Monday, 28 July 2008

Using what comes naturally?

So there are more signs that the world is taking steps along the direction highlighted by my device prediction of many years ago now that different types of gadgets would co-operate more together in the future and that people would use whatever means was most convenient to interact with their consumer electronics, once the technology inter-working allowed it.  One of the most popular downloads of applications from the iPhone AppStore since its launch is "remote", the free Apple control app that allows an iPhone or iPod touch user to control their computer streamed music over wifi in their home.  My wife is using it right now to change the music she is listening to as I type this.  It also works with the AppleTV set-top box, providing a very convenient way to interact with the television.  Entering a search term to find a YouTube video is much simpler using a pop-up onscreen keyboard on these devices, than either the simple hardware remote that Apple supply or indeed any other typical multi-button TV remote would be.  

You don't have to look far for more examples either.  The Wii games console wand has been adopted as another means to control other devices rather than the purpose for which it was designed.  Several people (Lee, Renevo, etc.) have publicised how they are using the remote to enable all sorts of capabilities.  And there are already tens of millions of these devices out there.  I have been using and demonstrating Salling Clicker for a few years now, as a way that many different devices from different manufacturers can work together.  

If we make interaction with machines more natural and easy for people, and if people see a benefit from taking the time to bother with the technology, it is clear that the future is one of co-operating devices with increasingly seamless user interface paradigms.  This may in turn lead to new software applications which encourage people to take part in activities using connected devices that they otherwise might not have done (e.g. voting, betting etc.).  Such activities may never in their own right result in a custom device being manufactured that will be mass-market.  If existing devices such as phones, TVs, and games consoles can combine to provide a desirable experience, then these types of activities may be sampled by more people sooner.  

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