Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Email exercise

After Steve Ballmer's health scare, I heard rumours that he and Bill Gates can be found reading email on exercise bikes at the gym. Now they could switch to dancing through the messages. Imagine jumping on mail from your boss or kicking spam out of the way.

The StepMail application uses an off-the-shelf "dance pad"to let a user carry out commands in e-mail - such as scroll, open, close, delete, flag and place messages in folders - by tapping a set of six buttons on the floor. Another prototype application, StepPhoto, allows foot-controlled scrolling and sorting through digital photographs.

“Many information workers spend a majority of their time trapped at their desk dealing with e-mail. We wanted to provide them with an alternative,” said Brian Meyers, a member of the Step User Interface Project Group involved in the prototype. “By allowing information workers to stand and continue to read, delete and flag e-mail messages, StepMail gives them a break from the keyboard and mouse, which reduces the risk of repetitive stress injury in their hands and wrists and engages more of their bodies’ muscles.”

It also reminds me of a set of tech support war stories published by, I think, Compaq, where someone phoned up because the 'foot pedal' on their notebook wasn't very responsive. The foot pedal on my sewing machine gives me acceleration and deceleration as well as on and off. I've been playing Tux Racing on a THinkPad X41 using the accelerometer in the hard drive to detect how I wave the notebook around in mid-air. I love controlling the PlayStation through the EyeToy camera. One the one hand there's the sense of wonder you used to get from controlling a computer at all; on the other, it's a more intimate connection because you don't need to only use your fingers and your eyes. The MS researchers behind this are in the VIBE team (Visualization and Interaction for Business and Entertainment)  who do a lot of cool things. I interviewed the Senior Researcher, Mary Czerwinski, a couple of years ago for a piece on how our brains adjust to using two screens side by side (you very quickly tune out the bezel of the screen in the middle and perceive the split screen as one information source).
Tags: brian meyers, dance mat, design, geek, interface, mary czerwinski, microsoft research, stepmail, stepui, technology, vibe, writing

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