Evolution of Computer Interfaces

The Sixth Sense video from the 2009 TED in India has some thought provoking ideas not just on the evolution of computer interfaces but also the merging of the “real” and virtual worlds.

Although some ideas (e.g. Projection of information onto people) emphasized visual techniques too much and didn’t anticipate other senses like voice recognition and virtual agent feedback whispered in your ear, it is still compelling to consider the implications of when ultra-small projectors are included in our cell phones. I especially liked how much more flexible and integrated a workflow combining the computer with paper could be.

What is also exciting with respect to affordability are new products like LEAP which appear to extend capabilities similar to Microsoft’s xbox kinect at a price of approximately $70.

Although it is still in the early stages, SIRI is exposing the capabilities that will eventually become commonplace for voice interaction with a virtual assistant.

Apple doesn’t normally issue concept videos but they did do one 25 years ago called the Knowledge Navigator which included many of the items we are more familiar with today. Clearly this vision is something that Apple has worked to implement as new technologies gradually have made the capabilities possible in a consumer product.

Incredibly the knowledge navigator video released in 1987 was released for real only one month late according to calculations made by the web site waxy.org.

Based on the dates mentioned in the Knowledge Navigator video, it takes place on September 16, 2011. The date on the professor’s calendar is September 16, and he’s looking for a 2006 paper written “about five years ago,” setting the year as 2011.

And this morning, at the iPhone keynote,[October 4, 2011] Apple announced Siri, a natural language-based voice assistant, would be built into iOS 5 and a core part of the new iPhone 4S.

So, 24 years ago [from 2011], Apple predicted a complex natural-language voice assistant built into a touchscreen Apple device, and was less than a month off.

Clearly there are many computer interaction breakthroughs in our near future.

What good are you going to do with the powerful capabilities of an intelligent virtual assistant at your beck and call?