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In your face, Interface!

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AmiMoJo 28th June 2004, 16:33 Quote
Interesting column, Chris.

My personal feelings are that StarTrek TNG actually got it about right. Voice control is used when appropriate, for example when someone wants an answer to a simple question and to share that information, such as "where is so-and-so?". It is also used when someone is trying to express themselves (for example writing a log or report in private, remember they all have their own quarters on the ship) or when trying to work through a problem in a natural way (Geordi does it in a few eipisodes).

For everything else, there are the touch screens. The idea is that they are so easy to use, so intuitive, that you don't even have to think about it. That's why the cast were told to just rapidly press lots of different buttons like it was completely natural and obvious. I think the displays that slowly roll data out and the little beeps everything makes help guide your attention too. As you say, it's an excellent way to work, especially on a ship that is self-cleaning and there is no danger of getting fingerprints on all the displays :D

I don't think the mouse and keyboard will go away for a while though. It's not at all clear how you would type with a touch screen display (unless you had a keyboard on-screen which kind of defeats the object). Also, no-one has so far come up with a better way to control certain types of games. Play a multiplayer FPS with a joypad and see how badly you suck. Trackballs help prevent RSI and have the advantage that you never run out of mouse mat, but for sheer speed it's hard to beat a mouse.

The Monority Report display was the best. Keeps you fit... perhaps a dance mat controller is the way to go in that respect? :)
stephen2002 28th June 2004, 17:38 Quote
I too would like to know what is going to be comming up next. While mouseing definitly increases the occurence of RSI because you are only using one or two fingers in such a small little motion hundreds of times a day don't forget that they keyboard is also a contributor.

Personally I love my Wacom tablet. My index finger would get cramped up after about an hour of 3D modeling or any other click-intensive thing but now I can work away without getting unconfortable. The Wacom is as close to a touch-screen as you can get without actually shelling the cash for a touch screen. Plus, one big problem with touch screens that are of any decent size is that one has the want to rest their hand against the screen and then you end up with big smudges everywhere.

Lots of little breaks to get up and wander around are important too!!

Oh, and why do they have touch screens in StarTrek? For many operations, such as helm control, it is probably a whole heck of a lot faster for them to key in the information than try to put all of the coridinates and speeds into a big sentance. Personally I never quite understood why they have somebody at the helm most of the time anyway...I don't see why the computer couldn't just take the captains commands verbally (i.e. set course for Earth, Warp 4) and automatically convert that to the proper corrdinants, but that's besides the point :)
jezmck 28th June 2004, 17:58 Quote
Quote:
however I’m not going to stand in the garden trying to convince my lawnmower to put itself back in the shed.


This is actually one of my interests, so it's good to read another viewpoint on it.
I read the comic (and articles) at OK/Cancel on a regular basis.

Re: Minority Report - sure it looks cool, but it's totally impractical and certainly not 'accessible' [in the modern usage]. OK/C's take on it.

Touch screens are good because there is a definite point at which input IS being given and when it isn't - voice control doesn't have this (unless you use a keyword before every command).

I know a guy who was doing Automotive Design at Uni, and would use his mouse and keyboard with his left hand and a tablet/pen with the other.

edit: nice article! :D
AmiMoJo 28th June 2004, 18:35 Quote
One other thought on touch screens. Fingers are kind of big and blunt, so are not much use for fine detail work. Unless you have a massive low resolution screen then most GUIs would have ot be re-designed to use bigger icons and controls. A tablet and pen solves both these problems.
Spaced_invader 28th June 2004, 20:09 Quote
reading university is working on physical implants plugged into your nervous system. and the plastisity of the humman brain is so large that it only takes a few weeks for the brain to create new connections in order to use these implants. with it it's even possible to remote control someones arm or leg, depending where the implant is 'plugged in'. This is the future of computing, forget about manipulating holograms, you will get tired and the reason a mouse is better is because you have somewhere to rest your forearms. Just imagine thinking about your cursor, and it appears where you want, although it would make FPS useless.....
Hamish 28th June 2004, 20:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spaced_invader
Just imagine thinking about your cursor, and it appears where you want, although it would make FPS useless.....
how would it? you'd just imagine turning your head and the view would rotate...
Nexxo 28th June 2004, 20:59 Quote
Nice article, but where it falls down a bit is that it assumes that most computer interaction will be verbal (not, e.g., visuo-spatial) and that computers will remain passive objects that things need to be done to.

