I just got finished talking with a guy I know at Caribou Coffee and one of the items that we talked about happened to be computers and what’s usable. Some minutes before we were chatting, I had watched a video of Bill Buxton talking about natural user interfaces, and it got me thinking.
And so, during the conversation, we talked some about how computers have evolved and the kinds of usages we enjoy (and loathe). In speaking about them, we came to that (inevitable) subject of kids and computers. and how the ways that we interact with computers are in no way the same way they will. In fact, their interactions will be a lot more natural, and require less in they way of learning than we ever have had.
I pointed to the example in the video of the difference between pinch-to-zoom and using a camera to pan/zoom around images and web pages. The latter is something that I’d love to see a lot more of. And in many respects, I think that it will be the ideal kind of pan/zoom interface for mobile devices (smaller than 5in screens).
On the other hand, we have this idea of taking some of those child-like actions like pinching an object in the distance to the size we can best see it which I think will have more of an impact in larger-screened and augmented reality scenarios – for example, tablet computing. There, the idea of manipulating a canvas will be as much an issue of movement, as much as it will be contextualizing the world we want to interact with.
Its because of this difference in context that I think we are going to have fun taking what we’ve learned from movies and putting them into a realistic setting. Some items will translate pretty well (think the tricorder and the Palm Pilot), other items might take a while. But, its cool that we aren’t limited by our imagination, only by what the context is of what we want to do.
And so, while I’m probably not the most excited person in reference to the iPad – or even tablet computing in general – there are some neat things on the horizon that will challenge and even change how we interact with work around us. I don’t think that laptops will remain as the only workstation type of device. And I do feel that more people are going to further trim their computing needs to match economic and environmental constraints.
But most of all, I think that the best is yet to come. That we’ve not come close to the kinds of innovations that take this tech and turn it into a constant life currency that does nothing but improve the life of everyone around us. If we were to get to that point, then some really amazing stuff would be possible, and maybe, we’d finally be able to tell some new stories.