for example :

3.      Call Dialer Mode – a call dialer pad layout will be rendered on the palm to allow the user to dial any number to make a call or similar activity.

4.      Calculator Mode – a calculator interface will be rendered so that using it calculation activities can be easily carried out by the user.

Different Keyboard views available are:

  1. Alphabets View
  2. Numeric/Special characters view
  3. Typing Email keyboard view
  4. Coding in HTML keyboard view
  5. Caht keyboard view with smileys
  6. Different keyboard views for different languages.

The BlueTap keyboard patent details:

Publication number: US 20170090747, Filed: Sep 24, 2015, Publication Date: Mar 30, 2017, Inventor: Samir K. Dash (Bangalore) , Application Number: 14/863,832, Assignee – International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)

Samir Dash is working as Associate Design Director at IBM based in Bengaluru, India. The above article is personal and does not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

 

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The Smallest Virtual Keyboard That Can Fit Into Any Wearable

The story of  smallest virtual keyboard that will make the gadgets like smart eye-wears, smart-watches independent in data input without the need for the user to carry a secondary data input mechanism.

With the advent of evolution of semiconductor technology, digital devices have becoming small in size. Keyboard layouts have improved over time to cater to the need of the new age devices with ever shrinking smaller display size. But none of the keyboard solutions/concepts is useful for smart devices like wrist wears, fitness wearable-devices, and watches. This is mostly due to lack of sufficient real estate in these slimmer and reals estate constrained devices.

(FIG : With the advent of evolution of semiconductor technology, digital devices have becoming small in size.)

The major challenges we face while designing UI interaction for screen real-estate constrained devices is that, when we use touch enabled UI, we do it via our finger tips and pads, which there by requires a minimum size of UI elements/buttons on screen that are expected to be tapped or touched to trigger some actions. While using touch enabled devices, standard recommended minimum touch area is defined to ensure the UI area is usable.

For example Apple recommends a minimum target size of 44 pixels wide 44 pixels tall on a 3.5 inch display at 164ppi. Similarly in the Windows Phone UI Design and Interaction Guide (PDF), Microsoft goes further and suggests: a recommended touch target size of 9mm/34px; a minimum touch target size of 7mm/26px; a minimum spacing between elements of 2mm/8px; and the visual size of a UI control to be 60-100% of the touch target size. Nokia’s developer resources suggest that touchable interface elements should not be smaller than the smallest average finger pad, that is, no smaller than 1 cm (0.4″) in diameter or a 1 cm × 1 cm square.

So on an average for usable UI control the minimum size is around 44point (pixel free unit) and is approx. 7mm x 7mm area. When a keyboard layout is designed, this minimum area of touchable surface on UI matters the most, there by restricting us from using a keyboard based input system on small or slim wearables like smart watches, wrist wears or any other device that has limited real estate.

During past few years many cell phone device makers came up with multiple approach to deal with small UI area while designing keyboards on smaller devices. One example is T9 keyboard.

(FIG: T9 keyboard is an example of using unique interactive method for a keyboard for small real estate.)

When iPhone attempted providing QWERTY type keyboard, it used multiple views of keyboard to accommodate all required keys . This was followed by Android and almost all touch enabled phones.

But The evolution of devices resulted into even smaller devices with minimal possible touch enabled displays / panels – many examples are the smart Watch, Wrist bands , medical equipments and many smaller and slimmer devices.

This has gave raised to a new problem. Now even the T9 or any other such keyboards do not have enough space in the screen area to fit into these devices. The typical physical dimension of the touch enabled displays of these devices come in different types – some are slim ones, some are oval or round shapes. For example main display size of Samsung Fit(slim) is 1.84 inch with 128 x 432px. Similarly the iWatch is around 2.5inch.

When I initially tried to explore the existing solutions available, I bumped upon Minuum which  needs at least a 1.63-inches (that is almost the same display area of Samsung Gear ) — it is due to the implementation provided where the sub panels appear to provide selection for character based on earlier selected character. So it was even not useful in slim-wears as well as any touch surface below the 1.63 inch surface.

So practically there was no significant keyboard was used in wearable devices with constraint real-estate. Rather most of them used on alternative methods of input mechanisms like voice and a secondary bigger device like a smartphone.

Most of the smart devices use voice as the major input systems due to lack of real-estate to accommodate a keyboard on them . However the voice based input systems have their own problems such as – (i) In noisy environments (e.g. out-doors, or in crowd) its really difficult to enter the texts via voice commands in an error free way (ii) due to variations in accent, tone of the speaker the voice input based system may not be totally effective and give raise to the scope of error. Surprisingly new age smart devices are more used as wearable and are used out doors which frequently are operated in noisy and distracted environments. Also the processing power in small devices makes it a thumb-rule to have the voice processed in cloud rather than in the device itself, for which the device needs to be connected to network.

