Thursday, October 04, 2007

The evolution of gestural interfaces

iPhone guestural interfaceA number of entities are trying to solidify a set of standards for gestural interfaces like the iPhone and iPod Touch. Designer Dan Saffer is calling for a gestural standard and has created a wiki for defining that standard. Here’s part of Saffer’s description of the project:

Work has been done already, of course. Robert Cravotta has done a good job with this overview in EDN magazine, and Bill Buxton has started an impressive list of new input devices and technologies. But we need to help create this shift in input devices, not just follow along behind the technology. And if we wait, well, we’ll simply find individual companies (Apple, Microsoft, Perceptive Pixel, etc. etc.) creating their own standards (as is being done now). And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, one can easily imagine having to remember a crazy amount of movements and gestures for common actions. (“Wait, to turn on the lights do I tap the wall, or wave a hand? Is this an iRoom or MS Rume?”) We’ll get a lot of ad hoc solutions—some of which will be great, some not so much. Standards and a pattern library would help.

What we need is some sort of standards board similar to the W3 or an advocacy group like the Web Standards Project. At a minimum, we need to start collecting the gestural patterns that are emerging, much as Jenifer Tidwell (and others) did for screen-based patterns. Even something as simple as the Ajax Pattern Library would be useful. The Interaction Design Association (on whose Board I sit) would seem to be a likely home and resource for some, if not all, of these things. The question is just having designers engage with the issue.

Additionally, Apple has created a set of iPhone Human Interface Guidelines for developers. It will be interesting to see what sorts of solutions emerge to this problem. I would be surprised if the kind of board that Saffer is suggesting doesn’t get created. In this situation, there is much more incentive for manufacturers to get together on solutions rather than duke it out with proprietary solutions as with the current HD-DVD/Blu-Ray war.

via Read/Write Web

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