More on future UIs

A while ago I wrote on Microsoft Courier and the UI design implications such a form factor would have. A bit farther in the future, it’s getting even more hardcore.

Long Zheng has a nice post on Microsoft’s most recent future office video (if an 8-minute video is too long, check out the images). What we’re seeing here is a representation of a future home office environment with walls acting as screens and computers sensing motion and speech fluently. If you think Courier was far from being a product, how’s this then?

Without even bothering to ponder on the development implications of having such hardware at our disposal, let me instead look at a few other consequences.

First, using such a computer would be far more healthy than these ones we now have. Carpal tunnel syndrome is hard to avoid with the amounts of typing and mouse usage we currently need. Just getting rid of the mouse would make a monumental difference. Also, the added physical exercise would also be likely to reduce the risk of neck and back problems.

Second, using such a communications medium (essentially, a wall-sized video conference) would make telecommuting a wholly different experience. These days working from home implies a strong disconnect from your colleagues, and even a high resolution replica of the person on your screen won’t make a total difference. On the other hand, representing the image so that the other person actually matches your size is something far more real.

Third, having such interfaces changes the way offices and homes are designed. Cubicles have insufficient wall space, and the noise insulation must be something way better than we have now. This will increase costs, but also provide more flexibility in the space arrangements. When the computing equipment uses very little floor space, the possibilities in designing modular offices go up. Radically.

And finally, one more word on interfaces. Current computers are bugged by the fact that you need cables, ports and whatnot. Surface’s concept of dropping a digital camera on the table and having the images automatically downloaded has merit. But when we can include photos in our notes as trivially as we could in the Courier video and scan documents with the ease represented in this one, I think the idea of truly digitalizing your office is a whole bunch closer.

But hey, it’s nothing practical. It’s not a product, it’s not even a promise of a product. But it does tickle the imagination. And as Long Zheng puts it quite well: “Say what you might about their products on the market, but when it comes to flashy prototypes and revolutionary concepts, Microsoft is indisputably a clear leader in the industry”. Let’s enjoy that for a moment, shall we?

September 28, 2009 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
Tags: ,  · Posted in: General

One Response

  1. bungle - October 1, 2009

    A great time to start burning the books:

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