Interfacing

Interfacing

As our technology improves, the way we interact with our digital world needs to improve.

 

When Steve Jobs brought the mouse to the public, it created a revolutionary breakthrough that enabled millions of people to get around coding and interact with computers in a more natural way. Easy to use means wider adoption. It wasn’t necessarily a “dumbing-down” but an intelligent reorganization of ideas. It’s like the difference between the Apple TV remote and the one that comes bundled with your DVR – the one with 50 buttons.

 

The same thing can be said about what Jobs did with touch screens. Less than 10 years ago, he unveiled the iPhone to a smartphone market of 5% adoption. In 2016, that has risen to around 70%.

 

The Steam Controller is my latest interface purchase and I have been growing more and more fond of it as I get used to it. While both modern controllers by Playstation and Xbox feature dual analog sticks, the steam controller instead features two thumb tracking pads. These silver dollar sized pads act similar to a mouse-pad on a laptop but provide a satisfying “clicky” haptic response. The control experience is like a game controller with two track-ball style mice instead of directional buttons.

 

While the experience is novel, I’m increasingly finding it more and more comfortable than mouse navigation. I want to improve my accuracy with it but I feel that is only a matter of time and practice. For those of us who’ve played video games for years (N64, PS2), the analog stick is almost as native as typing on a keyboard. Adopting to a new controller takes a long time to develop accurate motor control.

 

Can’t wait to experience the HTC Vive or the Leap Motion controller. I see mastery of interfacing with computers as a goal of technology. While I respect the distinction between human and machine, there are many advantages to being highly-interfaced with a computer. Simulations, exploration of knowledge through space, and interactive tutorials will make VR unparalleled for education and communication. Literally putting someone in someone else’s shoes should improve compassion and understanding.

 

Imagine being able to practice public speaking in a VR situation. Upload your speech into the program and have your avatar walk out onto a stage, full of spotlights. Being able to adjust the temperament of the audience would be incredible. First speech, polite and positive. Next round, restless and murmuring. And finally, vocally upset and actively-booing. While likely non-interactive with the speech, it would be an interesting experiment to see if VR helps those with public-speaking phobia.

 

Recommended Reading:

“Virtual Reality Actually Feels Real When It Uses Physics” – https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601618/virtual-reality-actually-feels-real-when-it-uses-physics/

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