I’m always on the lookout for innovative hardware and software gadgetry that seek to make life easier. There are some great gadget websites for everything from the pragmatic (like healthcare) to the preposterous (like the entertainment of a fish training kit). In my opinion, what you learn by browsing and occasionally using these gadgets is that they portend some radical changes coming to user interface design – an area that is ripe for some major advances.
For example, I enjoy lasers. And I enjoy bikes. But, lasers and bikes together: now that’s pretty cool! That’s what gadget makers LightLane came up with their “Instant Bike Lane” described earlier this year in Wired…check it out.
I also enjoy magic. Which is what intrigued me when I heard about Microsoft’s J Allard filing a patent for a magic wand earlier this year. Personally, I’m surprised more hasn’t happened by now in this kind of device control, with all of the advances we’ve had in microprocessors, RFID, wireless communications, etc. I’m not expecting Click, but I do expect to be able to do more through remote motion in the near future.
But perhaps, the better remote controlling input source is speech, rather than motion. Does anyone remember the innovative communications interface Wildfire? Wildfire combined acceptable-for-the-times voice recognition with the female version of Hal for speech synthesis. For mid-1990s technology, it was pretty innovative. I’d love to see an affordable, plug-and-play voice technology (input & output) get introduced into the home or office market.
For a different take on the human-gadget interface discussion, there is the field of biometric access. Some interesting developments there, starting to move biometrics from the exclusive sphere of high-end security and the military to more consumer-oriented, mass form factors. A few to mention:
- Disney’s successful use of biometric scanning at the turnstiles of their major parks – a key part of their approach to monitoring the authenticity of discount park pass use by guests
- Sodexo’s experiment with biometrics on college campuses – I think “shop naked” was the rallying cry of the teams signing up kids for test market programs
- And then, there is the EU’s valiant try at employing biometrics as an augment to physical passports – time will tell if this ends up being a good thing or a very bad thing for citizen privacy and public safety, not counting efficient use of taxpayer resources.
If you’ve got an interesting idea a gadget and / or an experience to share about its UI, please let me know!