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The GUI, version 2.0

May 16th, 2008

You must see these videos. This is what computers will be like in the near future.

This technology is called “Multi-touch.” Apple’s iPhone already uses it. For example, you use two fingers to squeeze or expand a photo, so it gets bigger or smaller. But the iPhone is just the simple beginning. Soon, Multi-touch will come to your personal computer, and it will make the GUI even more natural, even more easy to use. There is no mouse, just your hands on the screen. Keyboards appear on the screen when you need them, and disappear when you don’t need them.

In the videos below, engineer Jeff Han demonstrates the use of Multi-touch on a large screen, either a panel like the top of a desk, or even a large screen on a wall. You can use all ten fingers to control different points on the screen to create all kinds of amazing effects. If the screen is big enough, more than one person can work at the same time, doing very complex jobs in a very simple way.

Expect a Multi-touch personal computer to be released in the next year or two. I would not be at all surprised if Apple is the first to come out with one. When you think about it, Apple’s Dock works quite well in this context; with a few modifications, you can see the Dock growing quite naturally into this technology. The iPhone is a primitive example of how this can be applied, showing that Steve Jobs is seeing how this will be the UI for the future. The iPhone’s swipe, pinch/squeeze, and the virtual keyboard all play into this. This even makes me re-think the idea of the Art Lebedev keyboard being the “keyboard of the future”–instead, virtual keyboards within the monitors will be the norm, instead of little LCDs or OLEDs in the keys themselves.

There have been rumors that Apple has been working on tablet computers, touch-screen computers, and–important to this technology–resolution-independent displays. I am beginning to sense that this is a big movement in Apple, signaling the trend of the GUI for the next decade and beyond.

Just like today’s technology makes the “futuristic” sets of he original “Star Trek” seem quaintly archaic (compare the iPhone to the Communicator), this multi-touch screen technology is going to make the even more futuristic sets of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” seem even more out of date.

  1. ykw
    May 16th, 2008 at 03:04 | #1

    Touch is helpful w/ some tasks, and might be nice w/ a computer that is used for reading books or listening to music, or watching videos. Yet the mouse or trackball provides good control, down to the pixel, and might be prefered in some appliations. When you stretch a photo w/ your fingers, it might be easy to do so accurate to +-5 pixels, yet the trackball might be needed to get +-1pixel accuracy.

  2. Leszek Cyfer
    May 16th, 2008 at 11:47 | #2

    I agree that fingers can be a bit clumsy, but humans are known of making tools, so touchscreen can be touched with a pencil, brush, or any other tool with adjustable width, different grades of elasticity and so on – you can be like an artist that uses all sorts of tools to recreate his or her vision in the virtual world.

    As the man said, the interface kind of disappears – all you need are your hands, fingers, fingernails or a stick you touch the screen with.

  3. Paul
    May 16th, 2008 at 17:21 | #3

    I have an iPhone (nyah, nyah) and while I like the touch GUI, I have to say that a mouse is actually more intuitive in a lot of instances.

    And there’s one thing that they leave out when folks get all gee-whizzy about how neato touch is… fingerprints. The glass on the iPhone is tough stuff; I’ve had it since last Christmas, and while I’m not overly hard on the thing, I’m surprised it isn’t at least a little dinged up by now.

    But man, it sure gets the fingerprints going on. Oils from your skin collect on it, too. Maybe I’m just greasier than the average Joe… Oh, and if you have it in some kind of case- highly recommended by me- then it’s harder to clean.

    So these computers are cool, but fingerprints are definitely a factor, whether the evangelists want to talk about them or not!

  4. Leszek Cyfer
    May 16th, 2008 at 21:50 | #4

    Evangelist putting his pure white gloves on before the communion with his computer 😛

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