Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Integrated Library System Promises to Be More Open

Image: "Welcome to Sierra" by and Courtesy of Innovative Interfaces, Inc.

Innovative Interfaces' Sierra gives libraries greater flexibility to customize the integrated library system (ILS).  That's welcome news to many who have asked for greater flexibility to incorporate Web 2.0 technologies into the backbone of library systems as well as their online public catalogs (OPACs). 

Libraries have wanted this for about 6 years or more, and the pressures of library needs, shrinking budgets, and open source threats have caused Innovative to innovate.  Although it is understandably difficult for a company to completely revamp their flagship product, some may feel Sierra is long overdue in a world that has lost its patience with clunky library systems.

Marshal Breeding has, of course, given a nice overview of the ILS.  Additionally, the University System of Georgia has a nice PowerPoint that Innovative Interfaces provided for a webinar.

The Ohio State University's library system will be moving to Sierra according to this position posting.  From a patron standpoint, it will be interesting to see if there are any noticeable changes on the front end.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Touché Creates Smart Objects from Almost Anything

Image: Still from "Touché: Enhancing Touch Interaction on Humans, Screens, Liquids, and Everyday Objects" by and Courtesy of Disney Research.  

Imagine controlling your iPod or any other networked device simply by how you touch your forearm?  This is the future of interface.

Touché, a joint project being developed at Disney Research Pittsburgh in collaboration with researchers from the University of Tokyo and Carnegie Mellon University, "enables objects to know how they are being touched."  Using predefined gestures, a person can interact with objects like doorknobs and even liquid surfaces to perform unique actions.

The team has created a proof-of-concept video that demonstrates their revolutionary work.

Video: Touché: Enhancing Touch Interaction on Humans, Screens, Liquids, and Everyday Objects

Findings from the research team will be presented on May 7, 2012 at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, and they will be recognized with a prestigious Best Paper Award.

Here's the information about their research paper.

Touché: Enhancing Touch Interaction on Humans, Screens, Liquids, and Everyday Objects.

Sato, M., Poupyrev, I, and Harrison, C. Touché: Enhancing Touch Interaction on Humans, Screens, Liquids, and Everyday Objects. In Proceedings of CHI'12. 2012. ACM.
Paper [PDF, 10Mb]



Carnegie Mellon University. (2012). Revolutionary Technology Enables Objects To Know How They Are Being Touched [Press Release]. Retrieved from

Disney. (2012). Disney Research: Touché: Enhancing Touch Interaction on Humans, Screens, Liquids and Everyday Objects. Retrieved from

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Wilderness Years, Steve Jobs, and Innovation

Image: On Buckhorn Mountain (6 of 6) by and Courtesy of V.H.S. 

Fast Company's article "The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes" by Brent Schlender is an interesting piece.  Schlender reviews taped conversation that he had with Jobs, and he makes the argument that during the years Jobs was away from apple (i.e. the "wilderness years"), Jobs was able to gather the knowledge needed to make Apple an innovative juggernaut.

Two interesting takeaways from the article.

Vacations are not only seen as a perk, they are also viewed as a means to re-energize the associate.  Take this a step further, as was the case with Jobs, could/should top executives take an extended leave, a sabbatical?  It would force the organization to perform without its head leader (good for succession planning), and it could lead to greater innovation when the executive returns--both from innovation in absence of the executive and what the executive might bring back to the organization.

Jobs had a number of things wrong.  For example, his ideas regarding open organizations did not work.  It was in partnership with others that his ideas were either tweaked or disregarded.  Furthermore, he adopted others' ideas (e.g. moving Pixar to only animation).  I believe the mythology of the lone leader who is able to lead and innovate within a vacuum permeates throughout American culture.  We have elevated Jobs to mythical proportions.  However, this article humanizes Jobs, and it highlights the importance of partnerships with regards to innovation.