(FIG: Due to lack of real estate, primary input system to many wearable-devices are mostly voice based.)

Using voice as an input system has it’s own problems:

1. Voice input systems are not 100% error free and accurate. As voice of different persons are different due to the use of pitch , tone and cultural influence, there are significant chances that such voice recognition systems may fail at certain times.

2. Having a full fledged voice recognition system is resource heavy and consumes lot of CPU and require heavy processing. So, practically , all of these wearble-devices now-a –days depend on cloud based voice recognition systems . This means, To use voice input, you need to be connected to internet, else you will not be able to input data to your system. In addition to this staying connected to cloud comes with additional issues, like high battery consumption and data charges. Specially power is an issues with smart watches and similar wearable-devices, so it becomes critical for the user . Many companies like Apple, Google are still fighting with challenges of reducing power consumption and improve battery life of wearable-devices.

3. Third issue with voice is it is prone to error in distracted and noisy environments. As wearable devices are expected to be used in motion and out doors, this becomes a critical issue for effective data input into the systems.

So all these remind us of good old keyboards, where the data entry is lot easier and error free.

(FIG: Some wearable-devices use alternative approach for text inputs – use of a mobile phone as the main input system.)

Some wearable-devices use alternative approach for text inputs – use of a mobile phone as the main input system. In such scenarios, the user uses the mobile phone as the primary device where he enters the text using phone keyboard . Many popular smart watches use this approach as this is more convenient for the user to input texts than voice mode. Samsung Gear, Microsoft Band, Apple iWatch and Moto 360 are examples where these devices are packaged as secondary devices to Samsung and windows phone.

The problem with this approach is the smart wear device is never plays the role of the standalone device. It always acts as an auxiliary devices. This strictly limits the device functionality and usage . Also the user is forced to carry additional hardware and a mobile phone to control and enter texts.

In such cases the smaller warbles most of the time act only as readable devices. For example, the user can read a “Shopping list” that was compiled on a phone. On the phone he can check and un-check the items from the list, how ever he won’t be able to alter the list by adding new items to it on the wearable device. He needs additional phone or hardware to make changes to the list. This kind of usage of the wearable are severely limiting the functionality of the wearable.

So in such cases a dimension of goodness that one would be aspiring for is to be looking forward to a future of human machine interaction, where wearable-devices, super small display-enabled or display-less smart devices will play an important role, it is highly important that we need to fix such major limitations of these devices, by providing a easy to use and implementable solution for text input method to the system.

Other dimensions of goodness should also take care of the following :

1. We need an effective keyboard that can work with super real estate constrained devices – especially like a smart watch or wrist wear etc. for effective data entry.

2. And the solution must be (i) Compatible with different display sizes with real estate constraint and (ii)  can work without the need to relay on voice or cloud (iii) can work in standalone way without the need of any additional hardware or secondary devices like a phone (iv) must be flexible enough to accommodate different language (v) must be scalable to meet different needs and work in various environments (vi) must work on touch enables displays or panels.

So here it is – the answer to this problem we face – the BlueSlide keyboard, a patent assigned by IBM about a keyboard that works effectively on real estate constrained devices. Also this is the keyboard that is the smallest one as it can be enabled with a surface of a square millimeter touch surface.

The core idea behind the “BlueSlide” keyboard is based on the principle that when one or more fingers are swiped across the touch enabled area, the system records the direction and the number of fingers involved in the swipe/slide action. Based on the a predefined key mapping with the finger count and the direction of swipe, the system concludes a text input character and records it.

Ergonomically swipe gesture is lot easier than point and click/tap — as point and focus requires attention and focus during operation . It also adds cognitive load on user. Persons wit shaky fingers , elders and people who are in distracted environments and in motion (where most of the wearable are expected to be used), will have difficulty in tapping — specially in small display areas. Swiping is less focused, easier to handle even in motion..as it requires less focus and accuracy than a point and focus element.

When initially I conceived the idea, I tried to implement to test the concept and see if it is really effective. To implement the prototype , I put a paper with a wearable printout where the display area is cut out. Placed this paper on a Samsung note 2 phone display , so that the interaction area on the display is now limited by the cut-out area — this is the actual area we will get in a similar wearable watch. Now I run an app implementing the concept and interacted using fingers to type in some character and changing keyboard view through touch interactions like double tap and double tap. Just to note: the video shows the basic prototype, that tries to showcase that the basic principles of the invention was intended to be put to practical use. As per the final concept & the patented invention the layout and UI elements might change based on the need of the case where it has to be implemented.

