I completed a holiday prototype project where I created a family kiosk in our mud room. I was interested in trying to replicate kind of a vertical monitor you see in hotel lobby’s that has a slideshow of what’s going onthat day, for the family. A family kiosk, the metaphorical refrigerator door, if you will.
Here was the general process.
One day Alex brought home some white board stickers to stick on the wall next to our new built in lockers. She wanted a place to write notes and instructions to the kids. Their upcoming activities, the weather so they knew what jacket and shoes to wear, whether they were doing bus or carpool based on their activites that day. Being the futurist but prone to question the long term maintenance of systems, I got to thinking about a lobby kiosk.
There were some things that were key for me:
See, at-a-glance, without having to interact
Daily/weekly schedule (know what after school activities there are, and whether to take the bus home, etc)
Today's Weather (know what jacket to wear before heading out)
List of notes/chores/activities
Mom & Dad needs
Easily update the calendar
Easily update the notes/activities for the kids
No duplication of effort for entry
Wrestling with the Interface
From all the screenshots in the media, I was attracted to the Windows 8 Start Screen. I was thinking that widgets MIGHT be able to help in some of these areas.
1) Windows 8 Start Screen? Interesting, but not quite it
While we were in Austin visiting my brother and parents over the holidays, I got my first exposure to Windows 8. Dispite needing to get used to the interaction model and some of it's oddities, it definitely showed some promise. Weather widget on the Start screen was cool. The full screen weather app is beautiful. But for my purposes, that's where it basically stopped.
The windows experience is optimized for individual user's information, not for a group. So it's difficult to use the baked in apps to subscribe to our shared family google calendar
The Start tiles are too small, but full screen is too big and modal, I wanted multiple pieces of information to persist without someone having to swipe through the different views.
At any given time, 3 different kids with 3 different needs would be looking at it, I didn't want one at a time viewing, i wanted persistence
It would have been interesting if there was some screensaver or kiosk mode to rotate through some of the full screen apps automatically.... that might have done it.
Our mud room is where the kids do their homework, so having a computer there will be convenient. I've installed the Windows 8 Khan Academy app, Netflix, Skype, etc. I've also installed the Sonos and Spotify apps so we can play to the Sonos speakers throughout the house.
I embarked on looking for an app or webservice to get done what I wanted. I found cozi.com (and we're trying it out also) but that was basically it. While cozi has a home screen, and apps for everyone's devices so we could all collaborate, there wasn't enough displayed on the home page to persist everything I wanted. No weather, etc. And it's chock full of ads that only go away if you pay.
3) iPad: Too modal
While I could have dealt with an app on the iPad that was basically a slideshow of different things I wanted... I couldn't find one. I wanted all of the information listed above to persist, otherwise, you'd miss out on info that was important at any given time. I thought it would have been great to mount an iPad to the wall. But while there might be individual apps that do what I want, there's no kiosk mode to automatically cycle through them. But the modal paradigm that forces users to interact before being able to derive useful information wouldn't do.
Why portrait? Because of the orientation of the information I was working with, I was thinking that portrait orientation would work better so you wouldn't have to scroll to see everything.
Are we actually using it? Has it come part of our routine? Not quite yet. The kids think it's interesting, but they just started going back to school today, so we'll see. While I'm a futurist and early adopter, my wife is not. I believe that once Alex commits to using it, then the kids will as well.
I'm passionate about wrestling with new collaborative interaction models at work for my team and company. I'm also interested in it at home. As a family, our kids are getting to the age where we need some centralized calendaring, messaging system.
Most of the paradigms we've developed in the UI world for 'personal' devices are exactly personal. Sync your browser settings, contacts, mail, calendar, etc. are targed at a individual user and login. There's really no concept of the group. For specialized, non-mobile devices like this, or a TV, we've got to push for some new paradigms to accomodate these roles.