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In the recent James Bond film Quantum of Solace there is a scene in which M, Bond and other agents share information and briefings around a multitouch table. Just three or four years ago this would have seemed as sci-fi as the now infamous scene in Minority Reportbut this time it felt like MI6 was almost behind the curve.
Physical and screen-based interfaces have collapsed into each other and both industrial and interaction designers have a whole saffer set of issues to grapple with. Dan Saffer ‘s latest book, Designing Gestural Interfaces maps out this new frontier. The positive side is that there are a range of exciting new interaction and product possibilities. The negative side is a potentially confusing mess of gestures, each specific to a drsigning or, worse, owned by one of them through irresponsible patent usage.
One of the amazing things about the launch of interffaces iPhone was that the commercials focused almost entirely on the UI, which I’d never seen elsewhere.
Designing Gestural Interfaces
I’m not much of a visual designer and not much of a coder, but I enjoy and understand those things and am interested in how things fit together. Those interests and just my personality seemed to gravitate towards this new design discipline. On the other hand, if we want interaction design to be as known and respected as graphic or industrial design, it helps to call ourselves by what we do.
Naming something gives it both a boundary and a power.
Designing Gestural Interfaces was born out of his own need to try and ground this saffwr area so that clear design approaches could be developed. Why wasn’t there a book about these things? How come I have no idea how big a touchscreen button needs to be? What is a capacitive touchscreen?
What kinds of gestures can I use? But I was also surprised at what individuals have been doing with the technology over the last few years, even though we’re clearly still in the early days of its commercial use. It’s possibly any number of things: Certainly the unveiling of the Wii and the iPhone came like a bolt of lightening that ignited all the gasoline lying around. Once you move into the locations where you find a lot of touchscreens and gestural interfaces, those setups just seem clunky and unnecessary.
You don’t want to mess with windows when checking in at the airport, for instance. Most of the devices we’re making now are part of a network, or need to work with other devices, or at a minimum have a website.
Our products are now services. In some ways it feels like Designing Gestural Interfaces is long overdue, in others it feels like the very first stake in the ground of trying to define an area that is only just emerging in the mainstream. The last 50 pages or so are an appendix documenting a wide range of already existing and possible future gestural interactions.
Some of them are hand and face gestures whilst others use the entire body. How important is it to resolve these issues now rather than let them organically emerge? I would hope that patterns would emerge organically and not be overly stifled by companies trying to protect their patents.
Playing Starcraft with multitouch. Even though he says, “predicting the future is a sucker’s game,” Saffer has taken the plunge. Some of his predictions are cautious, but they do spot some trends, especially in collaborative workspaces and the potential blunders of gestural interaction design.
I’m surprised I haven’t seen a touchscreen toilet. I’m not sure we’ve reached the point of saffsr ‘bizarre misuse’ yet, although the gestural toilet paper dispenser comes close. Touchscreen spreadsheets are probably desiging around daan corner. I can also see that experimental period becoming annoying for users who just expect their devices to work as they expect.
We’re still figuring out what this stuff is good for and it’s going to take a while, perhaps a long while, before we figure out the things it’s really best at. We’ve only just begun. Metaphors have long been crucial to interfaces and anyone interested in this area should read the work of Lakoff and Johnsonbut apart from buttons, many gestural interfaces minimize or drop the metaphor altogether because the xaffer is directly interacting with the content pinching photos small, etc.
As our devices get more sophisticated, metaphor will become even more important.
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We work on next-generation devices with embedded technology: Everything from consumer electronics to mobile devices to robots and interactive environments. The challenge for Kicker and anyone else working in this area is to change over two decades of bad habits in which the screen and software side of a product use separate design processes and teams from the hardware side. Microsoft Surface recognizes the phone on top of it.
Touchscreens are a deep combination of hardware and software and with some gestural interfaces the hardware seems to dematerialize all together and we’re left with our bodies as the sole input device. The physical sensors are so important and completely determine what is possible to control with our bodies. We’re working on a gestural interface for a prototype media center right now and the camera we’re using created by our client Canesta is so essential. There is an interplay of hardware and software, driven by behavior and code, that we probably haven’t seen to this degree since the s, when computing resources were painfully scarce.
That’s at the core of why we formed Kicker. Too many devices come onto the market where the interface and the physical product were clearly done by two separate groups that never talk to each other.
Mobile phones, appliances, and consumer interfaes are the worst for this. You have these beautiful forms intrrfaces really interesting functionality that are then stuck with an ugly UI or in a black plastic box. They were set up to make beautiful objects or electronics or stoves. They weren’t set up for this new world of networked objects.
They’ve had to bolt on interaction design or industrial design somewhere. We wanted to have a design firm that was created from the outset to address the new challenges of responsive objects. Tens of millions of devices with touchscreens and other gestural interfaces will be sold in the next few years.
Designing Gestural Interfaces – O’Reilly Media
Hopefully we’ll have designed lots of them! Outside of the personal gadgets we all carry around, one of the areas in which touchscreens have become most pervasive is self-service safer. Whilst service designers like Live Work in designijg UK are trying innovate and refine ssffer entire service experience, it is easy for other companies to slip into using technology due to misguided rationales.
A recent documentary in Germany showed how many of these interactions were not only badly thought out, but also how much this can shift saffr work onto the customer, thus saving the company large sums of money under the guise of self-service choice and freedom. In a world full of multi-touch and gestural interfaces for every aspect of intrfaces we do, what are the things we need to look out for to keep it human e and positive rather than one struggle after the next?
From an ergonomic perspective, the question is: From an ethical perspective, it is about privacy and not having people appear foolish while performing their task.
And from a design perspective, it’s about focusing on the behavior and context of use to make the tasks as efficient and pleasing to do as possible. Objects are now carriers of behavior. When we put a service design lens on our work, it changes how you think about the product, by seeing it sqffer a piece of a larger ecosystem. We have to be designjng we’re applying touchscreens when and where appropriately. The Designer’s Review of Books has published a full review of Designing Gestural Interfaces to accompany this interview.
The Power-Hog power consumption metering piggy bank is designed “to sensitize kids to energy cost associated with running electronics devices. Then have your kids feed in a coin to meter out 30 minutes of use. This concept is delicious and irresistible! Think Frank Gehry meets Michael Dell!
The Recompute Sustainable Desktop Computer submitted by Brenden Macaluso forgoes the typical injection-molded plastic housing in favor of a layup of corrugated cardboard die-cut slices.
Designing Gestural Interfaces – The Designer’s Review of Books
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