When I tested the results of accuracy and speed, it turned out well in similar set of touch surface real-estate. There was no accuracy issue, as all characters are mapped to different finger count and direction, which results in fairly good amount of error free operation.

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(VIDEO: Showing the earlier version of a quick working prototype of the invention.)

The “BlueSlide”keyboard concept utilizes combination of multiple fingers slide across the touch enabled display or panel to trigger key-input to the system for based on predefined key mappings. The proposed concept uses different combinations of minimum one to any number of fingers to slide over the touch panel. The minimum touch enabled surface dimension can be the width of one finger tip area or less in physical dimension.

So how the thin touch panel counts the number of fingers sliding across within a duration?

(FIG: how the thin touch panel counts the number of fingers sliding across within a duration?)

Each finger is sliding across the touch panel and the system records that count. There will be intervals between each finger is sliding across the thin touch panel consecutively within a duration.

(FIG: Using any standard smart watch dial interface (e.g. Moto 360 or iWatch), similar embodiment might look like this.)

(FIG: The image shows an impression of how this embodiment might look like on a slim-wear unit.)

There are many areas this new keyboard layout solved challenges —

1. Solves problem of input of text on a real-estate constrained devices like wearable-devices (watches, wrist wears) or mobile devices with or without the touch enabled displays.

2. Simpler implementation that does not need to identify the finger and track them . Also does not need to track hand orientation. As less parameters are required to processed by the system to map the characters, it is lightweight and effective in it’s implementation and can be used in smaller less resource consuming devices .

3. Can work on a touch panel that is only single-touch sensitive –It uses sequence of consecutive touch inputs and their directions to simulate a multi-finger touch case to map to a wider number of characters.

4. Completely unique input text keyboard embodiment that uses directional swipe gestures of single/multi-fingers swipe gestures and does not require on conventional virtual keyboard approach to tap on characters to input text /characters.

5.The complete keyboard solution can work on smallest display area/touch area which can be as small as just one tap area.

6.The invention proposes the complete text input method based on swipe gestures (using any single or multiple fingers without requiring to identify each finger ) and interaction paradigm to cover all sets of characters of any language including special characters

7. The embodiment suggests the use of multiple views of the keyboard to accommodate any number of characters in keyboard along with the interaction approach on how to switching between these views.

Alternate implementation of BlueSlide: Using super minimal real estate on a non-display type thin touch panel.

(FIG: This is useful when in an hardware, we just want to provide a display-less touch-panel to reduce cost. )

This is useful when in an hardware, we just want to provide a display-less touch-panel to reduce cost. The non-touchable display might show a the key mapping, where as the user will use a touch panel strip (which does not have display and can deploy pressure sensitivity or any other technology to detect finger count and directions).

This implementation even though not optimal, can be practical to be used in super slim devices or in devices where use of a touch enabled display is not possible due to cost or some other constraint.

(FIG: Simulating multi-touch using single touch supported sensor.)

Each finger is sliding across the touch panel and the system records that count. There will be intervals between each finger is sliding across the thin touch panel consecutively within a duration. The count of consecutive slide of finger (and gap between each finger) is counted to determine the gesture. (e.g. 3 fingers sliding consecutively across, in the same direction is determined as 3-finger swipe in that direction.)

The BlueSlide can be used beyond the smart-watch and smart-wrist devices. It can be now also be used in case of a smart eye wear (e.g. Google Glass), where the touch panel will be in the rim of the eye wear and the display will be in the smart eye-wear’s projected image. This is a new improved addition as in such scenarios, typically the user does not directly sees the touch panel of the device. He rather focuses on the UI being displayed/projected to him.

The touch panel is situated outside the display area. While wearing the eye-wear the user can type in text without the need to concentrate on any keyboard.

(FIG: The rim of the eye wear holds the touch panel and user can use one or multiple fingers to type in as describe in the invention.)

The rim of the eye wear holds the touch panel and user can use one or multiple fingers to type in as describe in the invention.

(FIG: In virtual reality games devices like “Oculus” the BlueSlide can be used to implemented to provide text input mechanism easily.)

(FIG: In eye-wear there can be two touch panels which can use both hands to reduce the number of finger of each being used.)

Another non-optimal special type of implementation of BlueSlide is provided in the following, where to allow real estate for other UI elements like more input fields /information etc., the keyboard touch area is reduced even further to somewhat around 7mm x 7mm (i.e. the touch area of single finger tip) on a screen area constrained device. The following image shows this example, where only single finger swipe with increased number of keyboard views are used to input data into the system. Depending on the implementation this can be further reduced to one square millimeter of touch surface.

