Monday, February 20, 2012

Digital Fingertips

What's the next big thing in UI (User Interface)? Is it a 3D touchpad? Is it a Minority Report virtual screen that reads your gestures? Thought control?

Image Courtesy of Microsoft Office
You know what I've decided? We haven't come very far in the last 6,000 years. We still think in 2D. We still work in 2D. At least when it comes to technology interfaces. Even with the touch screen revolution of the past few years our fingers are only working like a pencil or a stylus on a 2D screen. And that cool virtual interface used in Minority Report, and that is making it's way into the mainstream world, is still a basically flat surface that we connect with.

Perhaps technologies like Wii and Kinect are visions of how we will use our laptops, mobile phones, and pad computers in the near future. But, it's still hard to beat the versatility and joy of a pencil and a scratch pad.

We do so much of our communicating on a flat surface that I think it is hard for us to get beyond that. I remember in my graduate studies classes that it hit me one day that most of the theoretical models for our discipline were trapped by the parameters of two dimensions. Fancy xy grids and diagrams lacked a true three dimensional aspect. Those statistical charts that did incorporate a third, z axis tended to blow our minds and were hard to comprehend.

What if we let sculptors and other artists design UI technology?! How would they envision getting in touch with electrons through digital fingertips!?

Dr. S.

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