Examples of hardware-software integration

17 Sep 2004 - 2:05pm
9 years ago
8 replies
653 reads
Ted Booth
2004

Hi,

I'm looking for examples of good hardware-software integration.
Specifically, I'm interested in examples where there is an direct tie
between an electro-mechanical control and changes on an interactive
display. By good, I include things that are usable as well as things
that just plain feel nice, are cool or wildly exciting.

Examples such as:
the computer mouse: moving the mouse makes the cursor move, facilitates
direct manipulation, etc etc
iPod scroll wheel: moving your finger around the wheel moves the
selector up and down a menu

Respond to the list or me directly and I will summarize.

Thanks,

t.

Comments

20 Sep 2004 - 3:31pm
vutpakdi
2003

--- Ted Booth <edwinbooth at mac.com> wrote:
> I'm looking for examples of good hardware-software integration.
> Specifically, I'm interested in examples where there is an direct tie
> between an electro-mechanical control and changes on an interactive
> display. By good, I include things that are usable as well as things
> that just plain feel nice, are cool or wildly exciting.

Wouldn't most modern "glass" cockpits qualify? I pull back on the yoke (or
move the rudder) physically, and then the displays indicating angle of
attack, altitude, speed, heading, etc, change based on what I've done.

Of course, that most of the displays are electronic versions of what in
older planes are physical instruments is another matter. :-)

Ron

=====
============================================================================
Ron Vutpakdi
vutpakdi at acm.org

20 Sep 2004 - 4:14pm
Ted Booth
2004

On Sep 20, 2004, at 1:31 PM, Ron Vutpakdi wrote:

> Wouldn't most modern "glass" cockpits qualify? I pull back on the
> yoke (or
> move the rudder) physically, and then the displays indicating angle of
> attack, altitude, speed, heading, etc, change based on what I've done.

Yes, I suppose it would, given how broadly I worded the question. So in
an effort to be a bit more clear and hopefully stimulate some more
hardware-related threading, I'll rephrase.

What are your top 3 all time favorite hardware controls? Could be
anything from video games to ... jet fighter cockpits.

BTW - here's what I have so far:
Computer mouse
iPod flywheel
The entire MacIntosh project
Joy stick to 2D 3D gaming environment (pac man, ...)
Big Track ball on Golden Tee 2000, a golf video arcade game
Dance Dance Revolution directional dance pad
The 'flip' phone - closing it to end a call and 'turn on' keylock

I'm asking because in working on product-based UIs (i.e. does not
involve a PC) it's very easy to focus on buttons. Once a button set has
been decided then the industrial designers and UI designers go their
separate ways. But, there are all sorts of potential hardware controls
that may get overlooked. By having a short list of great examples of
different hardware controls, a team of designers and engineers might be
a bit more creative earlier in the process.

20 Sep 2004 - 6:15pm
Peter Merholz
2004

> What are your top 3 all time favorite hardware controls? Could be
> anything from video games to ... jet fighter cockpits.

the jog dial on my first cell phone, which was a sony. I love jog
dials, particularly when you can press them and thus activate what has
been selected.

the paddle in tempest -- the perfect interface for that game. in my
experience, the best hardware controls are often those designed
specifically for a particular purpose.

--peter

21 Sep 2004 - 10:59am
Marc Rettig
2004

> What are your top 3 all time favorite hardware controls? Could be
> anything from video games to ... jet fighter cockpits.

Rotating Knobs
I frequently bemoan the loss of rotating knobs for controlling settings along
continuous scale. Volume. Frequency. Temperature. Time. Brightness. And so on.
These days we have mostly + and - buttons. <sigh> Oh for a travel alarm that I
could set by turning a knob. Oh for a car radio that I could tune by turning a
knob. You make big steps along the scale by turning the knob quickly. You make
fine adjustments by turning it slowly. Bring back the knob!!

On Beyond DDR
Arcades in Japan (and in the Japan Center in LA, and I'm not sure where else)
have all sorts of games built on top of a DDR-like interface (DDR = Dance Dance
Revolution). There's one with a guitar -- it feels real, like they repurposed
old guitar bodies -- with three colored buttons on the neck instead of strings,
and a big bar you flap where you would normally strum. If you rock up or down as
you strum, you bend the notes. The software integration is pretty good. If
someone is screwing up it sounds terrible, it's not too hard to make it sound
okay, and when someone is good it sounds just great.

There's another one with two turntables. Another with five drum pads which is
really fun. Another with big Taiko drums.

To Peter's point earlier, these work because they are very much "about" their
own purpose. They act like their real-world analogs. But I like the guitar one
because, unlike the drums or the turntable, it is really a new set of input
controls that allow you to mimic the *motions* of playing a guitar, create the
*feeling* that you're playing.

Nikon D70 camera, button sets on game controllers
Okay, this one is controversial. 'Cause I don't think the interface to this
camera is really all that great, and the controller might not be the peak of
controller design, but on the other hand they are dealing with a very difficult
problem. I haven't tried to do better, so it's hard for me to criticize.
Anyway... the reason I bring it up.... It's hard to call it an all-time
favorite, but there's something going on here....

