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Teaching, Mathematics and Teaching Math.

Minority Report interface

Posted by forumjoe on August 29, 2009

I don’t often post random links that I find elsewhere, but this one really tickles my fancy.
One film that consistently resonates with me years after viewing is Minority Report, for two reasons. The story was kind of ho-hum, but every time I’m stuck in traffic, I think of the traffic system from the film.

You can’t help but realise the system is so much more efficient (resource-wise and time-wise) than our current system, but there’s no doubt it would require a lot of infrastructure change. The biggest problem with this transport method is that there’s no middle-path between the current cars-and-busses situation to this future situation. The infrastructure would need to be built from scratch, and the costs would just be too much. Maybe I should be a transport engineer.

But anyway, this rambling post is actually about the OTHER thing from Minority Report that I constantly think about. Whenever I have to deal with a windows button-on-toolbar interface (which is every day, really) I wonder if Tom Cruise was onto a good thing.

It looks cool, it looks slick, it looks EASY and he manages to bring up and compare a lot of information in a short period of time. In short, it’s impressive. Especially to someone who once dabbled in interface design. But really, is it better?
This question could best be asked as “Wouldn’t the character be better served by a keyboard and mouse interface?”. You can probably tell from the way I phrased that question that I think the interface is a bit silly. And yet, unlike the transport problem posed earlier, this one actually has an obvious path from current-tech to future-tech. Already, Apple and Mozilla (and probably countless others) are introducing the idea of “Gestures” to control Browsers and other applications. It’s not new technology, but it hasn’t really taken off for a myriad of reasons. But if the beginning steps aren’t taking off, what makes anyone think that the final destination (if the Minority Report can be considered the ‘final destination’ in the continual evolution of cutting edge Interface Design) will be more efficient (resource-wise and time-wise) than a modern WIMP GUI?

Don’t let that stop anyone from trying though. Some guy has taken the next step towards a true gesture-based interface using Flash and FLARToolkit. Looks impressive, sure. Looks innovative, yes. But do we really want the way we interact with computers to be this muscularly intensive in the future? Maybe I should be an interface engineer, I’d quite like that.

PS. Maybe I’ll just pose this question to my ICT Class and see what interface-prototypes they can come up with.

PPS. Yes, this long and rambling post is just a glorified way to post a cool link I found, which I try not to do.


4 Responses to “Minority Report interface”

  1. Mazil said

    It already has taken off, I’d say. The gestures on the iphone touchscreen and the more basic gestures on the apple laptop touchpads are just the bare beginnings… and I wouldn’t say the aren’t successful!

    I would say they are better. It is a lot “easier” to just swipe your finger across the screen to scroll than to pinpoint press and hold (or repeatedly press) a scroll button with a pointing device of some sort. If you have a screen anyway, I think it’s great to get rid of the extra unnecessary peripherals – keyboard, mouse, and in the case of gaming consoles, controllers (eg. Project Natal).

    And the next step I guess is to get “rid” of the screens. For a long time we will still have to have a display that we look at, but some day any space could be turned into a display, similar to the floating displays in Minority Report. Eventually we’ll internalise it though I think… and the definition of interface might change a bit then!

  2. forumjoe said

    Sure, they are better and easier for a lot of reasons, but I still maintain they haven’t taken off amongst the majority of computer users. 90% of computer users are family desktops that people use a mouse and keyboard to interact with, and I bet there’s no one who gestures with a mouse. When you’re using a touch-screen or a laptop track-pad, it makes more sense, but the number of people who only use those methods to interact with their computer are far, far, far in the minority.

    I agree with you, swiping two fingers to scroll is easier than using a trackpad two click and drag, but why would you bother if you’ve got a mouse permanently plugged in to your computer?

  3. Mazil said

    I think that might only be because touch screens aren’t cheap enough for desktop use yet. My guess is the next step might be a touch screen on (or in!) the desk with an area that can be used as a keyboard, another as a mouse or “gestures” area, but both could be switched out for other things (game controls, tablet, etc) as necessary. Awesome!

    And then… Microsoft Surface! Where everything is a display and an input device. The lines of input and output blurring – a form of virtual reality I guess?!

    • forumjoe said

      Yeah, Microsoft Surface looks VERY interesting, but methinks it will be a long time before any sort of touch-screen interface will replace mouse and keyboard as the defacto interface device.

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