Monday, September 28, 2009

Interactivity Helps Non-Verbal Kids Communicate

Phil Bookman and Lenny Greenberg, two eLearning pioneers, have turned their talents to helping non-verbal kids communicate. Their new innnovation? TapToTalk, an interactive software on a Nintendo DSi, which a kid can proudly and easily carry around. The program shows images of various things the child may want to say, but cannot quite easily verbalize. So, the child has to simply locate the right image and -you guessed it- tap to talk. The program "speaks", thus assisting the child.

The product is only one part of Phil and Lenny's innovation. Their business model is the other part. What they sell is a subscription, a SaaS service to let parents and professionals make each TapToTalk meet the individual and changing needs of each child. The actual software that runs on the Nintendo DSi is free. This is a new paradigm at work.

If you would like to see a youtube video that shows how TapToTalk works, check out their Support Center page.

Assistyx, the company that makes TapToTalk, is a start-up company working to use technology to help individuals with physical and mental challenges reach their full potential. According to their web site, Regardless of cause–autism, developmental disability, mental retardation, Down syndrome, and many diseases–TapToTalk can help those who are non-verbal or have other speech or learning challenges communicate and learn.

When I asked Phil Bookman how he feels about Assistyx, he said: "I've started a number of tech companies over the years. This one, and this product, are a labor of love."

They have a embarked upon a noble cause, and I wish them the best.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Interactivity Spells The Midas Touch in Web Design

The telltale signs of a sea change in website design using rapid interactivity are beginning to show. Success stories of interactive websites are emerging in different parts of the world. With minimal cost and effort, designers of these sites are adding the midas touch. Who are these web designers? What are they doing differently?

Interactive websites present their message in a very attractive and engaging way. Considered the American Baptist Church web site, which presents the Call to God in way that is sure to attract and engage the younger visitors, who play with a 3 dimensional cube that rotates and narrates its messaging with voice and pictures. The message in this case talks about one’s connection with God through prayers, and volunteering for the local church. It targets the youth aptly through the creative use of interactivity. A great example that shows how a non-profit organization uses interactivity to convey its message effectively.

When I talk about success, I am not really surprised to see the commercial use of interactivity done effectively. A firm that deals with professional Internet Marketing Services aptly displayed their portfolio through Panning Cards. This interactive feature engages users and encourages them to get a quick visual of each portfolio item, with an option to drill down for more. That’s what I call reaching your varied target audience with a bang!

There is a whole new generation of website design. As Clayton Christensen argues in his celebrated book The Innovator's Dilemma, disruptive innovations start in under-served markets. New generation web designers are yet again demonstrating efficiencies in their work with rapid interactivity, trumping traditional ways of web design. The question remains…will this work for you? The answer lies solely with you!

Click here to refer to these and similar success stories.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Seduction: The Art of Harnessing Curiosity to Drive Engagement

Seductive ideas rest on our ability to spark the kind of intrigue that will keep the imagination engaged.

Like Mona Lisa, who seems to be alive because her attitude is so open to interpretation, something left to imagination will enthrall and captivate better than something served on a platter. Both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were masters of deliberately unfinished or ambiguous work, which exploited the power of suggestion.

Today's dialog creators should also grant their audience the freedom to finish what the creator began. As the iPhone that removed the keyboard from a cell phone shows, subtraction produces seduction.

Curiosity is a natural trait of human mind. When something is missing, the mind looks for it actively.

In designing interactions, then, we have an opportunity to invite our users to look for and fill in missing pieces. This is seduction, the art of harnessing curiosity to drive interaction.

(Inspired by: In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew May, Broadway Books, 2009)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Day in the Korean Capital

Seoul, the hotbed of early adoption of high tech, has a 95% household broadband penetration. This densely packed city teeming with 20 million people is the most wired city in the world. The way Seoul has embraced technology has not only transformed South Korea’s economy, it has also profoundly changed the way the city is governed.

Image from The Korea Times / Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government

Several months ago, Cheonggye Stream in downtown Seoul set up a marriage proposal spot near Dumul Bridge, where citizens can have their own video clip played on a big screen as the backdrop to a romantic proposal. The clip can feature their marriage proposal, which will be played to their prospective lover.

That may sound like a once-in-a-while occasion, but the the famed ubiquitous city (U-city) project in Seoul also promises several new experiences in the day-to-day lives of citizens. I am listing eight here. Some of them are already operational, others are due anytime.

  1. You are at a restaurant. To catch a waiter’s attention, no need for waving or calling out any more – just touch a wireless device at your table, and your waiter will show up.
  2. Bus stops carry displays that show you where your bus is, so you can decide whether to wait for it.
  3. Media poles along sidewalks help you search for city information.
  4. You need a copy of your vehicle registration. At any subway station, walk up to a kiosk that recognizes your thumbprint and issues public documents. You have your paperwork in minutes.
  5. A child wears a U-tag which alerts parents on cell phone if he/she leaves a designated safety zone, such as a school campus.
  6. Before you venture along a route, check air quality and traffic conditions over cell phone.
  7. Leave a city-issued RFID tag on your car’s dashboard. If you don’t take your car out on the streets for a day, you automatically receive an insurance discount.
  8. When you get on and off a bus, swipe a plastic card and it calculates fare based on how far you went.
The technology for doing all this is no big deal. We are talking about RFID, GPS, Bluetooth, touch-screens, fingerprint recognition, GIS and mobile messaging. Pretty routine stuff. What’s unique is the way this city has weaved it into the lives of its people. People need to interact with the transit systems, with the city, with businesses and with each other. U-city project has laid the groundwork for that.

It is easy to see how the downtown’s four-mile long Cheonggye Stream walkway will be a fertile ground for launching innovations in interactivity.