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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Interfaces, Interactions & Playthings

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In the 90's, we focused on improving the GUI for the single end-user. Today, with innovations in user recognition (gestures, facial, etc.), advanced feedback systems, and portability, interaction designs now have a huge bucket to pick from in their strive to advance the way we work with computers and technology.

To be fair, we must cover the paradigm - an adopted and shared approach within a research community - in which the field of human-computer interaction follows. There's this futuristic (well, not so much anymore) idea of ubiquitous computing, where computers will be everywhere, with some more apparent than others, but all playing a large part in our work, social, and everyday lives.

From this shift, we get new to see terms such as persuasive computing, ambient intelligence, and the disappearing computer. Away goes the simple touch, web, and appliance interfaces - and in comes sharable, tangible, and multimodal ones. But let's not forget about all the things we've learned over the years.

Let's start with forms and the act of filling one out. The general consensus? Annoying. Moving through tedious screens? Even more annoying. Indisguishable icons? Oh, don't get me started. We've all run into issues with bad interface design, so through extensive research (and the mind of yours truly), let us avoid these pitfalls by employing one particular mindset; context.

Context is king in the world of HCI, and research is one of the primary ways to get more context in the world we live in. For instance, playing an audio clip before a presentation actually stimulates part of the brain, encouraging more imagination and reception thereafter. Neuroscience, computer science, and education - it doesn't hurt to combine completely separate fields every so often. Heck, I would even go so far as to encourage this type of fusing of the arts and sciences in the future.

Now, let's get a little bit more complicated. Realism vs. abstraction is a fun topic, especially with virtual reality become a reality within the next decade, we're all kind of curious on how rendering reality in a computer-generated space could possibly feel. From my perspective, I'm guessing they'd feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland (as cheesy as it sounds in reference to The Matrix). Sure, they'll gain super-human perspectives as they master the art of technology (as computers master the art of the human mind), but it all takes time.

And time, really, is what we want to master. Today's web is like a flurry of billboards running through the user's mind at 90 mph. Nobody cares about how thoughtful you've placed that drop-down menu. They want information and they want it quick. So, how the hell do you master time?

It's quite simple. Accuracy, non-obtrusiveness, and prediction. Designing and planning for the future. Think in the future. Using shareable (multi-user), multimodal (combining humanistic actions), and augmented reality interfaces, we can get the user to live their lives with rich, interactive overlayed experiences awaiting them in every corner. How well everything will actually connect greatly depends on how well we plan. It all starts now.

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