Saturday, March 17, 2007

Can “Tomtom” be wrong?

Tomtom is the name of mon petit amie GPS that gently guided me from Amsterdam to Brussels, Antwerp, Stuttgart and then lost me through Frankfurt.
What went wrong? Interfaces! Of course, the weakest link in the chain is and will always be the interfaces. What happened with Frankfurt is that Germany has more cities with names starting with Frankfurt than I had information about. I saw the first two options that were Frankfurt and Frankfurt (ODER) and didn’t notice the little down arrow was black instead of grey. Then, as the first one was north and a similar distance I expected it to be I assumed that was the Frankfurt I wanted to go. Something seemed to be wrong for a while, some signals here and there that were starting to be red flags, but in the wise words of my co-worker “tomtom never let me down before … can’t say the same about you … “ ;) So, we trusted tomtom against my instincts and we got lost in the middle of the German country in pursue of a little town called “Frankfurt”. In the end, tomtom was right, given the input information we gave it.
This little anecdote left me thinking of interfaces, particularly human to machine interfaces, although, now that I think about it, interfaces misunderstanding is the cause of most of human to human interaction issues as well. An area that sooner than later will become critical as we rely more and more of our lives on all sorts of little thinking devices. As I was mentioning in my previous post interfaces are going to be changing a lot in the future, but I have a feeling that the essential issue might remain unsolved for a looooong time.

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