Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from Stephen Cass

CES: The Future of Interfaces

Say goodbye the one-size-fits-all approach to interacting with computers.

  • January 6, 2011

The mouse and keyboard have been how nearly everyone has interacted with computers since Apple and Microsoft brought them to the mainstream in the mid 1980s. There have been periodic attempts to replace these devices, mainly on the grounds that because they are so old, there must be something better by now.

But as the speakers on a panel on the future of the human-computer interface at the Consumer Electronics Show pointed out, the mouse and keyboard haven’t changed much because how people use computers haven’t changed much. We still typically use computers with a relatively large screen on some kind of tabletop. The panelists were drawn from organizations such as Microsoft’s mobile division, HP, and Sony’s Playstation group.

However, now that mobile computing is firmly established, moving people away from the desktop, and new applications are driving new interfaces: smartphones with touch-screens, voice-controlled automotive entertainment systems, and motion-based game controllers. The struggle for interface designers is to establish some kind of common grammar to all these systems, so that people can move seamlessly from device to device without having to learn how to operate each one individually. This is as much as marketing challenge as as technical one: however intuitive it might feel today, people had to be taught that making pinching motions on a screen equaled zooming in and out.

Looking towards the future, it’s likely that application designers will have to start taking into account contextual shifts between different interfaces on the same device: for example, a navigation application on a smartphone could be designed for a touch-based interface, but if a user starts driving a car, the application should be able to switch over to voice-based input and output, possibly tapping into the car’s built-in hands-free phone system. Beyond that? Maybe mind control, the panel suggested, tapping electrical impulses to control the computers around us, although they admitted this is still a long way from mainstream adoption.

Want to go ad free? No ad blockers needed.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Online Only.
  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.