Care to see (and perhaps resonate with) a very naturalistic vision about the future of computer interaction and some real evidence that not even Steve Jobs got it right? Read on, then.
Bret Victor was a Human-Interface Inventor at Apple, where he worked on “half a dozen experimental hardware platforms”, including UI projects for iPad, iPod nano. “…designing Future Interfaces For The Future used to be my line of work,” he says.
Yet he doesn’t have a problem with the companies themselves, or their approaches to simplifying computer interaction. The problem, as he sees it, lies in the way these transitioning methods - touchscreens in particular - are being touted as “the future”. This has to stop, says Victor.
He argues that we will eventually return to our roots, in that we’ll be using computers much like we use the most ordinary of tools - like a hammer, or a door handle, and everything in between.
“My problem is the opposite, really — this vision, from an interaction perspective, is not visionary. It's a timid increment from the status quo, and the status quo, from an interaction perspective, is actually rather terrible,” he explains.
“This little rant isn't going to lay out any grand vision or anything. I just hope to suggest some places to look,” he clarifies.
The Human-Interface expert calls this popular view of the future “Pictures Under Glass” and he describes it as “an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness.”
“It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist,” Victor asserts. “It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future. To me, claiming that Pictures Under Glass is the future of interaction is like claiming that black-and-white is the future of photography. It’s obviously a transitional technology. And the sooner we transition, the better.”
He makes a great point in showing that it’s the whole hand that works to our advantage, not just the fingers.
“The next time you make a sandwich, pay attention to your hands. Seriously! Notice the myriad little tricks your fingers have for manipulating the ingredients and the utensils and all the other objects involved in this enterprise. Then compare your experience to sliding around Pictures Under Glass.”
“Are we really going to accept an Interface Of The Future that is less expressive than a sandwich?”, Victor rhetorically asks.
“…be inspired by the untapped potential of human capabilities. Don’t just extrapolate yesterday’s technology and then cram people into it.Look down at your hands. Are they attached to anything? Yes — you’ve got arms! And shoulders, and a torso, and legs, and feet! And they all move!…With an entire body at your command, do you seriously think the Future Of Interaction should be a single finger?”
Victor’s full post - complete with relevant imagery and real-life examples - can be found here. It’s a must read!
Come back and share your impressions with me in the comments when you’re done.
Oh and remember, Victor doesn’t stress that today’s solutions are flawed. He merely argues that Microsoft & friends shouldn’t be resting on their laurels, but instead push hard to come up with even more natural, more human solutions.
Summing up Victor’s lengthy plea: the future isn’t flat.