Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Perfect Interface

Thinking about tablets recently, I've been trying to imagine what the perfect online interface would be. Since getting a smartphone and doing the Web2.0 thing, I'm finding I don't go to the internet like I used to, getting online is now a micro event, not the main event. Web2.0 wants you to pop in and out in social media, produce content and grab information relevant to what you're doing in reality, and that doesn't fit well with a desktop.

If I'm not going to the internet as the main event, but rather as an enhancement to my reality, what would be the best way to access that? You'd want something with you all the time; the legendary wearable computer.

I'm not feeling the desktop like I used to. I still use desktop horsepower to game (which is still an event in and of itself), and to move big photoshop files, but not much else, using the internet as augmented reality doesn't require a monster processor or graphics power. Instead I'm out and about, and wanting to catch a moment and push it online quickly and easily without interrupting what's going on. Facebook encourages this somewhat, Twitter relies on it. What you can share online easily is what makes your digital self. You're mute and half invisible online if you can't interact as your virtual self.

I find the smartphone sometimes frustrating entering text on (I have the same problem with tablets), but the fact that they are easy to take everywhere is their ace in the hole. My Xperia has an awesome camera, does good video and has a big enough screen to easily share information on, it comes close to being an ideal tether between meat me and virtual me.

My future ideal device has a stylish pair of glasses, shoes and clothes that recharge from bodily motion, or solar power like the awesome Casio I recently got. Having a device that is self powered is where all mobile tech should head. Having a watch/compass/weather station on my wrist that is essentially self-sufficient makes you aware of all the umbillicalage that connects us to our digital selves.

The perfect device only asserts itself as much as it has to in order to complete online interactions. Photos are a quick motion away, interfaces respond to bodily motions (eye blinks, hand gestures, etc). Typing by following eye motion? Typing by looking at any surface with a keyboard imposed on it through the glasses? Speech to text, direct speech and let's drop the textiness?

I guess, somewhere into this, you could be playing an interactive real world/virtually enhanced game with people in which how accurately you create spell gestures dictates how well the spell will work. You'd see people playing in the park, pointing fingers at each other and seeing virtual paint balls. Gym classes would take on a whole new historical context. You could run 100m against Donovan Bailey and actually see him on the course (way) ahead of you.

William Gibson has a fantastic scene in Spook Country, where the main character is looking (through glasses with a digital screen) at the body of a virtual dead River Phoenix lying on the sidewalk where he actually died. Past and present colliding virtually... imagine that field trip to Quebec City, where you're walking across the Plains of Abraham and seeing the battle unfold around you... or you can spend a day at the reconstructed Globe Theatre watching the King's Men preparing to stage Romeo & Juliet for the first time (complete with cast from Shakespeare in Love).

Virtual Reality doesn't offer nearly the nuance and ease of use that augmented reality does. Here's hoping Moore's Law gets us there sooner than later. I want to actually work up a sweat next time I'm doing a dungeon crawl with my party of adventurers.