Let's go back to Picard. Let's say that after a heavy day on the bridge, making split-second decisions that can alter the fate/dimensional fabric/timeline of the Universe, diplomatically avoiding another all-out-war scenario with those touchy klingons/Romulans,whilst smiling that enigmatic smile that says: "Hey, bald men can be sexy!", he wanders into his quarters, ready to curl up with another leather bound volume of some literary masterpiece that we all should feel really guilty for never having read. Usually he first traces a path to his replicator, where he will request his tea, Earl Grey, hot. Every day, without fail, being a human creature of habit as he is. Does he really need to spell it out to a piece of 23rd Century tech after all this time? Is that machine not, well, clever enough to anticipate his request by now?

Perhaps it can even get it ready for him, next to his favorite chair, as soon as he approaches the door. Perhaps it can even track his diary, movements and scan physiological correlates of his mental/body state and correctly adjust expectations for this (some days, after an invigorating game of squash on the Holodeck, he might prefer ice tea, with lemon, cold. If his diary states he has a long night of diplomatic report reading ahead of him, he might prefer coffee, Arabica, strong).

What I'm saying is that computers could be active participants, and facilitate interaction with them. So MS Office 2304 might correctly anticipate that Ted would not want an e-mail containing the terms "hunk of man-love" read out to him aloud (thenagain, it is Windows we're talking about). The OK/Cancel website criticises the obvious "do what I think" phenomena in the Mirority Report interface scene, but perhaps, if computers become accurate enough at reading our actions, body language, facial expression and physiological arousal levels, and at learning our associated behaviour and habits, then that "telepathy" is not so far fetched. Tom Cruise may prefer rotating a picture by turning his wrist; his colleague by twirling his index finger... Dependent on context, facial expression, sequence, gesture speed and accuracy, posture etc. the same action may mean different things, be intended to achieve a different aim.

We're talking artifical intelligence here, of course. Hey, we're wired to interact with people, right? So let the machine come to us. Let it become more human in its interaction. I envisage that future computer interfaces might be more like Rio in "Neuromancer" (Gibson), or the Hughies in "Silver Screen" (Robson), or even like the good ol' Doctor in Star Trek Voyager.

Going back to the verbal/visual. Another thing is how we conceptualise information. Does it have to be words, sentences, text? What about communication through visuo-spatial means? Example: Phillips electronics developed this prototype answering machine. Rather than being a white plastic box with buttons, it's shaped like a bowl (with a hole in the edge, and a little "cup" at the center). Every time someone leaves a message, a marble rolls into the bowl. To read your message, pick up the marble, and place it in a little cup at the center of the bowl. the message plays back. To erase the message, drop the marble in the storage container at the side of the bowl. Each person can have his own colour marble, of course. Marbles could glow a different colour (that red flashing one is really urgent!).

Similarly, we could build ideas (or the molecules of new medicines) from spheres or blocks, not words. We could CAD/CAM design planes, bridges or buildings like we did when we were kids, from lego. Except that the virtual "lego" in this case might exhibit behaviour if you're asking it to do something that defies the laws of physics (hey, that crossbar I just placed on the bridge supports there turned red and started to bend, and there was this really nasty sound of creaking metal. Perhaps the forces that will be exerted on it are going to be too great for it. Better try a thicker piece... ah, that's better: it turns a nice pastel green and there's the reassuring sound of a gentle breeze wafting through big, strong trees)...

Let's think out of the box, people. For the first time in human history we can. Computers allow us to do that. ;)
jezmck 29th June 2004, 00:39 Quote
woah - essay.
but good points really - maybe you should write counter-articles.

re: tea-preference predictions: it would freak me out if a computer did that, and I'd probably just end up having something different just to spite it!

edit: you got a link for Silver Screen?
Piratetaco 29th June 2004, 00:41 Quote
guess what film i was watching while i read your piece.yup star wars;) am i the only one who thought the minority report screen was a good idea........

*will explain in more detail tomorrow when i'd had some sleep*

good article ;)
rupbert 29th June 2004, 12:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
Nice article...etc. ;)

Terrific reading, thx!
jezmck 30th June 2004, 01:10 Quote
no need to quote his whole post dude.
(to reply with no quote, use the button to the bottom left.)
rupbert 30th June 2004, 09:47 Quote
Yeah, no problems...

