Have we lost our human touch with technology?


human touch 02


We were all welcomed into this world with the human touch. We quickly learnt to communicate, person to person. People learn best from each other. The next step was to express ourselves in writing - at school & into higher education.

In the 90's desktops opened new vistas for 2D expression (eg, slide decks, plus images on email & documents). Now, since 2010, Mobile connects us anywhere, anytime - but image resolution is impaired on  smaller devices, reducing the emotional impact of the message.

Human 3D interaction brings emotion back into the conversation. Human-to-human communication is optimal. The next-best-thing to face-to-face is personal video exchange. Mobile and short personal video - combined - bring back a human touch in the workplace. At humanLearning we want to bring humanity to communication between dispersed, on-the-go field managers – which is why we have developed the SmartVideoNote for mobile.

Author: Kapil Singhal, CEO and Co-founder humanLearning March 2016

Can Fun be designed into the everyday things we do…?


arti pdf


I watched the musical Mary Poppins with my nephew... it was fun! In the movie, Mary says, ‘In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun... and snap! The job's a game.’ ...This acted as a reminder...to find ‘the fun’ in the everyday things.

As I started to reflect on it, there were two very different thoughts... What is Fun? Can Fun be designed – i.e. can fun be deliberately built into everyday tasks?

I was surprised that I (without any doubt) had simply accepted – an activity if fun, will automatically be engaging – it was almost as if it was a universally accepted principle that was self-evident and required no proof.

I was so intrigued with this thought that I turned to studies in human psychology to find an answer to why was there such a strong emotional and behavioral connect with fun and games. I started to understand what categories of emotions and experiences are associated with fun... While the natural inclination is for us to associate fun with play time or leisure activities and to associate game with elements such as enjoyment (amusement, pleasure etc.) and rewards (wins, prizes, points, badges, levels etc.), I found studies that showed that human response – in behaviour and mind - is typically far deeper than that.

It is true that many-a-times fun is just a purposeless short-term experience that is enjoyable – be it chilling out to relax or goofing off to take the mind off work! But let’s not be deluded - there are hidden elements in fun – that of challenge and discovery - that can be motivating and inspiring...

Be it the challenge of problem solving (puzzles and riddles) or the thrill of exploration (quests and treasure hunts) or the excitement of new discoveries (new facts and ideas)... these experiences are always enjoyable – motivating us to keep trying harder to find new answers and rewarding us with the feeling of triumph or winning... a fully cycle of pleasure and gratification!

I learnt that fun has many dimensions. While on one hand we have seen (above) that competing is fun, it was a paradox to find that so is collaborating! In fact studies show that co-operation transcends competition 3:1, and though very different, but no doubt there is an element of fun in teamwork and sharing, in building engaging relationships, in receiving social recognition...

But what stood out for me was the realisation that even the commonest of every day actions – expression – has a deep association with the emotion of fun! Expression is nothing but creating, building, collecting, owning, customizing... but it has the potential to be enriched by applying imagination (be it through fantasy, role-play, narrative) and the opportunity to drive unexpected response through an element of surprise...

With this new appreciation of fun, I accepted that each of these different emotions and experiences has its own value... But, I also realised that the impact of these experiences can be very different in different situations. The key is to let the business objective select the experiences that drive higher impact and then integrate those into the everyday workflow.

With our focus, at hL, on simplifying work-life and accelerating responsiveness, we balanced the needs of the individual with the group and ended up with a four dimensional (E2C2) structure, grouping various emotions and experiences around the following four dimensions:

EXPRESS (e.g. Capture/Create, Personalise)
EXPLORE (e.g. View, Collect, Rate, Curate)
COLLABORATE (e.g. Share, Build)
COMPETE (e.g. Challenge, Problem Solving, Win, Achievements, Comparisons, Competitions)

With this new definition and structure of fun elements and mechanics, the bigger challenge was to embed fun into product design... i.e. to create an experience that appeals to these different kinds of fun and to design user interactions within a gaming framework that not only drives and promotes specific behaviour, but makes the journey enjoyable and fulfilling through positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement.

Sounds simple, but it turned out to be quite complex to design.

The first thought was to build the game design on behaviorism and use the knowledge of what people do to drive engagements - reconditioning through consequences and reinforcing through rewards. But in my exploration of neuroscience over the last few years, I have understood that brain is a pattern recognition system and tends to pick these patterns over time... the impact gets diluted...
And since I have grown to appreciate the cognitive power, I preferred to apply the understanding of how the brain works and why people do things (instead of what) into the product design – balancing the extrinsic motivation (where the reward matters more than the things – where its more about status, power, collections) with intrinsic motivation (where the drive for competence, autonomy or association overrides rewards).

With this focus on why and not what, our emphasis is on experiences (and not incentives), fun (and not needs), meaning (and not status), progressions (and not rewards), surprise (and not structure)... we have realised that its not about getting the user to do things, but actually about making them feel good and making them awesome!

It’s a simple insight – even obvious if you come to think about it... yet its rarely defined as the primary goal in designing product and user experience... we consciously focused on it and achieved interesting results...

[Translating this vision of designing fun into product interactions was a stimulating journey - the experience, the learning and the impact it had on making dull everyday tasks simple, more meaningful and effective... only a follow-on note can do justice to those insights...]

Arti is the co-founder of humanLearning – a fast growing UK-based technology startup – setup with an earnest desire to make the life of busy professionals simpler and more effective. hL is disrupting business work-flows thru WinSight – a mobile-video based platform that empowers ‘every’ professional to benefit from each other’s experiences & insights in the easiest, fastest and most impactful way. Arti can be reached at arti@humanlearning.com.