Notes from Thea Boodhoo's UX for Aliens Talk


content specialist on the UX team at AKQA
(Sorry, again came 15 minutes late to session, so notes are incomplete.)
  • Dolphins use ecolocation to form a 3D projection of the world
    • Can also transmit the 3D representation to other dolphins
    • There’s no word for “tuna”. There’s a compressed 3D representation of a tuna.
    • Two dolphins from different parts of the world can come together and communicate a plan using 3D representations of the world, without having to use vocabulary or symbolism.
  • Scale of Context Dependency
    • an in-joke is an example of a highly context dependent communication
    • other end
  • Resolution
    • Project high, design low
    • We don’t know what resolution things will be consumed at. So we want to project at high fidelity, but design for low.
  • Speed
    • We don’t know what kind of frame rate an alien would receive.
    • So we again want to project for highest possible, but design for slowest.
      • e.g. we don’t design a website that requires the transfer of 3 mb of video data before getting to the point, for a user on a smartphone. 
    • Play at several speeds at once.
  • Strength
    • Build up the signal from a very low strength and give it a stop button.
    • Don’t send anything that, if returned, could kill you.
  • Channel
    • The frequency of visual spectrum, audio range. For humans, we know we can smell roses, hear certain range of sounds. With alien users, we can’t know. All of the animals we know can receive more than one channel.
    • So we want to use many parallel channels
  • Devices
    • Devices we’re born with: native devices. eyes, ears. signals being experiences as raw, direct.
    • Non-native devices: picks up channels we can’t physically receive and translates them into channels we can. We can’t receive radio waves, but we can translate it into audio signals that we can listen to. We can’t receive IP packets, but we can render a twitter stream visually in the shapes of letters.
    • Design for the native device:
      • The best way to represent a water bottle is with a video or a photo of it.
  • Assume the user has the ability to project a tool as an extension of itself
  • If you know nothing about your user, you have to do a lot of work. The more you know, the less work you have to do.
  • Don’t let the what ifs stop you.
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