(FIG: Alternative implementation of the keyboard that usages only one finger.)

Similarly any number of fingers can be put to use to create alternative embodiment of BlueSlide keyboard to work across various devices of different dimensions and nature.

Read the complete Patent/invention (US 2017/0003872 A1 – Touch Encoded Keyboard) here: http://patents.justia.com/patent/20170003872

Read it in YourStory at: https://yourstory.com/read/5f95c7528f-the-smallest-virtual-keyboard-that-can-fit-into-any-wearable-

Disclaimer: Samir Dash is working as Associate Design Director at IBM based in Bengaluru, India. The above article is personal and does not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

What the failure of Google Glass teaches about UX?

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In mid of January I saw the headlines making official announcement of the detah of Google Glass. I was not surprised. I knew lot of issues ave to be addressed before Gass could make it to the expectations. Many of them are issues related to UX. All of them related to an grey area of UX space, which was never given the prime consideration when designing a seminal product like Glass and many other legends.
Back in 2013, I had wrote a few posts on the usability in context to the social aspect of Google Glass that was being ignored. When I read now the article saying “privacy concerns” is one of many reasons of failure, it certainly louds the many of the design approach concerns I had raised.

Google Glass is not evil product, everyone agrees. Even all agree that it has immense potential. However, it certainly needs a facelift from product design point of view — and there by from UX point of view.

We saw, the raise and fall of Google Glass carrying it’s pattern where we can notice how with the emergence of Google Glass, the topics related to devices infringing with personal privacy became hot cakes for tech-debates. Many social scientists, human rights activists had started to see the ‘Glass’ as the evil that reminds them with George Orwell’s ‘1984’. The fear of a ‘Google Big Brother’ controlling the major shares of the information world is seen as the intruder to private aspects of ‘the public’. The “Glass Hole” incarnation of the Glass is equally seminal as the product “Glass” it self, due to bring out the topics like “user privacy”, “social context” and certainly what I believe as the “Context of the Other”.

It is not the case that Google has not spent money on user research and usability aspects before going ahead with the concept of persons using glass that may change the way we interact with systems in our daily life. Usability wise, it is definitely a super gadget that has the potential to catapult the device industry into next century. But the new features and interaction methods implemented in the device in a manner that is actually a decade old approach that is only fit for human-computer-interaction (HCI) in case of smart phones and tablets which have less tendency to hurt sentiments of those who do not directly interact with the device when the user might be performing some actions in a certain socio-cultural context. These sentiments could result in the fear of losing privacy , cultural distrust and humiliation among the second-hand users of the device who are impacted indirectly in some way by the device actions in the context.

Historically, the product design process while following the check and balances with heuristics and usability models, has never given prime importance to the user’s relationship to the ‘Other’ in his environment. And this is the missing piece that needs to be re-discovered and fit into standard usability matrix when Google might give “Glass” a face-lift to bring it back with a new incarnation that is more friendly and less intruder to user’s privacy and is compatible with SX model (Socio-cultural Usability Model) which I had proposed earlier.

Socio-Cultural User Experience (SX) – the missing piece in UX


‘Socio-Cultural User Experience to represent the aspect of Usability Design or User Experience (UX) that deals with usability aspect of products/ software in a social context. This is the same “Context of Other”

Considering the ‘Others’ in the User’s Social circle:

The existing UX model does not analyze the need beyond the current user and his ‘type’ to do a usability test — it never considers how it is impacting the other members of the society while the target user set is using the app/system.
For example, using car horn is a safety measure, but using it near a hospital or school is considered as unsocial and disturbing. There are many social check points that bar users of any system from using it in special socio logical context.

Criteria of a Good ‘SX’ Compatible System

Criteria of a sound usability design of an app on socio-cultural context:

1. Universal—has design elements that are universal.
2. Ethical – follows principles and approach that has positive ethical value
3. Non-racial – non biased and non-provocative attitude to user’s race and beliefs.
Socio-cultural User Experience (SX) and Social Interaction Design (SxD)
4. Respectful – towards user’s culture, social beliefs and ethnicity
5. Safety – has it’s social impact that is safe for the User.
6. Non-abusive – must not exploit the user and the environment he is in .
7. Common Sense – has geared towards common sense – behaves and reacts to the user in a sensible way
8. Protect Privacy – App’s feature and interaction must protect user’s privacy and other humans in the social circle.

Let’s take the case of Google Glass.

