In a recent Alertbox column Jakob Nielsen looked at the way computer interfacing was represented in films and on TV. I’m not going to reiterate the content of his fine article here, but it did get me thinking about our preconceptions and expectations of the interfaces we use (or wish we used).
There are a whole series of interrelated problems, all based around the fundamental problem of too much information: too much to fit on screen, too much to manipulate, too much to think about. So – the theory goes – there must be some better way to manage this than the current QWERTY keyboard and mouse paradigm that dominates mainstream computing…
How about this:
Impressive huh? Or is it all smoke and mirrors set to a cool soundtrack? Looking at it closely, we can see that it’s simply a touch screen, but one that has multiple simultaneous sensing points. What’s more, there’s a shot of two people working on the machine together, so one can only guess that it recognizes somewhere around 16-20 sensing points at any one time. Apart from the nice-looking but probably-not-all-that-useful lava lamp blobs, examples of programs being used in the video include image manipulation software, word games, text entry, a Missile Command-type game, a real-time music program such as Max/MSP, and some kind of activity using molecular objects. There’s also evidence of a working toolbar. So, yes, impressive actually.
Evidence, then, of a functioning example of an innovative computer interface, albeit in a university research lab. Is it realistic to expect interfaces like this to appear in the near future? Is it Tomorrow’s World or Star Trek? Well:
Sorry, I’m not trying to jump on the “isn’t the iPhone fabulous” bandwagon but it’s interface – which you’ll note features a touch screen that recognizes at least two simultaneous sensing points – is certainly pretty exciting. And it’s on a hand-held device. And it’s coming to a shop near you, very, very soon.
Beam me up, Scotty!