How I know the iPad will be a success – unusual sources of evidence: potential users

I gave a workshop today to a small group of psychologists in the southern district of Melbourne called Mornington, about an hour’s drive from my home.

I’ve visited the group on several occasions these past few years, principally offering workshops on things technological. Today’s workshop was focussed on current trends in IT for psychological practice, including a number of demoes of equipment I use myself or propose to use shortly.

Things started with me reviewing how technology so often leads a double life, that for which it was intended by the developer, and then the uses made of it by others co-opting the technology to solve other problems. I emphasise that in selecting a technology, the psychologists present ought to give serious consideration to what problem they’re intending to solve: does it enable a solution that is superior to the present one, but perhaps it is cheaper, quicker, more durable, or easier to use?

I also suggested that humans have a history of resisting new technologies for fear of change or a shift of societal power, such as the threat books first posed, and that we often overinvest in believing how technologies will improve our quality of life, without realising that change for humans comes slowly and often not without a struggle.

I showed the group the picture (with theme song) below, and said I had grown up with this family in the 1960s:

Of course, this is the Jetsons, developed by Hanna-Barbera, whose signatures can be seen at the bottom.

When I asked the group to name the dog (whose name isn’t mentioned in the theme song) the group was stuck. But in the conference room corner were two young boys under 10, the sons of two of the attendees, who were watching a DVD on a portable player. They called out the answer :“Astro”. When I mentioned I was surprised  they knew (they were the same age give or take a few years as I was when first exposed to the Jetsons), their father told the group they watched the show on the cable cartoon network channel. The cartoon show had aged well, and indeed in another slide I showed the box cover of a DVD where the Jetsons meet the Flintstones (a similar family set in prehistoric times) to illustrate how such shows position domestic issues regardless of time, but using the technologies of the age to solve various family dilemmas.

The point I was making with the Jetsons was that the hope of the technological age it represented, the cartoon being developed when the transistor was beginning to make itself an important part of modern life, would give us much more leisure time. Robots, like the Jetsons’ Rosie, would do dull, tedious work, and we would spend more time in leisure pursuits. Most people in these IT workshops chuckle at the simplicity of this concept, knowing many are working harder than ever before, much of which can be blamed on the way we have employed technologies without thought of the societal consequences.

At this point the boys went back to their DVD, and I went on with my workshop.

This saw me demo a selection of hardware and software to illustrate my concerns about some technologies. I started with the decades-old effort to setup the Paperless Office. But because psychologists work so often with medical referrals, we are compelled at this point to keep original paper documents, so my focus became the Less Paper office which I showed in Keynote using the Magic Move transition, below. My assertion, which I included in the following slide, was that any effort to reduce paper must take into account a better way to archive and sensibly retrieve our documents.

For the record, the technologies I demoed, in order were:

1. Fujitsu SnapScan scanner 300M – in Australia: http://www.fujitsu.com/au/services/technology/scanners/ S300M

2. Evernote – software to extend your brain http://www.evernote.com

3. Notetaker software (Mac only) - http://www.aquaminds.com/ This for a section on note taking on your computer, and audio recording lectures too (OneNote in MS Office comes close on the Windows side of life.

4. Apple iPad http://www.apple.com/ipad

5. ICCpay credit card payment solution for the iPhone: http://iccpay.com/

6. Winc – software based 3 x 5 cards http://getwinc.com/ I use this when retraining patients to shift their automatic catastrophic thinking to something more reasonable and actionable. When confronted with scary situations, my patients “freeze” so the cards act as their ourigger frontal lobes reminding them of appropriate self-talk in the situation. The software has a version for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

7. Livescribe Pulse Pen: http://www.livescribe.com/ For those not ready to give away the power of the pen but who want to archive and retrieve notes in digital form. Can also convert writing to text.
All during this time, even though some of the technologies are quite compelling – such as the ability of the Fujitsu scanner to scan directly into the Evernote application which then sends it up to the cloud as a great backup strategy – the boys continued with their DVD playing. When I mentioned the forthcoming Apple iPad as likely offering even better Scanner/Evernote integration, and that I was very bullish on its use in the consulting room, one of the attendees stated aloud that her teenage sons had scoffed at the device. When I remarked that they’d not even touched a unit to reach such a conclusion, I was told they saw it as just a big iPod Touch, just like so many other critics have stated since its first display in late January.

