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10 Futuristic User Interfaces
August 18, 2008 2:33 AM   Subscribe

10 Futuristic User Interfaces. [...] we present 10 recent developments in the field of user experience design. Most techniques may seem very futuristic, but some of them are already reality. And in fact, they are extremely impressive. Keep in mind: they can become ubiquitous in the next years.
posted by soundofsuburbia (57 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wonderful.

Does anyone know what Fez runs on? Hope I get it on my DS.
posted by krilli at 3:18 AM on August 18, 2008


I, for one, welcome our new experience overload.
posted by Poolio at 3:31 AM on August 18, 2008 [7 favorites]


Does anyone know what Fez runs on?

Not sure, but Echochrome and Crush are really good games based on the same principle for the PSP.
posted by uncle harold at 3:39 AM on August 18, 2008


Interesting article, thank you.

I love the sprite in 3d styling as seen in that Fez video when it rotates.

Similarly I remember spending far too long just looking at the little green man sprites going 'hey, cool' when I first played Darwinia.
posted by protorp at 4:22 AM on August 18, 2008


Wow, the Mozilla Labs thing almost made me hate the future. I want futuristic glass, though. In fact, I already have a great use for it: Windshields. Project your GPS route on it, as well as whatever signage you've chosen to see (highway markings only vs highway + ads, etc).
posted by DU at 4:24 AM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metafilterdotted?
posted by Jimbob at 4:40 AM on August 18, 2008


Metafilter: You can't read it? Foolish reader!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:01 AM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the Aurora interface is dumb. "Hey, I've got an idea...let's take the least useful part of an interface, the eye candy, and make it the whole interface."

I mean, how exactly does it make it easier to find things if you have to fly through space to see them?

Maybe someone who's a really really "visual" person can explain how looking at a big blob of windows is easier than doing a keywords search for "rain"?

Also, the whole premise: "I'll prove that there hasn't been as much rainfall on my farm, by finding a file on my computer! Ah ha!!!" is just so, so stupid. Was there seriously no other subject they could imagine in the future? Or did they just want people to think, "Oh, this won't just be for geeks like us, this will be salt of the earth farmers!" Oh, really. "Huh, I haven't looked at this [the weather] for a while." Yeah? You're a farmer. Maybe you should have looked out the damn window once or twice.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:18 AM on August 18, 2008 [10 favorites]


Oh man, the future is making me so angry! I also hate the Ringo interface:
If you thought that everyone talking on their cellphones everywhere didn't look idiotic enough, allow us to introduce a new interface that will have everyone making thrusting gestures towards the ground!
This will be a huge hit once people try using it in their cars, on the subway, etc.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:26 AM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Semi on-topic:
The touch-screen interface in Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for Nintendo DS is truly "a blueprint for the future of toucscreen interfaces", as one reviewer put it. Check it out if you have the opportunity. It's just a game, but it's so elegantly fashioned that *boings* it transcends into GUI Design Future Beacon territory.
posted by krilli at 5:33 AM on August 18, 2008


That Aurora video is so corny it reminds me of an instructional video that HR makes everyone watch once a year at work.

(I also like how the video of the holographic interface doesn't even pretend to know how that's gonna happen. In a way, it's sorta refreshing to see futurists just shrug and say "Yeah, but would it wicked?")
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:37 AM on August 18, 2008


Deathalicious - yeah, I was a bit confused by all the admiring fuss about Aurora when they released the concept video. It just seems to pile layer upon confusing layer into the interface. Though some elements of it are really interesting, and probably good predictions of the way we'll work with stuff on the web in future - the bit where data is easily gleaned from a site and converted into a chart, for example - the whole messy, blobby grouping of stuff in a wiggy multidimensional on-screen universe just seems silly. And the hokey squabbling farmer scenario is indeed just cringeworthy.

