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How To (Re)Design an ATM

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In the fall of 2005, Wells Fargo hired a design firm to redesign the user interface on their ATMs. The old design was deemed clunky, partly because it had to deal with two kinds of machines: those with touchscreens, and those with buttons along the left and right sides of the screen. The new design would work only on the touchscreen models, introducing a new flexibility in layout and interaction design.

Designer Holger Struppek recounts his experience on the redesign project in his excellent article, That design is money! A better ATM experience from Wells Fargo. The article covers a series of anecdotes about designing a better ATM experience, which astounds me for two reasons: first, that an ATM experience can be good; and second, that the ATM screenshots shown in the piece actually exist in the wild (it's like banking in the not-too-distant future. I'm not a Wells Fargo customer, but this ATM design is tempting...my bank is still stuck in the 80's, apparently. Here's a sample from Struppek's article:

A great feature of the Wells Fargo ATM UI has always been the Quick Cash button. It allows you to quickly withdraw an often-used amount from your checking account with the press of one button. There is no need to go through the steps of selecting an account, selecting an amount, and confirming the transaction. However, few people knew that this feature could be customized with a different amount and account. The functionality was always there, but it required pressing the My ATM Preferences button, followed by a tedious multi-step procedure to change the settings.

We thought that the new UI could be better than that. Instead of just offering generic choices and complicated customization procedures, the ATM should learn by itself what individual customers do most often, and then make those things easier to accomplish.

The new UI still offers the Quick Cash feature, but in a much smarter way. Instead of one Quick Cash button, we introduced a whole column of shortcut buttons that behave somewhat like the History menu in a web browser. It is still possible to customize them through Set My ATM Preferences, but hardly necessary since they always reflect the most recent transactions.

Read the rest for an interesting story on user interface design.

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IKEA
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IKEA’s New Augmented Reality App Lets You Test Out Virtual Furniture in Your Home
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IKEA

No matter how much measuring and research you do beforehand, buying a piece of furniture without knowing what it will look like in your home is always a gamble. With its new augmented reality app, IKEA hopes to take some of the guesswork out of the process. IKEA Place features more than 2000 items in the Swedish retailer's inventory, and visualizing them in the space where you live is as easy as tapping a button.

As WIRED reports, IKEA Place is among the first apps to take advantage of Apple's ARKit, an augmented reality platform that debuted as part of iOS 11. iPhone and iPad owners with the latest update can download IKEA's new app for free and start browsing through home goods right away.

To use the tool, you must first select the product you wish to test out, whether it's a loveseat, a kitchen table, or a dresser. Then, with the camera activated, you can point your device at whichever space you want the item to fill and watch it appear on the screen in front of you.

According to IKEA, the 3D models are scaled with 98 percent accuracy. Factors that are hard to analyze from photos online, like shadows, lighting, and textures, are also depicted as they would appear in real life. So if a sofa that looks great under the lights of a store looks drab in your living room, or if a desk that seems tiny online doesn't fit inside your office, the app will let you know. It's the closest you can get to seeing how a piece of furniture complements a room without lugging it through the doorway.

IKEA isn't the first company to improve interior design with computerized images. Several hardware stores and furniture outlets offer their own AR apps. Other services like Modsy let customers pay to create full virtual models of their homes before populating them with 3D furniture. Even IKEA had a basic AR app prior to this one, but it was glitchy and not always accurate. This newest iteration aims to provide a more seamless shopping experience. And with the latest iOS update placing a greater emphasis on AR, you can expect to see more apps using the technology in the near future.

[h/t WIRED]

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The Library of Congress Wants Your Help Identifying World War I-Era Political Cartoons
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. government’s official library wants your help. And it involves cartoons.

The Library of Congress just debuted its new digital innovation lab, an initiative that aims to improve upon its massive archives and use them in creative ways. Its first project is Beyond Words, a digitization effort designed to make the research library’s historical newspaper collection more search-friendly. It aims to classify and tag historical images from World War I-era newspapers, identifying political cartoons, comics, illustrations, and photos within old news archives. The images come from newspapers included in Chronicling America, the library’s existing newspaper digitization project.

The tasks involved in Beyond Words are simple, even if you know nothing about the illustrations involved going into it. The Library of Congress just needs people to help mark all the illustrations and cartoons in the scanned newspaper pages, a task that only involves drawing boxes to differentiate the image from the articles around it.

Then there’s transcription, involving typing in the title of the image, the caption, the author, and whether it’s an editorial cartoon, an illustration, a photo, a map, or a comic. The library also needs people to verify the work of others, since it’s a crowd-sourced effort—you just need to make sure the images have been transcribed consistently and accurately.

A pop-up window below an early 20th century newspaper illustration prompts the user to pick the most accurate caption.

Screenshot via labs.loc.gov

The data will eventually be available for download by researchers, and you can explore the already-transcribed images on the Beyond Words site. Everything is in the public domain, so you can remix and use it however you want.

With the new labs.loc.gov, “we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” Carla Hayden, the library’s head, said in a press release.

Other government archives regularly look to ordinary people to help with the monstrous task of digitizing and categorizing their collections. The National Archives and Records Administration, for instance, has recently crowd-sourced data entry and transcription for vintage photos of life on Native American reservations and declassified government documents to help make their collections more accessible online.

Want to contribute to the Library of Congress’s latest effort? Visit labs.loc.gov.

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