AR Glasses: the new Vuvuzela


I am the Creative Director for APX Labs. My division is concerned with UX, UI, HCI, Human Factors, etc. related to augmented reality products. For the past year, the media attention on Google’s Project Glass, which is one of the first “real” viable steps towards augmented reality glasses for consumers, has been great for the AR industry in inspiring conversation about the “when” rather than the “if it were possible.”


Product design often centers around the user of the product. With wearable computing devices, should we not be considerate of those around us, who do not have devices, but must interact with the users of said devices?

For the past 10 years, we designers (of any kind) have been told to move from individual users to community, business centered to customer centered, teacher centered to student centered, etc. Maybe it’s time for the product design process to include a shift in focus from solely “User Experience” to include “Social Experience.”

In many ways, Google Glass is like the Vuvuzela.


Right before the beginning of the 2010 World Cup, the Vuvuzela is the “it” marketing vehicle. Simple design, easy to use, and native of South Africa. At the first match, thousands of fans jammed the stadium – armed with their noise maker, and encouraged by the signs everywhere “Make Some Noise!”

An advertising board with a man blowing a vuvuzela is seen in Pretoria

And they did.


Who knew what would happen when thousands of fans blew their Vuvuzelas at the same time in the confines of the stadium?



The same thing is happening to Google Glass (and any other AR Glasses). There are social problems associated with the glasses that the media is starting to consider, “What about the privacy of the people around the wearer of Glass?”


Even with a limited number of devices in the wild, derogatory names have already crept into pop culture lexicons, “glassholes.”


And there are plenty of other issues to consider:


Again: In many ways, Google Glass is like the Vuvuzela.

vuvuzela_annoying Sergey_Brin_subway


It’s time for empathy in product design, especially in the tech sector.

My ideas:

+ Social Experience Design (concerned with the social impact of the use of the device)

+ Ubiquitous Product Experience  = (User Experience + Social Experience) x Scale of Use

+ HCI AOH = “Human Computer Interaction Around Other Humans”

+ Human(s) Factors (Human Factors at scale)


I’ll be writing more articles on these ideas in the coming weeks.





It’s Already April!

Hello! I’ve been gone for months – sorry! I thought I might start blogging again since it’s the first day of Spring Sponsor Week at the MIT Media Lab. Tomorrow I will be presenting my project “Time Out” part of the “StopDBully” project with my mate Karthik.

Plenty of things to share… more later.

Tangible: Week 6

[thumbnails][/thumbsnails]Today our group project was due. Rather than me writing about it, read this. Todd’s blog is awesome and inspiring. I hope to write at his level of detail.

For my part, I build a prototype app in html5 (to be used by most smart phones) to associate the device with the user’s media. The app does work, but we did not have enough time to finish the sensor on the CUE device. Nick did a great job of fabricating the CUE object. It might be too small for the electronics that we wanted to put into it. Also, I didn’t implement the SMS server, which is on my todo list.

The actual class presentation didn’t get the warm reception we were hoping for, however Dr. Ishii liked it. I will have to write post on my observations on presenting/communicating at the Media Lab.

Overall, it was good. I decided that I will continue to work on this until it’s completed. I’ll update the blog with my progress in the coming weeks.

Common Sense : Week 6

Rob gave an interesting talk titled “F%ck Computational Linguistics.” I had some questions about ‘chunking’ and why it’s used in NLP.

The class also presented project proposals. There were some interesting topics. I’ll post them later.

Alumni Day

I got to meet some extremely cool alumni of the Media Lab. I ask them a lot of questions. How long to it take for them to decide on their actual thesis/dissertation project? Etc. Nothing but encouraging words from them. Some the things that they are working on (after the Media Lab) are pretty incredible. Once I get their approval, I’ll post some links.

Sponsor Night with Marvin Minsky

Towards the end of the evening, my girlfriend and I went to see the Punch Drunk installation in the basement of the Media Lab. We got the last time slot, so we had to wait (which wasn’t bad as we spent the time enjoying Harmonix’s Dance Central).

