Saturday, February 17, 2007

Interface Puzzler #1 Answer

Unique interface solutions to common products ...

"Thanks to everyone who wrote in and gave solutions to the first Humanized Puzzler. There have been many more responses that we anticipated! I loved the discussion of the problem. Although I had meant for people to email the solutions privately instead of discussing publicly, in retrospect, the discussion was more valuable than the secrecy. The next puzzler will all be discussion.

I'd also like to apologize for taking so long in posting the solution. With the release of Enso, we've been very busy.

In short, the puzzler asked, "Can you design a car that isn't forward/reverse modal?" For those who didn't read the original post, check out the full question.

Few people were fooled by my implication that a solution was impossible. With modern automatic cars, almost any conceivable behavior is possible for shifting because the gear selector is simply an electronic switch physically decoupled from the transmission. The trick is choosing a good behavior.

Here's an overview of some of the refreshingly varied solutions.

Two Pedals

Rather than having a gear selector and two pedals, there would be only two pedals: one for forward; and one for reverse. The car is assumed to have an automatic gearbox.Pressing the pedal for the opposite direction, or both pedals together would act as the brake. Touching neither would mean that the car continues to coast, in the same way that cars do now. We would assume that the driver gets enough feedback from the motion of the car that she can determine which direction the car is moving in, at any point in time. — John SutherlandThis is an inventive solution, one that hadn't occurred to us at Humanized. It solves the problem handily. On the other hand, to use it properly would require more than a modicum of retraining. This presents a rather large hurdle: marketing it would be as hard as selling basashi to a vegan.

Another problem arises: there are many inputs that give the same output. Because the speed of acceleration and braking is determined by the relative position of the two pedals, moving the pedals in tandem yields many positions for the same amount of accelerating/braking. Much more importantly, having both pedals act as brake requires much more dexterity than a single pedal (and introduces accessibility issues). And, a great deal of care would have to be taken when releasing the two pedals, otherwise the car would go skittering off accidentally.

All in all, an inventive but probably not practical solution."    (Continued via Humanized)    [Usability Resources]

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