So while I asked the group to use their imagination to think of how they might use the iPad in their practices, I had another idea in mind when I showed them this French video from poissonrouge showing an app. for the iPad they are working on:

Two things: As I was watching the video with the group, from the corner of my eye, I saw the two boys both staring transfixed at the video. Their DVD was still playing, but the sound, movement and colour of the iPad’s Redfish game had momentarily mesmerised them. They didn’t see me motion to the adults to watch their reaction to the video.

The second thing: There is one game displayed where what looks like a jigsaw where pieces of yellow cheese are assembled into a one piece, about 21secs into the video. Here’s a stillshot:

When I first saw this clip, I was reminded of a widely-used IQ test, known as the WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children), which contains a series of tests, some timed, which measures both verbal and non-verbal aspects of intelligence.

The equipment comes in a box and is several thousand dollars. Several of the tests use jigsaw-like elements asking the child to assemble the elements into a gestalt. At first, the child is told what the final assembly looks like. More challenging elements see the child merely told to assemble the pieces without knowledge what it is.

There are also small individual squares (3″ x 3″) containing elements of an illustrated story for which there is one best way to place them in order. The child starts with just two pictures and it’s very easy to place them in linear order of occurrence. The stories get more complicated and take longer as the child progresses.

As I was showing the Redfish video a second time, I asked the audience to consider how the WISC could be almost entirely performed on the iPad, together with a stopwatch function which could then automatically time and enter scores without the manual being needed for norming the results. There is one block test that requires small blocks to be laid out according to an illustration that may not be doable on the iPad, but if imagination is allowed to reign, the next generation of children could be tested with a WISC specifically designed to be performed on the iPad with a new block test normed for a new generation. Readers should bear in mind that psychologists don’t simply gathers scores, but also look keenly at how the child goes about the task, how he or she deals with frustration or failure or success, things that aren’t normed but important clinical indicators nonetheless.

But all this is a digression for certain interested readers, away from the point I wish to make in that this was a natural small experiment into the appeal of the iPad for certain groups: one with concerns about adapting new technologies who understood my enthusiasm for the iPad and where I think it fits in professionally; and the second of course were the young boys who ignored their DVD which had so occupied them to stare gobsmacked at the iPad Redfish video. You could almost see them aching to get their hands on one, and play the same game, one of many Redfish will be releasing for educational purposes.

I have every confidence their excitement is the tip of the iceberg, and naysayers will be looking very glum in a year’s time for their shallow prognostications.

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11 responses to “How I know the iPad will be a success – unusual sources of evidence: potential users

  1. I strongly agree that the iPad will be a great success. But I will add a few more reasons (and predictions):

    1 – Everyone who loves simplicity and hates computers will gravitate to the iPad. That market is about 80%+ of the population

    2 – As speed and storage increase over the next couple of years we will see the iPad become un-hitched from your regular computer. iTunes will move to the cloud, as will your music and other media. The current need to sync an iPad to a computer will diminish and then disappear.

    3 – Then iPad will become the de facto notebook. Today’s notebooks using high-powered Intel chips will be for power users only, and that’s a very small minority of people. Less than 20% of buyers. Folks, you cannot forget the power of Moore’s Law to empower the iPad.

    We are on the brink of a computing revolution. Two things are here to stay: touch screen and “no access to file structure” computers. A day is coming soon when computing will mean iPhones and iPads (and their competitors) to the vast majority of people.

    • Yes, I had prepared a whole section for my work on cloud computing, but the Evernote bit covered it in sufficient detail. As you have, I mentioned the whole file structure business as being headed out the door into oblivion in the next few years, as the bulk of computer users – as we are now – learn it’s unnecessary to know about to get he job down. Nerds and dweebs will still enjoy tinkering under the hood, but they will be in a vast minority.

