With all the talk of multi-touch, surface computing, and mobile technology, let’s think, for a moment, where we’re all headed. Given the fact that we are all gadget geeks and give the fact that most of us will use Windows until we’re old and gray, we need to start talking about future interfaces that might supplant the standard OS entirely, multi-touch or no. Thankfully, Microsoft and Apple are already on that road — some are further than others — but I worry that we’re going to get lost in the rush to multi-touch, the “desktop metaphor” of our era, and forget some other interesting developments.
Interfaces, be they keyboard, touchscreen, or anything else under the sun, are a way to convert physical intent into computer commands. We could — and often do — control computers with piano keyboards, guitar strings, and bird feeders (bird on feeder – 1, bird off feeder – 0. Might make for some good fractals). But after playing with speech recognition, I’m convinced we shouldn’t be touching our computers at all. These, I feel, are the next big step in PC UI
3D space manipulation – Where the desktop metaphor changed the way we do office work, the 3D space metaphor will change the way we engineer. Virtual reality has come a long way since the days of Lawnmower Man and I honestly believe the next step in the “surface” computing metaphor is to remove the surface. Real time manipulation of forms — be they car models or circuit boards — will change the way we think about space. I haven’t seen much in this direction yet, but CAD coupled with 3D hologram imaging would be a killer app for engineers.