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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 - Beginning of a Touch and Gesture Future?

by Idris Mootee

2010 - Beginning of a Touch and Gesture Future?With the proliferation of multi-touch technologies and innovations, we face an exciting new future of physical interactivity that will be like doing tai-chi.

Will multi-touch become the mainstream interactive experience on small devices? The holy grail of touch interactivity is bringing together the simplicity of hand gestures with deep navigation. Will multitouch create a new user language much as we learn how to type? Imagine when multi-touch is deployed in home appliances such as washing machines and microwave ovens? Gestural commands can be much less obvious to users than those written on buttons and menus and can create a whole new set of challenges. It means more challenge for human factors people.

It is interesting to envision how a broad-based, mass-scale utilization of the technology beyond the iPhone/iTouch/iPad/iDesk. I want to see a digital desk where there are no computers, the surface is the computer and my smartphone connects to the cloud. And I want the desk to look like a Herman Miller Sense desk. I want to have a built-in Skype conference call widget and... oh yes, Facebook on my desk. I guess we need to retrain ourselves to use this, as we need to create a set of hand gestures standards in order to be productive with our digital desk.

Asus already has a dual-screen laptop, still in concept stage, but with a touchscreen instead of a keyboard, opting for a virtual keyboard just like the iPhone. This is a step towards the digital desk. The dual panel offers a flexible working space in which users can adapt to suit their prevailing usage scenarios, for example adjusting the size of the virtual touchpad and keyboard. Through hand gestures, handwriting recognition and multi-touch, users are given with a control surface that is both flexible and intuitive.

The touchscreen display market will be growing from US$2.2 billion this year to US$3.4 billion in 2014 according to NanoMarkets, a research firm. The growing demand for touch-screen technologies in mobile and portable computing will create new opportunities for suppliers of conductive coatings, substrates and sensors in addition to the display firms themselves. Mainstream display makers have begun to develop their own "in-pixel" technologies as an alternative to the current industry practice in which third-party suppliers add a touch sensor subsystem on top of an LCD display and then sell to OEMs. Instead of supplying companies such as HP, LG, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony, these mid-size touchscreen OEM manufacturers may end up competing against them. These companies include FlatFrog, RPO, Microsoft, NextWindow, TouchCo and Vissumo.

In the next 24 months we can expect to see the increasing prevalence of physical and gestural interactivity, beyond the Wii and the iPad. One thing for sure is that we're all going to be dealing with the fun as well as the challenge of interacting with and designing devices in different ways. One big challenge is simply due to the lack of transparency into the "commands" or actions available with a given device or environment, we don't see a switch in the air and there is nothing for us to touch.

Looking into the exciting new future of physical and special interactivity, we will need to create idioms and new vocabulary that are as discoverable and useful as possible. We will find out in 10 years time whether these new touch-based interactive paradigms such as gestural interfaces will be making life easier for us or creating a new interactivity divide between those who can use it and whose who gave up on it. Instead of learning to type like my parent's generation, the next generation may be learning how to do the 'tai-chi' of interactive gestures. Human Factors guys now need to learn tai-chi.

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Idris MooteeIdris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.

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Blogger Mike Cane said...

Touchscreens are only half the story. The other half is what the screens will display:

Web Designers: Wake Up And Smell The Touchscreen Coffee!

11:52 AM  

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