FITC The Final Keynote: The Future of the Interface by John Underkoffler via Oblong Industries

April 30th, 20102:25 pm @ Eric Floresca


FITC The Final Keynote: The Future of the Interface by John Underkoffler via Oblong Industries

Sorry I know I should have had this up before, boy do I need to get a new notebook or netbook. Here it is my write up on the last speaker of FITC.

John Underkoffler was the visionary that helped to design the famous gestural interface seen in Minority Report.  He bookended the FITC conference focused on how we interact with computers and information. Since the 1980’s computers have been dominated by the keyboard and the mouse. While the abilities and power of these devices have exploded in the decades since the interface has remained the same.

The interfaces we use have not kept up with the technology themselves. The first thing he did was show a picture of the first Apple computer, a device that did nothing till the user did something with it, like create a program. Then he flashes forward 30 years and shows a picture of Apple’s latest products the iPhone and iPad. The difference between then and now is you can create with the first Apple computer and the others that you consume content with the iPhone and iPad.

He had a recurring theme of getting physical with data. He talked about a project he did long ago where what if a light bulb was a camera that could project and take in information rather that only light. This would allow users to manipulate data with their hands much more naturally instead of having to go through menus and buttons.

It is about getting physical and using our hands which are the most versatile tools we have to interact with the environment around us. Looking at how we interact with computers today compared to what was done in Minority Report, it can’t help make you feel constricted and limited.

John Underkoffler and Oblong Industries decided to turn his vision as seen in minority report and make it reality. The G-speak technology is essentially a prototype of a gestural interface that makes use of 3 dimensional space and our hands in ways modern computers never have.  It is designed to be a general purpose computing environment but imagine what this type of interface could do for design, architecture and gaming. It would redefine our relationship with computers yet again and he sees this as the way we will be interacting with computers within 5-7 years.

If anything, the touch screen interfaces of the iPhone, iPad and the motion controls of the Wii gaming system all indicate a thirst for a more organic way of interacting with computers and information. Currently the technology uses gloves which they are trying to remove, I could easily seeing Microsoft’s Natal technology which is based on cameras and gestures becoming an aspect of g-speak type technologies.

This was the highlights of the day and of the conference for me and if this is where computer interface is heading I hope we run, not walk there. I think we are all hungry for a change that can take the potential of what computers can do and gives us an interface to match our ideas and the possibilities.

Here is a video of the Interface in action, you can’t say that isn’t cool and the only question I have is when can I get one?

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Credit: FITC, Oblong Industries