[FoRK] nice rant about lack of vision in vision of future UI

Damien Morton dmorton at bitfurnace.com
Wed Nov 9 02:35:38 PST 2011

I was just reading this article myself. Definitely thought provoking.

I think he misses something fundamental, which is that the only two senses
we know how to stimulate in an infinitely malleable and controllable way
are sight and sound. This is the attraction of the pictures under glass

You want to make a tactile interface, like a sandwich, you're stuck making
single use interfaces from bunches of atoms, like a sandwich.

Ok, so we could imagine programmable matter, capable of morphing into
shapes and being manipulated by user interaction. We could make a snazzy
video about it, and have UI designers rave about it. As far as I know
though, programmable matter is notional, but simply isn't on the
technological horizon.

So, his postscript is also interesting, suggesting that we look to arms and
perhaps the whole body as the human computer interface. Here again I think
he is missing something. At least some of the time, if not most of the
time, the human computer interface requires communicating symbols with
precision. This is the input bandwidth. If you think about it for a moment,
the thing we use to communicate with the highest bandwidth is our mouths,
having learned by many years of practice how to coordinate a very complex
group of muscles in our heads and necks in such as a way as to be
relatively comprehensible.

For all this coordination of multiple muscle groups, best we are able to
precisely communicate is something of the order of 10 bits-per-second, with
a less precise side-channel that conveys emotional tones at maybe the same

Way way back in the 80s, I tried to earn a little money selling word
processing software. What was interesting is that at the time, there was a
very real concern about how the computer revolution could proceed given
that so few people knew how to type. Since then, I guess nearly all of us
have become typists to some degree, either through training, or simply
through necessity. Not quite the dexterity and talent of musicians, but
something approaching that.

As I sit here stroking my keyboard, I am thinking - wow - what a tactile
and malleable interface it is. I never learned to play the piano, but wow,
can I bang out text. At something between 1 and 10 bps.

Then, I look over to my mouse. Wow. What a tactile interface we have there.
move it, push it, stroke it, slide it. My whole arm and hand is involved in
using it, and I can get maybe 1 to 10 bps out of it.

If there is a new interface paradigm out there, maybe something more
tactile than the pictures under glass interface, and something with more
expressiveness than a keyboard and mouse, it will likely involve us
learning a system of movement with somewhere between the complexity of
learning to type and learning to speak.

On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 3:30 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:

> http://worrydream.com/ABriefRantOnTheFutureOfInteractionDesign/
> Needs pictures, so just go to the link.
> (Treatment of fatigue not included (not a problem for
> on/off interactions), and ignores gaze, voice and thought
> (EEG or ECoG)).
> --
> Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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