MLOVE USA 2012 | Graphic Recording

Melchor Patel_MLOVE12_USA_ImageThink, originally uploaded by ImageThink.

The amazing team at ImageThink once again captured my thoughts from my talk at the amazing MLOVE ConFestival USA 2012!

Thanks Heather and Nora!

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MLOVE ConFestival comes to the US!

Just a quick heads up that for the first time ever the amazing MLOVE ConFestival is coming to the US in just two weeks!

Think TED blended with Burning Man with a splash of SXSW in a remote venue for three days with the most interesting folks in the tech and mobile industry …… just check it out… this group continues to change my perspective on the future of technology and inspiration! |

Check out some of the speakers…come out to the event…. hit me up on twitter if you want my last couple discount codes!

Video from last summer |

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Windows 8 Blue Screen of Death

With developer preview builds of Windows 8 out in the wild, I can now comment on how some of the interesting changes in the release.

Most people have met the wonderful “Blue Screen of Death”, it plagues college kids around the world, reminding you to save your term papers every twenty minutes. Only the super nerdy actually know what it was is for or even found it useful. (I worked in Windows and still have no clue!)

In the majority of cases you got to the blue screen because of a) faulty hardware, b) hardware drivers have resulted in a crash or c) corrupted or buggy software is trying to touch parts of the OS it shouldn’t be.

The New BSOD


Not only is the new error screen less techy, but it expresses the new ‘personality’ and tone you will find throughout Windows 8.

What I find the most interesting is the language used in the error message,

Your PC ran into a problem that it couldn’t handle, and now it needs to restart.”

It’ll restart in:”

Looks like Windows is trying to get some separation from their cheaply developed devices and hardware. Fingers crossed!

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Mouse meets touch

Touch is the latest input interaction weapon of choice for technology innovators.  Everyone in the core is aware that Apple has been supporting multi-touch tack-pads for a couple years now. Not to diminish their credit for making it mainstream, but the track-pad was an obvious candidate. A device where touch input was already mapped to traditional mouse cursor manipulation and its implementation was already that of a capacitive touch surface! No brainer! Thus, without any surprise, over the past few years we have seen the hardware industry starting to layer on touch surfaces (touch digitizers) onto our traditional mice.

Touch Mice

apple_mouse  touch_mouse  arc_touch

For the last couple years I was a touch interaction program manager for the Windows team, and I had the opportunity to partner alongside the Microsoft Hardware team in their research and development of the newly released Microsoft Touch Mouse. The goal was to create a touch optimized mouse, tailored for Windows7, which pushed industrial design (ID) and did not compromise on core mouse functionality and ergonomics.


Engineering a Touch Mouse UX

To be clear, I wasn’t on the hardware or research teams that build this mouse, but as a partner / consultant of sorts on the project there are a few design and software challenges that were interesting… worth sharing here at least.

As a UX program manager, the name of the game is to step back, analyze the requirements and figure out what the experience landscape of the project truly is. What I learnt quickly was that creating a touch mouse is not simple feat. When executing against any program like this there are many gears in motion to get it out the door. From a UX point of view, there are a handful of experience factors that need to be measured and balanced to deliver a desirable user experience. Each experience factor is tightly related with the next, and unfortunately in most cases, a direction in one factor will lead to a a large challenge or tradeoff from another… in the end you can only hope the customer agrees with the decisions you made.


Experience Factors



Industrial Design

It’s always nice to look good. The goal for the design team is to find the balance of brand, industrial design, and technology. When looking at the Microsoft Touch Mouse the goal seemed to be to drive the newly emerging ID brand family while pushing the boundaries on material and technology.




The early versions of Microsoft Touch Mouse included three types of digitizer explorations: camera-based, capacitive-sensing, and articulated (which used multiple existing mice linked together) // read more of the story here



Differentiated Design (Artist Edition)


Comfort and Ergonomics

Comfort and ergonomics has been the name of the game for great mice over the decades. When looking at a touch mouse there are some factors in particular that came into play. 

