Sunday, May 23, 2010

The future of UI...or at least where most of the money is going

When most people think of the future of UI they think about touch screens. At this point they are the pinnacle of intuitive and powerful interfaces. Examples include Microsoft Surface, BOA ATM machines and of course Apple's suite of devices, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.
These devices have proven themselves as a staple UI for cutting edge technology; they allow custom interfaces to change dynamically and even have the added benefit of accepting finger input with various multitouch inputs.
There is another technology however that is starting to creep into the light, hand gestures. For years this has been a UI technology that was only seen in movies like Minority Report and Iron Man. Amazingly the people responsible for the 100,000 ft ideas are actually quite capable and have been developing technology that works almost just like the movies!
Most recently Microsoft announced a new interface add-on for Xbox called Natal. If you take nothing out of this post you should at least watch the video at this link because you are looking at the future.

Look Ma, Hands!!

Here is one more link, last one I promise. This video was made by some students at MIT who have been experimenting with hand gestures for computer interfaces.

So you might be asking, well what does this actually mean for me?
Well what you are looking at is the future of human computer interaction. Imagine you walk into your house and turn the TV on with the flick of your hand. You browse through the channels using similar motions and start playing a show. You then pick up your tablet computer that is linked to your entire house and turn on your shower and start the oven for dinner. As you get up you turn the TV off with a swipe and call out to your house that you want to listen to some music during your shower. In the shower there is another screen displaying the news of the day, you lift your hands and start scrolling. You decide to check a few emails and can even dictate back some responses. After getting out of the shower the music follows your through the house back to the kitchen where you prepare the meal while your kids play their new video game that involves jumping, running in place and wild hand gestures (they are getting a great work out). When its time for dinner a quick gesture and the stove and oven turn off and the video game pauses replacing the image with a tranquil beach scene. The table lighting turns on and your wife in the other room receives a message on her portable device that dinner is served.
So there is a little taste of what the future might hold, ubiquitous technology with limitless potential, all accessed through simple intuitive gestures, voice recognition and portable tablets. The thing that excites me is that at a certain point the technology dissolves into natural life and works to help with social interaction rather than isolating people. I will work for the rest of my life so that dreams like this are realized.

Who wants to be the first to have one of these houses, I'll start taking orders now...

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