Computer interfaces sit in contrast to our evolution, but touch screens are changing this. Will our children remember brainfarts like the keyboard and mouse?
We evolved in a world where our action and the reaction, for the most part, co-inside in space (and time). The problem with most of the computer interfaces around us today, is that this rarely happens. I am typing this by pressing keys on a board in front of me, and watching letters appear about 25cm away. I have learned that these two are related, but it has taken allot of training.
The existence of constructs like the mouse cursor are evidence of this disparity. We need a guide to tell us where the results of our actions will be performed. The insanity of such an interface is often demonstrated when someone unfamiliar to these methods of input tries interact with a computer.
Compare this to the speed at which new users take up touch screens. They are so intuitive that I often reach out and touch the icons on an ATMs screen, rather than the buttons besides them.
This wonderful example of a great user interface, a rating system called one-2-ten, was so simple to use and so unexpectedly playful at the same time, that I found myself interacting with it without even noticing, and leaving it with a smile on my face
“Multitouch”, “allow for direct manipulation. [This] means you are actually contacting, not through an intermediary”, like a keyboard or mouse”, but actually on the graphics its self. Its a direct manipulation interface” Jefferson Han, PerceptivePixel
As humans, we are incredibly gifted at pattern recognition, and as such, are able to learn that if we interact with a device in a certain way, and a response is formed in another location, that they were related. The problem is that this still takes processing power.It may become imbedded beyond the point of recognition, and it may grow to fluidity over time, but there is always that little extra subconscious thought necessary. Our pattern recognizing brains may help identify new places where similar interactions may take place, but there is always a latent apprehension, a moment of doubt, where our task is put on hold, and we deal with the interface.
Typing on a keyboard will never rival writing with a pencil, and lets not talk about trying to draw with the mouse. Why? Because when we draw a line on a piece of paper, the action and the re-action are right there, they are tangible. Touch-screens are making computing more tangible. Now how can we take the computing out of the screen and hold it in our hands!