Anyway, I look forward to Futuristic Glass. Though I'd prefer a version embedded in my specs to having to carry around a sheet of the stuff (so that I could have directions overlaid on the street in front of me - it's disappointing that technology can't stop me getting lost twice a day yet, though Google Maps on the iPhone is a pretty good step in the right direction.)
posted by jack_mo at 5:45 AM on August 18, 2008


Who else thought it said "Titty Snake?"
posted by The Straightener at 5:46 AM on August 18, 2008 [9 favorites]


Aside from the fact that it is smaller, what exactly makes that Motorola Sparrow any different from the device already in use at the Apple Store? It scans stuff, runs credit cards, and even prints receipts. Don't see a printer on the Sparrow...
posted by caution live frogs at 5:47 AM on August 18, 2008


Yeah that glass does look awesome.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:50 AM on August 18, 2008


When I rule the world, nobody will be able to just point at a concept and call it "futuristic that may become ubiquitous." Concepts are untried, untested, unreal. Call me when you have a prototype.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:50 AM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


TittyTilt Snake for iPhone, if you can't be arsed building a Monome.
posted by jack_mo at 5:50 AM on August 18, 2008


>

erm, I can't see it either. Can anyone in Aus see this site?
posted by pompomtom at 6:00 AM on August 18, 2008


Does it also tell you that you're about to get tazed and shipped off to Guantanamo?
posted by Flunkie at 6:00 AM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Can anyone in Aus see this site?

I can read it. Vaguely interesting, but extra emphasis on the 'vague'.
posted by jacalata at 6:23 AM on August 18, 2008


Maybe someone who's a really really "visual" person can explain how looking at a big blob of windows is easier than doing a keywords search for "rain"?

It isn't.

I did a bit of UI design when I was with a small development firm. They were focused on a web-based medical office service. Things like Aurora remind me of each and every thing the developers would get incredibly excited over. Complex interfaces that moved and zoomed and required a ton of user input (using specialized tools like 3-D mice and touch screens) were usually deemed superior, in their minds, to simple interfaces. A few of them seemed to be outright hostile to concepts like "user friendly". Aurora reminds me of something they would have designed if given the chance.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 AM on August 18, 2008


It's hardly what I'd call an interface, but the giant hi-res video wall was pretty badass.
posted by echo target at 6:32 AM on August 18, 2008


Metafilter: You can't read it? Foolish reader!

very good! im pride.
posted by mystyk at 6:33 AM on August 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


Pfft gimme qwerty, a tiling window manager and home-row hotkeys any day.
posted by Skorgu at 6:33 AM on August 18, 2008


Connections timing out is the future of user interfaces?

Right, well, not exactly my cup of tea, but I suppose I'm required to get behind whatever has the potential to cause GYOFB googlead hits.
posted by barnacles at 7:00 AM on August 18, 2008


Yup, that whole "ZOMG we'll make a 'cyberspace' [1] that works like the real world" thing always baffled me. Frankly the real world interfaces often suck massively; finding stuff by opening filing cabinets, digging through paper files, etc takes forever.

I'm not going to claim that the WIMP interface is the best we'll ever get, or that it doesn't have flaws. But flashy eye candy gets in the way of actually doing your job, and all the ZOMG cyberspace stuff is, ultimately, nothing more or less than the most annoying eye candy that exists.

But, like touch screens [2], virtual reality type interfaces seem to be one of those terrible ideas that will not die. The marketing morons seem inexorably attached to the idea, and every time some movie featuring such nonsense becomes popular we're inundated with breathless articles about their virtues.

Remember how, after Minority Report came out, all the marketing morons were breathlessly talking about how we'd all be using that sort of interface soon? Yeah, because people working in cubicles for 8 hours at a stretch really need a UI that *requires* large sweeping, tiring, arm movements.

[1] I should mention that I loathe Gibson's work, and the term "cyberspace". The tendancy of morons to randomly attach the cyber- prefix to random words in hopes of sounding futuristic may be the only thing I hate more than the word cyberspace.

[2] That is, touch screens as a primary interface for desktop computer use. They've got their place in their own niches.
posted by sotonohito at 7:09 AM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


that holographic UI interface for phones looked cool at first but now that I think about it, it would only work for people who don't care if everyone on the street knows where they're going and who they're texting.
posted by azarbayejani at 7:45 AM on August 18, 2008


that whole "ZOMG we'll make a 'cyberspace' [1] that works like the real world" thing always baffled me

You can blame Apple for a lot of that, they really popularized the desktop metaphor that has defined the modern PC UI for the last 20 years. The trick is to use the metaphor to make things more intuitive (I put files I don't want in the trash), rather than uintuitive (I put disks that I want to eject in the trash) or completely pointless (I walk through a 3D room over to a trashcan, and put a virtual piece of paper in it using my 3D arm).

Most of the buzz over UI innovation usually focuses on what looks cool. Looking cool is partially important for user satisfaction (again, see Apple), but the new features that really innovate in the UI realm are all about ease of use. The tabbed interface, for example, is a great UI widget that has gotten more popular over the years without getting much press. I think tabbed browsing had a lot to do with FireFox's initial success over IE, even though it was never on the radar of future IE innovations.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:56 AM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Windshields. Project your GPS route on it, as well as whatever signage you've chosen to see (highway markings only vs highway + ads, etc)."

BWM has had this in most of their cars for a few years now. And each year they keep adding features like navigation, caller ID, etc.

Link
posted by noriyori at 7:59 AM on August 18, 2008


I'm surprised that none of these can fly. Futuristic interfaces are the 21st century hovercars.
posted by daniel_charms at 8:19 AM on August 18, 2008


Well, at least no 3D desktops or Second Life style VR.
posted by Artw at 8:33 AM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


The future is Flash.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:54 AM on August 18, 2008


Most of these UIs are prototypes that have undergone zero usability testing. People[1] are just now starting to get the programs-as-windows metaphor and understand right click. It is very difficult to make new UI that doesn't follow established conventions. You have to make how it works so obvious that people don't even realize they're learning something new.

And future glass? I'll give odds that doesn't ship in the next 20 years.

But I have the best job in my industry. I get to make futuristic interfaces that ship today.

[1] By which I mean the population at large. Peoria. Alabama. Your grandmother.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:12 AM on August 18, 2008


My ideal futuristic interface is one in which I don my full-immersion wraparound glasses with soundplugs and future glass, enter my meticulously designed 3D world-sim GUI, walk down my virtual hall to my virtual study, boot up my virtual computer, use the virtual computer to open the virtual browser, navigate on the virtual browser to my virtual online virtual environment of choice, walk down my virtual virtual hall to my virtual virtual study, open up my virtual virtual rolltop desk, sit down at my virtual virtual chair, look at my virtual virtual typewriter, and start typing a story featuring me as a character. In my virtual virtual story, virtual virtual virtual me would walk down a virtual virtual virtual hall to enter a virtual virtual virtual study, boot up his virtual virtual virtual computer, then say "it's turtles all the way down!" and spontaneously explode.

Then I would go outside and climb a tree or something.
posted by Shepherd at 9:32 AM on August 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


That Aurora thing looks almost as cool as Microsoft Bob.
posted by Fnarf at 9:43 AM on August 18, 2008


Shepherd: In other words, The Sims 4!
posted by mystyk at 10:17 AM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Among the items already in use would be the "composition of the table", sometimes called a ReacTable. Björk is a fan (check out the related videos for more examples). For someone who already sees music and compostion in visual terms, it's an incredible tool. Brainloop is already being used by people with physical diabilities by having the subject visualize a specific object, which in turn creates a specific EEG reading that a machine interprets as a command to do everything from controlling appliances in the house to communicating with others. The future is in many ways already here and a lot of this stuff coming down the pipe looks very cool.

If Aurora becomes a reality, I'm switching to Opera.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2008


Does anyone know what Fez runs on?

Candy and porno.
posted by Webbster at 10:35 AM on August 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


Sotonohito, you're being cyberphobic.

Most of the stuff in the article is rather meh, although the glass viewer would be neat (speaking of Gibson: Wasn't that in Virtual Light?) and using future-high-tech-super to play games on the street would be wonderfully decadent.

I'm still waiting for an intelligent blob-keyboard that would learn what I want to do and create a totally custom interface just for me, ("Oh, this combination of swearing and thumb-pressing means "refresh ask.metafilter") hopefully making things more ergonomical. (wpm only compensates so much for carpal tunnel syndrome)
posted by monocultured at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2008


WOW! In the future websites will load extremely slowly, causing the user to leave before the interface has to provide any information! Brilliant!
posted by cmoj at 10:43 AM on August 18, 2008


The future is Flash.

WOW! In the future websites will load extremely slowly, causing the user to leave before the interface has to provide any information! Brilliant!

Heh.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man, that Aurora thing looks like futurized AOL.

In a way, it's sorta refreshing to see futurists just shrug and say "Yeah, but would it wicked?")

Yes, absolutely. That "shadow" thing is probably impractical as hell to use even if somebody knew of a way to create it, but even so it's badass.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:54 AM on August 18, 2008


Who else thought it said "Titty Snake?"

Actually, I thought the "n" was an "h". Extra disappointing.

Everyone's pointing out the potential of the futuristic glass in adding information... I'm surprised nobody has considered the value of deleting information... like a mobile pop-up ad blocker.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:55 AM on August 18, 2008


The "future glass" is an example of how flashy crap can make a good idea turn shitty. The concept of augmented reality is not bad at all and likely will work out pretty well eventually. The idea of having people carry around a big chunk of (doubtless heavy) Plexiglas and look like dolts waving it around in front of stuff is a marketing moron's idea of how to make it look flashy while removing any utility that might actually exist.

monocultured heh.
posted by sotonohito at 10:57 AM on August 18, 2008


Re: Aurora. A bit telling that the woman in the demo could not find what she wanted, and had to resort to using a simple search rather than visual navigation. Also seemed to take her a long damn time to get back to where she was; any modern OS would make such a move an alt/cmd-tab away. (Or ctrl-tab if you're in a browser. Whateva.)

As for the phone interface, did it not occur to any of the designers that playing a game via a projector in the phone would be impossible if the phone starts moving? I'm watching the pseudo-airhockey game and asking myself how the hell the game is being projected as a stationary object when the guy holding the phone/projector is waving it all over the place. It's like those cartoons where someone is watching another character on a TV screen, and the camera angle never changes, even though the second character is running madly down a hallway... that sort of thing is just not possible.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:00 AM on August 18, 2008


I'm surprised nobody has considered the value of deleting information...

Well, there's the Scum-B-Gone, which unpublishes the homeless.
posted by Artw at 11:02 AM on August 18, 2008


...is a marketing moron's idea of how to make it look flashy while removing any utility that might actually exist.

Maybe, maybe not. Either way, what is true is that new technology is often invented before anyone really understands it's proper use. There are lots of examples of this, but recently we can take the example of push technology: Channels was a terrible idea, but RSS is loved by many. The difference in the technology is tiny, but the difference in application is huge.

We're just starting to figure out the right way to use things like touch screens, and the smart glass stuff is no different. To develop it you have to have a prototype (even if it's just an artists mock up). Investors and managers like to see things. Once you develop the technology, there will be failures of application, and if they are smart they will plan for that.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:04 AM on August 18, 2008


Here's the interface I'm hoping doctors will be using in a few years. Watch the first video and jump to 1/3 of the way in. It looks a bit gimmicky but the context-sensitive options for managing patient history and communication are rather brilliant.

The best part is 3 doctors are already starting to use it at their first Hello Health location in Brooklyn.

