Evolving Computer Interfaces

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Evolving Computer Interfaces

Revolution is emerging in computer interfaces and the way people interact with machines.  In the coming years, the possibilities are going to be staggering in their variety and scope.1 

Among those with the potential to make the most impact are:

  • Microsoft's "Surface" tabletop
  • Organic light-emitting displays
  • Electronic paper
  • Siftables portable displays
  • Pill bottles, eyeglasses, and umbrellas that contain simple interfaces

Let's start with "Surface," released by Microsoft in 2007.2  It is a Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-enabled 30-inch tabletop that responds to touch from multiple fingers and multiple users. 

You can take photos with your digital wireless camera and then place the camera on the horizontal glass screen.  Instantly, the computer will download the photos and they will appear on the tabletop.  Then, using your fingers, you can sort through the photos, re-size them, send them by e-mail, or print them. 

You can pull up maps that contain information ranging from a space-shuttle view of the Earth down to individual cars and buildings on streets.  All this is done by touching the tabletop and making gestures with your fingers. 

In restaurants, Surface is being used to allow patrons to place orders or even to scan the RFID tag on a bottle of wine to see information about the vineyard and vintage.  Customers can also play board games or finger paint.  Surface is already operating in T-Mobile stores, Starwood hotels, Harrah's in Las Vegas, and Sheraton hotels.

The tabletop will be able to sense, for example, if your glass needs to be refilled.  And people dining together can drag menu items they've ordered to their own personal bills to split up the check. 

A similar concept lets a tiny mobile device turn any flat surface into a computer interface.  It projects the screen image, a keyboard, and a touchpad onto a tabletop and then uses a camera-based system to respond to the user's input.  The projected Virtual Keyboard is already available online for just $199.3

According to EE Times,4 another change in interface technology will take place in the living room, the office, and many other places.  Organic LEDs may well replace LCDs and plasma screens for television, electronic paper, and electronic signage.  They are already seen in portable displays...

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