Lion Roars, Google Labs Shuts its Doors, and Math Gets a New UI

by Jon Follett

Here’s what we’re reading online, this week at Involution, on design, tech, and the digital life, in our links round up.

Lion Roars
Apple launched the latest version of their ground breaking OS X operating system today with a host of UI innovations culled from their iOS mobile platform. As might be expected, these innovations were met with both cheers and jeers.

A particularly contentious change in the user interface is a "reverse scroll" feature, where the scrolling direction is tied to the content appearing on screen rather than the position of the scroll bar itself. In most desktop operating systems, pulling the scroll bar down causes the content to move up, and vice versa. Not so in the iPhone or iPad interface, where the user drags the content in the direction they want it to move. The adoption of this iOS convention in Lion has some reviewers confused and upset. But since you can switch it back with a settings change in system preferences, is it really that big a deal?

Of course, it remains to be seen whether these type of changes will take hold with the larger market, but since Apple has been the vanguard of software UI design, my guess it that the initial hew and cry will give way to adoption, imitation, and eventually convention.

Google Shutters Labs
I always thought it was daring for Google to release early prototypes of their innovative software projects in Google Labs. Labs, which featured segments devoted to enhancing Gmail and Google Maps among other products, is headed for the scap pile of history.

Google Labs is falling to ax of product streamlining, as the tech monolith hopes to tighten up their portfolio and focus on fewer product lines.

The Labs method of revealing software just out of R&D may feel like a relic of the Web 2.0 wave, and perhaps the haphazard way products were launched didn't endear the method to the general public, but something experimental, playful and good is being lost as Google shuts down Labs.

iPhone Survives Fall from 13,500 Feet
Who knew that the iPhone was so durable? CNN features a fun article on how a skydiving iPhone user lost his device in mid-air only to recover it in working condition from the top of a building not far from his landing site. Of course, the screen was cracked to pieces, but apparently the phone could still receive calls. Don't try this one at home.

Envisioning A New Interface for Math
Watch out abstract symbols, UI designer Bret Victor is coming for you, as he attempts to create a more usable and intuitive interface for envisioning mathematical equations, using information visualization. Victor contends that the reason complex mathematics may seem to be intellectually out of reach to many, is because math actually suffers from a bad user interface.

Fast Company's Co.Design blog features a summary of Victor's work so far: an iPad app prototype that teaches differential equations. The app is beautiful enough that it makes me want to try a hand at math again.

Mobilizing the Fight Against HIV / AIDS
Design Observer highlights a case study from the Yale School of Management on Project Masiluleke: Texting and Testing to Fight HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

According to the online case study, team members from Frog Design, the Praekelt Foundation, and PopTech conference created two innovative elements: "The first effort harnessed mobile phones to deliver a series of messages designed to raise awareness and connect users to information. The second approach was the development of a self-test kit with mobile support, so that individuals could determine their HIV status in the privacy of their own homes."

The harnessing of mobile technology to address the spread of HIV/AIDS in a country where certain regions suffer from 30-40% infection rates is nothing short of admirable.

Topics: apple, iphone, iPad, user interface, Analysis, Blog, google, mobile, ui