The Communication Studio

Perceptual Threshold

In the usability game, perception is everything.

Animation, films and television "work" exactly because we humans don't perceive the fact that the illusion of "lifelike" motion can be created from a succession of quickly changing still images.

Digital images - which were laughably crude, chunky and clunky only a few years ago - now far outstrip our perceptual threshold.


One of our first object lessons came with the making of computer-generated spaceflight sequences for "Star Wars". The visually crisp imagery moved right, but didn't look right until Industrial Light & Magic realized that they needed to smear the spaceships a little (kind of like the blurry moving image artifact you get in a still frame). Only then did we humans accept that the image was real.

And lets's not forget the other positive aspects of human frailty.

I've always enjoyed this story

People were terribly upset with the slowness of the elevator service at a huge skyscraper. It was a major problem.

The building was gigantic, the technology was already operating at its absolute limits, so it was impossible to re-engineer or re-design anything major.

Yet within a few days complaints about the slowness of elevator service disappeared completely!

The solution:

Floor-to-ceiling mirrors were installed in the lobby.....

Never underestimate the power of human curiosity, self-absorbtion, misdirection, vanity, etc.