Aza Raskin on modern human-computer interaction

Found this interesting Google TechTalk from Aza Raskin is the son of Jef Raskin (one of the fathers of the Macintosh project), this guy works at Humanized, the company behind Enso.

Video link for aggregators skipping the embedded video.

Enso is an interactive text shell integrated with the Windows desktop, you can actually select text from any application and translate, calculate a function, search on google and a lot of other integrated task, allowing a better integration between applications without a big list of copy paste and file system operations (watch the demo). He is also involved in the Ubiquity plugin from Mozilla Labs, which is a similar shell to integrate web applications.

His idea is to empower users on doing unexpected things from the developer stand point by using natural language, this mean, rethink the CLI as something that can be exposed to end users if well thought.

In GNOME we approached this idea with Deskbar, however I think that it’s UI got to the point where even if the panel has it by default, its use is not discoverable. There’s also GNOME Do. But both of them lacks the kind of integration and posibilities that Enso has on Windows and Ubiquity inside Firefox. It would be interesting to try out some of these ideas in GNOME 3.0 and the new Shell.

This video is a must for anyone interested in human-computer interaction and usability.

15 thoughts on “Aza Raskin on modern human-computer interaction

  1. Enso looks neat… Some more ideas:
    – the OCR mechanism used by Babylon Translator (does that software still exist?) was quite useful, to translate words in non-selectable text. KTranslator tried to do the same but the implementation doesn’t seem to work well
    – it would be nice if the “system” would automatically detect that I just selected a math formula, and display the result unobtrusively but without requiring any button press
    – a good offline translator would be nice; Ding is quite good for English-German translations, but as standalone app it lacks desktop integration
    – there’s lots of more functionality that would be useful in a tool like Enso or Deskbar; like getting info from a city name: what land is it in, current weather, ZIP code, phone number, Wikipedia summary…
    (Btw. your Javascript-based comment field doesn’t seem to work – the Submit button isn’t getting enabled in Konqueror or Epiphany).


  2. Other than showing bigger text (Which makes sense, since it’s the actual input/interface and not), gnome-do seems like the exact same idea.


  3. Enso isn’t just for Windows, actually. When Mozilla hired the Humanized guys, they created an open source project around Enso and it’s now cross platform. I don’t know all the details as it’s been a number of months since I looked at it and I didn’t look long or hard, but as of October 2008 or so I was able to get Enso running on Arch Linux (+Openbox). Granted, it didn’t really seem to *do* anything at the time, but it’s there, and a large chunk of it (if not all of it) is in Python.


  4. Hey Guys,
    We are happy to help you guys get Ubiquity-style thinking into Gnome. Come get involved with the project — and we can figure out how to let Ubiquity escape the browser.


  5. I should note that the open source Enso project is picking up steam again. We’re in the process of moving to Launchpad and re-launching the project; it’s cross-platform (Linux, Mac, and Windows, and I’m using it every day on Ubuntu), and interested in help.


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