Smart IxD Lab


Thoughts, observations and experimentation on interaction by: Smart Design

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Verifone is partnering with Google to enable all their payment terminals (i.e. – where we all swipe our credit cards everywhere) to handle NFC/smartphone payment. While paying with mobile is straightforward, the bigger implication could be for what this means to “check in” to a place. Will we start “swiping” when we first walk in to a store, get into a cab, etc – before checkout?

Also, check out the video at the bottom of the page for an illustrated overview of the basic transaction system.

Following up our last pod meeting where the topic of elections was brought up, I wanted to share VoteEasy, a site that allows users to compare election candidates based on their voting record, opinions, bio, campaign finances, etc. It’s an attempt to simplify the data contained within its parent, Project Vote Smart. While there are a few UX problems with VoteEasy, it’s a much needed effort to inform the voting public.

Back in February, I attended an excellent meetup with Amanda Cox of the New York Times’ Graphics Department. She spoke about the process that they go through when creating fascinating pieces like this Netflix Queue visualization. To summarize, they make educated guesses as to what the data might reveal, use an open-source statistical application R to see what happens, and, after many tries, hit a nugget or two of interest. The final design is traced in Illustrator.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Here at Smart Design we use a lot of Flips.  They are great for recording process, user research, field study, just about anything where one might need video documentation.  However, using all these Flips also mean we use a lot of batteries.  So what would every eco-friendly and sustainability-minded smartie do? Make their own USB-powered batteries of course.

Note: before we started we tested that Flips could take 5V with a bench-top power supply.  You should too if you don’t want your consumer electronic device turning into a brick.

The first order of business is to find a dowel with comparable diameter to AA batteries. Luckily we found this plastic dowel in our shop that was perfect for the job. After cutting and trimming them to battery size, its time to insert some screws as the cap for batteries.  This is also where we will connect the actual power and ground to the USB jack.  You could just use a power drill to drill a hole, but since we have a lathe in our shop we’ll use that instead.  If you have one of those Heli-Coil set handy you should definitely use it to set the threads for the screw.

Next thing we need to do is get the power and ground out of the USB.   We cut through a USB cord and soldered the power and ground to wires, but you could also solder onto usb receptor if you happen to have one.  Check here if you’re not sure which one is power and ground on the usb connector.  After some glue and heat shrink, tighten the wires onto the battery, put the batteries in your flip, and power on! is an elegant and simple online tool that lets you drag elements to create mobile web app mockups. Make pages, insert widgets (text, images, input fields, buttons, etc.) right in the browser. The tool lets you generate a unique URL with your mockup that you can share and test on iPhone, Android OS and webOS.

Sweet! Thanks, Julius.

The Wake Up Work Out alarm clock sounds the get-in-shape alarm, which you can shut off only once you’ve done 30 bicep reps. Motion sensors inside can tell exactly how many reps you’ve done and if you do them right — no cheating!

The Open Hardware Summit Call for submissions is open.

Deadline is June 24th.

This post is also available on the open hardware summit website


“A collaboration between PURE, a music collective, and Erich Berger, an interactive artist, the performance involves 12 musicians, each of whom are wired to an electrocardiogram. Software then tracks their heartbeats, using them as fodder for both a projected visualization and a musical score, which the musicians see on laptops placed in front of them.”

Via FastCo Design

Researchers at Virginia Tech are developing a car that can be safely driven by blind drivers. Dennis Hong, founder and director of the university’s RoMeLa (Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory) talks about the “Blind Driver Challenge” in this TED talk:

Using an innovative system of ordinary objects combined with a series of magnets under each object, the Geckos system created at the Media Interaction Lab at the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences demonstrates how to create flexible interactive objects our of ordinary shapes. It works by comparing pressure values at each point where a magnet is present in order to know where a person is pressing on the object. Projected images onto the top of the objects lets them react in real time to provide feedback and dynamic information.

The videos tell the story best. Check them out at

…or download the presentation from CHI2011: