With all the bank holidays I have been traveling a lot. Most recently I went to Ireland with both my parents to see an elderly relative who is dying. We were sat side-by-side in the cab of their camper van with the GPS unit on the dash.
This time we decided to use the TomTom software on my iPhone as well as my Dad’s GPS unit hadn’t been updated to deal with all the changes to the Irish road system over the past few years. The first thing that I found is that my Dad preferred a female authoritative voice rather than the default male voice on my TomTom software, so I switched it over for him. I seem to remember that ARPA found found in its experiments into HCI (human computer interaction) that people tended to pay more attention to instructions from an authoritative female voice so I’m not surprised that was my Dad’s preference.
My Mum’s reaction was more interesting. She had developed a cough which seemed to stop completely when she was in animated conversation with any one, but exasperated when we were driving. She also kept asking my Dad if he was sure that he was going the right way and pointed out when the advice from the GPS unit’s advice was ambiguous. I found it laughable that my Mum was fighting for her place in the household against a small box of electronics. Which brought home to me not only the impact on consumer behaviour of interfaces, but also the social effect of those interfaces.