April 6th, 2005

Bleary-eyed morning.

I'm in a goofy mood today. As i strolled through the convention centre i looked at the signs for "Meeting Rooms" and a voice intoned in my head, "You must try our excellent Meeting Rrrooms. They are so good that you should go in one even if you do not wish to attend a talk. You will not be cooked! The doors will not automatically lock behind you and the temperature will not increase whatsoever."
  • Current Mood
    silly silly

Evaluating Web usability for the blind.

I'm sitting in a short talk session at CHI this morning and the presenter, from IBM's Tokyo Research Lab, is showing us aDesigner, an automated tool for evaluating website accessibility for visually impaired users.

One of the cool things that aDesigner can do is to shade in the elements on the page based on their navigation distance from the beginning, in terms of an estimate of how many seconds it would take a screen reader to get to that point. This gives you a nice overview of what is more reachable or less reachable on your page, and as you can imagine, the use of CSS, semantic markup, and "skip to content" links has a big effect. (Their website has a screenshot of how this looks, though the slide in the presentation looked better because it didn't show all the dashed borders.) Parts of the page that take more than 3 minutes to reach are so dark that you can hardly see them, which is a good way of conveying how tedious it would be to wait for a screenreader to get there. I think this is a really neat visualization technique.

CHI 2005.

Last night was the main CHI reception. The unusual thing about this year was that everybody made their way from the hotel to the reception ballroom in a huge street procession. It's the first time i've ever heard of CHI having a police escort, lights flashing and all.

The reception was crowded, hot, and loud. But i got to have some good conversations with Steve, Martin, Tara, and Moira.

Naturally, there are lots more photos on Flickr.

alt.chi rundown

Among many other things, we heard about the DishMaker, a dishwasher-sized device that molds plastic into bowls and dishes as you need them (just toss your dishes into it when you're done, and it will melt the plastic down to be used again); experiments in using sensors and conductivity in fabric to use clothing as an interface; a graphics tablet on a table that can be lifted and lowered to yield a 3D sketching interface; and a gaze tracking system that examines video feeds to detect where everyone is looking so it can automatically edit the video together.

The star of the show, however, was the presentation on the Edible User Interfaces, which proposed "getting interfaces off the desktop and into our mouths, stomachs, and eventually colons." The problem with conventional interfaces:

Effective, but not particularly tasty.

A natural progression from GUI to TUI to... EUI!

The TasteScreen interface, which uses computer-controlled dispensers to drip flavouring agents onto your monitor. Effective, but not so practical for multi-user applications.

Also shown (though i didn't manage to get a picture of it) was the BeanCounter interface, in which the computer releases jellybeans from an upper container into a lower container upon calls to malloc(), and then dispenses them from the lower container upon calls to free() so that we programmers can be rewarded for our diligent programming practices.

The presenter, Dan Maynes-Aminzade, also mentioned a paper of his on quiche-based encryption. A result of the paper: 64-bite public quiches are insufficient; at least a 128-bite quiche is recommended.