While I’m driving home in my car, I push the “call” button on hands free set and call “home”, instead of calling with my girlfriend, a computerized male answers the phone. I tell the thing on the other side that I will be home in five minutes and would like a cup of coffee ready and the temperature to be 20 degrees centigrade. I hang up the phone and after five minutes, as I enter the door, I can hear the coffee machine buzzing for the last second and look at the temperature gauge on the wall: 20 degrees exactly, just the way I like it.
Does this sound as a far-fetched idea to you? You might not believe it, but it is more recent future than you think. The field of domotics aims to make your house and life integrated, as it is one single machine, supporting you and enabling you to do almost everything automated. Program your computer to make a cup of coffee when the morning alarm sounds, be able to call home and have a cup of coffee, or an entire meal ready for you. Take a look in the fridge from work so you know which groceries to get. Today it is already possible to control the temperature at home from an iPad App while you’re on vacation, and watch the home security video from the bed in your hotel. The future of computing is in your walls, your furniture and your household machinery.
“Don’t think about pink elephants” – George Lakoff
This is something you probably have seen before, it’s called the Ironic Process theory. Tell someone to not think about something, and they will think about it. It is the basis of a lot of wrong behavior, like the “do not enter” sign on many doors, or the traffic sign telling you’re not allowed to drive down a certain road. Though it is often seen in small children (try to make them to not go somewhere) it is common in adults alike. And from it results a credo: if you don’t want someone to do something, make it impossible to do that, putting up a sign has contradictory effect, if the sign is read at all.
On the other hand, this theory could be of some use, from a marketing perspective for example. Apple is using this method widely in their marketing campaign, do not tell anything about your products and almost every tech magazine is talking about them, forbid users to jailbreak their iPhone and a lot of customers are trying.
Today I entered the office and found myself a very beautiful surprise: the office managers had replaced the office chairs with ones that closely resemble the previous ones, apart from the location and use of almost every dial and lever to adjust the chairs. They even came with a black and red A5 manual, which has page sized pictures showing what each thing does, and at least seven languages explanations of each adjustment.
I only wonder whether “trying to figure out this new office chair” is actually a reason to declare the office hours and whether the buyers of these chairs actually considered the time to learn each option in their costs analysis. One thing is certain, they weren’t chosen for comfort, I still am equally uncomfortable in these chairs as I was in the previous ones.
A wise trainer once told me:
“It takes 10.000 hours to become an expert, on what subject would you like to spend 10.000 hours to become an expert?”
This is giving me a great deal of thought. What do I want to become an expert of? There are a lot of things I know a lot about, and even many more I’d like to know more about, but ten thousand hours seem like a lot. Maybe being an expert is not something you can become in these technology driven times, because more and more expert fields are being integrated. In order to be a good designer, you must be an expert at handling certain computer programs, in order to be a good mathematician, you need to be able to write at least some programs to confirm your theories. In order to be an expert in one field, you almost always need to be an expert in another field as well. Spending 10.000 hours on how to jailbreak or even figure every setting of your mobile phone seems a bit over the top – and in my opinion, a waste of time.
You can get it for yourself, I think that my beautifully designed coffee machine requires no explanation. The four buttons to operate it are self explanatory, a single display, some levers to replace the coffee pad and a nice design. Philips’ Senseo coffee pad machine is a well thought of concept, I only had to look in the manual once (how to calc-clean my machine, which is maintanance done once every six months). I love coffee and unfortunately the coffee tastes awfull. Where this coffee machine was great back when I was a poor student, it simply had to be replaced by something better. Goodbye
Norman wrote about the problems that arise by putting the three-dimensional world we live in onto the two-dimensional world of a wall, complicating something as simple as turning the lights on or off. The current office building I work has found a way to make it into a study. Every light (or group of lights) has a light switch like in the picture.
Apart from being aesthetically unpleasing, the light switch comes with an issue. One of those two buttons turns the light on, the other one turns the light off. Wich one it is, is different every time, so every time I enter an office room I have to figure out which button to press. Together with the fact that it takes several seconds after pressing the buttons until the lights respond, makes me push each button several times until the lights are on and stay on.
When I pointed this out to a co-worker, he told me there is a mnemonic for it, the one you pass first when entering is the one to turn the lights on, the one you pass first when exiting is the one to turn the lights off. I think that requiring mnemonics like this for something as simple as the lights is a very bad idea. The office maintenance team surely had a good reason to put the lights like this, but I doubt that the benefits surpass the costs.
My car key has 4 buttons. Their use seems obvious, top to open, middle to close, press the bottom one twice to open the hood and the little round one to get the key out of hiding.
That’s about where it ends, in the cold dark I tend to press the open key instead of the close key, especially when I have my gloves on. And last but not least, why are there two lock icons on the lock car button? Do I need to press it twice to fully lock the car? Or does this mean that that button enables the extra super duper lock with alarm which other cars don’t have?