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Publishers WeeklyNass, a Stanford researcher, has the fascinating and enviable job of performing research into human interactions with technology. Question: Why did BMW receive so many complaints about its navigation system from male German drivers? Answer: German men refused to take directions from a woman (the system had a female voice). To find out if misery truly loves company, Nass paired happy and sad drivers with happy and sad virtual passengers, finding that miserable drivers preferred to be paired with miserable passengers (albeit virtual), and visa versa. The results are often intriguing, but when it comes to discussing their implications, Nass falters. His experimental anecdotes end with a "Results and Implications" appendix, and his findings often sound as banal as the platitudes he's attempting to test. The author is at his most compelling when describing technology's human failures in the marketplace, such as the demise of the despised Microsoft "Clippy," whose apparent stupidity and lack of empathy doomed him as an application (killing marketing plans to turn him into a beloved Mickey Mouse-like character). Moments like these make Nass's examination an engaging compendium of technological faux pas.
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