:)
Nexxo 30th June 2004, 09:54 Quote
@ Jazzle: find info on all of Robson's excellent books, including Silver Screen, :here:.

And if Bit-Tech would like me to write some articles for them, all they have to do is ask... ;) :D
yodasarmpit 30th June 2004, 23:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
Nice article...etc. ;)

I think we have a new column writer, this is more how I see a future interaction between us and computers.

I somehow don't see us waving our arms around "minority report" fashion, its just not practical.
Nor do I see voice control as a viable medium for general day to day use, Its bad enough having my flatmate screaming "in the vent shaft, FFS" whilst playing CS, I don't want to be shouting "turn left, move forward, no - stop, left a bit more, aim up, now right just a wee bit.... FIRE, **** missed"

I still envisage a visible medium, controlled by a similar method to today until such a time as AI has moved from the womb and into the real world.
G-gnome 1st July 2004, 06:53 Quote
William Gibson! Nexxo has the idea! I think that's more where things are headed. Plug ('jack') in (or maybe there will eventually be 'wireless' versions) and let your brain do the talking...

Imagine a computer that writes a document as fast as you can think? Though, maybe by the time this came about there might be some direct neural-to-neural signal ('nmail'?) that bypasses even the clumsy optic-nerve-recognition interface that is 'text'. Techno telepathy anyone?

Verbal interface? Meh...keep extrapolating....

EDIT - I do like the idea of having a computer interface like the Doctor from StarTrek:Voyager (my favourite character). Can I have one with the same dry sarcasm please? :D
D B 1st July 2004, 08:17 Quote
I agree with Nexxo , (many great points ) about computers becoming active participants / lerning our habits /anticapating our needs.
G-gnome ... yes , wireless computer interface ( sorry , while I like the doc's dry sarcasm .... my computer interface is going to be like "Romy" , Andromeda's Avatar !! )
DB
Spaced_invader 1st July 2004, 09:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by D B
I agree with Nexxo , (many great points ) about computers becoming active participants / lerning our habits /anticapating our needs.
G-gnome ... yes , wireless computer interface ( sorry , while I like the doc's dry sarcasm .... my computer interface is going to be like "Romy" , Andromeda's Avatar !! )
DB

exactly what i think, but what happens when a computers intellegence matches or even suppercedes our own, will we as a human race stay in control? or will they quickly learn they can take over... what then...

it's closer than we think, computer power doubles every 18 months and software is becoming increasingly complex. where seeing software built to debug other software, some even to make other software. robotic technology will soon learn, there exist spider bots which if lose a leg learn to cope without, using complex neural nets and genetic algorythyms...
Quote:
Originally Posted by G-gnome
Imagine a computer that writes a document as fast as you can think? Though, maybe by the time this came about there might be some direct neural-to-neural signal ('nmail'?) that bypasses even the clumsy optic-nerve-recognition interface that is 'text'. Techno telepathy anyone?

this is the sort of research being done at reading university and an early version of neural to neural interface was even achieved in june 2002, using wireless technology and the internet

evolution is exponential what we as a species are about to witness for the first time in history is possibly the greatest evolutionary step mankind has ever faced. But this time it won't be a biolobical change but it will be artificial, using at first simple inplant technology to help the disabled, but soon this trend will grow to the abled bodied to give them extra sences or monitor their health.

this trend started by the supper rich will no doubt be followed by the masses, and thus a new market will open... looking at the size of microprocesors and wireless technology today and the past it will tommorow shrink to the atomic level whereby one track will be one atom wide. By the year 2050 the unmodified human race will become obselete, and kept in sanctuaries, while the cyborgs see them as stuborn wild animals. them by then would not have much of there human anotomy left untouched.

They would be able to see the world in an unimaginable number of sences and dimentions, privacy would have been forgoten long ago. And crime nonexistent as these implants would change the elctro-chemical balance in out brain making us feel happy, wanted and evolved...

