Assignment #3: Stalking Interactive Technology

The interactive device I decided to monitor is a parking meter. The physical function of a parking meter is to take your money and return you a talisman. This talisman protects you from receiving cursed objects on your windshield. The cursed objects actually cost more money to get rid of. It behooves you to pay to get a talisman.

A NYC parking meter has one purpose as far as civilians are concerned. That is to allow people to park their motorized vehicles in designated parking areas during the times listed on street signs. I would assume a person selects the amount of time they would like to park and then enter a form of payment to get a receipt to place on your dashboard.

However upon closer inspection, it doesn’t work that way. First I am not sure how many blind people use this machine, but that edge case is not covered here. There is an audio jack that I assume outputs some sort of audio instructions. The language button, which is a different shade of grey than the audio jack, would probably cycle through other common languages in NYC for the audio.

A user walks up to the device and will have to enter there credit card or start inserting $1 or 25 cent coins. I’ve noticed people with credit cards, if they don’t leave the card in the machine for a few seconds it won’t work. This could be a result of the new chips that recent cards feature. However there is no indication to leave the card in the slot until prompted. Some people waited longer than others for it to verify their cards.

After that it seemed pretty intuitive. You increment the time you want (up tot he max) and pay the related price. NYC included a max/time button, which will select the highest time allowed. This actually save you 3-7 clicks depending on the increment scale. After the time is selected you will print the receipt or choose to cancel everything. A downside to this is that you have to pay per half hour, so if you 15 minutes before the free parking period you still pay for the entire half hour.

While it’s nice to accept coins, it’s cumbersome and not useful unless the user planned ahead. I saw someone have to go back to their car to harvest some coins from the car. I would say the user interface is designed well. They used contrasting colors on buttons so you’re less likely to make a mistake pressing one over the other. They also made the Print button big and green.parkingmeter2
Image credit: Pureandapplied.com

The quickest task to do is entering coins and pressing the Print button. The longest possible task ignoring the audio function would be to use a credit card and increment to the max. Then press the Print button. There’s usually no line and only one person waiting if there is. Ignoring the guy running to his car for coins, I would say it’s possible to complete the transaction in under 15 seconds. The credit card method is around 20-30 seconds.

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