For those of you that know me, or have read my books, attended my seminars, or partaken of the eLearning – you know that one of my personal favorites in exploring the ICT universe is to delve into the “futuristic” applications. I put futuristic in quotes because these days, they are not some far off future visions – they are technologies and products that are very much real, albeit not a part of everyone’s life yet.
I find that studying future trends provides me with much enthusiasm for what at times can be an awfully dry topic – but when I learn about how ICT is poised to rapidly change our lives, I get motivated - and, so do my students! That’s why I always begin my seminars and presentations with a glimpse into what is coming J
So, as I was preparing my new materials on “New Rules in the 2.0 Ecosystem: Transformation, Next Generation Networks, and Multi-service Convergence”, my first step was to research what’s new and what’s hot. One of the areas of intriguing developments is the area of Tangible User Interfaces”.
Wikipedia defines tangible user interfaces (TUI) as a user interface in which a person interacts with digital information through the physical environment. The characteristics of TUIs include
1. Physical representations that are computationally coupled to underlying digital information.
2. Physical representations that embody mechanisms for interactive control.
3. Physical representations that are perceptually coupled to actively mediated digital representations.
The physical state of tangibles embodies key aspects of the digital state of a system.
On my quest to find examples, visual examples I could share with my students, I uncovered the most amazing world – and I want to share my findings with you, and encourage you to visit the many blogs written by those committed to what defines how we will interact with all things digital going forward. After all, when a user interacts with something real, something tangible, they understand it immediately, and there are heaps of applications where this simply makes sense!
So here are just a few examples I what I found – I’d love to hear your comments on these!
Illuminating Clay - This TUI, developed for landscape architects, bridges the physical-digital divide between 3-dimensional clay models and 2-dimensional computer models. There’s no better way to explain it than to provide a scenario, as presented in the paper presented by its creators – the Tangible Media Group at MIT’s Media Laboratory - Illuminating Clay – A 3-D Tangible Interface for Landscape Analysis.
“A group of road builders, environmental engineers and landscape designers stand at an ordinary table on which is placed a clay model of a particular site in the landscape. Their task is to design the course of a new roadway,housing complex and parking area that will satisfy engineering, environmental and aesthetic requirements. Using her finger the engineer flattens out the side of a hill in the model to provide a flat plane for an area of carparking. As she does so an area of yellow illumination appears in another part of the model. The environmental engineer points out that this indicates a region of possible landslide caused by the change in the terrain and resulting flow of water. The landscape designer suggests that this landslide could be avoided by adding a raised earth mound around the car park. The group tests the hypothesis by adding material to the model and all three observe the resulting effect on the stability of the slope.”
Microsoft Surface. As described on their website, Microsoft Surface turns an ordinary tabletop into a vibrant, interactive surface. The product provides effortless access to digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects. Today, it's a 30-inch diagonal display in a table-like form factor that's easy for individuals or multiple people to interact with in a way that feels familiar, just like in the real world. In essence, it's a surface come to life for exploring, learning, sharing, creating, buying and much more. Today Microsoft Surface is available in the retail, hospitality, automotive, banking and healthcare industries. Consumers can interact with Surface at select AT&T retail locations, at the iBar located in the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and at select Sheratons in the U.S.
Its still on the expensive side, at roughly US$15,000 per surface, but its only a matter of a little time before you engage in surface computing! There a heap of great videos on the website, illustrating the applications – make sure to take a peek!
And then there is one of my personal favorites – Intra-Body Communications! KDDI is now displaying one of its latest achievements called Intra-Body Communication which can use the human body to transmit high-volume data such as video and music! This is done at a frequency less than or equal to 40MHz (which has less transmission loss). The video on the monitor in the photo below is going right through the woman from her hand to the glasses and out to the monitor!
KDDI envisions this technology as yet another way to interact with the world physically and without using the airwaves. Just imagine being able to download a video simply by touching a movie poster while holding your phone. Or getting coupons through your restaurant’s seats? And of course, giving someone your business card merely by shaking their hand!
There are many many more examples I found in my research, but I can’t post all of them. Instead I hope what I’ve illustrated tickles your imagination, and prompts you to make sure you do your research on the very fascinating and immersive topic of Tangible User Interfaces!
Here's to feeling the future!