We when got to the elevator, waiting there was also Dr. Marvin Minsky and his wife Gloria. We went to the exhibition together and helped them walk through. It was pretty cool. When we got down to the basement, we had to follow this path, that reminded me of the beginning of a haunted house theme ride. Not too spooky, but dark and dusty (that was from the basement, not by design). Finally we arrived a set of phone booths. All the phones were ringing, and there was also recordings of lots of people answering the phone, saying “Hello?! Is anyone there?” etc. Gloria was holding on to my arm and said, “I think you should answer the phone, these things usually scare me.” I replied, “I agree, it’s just that black people in horror movies usually are the first to die.” LOL! Anyway, we answered the phone and the back of the phone booth opened up. We walked through and surprise!!! There were a bunch of people in party hats screaming happy birthday. They had pieces of birthday cake wrapped in old dot-matrix printer paper. plus some crazy looking shots – wait, we were in a bar! Then Marvin Minsky looks around puzzled, and exclaims, “Where did you get this photo?!” I looked up, it was him. In fact, the bar was a replica of the Minsky bar, an infamous place of dialogue and discussion, so the legend goes. Dr. Minsky thought the whole thing was rather amusing. After a while, we moved to the next room… hard describe… a guy was laying on dentist chair, while being teased by a female doctor (they both looked ‘undead’). I was trying to figure out what was going on, but Dr. Minsky didn’t wait to figure it out (or maybe he did), he grabbed the girl, and started dancing with her. Totally gangster!

Afterwards, the exhibit was over, we went back up the elevator enjoyed the rest of the evening. We talked for while. Then meet my advisor Henry Lieberman, and I thought it would be a great time to take a picture. In retrospect, the photo looks like something I would take at my graduation.

Overall, too cool!


Sponsor Night: Part 1

So much happened today!

Unfortunately, while the entire event was recorded in HD, it wasn’t broadcast publicly (intranet only). Check out the BBC and NPR posts/programs about MIT Media Lab 25th Anniversary Events. READ 1, READ 2, READ 3 There’s good video to see.

Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt was a featured speaker and John Hockenberry of NPR’s The Takeaway was the day’s moderator. I was pretty moved by the Media Lab’s history, philosophy, and  fraternity. It’s humbling to know that I’m apart of this.

I had two sessions of demos to work. These went better than yesterday. I found an interesting problem with the wifi connection and hubs that was the cause of yesterdays demo issues. Since everyone in the entire building seemed to be on the wifi, there were millisecond drop outs, that when reset, caused a change in the sub net address which freaked my phython local server. Note to future self: next year Spring, come up with a better alternative.

The evening was best. Harmonix the company that created Rock Band, are Media Lab alumni. The demoed their new version of Rock Band and their new game “Dance Central” which runs on Microsoft’s Project Natal. One word: “AWESOME!” Dance Central is so much fun! Rock Band was cool, but Dance Central was awesome! It can track up multiple players, and without the need for a physical controller (i.e. Sony, Wii), you can just jump in and start playing. Combined with the fact that MTV is involved, all the latest Clear Channel songs were available to get your groove on.

Also, there were some cool demos of old Media Lab projects, like the Marimba Robot, that plays accompaniment to what you are playing in real-time. Software Agents group mate, Rob rocked out with the robot. That was cool. Rob can jam (he should make some music).

Overall, the food was amazing! Plus, we had a limited liquor bar. Mount Gay Rum… bigup!

Enjoy the photos!


My First Demo

Today was extremely interesting! I gave my first set of demos today. I presented Peggy Chi’s Master’s project “Raconteur.” It’s a text chat application that assists the user in suggesting complementary photos to help tell the user’s story. As the user types, the AI agent uses NLP (natural language processing) to scan the text in real-time, then suggest photos from a piscasa account, by using Common Sense techniques. It’s not meta-search, as all the photos are described in natural language. For example, typing “sand castle” could produce a photo annotated as a fish structure. “Castle” is a type of structure.

I met a lot of sponsors that were interested in the work, and my ideas on how to enhance the project. I couldn’t have done as well without Peggy’s help. She stopped by the lab on Tuesday night to offer her support.

Dinner later that evening was good. Good presentations, good food. The beer… Sam Adams. Acceptable considering we are in Boston.


Sponsor Week is Here!

Today Sponsor Week begins! It’s also the 25th Anniversary of the MIT Media Lab! Oh and it’s Alumni Week.

What is Sponsor Week? It’s a big science fair where all the Media Lab sponsors come out to see all of the various projects at the lab. It also a time for the Lab to invite perspective sponsors and SHOW them why want to be associated with the Lab. Please read this to know more about sponsorship. For those that know me, Sponsor Week is like the Winter Music Conference. While it’s taken me sometime to get used to Media Lab’s academic structure, I completely understand Sponsor Week.

The Media Lab’s motto is “Demo or Die!” While a theoretical dissertation of some esoteric topic may be quite interesting, nothing is more compelling than making a demonstration of it. Hence “demo.” No one graduates without making a demo.