Physical Computing - Week 1 - "A Brief Rant..." About Keyboards
Of the information, videos and articles assigned for this first week’s homework, the one I found myself most engaged with was Bret Victor’s A Brief Rant... In particular I was intrigued by his insistence that there is a broad section of human interactions that are not utilized in this videos reliance on what he calls “Pictures Under Glass”. He even offers links to articles discussing areas of research and development more focused on other options for human, computer interactions outside of this largely tactile-less standard. But what I was disappointed by was the lack of concrete alternatives he offers to the speculative tech in the “Future Vision” video. And so I have decided to try to offer my own ideas on how Bret’s thoughts can be applied specifically to a portion of the video in question.
Specifically I am interested in talking about the portion of the video that takes place in the white, futuristic-looking office space. And there is one thing in that scene which I feel sticks out like a sore thumb - the traditional computer keyboard. Nearly everything else in this video feels like an updated version of the tech we have today except for that plain old QWERTY keyboard. Instead of this boring piece of plastic and buttons, I imagine that the entire desktop would be a T.U.I., or tangible user interface. Imagine if the surface of the desk was a dynamic material that could morph to any shape while also serving as a display. This way, a keyboard could rise out of the desktop, but when there is no more use for it, the desk could return to a flat surface, or instead turn into a slightly raised notepad, or a calendar. And exploring this idea even further, it could go so far as to replace the boring touch display that is in the video. Instead, the objects on the screen, like a globe or a bar graph, could rise out of the table as physical forms while still maintaining dynamic images on their 3D surfaces. And these forms could be manipulated in more intuitive, human ways, such as palming and then spinning the globe or pressing down or pulling up on the bar graph to adjust an individual variable’s height.
Outside of this portion of the video, this technology could be applied to many other scenes, whether it is the young girl preparing baking ingredients or her mother making notations in a “digital book”. And obviously the current form of this technology is far from being this customisable or manipulatable. However, this thinking feels in line with Victor’s challenge for “ambitious, long-range” vision, and more so than is present in the video itself.