Human-Machine interaction and interface

15 April 2008 at 11:26 am (Hypermedia, Links, Mechatronics)

I have recently read at Digital Tools a post presenting the Don’t Click It website and an article about the QWERTY keyboard. Accessing the Don’t Click It website for the first time was a strange experience: I had to get used with the idea of not using the click button, at the beginning it was quite annoying. The site has some interesting data about the click culture pointing its starting point as being a technical issue when computers and navigation were particularly poor. But clicking did enter into our contemporary culture and does represents a voluntary action, unlike Don’t Click It presents this gesture when speaking about Spam, banners and annoying advertisings. If we should follow Don’t Click It literally, we should not use the keyboard anymore, since the mouse is an extension of the keyboard (it’s like the arrow keys for navigation and return key for the click, and a computer can work with no mouse but can’t work with no keyboard). The mouse is just a pointer on the screen space allowing the user to navigate easily.

Real computer mouse

I started then to think about the possibility of building a click free interface. I started then to build a small sketch using Processing based on the Don’t Click It propositions: gesture reading and time control (you will see the beta version soon here). Once I got it done, I realized that click free interface might not be the best for speed performance: the gesture is way bigger and you need to learn each gesture – that could change from one interface to another. And I suddenly realized: Palms, PDA and Pocket PC already used mouse free interfaces, and sometimes even keyboard free. I have a Palm Zire 71 (old school nearly) and I remember learning to write with the pen and learning all the shortcuts wasn’t easy. I always had to open the reminder application to remember how the gesture should be done (and sometimes I just couldn’t reproduce it). As a result: I notice that I type faster with a keyboard then doing all kind of gesture that approach in a very poor way handwriting (I write so bad on paper, I don’t know how teachers do to correct my essays or even read theme). Then I thought, but palms are not the only devices that are mouse free, we have mobile phones and tablet PCs. And I remembered when I was teenager I used to text message a lot, so much that I could type a text message faster then on a regular keyboard (I used to take class notes on my cellphone). But today I type faster on a keyboard then on a mobile phone, I think it’s a meter of training and practice – and a cellphone keyboard and a computer keyboard are quite similar in concept: keys pressed to reach a symbol. Then I thought on video games, they do not use keyboards… Well somehow, yes, they are. We press the control buttons to make an action/movement.

And when I was thinking that mouse was the black sheep of Human-Machine interaction (translating a real movement to a screen movement) I realized that I totally ignored a brand new trendy object: Nintendo’s Wiimote: thanks to its accelerometers and to its built in infrared camera you can use it without pressing any buttons. Playing Zelda for instance, you just need to grab your Wiimote like a sword and your Nunchuck as a shield . In Wii Sports, you play box like if it was for real. Those gestures are way more easy then the old school key combinations (like for instance Up – Up – Left – A – Right – L1 – L2 – Left – R1 – A – Start – Select – Down – X – O – A – B – R2 – L1 so you can jump backwards).

PS: No buttons were pressed during the footage of this video.

I don’t think that Don’t Click It is a bad research, I agree that it’s interesting for future technologies to think what are the possible solutions to avoid to use the present devices and standards. Some researches might get us more practical solutions then just moving the problems. I’m thinking on mind controlled computers.

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