Google Glass is designed in a way that can act as more personal than a mobile handset, as it is a spectacle and can be indispensable accessory for the user once he gets addicted to it by replacing his conventional glass with it.
But the support for camera to take picture can pose a problem for the user to enter private areas, industrial areas, secure zones and offices where cameras are not allowed. In some places of earth, the cultural restrictions are in practice to ban cameras in certain places — most of the temples in India do not allow cameras inside. Now imagine, if the user has replaced his traditional spectacle for it , then he may find it difficult to manage without it in these scenarios.
So by following SX approach in usability design, the glass will require to have a “detachable set of camera” used in the glass so that the user can detach the camera and which would power it off and at the same time allow the user to keep on using the glass as a conventional spectacle.
This example may be just one of many features that Google glass might have, but it is enough to illustrate the approach in thought.

Points to Focus on while designing a SxD Compatible System

1. Provide multiple alternatives to the interaction methods to control the same functionalities in different socio-cultural context.
2. User should have total control over enable/disable of interaction methods for different scenarios.
3. The default interaction method must follow ‘SX’ approach.
4. Provide options to the user to switch between interaction methods with the system as and when needed.
5. Alternative mechanisms should be provided for physically challenged users. Rethink on the use of gestures and other interaction methods in the Article 508 context as everyday the new devices with unpredictable (not necessarily negative!) interaction methods and features.

Gesture and other Interaction Medium of SxD:

The ‘Social Interaction Design’ approach has the following major facets in the system interaction towards the user in socio-usability context:
1. Facial Gestures—The selection of Human triggered facial gestures (e.g. wink, smile etc.) to activate the system or trigger any action in the system must be judged based on the canonical meaning of those gestures in social and cultural context of the user where he is going to use it. For example, in case of Google Glass , the feature of “winking” (the gesture developed by Google Glass developer Mike DiGiovanni http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57582500-93/google-glass-code-lets-you-snap-a-photo-with-a-wink/ ) at someone to take a photo can pose a problem if the user is in India or Middle East countries. Even in western world winking at a lady or group of ladies (even though it is unintentional for any kind of abasement) can be taken as a negative action (e.g. weakness in character) and evoke anger and misunderstanding. So even if the winking to take a feature is a ‘cool feature’, in social context SxD will suggest the usability/interaction engineer to rethink on it to implement some options to ‘keep it disabled by default and allow the user the total freedom to use his judgment to enable and use the feature in any given socio-cultural context. Fig5: The ‘wink’ gesture developed by Google Glass developer Mike DiGiovann allows user to take a snap of the surrounding with just a wink of an eye.

2. Sound Gestures — The selection of sound gestures – the use of voice or sound pattern to control the system should be examined for different user environments. For example blowing a whistle to activate a play functionality on a portable music player, or to open an SMS on the cell phone can be an interesting feature, but on the other hand if it becomes useless in a busy street or in a meeting room where a discussion is going on.
3. Touch based Gestures – Touch, swipe and pinch are popular now a days as most of the tablets and smartphones offer this as a user friendly interaction method for the user. More devices are coming up which do not have any physical button rather a few multi-touch gestures are enough to fully control them. However ‘SxD’ stresses that the devices must be designed and developed with the interaction method that can allow alternative to the available touch triggered interaction mechanism. For example , while developing a digital medical instrument with touch sensitive display, the interaction methods should be carefully planned so that the surgeon can use the system without touching to avoid infections through contact with it while conducting any mission critical surgery.
4. Hand/Finger based 3D gestures – ‘SxD’ approach encourages to conduct a social analysis of the hand/finger based gestures that are planned to be used in a system – the gestures should selected / innovated by carefully studying the cultural context avoiding common gestures used in daily life that are considered abusive to others. In addition to this practical usage resulting out of user’s environment and work culture must be given consideration. For example the middle finger gesture commonly used by youths to represent the crack humiliating pun on the other should not be used for any app that is expected to be popular among the users from the similar demography. But note that only considering the demography is not enough to decide the gestures.
5. Mouse /Keyboard Control – Similar to the gesture , voice and the related interaction method with system, mouse, keyboard, joystick and other typical input device based methods should be considered with in the context in which they are going to be used. As this group of interaction method are very old, many standard guidelines are already in there in practice. They However we need to rethink on them and make sure they are upto date with the ever changing human –computer-interaction domain.

Our world needs products that are not only usable but also safe to use socially . It is high time, we need to consider the “Other” in our social context to improve the products and there by our future.

