Recently, we have been lucky enough to collaborate on a project with Kevin Bailey and Neal Cowan from Design 1st, a product design consulting firm. During one of our project meetings, the discussion briefly turned to the potential for using varying types of vibration to indicate different kinds of alerts on a physical device.
‘Haptic’ research by Professor Karon MacLean at the University of British Columbia directly addresses this topic. Having taken Dr. MacLean’s course on physical user interface design during my graduate studies, I didn’t hesitate to step up onto the soap box to share my knowledge of Karon’s research in general and on haptic icons in particular.
Encouraged by Neal and Kevin's interest, I emailed them links to Karon’s website and publications. But links and web pages were not enough: Kevin set up a teleconference in order to learn from the expert herself. Since then, the three of them have spoken over the phone about the potential for implementing haptic feedback solutions. Come January, Design 1st’s hardware units incorporating Karon’s haptic icons concept will be operational and will hopefully convince the client of the necessity for variety in silent alerting in their product.
This chain of events was exciting for a number of reasons; the first being the potential for haptics to make interaction with technology a richer and more effective experience. I left academia for industry because much of the exciting Human-Computer Interaction research I see so often gets put aside without industrial follow-through. There is not only a lag, but a block, in bringing new UX innovations and technologies from research to development. Typically, compelling academic research is put on the shelf after publication--as the researchers move onto their next project--without any push from academia to get it out into the market. At the same time, there is no real pull from industry to capitalize on innovative results coming from academia.
However, this experience provided potential for Karon’s haptic icon research to make that leap sooner rather than later. The lesson here is that we can do our part by acting as a link between academia and industry to bring people and ideas together and make things happen.
The dialog that has been created between these three talented innovators has real potential to break the academic-industrial barrier, and this is fantastic news. Furthermore, it has provided us with inspiration to not only keep our eyes peeled for the next opportunity to bridge academic and industrial contacts, but also to continue to look for opportunities to bring research from academia into the work we do here at Macadamian.
About the Author
Lorraine Chapman is a management and User Experience Research professional at Macadamian Technologies. In addition to her role as Director of User Experience Research, Ms. Chapman has provided a broad range of clients (within the Healthcare, Telecommunications, Government, and Finance sectors) with strategic direction on business, product and customer issues. This experience includes product value analysis, user requirements research (both qualitative and quantitative) and usability analysis/evaluation of websites, services (eCommerce and eBusiness), applications, software, hardware and documentation. Lorraine can be reached at email@example.com