Disclaimer: I've met Jay Parkinson but I have no relationship to him or his company, financial or otherwise. I just think this is cool.
posted by junesix at 11:07 AM on August 18, 2008


Virtual Reality for a user interface is so awful that it was lampooned taken seriously in the film Disclosure.
posted by Monochrome at 11:45 AM on August 18, 2008


Oh I loved that. IIRC Michael Douglas defeated the security on the VR filing cabinet that was locked in the VR office by crawling around the edge of the VR building and climbing through the VR window.
posted by Artw at 11:49 AM on August 18, 2008


Hey don't dis Aurora, that's the work of MetaFilter's Own jjg, back-tagging superstar and Original Blogstah. It's what he quit blogging to do... which may or may not have been a smart move :-)

Although use of the phrase "It's gotta be here somewhere" in a demo for a new interface is either a sign of (a) humility, (b) insecurity or (c) dumbth.
posted by wendell at 1:46 PM on August 18, 2008


jack_mo : I look forward to Futuristic Glass. Though I'd prefer a version embedded in my specs to having to carry around a sheet of the stuff

That was how an overlay technology like this has always been presented in the past. I've been waiting for it for ever too. I want to be able to look at something and have my sun glasses start giving me detailed information about what it is.

But then, when I read Snow Crash I realized that the gargoyles were one of the coolest characters concepts ever, so my opinion might be somewhat biased.

And jDome looks neat in theory, but I strongly suspect that it's made out of migraine headaches and motion sickness.
posted by quin at 2:45 PM on August 18, 2008


Weirdly despite both watching Disclosure and reading the novel I can't remember a thing about the oh-so-trendy-for-the-time VR stuff in it. All I've got is vague memories of reverse sexism and the Douglous sex-scene. And oh how I wish I could forget the later.

And talking of which, wot no teledildonics? I though that was the future?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:52 PM on August 18, 2008


I often get people asking about interface innovations, what's new, what can you do that's never been seen before etc. And I run into a problem, maybe it's because I am unimaginative, but I think it's a little because I abstract things so much that what seems new to some people is really just a different presentation of a familiar mechanism. Granted the execution adds a lot to the pleasure of the mechanism, for example the physical-world modeling of lists on the iPhone is beautiful, acceleration and friction is modeled well (maybe too well, actually, sometimes I need a long list to be on ice or a bed of wheels), and the elastic bump at the end of a list is wonderful, fun way to stop. But, in the end it's a list. It's familiar, clean, and perfect to use because, well, lists in two dimensions work. Then someone get the brilliant idea that a list can have a z-axis. Sure, let's represent things on the z-axis, they'll get smaller, less-saturated, blurrier, and so on, and it's a pain in the ass to move through, but it's cool, it's cool.

In the end I just tell people that what leads to innovation in interfaces, more than anything else is the mode of input. Look at the DS, the Wii, the iPhone. Work on the hardware, introduce near-field communication, voice, haptics, etc. and then you open up new possibilities. But don't take a limited and familiar form of input and try to cram it into different spatial models, no matter how pretty.

That being said, Fez, is lovely. But as a game, it is achieving something different; part of its goal as a game UI is to introduce complications for pleasure. You need to be able to spin that world easily, but you get a challenge out of determining why, when, and how you do that in order to complete a challenge in a 2D world. It toys with the difficulties of the 3D representation in a 2D space, whereas the Aurora ignores those challenges and assumes three-dimensions is an obvious advantage.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 3:11 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


[1] I should mention that I loathe Gibson's work, and the term "cyberspace". The tendancy of morons to randomly attach the cyber- prefix to random words in hopes of sounding futuristic may be the only thing I hate more than the word cyberspace.

This is an 80s and 90s phenomenon, to my mind. Any recent use of the cyber- prefix is likely to be at least partly tongue-in-cheek.
posted by zardoz at 4:30 PM on August 18, 2008


The ringo hologram interface is seriously one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

They just got the application amazingly wrong... the proper application is as overlay, not projection.

The "how" is solved, and the privacy concerns are solved.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:03 PM on August 18, 2008


Just wake me up when I get to fuck a robot.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:25 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


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