  • The more ergonomic you make a mouse the less flat it becomes. As you start to curve the surface, the interaction language (in this case finger gestures) can change drastically. 
  • The mouse will have a desired form which should compliment the desired primary target posture.
  • The gesture language needs to be supported in such a way that does not interfere with users comfort in the target posture.
  • It still needs to be a kick ass mouse at the end of it all.


When comparing the touch mouse to the magic mouse through the ergonomic lens, I feel that Microsoft succeeded over Apple in delivering a comfortable experience in the target posture.  Apple has been credited for a desirable design, however there have been many users complaining of developing wrist pains and finger fatigue.

The Magic Mouse does not contour to the users hand” – MMFixed

The folks over a MMFixed have done a great analysis of the magic mouse and have gone so far to offer a add on solution to making it more confortable for everyday use. 




When I think UX performance I am thinking: end user performance, software reliability, power, accuracy, and more generally “this thing is worth having”.

As the form factor starts to take direction (through the balancing act between ID and ergonomics), the software and hardware engineers start prototyping everything from digitizer tech, to touch gesture engines. 

For the Microsoft Touch Mouse having the drive for a more shapely and thus ergonomic form, the challenge now comes from the fact that the users hand will be gripping, resting and constantly touching more of the surface area on the mouse. Which also means that it’s the same area ideal to perform comfortable finger gestures.

Performance UX Challenges 

Interactive Language

    • Primary goal is to ensure gestures are comfortable to perform.
    • User must perceive the gesture to be quick and avoids re-posturing to perform (a low initial cognitive tax to quickly get to habitual / instinctive is the goal).

Gesture Recognition on a Curved Surface

    • Creating touch interaction and gestures engine against a flat surface is a relatively easy challenge today. (Phones, tablets, tables, track-pads all have established gesture recognition algorithms and techniques we can utilize).
    • The challenge comes from creating a reliable gesture engine on a curved surface, where the differences in the users hand size, shape and posture will lead to more drastic changes to that of touch screen.
    • Gesture like “pinch and stretch” became more fatigued and harder to recognized reliably due to the curved surface .
    • Interactions like a “thumb-swipe” were gained thanks to the distinct curves of the mouse (try it, its awesome!).

Posture and Constant Touching

    • Noise! Touch is a two state model (touching or not touching), how do you best recognize the users intent of gesturing rather than just a finger moved when the the mouse is just being used to manipulate the cursor?
    • With an active capacitive digitizer, constant touches will draw power and the gesture recognizer will always be on to constantly deterring intent. (defiantly don’t want to sell a mouse you need to change batteries for every month).
    • Below was my development hardware device the team used to work through all the above problems.



Tailored for Windows 7

The goal is to make a kick ass touch mouse, but more importantly a kick ass touch mouse for Windows7. A device created to amplify the Windows 7 experience. This means not just creating cool gestures that have no substantial mapping to the software it controls. Everyone one loves to pinch their fingers together to zoom. But is zooming really an essential Windows7 experience? Maybe new features like desktop window arranging and task switching should come to life. I don’t want to give it away, but they did a pretty good job not going completely overboard and over engineering the experience.

As the team from MS Hardware put it

  • Enhances Windows 7 navigation
  • Allows easy switching between tasks
  • Easy to learn and fun to use
  • Uses gestures to quickly scroll and pan, navigate, and manipulate content
  • Helps you get more done in less time


You can find the gesture set and experience demo here (in this ridiculous video).


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A Little Windows Phone 7 Personality

Kudos to the Windows Phone 7 design team, a nice little touch of personality put into the Messaging tile UX. I didn’t notice it until a couple weeks back when getting off a plane and I finally saw a bunch of texts all come in at once…. I wonder what the emoticon is for 20, 50, 100 unread messages?


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The Future of Touch Interaction @SXSWi 2011

I was fortunate enough to speak again at SXSW Interactive this year. The topic at hand was to share our thoughts on touch interaction design, and propose answers to where we are now and how we  all may get to the next stage of true human computer interaction.

