Making the Interface Better

There has been an ongoing discussion of the User Interface in computing ever since the Graphical User Interface came out of Xerox Parc. The thing that has always amused me is that we seldom hear discussions about User Interfaces with other things. It seems that it isn’t right until people stop talking about it. I’ve always been a proponent of voice being the ultimate UI for a computer, but despite all my hopes, it just doesn’t seem that we’re even close to teaching English to a computer.

Now Microsoft is experimenting with a new kind of interface they call Natal. This interface uses cameras and other sensors to monitor your motions and expressions to determine what you want to do. The initial application of this interface will be in the XBox. If successful, this will make the Wii controller look as antiquated as the joystick. It will also usher in a new way for the application software we use at work and home to interact with us. Outside of gaming, it’s hard to imagine many ways where this interface will be much better than a mouse and keyboard, but people smarter than me will figure that out. I’d like to see something along the Minority Report or Avatar interfaces where I can use hand gestures to move screens and drill down into data. Maybe this will combine with some basic voice recognition to move us farther from the speed limiting qwerty keyboard.

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