cross-posted on the Defrag blog
(note: I’m conflating UI/UX a bit here. Please forgive.)
This weekend, I had occasion to watch “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Once I made it past those nasty things Ricardo Montalban puts in people’s ears (yea, that always freaked me out a bit), the thing that struck me was what the user interface (and accompanying UX) for all of the computers looked like.
The movie was made in 1982, but the computers are supposed to be from the 23rd century, so it’s kind of useful to see how we’d imagine UI’s to be 300 years from now. It’s almost comical: flashing lights that resemble vacuum tubes, graphics that are still pretty green screen, and the height of all user interfaces: voice control. Oh, by the way, all computers are HUGE and take up a ton of space (at one point, there was a reference to memory banks being full – and a gesture to a wall of giant machines).
All of this got me thinking, so I turned on one of the Star Trek Next Generation movies (made in the 90s). I found that the size of computers had dropped, that voice was still prominent, and that the dominant model of usage was….the tablet. In other words, three to four hundred years from now, according the vision of Star Trek, we haven’t really advanced our UI/UX from where it is today.
I’m not trying to be unfair to Star Trek here, but rather, I think it’s instructive to see just HOW HARD it is to imagine the future of user interaction. We, literally, can’t get far enough outside of our own heads to do it effectively. In fact, it may be that “inability to think outside of the box” that had so many people oohing and ahhing over the UI presented in “Minority Report.” Gesutres, data manipulation without keyboards — this felt….futuristic.
My point is this: In 10, 20, 50, 100 years, the keyboard and mouse will not be the dominant mode of user interaction (hell, you could argue they’re not today), and my suspicion is that whatever that dominant mode is, it will be directly tied to the cycle of enterprise innovation that we’re going through today. But imagining that, and further, creating it, is just insanely hard. Hard because of our own constraints. Hard because the physicality of the interfaces we use make it almost unreasonable (in our own heads) to think of how else we’d use something. In short, insanely hard.
And insanely necessary.
Obviously, the mobile device will play a large role, and gesture-based computing is really coming on board fast. But what is just beyond that horizon’s edge that we can’t quite see yet? That’s what we’ll be discussing at Blur…and the good news is that if you’re attending Defrag, you can stay an extra day and explore it with us. As Defrag turns into Blur on November 15th, we’ll have Kwin Kramer (from Oblong — “Minority Report” fame), Bre Pettis (the 3D printing revolution) and Andrew Tschesnok (of Organic Motion) to help start getting you oriented for the coming UI change.