We booked Ballroom A and around 1000 people attended, so this was by-far the largest talk I have done so far. The talk should be shared publically sometime in the near future by the folks at SXSW. In the meantime you can view the slides and the imbedded videos below and please read an attendees ‘real-time’ summary and review of the talk.

Courtesy of Sheryl Yu Lin:

I’ll admit I went into this session with a bit of doubt as to whether it would be another portfolio slide deck, or company plug. But my fears were soon put to rest, by this well thought out presentation by Microsoft. I was pleasantly surprised.

This session focused on discussing the language of touch, and where we are today, with some insights into what we need to to next to evolve it further”. Full Summary….

>> SXSW: Audio Stream <<

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Staying Grounded

So I’ve been using the new Samsung line of Super AMOLED phones, best known to most as the Andriod powered Galaxy-S or Focus for Windows Phone 7. No doubt the screen is magnificently bright and beautiful, the phone is super light and thin…but it would be great if I could touch it!

So as many know, the current generation of touch devices use a capacitive digitizer bonded to the glass screen in order to sense your touch input. For those of you living in colder climates you see the barriers to this technology when you try to answer your phone with gloves on… inevitably leads to failure.

I don’t want to go into how capacitance in touch systems work, but its important to know that one of the fundamental characteristics of touch capacitance is that the device you are touching needs to be well grounded in order for you to conduct a charge on for the device to recognize. Many of you using iPhones don’t see the perils of this as the design of the iPhone accounts for this very well.

However, the same is not true about my Samsung Focus. Here’s the scenario that gets me every morning. I, as many, use my phone as my alarm clock. For years it has found its place as a permanent resident in corner of my bed. It has its home on the side of the bed and you always know where it will be!. At 5:30am your iPhone alarm goes off, you blindly reach over with your right arm, slide to unlock the screen in order to stop the incessant buzzing. So what happens to this scenario when you reach over and try to slide to unlock the Samsung?…. watch….

Why is this happening… I can only assume two things:

  • The ground plate is inadequate
  • The engineers at Samsung have made the decision that people will always be holding their phones with one hand and interacting with the screen with the other. Not the greatest assumption, I hope they don’t assume the same for 7”+ devices?
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Flickr: Clever use of hover

For a while now I have been appreciating the 2010 UX update to Flickr’s photo viewing experience. Not only does it provide larger image viewing, a light box, an action menu and a structured navigation model (aided by subtle, yet much appreciated keyboard shortcuts); however, I especially enjoy the “photo story” control.

This control exposes metadata such as: contact information, date, camera, lens, views, comments, favourited, galleries included, and most notably the geo-location data for the image.


The reason I really enjoy this experience is the smart use of hover input over the map surface. When the map is idle and the cursor is not hovering over the map, the map shows the images location at a continent level view. As the cursor moves over the map and toward the center, the map changes from continent > country > city (vise versa). The one downer is that this doesn’t work on my touch pc, since touch != hover.

Experience it here:
Learn more @ blog.Flickr photo

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What Kind of Friends Are We?


Outside traditional written mail, there used to be only a few ways to reach out to those in your life: call them or meet them face-to-face. Today, (for me anyway) it seems like the story is a little more complicated. We have essentially created a hierarchy of social communication which we seem to also correlate to how critical that persons role is / or you want them to be within your own life. 

When I step back and look at the ways I communicate, it seems that there is no clear default form and this leads us to constantly evaluate what the best means of communication should be given the person on the other side. You figure it really shouldn’t be this complicated, and surprisingly it really doesn’t feel like it is… it’s now just a normal part of our everyday lives.

For me, each plateau within the hierarchy below seems to correlate with a certain level of friendship. And if you think this is weird, ask yourself if you have ever over analyzed the way someone has contacted you…“she texted me”, “she added me as a friend” and heaven forbid “she called me”… these aren’t only different forms of communication, but they have different levels of relationship associated with them. image

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Do Not Pull

Today I came across a “DO NOT PULL” button on and even though (in my opinion) it doesn’t serve any advantageous purpose; I think it’s awesome! Now all they have to do is put something at the bottom of the page to get back to the top.

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