Keren Gu's Picazón

Sharing and Scratching Itches Everywhere

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SmartCart Poster

If you are new to Project SmarCart, go here.

I find my updates for Project SmartCart always lag by a week. So the past week, I’ve been on “vacation”. But I did take one step closer to Techfair — I finally learnd Photoshop and made the SmartCart Poster. Woot! This is also the result of massive procrastination.

Did I learn anything from making this poster? I learned that I love it. For some reason, I never considered design to be a career option, but I’ve always believed that I have an eye for design, and at the very least, an appreciation. I love seeing things beautifully made, which is why, when I have my own product, it will be beautiful, sleek, and classy. But on the other hand, Designers and Developers aren’t that different. “Both cultures immerse themselves in technical professions, sometimes carrying a certain amount of elitism, but always with a passion for craft, self-betterment, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.”

This is a 24x36'' poster. The font size is in fact 35+

This is a 24×36” poster. The font size is in fact 35+


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Bad UI is Bad UX

Over the past 3 weeks, I have been working on Project SmartCart. The section that I’m working on is creating an Android App that assists the every need of the shopper. The app is the torso of the project. Then comes the shopping cart, the barcode scanner (disaster), and the square (difficulty).

By the end of week 2, most functionalities are done. This includes implementing the backend database, adding items, recommendations, finding items, coupons. I was feeling good, but not really. When I used the app, it felt like shit. More descriptively, it felt like an app from the 90’s. It mainly looked bad.

The perfectionists/professionals of UX said that UX is not UI. But when you have terrible UI, you have terrible UX. When testing my app, I didn’t mind the hassel of typing in pseudo barcodes like “111111”. (That will be fixed when I get the barcode scanner, I believe.) But the solid color edges, the sharp corners, the lack of transition, and fades, the solid background.

I know nothing about UI. This is my first app, but I can’t allow it to look like the remains of some previous century.


Introducing Project SmartCart

It is Week 3 of 6, that I’m in China, spending my winter break working on my project. On Day 4 of the week, I finally got back to working. I opened up eclipse early this morning but didn’t eventually get to work till noon (…slacker). For the first 3 days of the week, which included the final day of 2012 and the 2 followed that, I spent at home, sick (… my excuse). I’m still sitting here with a box of Chinese Kleenex, but I’m getting better =)

So I think it’s time to finally introduce “Project SmartCart”. Even though the idea has been around since Summer 2012, while shopping at Shaw’s, I am still having trouble figuring out where to start talking about it… So here’s my attempt at a pitch:

The shopping experience at supermarkets and wholesale stores are far from seamless — we search through the unorganized aisles for groceries and then face long aggravating checkout lines. We are bringing technology to the ordinary shopping cart, presenting… SmartCart. SmartCart solves all the above problems and more. It tracks all items in the cart, let you search items in the store, gives recommendations for products, allows instant checkout, and much more. SmartCart will become the shopping experience of tomorrow!

If you are from the NE part of America, you might think of Stop&Shop. This is better than that. Just imagine being able to swipe your credit card on your shopping cart and leave.

Currently I’m working on this project for Techfair, a place where students show case their project and startups come to recruit. This project isn’t technically very challenging on a demo-scale, which is why i’m working mostly alone with the support my of friends on different subjects.

I’m just glad that I’m back to work. More on SmartCart as I make progress.


Sharing Personal Data with No Fear

This post is inspired by a NYTimes article.

Something worth pondering is a method that could allow companies like Facebook to share their data without revealing any personal privacy.

There are a lot of problems with both sharing and not sharing Facebook’s (and other companies alike)’s data. As users, we don’t want people to look into these data and find things pertaining to us individually. As scientists, we want transparency and the release of any research data for verification. For the sake of science.

While working at the Mobile Experience Lab (@MIT Media Lab) with Avea, a mobile company of Turkey, on methods of identifying “power users” in their mobile network, our research ability was severely limited by the lack of real data to analyze. Our collaboration also became very tedious. The workflow included generating random data in order to test our algorithm. Yet we would have nothing to look at, no patterns to find once our algorithm is ran.

However, in a pure theoretical point of view, there need to be a way to allow scientists to analyze user data without the ability to pin down a particular individual.

On a very high level, I see two different ways to do this. One is to eliminate information such as name, address, phone number when these data are being sent for analyze. Another is a method that restricts researches to analyze individual data, only allow experiments to run on batches of data. Any attempt to hone down on a specific person or small group of people will result in inaccurate data.

As for the first suggestion, there is a clear problem. For most of us, our name, address, phone number are our identifications. But for others, they could be in a company of 1 or few, thus their company became another identifying. This also extends to their network, their selection of “likes”. Their statuses may reveal things about them. By this argument, we soon eliminates almost all information about a person, and therefore sharing no data. It is clear that this will not work.

As for the second suggestion, there could be hope. If we can add a virtual layer between data, and researchers — a layer that encrypts or smudges the data so it’s impossible for us, or our programs to align individual data and find anything particular about a single person, or a small group of people, then we will be close to fixing the tension between companies, users, and scientists.

I haven’t thought enough to figure out if this is possible or not. I could totally be bluffing.