Lars Erik Holmquist
PLAY: Applied research on art and technology
The Viktoria Institute, Box 620, S-405 30 Gothenburg, SWEDEN
For a discussion about user interfaces for small screens, so-called baby faces, it might be interesting to start with considering another type of "baby faces" -- namely, real ones. Until quite recently, human children were perceived as being basically smaller versions of adults, who were just waiting to become strong and educated enough to take their productive place in the grown-ups' society. But with the increasingly high living standard of the industrial age, coupled with a more developed education system, it became apparent that children are in fact unique individuals and quite different from adults in their needs and capabilities. Nowadays, there is an understanding that children are in fact inherently different from adults in many respects.
At the moment, baby-faced computers are perceived perceived as smaller versions of their desktop "parents". But there are many factors that make babyfaced computers inherently different from desktop computers, just like children are different from grown-ups. It is quite possible that with baby faces, many new uses for computers will be found, and completely new markets will open up, with baby-faced computers reaching user groups that are different from anything that has come before. These baby faces may be used for very different tasks and in very different contexts than that of the comparatively well understood desktop setting. Users then will want to bring their baby faces on buses or trains, use them in cars or while taking a walk, completely changing many of the parameters that have previously dictated human-computer interface development. Therefore, can not go on thinking of baby faces as if they are basically desktop computers that just happen to be very small!