Saturday, October 20, 2007

Microsoft muses mind meld machinations (and "F" see me)

Microsoft using EKG in usability testing ...

"Not content with running your computer, Microsoft now wants to read your mind too. The company says that it is hard to properly evaluate the way people interact with computers since questioning them at the time is distracting and asking questions later may not produce reliable answers.
Instead, Microsoft wants to read the data straight from the user's brain as he or she works away. They plan to do this using electroencephalograms (EEGs) to record electrical signals within the brain. The trouble is that EEG data is filled with artefacts caused, for example, by blinking or involuntary actions, and this is hard to tease apart from the cognitive data that Microsoft would like to study.

So the company has come up with a method for filtering EEG data in such a way that it separates useful cognitive information from the not-so-useful non-cognitive stuff. The company hopes that the data will better enable to them to design user interfaces that people find easy to use. Whether users will want Microsoft reading their brain waves is another matter altogether. [more]

Jacqui Cheng wonder if it could have, "Prevented Clippy":

Anyone who has had to perform in-depth usability tests on others knows that people just plain aren't good at describing what they are doing. In fact, it's a commonly-accepted mantra that, if asking someone to describe what he is doing on a particular user interface, it's wise to also record it or have an observer take notes. There are times when the user may say that he is doing something that is the complete opposite of what he is actually doing without even realizing it ... while someone has yet to invent a mind-reading device (which would no doubt be used to enhance people's love lives more than the usability of UIs), Microsoft wants to get closer to it.
Microsoft ... notes that there have been some efforts to filter out extra noise in EEG readings. This filtering is not always effective, though, and can be expensive to perform. Because of this, Microsoft hopes to bypass the whole conundrum of filtering and instead focus on categorizing brain states that would then be applied when performing usability tests. This would involve taking sample data in a controlled environment, analyzing it for typical patterns ... and then categorizing it into different states of "interest."    (Continued via Computerworld)    [Usability Resources]


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