3 (approx) interesting things, found (approx) this week. Also on Powered by Uniform Medium publication.

The Culture Map by Erin Meyer is a book about how people from different parts of the world communicate and work with each other. On the chapter about decision making, one passage about Americans particularly struck me.

Being successful as the pioneers spread west across the American plains depended on arriving first and working hard, regarding mistakes as an inevitable and ultimately insignificant effect of speed.

Americans developed a dislike for too much discussion, which would just slow them down, preferring to make decisions quickly, often based on scanty information

So here I am, thinking: maybe the reason behind the great importance that is given to iteration (cycles of prototyping and testing of a solution) in the Design Thinking methodology (and similarly to the software development philosophies of Release early, release often and of Minimal Viable Products) comes from the mindset of early Americans exploring the far west?

And I wonder (wildly): is the popularity of this iterative approach due to a similarity between pioneers’ America and contemporary global economy or more simply the result of the prominent position America has in design and technology (thus the iteration approach is popular for the same reasons that Rock is)?


1. Google Maps AR (2019)

Google released a video demonstrating a new AR function for Google Maps. What’s interesting is that it isn’t just a new interface for navigation, by pointing the phone towards your surroundings, the app is able to recognise the buildings through the camera and through that giving you more accurate directions.


2. Open AI’s new text generation software is too good to release (2019)

So they decided not to do it.

Due to our concerns about malicious applications of the technology, we are not releasing the trained model.

The system was trained on a dataset of 8 million web pages. And from the samples of text they shared, it does seem much superior to current software for text generation, which are quite good but without manual editing are always recognisable as written by a machine.

Here’s one fun sample.

SYSTEM PROMPT (HUMAN-WRITTEN) Miley Cyrus was caught shoplifting from Abercrombie and Fitch on Hollywood Boulevard today.

MODEL COMPLETION (MACHINE-WRITTEN, SECOND TRY) The 19-year-old singer was caught on camera being escorted out of the store by security guards. The singer was wearing a black hoodie with the label ‘Blurred Lines’ on the front and ‘Fashion Police’ on the back. Scroll down for video Shoplifting: Miley Cyrus was caught shoplifting from Abercrombie and Fitch on Hollywood Boulevard today (pictured) The singer was wearing a black hoodie with the label ‘Blurred Lines’ on the front and ‘Fashion Police’ on the back The singer was also wearing a pair of black-rimmed glasses, a black jacket, black jeans and black sandals. She was carrying a pair of black and white striped gloves and a small black bag.


3. Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces between People, Bits and Atoms (1997)

MIT Media Lab’s Hiroshi Ishii has just been awarded the ACM SIGCHI Lifetime Research Award, the most prestigious recognition in human-computer interaction (past winners include other leading figures in design and tech such as Douglas C. Engelbart, Don Norman, Bill Buxton and Gillian Crampton Smith).

Ishii is considered the pioneer of the so-called tangible user interfaces, a research area focussing on making physical objects as reactive and reconfigurable as software.

It is an incredible honor for me as an HCI researcher, and I’m extremely excited for this recognition of the Tangible Media group’s quarter-century battle against the ‘pixel empire’ of graphical user interfaces,

The Media Lab Tangible Media page contains all kind of sci-fi looking shape shifting material researches, but I took the occasion for going back to the research paper that Ishii co-wrote that was the beginning of it all: it’s still hot.