I’ve been thinking about interfaces for a while. Interactive whiteboards (IWBs) probably got be thinking in this direction, and the recent announcement of the motion sensing Project Natal for the Xbox has finally pushed me to write about them.
Note the fine print: actual features and function may vary.
As computers have evolved, so have the interfaces we use to interact with them. To give you an idea of my own personal timeline, I have no experience programming on punchcards, but I do remember the pre-GUI days. The mouse has become ubiquitous, but what comes next? Here are some possible answers:
Interactive Whiteboards: These are pretty heavily documented on this blog and elsewhere. Here, the user can interact with the display, making the mouse and, to an extent, the keyboard unnecessary.
Slap widgets: Physical tools to be used with IWBs and the like, further blurring the line between the physical and the virtual. (Watch the video!)
Siftables: An interesting miniaturization of an IWB-type interface with the added bonus that each mini screen can interact with the others. If each Siftable had a letter or a word, how could they be used to teach English?
MIT’s Sixth Sense: This video went viral a few months ago, but keeps popping up. Why can’t your computer interface with the physical world? It soon may.
Wii & Natal: Nintendo has enjoyed blockbuster sales of it’s Wii gaming system which features motion-sensitive controllers. Now, Microsoft has unveiled the same thing with Natal, but no controllers are needed.
Do it yourself interfaces: In addition to making your own IWB using a Wiimote, other examples include the Beatbearing, in which ball-bearings are used to sequence electronic drum beats, a modified Nintendo Powerglove, which upgrades late 1980s virtual reality technology, and a giant Katamari ball controller, which is a controller designed and built specifically for the game Katamari, in which players roll a ball through an environment which attracts more stuff (litter, park benches, people, their pets, etc.). The makers of each of these interfaces have posted detailed plans and instructions online so that you can build and modify your own.
Move over visual learners, kinesthetic learners are about to have their day. And why not? Why should simply watch something when we can interact with it in more natural ways? The next generation of computer interfaces promises to expand our idea of how we relate to computers.