If you have been kind enough to listen to me or read some of my entries on OCOT or my other writings, you may have correctly concluded that I suffer from a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Contrary to popular opinion (and even some “experts”), ADD is not about a LACK of “attention” but rather, an excess of it!
And Now a Word from My Symptom
Those of us with ADD are unable to pay attention to just ONE thing at a time and are instead forced to pay attention to every sensory input all of the time. We try to make sense of things when EVERY thing is demanding our focus. All of our sensory inputs are dealt with equally and simultaneously.
What we can’t do, for example, is turn down the volume on every sound except the one we want to focus on. We can't tune out the movements we see around us or choose not feel every input through our skin. In other words, we can only pay attention to EVERYTHING, all at the same time and all at equal levels.
I’m one of the fortunate few with ADD who, long before I knew what it even was, began to develop coping skills and techniques to survive with these traits. They didn’t seem like anything special to me. For the longest time, I just assumed everyone else was having the same experience. And somehow I managed to start turning these “bugs” into features that have enabled me to be as successful as I am and to do what I do. If everything demands your attention and you find everything interesting, then life is very full!
If you are interested in learning more about ADD, look at some of these alternative descriptions. And on the topic of attention itself, I know of no better source than that of my dear friend and fellow ADDer Marcia Conner and her Ageless Learner site’s section on Attention and on How Adults Learn.
But now, back to the topic at hand (see what I mean?!)
It All ADDs Up
So why are my ADD tendencies relevant here? Because its a way to introduce a meta theme that I'd like to address on OCOT. Just as my own natural sensory interface presents challenges, so too are the challenges of developing human/machine sense-based interfaces. Over a series of postings, I'd like to address:
- The use of our human senses as ways through which we communicate and interact with machines, computers, and technology, and ourselves.
- Other interrelated topics both individually and as a collective whole.
I’ll do my best to stay "on target" as I wander around "off course" and divide my pursuit of this trend toward more natural and sense-based interfaces into several separate posts. I see it playing a critical role in the future I am both designing and imagining.
The Missing Link?
Interestingly, this whole topic of natural or sense-based interfaces does not seem to have any common singular term or definition. Or perhaps I just have not found it and some of you can point me to it? I’m aware of categories such as:
- HCI Human Computer Interaction/interface
- HMI Human Machine Interface/interaction
- User Interface
But these all seem to be differentiated based on interactions with specific types of technology, computers only, or segmented into individual human senses, such as touch with the use of haptic interfaces and technology with tactile feedback . And I can find definitions of HCI, HMI such as this one from Wikipedia that describe them as:
“...the 'layer' that separates a human that is operating a machine from the machine itself.”
However, my interest is in the larger meta theme of using all human senses and eliminating the “separation layer” between machines and ourselves so that they are invisible and we can directly connect and communicate through our senses. I’m want to ensure that we are taking the more holistic and inclusive view of the use of ALL of our senses, not only because we have so many that are being underused, but also because it is often the combination of multiple senses that make up our best experiences and interactions.
Making Sense of and Better Use of Our Senses
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll address the meta theme of sense-based and more natural interfaces through a variety of posts, podcasts, and perhaps some interviews over the next few months. I’ll alternate between the big picture view of the use of senses in general and the use of them collectively, then look at the use of individual senses such as touch and feel, audio, visual, and so on. I will also cover the use of combinations of senses for better, more innovative designs and solutions for interacting with technology...and each other. Add to this the coverage of tools, technology, and examples of real world applications of sensory-based and natural interfaces and I think we’ll have a lot of fun and learn a lot in the process. These posts will be intermixed with other topics on a regular basis and spread over many months for as long as my and your interest continues to be high.
Oh! Look at that cool blue butterfly that just flew by! Hmm, I wonder what kind of plane that is flying overhead? Now what was I saying? Oh yeah, senses, interfaces, human interaction...
Hang on, fasten your seatbelts low and tight, we’re about to take off on what should prove to be a fun and very "off course", very "on target" sensory journey!