Coffee Maker UI

On a recent trip, one of our hotels provided a Keurig single-cup coffeemaker with an assortment of K-cups. I took a few minutes to analyze the coffee maker user interface, while brewing my morning cuppa.

A visual “user guide” is printed on the side of the coffee maker, making it easy for national and international travelers to brew a beverage.


Plus, the coffee maker design guides users through the beverage making process. Push the button on top to get started. The Place Cup light glows, and the K-cup holder opens. Position the paper cup under the dispenser, and insert the K-cup. Close the holder lid, and the water reservoir lid opens up. Add water, and close the lid, and the Brew button glows. Press the Brew button, and the Heating light glows. Soon, the coffee dispenses into the cup.

This is an example of ideal user design. The traveler is treated to a great user experience and cup of coffee, with no need for written instructions.

Data Sonification Methods

I’m still delving into the art and science of data sonification, and considering how it might be used to communicate technical information. In Data Sonification with a Purpose, I reported on some fascinating ways that Brian Foo (The Data Driven DJ) uses sound to report complex statistical information. Another interesting example is for monitoring network traffic—Network Activity Renderer (NeAR).

Sarah Frazier’s article, “Sonification: Data like you’ve never heard before”, on reports two common methods for turning data into sound:

  • Audification – writing data directly to a sound file. This method is used for a data set with many data points. For example, earth quake or solar radiation sonification might include many data points for a single event.
  • Parameter mapping – relating different parameters of a data set to distinct musical sounds. This method is used for a data set with multiple data points. For example, solar wind sonification might include parameters for speed, density, and temperature.

Data sonification is an interesting idea, and a topic worth tracking as people try out more implementations. I’m especially interested in its applications for monitoring network traffic and security in public or private cloud landscapes. Here is a Pinterest board for interesting ideas in data sonification:

Data Sonification with a Purpose

My latest quest is learning more about data sonification, which is the use of sound to convey data. Recall in Data Sonification, we reviewed several familiar examples, such the Geiger counter and sonar; and learned about several novel applications, such as NASA using sound to convey information about space to astronauts, and software developer Brian Foo using sound to report median household income.

To learn more, I visited Foo’s website, Data Driven DJ. Foo provides ten data sonification examples that he created for New York Public Library Labs. Foo documents each project (the song created, the data source, the process, and so on). You can listen to the sound track only, or with visuals. Both are powerful. A few of my favorites:

Air Play – Smog Music Created with Beijing Air Quality Data

Distance from Home – Four Decades of Global Refugee Movement

Color Balance – A Soundtrack for Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in Blockbuster Movies

I’m hooked, but a little skeptical. How would this work in everyday life? Is there a place for data sonification in fields, such as health care, financial industry, manufacturing, software and hardware development, and so forth? What would it mean to ordinary folks just walking around, and interacting with the world? What would the user interface be? What would the user experience be for people who are hard of hearing, tone deaf, or completely deaf? I may lack vision, but I am open to learning more!