Sitting on the Plane, Gears-a-Churnin'

By Michael Flanakin @ 11:03 PM :: 1519 Views :: Development, Technology :: Digg it!

I was sitting on the plane today on my way to Seattle and I started fiddling with the monitor that was in the headrest of the seat in front of me. The first thing I thought was interesting was the map of where we were and how far we had to go. Now, this is nothing new and what I'm about to delve into isn't anything world-changing, but I thought it was interesting and I'd be interested in throwing something together just as a proof of concept.

Everywhere I go, no matter what I'm doing, I take notice to the processes people implement in their daily lives. In particular, I focus in on bottlenecks and areas where there could be user experience (Ux) and performance benefits. The possibilities are endless and the solutions vary a lot. One of the biggest bottlenecks is person-to-person (P2P) interfaces. These are also the most problematic. Well, to be exact, any user-facing interface is expected to be problematic -- if you've ever done use case estimation, you should already have acknowledged this -- so, of course P2P is a double-whammy. In most cases, when I see this, I think of how nice it'd be to simply input my request within a system of some sort and have everything start working from there. Of course, this is going to require users to be a bit more tech savvy, but it'd be well worth the results -- given some ramp-up time, of course.

As I mentioned, this isn't new by any means. Look at retail stores. I've noticed automated POS machines at Wal Mart and Home Depot. I love these. I think they could use for a better Ux, but all-in-all, the concept is great. Imagine those times your server didn't refill your drink or get your check back to you fast enough. We've all had this happen. Now, imagine if you went to the same restaurant and there was an electronic menu that you simply select the items you want; bluetooth-style cups would alert the server when they're low on fluid or, better yet, detect that the consistency of the drink has changed too much to denote a watered-down beverage, which should be replaced altogether; and, when you're ready to go, you simply check out thru a small machine on the table that would send everything to a back-office server for processing and print or email a reciept to you. I think I'm in love!!

Well, I'm getting off topic. My original idea was to enable that airplane map with Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to give the user an interactive interface which is much more feature rich. Combine that with a service to call the destination airport to gather follow-on flight information or even request help if you either need to get to a gate faster or are disabled. We already have radio and TV, why not have web and email? If I had web access, I'd be in heaven on a plane. With a small monitor, I may be limited on space, but I'd be so much more happy than having to deal with pulling out my laptop and trying to work in such cramped spaces -- especially when the person in front of you leans back (which I hate with a passion -- it's so inconsiterate). You get the idea. The list goes on and on. I can just imagine an interface that would allow users to seemingly fly thru the interfaces and select one feature after another to make the experience much more enjoyable. Heck, this would probably take your mind off the fact that you're so uncomfortable.

For now, this'll just have to be my little pipe dream. If there are any airlines or even train stations that might be interested in a concept like this, let me know. Perhaps we can work out a deal with Microsoft Consulting Services.