Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Joy Mountford Interview

Looking at the future of UI and the use of prototyping ...

"AZIZ: What got you interested in computers and interface design to begin with, given your initial formal training psychology and aviation?

MOUNTFORD: Well I think I was interested in finding the most difficult problems to solve, and at that time in history there was a lot of interest in how to make displays and controls for aircraft effective, and the bottleneck in all those things was the design and displays and the controls, and what happened if you don’t design it well. So I got interested in how to solve those kinds of problems. Every 10 years or so there’s a shift in the affordability of those technologies. I managed to follow nicely the, you could say, commoditization of these computers which went into purposes from military to commercial, to now at a very much consumer level. The next shift now is in this very portable, wearable stuff. So I think it is more that the technology was exciting, and that we noticed that it could be used at anytime, anywhere, with anyone. The design space got bigger and bigger and more interesting. Designing on small handheld devices is much harder than designing big things. The challenge is the interesting crossover in needs, views, and also cheapness. That is why I became interested in design – I am fascinated by how to get things to work well.

AZIZ: What are the challenges in interface design today?

MOUNTFORD: The embedding of technology into everyday objects is just down the corner, and one part of that challenge is that the display technology will be capable of being soft, and flexible, like some sort of optical LED-like sensors that are being used now. And once we can have a flexible display, literally flexible, I think that will be pretty amazing. We can become display surfaces and information sensors, and information informers, just by wandering around. The liberation from the device that we hold now is to go into soft displays that we can wear – on the neck, jewelry, whatever. Now there’s an interesting challenge because you don’t know, or you will eventually get to the point where you won't know the context in which these devices will be used. So for example when you go into a conference room, you have to ask somebody if there’s an Ethernet connection, whether this is a wireless network, etc. If there’s a conversation between the environment and you, the question is: do you query the building? I don’t know the answer. I think we need a mix of both, but then the problem is, how do you know what you are querying? What are you carrying, using?

AZIZ: So where do you even draw the line of what are private and public spaces?

MOUNTFORD: I think the challenge for design will be about that. Would you pay a lot of money for a service that hides you? We have to know what the benefits and costs of them are. Will you pay for a high-end service? One of the interviews I did several years back was for a magazine that wrote about the future of vacations, and what they basically said was that the current trend now is to go to luxury hotels completely unconnected to the outside world. We used to say we need spaces with TV, with air conditioning, and the Internet. And now the very high-end people go to resorts and islands, and they don’t want a cell phone, TV. You pay more for having nothing. Because you want to be alone, and you screen it all out. You’re paying more for that now than you used to. It used to be the opposite. You wanted to add – and now people want to subtract.The questions is, when will that be the case for the everyday person?"    (Continued via infoWorld, Ambidextrous Magazine, Amal Dar Aziz)    [Usability Resources]

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