I just spent a solid week, all day every day, using this camera at a photo
workshop. We weren't allowed to use automatic settings. It was a week of
shooting manually. By the end of the week, I felt like I had crossed the same
sort of boundary that I once crossed with the X-Box controller. That is, the
controls seemed cumbersome and complicated at first, and when I tried to set the
camera or play a game, the controls felt like a *barrier.* I couldn't shoot or
play for thinking about the controls. At some point that all changed. The
controls became invisible. On the X-Box it's just move, shoot, jump, heal, or
whatever.

On the camera it's more speed, less speed, bigger aperture, smaller aperture.
The two together add up to more light, less light, more depth of field, less
depth of field. There are two wheels, one for my thumb and one for my index
finger on the same hand. A little display inside the viewfinder provides
feedback. Now that I crossed the hurdle, it feels really good.

My point in bringing this up, which may or may not apply to your project, Ted
(Hi, by the way :-) , is that some controls that are really right for their
tasks will feel cumbersome at first. But people spend so much time playing
games, that if you watch someone's fingers it's clear that they are doing
gestures, not control sequences. It's a roll of the thumb, not L, D, R. And same
for the camera, and probably cockpits, MRI scanner controls, phone touch-pads
for text input (someone save us!) and any number of other contexts. Lord, the
Doom / Quake / Half-Life controls are embedded in the brains of some significant
percentage of our culture. Rocket Jumps!!

21 Sep 2004 - 11:10am
Dave Malouf
2005

http://www.designiris.com/graphiclink/index.html

This is related to this thread.
I think this picks up where things like the click wheel of Apple and the jog
dial of Sony/RIM leaves off by taking the metaphor of the hardware and
complementing it with a virtual one.

Check it out!

Discuss!

-- dave

21 Sep 2004 - 3:35pm
Ted Booth
2004

Hi Marc,

On Sep 21, 2004, at 8:59 AM, Marc Rettig wrote:
> But people spend so much time playing games, that if you watch
> someone's fingers it's clear that they are doing gestures, not control
> sequences. It's a roll of the thumb, not L, D, R. And same for the
> camera, and probably cockpits, MRI scanner controls, phone touch-pads
> for text input (someone save us!) and any number of other contexts.

This is an interesting point. You're describing what we all have
probably felt at one time or another, particularly when playing video
games, but also when driving a car. There is a point where a hardware
control becomes a true extension of your hands, eyes, feet, etc. Where
you don't think about the control but can rather focus on the thing
you're doing - be it blasting a zombie monster, cornering a mountain
road or fixing in on a radio station (analog, knob-controlled radios -
digital ones don't have this same feel). Where the the control is
basically second-nature and you can move more fluidly and gesturally
with the device.

I suppose we'd call this 'intuitive' or 'familiar' or 'mastery' or
'immersion' - any one know the proper technical term for this?

So, to add to Peter's point ("the best hardware controls are often
those designed specifically for a particular purpose"), the feel of
hardware controls should match the behavior of the device (be it
software or not) so that users move beyond the mechanics of the control
and engage the core functions in a natural, gestural way.

Now if only we could move beyond the 4-way D-pad with center select ...

t.

21 Sep 2004 - 4:40pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> I think this picks up where things like the click wheel of Apple and the jog
> dial of Sony/RIM leaves off by taking the metaphor of the hardware and
> complementing it with a virtual one.

How would an older person with reduced motor skills and touch/pressure
sensitivity coordinate the roll&push double action of the dial/knob?

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

23 Sep 2004 - 5:21am
Martyn Jones BSc
2004

Just thought it would be worth highlighting The Korg Kaos Pad Entrancer:
http://www.vjcentral.com/hardware/show/8205
It's basically a little audio and visual effects box for DJs. There's a
small touch sensitive panel, where the x-axis and y-axis map to effects
values. These effects are set by the user, e.g. x-axis : reverb, y-axis :
delay. By sweeping a finger across the panel, users can create some very
smooth transitions, chaotic distortions etc. This latest version also
allows users to assign visual effects to the x and y-axis, so you could in
effect, scratch your accompanying video, using the same interaction and at
the same time that you scratch your audio.

This greatly simplifies the task of synchronising audio and visual sets -
and the possible combinations of audio and visual effects make the box very
flexible / customisable.

Ted Booth wrote:
> So, to add to Peter's point ("the best hardware controls are often
> those designed specifically for a particular purpose"), the feel of
> hardware controls should match the behavior of the device (be it
> software or not) so that users move beyond the mechanics of the control
> and engage the core functions in a natural, gestural way.

I agree - when thinking of audio and visual distortion, I create a mental
image of a graph, what effects I need to apply, how much, over what period
of time etc, before I can achieve my intended sound. This panel allows me
to interact with the music in a 'familiar' way.

Martyn

----------------------
Martyn Jones BSc
Interaction Designer
Kode Digital Ltd.
----------------------

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