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The Next Generation in Human Computer Interfaces

For decades our options for interacting with the digital world have been limited to keyboards, mice, and joysticks. Now with a new generation of exciting new interfaces in the pipeline our interaction with the digital world will be forever changed. In this post we will look at some amazing demonstrations, mostly videos, that showcase new ways of interacting with the digital world. Enjoy!

First up we have a video of  MIT’s David Merrill demonstrating a technology called Siftables at the 2009 TED conference.  Siftables are cookie-sized, computerized blocks you can stack and shuffle in your hands.  By arranging them in different configurations or tilting them at different angles you can do math, play music, spell worlds, pour virtual paint, and more.  The implications for hands on learning and manipulation of data are fantastic!  We have not seen any word on how/when this technology will be commercialized, but we hope it will be soon!

Next we have a technology for making music called Reactables.  By arranging and manipulating computerized blocks on a special table, musicians are presented with a completely new way of creating and interacting with music.  As seen in the previous video, Siftables are also capable of music composition, but reactables are unique in their singular focus on doing only music.  Whereas the siftables can perform many functions, the reactables are specialized for one task only, and in the coming years we can expect them to far outstrip the ability of Siftables when it comes to music.  Orginally created by Music Technology Group at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona Spain, Reactables have recently been spun off into a private company that is hard at work commercializing this exciting product.  For those that are really interested in this technology, there is a competing effort from Sony that may be of interest:

Kommerz from Austria brings us the mixed reality interface.  Using representative objects in the real world a person is able to manipulate objects in 3D space on a computer screen.  The possibilities for a new gaming interface look especially promising with this technology.  Check it out:


Thanks to Andreas for the above video.

This next demo from Sony has been around for many years, yet it is still very cool.  Why isn’t this technology finding a commercial market after all these years?  We have no idea.

Jeff Han from NYU demonstrates the capabilities of a multitouch interface at the TED conference in 2006.  Since then he has started a company around the technology called perceptive pixel.  This technology was recently used on CNN for presidential election coverage.

Speaking of multitouch interfaces, Microsoft has a technology called Microsoft Surface that is similar to Jeff Han’s technology, but in typical Microsoft fashion the company just doesn’t seem to get it.  Check out first a video from Microsoft that showcases the technology, followed by a hilarious parody from sarcastic gamer that shows how misguided Microsoft’s vision is:

The Khronos Projector is an interactive-art installation allowing people to explore pre-recorded movie content in an entirely new way. From the official site: “by touching the projection screen, the user is able to send parts of the image forward or backwards in time. By actually touching a deformable projection screen, shaking it or curling it, separate “islands of time” as well as “temporal waves” are created within the visible frame. This is done by interactively reshaping a two-dimensional spatio-temporal surface that “cuts” the spatio-temporal volume of data generated by a movie.”

Sixthsense from MIT is a technology that we have already covered in depth previously. Check out our detailed review for more information:

The world of interactive technology is literally exploding.  There must be several technologies we have overlooked in this review.  If you know of any that we missed, please let us know in the comments and we will try to add your suggestion to this post in an update.

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