Patent : Touchscreen Display and Navigation (US 20130198677 A1)

Patent : Touchscreen Display and Navigation (US 20130198677 A1)

ABSTRACT
A document to be displayed on a touchscreen display device is arranged to have a hierarchical structure of categories, each category including at least one sub-document. A sub-document of a first category is displayed on a touchscreen display device. A first gesture is received through the touchscreen display device. In response to the first gesture, a navigation is made to a beginning sub-document of a second category.
Publication number US20130198677 A1
Publication type Application
Application number US 13/690,147
Publication date 1 Aug 2013
Filing date 30 Nov 2012
Priority date 1 Feb 2012
Inventors Samir Kumar Dash
Original Assignee Cisco Technology, Inc.
Export Citation BiBTeXEndNoteRefMan
Classifications (3), Legal Events (1)
External Links: USPTOUSPTO AssignmentEspacenet

DOWNLOAD the patent: US20130198677

Check out my article “WebKit touch events: background and terms for Edge users” at Adobe Developer Connection

Check out my article “WebKit touch events: background and terms for Edge users” at Adobe Developer Connection at
It’s also featured at
This article explores the concepts of touch events and gestures in reference to normal HTML and JavaScript rendered in the iPhone, iPad, or Android browsers.
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MobileWish Pocket Travel Assistant has been selected at World Summit Award Mobile Content 2010 as one of the few Outstanding Regional Achievement Awards

Here is another good news for MobileWish Pocket Travel Assistant!!!


MobileWish Pocket Travel Assistant has been selected at World Summit Award Mobile Content 2010 as one of the few Outstanding Regional Achievement Awards in the category of  m-Tourism & Culturehttp://www.wsa-mobile.org/sites/default/files/Press_Release_WSA-mobile_Winners2010_short_final_101109.pdf ]from Asia.

See the list at :

http://www.wsa-mobile.org/regional

ASIA

m-Tourism & Culture

Pocket Travel Assistant
India
Language: English
Producer: Mr. Dash Samir Kumar
mobilewish.com/pta/

The Pocket Travel Assistant is a one-stop solution for all traveller information needs. PTA provides information on any major city/town in the world. The application combines data from Google Maps, Yahoo, Flickr, Wikipedia, BBC, Reuters, Twitter, YouTube and much more.

Note that the Outstanding Regional Achievement Awards are given to those producers/developers participating in the 2010contest whose product was evaluated by the Grand Jury to be among the best in a category where thereis no winner from that global region. WSA recognizes 6 global regions of the e- and m-content industry:Europe, North America and Oceania, Latin America, Asia, Arab Countries and Africa

About the WSA-mobile:

Organised by the International Center for New Media (ICNM) in Salzburg, the WorldSummit Award Mobile is a global initiative within the framework of, and in cooperationwith, the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), incollaboration with UNESCO, UNIDO and the United National Global Alliance for ICT andDevelopment (UN GAID).

The WSA-mobile is the only ICT event worldwide, which reaches the mobile community inover 160 countries and is able to promote the best mobile content and innovativeapplications out of this huge selection.Abu Dhabi, as the city of the award’s key partner ADSIC (Abu Dhabi Systems &Information Centre), will host all WSA-mobile Awards until at least 2015.

For further information, go to http://www.wsa-mobile.org or contact wsa@icnm.net .For ADSIC, Abu Dhabi, write to Ms. Batoul Husseini at batoul.husseini@adsic.abudhabi.ae

December 6-8, 2010
Celebrating the richness and diversity in m-Content

This year, Abu Dhabi and ADSIC (Abu Dhabi Systems and Information Centre) will be generously hosting the first edition of the WSA-mobile Winners’ Celebrations.  The unique networking event showcasing the most outstanding mobile content from all over the world and organized in close cooperation and back to back with the Global Forum of the United Nations’ DESA GAID  will take place from December 6-8, 2010 bringing together a wide range if experts from the industry, governments and the UN, along with the creative community.

The Winners’ Gala

The Gala Celebration is the highlight of the entire WSA-mobile process 2010 and a unique ceremony to honor excellence m-Content and innovative application creation. The winning teams in 8 categories from all over the world will be present and handed out the awards by highest level international dignities. The Winners’ teams will be invited to personally receive their certificate and trophy from dignitaries of government, the private sector and the United Nations. The Gala is orchestrated as a two hour show, with music and multimedia elements. Global webcasts and TV broadcasting are planned to cover the event. By bringing together government, business and civil society, the WSA mobile supports the creation of synergies between suppliers and users of communications applications and assists in connecting practical applications and innovative ideas.

