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It’s All About the User Experience January 6, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in TelePresence, user experience.
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In the TelePresence demo I saw yesterday, one of the most emphasized themes was the user experience. Apparently the tag line for the TelePresence development team was something like “It’s the user experience” or “It’s all about the user experience.” And they certainly spent a lot of time getting the user experience just right, considering everything from the color of the room and the lighting to the sound, bandwidth, and installation. They even hired Stephen Spielberg’s creative director to help with the room colors and lighting. They listened to what people had to say about how they would use it and what tools they’d need. So, they provided flexibility for people to display things either below, above, or to the sides of the TV screens. They added cameras so that people could show objects or documents in the room. And they made the technology easy to use–almost as easy as dialing a phone number. They also thought about how people typically set up meetings, and they integrated the TelePresence setup with Outlook.

What Makes a Good User Experience?
The result is a really good user experience. I was thinking today about what it was that made it so good.  Here are a few ideas:

  • It’s quick. We walked into the room. Our presenter pressed a button and suddenly we were face-to-face with a man sitting across the country from us.
  • It’s good to the senses. I could see and hear everything well. And the colors were pleasing to the eye. You weren’t distracted by strange skin tones and vibrating colors in the background. And the sound was realistic and real-time too. When the guy on the TV screen tapped the table with his hands, we heard it right away–no delay. And it was really cool that the position of his voice moved when he moved around the room.
  • The setup is nice. After awhile, you forget that you’re sitting at half of a conference table because the table on-screen completes the circle so nicely.
  • There are so many possibilities. You sit there thinking of all the cool uses for it. “We could use it for this project.” “Boy, I wish I’d had it when I had to visit so-and-so.”
  • It’s unobtrusive. After awhile, you stop noticing the technology and you’re just using it to do what you need to get done.

Our presenters told us that there were several times when the developers were told to do something that they thought was impossible, but they did it anyway. And they discovered in the end, that it was possible. It makes me wonder how much further I could have pushed the user experience for some of my projects.