CS789 - Spring, 2005

Activity instructions, Week 6

This week's activity: The Multi-media Kitchen

What is unique about multi-media as part of a user interface? First, what is it? We say that an interface provides a multi-media experience when is provides several streams of output, which are processed separately and merged internally by the user. Usually these streams are perceived by the user through different sensory modalities.

In understanding the potential for multi-media in the user interface it's important to understand that all life is a multi-media experience. Perceiving a single external object through two or more distinct input streams, especially when they are attached to different modalities, powerfully enhances the reality of that object. What's obvious, then, is that multi-media perception is, for users, both natural and significant; what's not obvious, however, is how to harness these user abilities in the interface. To get an idea of what might be possible, we'll look this week, at a typical multi-media experience that exists in everyday life.

Probably the aspect of your daily activity that is the most multi-media is cooking. While you are doing it you see, hear, touch, smell and taste the food with which you are working, and every one of these interactions is necessary if you are to create a successful result. You could think of remote cooking as the ultimate multi-media interface challenge. This week's activity is designed to get you focussed.

What you should do

This week's activity is to cook a meal. When I say `cook' I mean `make something starting from basic ingredients', not `heating something in the microwave'. Ideally, your cooking will be done from a recipe, and will include some cutting or chopping, and some actual cooking on the stove-top. While cooking make sure that there is a good source of light shining on the area where you are working which, among other things, makes it much easier to cook effectively.

While cooking observe that you provide a large amount of input, mostly with your hands, and that cooking provides a large amount of feedback through most sensory modalities.

  1. Vision.
  2. Audition.
  3. Touch (Taction).
  4. Smell (Olfaction). Volatile chemicals from food are carried on air currents to dissolve on liquid surfaces within the nose, where they are sensed. There are 1000s of different receptors: over 1% of the rat genome codes for olfactory proteins. Make sure that you drink water while you cook to keep the olfactory sensors working.
  5. Taste (Gustation). To be tasted something must be put on the tongue where are the gustatory (taste) receptors. There are four types of taste receptor: salty, sour (acidic), sweet, bitter. Taste is an insensitive, simple sensory mechanism, designed to identify certian elements in food; most of what we call taste is actually olfactory, caused by volatile substances in our food passing into our nose via the throat while food is in the mouth.
  6. Common chemical sense. Receptors, concentrated in eyes, nose, mouth and other liquid-covered areas of the body, detect a number of noxious chemicals, such as soap.
  7. Proprioception, which is the body's sense of where its parts are.

What you should observe and think about

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