Interacting The Interface

pace, “Interface” desIgns that straIn the lImIts encourage us to ImagIne the ImpossIble.

As developments such as artIfIcIal IntellIgence and mIcro operatIons at the molecular level advance computer technology at a an exponentIal  It will be useful first of all to define the term, interface.Let’s say you want to hang a picture, so you’re going to drive a nail into the wall. You need to use a hammer. The hammer is your tool. So what is going to constitute the relationship between that tool and your body? In other words, how are you going to get the hammer to do the job of driving in the nail? By holding the handle of course, right? So the hammer is the tool and the handle is the interface. The same relationship holds for a cup and its handle, a bicycle and its pedals and handlebars, a ship and its rudder, sails and compass, and a computer and its keyboard, mouse and operating system.

Interfaces make it possible for us to use various tools to do various things. As these tools become more complex, interfaces, too, proliferate and become more complex.

Consider for a minute the mobile phone you hold in your hand… And that’s only the beginning. The new interaction models that scientists are developing, and that were not even imaginable until a few years ago, are going to be used in applications of incredible diversity. Vehicle remote controls, enhanced reality, the dispatching of emergency services, global observation of patients, medical treatment by telephone, architectural design and traffic flow modeling are just a few of the possibilities. Let’s see what innovations the years ahead are going to bring.

Touchmatics: The multi-user computer called Surface, which was developed by Microsoft,  is one of the most advanced examples of the touchscreen technology currently used on mobile phones. You control the computer content with your hands and transfer information from one place to another by simple touch and movements. At the same time the surface sets up a communication with the objects you arrange on the screen and enables you to transfer data easily between devices such as a mobile phone or digital camera.

Flexibles: Ultra thin, lightweight, flexible screens are soon going to start turning up everywhere. You can think of them as ‘digital paper’, the paper of the future. Such flexi display technology can be used almost anywhere, from newspapers and magazines to clothing, even posters that can be superimposed on walls, and it is going to transform our perception of the traditional media completely.

Three-dimensionals: Three-dimensional televisions are already on the market and, yes, they again require wearing special glasses. No standard has as yet been developed for these new glasses, so a ‘format war’ in 3-D TV, similar to the recent one between Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, is anticipated.

Bionic lenses: Contact lenses have been used for years to correct visual defects. But what if they can do a lot more, like taking the place of a personal computer screen, for example? Babak Parviz, an assistant professor in the Electrical Engineering Department of Washington University, is working on exactly this. Enhanced reality technology, in which data are superimposed on the real world, is going to completely transform the relationship we form with other people and with the world in general. Personal data, positioning statistics and displays of alternative content will all be possible in time. This extremely bold project has already made significant progress.

Already in use in automobile GPS systems and soon to be used in smart phones as well, this new technology can provide information about the environment and the conditions in which we find ourselves. As the technology progresses, many more things will become possible, such as position-based marketing, travel assistance and social networking applications.

Regarded as the holy grail of interfaces, the brain-computer interface, or direct nerve interface, is going to be the most direct way of commanding our devices. Brain-computer interfaces will be directly connected to the brain’s nervous system leaving our intermediate sense perceptions out of the loop. The potential uses of this technology in the field of medicine, especially in patients with paralysis, is mind boggling. Computer-controlled communication and thought-operated wheelchairs and similar devices could go a long way towards making making paralytic patients independent and self-sufficient. And if a person is experiencing a major health problem, such as a heart attack, that requires emergency intervention, the house system will be able to call an ambulance instantly. In this as in almost every field, the game industry is going to be the engine that drives pioneering developments and consumer demand. Imagine how cool it would be if a player were able to play a game and control his avatar simply by using his brain…