MIT Develops Clutter Detector

Last Updated Aug 21, 2007 7:22 PM EDT

MIT Develops Clutter DetectorThe definition of clutter has been intensely fought at home and at the office. Your co-worker's neat might be your obsessive compulsive and your husband's lived-in might feel more like war-torn to you. But today MIT announced that scientists are stepping into the debate with a tool to measure clutter. A research team,
"modeled what makes items in a display harder or easier to pick out. They used this model, which incorporates data on color, contrast and orientation, to come up with a software tool to measure visual clutter."
For the tech savvy, the resulting tool is available for download. But the research also offers insights to those without the skills to check out the software directly. The team hopes that the tool "could lead to more user-friendly displays and maps, as well as tips for designers seeking to add an attention-grabbing element to a display."

"Visual clutter is a challenge for fighter pilots picking out a target, for people seeking important information in a user interface, and for web site and map designers, among others," the researchers note.

And what about managers? The study provides that little extra bit of motivation for businesspeople with icon crowded desktops and paper cluttered offices to clean up their workspaces. The research team,

"tested the influence of clutter on searching for a symbol in a map, like an arrow indicating 'you are here.' They found good correlation between the time it takes to find a symbol in a map and the amount of clutter according to their measure."
Scientifically proven: clutter affects performance. Next up, the tool goes to designers for a user study. Check back for further insights.

(Image of clutter by sindesign, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.