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Next Generation Mobile UI Spaces

The 3 UI “Spaces”

All UI flavors deal with two basic components, Input and output (I/O). Several recent articles discuss two of the three mobile UI spaces that seem logical from the user’s point of view. See post link for more details.

  1. OUTSIDE the user as in MIT’s Sixth Sense or John Underkiffer’s “Spatial Operating Environment”  (SOE) concept, al la the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. SOE1 In these cases UI lies beyond the user and exists partly in the world at large via flat surfaces that become touch sensitive controls and displays.
  2. INSIDE the user (sort of). Google GlassesGGlass1 and recent experiments in movement via thought  control, seek to push parts of the UI into the user’s head, at least figuratively, For Trekkers, the final internal interface would be a series of Borg implants, lol. Input via thought or speech command and output via an augmented reality display in our glasses.
  3.   InHand1  IN (the user’s) HAND, our omnipresent cell phones which are now the 5th most ubiquitous possession world wide.Free images from

While the exotic Outside and Inside UI spaces appear intriguing, how practical are they? Yes, having an Outside interface like the one on Minority Report or newer TV dramas like NCIS LA makes for very cool visuals and does allow for conference type viewing, but I don’t see it as very common place. Imagine folks walking around the city apparently stopping to read/write on windows and walls. Seem rather chaotic to me, you?

On the other hand we have an Inside UI with input via thought (sub-vocal speech) and output thru Google-like glasses or direct control of other devices.  On the surface, this seems cool, but I wonder about Info overload. Real time  “context” information or notifications in a city environment like New York or Hong Kong could easily overwhelm a Google Glasses wearer. I Just watched a video discussing Google Glasses where the presenter wondered how notifications would move from the corner to center focus. Constant visual interrupts from the info stream will add to the wearer’s techno stress load, so the Google Glasses UI concept is not a comfortable one for this geek.

Conspiracy theorists and a lot of the rest of us, will resist even the possibility of thought control coming from an external source through an Inside interface.Resistance is futile etc”  is not what future cyber citizens will want to hear in their heads. So due to what I call “Borg Paranoia”  see only limited use of this UI space for routine tasks.

The “In Hand” UI

So now we are back to the next generation of phone UIs. I prefer the term FonC to smart phone which both undervalues and under-represents the power of these devices. Several recent trends show the ever expanding potential of mobile phone devices. Recent studies show that FonCs have reached a the mainstream faster than another technology since TV surpassing both PC and internet use adoption rates. Combine with another prediction that 208Meg “Giant” phone (screen size 4.6” to 5.5”) sales between now and 2015 and phone type devices continue to proliferate.

Since before man invented tools, our hands were our primary means for manipulating our environments. From an information flow point of view, I see the FonC (smart phone) as the most familiar mobile UI space. Add voice recognition and speech, and we have a full featured UI that is both familiar and powerful. Current interrupt controls like silent mode and call rejection are models which allow users to set their info filters to a comfortable point.

Wonder what else our phones will allow us to do in the future? Perhaps we will use them to interact more with other computer systems via RF or other direct machine to machine connection. For example, as you leave the airport parking garage, you “bump” your FonC against a controller panel near where you parked. The system pays your bill and logs you car’s location for easy navigation on your return. Or at the store, you tap your phone against the CC card device and it: 1) Pays the Bill, 2) Logs purchases into your home db & sets a reminder for your next shopping trip. What else would you like your FonC to help you do?

Copyright © 2013-2014 Edward Martino, PhD. All Rights Reserved.