Waren McColloch - pioner in the field of AI said "man to my mind is about the nastiest, most destructive of all animals. I don't see any reason, if he can evolve machines that can have more fun than he hiimself can, why they shouldn't take over, enslave us, quite happily"

Steven Hawking - theoretical scientist said " In contrast with our intelect, computers double their performance every 18 months, so the danger is real that they could develop inteligence and take over the world"


and you know the proverb... if you can't beat them join them
Piratetaco 1st July 2004, 12:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spaced_invader
exactly what i think, but what happens when a computers intellegence matches or even suppercedes our own, will we as a human race stay in control? or will they quickly learn they can take over... what then...
watch The Second Renaissance.
gimpchimp 1st July 2004, 16:17 Quote
Built-in mechanical explosive safety devices and an EMP gun. That'll make computers toe the line.
Spaced_invader 1st July 2004, 17:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1337modderman
watch The Second Renaissance.

seen it, read:
"I Cyborg" by K. Warwick
Quote:
Originally Posted by gimpchimp
Built-in mechanical explosive safety devices and an EMP gun. That'll make computers toe the line.

today software writes software, robots build cars, toasters, computers even robots. what do you think the next five to ten years of engenuity will do, and as for EMP guns... EMP shielding is prety easy to comeby, all you need is lead shielding.

What needs to be done for the said quote to not become reality, AI enteties should not be put in possitions of power, and not be developed to supersede our inteligence. But that would mean halting some of the great minds of today from doing their research, you might as well call it a witchunt... And really all there doing nowadays is trying to rid the world of desease and helping the disabled, now there's a moral issue. And what good does banning somthing do? How many of you have not done something illegal in your lifetime... There's always someone out there with the money to make any dream into reality. And scanners have to be worked at to detect these sorts of things, as kevin warwick travelled to and from the US on numerous occations by flight without security scanners being a problem. The one time security noticed was when conducting a random search, and all they found was a peculiar piece of electronic equipment in a suitcase. All he needed to do was show some complex looking documents to fool airport security staff. They didn't even look at the entaglement of wires coming out of his left arm...
Nexxo 1st July 2004, 17:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by G-nome
Plug ('jack') in (or maybe there will eventually be 'wireless' versions) and let your brain do the talking...


The idea has been pitched. In her novel "Natural History", Robson refers to "Uluru", or "Dreamtime", which is a virtual reality network that people can wirelessly jack into --provided they have the right hardware/wetware implants. Probably 802.11z Ultra or something...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Space_Invader
evolution is exponential what we as a species are about to witness for the first time in history is possibly the greatest evolutionary step mankind has ever faced. But this time it won't be a biolobical change but it will be artificial, using at first simple inplant technology to help the disabled, but soon this trend will grow to the abled bodied to give them extra sences or monitor their health.


Robson sees the development of Uluru as a logical consequence of this human evolution: in Natural History, people roughly exist in two flavours: the "Forged", human brains in artificially engineered bio-mechanical bodies (think modified humans, but also cyborgs, spaceships, airplanes, astroid mining "birds" and even small moon-sized terraforming platforms with a human brain and personality. There is mention of a marine biologist, who is a jellyfish, and of "Hives": colonies of bio-mechanical spiders, each a human personality, but also sharing a joint consciousness with the Hive herself. They're great researchers and engineers) and "Unevolved", i.e. ordinary people. There is an uneasy symbiosis between the two. But the Forged are, in the end, still human, with human desires and needs, so they meet in Uluru where they can assume human form and interaction (but also act out any other virtuality). Uluru is also necessary as the "world" in which the Forged develop, learn and mature, until they are ready to take possession of their adult, bio-engineered bodies.
Quote:
exactly what i think, but what happens when a computers intellegence matches or even suppercedes our own, will we as a human race stay in control? or will they quickly learn they can take over... what then...


Don't get paranoid now. That would assume that A.I. computers have the same drives and desires that humans have. They won't. Artificial intelligence will evolve as a result of forces completely different from the natural selection dynamics that produced us, so there won't be any of that competiton cr@p (if there is a Second Renaissance, it will be because we couldn't get over our competitive selves and attacked them first --as the story suggests).

In fact, A.I. won't be anything like a human mind at all. There will be no way of knowing what it is like, or of relating to it without a human personality interface. Gibson alluded to this with Rio and Wintermute. Wintermute is the "thinking", decision making A.I., but it needs Rio. Rio doesn't think, but it relates: it is a collection of human archetypical constructs. Its function is to provide an interpretive interface that allows humans and Wintermute to relate to each other. Robson alludes to this in Silver Screen also with the Hughies. Face it, we're wired to relate to humans. That's why we anthromorphise the hell out of anything. From our pets to our PC.

So A.I. will have no desire to take over, because our world is not something they can relate to. They may simply migrate to outer space and leave us behind. Shed like a skin that became too small... abandoned like shards of old pottery.

A much more scary notion to me is when technology evolves so far that it becomes indistinguishable from A.I., and becomes indistinguishable from ourselves (not as in unseparable, or interdependent, but as in you can't tell the technology, the A.I. and us apart anymore). Again, this is explored in Natural History. Humans think they're at the pinnacle of evolution, having total control over body and mind, and then on the edge of space they run into something... is it alien technology? Or is it the alien? And if the two are merged into one thing, what will keep it separate from us?
Captain Slug 1st July 2004, 18:34 Quote
Quote:
The mouse has been one of the biggest contributors to RSI in the workplace
This is because the mouse is the primary method of interfacing in the workplace. This statement is almost as silly as "Automobiles have been one of the biggest contributors to highway accidents"

On a comparative scale pencils are far more likely to give you CTS or RSI than a computer inface would be. The answer to this for most businesses is that employees have tailored desks with adjustable trays. I've seen this at a number of corporation buildings while I was there moving equipment.
Quote:
As I have stated back in my tablet PC article, touch screen technology is far more appropriate for input than people seem to be interested in.
Pen-sensing Touchscreens will work fine for portable devices and applications where regular usage is not a concern, but touchscreens are not condusive to safe and comfortable posture in a standard working environment with a desktop. Graphics tablets are however a more body-friendly option if a pen interface is required.

Having to deal with a disability such as mine I have a unique perspective on what devices provide the most comfortable interface over the long-term. Because of my arthritis, if something is setup incorrectly, doesn't fit my hand, or requires too much effort, I will feel pain or resistance in as little as 20 minutes of use. After selectively testing a wide variety of interfaces, the mouse is the only device I can use (properly seated and postured) for an indefinite amount of time.

Having said all that, there is of course some consideration for personal preference. While most of my artistic friends prefer graphics tablets for the majority of their art related work, I can't stand to use mine for anything other than shading and detailing because of how accustomed I have become to comfortably using the mouse.

Things wil improve, but don't look for the answers in science fiction. What works and sells is what will stand the test of time.
jezmck 1st July 2004, 21:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by G-gnome
...Can I have one with the same dry sarcasm please?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Slug
...This statement is almost as silly as "Automobiles have been one of the biggest contributors to highway accidents"...


(LOLs all round!)

edit: have just ordered Silver Screen, tnxs Nexxo!
MrBurritoMan 1st July 2004, 21:27 Quote
i think that the touch screen interface and handwriting recognition like what is incorperated in to pocket pcs will and/or should be developed even more. as for voice recognition i think that this is something that might rear its head later on in the future when microphones and sound processors can become more accurate.
here is my reasoning: it is hard to come up with a uniform vioce recognition system that will react the same to different sound sensing devices and voices. i know this for a fact. having to use a crappy microphone to tell your computer what to do is very hard, or if you have a cold then using voice recognition could be near impossible. however if you have a touch pad the margin for error has been greatly decreased and your accuracy increases a whole lot because there are fewer languages to recognise on paper as comparedto voices which are individual to each person.
here are the numbers:
# of languages and dialects = 1million -> 500,000
# of different and distinct voices (on a good day) = 6.3billion -> 7Billion

just by the numbers i think that the hand recognition/touch screen stuff is going to be refined before the voice recognition stuff.
Spaced_invader 1st July 2004, 22:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
So A.I. will have no desire to take over, because our world is not something they can relate to. They may simply migrate to outer space and leave us behind. Shed like a skin that became too small... abandoned like shards of old pottery.

That will depend totally on the enteties needs, if they need what we polute they will see us as a threat. If things go on as they are, with the population increasing rapidly and resourses shrinking even more so. The litle natural resourses left will be very valuable to anyone needing them... be it artificial or biological.

I can't remember the name of the theologian who once said this, but i remember the quote. It was "By the year 2025 there will be major wars over the supply of fresh water as by then most of earths supply will be so highly poluted it will be rendered useless". whats to say it won't happen with other resourses.

The way I see things the human race has four distinc paths to follow. Firstly, as above the cyborg approach. Secondly, Living in spaceships om the way to some distant part of the galaxy. Thirdly, the planet will be thrown in a nuclear winter because two people had an argument. and lastly, being the most unlikely, things will work out and people live in harmony with there suroundings.
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