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.*

 
AAPL
$99.76
Apple Inc.
+0.00
MSFT
$44.08
Microsoft Corpora
+0.00
GOOG
$520.84
Google Inc.
+0.00

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

RestoreMeNot 2.0.3 - Disable window rest...
RestoreMeNot provides a simple way to disable the window restoration for individual applications so that you can fine-tune this behavior to suit your needs. Please note that RestoreMeNot is designed... Read more
Macgo Blu-ray Player 2.10.9.1750 - Blu-r...
Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can bring you the most unforgettable Blu-ray experience on your Mac. Overview Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can satisfy just about every need you could possibly have in a Blu-ray... Read more
Apple iOS 8.1 - The latest version of Ap...
The latest version of iOS can be downloaded through iTunes. Apple iOS 8 comes with big updates to apps you use every day, like Messages and Photos. A whole new way to share content with your family.... Read more
TechTool Pro 7.0.5 - Hard drive and syst...
TechTool Pro is now 7, and this is the most advanced version of the acclaimed Macintosh troubleshooting utility created in its 20-year history. Micromat has redeveloped TechTool Pro 7 to be fully 64... Read more
PDFKey Pro 4.0.2 - Edit and print passwo...
PDFKey Pro can unlock PDF documents protected for printing and copying when you've forgotten your password. It can now also protect your PDF files with a password to prevent unauthorized access and/... Read more
Yasu 2.9.1 - System maintenance app; per...
Yasu was originally created with System Administrators who service large groups of workstations in mind, Yasu (Yet Another System Utility) was made to do a specific group of maintenance tasks... Read more
Hazel 3.3 - Create rules for organizing...
Hazel is your personal housekeeper, organizing and cleaning folders based on rules you define. Hazel can also manage your trash and uninstall your applications. Organize your files using a... Read more
Autopano Giga 3.7 - Stitch multiple imag...
Autopano Giga allows you to stitch 2, 20, or 2,000 images. Version 3.0 integrates impressive new features that will definitely make you adopt Autopano Pro or Autopano Giga: Choose between 9... Read more
MenuMeters 1.8 - CPU, memory, disk, and...
MenuMeters is a set of CPU, memory, disk, and network monitoring tools for Mac OS X. Although there are numerous other programs which do the same thing, none had quite the feature set I was looking... Read more
Coda 2.5 - One-window Web development su...
Coda is a powerful Web editor that puts everything in one place. An editor. Terminal. CSS. Files. With Coda 2, we went beyond expectations. With loads of new, much-requested features, a few... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

MonSense Review
MonSense Review By Jennifer Allen on October 21st, 2014 Our Rating: :: ORGANIZED FINANCESiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Organize your finances with the quick and easy to use, MonSense.   | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: October 13-17, 201...
Expert App Reviewers   So little time and so very many apps. What’s a poor iPhone/iPad lover to do? Fortunately, 148Apps is here to give you the rundown on the latest and greatest releases. And we even have a tremendous back catalog of reviews; just... | Read more »
Angry Birds Transformers Review
Angry Birds Transformers Review By Jennifer Allen on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRANSFORMED BIRDSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Transformed in a way you wouldn’t expect, Angry Birds Transformers is a quite... | Read more »
GAMEVIL Announces the Upcoming Launch of...
GAMEVIL Announces the Upcoming Launch of Mark of the Dragon Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 20th, 2014 [ permalink ] Mark of the Dragon, by GAMEVIL, put | Read more »
Interview With the Angry Birds Transform...
Angry Birds Transformers recently transformed and rolled out worldwide. This run-and-gun title is a hit with young Transformers fans, but the ample references to classic Transformers fandom has also earned it a place in the hearts of long-time... | Read more »
Hail to the King: Deathbat Review
Hail to the King: Deathbat Review By Rob Thomas on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SO FAR AWAYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Hail to the King: Deathbat may feel like “Coming Home” for Avenged Sevenfold’s faithful,... | Read more »
Find Free Food on Campus with Ypay
Find Free Food on Campus with Ypay Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 20th, 2014 [ permalink ] iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad | Read more »
Strung Along Review
Strung Along Review By Jordan Minor on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: GOT NO STRINGSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A cool gimmick and a great art style keep Strung Along from completely falling apart.   | Read more »
P2P file transferring app Send Anywhere...
File sharing services like Dropbox have security issues. Email attachments can be problematic when it comes to sharing large files. USB dongles don’t fit into your phone. Send Anywhere, a peer-to-peer file transferring application, solves all of... | Read more »
Zero Age Review
Zero Age Review By Jordan Minor on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: MORE THAN ZEROiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad With its mind-bending puzzles and spellbinding visuals, Zero Age has it all.   | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Deals on 2011 13-inch MacBook Airs, from $649
Daily Steals has the Mid-2011 13″ 1.7GHz i5 MacBook Air (4GB/128GB) available for $699 with a 90 day warranty. The Mid-2011 13″ 1.7GHz i5 MacBook Air (4GB/128GB SSD) is available for $649 at Other... Read more
2013 15-inch 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro availa...
B&H Photo has leftover previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $400 off original MSRP. B&H... Read more
Updated iPad Prices
We’ve updated our iPad Air Price Tracker and our iPad mini Price Tracker with the latest information on prices and availability from Apple and other resellers, including the new iPad Air 2 and the... Read more
Apple Pay Available to Millions of Visa Cardh...
Visa Inc. brings secure, convenient payments to iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3as well as iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Starting October 20th, eligible Visa cardholders in the U.S. will be able to use Apple Pay,... Read more
Textkraft Pocket – the missing TextEdit for i...
infovole GmbH has announced the release and immediate availability of Textkraft Pocket 1.0, a professional text editor and note taking app for Apple’s iPhone. In March 2014 rumors were all about... Read more
C Spire to offer iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3,...
C Spire on Friday announced that it will offer iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, both with Wi-Fi + Cellular, on its 4G+ LTE network in the coming weeks. C Spire will offer the new iPads with a range of... Read more
Belkin Announces Full Line of Keyboards and C...
Belkin International has unveiled a new lineup of keyboard cases and accessories for Apple’s newest iPads, featuring three QODE keyboards and a collection of thin, lightweight folios for both the... Read more
Verizon offers new iPad Air 2 preorders for $...
Verizon Wireless is accepting preorders for the new iPad Air 2, cellular models, for $100 off MSRP with a 2-year service agreement: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi + Cellular: $529.99 - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi... Read more
Price drops on refurbished Mac minis, now ava...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on Apple Certified Refurbished previous-generation Mac minis, with models now available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... Read more

Jobs Board

Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** At the Apple Store, you connect business professionals and entrepreneurs with the tools they need in order to put Apple solutions to work in their Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple Store is a retail environment like no other - uniquely focused on delivering amazing customer experiences. As an Expert, you introduce people Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.