http://www.ted.com Minority Report science adviser and inventor John Underkoffler demos g-speak -- the real-life version of the film's eye-popping, tai chi-meets-cyberspace computer interface. Is this how tomorrow's computers will be controlled?
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The project was started in stealth mode. It was uncovered in November 2008 as Oblong Industries and their clients were several governments, including the United States. They are developing a Minority Report-like user interface and itâ€™s ready for public unveiling. In fact, Oblongâ€™s stuff looks cooler than the sequences of a futuristic user interface that Steven Spielberg showed in his 2002 sci-fi film. According to Tech Crunchâ€™s MG Siegler, â€œif youâ€™ve seen the movie Minority Report, youâ€™ve seen the system theyâ€™re building.â€
That shouldnâ€™t come as a surprise. John Underkoffler, the co-founder of a 25 person Los Angeles-based startup actually imagined a gesture-based computer interface for Spielbergâ€™s film. The movie producers offered Underkoffler, who was at the time working at the MIT Media Lab, to serve as a science consultant for the movie.
This past Friday, Underkoffler has finally demoed a working prototype of that user interface at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California. Dubbed the g-speak Spatial Operating Environment, the system lets you zoom in and out, push objects aside and bring them to the foreground, rotate objects, etc.
All of this is accomplished with special gloves that you wear to interact with the interface in six degrees of control, like Tom Cruise did in the Minority Report movie. Underkoffler is adamant that the technology will find its way into everyday computers in a five-years time. According to the New York Times, this gesture technology is already being used in Fortune 50 companies, government agencies, and universities.
Technological, social, and market forces have converged to create a fertile new ground for designers and engineers to plow. The price of processing speed has dropped and sensors are readily available.
Touchscreens on our mobile devices, ATMs, and airline check-in kiosks have taught us to expect to be able to manipulate things on-screen with our hands. Games have shown us we can make gestures in space to control objects on-screen. Public restrooms are, believe it or not, test laboratories for interactive gestures: placing your hands under a faucet to turn it on, waving your hands to get a paper towel, stepping into a room to turn on the lights.
All of these things have ushered in a new era of interaction design, one where gestures on a surface and in the air replace (or at least supplement) keyboards, mice, and styli. This new era, however, means those who design and develop more "traditional" systems need to grow their skills, adding in knowledge about kinesiology, sensors, ergonomics, physical computing, touchscreen technology, and new interface patterns.
See a related paper entitled:
Designing Gestural Interfaces
Dan Saffer with the help of: Cem Keskin, Chong Lee Khoo and a number of other experts in Finger Tracking technologies.