Happy Speed Signs
Palo Alto has a fair number of 'Speed Awareness Signs'. These are those orange LED speed signs that display the current speed limit when you are within the limit, and flash your car's speed when you are over the limit. Inevitably people take their foot off the gas pedal when the sign starts flashing, check for cops, then resume their speed. There really isn't any reward for slowing down, except the sign stops blinking. I bet that if we gave people some positive feedback, even as simple-minded as a little LED smiley face, they would get some small level of satisfaction from going within the limit. Make it into a bit of a game. Two other areas that have benefitted from understanding and working with human-nature are urinals and bulk image labelling. Apparently, by painting a picture of a fly in the bottom of a urinal, men increase their peeing accuracy by as much as 80%. Peeing on a fly is just that much fun. Over at MIT, some enterprising students created a computer system called You're In Control (get it?) which allows you to play a video game by peeing on sensors integrated into a urinal. Wow. Make sure to check out the demonstration video (safe for work). How much fun could it be to come up with a list of descriptive keywords for a set of random images? Well, the ESP game, a research project at Carnegie Mellon University, had people coming to their site in droves to do just that. It shows two users the same random image and they have to guess what word the other user will use to describe that image. You get points when you are right, and high-scores are kept and displayed. As a side-effect, they get a list of the best descriptive keywords for each image. Cool! Perhaps Project Gutenberg's Distributed Proofreaders could benefit from such a similar setup. I tried the proofreading for about an hour and haven't gone back. It ultimately just wasn't that much fun.