Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wacom tablet: post-purchase rationalization

So I bought a Wacom Bamboo tablet last week. It's a nice digital pen tablet, with a drawing area about the size of a postcard -- a good size for sketching & gesture-based interfaces. It plugs into a USB port and (after some fiddling with the drivers) works very nicely with Windows, Firefox, Inkscape, etc.

That said, I'm not really sure why I bought the thing. I do a lot of writing and programming, which leads to a lot of typing, but not much clicking and dragging. Sure, the touchpad on my notebook is small, but it's not really $60 small. I blame postpartum sleep deprivation. It might also have something to do with watching this TED talk.

Anyway, in an effort to assuage my post-purchase cognitive dissonance, I've been telling myself that if I can improve the speed and accuracy of my clicks by just a fraction, this tablet thing will easily pay itself off in productivity in the long run. Right?

To bring some proof to that claim, I dug up this flash-based target practice game. Little targets fly around the screen and you try to click on them: score points for every target you hit; bonus points for consecutive bulls-eyes; miss too many times and the game is over. Great sound effects. This is high brainpower stuff.

I played three rounds in time trial mode, using the touchpad. Mean score 438. Then I played thrice with the tablet. Mean score 685!

To make sure this wasn't just an improvement in my reflexes and strategy (shoot the spring targets at the apex; don't waste a shot on a yo-yo target that might be yanked), I employed an interrupted time series design and played six more rounds. Mean score with the touchpad: 407. Mean score with the tablet: 977!

With that kind of performance improvement, the tablet was clearly worth it. Minority report, here I come.

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