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How Touch and Gesture Technologies Enhance Interactivity

July 29, 2012 - 1 Comment

As a young boy, growing up in London during the 1960s, I always enjoyed a visit to the Science Museum with my father. While a few of the exhibits included a very basic interactive component, most of the exhibits were designed for viewing at a distance.

In fact, some were clearly labeled “please don’t touch,” perhaps with the intent to help preserve an old scientific artifact. In contrast, today they offer over 50 interactive exhibits as part of their Launchpad hands-on gallery.

Clearly, display interactivity is being advanced by new technology.

The invitation to interact with digital signage in public will become commonplace in our everyday lives – maybe resulting in “please do touch” signs. The legacy information kiosk of the past will evolve into immersive new experiences that provoke our curiosity.

Transformation Thought-Leadership in Context

My recent visit to the Cisco House — a 20,000-square-foot structure that overlooks the entrance to the Olympic Park in London — reminded me why the prospect of display interactivity is so engaging.

Most of us welcome the opportunity to discover an interactive experience. It’s estimated that up to thirteen thousand people have been invited to tour the unique and informative displays at this Cisco showcase. I’m sure they will be impressed, as I was.

The first floor of this two-story structure is actually the antithesis of the traditional high-tech vendor showcase – meaning, it’s not devoted to what Cisco makes, but instead “what we make possible.”

It’s designed to be a highly interactive combination of multimedia walk-through experiences that are used to contribute ideas and insights for global leaders – specifically, those visitors that can take the time to learn more about our thought leadership — regarding the current Business Transformation phenomenon.

The showcase creates a dynamic connected environment that immediately piqued my interest and stimulated my imagination. Bold colors and vivid graphics are featured throughout the interior design. Truly, from the moment that I stepped into the reception area, I knew that this would be a fun experience.

Many of the exhibits in the Cisco House incorporate either touch-based or gesture-based user interface technologies. If you have used a current large-screen smartphone or a media tablet, then you will already be familiar with the basic concepts of  interactive touch and gesture-oriented interfaces.

The Evolving Human Interface

Mobile phones are the biggest application for touch screens in terms of unit shipments, accounting for three-fourths of units shipped in 2011, according to the latest study by NPD DisplaySearch. It forecasts that 1.2 billion touch screens will ship for mobile phone applications in 2012, that’s up by 68 percent year-over-year.

Media tablets are also a fast-growing application for touch screens. Shipments tripled in 2010 and reached 79.6 million in 2011. Growth continues to be strong, with a forecast of more than 130 million touch screens for tablets in 2012, and more than 190 million in 2013.

According to the latest market study by ABI Research, they now forecast that 600 million smartphones will be shipped with vision-based gesture recognition features in 2017. Camera-based tracking for gesture recognition has actually been in use for some time — leading video game consoles already feature applications for the technology.

If you’re trying to imagine what the forward-looking user applications might look like, then I recommend the following imaginative sequence from the movie Minority Report. Also,  combine this with the notion of three-dimensional holographic image manipulation, and you can experience the Iron Man 2 movie sequences.

In a thought-provoking video presentation at the TED conference, Minority Report science adviser and inventor John Underkoffler points to the future of user interfaces. Today, what once seemed like science-fiction has morphed into science-fact.

For those of our readers who are curious, in addition to the above photo, I’ve uploaded the whole series from my Cisco House visit – located here on Flickr. As always, I welcome your comments. What applications can you imagine?

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