1-2-10: Interfaces research

I’m running a linux-based home theater pc (HTPC for the uninitiated). Originally the user interface was solely MythTV, but lately I’ve been trying out XBMC, Boxee for media management as well asvarious fullscreen web apps (Hulu, NY Times Reader, Netflix WatchNow, Adobe TourTracker) to see what does and doesn’t work from ten feet away.

MythTV, XBMC and Boxee work well on the TV. Each can be controlled almost completely with arrow keys / directional pad. Understandably, the web-based interfaces are lacking. The text is generally too small to read at it’s default sizes and simply zooming to text sizes unpredictably alters the page flow. These interfaces also require the use of a pointing device. A gyro mouse provides control over the pointer, but most hit areas demand a high degree of precision which is difficult to attain from the couch. Also, reading a large volume of text at a distance is not an ideal experience for me. This was one reason for the design of Cloud Reader – presenting a serial string of words one at a time, occupying the entire screen. The trade off is temporal display for spatial limitations.

The interaction with mobile devices is the next considerations. There was an interesting thread on the IxDA mailing list asking folks for their common uses for devices [google doc]. This will demand some attention. Here is a list from the doc:

On the bus – Knowing what is my stop, Waiting for the bus – When is it coming?, Read something while waiting, Listen to music, On the motorcycle – Control music (play,stop,pause,next,prev), Answer a call, At the supermarket – Compare prices with other stores, See what i need to cook a recipe, Running (general working out) – Listen to music, Navigate, Keep track on speed, route etc, At the bank – carrying needed documents and numbers, Lost – Being able to point where is North and South, Needing to get from point A to point B – Find a route, look at a map, locate the closest gas station/bank/post office, Relaxing in the park – Read a book, Listen to music, Look at a map, Take a picture, Out and about – Blog, Twitter, upload photo, At a store – Comparing prices and availability with other vendors, looking up someone’s Amazon wishlist (or other registry), Watching tv – Looking up facts about actors/movies/shows, looking up the next playtime for a show/movie I might have missed, See an advertisement (print, billboard, etc) – Visit advertisers site, schedule DVR, locate nearest movie theatre, find a gas station, Looking for a gas station – Best gas price, Service station amenity list (food, car washing…), In a grocery store – Compare prices, look up weights, cross off grocery list, review recipes, Charging – Synch with computer, look up new items to download, apply fixes, While reading a book – Look up for possible meanings,synonyms and antonyms of words thru google, While travelling – To check the ticket status of waiting list tickets, With one hand – can’t this apply to any of the above?, Sleeping – Alarm, in a meeting (office) – taking notes, display datas, Walking from a meeting to another – see the address

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