Example of one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXSnNzGJDdg
And yes, I did ignore the warning signs and make the trip around the bottom.
It was a little scary stepping on for the first time (probably like stepping on an escalator for the first time when I was a kid, not that I remember) but it's a really unique system.
Another option to the lift UI conundrum that I've encountered in Vienna is to have dedicated staff operating it. It's extremely rare these days, one example I can think of is the Staatsoper (State Opera). You still need a button to call it, but the operator decides what floors to visit in what order. Cost efficient? Probably not, but considering how hard it is to get tickets to the Opera (by subscription or depositing €250 to be entered into the ticket lottery) I guess they can afford to keep up the tradition.
EDIT: I'd love to know why I'm being downvoted.
Vienna has a lot of ancient and/or newer-but-micro elevators. Quite often going to the doctor or meeting somebody in their apartment, we end up in an old all-wood elevator with a bench, and no inner door. Typically they have wrought iron or brass external doors, and sometimes carpeting.
Some newer ones from the 70s and 80s even have no inner doors - but some kind of (possibly infrared) sensor so, if you stick your hand in the space, it will grind to a stop.
A brand new office tower was unveiled, the architect was on hand, the tenants moved in. Everyone was enthralled with the new digs: spacious offices, sensible layout, all the modern conveniences. But everybody - I mean everybody - complained about the elevators. They were so slowwwwwwww.
The building owner consulted with the architect, who was plainly amazed. He hadn't scrimped on that aspect of the project either, and pointed out that the elevators were as fast as anything you could buy in the marketplace. They'd done modeling studies, and the simulations showed that the
elevators could keep up with peak demand. There couldn't be anything wrong with the elevator system.
Yet people complained loudly and uniformly. The elevators were way... too... slow!
It took a human factors guy to figure it out. The first floor elevators had an indicator over the door that told which floor the elevator was currently servicing, but ONLY the first floor had such indicators. The remaining floors only had 'up' and 'down' buttons, and nothing more. "Put indicators above the elevator doors on EVERY floor", the human factors guy said. "People don't mind waiting, as long as they know where they stand."
The building owner installed indicators and that fixed the problem.
How old were they?
Why had they never observed, or been instructed by adults about, typical elevator operation?
Had they never seen an elevator, but had played video games? Was the display of the elevator's current floor close enough to the buttons, or perhaps stylized enough, to suggest it could or should be directly controlled like a video game character?
(Perhaps JGC was performing an experiment with a young child or recent immigrant?)
I think the traditional design was probably optimal at the time it was designed. As others have noted, a single call button adds unnecessary stops -- and at the worst times, when the elevator and lobby are most busy.
Many times there is no indicator of where a elevator car is. Or, in different buildings, variable numbers of cars, unrelated to the standard up/down buttons. So anyone with experience with a few different elevators will find interpreting from their location, rather than the elevator cars, the more consistent approach.
Apparently the state-of-the-art is to have buttons for every floor to be outside the car, in the lobby. Each person declares their destination with a press; as cars arrive they display or announce where they'll stop so the right people can board. But elevators are an old technology; so many buttons and such optimal grouping/scheduling were impractical when the current conventions arose.
Though I suppose if spent most of your life in a rural area, and only rode elevators occasionally with strangers, you might continue with such an initial misunderstanding indefinitely.
I would have expected such a person to have ridden elevators hundreds of times.
If she didn't travel much internationally, it's very easy to avoid or not come across elevators in the United Kingdom especially outside of London. I use an elevator perhaps a couple of times a month, nearly always in multistory car parks (which women, in particular, are often not keen to use in the UK, thanks to scare stories back in the 80s).
If you don’t know which button you should press is it likely that you will figure it out on your own? Elevator behavior always seems very random to me, to the point where I think that it doesn’t really matter which button I press. I suppose that in the end, pressing the right button is more effective, but probably unnoticeably so.
Failing that, they will often encounter elevators with other people present -- and observe what they tend to do. Hopefully, as either a child or adult, the novelty to the experience will cause them to pay close attention to figure out a new thing.
Failing that, they will reason it out or experiment on their own. They are aided in the 'right' conclusion by several factors. First, many elevators don't show where the car or cars are, so there's no chance you'd have to guide them to your floor -- you don't have the information to do so. Requesting a desired direction from your current position is the only sensible interpretation. If you encounter a mix of elevators, some with car indicators and some without, but all with the exact same up/down buttons, you would have to strain to believe that you must consult an indicator that is not always present before choosing the right button.
Second, at least in buildings (as opposed to car parks), most elevator trips begin on a ground floor that may only have an up button. No matter how vivid the car-level indicator, or how closely positioned to the button, it's hard to interpret that single up button as a command to move the elevator up from its current level (as opposed to calling it for an up trip).
Finally, if you have the 'wrong' model in your head, and encounter elevators more than a handful of times, there will be a lot of hints that your presses have been counterproductive. Empty and full elevators going the wrong direction will stop on your floor, and then the call-light on the button you pressed will go off. Only sometimes (when there's not a pending call past you) will pressing the alternate button then reverse the elevator.
Altogether, that's why I think this person must have had only a handful of experiences with elevators, or some very uniquely impaired (and possibly even recently damaged) way of learning about the world. Perhaps it's a dyslexia-like difficulty understanding causal sequences of events or modeling non-human systems. (I'd hope it was offset with talents in other areas, such as artistry or empathy.)
And that's with a relatively naive system running the show. Imagine waht elevators will be like when the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation finally deploys their Happy Vertical People Transporter...