WSA-mobile Winners workshops
Sharing the expertise:  m- Content & innovative applications

For two days, the World Summit Award mobile (WSA-mobile) Winners teams selected from around the world, will take stage to present their awarded projects, meet each other in a panel discussion, share their visions on ICT, creativity and innovation, speak about their experience and ask and answer questions. Each session will be thematically dedicated to one of the WSA mobile categories and moderated by a member of the Grand Jury.
The workshops will be dedicated to Innovation and creative use of ICTs, which lack sustainable value if not driven by quality content. Using and working with technologies creatively can improve the lives of many – this shall be clearly demonstrated and showcased during the three days in Abu Dhabi on concrete examples of excellence from all parts of the world. Creativity is not bound to being rich in terms of material goods, infrastructure and access to networks: it is a “natural resource” of the human mind everywhere in the world. Bridging the digital divide is therefore a matter of content.
The WSA-mobile winners workshops will be a unique opportunity and an invitation not only see the best examples of taking the main challenges of the new Information Society, but also to personally meet those behind the best in the content industry, from m-Learning to m-Health and from m-Entertainment to m-Inclusion.

More details about WSA Mobile Content 2010 can be found out here :

http://www.iproa.org/Content/web/Newsletter/2010Newsletter_JUL/WebFiles/UpComingHighlight/WSA_Mobile_pr_annoucement_01A_100505.pdf

Click the link below  to register World Conference on m-Content, Dec. 6-8, Abu Dhabi

http://www.un-gaid.org/AdminTools/Surveys/tabid/988/ctl/TakeSurvey/mid/2540/PageNumber/1/SurveyID/186/DisplayHeader/Yes/Default.aspx

MobileWish Pocket Travel Assistant wins at mBillionth South Asia 2010 held on 23rd July 2010.

MobileWish Pocket Travel Assistant (PTA) finally made it to the winners list at mBillionth South Asia 2010 held on 23rd July 2010 under the category in m-Travel & Tourism. PTA was named among the 4 winners in the m-Travel & Tourism category in the award gala held on 23rd July 2010 at New Delhi. The other 3 winners in the category were : SMS 139 Railway Enquiry ,  AWATAR Mobile Booking, Suruk .
samir_mbillionth by you.

Another Good news is that another m-news application MobileWish NewsBox was appreciated as a shortlisted finalist in the awrd in the category of m-news & Journalism where the mobile application from Thompson Reuters was leading the winner’s list.

The event continued from morning 8.30 am till night 10 pm with various mindblowing panel discussions, idea sharing sessions related to mobile and possible ICT development and its imapct.It was a nice oppertunity to be face to face with mobile industry leaders and developers across South Asia.

About m-Billionth Award:

m-Billionth Award is a dedicated platform to explore the latent potential of mobile sector across South Asia. These Media phones/mobile, handy gadgets can now do anything from allow physicians to review patient records on-the-go, to alert drivers in any city of nearby parking spaces while looking for spot, in addition to the texting, surfing and calling on many of today’s phones.
The m-Billionth Award South Asia 2010 is first of its kind in the region recognising and felicitating mobile innovations, applications and content services delivery. It is to honour excellence in mobile communications across South Asia spread over 9 core categories. The m-Billionth Award is designed as an annual South
Asia’s leading mobile content’s award platform towards larger regional Mobile Congress in media and policy advocacy.
OBJECTIVES:
Recognise mobile innovations and creativity.
Provide a platform for the innovations into benchmarking in the mobile industry.
Provide a wider forum for strategic networking, alliances and partnership building.
Provide a South Asia Congress to exchange ideas, practices and policy strengths & mobile advocacy.
Facilitate in building a South Asia network towards campaign and advocacy in mobile for mass empowerment and inclusive growth.
mBillionth Award Partners
The event was sponsered by Department of Information & Technology , Govt. of India, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Verisign, Intel, The World Summit Award Mobile (WSA Mobile), One 97 Mobile, The national Internet Exchange of India (NiXI), MobileMonday  and many more.

Here are some pics from the event:

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I will be uploading some videos and more pics along with good details shortly.

Ready for MBillionth Mobile Congress , Expo & Award Gala

Today I booked my flight tickets to Delhi for 23rd July so that I can participate in MBillionth Mobile Congress , Expo & Award Gala event. For the event I preapred my slides and printed the handouts . Hopefully the event should be an exciting one. as this event promises to be an exciting lineup of speakers from the mobile industries, as well as other industries and sectors will be touched by the mobile market, including entertainment and education. Conference will be held in multiple parallel thematic sessions in all 10 categories with panel of speakers, presenters and participants will be from mobile world of application, service delivery and content.

