The Human Side of Technology
Psychologists, anthropologists and social scientists are giving Intel a fresh perspective on designing technology that meets real world needs.
A newer form of industry research known as ethnography**, or the study of people is helping Intel Labs discover the difference between what people say they do and what they really do in their daily lives.
Insights gained into the relationship between human behavior and technology have produced exciting new design concepts at Intel. Some concepts that have entered the digital marketplace are:
- Intel® Play" Toys
- Intel® Streaming Web Media
- Intel® Easy Web Media
- Intel® Internet Presentation Software
Intel Labs researchers immerse themselves in the natural environment of real people whether at home, on the job, at school, or on vacation. Sample settings include:
- Medical clinics
- Elder hostels
- Schools for hearing-impaired children
- Urban and suburban homes in the U.S. and Europe
- Shopping sites in the U.S. and Europe
Case in Point: Improving Healthcare
In the case of medical clinics, Intel Labs conducted a study of healthcare providers. About 100 practitioners from a dozen clinics in the Pacific Northwest and Boston were interviewed, observed, photographed and videotaped in their clinics and homes. Numerous doctors reported that time constraints prevented them from accessing the people, information and/or resources they need to provide patients with quality health care.
Read "Intel Looks at the Human Side of Medicine," of Between Rounds*, for a perspective from the medical community.
Intel Labs has been examining how technology could ease this burden, and enable providers to spend more time with their patients. In May 2001, Intel and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions announced the use of Intel wireless products in the Allscripts TouchWorks* solution to help "free physicians from their offices."
Case in Point: Helping People Connect
In the case of Intel Easy Web Media, Intel Labs began working with elder hostels and other senior citizen groups. Intel Labs discovered a strong desire to tell and record family history and the stories behind family treasures. The result was a very simple and easy-to-use multimedia-authoring tool, designed for people with no previous computer skills.
Meet Genevieve Bell, one of Intel Labs' people-centered researchers, and learn more about ethnographic research methods in business. Or, get a glimpse into one of Intel's on-site investigations by reading "Bus Ride to the Future," an article by BBC News Online.
Research Tools and Techniques
Intel Labs uses a variety of qualitative methods to collect data and gain insights into how people carry out their daily routines. Sample methods include:
- Videotapes of people engaged in studied behavior, task, or environment
- Photographs of people, their environment and the things i.e. "cultural artifacts" that they use in that activity
- In-depth interviews
- Shadowing or participating with people during their activities
(a.k.a. "deep hanging out")
- Focus troupes
Focus Troupes: Acting it Out
With the focus troupe method, "Actors are hired to act out scenarios of hypothetical concepts to help people grasp ideas they've never experienced before," says Christine Riley, manager of Intel Labs' People and Practices Research (PaPR) group. "Theater works really well to get people to suspend disbelief, and you need very few props to excite people's imagination. The whole idea is to be very open-ended and to get new ideas."
Learn more about this data collection technique also called "informances," for informative performances.
The People Behind "People and Practices"
Explore the individual stories of some of our creative minds working in People and Practices Research:
Genevieve Bell, Anthropologist
Eric Dishman, Applications Research and Strategy
Wendy March, Interaction Designer
Nick Oakley, Industrial Designer
Tony Salvador, Design Ethnographer
John Sherry, Anthropologist
Computing Usage Studies
Intel Labs also tracks the adoption and usage of emerging applications and technologies. Intel Labs applies insights gained from understanding the cycle of user awareness, experience and satisfaction to create new or improved technologies.
Among the technologies investigated:
- Streaming video
- High-speed Internet access (i.e. broadband)
- Video telephony
- Internet media content delivery
Below are short descriptions of sample studies:
Running and Grimacing: The Struggle for Balance in Mobile Work, 2001.
This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork projects Intel Labs conducted in 2000 among mobile professionals in three overlapping settings: in the midst of inter-city business travel; conducting work while roaming within a more restricted urban or rural periphery; and within the confines of a single plant or office building. Spanning all these situations were a set of tensions that characterize much of mobile work.
Changing Practices: Computing Technology in the Shifting Landscape of
American Healthcare, 1999.
This paper reports on an Intel Labs ethnographic research project to understand the daily lives of doctors and to identify new opportunities for computing technology in healthcare. About 100 practitioners from a dozen clinics in the Pacific Northwest and Boston were interviewed, observed, photographed and videotaped in their natural settings.
Metrics, Drivers and Barriers to Consumer Usage of Video Phones, Broadband Services and Streaming Video, 1999.
This study, commissioned by Intel Labs, and conducted and published by International Data Corporation (IDC), revealed that about one million consumers made regular video phone calls in the United States. An even larger group of consumers regularly watched streaming videos on the Internet. Awareness of streaming video in 1999 was lower than that of established technology. But most people who were aware of it were actively using streaming video, indicating great promise for its growth.
The Museum as 'Cultural Ecology': A Study, 1999.
In preparation for the launch of www.artmuseum.net, Intel Labs investigated the ways that museums function as public spaces. This paper draws on observations, interviews and experiences from a range of art, science, cultural and historical U.S.-based museums in the Bay Area, New York and Portland, Oregon during 1999.
Intel Research Council
Another way Intel supports innovation and the advancement of technology is through university research grants by the Intel Research Council (IRC). Funded projects often focus on advancing the digital industry as a whole.
For details, visit the Intel Research Council Web site.
Select the following links to discover what others have been saying about Intel's human-centered approach to digital research. For more articles, visit the Intel Labs news page.
"Bus Ride to the Future," BBC News Online, Alfred Hermida, December 3, 2001.
"Intel Opens Lab to Develop 'Proactive Computing' Technologies," Semiconductor Business News, Mark LaPedus, November 12, 2001.
"Creating A Better, Brighter, Smarter Internet; The Future of the Net Series," Interactive Week, Richard Williamson, October 2001.
"When Users Talk, Computers Listen; The Future of the Net Series," Interactive Week, Todd Spangler, October 2001.
"Meet Intel's Resident Nostradamus ," CNET News.com, Michael Kanellos, September 2001.
"Smart Home Care," Technology Review, An MIT Enterprise, David Ross, September 2001.
"From the Dreams of Children to the Future of Technology," Independent.co.uk, Ben Rosier, July 2001.
"A 'Smart' Home, to Avoid the Nursing Home," New York Times, Anne Eisenberg, April 2001.
"Intel: It Isn't Just for Chips Anymore," CNET News.com, David Becker and Michael Kanellos, January 2001.
"Inside Intel: Betting on the Future," ZDNet News.com, John G. Spooner, July 2000.
"Intel's Brave New Home," ZDNet News.com, John G. Spooner, July 2000.
"R&D: Is the Customer Always Right?" ZDNet News.com, John G. Spooner, July 2000.
"The Human Touch," InfoWorld, May 2000.
"Intel Looks at the Human Side of Medicine," Between Rounds, February/March 2000.
" with an Intel Anthropologist, People Watching People," Forbes, Chiori Santiago, November 1999.
"Putting Research to Work", Forbes, Elizabeth Corcoran, May 1999.
"Intel Peers into the Home of the Future," CNET News.com, Stephanie Miles, April 1999.
- "Intel: Connected Car PCs and Ultimate Desktop," PC Magazine, Cade Metz, June 1998.
**Ethnography "The branch of anthropology that deals with the scientific description of specific human cultures," The American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition, 1996.