Will the growth of tablet and mobile phone based reading lead to the return of Clippy?

Microsoft Clippy (aka “Office Assistant” or “Clipit”) is a feature remembered by many users of Microsoft Word. It assisted users by way of an interactive animated character, which interfaced with Office’s online Help. Although the concept of “embedded” or “persistent” Help was good, its application in the real-life working environment was not well received.

With more and more people reading information via tablets and mobile phones, and with the new technologies they contain, perhaps it’s time to revisit the concept of Clippy. Perhaps it can be done right this time?

There are two technologies that tablets and mobile phones contain which are worth considering. One is haptic feedback, the other is ambient technology.

  • Haptic feedback is technology that interfaces with the user through the sense of touch – typically through your device vibrating.
  • Ambient technology refers to electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of people.

An example from the e-learning environment is Evernote Peek, which makes use of the iPad’s Smart Cover to present information.

Perhaps instead of an animated character clamouring for our attention, a more subtle notification by a vibration or a glowing button might be a better way to tell users help is available that can guide them through their task.

We’re not aware of any User Assistance that is using haptic or ambient technologies today, so do let us know if you’ve seen any examples out there.


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