the future of interfaces

Apple recently introduced a convergent device that is a media player (iPod), cell phone, wifi device, and widget player (mini OS X) – I’m going to call it the iCon (since the current name is under trademark dispute). There’s one whole walloping button. Everything else is done via hand motions. Want to zoom in on an image? Grab it in two places, and slide your finger apart. Want to view a photo or video in quasi-letterbox format? Rotate the iCon 90 degrees and the image magically rotates to maintain viewability.

I wrote an article about the brokenness of current GUIs several months ago, and it was published by the ACM’s Ubiquity. You may find it interesting; you may not. You may want to read it in conjunction with this post – either before or after, doesn’t matter to me.

I wonder, though, where we’re actually going in interface engineering. We’ve been stuck on a handful of very limiting techniques for a very long time (command-line and windowing environments). Why are more interfaces not tried? Why don’t we bother to expand our horizons? I think it’s because we’re afraid to experiment.

Interface design needs a lot of work. But more importantly, it needs people who are willing to try anything at least once.