« | Home | »

Losing Touch With User Expectations

Topics: Technology | Add A CommentBy admin | October 11, 2010

Do you ever find yourself touching touchscreens that aren’t touch sensitive?

The other day, a friend handed me their Blackberry and asked me to call up Google Maps. After fussing with the device for a moment, I mentally cursed its lousy touch-sensitive interface, until I realized it wasn’t touch sensitive. I would’ve felt pretty stupid, but I see this kind of thing all the time, whether it’s someone trying to touch an LCD monitor to do something, or spastically backspacing on Google trying to get the right Instant Google/Google Autocomplete result instead of just typing what they’re looking for. I’ve already shared my thoughts on Google Instant, and the more I’m exposed to it, the more strongly I feel that Google shouldn’t impose this kind of “improvement” on me until they develop it to the point that they actually know what I’m thinking, which would eliminate the need for me altogether. In any case, I fear that because of smart phones, self-serve kiosks, and the iPad, we may briefly have to suffer these occasional human malfunctions. Personally, I’m prepared to wait; I’ve been quietly rolling my fingertips on my lifeless and uncaring work surfaces for years as I wait for the kind of tactile holographics that were featured in Iron Man 2 (video also below). This kind of interface may not be far away, but the best I’ve seen so far is a bit primitive; check out this clip from last year about touchable holographics being developed at Tokyo University. So what do we have available? Well, back in the world of two dimensions, there are really amazing tools for designers like Wacom’s Cintiq, and for education, there are tools like Hitachi’s StarBoard, and for business, the somewhat more limited Smart Podium, but these are all still pretty pricey. I think that as consumers, we may have to wait a bit for all of our devices to be more pervasively touch sensitive. One of the last products to be touted as consumer-oriented was Microsoft Surface, but the platform was made public way back in 2006, and I still don’t have any friends with touch-sensitive coffee tables. Perhaps because – as this hilarious video about Surface points out – why use a compact device like an iPhone to get maps and directions, when you can use a device the size of a small car? More video below.

Microsoft Surface

One of the cool things about Tokyo University’s holographic interface idea is that it is genuinely tactile:

A quick montage of hologram VFX from Iron Man 2

It’s pretty remarkable to see tools like the Wacom in skilled hands: