(2011-12-19) Rao Tablet Touch Tinker Ui

Venkatesh Rao thinks the Tablet will move us toward a Touch Tinker UI. (cf Touch User Interface)

The tablet is a converged device that is impacting technology trends in three ways: encouraging device sharing, killing TV and of course, making touch central to computing.

The Web (World Wide Web) started as a textual medium, and text-reading is a fundamentally one-dimensional action... the symbolic part of the user experience is 1D, and the sensory part is 2D (pictures, Video)... Once you throw touch into the mix (and de-emphasize the keyboard and mouse), the Web becomes the perfect medium for truly rich 2D experiences that combine symbolic and sensory information. Why? Because we primarily engage symbolic 2D information by manipulating it... The Web used to one-dimensional. When online gaming appeared, it sort of turned 1.5 dimensional. Now it is turning into a full 2D experience (3D is still a couple of decades away, in my opinion: it isn’t the technology; human behavior has to catch up).

In the world of UI designers, the famous scene in Minority Report, where Tom Cruise turns information processing into a 2D jigsaw-puzzle style tactile thinking modality, is a great conversation starter (HyperMedia). I’ve met UI people who consider it their holy grail, and others who think of it as Hollywood nonsense and an unnatural thinking style that real people don’t actually use. I happen to agree with the first camp. I view it as a holy grail, and we’re getting closer to it all the time. What limits us is our attachment to the Web as a textual medium. That attachment is being broken now.

Besides touch, the other pieces you need to support real Minority-Report type thinking is, obviously, larger screens (which is why the tablet is the opening, not the endgame), getting used to standing and moving while computing (the Ninetendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect are getting us used to that), and getting comfortable with the world of 2D thinking tools and modalities. We are familiar with the classic ones: graphs, conceptual drawings, Mind Map-s, flowcharts, maps and jigsaw puzzles. We know how to use White Board-s. But the touch-tinker Web opens up a lot more possibilities.

The Big problem is touch-tinker content. As always, content is the last piece of the puzzle for any new medium (New Media), since content creators don’t really get the hang of new media until a few pioneers show the way. That has not really happened yet, but I suspect 2012 is the year when the content game for the touch-tinker Web will start to take off. One thing that is holding back the content game is the lack of good generic standard formats for tactile content, but I bet that’s coming soon.

Examples he gives: TrailMeme; BottleNose; PInterest. (How about The Brain or Touch Graph?)


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