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Losing Touch With User Expectations

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 11, 2010 by admin in Technology

Monday, October 11th, 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. Read the rest of this entry »

The iPad As A Musical Instrument?

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on September 7, 2010 by admin in Music

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Well, maybe not quite yet, but here’s a roundup of some tools that are available that point to a cool future for multitouch musical instrument controllers.

Way back in November of 2008, we took a look at the state of innovative tactile controllers for music. At the time, the coolest cutting edge tools were mostly research projects, certainly not something you’d pick up at the local music store. Well, this is finally beginning to change. For professional work, and for about two grand, there’s the JazzMutant Lemur, which is probably beyond what a lot of musician/songwriters or dabblers need. And if you have the brains and can get your hands on the hardware, there’s the Töken multitouch screen running Emulator (video below). But the iPad – in spite of being an annoyingly closed platform – is coming into its own as a somewhat interesting tool as more sophisticated apps become available. And the overall cost of working with an iPad can’t be beat. After the initial purchase of the iPad itself, many of these apps – like MorphWiz, Pro Keys by BeepStreet, or the latest and probably coolest, Seline HD by Amidio Inc., are often less than ten bucks. For a more comprehensive roundup, both PCWorld and CreateDigitalMusic.com did features earlier this year. Below are a few videos that demonstrate some of the available tools. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Discount The Five-Finger Method

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 16, 2009 by admin in Technology

Friday, October 16th, 2009

A cool touchscreen interface concept by 10GUI rethinks the window-based interface and explains why a standard touchscreen just doesn’t work for the desktop computer.

I’m always babbling about innovative laptops and cool user interfaces, but the video at left explaining a new user interface concept by 10GUI is probably the most insightful rethinking of the desktop that I’ve seen in a long time. As an interface designer myself, I think the iPhone (although I feel no need to own one myself) is probably the most brilliant personal computer interface to date. I’ve been dying to own a larger device that utilizes its multitouch features, which is why I’m always drooling over the idea of a Mac tablet or dual-touchscreen laptop, but have also often thought about how a lot of the features of a multitouch screen are actually antithetical to the realities of desktop use. This video by 10GUI references that, and offers a fantastic solution. I’d have to try the deeper levels of task and file management that they demonstrate in the video before I’d know if I agree with the solutions offered, but on the surface they make perfect sense. I’d love to see this interface integrated into a real device and try it. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, the nerd all the nerds love to hate (Michael Arrington) just (ahem) touched on  this topic the other day over at TechCrunch. Read the rest of this entry »

Losing Touch With Computers

[ Comments Off ]Posted on November 16, 2008 by admin in Technology

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Gestural interfaces: the end of those filthy little things we call computer keyboards?

Other than watching Tom Cruise get abused by the Dr. Solomon Eddie character (played by persvasive creepy bad guy Peter Stormare), one of the coolest things about the film Minority Report was probably the gestural computer interface that Cruise’s character used in his police work. While many developers have been working on ideas like this for awhile, they often are not quite there – like this cool video demo, which is really just a huge iPhone-like multi-touch display – or they seem a bit misguided in their goals. Like Mgestyk Technologies, where they take a great idea and demostrate it with first-person shooter games. The clip seen here is the latest from Oblong, who seems to have the most sophisticated and practical system in operation. Not surprising, since they were consultants on the Minority Report effects, which were based on existing MIT work.

Sometimes You Just Have To (inter) Face The Music

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on November 1, 2008 by admin in Music, Technology

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Two Tune Tables and No Microphone

Years ago I had a dream in which I was playing an amazing instrument that responded to my hand gestures and thoughts, creating sublime, transcendent music that moved the soul. Then I woke up. The best that I had at my disposal at the time was still my electric guitar, because a velocity sensitive keyboard, although it’s pretty cool, had been around for awhile. The evolution of the musical instrument interface has amazing possibilities these days, as evident in the reactable project created by students at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. As is so often the case though, the same technology seems to be more immediately applicable to practical needs, like selling cocktails. The clip at left is the brick, a “Tangible & Multi Touch Sonification Instrument”. Which is one of the more creative and purposeful interfaces I’ve seen. Many of these concepts are clever, but end up being rather non-musical or like the reacTogon, just a a clever redesign of existing ideas. Coming at things from the other direction, Japanese artist Daito Manabe lets the music play him (YouTube clip). If you watch that video, you’ll get a feel for what it means to “surrender to your art”. That can’t feel good. Daito Manabe’s YouTube page is here; he also seems to do interesting public performance art projects like whitebase + Daito Manabe and disturbing video experiments like Milk. Yucky.

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