- Office furniture behemoth Steelcase just put out some research on natural (or natural-feeling) materials and how they may help with worker well-being due to deep human affection for being in and among nature. While there's benefits for humans (and non-humans) experiencing sensory novelty (natural or otherwise) within our environments, it seems a stretch to make claims that office furniture can give you anything near the same benefit to actually spending time outdoors in fresh air and sunlight. A better solution is to give people the tools and equipment to be more productive while in the office so there's more available time to be out of it.
- A paper on how to design user interaction spaces within virtual reality to minimize muscle fatigue and strain. (FYI the link is a PDF)
- A discussion of the privacy/safety concerns around Snap Maps. With any social platform that has a monetization model dependent on user data, there are significant risks of profit-driven surveillance adversely affecting users and communities. One thing that is compelling to us about the map feature is that it bridges digital connection and physical connection in a more real time way, by showing proximity of friends or heatmapping interesting events happening nearby- it's making the sort of stream-of-experience social media posting we're accustomed to witnessing into something more participatory and communal.
- A compelling case for why more emoji may make communication more difficult and less natural. For one thing, the top-down approach of the Unicode Consortium is antithetical to how language develops from the bottom-up, in specific cultural or professional contexts.
- Facebook is trying to get private groups on their platform to be more of a thing. For a company that has made much of connecting the world, pushing context collapse (all of your various social groups having their separating walls eroded, aunts, uncles, bosses and ex-lovers all in one "place"), it's an unusual move. Maybe the toxic conflict that arises from context collapse is reflecting poorly on user experience and creating a slow pattern of attrition- from outside of their organization it's difficult to say what the real reasoning behind this push is.
Just A Game:
- The story of how the Oregon Trail series of computer games were developed, including the regrets of one designer/developer: that more sophisticated and nuanced game mechanics around how the game's protagonist interacts with Native peoples were not finished in time to make it into the version that shipped. That was in the 1980s, and unfortunately much of how mainstream video games deal with the messy complexities of society and culture have largely failed to improve. For instance, the flattening of the myriad of issues involved in The Vietnam War into violent 1st person entertainment spectacle or that the massively successful zombie game franchise Resident Evil took a controversial turn when it used (non-specific) Africa as the backdrop and featured its white protagonist shooting down zombies that were mostly black and throwing in a mishmash of tribal imagery and village tropes for dramatic effect rather than cultural context. In a medium that is continually trying to equate its aesthetic and conceptual value with established art forms like cinema, theater, and novels, creators can and should do a better job of delving deep into research and creating (no pun intended) three-dimensional characters and interactions. This gap in understanding will have more painful consequences as we move into an era of powerfully heightened, immersive experiences in VR and AR. When there have been games that critically examine how violence impacts cultures around the world, it has typically come from artists coming to the medium, rather than the big-budget games becoming more deeply artistic.
- Desktop Metal, the startup developing 3D printers for metal that markedly lower cost than existing systems, just raised another round of investment that puts them into the "Unicorn" category of having a one billion dollar or greater valuation. There's a definite shift in the 3D printing industry underway, with more money and R&D efforts going to create production systems, not just prototyping systems- a movement towards manufacturing methodologies that are increasingly without tooling and on demand.
- U.S. customers say they want to buy more goods manufactured domestically, but are unwilling to pay much more to do so. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