AARIVE or not. 05.16.2007

An entry from AARIVE recently won the Microsoft Next-gen PC Design Competition. Here is the winning entry:

MADE in China

There are things wrong with this.

  1. It falls into the trap of thinking that mimicking a culture’s tools implies catering to a culture. There’s nothing made for China about this design. Even the mimicry is wrong — the entire thing reeks of a Japanese Zen mindset, with the carefully placed chopsticks and folding cover.

  2. Ergonomically, why the in world would you hold a stylus like a chopstick? Perhaps if I have picking up holographic pieces of food from my futuristic 3d-projection screen, chopsticks would be the perfect gateway to utilization of the Chinese market. But as it is? Hell no. It’s hard to think of a worse way to manipulate objects on a flat 2d surface than using a pair of chopsticks.

The designer says:

“The CHOPstylus extends the ancient Chinese tradition of chopsticks to the next level of use,” says Leung. “The MADE in China design makes the visual statement that using a PC is as simple and essential as having three meals a day.”

When I think about eating food and using chopsticks, do you know what doesn’t enter my mind? “I wish I could also use these on a touch screen and go to the next level!!!!!”

It does make a visual statement. But that’s all it makes. Functionally, it’s a horrible idea.

Let’s not even get into the idea of dual inputs with the chopsticks. Or writing.

Traditional Chinese brush writing is held with the brush down and the hand near the top. In theory, this could be mimicked by the ridiculously long trunk of the chopstick stylus. But this is for writing with a brush.

The modern Chinese write the way everybody else in the world writes: with a pen, held closer to the tip, angled.

But let’s step back for a moment, and consider how chopsticks are used. Chopsticks are used because it is an easy and fast way to pick up food from far away — the relatively long reach of the wooden sticks ensures that one can easily reach across the table.

In your typical touch screen tablet usage, the tablet is held close, where a shorter stylus wins in both convenience and ergonomic performance.

It shouldn’t suprise me that a design competition once again values the purely visual impact of a submission over the utter impracticality and inappropriateness of the design, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not disappointing and sad.

People always chide Microsoft for not having the vision to create truly user-friendly devices. Their choice in the winner doesn’t help to disprove that belief.