Thursday, May 24, 2007

An Interview with Mike Kuniavsky

Designing experience of tangible technology ...

"Before he co-founded Adaptive Path, Mike sold hot sauce online and built giant dancing robots. Today he thinks about things like boxes of chocolates that deliver joy and surprise long after the candy is gone.

... TA: I know you’ve been interviewed a lot. I want to ask what I hope are some slightly different questions.

I am interested in collecting the stories of people in our field who helped build the field or helped the field progress. To begin, why did you get fascinated by this kind of work? What started out your interest path that eventually led you to where you are today?

MK: For me, really, the interest is in computers and the way that people relate to them — and the way that computers are in turn designed to relate to people. I saw that fairly early.

I’m not sure exactly what the impetus was, really. I had computers from when I was a kid; the PET 2001 being my first computer. But the thing that really got me thinking about specific relationships was when my father, who was working for Ford Motor Company in the early ’80s — he worked for Ford for about 20 years — but in the early ’80s, Ford was computerizing. They were computerizing in the sense that they were including computers as part of the way that an engine is designed.

He was an engineer at Ford. His responsibility was to tune engines so they would start and run efficiently and have good emissions under a variety of circumstances.

In the early ’80s, they started using computers to do all this instead of carburetors. Instead of just doing things mechanically or pneumatically or however else — they were doing things electronically.
TA: So they had bunches of people doing this calibration by hand before?

MK: Right. That’s exactly how it used to work. Before, say 1983–84, the way that a car engine was tuned — so it would start in 115 degree weather in Arizona and -20 degree weather in Minnesota, and 105% humidity in Florida and 0% humidity in New Mexico — was they would go through and try to start the cars in those circumstances. When a car wouldn’t start, they would come up with, essentially, new mechanical gizmos that would adjust the parameters of how the engine worked dynamically. Essentially all the knowledge and all the information was being built right into the metal.

For example, on hot days, a certain spring would be expanded more than it would on cold days. That would open a certain valve a little more on hot days than it would on cold days and things like that."    (Continued via UX Pioneers)    [Usability Resources]

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