Best of the Week

Anti-Surveillance Camouflage for Your Face

As facial recognition software becomes more sophisticated, human behavior is bound to adapt. The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer takes a deep dive into the world of “dazzle camouflage” — a masking technique to avoid detection. What other approaches will people devise to hide from surveillance?

— Thanks to Amber Lindholm

MIT’s Seven Finger Robot

Video from MIT News

MIT robotics laboratories have developed what they call “supernumerary robotic fingers” which have the same grip strength as human fingers, but which increases strength overall. Using actuators to respond to human finger position, the extra ‘fingers’ respond automatically as the algorithm is based on variations in the two ways human hands grip: bringing fingers together and twisting the fingers inward. Changing grip strength (in response to say, a slippery or smooth object) is the next step.

— Thanks to William Yarbrough


Video from via Vimeo

“Usually, we are concerned with whether we can trust robots. This project asks: can robots trust human beings?”
—Dr. Frauke Zeller

hitchBOT is a social experiment of sorts making its way across Canada. It’s trying to get from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia through the kindness of strangers. Started in 2013 as a collaborative art project between Dr. David Harris Smith at McMaster University and Dr. Frauke Zeller at Ryerson University, hitchBOT is now the project of an multidisciplinary team that is exploring topics in human-robot interaction. The team is also testing AI, speech recognition, and processing technologies.

“hitchBOT will have to rely on people to get around, including being strapped into a car seat belt,” says Dr. David Harris Smith. “We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides across Canada.”

— Thanks to Kijana Knight-Torres

Designing the New Foursquare

Photo by Medium via Sam Brown

Photo by Medium via Sam Brown

The re-release of Foursquare made headlines this week with its drastic visual and experiential redesign. Sam Brown chronicles how the Foursquare team re-examined their check-in and location-sharing paradigm with new user research and arrived at an app focused on a “personalized search experience” with an “intelligent, relevant, and useful” feel. Check out the process that created the new Foursquare.

— Thanks to Natalie Greco

Portrait of a Mobile Consumer: An Infographic

Infographic by Vouchercloud via Jeanna Heeraman, UX Matters

Infographic by Vouchercloud via Jeanna Heeraman, UX Matters – Check out the full graphic here

This graphic helps to highlight the importance of mobile in B2B and B2C interactions moving forward in the next years. Research indicates that users are more comfortable combining platforms and form factors, expect far greater advances in speed (often hobbled by carriers but reflecting poorly on the interface itself). 4G speeds have moved far more data to cloud servers and services than last year, as users are becoming more comfortable streaming data back and forth.

Mobile commerce is growing steadily (slower in the Americas, faster in Asia), and we can expect to see more retailers merge their experience in-store with that of mobile. Expect more targeting and experimentation as social analytics become better and easier to measure as brands are still unsure how to reach audiences in the mobile social space.

— Thanks to William Yarbrough

Slot-Machine Science: How Casinos Get You to Spend More Money

Photo by RenoTaho via

Photo by RenoTaho via

Here’s a story about how cleverly slot machines and casinos are designed to keep people in place and spending money. One of the key quotes, “Some players get so hooked by the flow of the game that they actually get annoyed when they win a jackpot” [emphasis added], is a great reminder that we designers wield great power, and we must use it wisely.

— Thanks to Mark Power-Freeman

The Neuroscience of Emoticons

Photos by Juergen Specht

Photos by Juergen Specht, modified by Rae Gibbs

Fastcodesign takes a look at several studies concerning the perception of emoticons, widely-used combinations of punctuation marks (and other characters) representing human emotions, actions, and facial expressions. Over the last decade, emoticons evolved into a diverse, complex, and even subtle language of their own – complete with regional differences. Several studies indicate that emoticons stimulate the emotional processing areas of the brain in responses similar to reactions to seeing facial expressions flicker across a human face.

— Thanks to Rae Gibbs

Going Green = More Green

The Sustainable Endowments Institute has launched The Billion Dollar Green Challenge to help nonprofit institutions achieve sizable energy savings through the use of green revolving funds. With the Green Revolving Investment Tracking System (GRITS) web tool universities can calculate accurate and up-to-date information on proposed, in-progress, and completed energy saving projects, access project data from other organizations, and transform the data into graphs and visuals to share with your team or your community, all in an easy-to-use platform.

— Thanks to Oscar Tellez