TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Spring 91 - THE VETERAN NEOPHYTE

THE VETERAN NEOPHYTE

A FAMILIAR (INTER)FACE

DAVE JOHNSON

[IMAGE p70-71_Dave's_Column_htm1.GIF]

I just learned about a technique for graphically representing points in n-dimensional space, first presented in 1973 (I guess I'm a little behind) by a Harvard statistician, H. Chernoff. Representing points in two or three dimensions is pretty straightforward, but what about data points in, say, ten dimensions? Chernoff's approach was to use cartoon faces, with each dimensional parameter determining a facial feature. One parameter determines eye size, for instance; another regulates eyebrow slant, another determines the position of the mouth, and so on. I was struck dumb by the power of the idea. Humans have a built-in feature integration and recognition ability that lets us intuitively track and correlate changing facial features with no conscious effort, and Chernoff's technique elegantly capitalizes on this ability.

The possible uses for these "Chernoff faces" are many and varied. In his book Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty , Clifford Pickover talks about a number of possible applications: the elucidation of high-level statistical concepts, uses in air traffic control and aircraft piloting, educational applications, and many more. In one particularly illuminating example he uses the faces to characterize sound. He runs the sound data through an auto-correlation function (for the gory details, see his book) and then uses the first ten points of the resulting data set to control the faces. As examples heshows the faces generated by the sounds s , sh , z , and v , sounds which are very similar. The resulting faces, though, are easily and immediately distinguishable. As Pickover points out, this correlation between sounds and appearance of the faces immediately suggests the possibility of using the faces as feedback devices for helping severely hearing-impaired people to modify their vocalizations. To learn a particular sound, they would try to produce the same Chernoff face as that produced by a hearing person vocalizing the sound.

There are a few things worth noting about these faces. First of all, children respond just as well as adults to the faces. Since facial recognition capabilities develop in infancy, that's really not surprising, but it does mean that the faces have very broad application possibilities. I'd also bet that they're freer of cultural bias than many interface elements, which broadens their possible uses even more. Second, the faces probably aren't appropriate for quantitative analysis; if you need to get the exact value of a parameter, use a gauge. But they're great for high-level cognitive discrimination, especially for tracking qualitative changes in multiple variables through time. Third, because they're human faces, they could contain emotional connotations that have nothing whatever to do with the data they represent. Imagine a face used to track water levels and pump pressures in a nuclear power plant getting happier and happier as the plant approaches meltdown. Time for some facial calibration, I'd say.

Included on the Developer Essentials CD is my version of Pickover's face routine. It takes as arguments a pointer to a rect and a pointer to an array of 10 bytes, and it draws the resulting face in the current port, scaled to the rect. See the code for more details. One really cool thing is that if ten dimensions aren't enough, you can simply add more detail to the picture: hair maybe, or ears. The hardest part is coming up with meaningful 10-D data.

What's really interesting is how this technique and others like it capitalize on the kind of processing that we already do automatically: you don't have to learn to discriminate faces; you already know how, and you do it without even trying. So even while some part of your brain is busily integrating facial features, your conscious mind is still free to deal with other, higher-level tasks. All the best interfaces do this to some degree, by simulating some part of what we call reality. (For instance, everyone's favorite desktop model simulates a flat, bounded environment with overlapping two- dimensional areas, something we're very familiar with in the real world through our interactions with tabletops and paper.) A convincing simulation, or even one that captures essential parts of the reality (like the Macintosh desktop), is an incredibly powerful thing.

Human interfaces (so far humans are the predominant, market-driving users of computers) can take advantage of many things: our ability to maintain internal mental maps, our built-in image processing, our kinesthetic awareness of space, and so on. All these things have been finely tuned by a zillion years of evolution, so why not use them? Effective human interfaces are overwhelmingly visual and tactile, precisely because vision and touch are the primary senses we use to interact with the world we know so well. (For a dog I suppose a good interface would have to be heavily auditory and olfactory:

sniff a file to get info; when something you search for is found, it whines so you can locate it; system errors smell like flea shampoo.)

