The way we interact with machines is evolving. I remember the lines outside electronics stores when Nintendo Wii first came out. The controller wand revolutionized gaming. Since then Sony has come out with their own wand and Microsoft upped the game with Kinect. AquaTop is cool derivative use of Kinect, where a touch surface made out of a pool of water… and the innovation goes on and on.
Virtual touch has gone mainstream with controllers, such as Leap Motion and the Haptix project. Touch gesture control already dominates all mobile devices from slates to smart phones. We are slowly breaking the boundaries between human and machine. Virtual touch gestures are more intuitive and mimic how humans generally interact with their surroundings through motion.
I remember working with 3D virtual touch sensors in 2006. At the time solutions were very limited and virtual touch grid was very basic. At the time we were already envisioning storefront screens where passersby could interact with applications through the store window without touching the glass or a screen. We envisioned lobby portals with interactive building maps. Screens for changing booths that would overlay product information to enhance the shoppers experience. Philips 3D autostereoscopic LCD monitors are still a bit on the expensive side, but represent the future of 3D. 3D will not take full flight until we, as consumers, can get rid of those ridiculous glasses. When we fuse full 3D projection and accurate virtual touch I think we have taken a huge step in complexity of expression and interaction.
Windows 8 is definitely designed with mobile and touch in mind. I recently purchased the Surface Pro and I use it now as my primary work PC. I have it hooked into a Polycom speaker (no more wired headsets) and a monitor. I have Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. This was my first foray into Windows 8… and even though I am waiting for 8.1 to go official, I really don’t understand all the talk about Windows 8 being so different or difficult. It took me about a day to figure it out and become fully productive. Now I could not go back to Windows 7 anymore. Imagine Windows 8 with a autostereoscopic monitor, where the tiles not just on a two dimensional plane, but can be stacked three dimensionally. Where live tiles offer 3D content. The thing that I think makes Windows 8 next generational is the integrated nature of services and the seamless flow. What if we could integrate services in three dimensions and overlay data in 3D.
I love movies that are fantastical and push the limits of our imagination. In Harry Potter newspaper pictures are live and have depth. In Minority Report we project screens into the air and interact with virtual touch. In Tron we merge the human consciousness with the virtual world. I don’t think we are that far off with any of these examples.