It is worth noting that much of
my experience was dependent on
my willingness to customize the
desk, reflect on my work processes,
and experiment with the interface.
Not all office workers will have
the inclination, or be in a position,
to do so. This perhaps presents a
complex design challenge.
Digital and Physical Desks
Overall, the exploratory and metaphorical nature of the traditional
computer desktop exists comfortably within the real world. My
understanding of the interactive
desk remained within the world
of mice and windows, prioritizing
generality over intuitive interaction techniques. Given the opportunity to change the interface, I
would first expand the palette of
virtual items. A new, enhanced
set could take advantage of more
layout capabilities and the understanding that can be implied by
I suspect the greatest initial
benefits will come from enhancing
rather than providing more intuitive interaction techniques with
Future Interactive Desks
Despite being peripheral to the
current commercial focus on portable and personal devices, the
improvement of multi-user support, window management, and
display technologies has immediate scope. Yet, even given these
improvements, I suspect the interactive desk needs to offer people
Computers first existed to auto-
mate calculations, and later, to
draw better graphs and communi-
cate, without the need for an office
clerk. For those things, my desk
was no better or worse than a nor-
mal computer. It was not a silver
bullet for more productive output.
But perhaps it shouldn’t be. After
all, productivity involves skills and
creativity honed through educa-
tion and experience.
Thanks to all who reviewed this work,
and in particular to Mark Ward, who
drew the infographic. This project is
supported by the RCUK-funded Centre
for Doctoral Training, HighWire (
high-wire.lancs.ac.uk) - grant reference EP/
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Hardy is a second-year
Ph.D. student studying digital
innovation at Lancaster University.
He researches original computer
interfaces and is the technical
director of the STExcalibur project.
November + December 2012
© 2012 ACM 1072-5520/12/11 $15.00