Insights · July 3rd, 2007

Brenda’s previous blog rings true, and rather than adding a comment, let me add this way. The two major computing input forms, the qwerty keyboard and the mouse have been around since 1873 and 1981 respectively. Amazingly little has changed. Until now.

About five years ago at the University of Washington Human Interface Technology Lab, where I am an honorary visiting scholar, I began to see demonstrations of gesture-based computing. One stood around a table-top and used hand gestures to move a computer cursor and navigate a Windows desktop. Bringing your thumb and finger together, for example, was like a mouse click. The research system used an overhead camera to see you, and a projector beneath the table to show the results. Later, at the sister lab in New Zealand I observed that gesture based system applied to wall-size screens that became part of the New Zealand entry to the last world’s fair in Japan.

These experiments did not lead directly, so far as I know, to the Microsoft Surface Computing product announced on May 30, 2007. I had been invited to be a small scale project advisor, observing the product before launch and providing feedback. Like the old HIT Lab experiments the Surface Computing product uses a system to see objects including your hands on the tabletop, and then you can interact with the digital world naturally. See their overview here. I believe it will be a product that appears in every media room eventually, as well as in commercial settings. The best application: lay your digital camera on the table top, and Surface recognizes it, and automatically downloads all the photos. Then, view them, enlarge them, move them into some other device, or perhaps best, flip a photo over, write a message on the back with your finger, then email the instant postcard to someone.

And then there is the iPhone. My wife and I purchased ours this weekend. I can only say wow. She sold me when we stepped into the store and she called up on the screen. (We look gorgeous, by the way.) There are reviews everywhere, for example see Gina Smith. We are finding that it breaks the rules. Navigation is easy, intuitive, eye-popping. YouTube videos are stunnning. The sync with our Windows Outlook flawless. Email configuration (with Verizon DSL web host) took a little scritching, and waiting for ATT to grab our Verizon cell phone numbers did take 24 hours.

When Kanna, Administrative Manager here at saw my iPhone today, she immediately imagined it as her only computer. All it needs is a bluetooth keyboard, and either a bluetooth screen or a built in mini-projector, and, she wondered, why would she need anything else?

iPhone asks that you touch the sreen, Surface can see a gesture and respond to touch. Both are the first new thing in digital interaction in decades.

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Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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