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October 06, 2010

The Human Factor

It has been a while since I've written a post, but that's because there were so many interesting things happening the last months. Among these were the opportunities to present the PeRSoN.NeL project at both the Hybrid City conference in Shanghai and the SATE10 conference in Orlando.

In it's core PeRSoN.NeL is about enhancing human communication and interaction, and it's in the periphery of above mentioned conferences that I found two examples that stressed the human factor.
First there is the Dutch Pavilion at the World Expo 2010. Before going I was a bit weary because of the very playful setup of the building; it's not an architectural feat. However, when we actually walked through(!) the building and saw how it was used as a pass-time by the visitors (see image below), I realized that this building actually best serves the purpose of the Expo: it invites people to participate in, in this case, the Dutch (parks) culture.

The second example is a comparison between some of the attractions at the Universal theme parks in Orlando. After experiencing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (top of the bill), E.T. Adventure (memory lane; both story and technique), The Simpsons Ride (amazing show), JAWS (an adventure), Twister..ride it out (technical challenge), and the Jurassic Park River Adventure (from wonder to wet), the one we kept remembering was the quite old JAWS ride.
The big difference in this 'ride' is the fact that each tour is accompanied by an actor that plays the roll of captain of the boat (your boat!) that gets attacked by the shark. The 3 minute, completely orchestrated, show, that they put on - over and over again - is just overwhelmingly entertaining.
Part of it might be due to - and at the risk of sounding old - the fact that the newer rides are just too fast and physically challenging to share the experience during the ride. The wait-in-line at the Harry Potter 'flight' and the pre-show that is put on there (you won't believe the beauty and realism of the talking portraits) is, in this respect, much more memorable.

To bring this all back to the virtual world we all live in ;-), the challenge will be to keep building in this human factor. An interesting project is the new NASA Robonaut 2, the robot that next to assisting astronauts can be interacted with on Twitter (@astrorobonaut). The biggest challenge here will be to have it respond with a genuine "LOL".

Posted by Almar at October 6, 2010 05:11 PM