New interfaces are trying to capitalize even further on what we already know how to do. Xerox PARC's latest experimental interface, the Information Visualizer, uses 3-D real-time animation and represents information as directly manipulable 3-D objects. You can "pick up" a data structure and look at it from all angles, using your built-in spatial skills to help make sense of large bodies of information. PenPoint, Go Corporation's recently announced pen-based operating system, takes advantage of, among other things, our familiarity with pencils and notebooks. (I guess it's not recent anymore, is it? It's still February in here.)

The goal of an interface is to make using the computer easier and more intuitive. What more direct way than to simulate on the computer things that people already know how to work with? A really interesting question is whether simulation is a necessary part of a good interface, but it's a question without an answer yet, at least as far as I know. In the meantime, while you're programming your next whiz-bang interface, remember to occasionally look beyond the next crash or whether you remembered to unlock that handle. There are many, many things that all people are already good at: take advantage of them.

RELATED AND SEMI-RELATED READING

  • Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty by Clifford A. Pickover (St. Martin's Press, 1990).
  • A Monster Is Bigger Than 9 by Claire and Mary Ericksen (The Green Tiger Press, 1988).
  • Byte , February 1991.
  • Anything by Bruce Tognazzini.

DAVE JOHNSON, our technical buckstopper, has been with Apple for three years. Before becoming an official stopper-of- the-buck, he worked on PostScript printers in Apple's software testing group. His interest in computers dates back to his college days at Humboldt State University, where he majored in energy systems engineering, and minored in everything else he could think of (it was a seven-year stay). He's also our resident juggler, who will juggle anything or anybody--and has. Actually, Dave has always been a show-biz kind of guy; as a kid, he was into monster makeup, which led him to monster-making and puppeteering at Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic. (You've seen his work in such flicks as Spaceballs , The Witches of Eastwick , and Inner Space ; he was also an On-Set Duck Mechanic for Howard the Duck .) When not buckstopping and juggling, he programs the Macintosh (screen savers, gratuitous fractal programs, artificial life simulations: nothing useful), hangs out with his wife and dogs, reads as much as possible, and pushes all available limits, both real and imagined.*

