Gestural interfaces for futuristic applications need standards

With PDC on the rapidly approaching horizon there is already talk of ‘how to prepare for the development road ahead’ – and discussion around ‘Oslo’, Microsoft’s “family” of technologies for data-driven development and execution of services finally seems to have started bubbling up after being announced way back in Oct 07. Even the partner expo section this year is modestly titled “Amazing Scenarios”, gosh!

With PDC on the rapidly approaching horizon there is already talk of ‘how to prepare for the development road ahead’ – and discussion around ‘Oslo’, Microsoft’s “family” of technologies for data-driven development and execution of services finally seems to have started bubbling up after being announced way back in Oct 07. Even the partner expo section this year is modestly titled “Amazing Scenarios”, gosh!

With futurology in mind, it will be interesting to see just how far the pontificating is going to go this year as a number of vendors are starting to become more vocal on the subject of applications with “gestural” (is that a real word yet?) interfaces a la Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

At the risk of ‘over-engineering’ the applications themselves as vendors insist that a double-click on a mouse just isn’t an intuitive enough experience for us, there is momentum for development in this space. Microsoft has MS Surface and Apple has the iPhone and the MultiTouchPad on the MacBook Pro – Nintendo’s Wii too of course.

The problem may be that this type of technology is great for keynote speeches and press releases, but if your development world is built around a really intelligent payroll application that is so robustly constructed that it’s being used in secure environments from the military to the public sector – do you really care about this cutting edge stuff that may never see the light of day other than on a phone or in a game?

In search of an engineering epiphany on this subject I found this info from a creative digital agency called AKQA that says the following:

“The main consideration for developers is that the interaction model does not lend itself to current thinking and development methodologies. Developing a gestural interface requires more than simply taking an existing application and trying to port it across. Instead, gestural interface developers will need to stop, forget the old practices, and start thinking in a completely new way. If an application is developed using this mindset, the rewards will be great.”

OK good, so it’s a back to ground level approach that’s required, no major surprise there though. I don’t think application developers need to worry about keyboards suddenly going right out of fashion though do you?

I’d like to suggest that the most important point here (and this is also a point made by the AKQA team) might perhaps be hinged around standards. What I mean is; how do we prescribe and detail the double-click standard for the future? These kind of building blocks will need to be agreed upon if we are to go forward in this space.

Futurologists may suggest that everything will be so intuitive that we won’t need standards, but that may just distance these applications from the developers who already regard them as pipe-dreams.

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