  2. Great post les
    Another point. What struck me about the example you show, is that the ‘test’ can maintain it’s freshness by a simple process of changing the elements without requiring a complicated and time consuming normalising of the score. I can see a whole battery of similar tests being developed.
    Underpinning the whole iPad experience, is multi-touch done right. Apple continues to amaze me and is a lesson in working to core strengths. Obsessive yes but honing to perfection will bring brilliant rewards for the company and it’s users.
    The absence of the whole desktop/file structure metaphor is the least important aspect imo in that the broad spectrum of potential users wouldn’t know what that is anyway or care. Usability and possibility are of paramount importance with the iPad.
    My prediction – I will look back in a year or so’s time and wonder why I couldn’t see how the world would change in so many ways with just one concept.

  3. The problem with people sprouting that the iPad is just a giant iPod touch didn’t realise the genius of Apple Inc because many of us who owned the touch is and iPhone is already familar with its workings and do not have to relearn how to use the iPad.

    Secondly the simplicity of the touch OS also makes learning for the newbies a simple task – no complicated OS to install and learn.

    I am with you the iPad will be a huge success because of its simplicity and familiarity.

    Another great post, thanks.

  4. Another great blog post.

    Is it possible the transition from wire connected components, desktop machines, physically present storage, such as USB, DVD, or hard drive etc. is a matter of trust and control? The “cloud”, or non-tangible storage systems beyond my reach and control, must earn my trust that my digital information is as safe, accessible, and controllable, as it is (or I feel it is) in my own custody.

    The “cloud” is evolving at dramatic speed with the iTunes, iBook store, App store, Carbonite site, online quickbooks, online banking etc. Albeit at a slower pace, the “cloud’s” evolution for individual use is gaining ground rapidly with the ability to share, collaborate, and control information exchanged with colleagues, students, and friends.

    I invision a monkey swinging from one tree to another. He grasps one vine and releases another.

    What the iPad offers is the opportunity to connect with the information experience on a deeper level. With more intuitive hand gestures and the foreseen physical gestures, we move beyond typing or stylus writing for data entry to physical interaction for a more profound experience. We are myopic about our computers and computing experiences. Push way back from the desktop and envision a world of possibilities. A world beyond graphs, word processors, and mouse enabled games is on the horizon. Just because you cannot imagine people on the opposite side of the planet are “upside down” to you does not mean the world is flat. What is and can be is much greater than we know.

    As we move beyond the fear of intangible asset management and reach out to an involved experience, the www marketing phrase, “Where do you want to go today?” will become “What do you want to experience today?”

  5. Les,
    I’m with you — I keep thinking of new ways that I’m going to try to use it … and I wonder how many they anticipated.

    Here’s the latest: I’m a piano player, and it’s always tough dealing with sheet music. (1) having to carry it around. (2) having to turn the pages which take my hands off the [piano] keyboard. I’ve scanned lots of my sheet music and reworked the page breaks to more reasonable places, but it’s still difficult. I always thought about a program that would make it faster to scroll through pages to run on a laptop sitting on the piano. And that’s where every idea died — because that image of trying to play from a laptop screen is ridiculous … the movie Arthur comes to mind where Dudley Moore is asking “where’s the rest of this moose.”

    But I’m thinking it might work with an iPad. :)

  6. Pingback: Facilitation - Evaluation - Beyond the Edge - Viv McWaters

  7. Chuckbo, cool idea! What if you configured a remote control to turn the pages of the iPad for you. Surely the physical triggering mechanism could be configured to respond to a knee movement, a small button or device conveniently attached to the piano near your hands, or perhaps even eye contact or facial gestures. Needless to say, the page advancement could be set to a timer or managed by another person remotely during a performance. Demand for this will lead to supply.

    • Chuckbo/Shellie,
      iPad has a mic, so properly programed, it could LISTEN to you play (notes and beat), and scroll music appropriately.

      With a bit more programming, for learners, it could flag your goofs. For pros/composers, it could listen and transcribe into sheet music.

  8. Pingback: If a dumb shmo like me sitting in far away Australia got it so right about the iPad in 2010, why didn’t those smarties on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley see the future too? And still can’t… | Les Posen's Presentation Magic

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