Monday, December 6, 2010

Your body is your keyboard

We are now interacting with computers through gestures and movement with gaming platforms like Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect and voice recognition technology is beginning to mature so we can have accurate speech to text interaction in the near future. However the old interfaces are still going strong and it's actually remarkable how resilient the good old QWERTY-keyboard model has been, striding the gap between the typewriter and today's touch screen devices. Even the mouse has shown impressive staying power as a tool for interaction. We have simply got so accustomed to using a mouse and keyboard that we find it hard to imagine life without them.

Can we instead go all the way and simply use our bodies to communicate with computers? An article in Illusion 360, Turn your body into a touchscreen interface gives a glimpse of what may be in store and the video below demonstrates how the body-based console works. The rather clumsy hi-tech armband used in the film looks a bit too geeky but I assume it will all be in the best possible taste by the time the concept is mature enough for the market.

Wearable computing has been in the pipeline for many years now and there have been many experiments with virtual reality helmets, smart clothing and so on. I remember a concept called Body Area Network, a type of LAN but using the body to send digital information from one device to another. One idea was that by shaking hands you could send your digital business card from your mobile to your colleague's. Experiments are clearly continuing but no-one has so far found the application that will cross over into a mass market. There's always a gap between what is technically possible and what people will actually adopt and pay for.

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