Monday, July 18, 2005

Tangible User Interface

Research has been continuing for ten years or more into Tangible User Interfaces. This is an exploration of better, ways to interface the physical world with the internal workings of computers.
The narrow and intellectually dense interface channels limit the productivity of computers.
There was a huge leap in simplicity from text, DOS, based computers to the Graphical User Interface, GUI. The introduction of the relatively simple Apple interface is credited with starting the personal computer revolution. The graphical icons and desktop metaphor simplify access to information but it is still limited. Our access to the computing world is through the small window of the computer screen.

The Tangible Bits group at MIT Media labs studies alternate links to the computer. They are looking for ultimately, the complete lack of any interface – a seamless cooperation between man and machine.

Extending the desktop metaphor from the screen to a real desktop is one idea. Just as the icons on the screen represent files somewhere in the computer, you could have fetishes or charms that represent bits off on a computer somewhere.

The charm would work similar to an icon on your virtual desktop. You could pick it up, shake it, put it in a box, shine a light on it or place it somewhere to tell the computer what to do. Some examples given by Dr. Hiroshi Ishii at MIT are to have a hand-sized truck token to represent your truck business. You put the charm over a speaker to get a sound of rain proportional to truck sales. Loud rain would be high sales; soft rain would be low sales.
Another example is a weather bottle. You remove the top from the bottle to hear a weather report, cap it again to silence it.

What is the advantage of this over the current visual interface? There may not be an advantage in every example. The idea though, is to simplify the interface. There are many people who find the windows interface silly and cumbersome.

What does this have to do with artifacturing?
Artifacturing gives the ability to print the charms, bottles, interlocking blocks, idols, or whatever physical artifact needed to be able to manipulate the information in physical space rather than in the ethereal computer world. It simplifies the step of creating the relics so we can focus on ways to take advantage of the interface.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also information on user interface research at Berkeley:

7/18/2005 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Cristobal said...

Better than a bottle for the weather interface would be one of those snow globe things. You could have a little ball with your neighborhood in it and when you shake it, it displays what the weather will be according to the national weather center. Cool. But it IS the kind of thing a witch would have. You might have to put a label on these new objects that says something to the effect of, "This magical talisman user interface should be used for good and not for evil."

7/19/2005 10:59:00 AM  

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