Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm with them: Children say technology should be easier to use

Article first published as <a href='http://technorati.com/technology/article/kids-technology-wish-list-make-computers/'>Kids' Technology Wish List: Make Computers More Human</a> on Technorati.

You know that saying, "Out of the mouths of babes." Well, technology designers and marketers would do well to remember that phrase as they look to the future of their computer or Internet product portfolios.

I just finished poking through the results of a study called, "Childrens' Future Requests for Computers and the Internet," which was conducted by Boston-based research firm Latitude. Those results suggest that the future of computing will require interfaces to be much more intuitive, accommodating existing human gestures.

What I love about this research project is that it didn't just rely on rote answers from the subjects, who included about 200 "kid innovators" under the age of 12. It asked the children to draw some of their responses. For example, the researchers asked them to draw something the would like the computer or the Internet to do differently. For many of them, it can down to how they interact with the screen. Touch was a common theme. Said one girl from Spain, who submitted a drawing of a person touching a computer display: "I'd like to touch the things that are in the screen — feel and move them."

In fact, close to 80 percent of the children focused on technologies that provided more intuitive interfaces between technologies and humans, including touch, verbal commands, gestures and even telepathy. The drawing above imagines a computer with a holographic, speech-driven interface.

Noted Steve Mushkin, founder and president of Latitude:

"This study is part of our larger research initiative that gives children a real voice in the broader, often very adult, discussion of future technologies. Across a variety of creative exercises, kids from all over the world have proven, time and again, that they think in extraordinarily sophisticated ways about how tech could enhance their learning, play and interactions with the people and things around them. And the ways that technology might help us solve the big global problems we all face."

The approximately 200 children who participated in the study (I know, not a big number) came from Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, India, Mexico, The Netherlands, Panama, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Aside from more intuitive interfaces, approximately 4 in 10 of the children imagined scenarios in which technology could help better bridge the gap between the "real" and virtual world.

I don't know about you, but I think these children are onto something. Think about how immensely popular the Apple iPhone became almost immediately. Love it or loathe it, the product was an absolute breakthrough in touchscreen interfaces. We will never go back, but this study hints at where we might go when we move forward.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Having fun with my new SMB Blog

Earlier this month, I started my third blog for the CBS family of blog networks. My new mouthpiece,Small Business Matters, focuses on exploring technology issues for small and midsize businesses, although I tend to err on the side of small.

I won't cover every new widget or piece of software focused on this market, but what I WILL cover are two main themes:
  1. Technologies that help SMBs become more productive operationally
  2. Technologies that help SMBs sell more
Pretty simple, no?

There are a lot of topics that fall into those two buckets, which is going to make this a lot of fun.

I do want to clarify something, since I've receive many public relations pitches in the past week: I don't write profiles about Internet startups or entrepreneurs. While I find both interesting, it just doesn't happen to be my writing focus right now. Of course, if you are a start-up or entrepreneurial company focused on reaching small and midsize businesses with your cloud service or technology, I'm all ears. You can email me directly to make your case.