The first thing that came to my mind when I read McCullough’s assertion that the computer is inherently a tool for the mind and not for the hands was a comment made by Steve Jobs during the early years of Apple – he said that the computer is the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds. While both statements reiterate that using computers help us accomplish tasks more efficiently, even these personalities, with a constant finger on technology’s pulse, couldn’t have predicted the rate at which the boundaries between tactility and cognition would begin to blur. Our hands continue to move in accord with the mind, but there’s
The idea of our mental and tangible facilities converging has existed in theory for a while, but only recently have we begun to experience it with virtual reality apps like TiltBrush. It is easy to get excited about such technology because it clearly represents a radical leap forward. However, I feel that studying what’s on the horizon is always helps put the current landscape in perspective. For instance, 3D TVs were all they rage when they came out, but it wasn’t until Oculus Rift that the user really began feeling the sense of ‘presence’ that content developers were aspiring for. Drawing an analogy, I would like to put VR in perspective by bringing in Project Soli.
Project Soli by Google utilizes an advanced radar sensor which is capable of sensing complex gestures and adept at translating them into computer input. For instance, twisting a virtual knob in mid-air can actually increase or decrease the volume of a pair of Soli-enabled speakers. Similarly, rubbing the index finger against the thumb can trigger the grab and scroll interaction on a Soli-connected screen.
Sensors like these open up an unprecedented world of interactions and allow for richer, more authentic user experiences. A technology like Soli can actually untether us from bulky VR headsets and enrich our surroundings with more natural interactions. Going back to McCullough’s assertion, I reckon that the computer is slowly becoming an appendage for the hand. Going ahead, we may not have to consciously retrieve steps from memory to accomplish day-to-day tasks. With a seemingly natural gesture of our hands, the computer shall do our bidding.