Tag related to Interface


Farewell mouse and keyboard?

Is it time to say farewell to our mice and keyboards? That is what Leap motion claims. In the past months, we have heard of many promising projects aiming to substitute mouse or keyboard input to a personal computer – an aspect of HCI discussed and researched for over a decade.

So what is the Leap? It is a USB device that allows us to interact with software on laptops and desktops, by sensing hand and finger movements in a very precise (claimed) way. Leap motion argues it is a breakthrough in HCI as it uses a mathematical approach to 3D, touch-free motion sensing and motion control software.

Leap motion also claims a limitless usage for this device,  as stated on their website, providing a few examples:

  • Artists can use The Leap to emulate a stylus or easily create 3D images.
  • Anyone can use The Leap to interact with Windows 7/8 or Mac OS X by clicking, grabbing, scrolling and using familiar gestures like pinch to zoom in 3D space.
  • Users pointing a pen at the signature line of a document to sign it in space.
  • Engineers can interact more easily with 3D modeling software.
  • Gamers can play more easily and many will modify with Leap in mind.
  • Surgeons can control 3D medical data with their hands without taking off their gloves.

The Leap is currently capable for interacting with Microsoft or MAC platforms, with Linux to follow. Pre-orders are out, for 69.99 USD for a limited number. In addition, Leap Motion is willing to distribute free developer kits to qualified people, in order  to promote the device and enable developers to “go for it”.

You can read all about it here. You can also check out their blog.

UX and GUI Guides from Vendors and Manufacturers

One of the most important considerations for a developer – when writing code for an application or website – is to ensure a good level of usability, a task quite difficult as more often than not users have their… own way of classifying usability in applications and consequently turning them into favorites or not.

UX has become a complex task, almost a science in the tech world and software companies need to embrace this. Many do not pay as much attention as they should and do not offer assistance or tools to their developers, the driving force for their applications. Nonetheless, many are starting to realize that paying attention to UX is the way forward if they want to be successful in today’s tech markets.

Most current OSs, devices and application frameworks impose certain usability standards to developers, in a sense assisting the latter to maintain a good level of user friendliness but at the same time ensuring uniformity which it self, provides a sense of cohesion, compliance and… well, usability! If the environment itself does not provide an adequate level of usability, the user is going to turn down applications within, no matter how well designed they are.

It is quite promising that manufacturers are starting to embrace UX as an important factor to the success of their products – what the authors consider to be the most important contribution of Steve Jobs, as we will argue in a future post – by starting to provide guidelines for GUI and functionality development. This has direct consequences to both users and developers. Developers can do their job faster and less costly when guided, while the benefits from the attention given to the aesthetics, user friendliness and better performance.

An article on usabilitygeek.com is trying to gather most usability guidelines from major vendors and manufacturers. It is not a complete guide, but it is a very good start. You can read the article here.

The death of the ‘mechanical’ keyboard

During the Christmas break, we got a visit from some friends, along with their two kids (2 years and 5 months old respectively). What stood out during their visit, was how children discover, understand and use current technology. Here is how it all started…

During one of our endless discussions, next to the fireplace,  about nothing and everything, the father reached for his iPod Touch and activated the device, entered the password and gave it to the older boy. The boy surfed through the applications, found one that had a baby picture and pressed the touch screen to enter a menu of five categories. The father asked the boy to look for ‘cars’.  The boy selected the Automobile button and nine new pictures appeared. Then the father asked for the boy to look for trains. The boy navigated through the menu to the train picture, pressed it and started laughing when the train sound played through the device. Happy and excited he continued playing with his toys, leaving the iPod to his father.

After 5 minutes the device was locked and the kid wanted to play again. This time he reached the device by himself, entered the password that his father entered earlier – albeit an easy one – and launched the app again.

Child operating a Touchscreen (Image from University of Kent)

Child operating a Touchscreen (Image from University of Kent)

It was quite impressive how the 2-year old could handle the iPod, browsing through the pages and making the appropriate selections. However, we have seen that before, even with more complex interfaces. What was not so easily apparent is how young children are used to ‘touch-screens’, being fairly comfortable using them contrary to traditional keyboards.

As the father mentioned, a couple of months back he bought a cheap video camera which had the classic buttons for settings and usage. The boy wanted to play, so he opened the camera’s screen and started touching on it.

His disappointment was apparent and expressed vocally as the device did not respond when the boy touched the screen and he could not figure out another way of operating the device.

It occurred to me that when these kids start their own families it is possible that the technology that we use  currently may be obsolete … maybe we will not be in a position to understand new devices easily. Kind of like Robert Gu at the begining of Vernon Vinge’s Rainbow’s End. Or the scene from “Back to the future” where two kids try to play an old-school video game and shoot Indians. Michael J. Fox comes in order to show them how to play, grabs the gun which had a cable attached to it and starts pressing the trigger. Disappointed, one of the kids turns to Michael J. Fox and asks:  “You mean we have to use our hands ?”

Most of us have seen how things  began and evolved regarding mobile phones or PCs. I got my first mobile phone at the age of 21 and if I go back in time I remember I was one of the few kids that had a PC at the age of 10. It was a very powerful machine with a V20 Processor and a 20 MB HDD. By today’s standards, not enough even for a cheap mobile phone…

New generations may take technology for-granted, and probably will not be able to fully appreciate the steps that led us to today’s technology. Whether it is necessary to understand these steps is a different matter.

And it came to us…

Here we are today talking about AR & VR in small “smart” devices and a dozen other concepts that kids will probably use from an early age. How will that affect their creativity and technological progress. Will it hinder it, or will it open new possibilities and allow creators thing in a different way than we are. We are hopping for the latter.