If you are happen to be in New Delhi on 23rd July, then you can register for the event at :http://mbillionth.in/reg/

mBillionth Award Partners

Here is some updates on the event:

mBillionth Award 2010 is a full day event scheduled from 9 AM till dinner in the evening (8 PM onwards) at Hotel InterContinental Eros at Nehru Place, New Delhi, INDIA. This event covers:

* mBillionth Exhibition: Showcasing South Asia’s Best Mobile Innovations
* Mobile Congress: Conference & Discussion on Major Issues around Mobile & Parallel Sessions
* mBillionth Award Gala: Felicitating & Celebrating the Winning Nominations
* mBillionth Mobile Application & Developer Community: One-2-One Interactions

Contact Person: – Maria Rizvi / Amarendra Srivastava, m-Billionth South Asia Secretariat
House No# 44, 3rd Floor, Kalu Sarai, Near Naraina IIT Academy, New Delhi-110016

+91-11-26532786/87, +91-11-46080646, mbillionth@defindia.net

Online registration at http://mbillionth.in/reg

Cisco Cius: Collaborate with Colleagues and Stay Close to Your Business

At Cisco Live 2010, Cisco unveiled Cisco Cius, a first-of-its-kind mobile collaboration business tablet that delivers virtual desktop integration with anywhere, anytime access to the full range of Cisco collaboration and communication applications, including HD video.

The innovative Cisco Cius is an ultra-portable, mobile collaboration business tablet that offers access to essential business applications and technologies.

Cisco's Cius - an Android tablet for corporate users

Cisco’s Cius – an Android tablet for corporate users

 

Applications Capabilities:

  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3G/4G data and Bluetooth 3.0 help employees stay connected on and off-campus
  • HD video (720p) with Cisco TelePresence solution interoperability for lifelike video communication with the simplicity of a phone call
  • Virtual desktop client enables highly secure access to cloud-based business applications
  • Android operating system, with access Android marketplace applications
  • Collaboration applications including Cisco Quad, Cisco Show and Share, WebEx, Presence, and IM

Tablet Highlights:

  • 7” diagonal, high-resolution color screen with contact-based touch targets delivers an elegant, intuitive experience
  • HD Soundstation supports Bluetooth and USB peripherals, 10/100/1000 wired connectivity and a handset option
  • Detachable and serviceable 8-hour battery for a full day of work
  • Highly secure remote connections with Cisco AnyConnect Security VPN Client
  • HD audio with wideband support (tablet, HD Soundstation)

More Info here: http://www.cisco.com/web/go/cius/index.html 

Note: you can check a video demo at the site.

Article on Pocket Travel assistant on Mint News Paper

An article on my travel application MobileWish Pocket Travel Assistant has appeared in today’s Mint News Paper (by The Hindustan Times & The Wall Street Journal) titled “Travelling made easier with a pocketdigital guide“.

This section highlights some of the best nominations for this year’s MBillionth Awards South Asia Mobile Congress organised by Digital Empowerment Foundation, , WSA MobileContent, Department of Information Technology , Govt of India with partners like Nokia Siemens Network, MobileMonday etc.

You can check the online version of the article at :

http://www.livemint.com/2010/06/20211105/Travelling-made-easier-with-a.html?atype=tp

The scanned version of the story from the hard copy archive can be found at :

http://epaper.livemint.com/ArticleImage.aspx?article=21_06_2010_021_001&mode=1

You can Download the story from by clicking this link     (PDF)

Following are some selected sections from the article:

… Pocket Travel Assistant, or PTA, is a free-of-cost mobile phone application that promises to bring the world to the fingertips of travellers.

It compiles a range of information about places of tourist interest globally, including landmarks, history, culture, weather, street addresses and phone numbers.

This is beefed up with local news, maps and content such as mobile phone books to serve as a comprehensive digital travel guide.

“The initial motivation was to create a proof of concept mobile mash-up application of non-mobile data sources, and to make it available on mobile,” said Samir Kumar Dash, the entrepreneur who has created PTA. “The idea was to provide the traveller with a one-stop solution for all his travel needs.”

Using PTA, travellers can also directly access images or video clips of a particular destination available on websites such as Wikipedia, Flickr and YouTube.

The application uses the location of the phone to provide users with local emergency numbers, such as police helpline or the nearest clinic or hospital.

In places where language is a barrier, PTA links to the Google language translator page to help out with simple phrases in the local language.

It has its limits. PTA does not provide information about the remote villages of India unless they have a historical or geographical significance.

But with the use of the Ineternet rising in India, Dash is hopeful. “As the data PTA uses is based on Internet data, in time more and more information about the remotest places will be available,” he said.

The application is available for Flash Llite 3x-enabledmobile phones only. Users need a GPRS/Wifi connection that allows data transfer to use it.

“(Being) easy to download and free of cost with no hidden charges involved makes the product even more usable by a traveller, along with its additional features,” said Dash…