User interface

In multi-touch news, Apple has just been granted a patent for a devices that use an interesting arrays of sensors:

The touch sensing device also includes a plurality of independent and spatially distinct mutual capacitive sensing nodes set up in a non two dimensional array.

At first reading the invention seems to be about varying the number of sources of capacitance compared with various numbers of sensors. I think the interesting bit is mention of a “non two dimensional array.” If two dimensions is out, there are few other options. Zero- and one-dimensional arrays are unlikely. If Apple planned to make arrays with a number of dimensions above three, they would need a few more patents to cover the technology.

So Apple patents a three dimensional touch interface device… That’s more interesting. As I’ve posted before, that means if the interface device is away from the display device (for reasons of ergonomics or scale – ‘Minority Report’-style), you will be able to get feedback of where your fingers are hovering above the device you are about to touch. Take a look at my post on a user-interface convention using this feature on current applications: ‘not quite direct manipulation.’


I went to see “Lust, Caution” this evening. The film was great. Most of the film was in close-ups, but there were also some stunning wartime cityscapes.

The fact that big-budget movies can now recreate any city in any time-period cheers me up. In twenty years, there’ll be a simple piece of software that will be able to render any background onto any shot taken by a camera – moving as well as still. The world of 3D simulation for use in the home will start with flying over mountains in the Arctic or amongst the animals of the savannah. Eventually we’ll be able to take a walk down any street in any city in the world in any time period we choose.

City plans and photos and artists impressions and reportage will be combined to create these simulations. Brands in shops will be determined by contemporaneous photos cross-referenced by corporate archives. Streets will be populated by simulations of people based on photos taken at that time. Newspaper archives will be processed and combined with other databases into huge 4D models.

I’m looking forward to walking down my street in London on the day that I was born. Where and when will you walk?

Here’s a new design for a future London tube map.

As accessibility information must be included on the map (for political reasons), I’ve come up with light blue markers for interchanges and station ticks. This means that the disability logos no longer overpower the map.

Many think it would be useful to show distances between stations that are physically close but are not connected directly. The new official map is starting to to this, my solution is different. I’ve also shown more links than the current map does.

I’ve found a reason for Beck’s inclusion of the Thames on map – river services are now included on the map – not a serious suggestion.

I’ve also shown the proposed service changes for the Circle and Northern lines. I’ve called the new separated service “Edgington” in the tradition of the Bakerloo. Maybe “Kennware” would be an easier name for tourists to pronounce.

A few days ago a client asked me to put up an edit on my site so that any visitors could not download it for later review. She wanted people to look at the edit in situ. That meant creating a Flash version of the QuickTime movie and uploading it instead.

My friend Matt Davis told me how. I have software for creating Flash versions of movies, but not the player to embed on a web page. People are used to pausing, rewinding and replaying videos. They also want control over the volume. Luckily there is a player available for free on the internet.

Here’s how to make a web page to play Flash FLV files.

    Go to Jeroen Wijering’s website.
    Download the JW FLV player.
    Export your movie as a Flash 8 FLV file.
    Name your video video.flv
    Create a preview .jpg called preview.jpg
    Upload the flash video, the preview picture, the flvplayer.swf file, the swfobject.js javascript file and an html file to your website.

Here’s a version of the html file I used:

<head><script type="text/javascript" src="swfobject.js">
<p id="player1">
<a href="">Get the Flash Player</a> to see the video.</p>
<script type="text/javascript">
   var s1 = new SWFObject("flvplayer.swf","single","1024","596","7");

My source movie had a resolution of 1024 by 576. In the html, you can see the dimensions used are 1024 and 596. I added 20 pixels to the height for the controls of the player.

Mr. Wijering also has a setup wizard that can generate the html for you, based on settings you provide. For more support, go to the Support section of the JW FLV Player page.

Instead of waiting for Apple and post production shows, we sometimes get little Final Cut Studio surprise gifts. The incremental improvements of features and user interface.