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Spotify 1.0.44.100. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
Microsoft OneNote 15.29 - Free digital n...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
WALTR 2 2.0.8 - $39.95
WALTR 2 helps you wirelessly drag-and-drop any music, ringtones, videos, PDF, and ePub files onto your iPhone, iPad, or iPod without iTunes. It is the second major version of Softorino's critically-... Read more
Dropbox 16.3.27 - Cloud backup and synch...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
EtreCheck 3.1.5 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is an app that displays the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support Communities to... Read more
Carbon Copy Cloner 4.1.12 - Easy-to-use...
Carbon Copy Cloner backups are better than ordinary backups. Suppose the unthinkable happens while you're under deadline to finish a project: your Mac is unresponsive and all you hear is an ominous,... Read more
VueScan 9.5.62 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
SpamSieve 2.9.27 - Robust spam filter fo...
SpamSieve is a robust spam filter for major email clients that uses powerful Bayesian spam filtering. SpamSieve understands what your spam looks like in order to block it all, but also learns what... Read more
Fantastical 2.3.2 - Create calendar even...
Fantastical 2 is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event... Read more
PCalc 4.4.4 - Full-featured scientific c...
PCalc is a full-featured, scriptable scientific calculator with support for hexadecimal, octal, and binary calculations, as well as an RPN mode, programmable functions, and an extensive set of unit... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Track Santa with these three festive app...
Christmas is fast approaching and that means it's time to prepare for Santa's yearly pilgrimage around the globe. Christmas Eve is an exciting time as parents help their kids get ready to welcome Santa. You've got the cookies and milk all planned... | Read more »
Galaxy on Fire 3 and four other fantasti...
Galaxy on Fire 3 - Manticore brings the series back for another round of daring space battles. It's familiar territory for folks who are familiar with the franchise. If you've beaten the game and are looking to broaden your horizons, might we... | Read more »
The best apps for your holiday gift exch...
What's that, you say? You still haven't started your holiday shopping? Don't beat yourself up over it -- a lot of people have been putting it off, too. It's become easier and easier to procrastinate gift shopping thanks to a number of apps that... | Read more »
Toca Hair Salon 3 (Education)
Toca Hair Salon 3 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Winter comes to Darkwood as Seekers Note...
MyTona, based in the chilly Siberian city of Yakutsk, has brought a little festive fun to its hidden object game Seekers Notes: Hidden Mystery. The Christmas update introduces some new inhabitants to players, and with them a chance to win plenty of... | Read more »
Bully: Anniversary Edition (Games)
Bully: Anniversary Edition 1.03.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.03.1 (iTunes) Description: *** PLEASE NOTE: This game is officially supported on the following devices: iPhone 5 and newer, iPod Touch... | Read more »
PINE GROVE (Games)
PINE GROVE 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A pine grove where there are no footsteps of people due to continuous missing cases. The case is still unsolved and nothing has... | Read more »
Niantic teases new Pokémon announcement...
After rumors started swirling yesterday, it turns out there is an official Pokémon GO update on its way. We’ll find out what’s in store for us and our growing Pokémon collections tomorrow during the Starbucks event, but Niantic will be revealing... | Read more »
3 reasons why Nicki Minaj: The Empire is...
Nicki Minaj is as business-savvy as she is musically talented and she’s proved that by launching her own game. Designed by Glu, purveyors of other fine celebrity games like cult favorite Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, Nicki Minaj: The Empire launched... | Read more »
Clash of Clans is getting its own animat...
Riding on its unending wave of fame and success, Clash of Clans is getting an animated web series based on its Clash-A-Rama animated shorts.As opposed to the current shorts' 60 second run time, the new and improved Clash-A-Rama will be comprised of... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Never Settle for Low Performing Wifi With iOS...
AppYogi Software has announced the release of WiFi Signal Strength Status App 1.0, the company’s new utility developed exclusively for macOS. WiFi Signal Strength Status App features a unique, single... Read more
New 2016 13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros in st...
B&H Photo has stock of new 2016 Apple 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pro models, each including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray: $1999 - 13″ 2.... Read more
New 2016 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock...
B&H Photo has new 2016 Apple 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pro models in stock today including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2799 - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
DietSensor App Targeting Diabetes and Obesity...
DietSensor, Inc., a developer of smart food and nutrition applications designed to fight diabetes and obesity and help improve overall fitness, has announced the launch of its DietSensor app for... Read more
Holiday 2016 13-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro sales...
B&H has the non-Touch Bar 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (MLL42LL/A): $1449 $... Read more
Holiday sale: Apple TVs for $51-$40 off MSRP,...
Best Buy has dropped their price on the 64GB Apple TV to $159.99 including free shipping. That’s $40 off MSRP. 32GB Apple TVs are on sale right now for $98 on Sams Club’s online store. That’s $51 off... Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks, Apple refurbished, n...
Apple has restocked a full line of Certified Refurbished 2016 12″ Retina MacBooks, now available for $200-$260 off MSRP. Refurbished 2015 models are available starting at $929. Apple will include a... Read more
Holiday sale: 12-inch Retina MacBook for $100...
B&H has 12″ Retina MacBooks on sale for $100 off MSRP as part of their Holiday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1199 $100... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch MacBook Airs availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $849. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook Air: $849 $... Read more
Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
US- *Apple* Store Leader Program - Apple (Un...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on Read more
Automotive Detailer - *Apple* Used Autos -...
We are currently conductinginterviews and will be accepting applications for a part-time detailer. Apple Used Autos is a great place to work andstart a career. We Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Trumbul...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.