Tom Chi  

2004: The HCI Year in Review

December 31st, 2004 by Tom Chi :: see related comic

This year was a big one for search as an interface. Apple announced that Spotlight would provide system wide search capabilities in OSX Tiger the same year that Microsoft announced it would have to delay that same functionality in Longhorn. The recognition of players like AppRocket and X1 rose as a result. Google released their own desktop search tool, followed shortly by the MSN Beta of their desktop search and the announcement that Yahoo release their own based on X1 (which they recently acquired). Not in the news so much was whether search was necessarily a good interaction paradigm for an OS, or whether the single box submit/respond model was the best. There was a little movement on this front, however, with players like Grokker(interactive data visualization) and DogPile (category based results) supplying their variations on the search and results interface.

In other news, with the bubble just a distant memory now, web development and web applications rolled on in 2004. I’ll leave it KC to talk about developments within the blogging world and web publishing generally, but it’s becoming clear that the web is going to be where a lot of significant HCI work wil be done in the next few years. It’s not so much that it is a wonderful platform for interaction design (actually - quite the opposite), but rather the ability to rapidly deploy, test, and iterate on design has made it a nexus for new ideas.In the mobile device domain, there’s been an explosion of devices that has driven usability out in exchange for novelty and style. The problem is of course complicated by the slew of new features that mobile devices can now handle as well as the blurring effect that convergence has had. We now see people talking into PDA-looking devices — which are phones of course — and reading their email and browsing the web on tiny tiny screens. This has all been talked about for years, but it is something else to really see people trying to use this stuff.

Social Networks were a hot news item for the first half of the year, and then everyone started wondering what you were supposed to *do* with them. They have finally put ads on Friendster, however, so at least someone will get rich. More seriously though, some of the business-orientated networks did do what they promised. The entire social network phenomenon made me aware of two types of critical mass. One is the population-size of an online community, the other is the collection attention of members of your population at a particular time. While many social networks are now boasting huge populations (due to their viral architecture), their attention mass seems more y’know, yeah, unfocused.

Lastly, commercial robotics started being a serious industry — moving away from toy dogs to vacuums and of course exoskeletons. Being a new industry, it is heavy on engineers and short on HCI folks, but check the OKC Job boards in a couple years and I’m sure you’ll find something good.

3 Responses to “2004: The HCI Year in Review”
Daniel J. Wilson wrote:

Spotlight, not Searchlight.

Also, Spotlight is incremental, requiring no manual query submission. As Jef Raskin wrote in “The Humane Interface”, searching is “either incremental or excremental”.

Tom Chi wrote:

Thanks for pointing that out Daniel, I’ll fix it now.

Ryan wrote:

Thanks for the review. I’ve always had dificulties with summarising any periods of time as I’m usually kinda out of time :) )


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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?