Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Touchless Interfaces

With all the recent hype around the iPad and the emergence of touchscreen tablet computing I decided to look into what else was on the horizon. I may well be showing my age here but the truth is that it hasn't been very long that touchscreen interfaces have become practically the norm and almost everyone carries at least one touchscreen device in their pocket. So perhaps it's too early to be considering what will come next? Oddly enough, no.

While Sci-fi writers may have long ago dreamt off touchless interfaces, the reality has been a lot less forthcoming. However, it may be close at hand. The latest step toward touchless interfaces comes from John Underkoffler. John was working at the MIT Media Lab when the producers of Minority Report called looking for ideas for their movie. Unsurprisingly, they hired John and his idea. Now, following a long hard slog of development and testing, John and his company, Oblong, brought their new interface to the TED conference. What may surprise you is that this was a year ago, and in the following year the system is said to be close to implementation.

This is an actual spatial operating system.

Something else that this got me thinking about was the massive explosion of the adaptation and use of Augmented Reality. In my mind the two systems are inherently linked - while AR uses coded image identifiers to render interactives and otherwise unseen media within an artificial 3D environment, the spatial operating system recognises your hands as manipulators of objects with an artificial 3D environment. If you also consider the various laser light artificial keyboards that are on the market, I expect the next 24 months of interface development to see some huge changes.

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