The new version of Final Cut Pro has some shortcuts I’ve been looking forward to:

Final Cut Pro 6.0.2 includes three commands for playhead-centered zooming and navigation in the Timeline:

  • Zoom In on Playhead in Timeline: Keeps the Timeline playhead centered while zooming in (regardless of the selection in the Timeline).
  • Zoom Out on Playhead in Timeline: Keeps the Timeline playhead centered while zooming out (regardless of the selection in the Timeline).
  • Scroll to Playhead: Horizontally scrolls the Timeline so that the playhead is centered in the window.

These commands can be mapped to keyboard shortcuts using the Keyboard Layout window (choose Tools > Keyboard Layout > Customize).

It seems as if Final Cut, Motion and other parts of Studio are now comfortable with 50 frames per second sequences and content.

All I need to do is to wait for a week or so for other people to install the update to see if it is safe to use…

As part of the review of every decision made by the Labour Government under Tony Blair, it seems as if Gordon Brown is trying to find a way of forgetting all about introducing mandatory ID cards for UK citizens.

As well as the privacy issues, the main stumbling block is the cost per card. The estimates start at £80 per card and higher. That’s the cost of the card with the technical and administration overhead. The card would replace the driving licence and passport, but people forget how much they cost. They might see the fee as another tax.

A solution – if you want one… – is to get the media companies to pay for it. They want the public to have a way of proving who they are so that their media will only play for those who have paid for a license. If the BBC’s content only plays for those with UK ID cards, people will be able to distribute the files as much as they want.

For an ID card to be acceptable in the UK, there has got to be a big benefit for citizens. I would say that having access to all the media you have the rights to see and hear at any time in any place would be a big benefit. For example if I had bought the right to watch any moment from Friends without seeing any advertising on screens up to 42″ in size, I could be with friends anywhere and simply prove who I am. The media should then be streamed to the nearest flat surface for our entertainment.

Maybe an ID is worth that convenience, so much so that people from other countries might want to buy in to the UK…

For those of you visiting from the BBC iPM blog, here is a very large version of my suggested design for the London tube map. This is a version that illustrates the system as it could be in 2012. That means a more extensive London Overground network, some DLR changes and the completion of the station changes around Shepherds Bush.

London’s underground and overground network
Click to enlarge (a lot)

For more on the design, see my page on the design of London’s tube map.

…to end my short diversion into the world of public transport, one more idea.

People who use public transport rarely usually choose a train before a bus. Train maps and services are simpler to understand. They get into much deeper trouble when a line is disrupted. What are the alternative routes?

How about setting up a bus route to follow each tube line and inner suburban train line. They would have stops at major stations, and if the gap between stations is large, they’d have a stop mid-way. These routes have already been defined by the train companies: they have planned them for the case where they need to provide a replacement bus service when the line needs to be closed.

This means you can have a 24 hour service on all train lines – using buses. It is a lot easier to translate your understanding from a tube map to a set of buses that follow the same routes.

…now back to the movies…

As the London tube system will only get more complicated, maybe it is time to consider using an idea from the Paris Metro: make more of names of the terminii of each line. I think that one of the biggest problems for new users of the system is the use of compass-point directions (‘Eastbound and Westbound’) at tube stations.

Sometimes I need to change at Westminster. When I do, I see that the Jubilee platforms are labelled as being for trains going ‘Westbound’ and ‘Eastbound’. Surely from the point of view of most Londoners, certainly for those who navigate by the tube map, the Jubilee line goes north-south at that point, and the sub-surface lines east-west. The District and Circle aren’t marked as going Northbound and Southbound at Westminster (which are the directions it travels at that station).

Both the Jubilee and Bakerloo lines leave Baker Street to the east. Their platforms aren’t described as Eastbound.

Signage could look like this:

With a revised (2012) tube map looking like this:

The 2012 tube map with the teminii emphasised
Click to enlarge.

%d bloggers like this: