March 19 2010

A touching gesture

So a recent Geek Dad post on Wired.co.uk asks us whether children are getting spoiled by touch screen technology. It raises an interesting point, particularly in the context of Adam Standings description of catching his son: "smearing his hands all over the TV screen in a bizarre fashion. It turned out that he was trying to change channel the same way he had seen me select music on my iPhone by scanning the Cover Flow system."

It also interestingly echoes Matthew Robson's glib declamation to Morgan Stanley last summer that 'anything with a touch screen is desirable & apos.

With the developments in gesture based control on the Wii, DS, Playstation Move and Natal, not to mention the iPad and MS Tablet, it&aposs not all that wild a speculation to suppose that the not-too-distant future may see office workers in their cubicles flinging images and files around a la Minority report, like a weird and solemn mass game of charades. But is it spoiling children? Are we setting them up for a fall? Well, no. At least, no more than the development of the telephone or the automobile did (which some might argue is a great deal). Let's imagine a situation where someone who grew up believing touch screen control was completely ubiquitous, was presented with a 1980's gameboy. At best it might excite their curiosity, in the same way that floppy disks or betamax do current adolescents. At worst, dripping disdain.


I would, however, be very surprised to see them left paralysed and clueless, pawing ineffectually at its 2 tone screen. But then, I rather naively think I could get along alright without my mobile phone.

What is worth noting is that Adam's son smearing his hands on the television set may be a harbinger of a real step change in UI design. As people's expectations change to the degree that they think every screen is a touch screen, so UI design will have to keep up. It may be that the UI designer's skillset may be virtually unrecognisable in a couple of years.

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