Thursday, 11 October 2012

Future Technology for Blind & Visually Impaired People

This is a video from Guide Dogs for the Blind about the future use of technology to help the blind & visually impaired.

The work we are doing with them on travel & wayfinding needs will inform more work in this area.

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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Looking for blind & visually impaired people for research project

What are we doing ?
We have been commissioned by Guide Dogs for the Blind to conduct in-depth ethnographic and human factors research on the travel behaviour and journey information needs of the blind and partially sighted people.

How will we do this ?
We would use simple methods like informal interviews, observations, walkthrough activities, audio / video dairies collection and focus groups with participants to collect data. This data will then be analysed and turned into useful insights for the Guide Dogs stakeholders’ team.

Who do we want to talk to ?
We would like to talk to blind and partially sighted people of different ages (young, middle aged, older people), people who use or don’t use technology or mobility aids (cane, GPS) for travel, people with varying degrees of residual vision, people with multiple disabilities, people who were born blind or lost sight later in their life, those with recent and long-term diagnosis of eyesight condition. We would also like to talk to the support network of visually impaired people – their families, carers, friends, community help etc.
We would like to conduct :
*       40 to 50 one-on-one interviews
*       8 observed intermodal journeys (a mix of taxi, bus, train,underground, tram, ferry, plane, walking)
*       4 to 5 audio or video diaries
*       3 workshops (6 to eight people in each)

Ideally we want to cover the broad demographic and include some geographic variations as well. Reimbursement of any expenses and a token gesture as a ‘thank you’ for participation will be provided to the participants, which can be discussed as we proceed further in making contact.

What do we want to achieve ?
The outcomes of this research would be to inform Guide Dogs for the blind and their Strategy, Innovation and Media teams to help create better understanding of the emotional, physical and social challenges faced by visually impaired people while travelling. This would help identify areas of development of suitable products, technologies to support the daily travel needs of blind and partially sighted people.

How can you help ?
We are looking to talk to visually impaired people. You can help the study by directing us to them or referring us to an organisation or a local charity in the UK who supports visually impaired people.
The main contacts for the project are :
By email -  Selene -  or     Neha -
By phone -    020 7593 2900

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Online passwords - failing to match human behaviour?

A great article in The Guardian on Saturday about online passwords, what a nightmare they have become for all of us and how our natural response is making the job of the hacker easier -

The interesting point it makes is how the requirements placed on users to have more complex passwords (mix of cases, including non-alphanumerics, etc) means that most of us, in a desperate attempt to have something memorable, end up choosing something that is easier to crack.  Also the use of passwords as the primary security measure means most of us choose the same password for everything - so hack one site and ID fraud becomes much easier.

Once again, a great example of the impact of a lack of joined-up user centred thinking and a failure to understand how people really behave.  We can't remember these passwords - it is a natural constraint on human memory - so we take the easier path which works for us.  Clearly our reliance on passwords is a weak point in security systems - what technology will provide the solution?

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Friday, 5 October 2012

Making interior design more sustainable through better concept design

Sustainability is considered in the design of almost everything today and the focus on workplace interiors is increasing because of the significant part that workplaces play in modern life. Workplace interior designs that aim to achieve sustainability often focus on things like…
  • using local materials in conjunction with local construction and manufacturing skills
  • selecting materials that have a low impact on the environment
  • re-purposing or re-using materials and products
  • specifying appliances and devices that minimise energy consumption

Schemes like these are increasingly successful in achieving their aim of minimising environmental impact but there are often other requirements such as budget and availability of skilled workers in the locale that limit the ability of the design team to implement these measures as fully as they may wish.
Is it possible that there is an opportunity at the concept design stage of workplace interiors to make a bigger difference by incorporating a sustainable approach right from the start?

By planning and organising workplaces in a way that minimises environmental impact a design team may be able to establish far reaching sustainability credentials before tackling the details such as materials and construction techniques. Here are some ideas for integrating sustainable design thinking into the early design activities…

Get user buy-in to concept design decisions:
Involve user representatives in the design process as early as possible and keep them involved. Interactive workshops, mock-ups, simulations and other techniques help to engage people in the process. Users will treat workplaces with more respect if they feel that they took part in the design process. In turn, less maintenance will be required and the useful life of the space will be extended.

Employ a truly iterative design process to get it right first time:
Follow an iterative process to identify all potential issues, avoiding modifications that might otherwise be required during or after the implementation stage. Using interactive 2D models and 3D visualisations (even low fidelity ones), can be a great way of getting all of the stakeholders to first understand and then to think carefully about the design to identify any pitfalls. Disruption and costs associated with changes that occur at or after implementation can be very difficult for a business to cope with in addition to the existing pressures of moving to a new or refurbished workplace. So a very thorough design process to prevent problems of this nature can be a very worthwhile investment.

Develop a layout design that uses space as effectively as possible:
Arrange rooms, furniture and equipment so that the best compromise is made between the competing requirements for access, circulation, informal work areas, etc. Lo-fi modelling of footfall and movement through spaces can be a good way of visualising where the priorities lie when there are several circulation routes needed. Also consider what changes might occur over time. For instance, consider how work tasks may vary and in what way staff working patterns may alter. Using interactive 2D models can be a good way of testing how well the space will cope with future changes. Make a sustained effort to build in extra capacity for expansion in the areas where it is most likely to be of use. Workplaces with built in expansion space are more resilient to change and easier to modify 
incrementally, when the business need arises.

Plan for flexible for use of space and resources:
Gain an in-depth understanding of how spaces in the workplace will be used initially and could be used in the future. Often, the most effective way of getting the full picture is to interview both management and staff so that all the different perspectives are considered. Use the information that has been gathered to create opportunities for flexible use of space and resources such as informal areas, video conferencing facilities and meeting spaces. Technological advancements mean that the nature of the workplace is changing rapidly and spaces that can be used in a variety of ways facilitate different methods of working without the need for significant changes.

Design the environment to keep users comfortable at all times:
Consider environment design carefully to create workplaces that have a positive influence on the health and wellbeing of the people who use them. Ask the users how they will use each area in their workplace; what tasks they will carry out in them, what times of day they will use them and how long for, and ask them what their expectations are for the interior design. Create places that are warm and dry with sufficient natural daylight, fresh air and sound insulation and include some private, relaxing spaces and even facilities for exercise. People spend a lot of their time in their workplaces and good environment design will help them to be as productive as possible as well as making them feel satisfied with their workplace. If staff comfort is well considered in a workplace then the staff turnover rate is more likely to be low, reducing potential costs to businesses and crucially making them more sustainable.

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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The future of the work place

A viewpoint article on the BBC website, outlined some thinking on the future of the work place and how future technology will free us from the office.  Holograms, 3D avatars, smart surfaces...all will take us away from having to be in a location.

There is no doubt that work will change.  It has always evolved from large offices of resource intensive organisations to more mobile and connected companies of today.

However these articles with their inevitable focus on technology (written by someone from Virgin Media) always seem to ignore people.  All these technologies ignore the natural resistance to change - in fact part of the success of tablets seems to be in replicating the paper and pen experience of old.

But also work is and will probably remain about human interaction.  It is important in driving creativity and innovation - people need to share ideas and thoughts.  But also it serves a social purpose.  It's not clear why we feel technology will remove this need and we can all sit on our own talking to the wall.

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