Who is thinking beyond the flat screen touch UI?

Last week, Bret Victor posted A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design, a must-read essay for those who think that the future of technology interaction will be primarily spent stroking flat panes of glass:

[T]ake out your favorite Magical And Revolutionary Technology Device. Use it for a bit.

What did you feel? Did it feel glassy? Did it have no connection whatsoever with the task you were performing?

I call this technology Pictures Under Glass. Pictures Under Glass sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade.


With an entire body at your command, do you seriously think the Future Of Interaction should be a single finger?

Perhaps he is right. Minority Report‘s computer interactions have been very distracting for many OS user interface designers.

Why should we listen to Mr. Victor? He worked at Apple for a while where his job was “to play with experimental hardware platforms and input technologies, and come up with new user-interface and application concepts.” He was there from August 2007 to last November.

Perhaps when Apple’s competitors seem to have caught up (or produced a ‘good enough’ version of iOS) is the point when Apple will unveil the next UI target.

That means advancing the input technology. A start would be a touch surface with a ‘dimple resolution’ of at least 72 dpi – a trackpad whose surface texture can be manipulated by software. You would then be able to feel window boundaries, get a quick idea of how many windows there hidden under the window you can see, and even have keyboards that reconfigure themselves based on the input task (from typewriter to piano).

This could evolve into a transparent surface that can be overlaid onto screens and elsewhere, allowing the combination of visual and tactile feedback. One day technology might be able to induce complex texture and weight effects that we’ll be able to sense in 3D space. One step nearer that holographic interface.

As well as telling us that ‘Pictures Under Glass’ isn’t all the future should be made up of, Bret includes a rallying cry too:

Despite how it appears to the culture at large, technology doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t emerge spontaneously, like mold on cheese. Revolutionary technology comes out of long research, and research is performed and funded by inspired people.

And this is my plea — be inspired by the untapped potential of human capabilities. Don’t just extrapolate yesterday’s technology and then cram people into it.

In the last few months I’ve been posting about Final Cut Pro, but I’ve also written about future UI too.

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