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Visual Tricks Can Make Downloads Seem Quicker


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Twiddling our thumbs while waiting for files to download is one of the great frustrations of our high-speed, technologically interconnected world. Computer scientists are unlikely to eliminate the waiting any time soon--but they've done the next best thing.

Chris Harrison at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, working with Zhiqaun Yeo and Scott Hudson, has shown that animated pop-up download progress bars which use visual illusions make the process seem around 10 per cent faster than it really is.

Apple already uses a basic visual trick of this kind in its Mac OS X operating system, but Harrison's research suggests such techniques could be used to greater effect.

Previous research suggests that rhythmic stimuli can seem to create time-warping effects and that the way we perceive motion depends on its context. With this in mind, Harrison's group generated a series of animated progress bars: some pulsated between pale and dark blue at varying speeds, and others had pale blue ripples moving either left or right, also at different rates, as the bar crept forward.

From New Scientist
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