The mouse’s days are numbered. Computer interfaces that remove user-system
barriers are in the works and are intuitive enough for first-time users to throw away
the manual. The iPhone’s multitouch interface may have ushered in a wave of easier interfaces for the mass market, but it’s just the beginning. Many new and exciting replacements for the familiar point-and-click scheme are on the way.
Skinput technology ( http://www.chrisharrison.net/projects/skinput/) showcased at CHI 2010 ( http://cacm.acm.org/news/83935) “appropriates” the human
body as an input surface, says Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. student Chris Harrison, who
developed SkinPut with Desney Tan and Dan Morris of Microsoft Research.
Gaze-based interfaces are being considered for data input, search, and selection ( http://portal.acm.org/toc.cfm?id=1743666&type=proceeding&coll=GU
IDE&dl=GUIDE&CFID=86057285&CFTOKEN=34856226), and driving vehicles
( http://cacm.acm.org/news/88018-car-steered-with-drivers-eyes/fulltext). Voice
controls have boarded Ford cars ( http://www.fordvehicles.com/technology/
sync/) and Apple smartphones.
Gesture interfaces is another hot area in the interface arena. MIT Media Lab
Ph.D. candidate Pravan Mistry’s Sixth Sense ( http://www.pranavmistry.com/
the holidays season. There are dozens of related You Tube videos at http://www.
youtube.com/user/xboxprojectnatal. Its application outside gaming is not clear.
Another promising but challenging area is the brain-machine interface (http://
sounds less fact than fiction, but was in fact the focus of DARPA’s Augmented Cognition program ( http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/03/augcog-continue/).
All these interfaces aim to give users a simple, natural way to interact with a
system. Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie says natural
user interfaces will appear first with gaming and entertainment systems but “will
certainly find application…in the communications domain.”
To read more about the interfaces of the future, check out the newly revamped
ACM student magazine XRDS (formerly Crossroads). The print edition is available
now; look for magazine’s new Web site coming soon.
sixth sense: using palm for dialing a phone number.
eD Lazo WsKa Wins
ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer science & engineering
and director of the escience
institute at the University of
Washington, is the 2009
recipient of ACM’s Distinguished
service Award for his wide-ranging service to the computing
community and his long-standing
advocacy for this community at
the national level.
“forty years ago, in 1969,
there were three landmark
events: Woodstock, neil
Armstrong’s journey to the
surface of the moon, and the
first packet transmission on
ArPAne T,” Lazowska said in
an email interview. “With four
decades of hindsight, which
had the greatest impact? Unless
you’re big into Tang and Velcro
(or sex and drugs), the answer
is clear. our future is every bit
as bright as our past. no field
is more important to the future
of our nation or our world than
computer science. We need to
get that message out. Advances
in computing are fundamental
to addressing every societal
“i was recently party to a
discussion with Anita Jones and
robin Murphy on ‘ Type i’ and
‘Type ii’ research in Cs. Type i
focuses on the technologies—
compilers, operating systems,
sensors. Type ii focuses on the
new tools of scientific discovery,
global development, health
i T, emergency informatics,
i’m a Type ii person. either
we expand our definition of Cs
to embrace these challenges,
or we become insignificant.
“forty years ago, as an
undergraduate at Brown
University, i was seduced into
computer science by Andy
van Dam. The potential to
change the world is greater
today than it has ever been.
We need to communicate this
to students. This field makes