Daily Archives: March 21, 2010

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.