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Over the past couple of years, the concept of triangulation related to end-user research has gained a lot of traction on the interwebs (here's Patrick Kennedy's excellent Johnny Holland article on this exact theme). As it turns out, most of the end-user research I've done on enterprise scale projects over the past 7+ years does fall quite elegantly under this definition, even though I never thought of labeling it that way until recently. My goal for approaching user research in this manner has always been to eliminate bias as much as possible, and use different datasets to justify research findings.
While this post covers my own approach, I won't waste any virtual ink on the theory of user research triangulation, Patrick Kennedy's article referenced above does it more justice than I ever would. Also, my approach is in no way prescriptive, it is simply a three-step research methodology that I personally find particularly useful when it comes to working with samples of large user populations, more often than not scattered across multiple geographical locations. I've settled on this pattern based on a number of trial-and-error attempts to combine various user research methods, in some of the larger projects I've been involved with. In most cases, I was either working in tandem with another UX professional or I was leading an entire UX team.
The guys at Elliptic Labs have finally managed to do what Zaphod Beeblebrox and Tom Cruise's character in Minority Report have attempted to do for a while: use a touchless, gesture-based, user interface that doesn't require sensors installed on the hand. According to the Elliptic Labs website, "the hardware is based on standard components only, similar to those in a mobile phone. The system can run on the CPU and power in most usual consumer electronic devices. It can be embedded into any electronic device, including hand held ones."
However, we've seen something similar to this before in the form of electrostatic UI's, which also happen to be touchless. However, Elliptic are the only ones that created sensor hardware that is based on standard components, and also used a form factor that is more portable and usable than our favourite Northwestern students.
While innovation in the realm of portable (i.e. netbooks) and mobile user interfaces shifted towards speed, functionality and support for a variety of standards and hardware technologies, Intel's new version of its Linux-based netbook UI has truly taken a step forward in terms of usability and user experience.
What's different about Moblin 2.0 ? Well, it's a bit of a departure from the usual desktop paradigm as the UI is organized into elegant tabbed panels and application "zones" (think virtual desktops with improved UX). The home screen interface is also quite functional, showing the usual tasks list, calendar and application shortcuts, as wells as other integrated widgets (eg. Twitter). Quite a feast for the UX eyes.
When dealing with the future of user interfaces, most people think in terms of multi-touch, interpretations of web 3.0, eye trackers, etc. And while it all may very well happen that way, there is also another palpable possibility, brain-controlled user interfaces (let's call them BUIs for the sake of this post).
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have managed to connect a monkey's primary motor cortex to a robot arm with astounding results (read the entire article and see the video here). Yet for some reason, this has received little attention from the UI/UX world and has been singled out as a purely medical breakthrough.
Let's face it, if a wireless solution can be implemented, we might very well be looking at the future of user interfaces.
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