Over the holidays, videos of pets playing games on their owner’s iPads were making the rounds on YouTube. The videos are cute and novel but they also gave me pause…
As I tap out this post on my keyboard, a complicated device with over 100 buttons all marked with strange symbols, it becomes pretty clear that an important shift has occurred. We’ve finally refined interaction to the point where these convoluted devices are no longer necessary. Our interface metaphors are becoming so pure and intuitive that they are no longer metaphors at all. The objects flying across the screens in the above videos, although still representations, look and react just as we’d expect them to in real life. The relationship is clear enough that it does not need to be taught, in fact it is so clear that it does not even require a human to operate.
Watching our pets interact, in relatively sensible ways, with the machines we build, represents an important milestone in interaction and usability. What’s even more exciting is that this is only the tip of the iceberg. This interaction is still pretty dumb; its still a picture stuck on a plane. As ubiquitous computing becomes – ubiquitous, we can stop thinking about choosing the right metaphors in our interfaces and begin to start thinking about how to eliminate the interface altogether.