On Mice and Humans; thoughts on input devices

From the Microsoft Kinect, Apple’s Siri to Intel’s PerC, organizations are looking for the next thing after touch screens, mice and keyboards.

The quest overshadows the fact that new input devices take a long time to mature. If one examines the history of the computer mouse, its clear that time to mass adoption was more than 20 years. A similar view of the touch screen can trace its origins to the 80’s and mass adoption occurring twenty years later with the touch screen smart phone.

New input devices typically attempt to provide a ‘natural’ user interface, and yet the combination of technology under performance as well as misdirection of the role of the user interface result in a long time to mass adoption.

Stepping back for a moment we can ask ourselves, what is the role of a input device. The answer can encompass a wide range of options from gaming to content creation, and more often than not communication person to person or person to machine. An interesting observation is that while our thoughts are often multifaceted and parallel, our input device interaction, wether typing, speech or gesture is slow and serial.

Gesture recognition is garnering significant attention as people envision electronic devices reading our gestures to enable a sleeker human interface. The early success of the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect have prompted huge investments and R&D efforts. Yet two years after introduction, the Kinect is not the game changer Microsoft had hoped for. Looking at gesture recognition with a view to past adoption curves, and with a view to its actual usability, it’s clear that the companies adopting an aggressive path have forgotten the lessens from books like the innovators dilemma or crossing the chasm. While they are diligently developing the technology they should be looking for a killer app, something that goes beyond cool. The app doesn’t need a huge market, but it should be critical enough to make a paradigm shift. In its absence, the adoption curve would sway between the wind of cool, and overhyped expectations.

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One thought on “On Mice and Humans; thoughts on input devices

  1. Pingback: A rational coprocessor | Zen and the Art of Invention

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