I have been looking into text input concepts for computing devices for many years. In particular for mobile devices, text input is slow and cumbersome. The founder of T9 now has started a new venture around a new text input method called Swype | Text Input for Screens. Presenting at TC50, they received quite a lot of attention. From the video, it seems to be a very fast way of text entry, but at the same time requires a lot of practice. Good news is that it works great with a stylus! It is unclear for which type of user this could be attractive at first. Would like to test it in combination with a Bamboo…
Techcrunch is asking its readers to help building a Web Tablet For $200
It basically a web-computing device for on your couch. Something like an Iphone with a bigger screen. Or a tablet PC but than plain, simple and much cheaper.
There is a long history of attempts to make a web computing come true, starting in the 90s with Go Pen Computer, wireless monitors in 00’s or recent products by Nokia (N810) or Pepper. Wacom’s Cintiq12 could even be considered here, although it is targeted for design-related work.
So why has it been so difficult to build a device for which there seems significant demand (within days, Techcrunch received hundreds of responses of people that want to buy it now)? One of the biggest factors is that technology has not been ready for an affordable price point (yet?). Display and battery are the biggest issues. On top comes the user interface (how to surf the web without keyboard, for instance), although with Iphone a pure touch interface might be more acceptable now than it was a few years ago.
Will Techcrunch community succeed where others failed? They will run into the same hardware issues (display and battery). Typically, a $200 device may have a bill-of-material of let’s say $65. That seems pretty aggressive considering the size of the display. But maybe they could strech this budget by allowing for a higher device price (up to $400) and lower margings (community works for free)?
It will be interesting to see how they will organize such an initiative. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for many people that will need to be coordinated. Also, how does decision making work in such a community? Does anybody have some examples or ideas of how this could work?
I stumbled upon this video, which paints an interesting scenario of how a designer’s workspace could look in the future. Notice the phyisical objects on the surface that are being used seemsly into the digital space (except for the cup of coffee, or could you spill virtual coffee on the canvas?). Key elements in this video such as the large interactive surface (in this case based on Anoto-pen) and the multi-touch whiteboard are not new, but what’s nice is that all is shown in a balanced way (without putting to much emphasis on cool technology).
At Wacom, I am currently working on expanding the user experience of the Bamboo pen tablet. With innovative user interfacing and software development I am trying to open up a whole new world of working with your computer (and go beyond offering a hardware ‘accessory’). Today it struck me that the new direction for Bamboo is very much similar to what Nintendo did with their Wii… Here is why:
The Wii opens up a whole new audiencie to gaming. Now you do not have to be a fanatic gamer to have fun with friends and family. The way games are played relate to the physical world (you play tennis by moving your arms instead of pressing buttons). Also, you are not bothered by technology, it is just simple and works. And is it very social. As a product, the Wii is basically an interface device (the controller is the key part). From branding point of view, Nintendo does not develop their own games (with exception of the first games), but they gain all the credit for the positive user experience (and not the gaimg companies).
With Bamboo, you do not have to be a graphic artist to express yourself in a playful and fun way. Drawing and writing with a pen is more intuitive than moving a mouse. The missing piece of the puzzle (and that is what I am currently working on) is to transform software similar to what Wii has done with games. I feel that most software has become overly complex (you need a serious training before you can use Adobe Photoshop). By trying to bridge the virtual and physical world, I want to make the interaction much more simple. For instance, one of the applications that will come out is an online place that mimics your physical desktop and lets your organize your stuff just like moving papers around. Wacom does not have to become a software company but I think that the company should show the (software) industry that new innovative user interfaces could make your life much easier and interaction with a computer more fun (very similar to what Nintendo has shown to game developers).
Obviously Wacom is not alone to recognize this paradigm shift (Apple is the poster child in simple and fun computer interaction). However, as a relative outsider it is much more easy to create something new and bold (compare what Apple did with iPhone vs Mac). The company should probably be more vocal about our ambition and claim its fair share (anybody knows that multi-pen interaction was developed by Wacom when Jeff Han was still at college?). It will be interesting to see how this continues!
Comments, thoughts, I would be interested in your feedback…!
At Cebit, I saw a New Zealand based company called Simtrix. They have designed this new input device (Triped) that seems to be a crossing between a mouse and a pen. It is basically a redesign of a Wacom pen (the kind that is used for Tablet PCs), using the exact same technology (one of the three ‘peds’ contains the pen sensor).
You can hold the ‘triped’ in two positions:
The three points of the Triped flat on the surface (see image 1) for mouse mode
Holding the triped as a pen (see image 2) for writing or drawing mode
One of the main advantages compared to a pen is that the Triped can stay in position on a tablet or display and therefore it is easier to grab it. This can be very efficient if you are frequently typing on a keyboard and need to navigate in between. Also, the Triped can detect if you are holding it as a pen and automically switch from navigation into drawing mode (no need to change modes by manually selecting a pen icon).
Other potential features are possible when the remaining two ‘peds’ are also equiped with pen sensors or when the Triped is used onto a touch sensor. Changing the holding position of the Triped might give you access short cut keys or work as scrolling and zooming functions. This kind of behavior is compareble to gestures and flicks that are detected with a multi-touch sensor (such as on the Iphone).
I had a short try of it and was surprised with the ease of use. I can imagine that novice users find this Triped easier to learn that working with a pen tablet. To be continued…
There are several initiatives that focus on multi-user interaction on a single (large) screen. Dutch start-up Wunderwall has developed a properietary system that uses the gyro mouse for interaction on a large projected image. Another solution comes from Megaphone: use your phone as controller. Their focus is on gaming at public places (combined with advertisment), but there is no reason why such an approach would not work in collaborations (office meetings). So give your meeting participants finally a chance to show off their mobile phone in a meeting by letting them vote on your proposal!