By now you’ve probably heard a lot about wearables, living services, the Internet of Things, and smart materials.
The new language will be ultra subtle and totally intuitive, building not on crude body movements but on subtle expressions and micro-gestures. This is akin to the computer mouse and the screen. The Mac interface would never have worked if you needed to move the mouse the same distance as it moved on the screen. It would have been annoying and deeply unergonomic. This is the same for the gestural interface. Why swipe your arm when you can just rub your fingers together. What could be more natural than staring at something to select it, nodding to approve something? This is the world that will be possible when we have hundreds of tiny sensors mapping every movement, outside and within our bodies. For privacy, you’ll be able to use imperceptible movements, or even hidden ones such as flicking your tongue across your teeth.
Think about this scenario: You see someone at a party you like; his social profile is immediately projected onto your retina--great, a 92% match. By staring at him for two seconds, you trigger a pairing protocol. He knows you want to pair, because you are now glowing slightly red in his retina screen. Then you slide your tongue over your left incisor and press gently. This makes his left incisor tingle slightly. He responds by touching it. The pairing protocol is completed.
What is lovely about these micro gestures and expressions is that they are totally intuitive. Who doesn’t stare at someone a second too long when they fancy them, and licking your lips is a spontaneously flirtatious gesture. The possible interactions are almost limitless and move us closer and closer to a natural human-computer interface. At this point, the really intriguing thing is that the interface has virtually disappeared; the screens are gone, and the input devices are dispersed around the body.
What we will explore in the next article is the end game of this kind of technology as we bring the organic into the machine and create a symbiotic world where DNA, nanobots, and synthetic biology are orchestrated to create the ultimate learning devices. We will also explore the role of the designer when there is no interface left to design: Will they become choreographers and storytellers instead? Or will they disappear from the landscape entirely, to be replaced by algorithmic processes, artificial intelligence and gene sequencing? What we can say for sure is that the speed of change is accelerating so rapidly that the advanced interface technologies that we marvel at today will seem as out-dated as FORTRAN before we have time to draw breath.