Monday, 12 March 2007

UI design for the cow people

I mentioned the cow people to some people in a chat, which some people found hilarious although others were a bit less taken with the discussion. It led to the following comment from Phil Wolff at SkypeJournal.

Seriously, let's talk about UI design for cows and chickens.
Very simplified contact lists.
Maybe big buttons for a very few messages ("Go away", "I'm hungry", "I'm in estrus", "I'm thirsty", "Danger!").
Moo recognition for the cows; peck sensitive keyboard for the chickens. Webcams for chickens since they don't respond much to audio.
GPS and presence for a cow's family; you-are-getting-hotter/colder signalling for finding your mother/calf.
Alerting for feeding/milking times.
For the chickens, you'd want gear that would fit in/next to a cage. For cows, something they could wear like a cowbell or staple to the ears like an RFID tag.
Hardware must be rugged for the farm; must survive water, dirt, having critters fall all over it.
Cows would have unique power challenges; could you train cows to dock their "headsets" for a recharge? While wi-fi might give you bandwidth, you might need to use cellular technology for the longer battery life.

Bonus points: use your cow's attached skype-phone for medical biotelemetry (body temp, pulse, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels) and send it back to a service for monitoring. Wake up the vet before a cow gets too sick. Automatically adjust the cow's feed based on general health.
Phil is the host in a public chat with the topic Skype 3.1 discussion. Anybody using version 3.0+ of Skype can create, host, moderate and promote a public chat on a website, in email, in IMs, and in Skype mood messages.

The chat threw up many bizarre observations and awful puns (i'll spare you), and a story about a chicken eating cow in India. If the cow people chat is anything to go by, public chat offers lots of possibilities.

On a more serious but equally bizarre note, was an item on the local Beeb news last week - can't find it online unfortunately so no link for now. They reported on a company that is working with algae to save the planet - they want to place large tankfuls of carbon-monoxide loving micro-critters next to every coal-burning power station in the country. They are also exporing its usage as a clean fuel that is far cheaper and more effective as a biofuel than rapeseed. These are the same, or similar microbes, to the ones which first cleaned this planet enough to sustain human life so maybe they are just the medicine we need.


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