In a previous post I discussed the development of a gestural interface that resulted from a mock-up used by Tom Cruise in the 2002 film Minority Report, set in the year 2054. A speculative science consultant on the film production team, John Underkoffler, then went on to create a real version of the fictional technology, called g-speak. Below is a TED talk from 2010 where John uses g-speak to discuss the future of the User Interface. As he states in the presentation, a lot of what we want to do with computers is “inherently spatial”, so a gestural interface is a bit of a natural as far as design goes:
Two years down the track from that presentation, the technology has moved relentlessly onwards. Here’s a clip about Leap Motion that makes the concept of a glove-less gestural interface a potentially commercial reality:
Critics will obviously point out that it’s probably less physically taxing to use a desk-bound mouse rather than gesticulating in the air, but I see this interface as one component of a multi-gestural/textural/audio-based approach to interfacing with computers. A really useful system would allow you to speak, type or gesture as appropriate to the creative context. I saw a demo of an electrical engineer manipulating switch connections in 3D on a mock-up of a Tepco powergrid that serviced the greater Tokyo area in the 90s. Back then the interface required a wired glove to move the virtual connections around, a simpler version of the Underkoffler interface above. A Leap Motion interface would accomplish the same thing (and more) without the use of a glove.
The Leonar3Do system uses a 3D mouse device called the “bird” to accomplish many of the same tasks as Leap Motion. Its creators describe the system as “the world’s first desktop VR kit.” Well, maybe not actually the first consumer VR kit, but its certainly impressive in how quickly it lets you put together complex shapes in 3D – something that would generally take a lot of button-pushing and mouse-sliding in a 3D program such as Blender.