Jul 21, 2012

Musings about NUI, Perceptive Pixel and Microsoft, Rapid Creative Prototyping (Lots of video and links) Revised

It just might be the right time for everyone to brush up on 21st century tech skills. iPads and touch-phones are ubiquitous. Touch-enabled interactive whiteboards and displays are in schools and boardrooms.  With Microsoft's Windows 8 and the news that the company recently acquired Jeff Han's company, Perspective Pixel, I think that there will be good support - and more opportunities- for designers and developers interested in moving from GUI to NUI.    

In the video below, from CES 2012, Jeff Han provides a good overview of where things are moving in the future.  We are in a post-WIMP world and there is a lot of catching up to do!

CES 2012  Perceptive Pixel and the Future of Multitouch (IEEE Spectrum YouTube Channel)

During the video clip, Jeff explains how far things have come during the past few years:
 "Five and 1/2 years ago I had to explain to everybody what multi-touch was and meant. And then, frankly, we've seen some great products from folks like Apple, and really have executed so brilliantly, that everyone really sees what a good implementation can be, and have come to expect it.  I also think though, that the explosion of NUI is less about just multi-touch, but an awareness that finally people have that you don't have to use a keyboard and mouse, you can demand something else beside that.  People are now willing to say, "Oh, this is something I can try, you know, touch is something I can try as my friendlier interface"."

Who wouldn't want to interact with a friendlier interface?  Steve Ballmer doesn't curb his enthusiasm about Windows 8 and Perceptive Pixel.  Jeff Han is happy how designs created in Windows 8 scales for use on screens large and small. He explains how Windows 8 can support collaboration. The Story Board application (7:58) on the large touchscreen display looks interesting.

I continue to be frustrated by the poor usability of many web-based and desk-top applications.  I like my iPad, but only because so many dedicated souls have given some thought to the user experience when creating their apps.  I often meet with disappointment when I encounter interactive displays when I'm out and about during the day.  It is 2012, and it seems that there are a lot of application designers and developers who have never read Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things!

I enjoy making working prototypes and demo apps, but my skill set is stuck in 2008, the last year I took a graduate-level computer course.  I was thinking about taking a class next semester, something hands-on, creative, and also practical, to move me forward. I can only do so much when I'm in the DIY mode alone in my "lab" at home.  I need to explore new tools, alongside like-minded others.  

There ARE many more tools available to designers and developers than there were just four years ago.  Some of them are available online, free, or for a modest fee.  I was inspired by a link posted by my former HCI professor, Celine Latulipe, to her updated webpage devoted to Rapid Prototyping tools. The resources on her website look like a good place to start for people who are interested in creating applications for the "NUI" era.  (Celine has worked many interesting projects that explore how technology can support new and creative interaction, such as Dance.Draw.) Below is her description of her updated HCI resources:

"New HCI resource to share: I have created a few pages on my web site devoted to Rapid Prototyping tools, books, and methods. These pages contain reviews of various digital tools, including 7 different desktop prototyping apps, and including 8 different iPad apps for wireframing/prototyping. I hope it's useful to others. Feel free to share... and please send me comments and suggestions if you find anything inaccurate, or if you think there is stuff that I should be adding. I will be continuing to update this resource." -http://www.celinelatulipe.com (click on the rapid prototyping link at the top)

Below are just a few of my ideas that I'd like to implement in some way. I can't claim ownership to these ideas- they are mash-ups of what comes to me in my dreams, usually after reading scholarly publications from ACM or IEEE, or attending tech conferences. 
  • An interactive timeline, (multi-dimensional, multi-modal, multimedia) for off-the-desktop interaction, collaboration, data/info analysis exploration.  It might be useful for medical researchers, historians, genealogists, or people who are into the "history of ideas".  Big Data folks would love it, too. It would handle data from a variety of sources, including sensor networks. It would be beautiful to use.
  • A web-based system of delivering seamless interactive, multi-modal, immersive experiences, across devices, displays, and surfaces. The system would support multi-user, collaborative interaction.  The system would provide an option for tangible interaction.
  • A visual/auditory display interface that presents network activity, including potential intrusions, malfunctions, or anything that needs immediate attention that would be likely to be missed under present monitoring methods. 
  • Interactive video tools for creation, collaboration, storytelling.  (No bad remote controllers needed.)
  • A "wearable" that provides new ways for people to express and communicate creatively, through art, music, dance, with wireless capability. (It can interact with wireless sensor networks.)*
  • An public health application designed to provide information useful in understanding and sepsis prevention efforts. This application would utilize the timeline concept describe at the top of this list. This concept could also be useful in analyzing other medical puzzles, such as autism.
Most of these ideas could translate nicely to educational settings, and the focus on natural user interaction and multi-modal i/o aligns with the principles of Universal Design for Learning, something that is important to consider, given the number of "at-risk" learners and young people who have disabilities.

I welcome comments from readers who are working on similar projects, or who know of similar projects.  I also encourage graduate students and researchers who are interested in natural user interfaces to and move forward with an off-the-desktop NUI project.  I hope that my efforts can play a part in helping people make the move from GUI to NUI!  

Below are a few videos of some interesting projects, along with a list of a few references and links.

SMALLab (Multi-modal embodied immersive learning)

PUPPET PARADE: Interactive Kinect Puppets(CineKid 2011)

MEDIA FACADES: When Buildings Start to Twitter



NANOSCIENCE NRC Cambridge (Nokia's Morph project)

Examples: YouTube Playlists

Web Resources
Celine Latulipe's Rapid Prototyping Resources 
Creative Applications
NUI Group: Natural User Interface Group
OpenFrameworks and Interactive Multimedia: Funky Forest Installation for CineKid
SMALLab Learning
OpenExhibits: Free multi-touch + multiuser software initiative for museums, education, nonprofits, and students.
OpenSense Wiki 
CINEKID 2012 Website 
Multitouch Systems I Have Known and Loved (Bill Buxton)
Windows 8
Perceptive Pixel
Natural User Interfaces in .NET  WPF 4, Surface2, and Kinect (Josh Blake, Manning Publications)
Chapter 1 pdf (Free)
Brave NUI World: Designing Natural User Interfaces for Touch and Gesture (Daniel Wigdor and Dennis Wixon)
Designing Gestural Interfaces (Dan Saffer)
Bill Snyder, ReadWrite Web, 7/20/12

I noticed some interesting tools on the Chrome web store - I plan to devote a few more posts to NUI tools in the future.

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