I've been in an office building in New York that uses this system, it's supposedly very efficient in both time and energy, as it should be. BUT, they have had to station an attendant in the lobby to basically operate the system for visitors, since it's just too obtuse for the average elevator passenger.
In the NYT one, you choose your floor before you get on, it specifies your elevator, and then... there are no buttons inside.
It's kind of horrifying.
The Bear Stearns one still had buttons inside but you were definitely directed to a specific elevator of about 8 available. The building was 43 floors and an uninterrupted elevator ride to the 42nd, where I worked, from the ground floor took about 3 minutes. It was so fast it never failed to make me motion sick, and and my ears popped.
Having people make choices based on information they have to read should be avoided when possible.
When working in hotels, I use to request an elevator going down with passengers, jump inside, perform a manual reset and force everyone to ride up with me.
Ah, this is a system I can get behind! I get to go where I like and screw everyone else - the perfect interface. (I'm not even being sarcastic, I have an evil streak like that ;-))
The list of floors should be on the outside. Selecting the floor should act as the call. A display beside the button should count down until the elevator going to that floor arrives. (And in multi-person, multi-elevator situations, perhaps a color or number should tell you which door it will be).
The existing UI expects you to understand the elevator algorithm in order to operate it. That's wrong. It's unnecessary mental work for the users and locks you into one algorithm. What if you want to optimally handle this case?
5: Guy going to floor 4
2: Guy going to floor 7
I, personally, would love to have that sort of display. But the added cost of the buttons & lights & damages / abuses probably wouldn't be worth it. (anyone, anywhere, can cause the elevator to visit every floor. It's almost as bad as putting control of the elevator onto a public website)
The current system works wonderfully for 99.9% of people. Redesigning everything for the last 0.1% isn't worth it, since they can either be simply taught by a passer-by or they're incapable of learning it.
I dare say everyone is guilty of at least one massive oversight like this. If everyone guilty of one were quarantined, there'd be no-one left.
I have it in my building and although it is intuitive to use, sometimes I find myself waiting far longer than I think i should be for normal 'up down' button systems.
NYT article describes it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/magazine/10section3b.t-1.h...
I've seen elevators where if you quickly press a button couple of times, the button will turn off (if it were already on). This of course doesn't protect you from the mischievous kid who presses every button possible.
If you know cars, you will see: Hey. I need to turn the wheel to the left, so the front wheels of the car turn towards the left, so the entire car begins to turn to the left.
If you are a sailor, however, who only knows simple hand-steered rudders, your intuition is the opposite, because in order to steer your ship to the right, you need to turn the rudder to the left in order to get the right currents flowing.
These problems are _really_ interesting, and _really_ hard to solve. (whereas I think, the first results from the second). :)
You might want to ponder that one a second longer.
So, one button works in that particular configuration. It's not absolutely efficient, but the traffic is low enough that it's not, in practice, very inefficient.
In my 3 floor apartment, if you're on the 2nd floor with the down button pressed and someone gets out on your floor while the elevator is heading up, you could have gotten in while the car is stopped and avoided the stop on the way down. However, the call wouldn't cancel until the elevator was actually on the way down and it would stop a 2nd time.
It's the unpredictability of the system (people holding doors, elevators going out of service, faulty mechanical switches, etc) that makes the algorithm design fun.
Feel free to ask me anything. I used to design elevator group dispatch systems as a side job in college.
One possible answer would be to simply not give an indication of where the elevator is, this would prevent instances of the user thinking that they are telling the elevator where to go from it's current position rather than telling then system where they want to go, but this seems like an annoyance to the other 99.9% of users that actually know how a traditional elevator UI works.
But hey, a lot of modern UI design held up as an example of mastery has that exact same drawback, but pandering to the ignorant is somehow more important than not screwing over the adept. I'm looking at you, OS X.
In my building there's only one passenger elevator and the service elevator, you're not wasting time by getting on the elevator regardless of the direction it's presently travelling.
This only becomes a problem when the call button calls multiple elevators to stop. However, this could be resolved simply by having one elevator travel from floor the lobby to the top floor and then perform an express to the ground floor. The other elevator does the exact opposite. You then mark the elevator doors UP and DOWN. If you accidentally get in to the UP elevator instead of the DOWN, you'll still eventually hit the floor you want, it'll just take longer and you'll figure it out sooner or later.
The problem arises from the fact that the elevators are acting erratically, they're jumping from floor to floor on no predetermined pattern. You have to pay attention to the elevator, which is a foolish form of pedestrian transport. I don't have to pay attention to the stairs, I just walk down them. I don't have to pay attention to where the bus is running, I just go to my stop and climb aboard and get off when I want.
It's kind of pitiful that multi-call elevator systems are more complex than even the poorest public transit systems.
Listen, here are how 99% of the elevators I've used work.
You press a button for where you want to go. Up, or down.
You wait. Then, when the elevator arrives, generally the elevator will have some indicator that your car has arrived. Usually a sound and an arrow that lights up indicating the direction the elevator is heading next.
You get in. Press your button, and when you get to your next stop, you get off.
Now, you might see an elevator open up, and you'll get on. You'll press a button, and it will go in the opposite direction. That's because most elevators operate on FIFO. Obviously, with more complex systems, they can dispatch based on distance, but basically, if the elevator is coming up from the first floor, and a guy on the 5th floor pressed the button first, then you, being on the 3rd floor will just need to wait as the elevator passes you by. Of course it might open. Someone needs to get off.