Two new interfaces

May 9, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I bought an iPod Touch … then last week I bought a Wii.  For me, this is pretty much gadget overload, as both of these things provide you with an interface that is amazing enough to be considered at least somewhat mind-blowing.  

Apple is on a streak.  They’ve made a couple of devices recently that have the ability to make even non-fanboys say “I want one” almost instantaneously.  The Touch is a wonderful device … so much so that I can’t believe that one company managed to produce two items (the MacBook Air and the Touch) in one decade.  The interface is remarkably intuitive and there is virtually no learning curve (in fact, for my 10-yr old there is zero learning curve … she just picked it up and started using it and declared thirty seconds later that she wants one).  First of all, this machine is almost Steve Jobs’ dream … which is to create a device with no buttons on it whatsoever. The Touch has one button … and it just turns the thing on and off.  After that it’s all on screen and there’s almost too much to describe.  I suppose that the major navigation actions are tapping to select and flicking your finger on the screen to scroll.  Once one has tapped and scrolled (or scrolled and tapped) images or whatever can be moved around by moving one’s finger and pretty much everything can be resized by either “pinching” with the fingers or spreading the fingers apart. This all comes quite naturally and I will gladly use this at some point on a full-sized screen. It’s also quite nifty that and accelerometer inside the thing informs it of its orientation … when you turn it ninety degrees browser windows and images also rotate with it.   I do believe that this is now my favourite way to read mail.  tap the mail button and I’m logged into gmail … the interface is actually prettier that the standard web version and the finger tapping and flicking gets you around very quickly.  Add to that the fact that all of this happens in the palm of your hand and you have a pretty nifty device.  Recent additions are a YouTube client and Google Maps, both of which work quite nicely.  Oh yeah, it plays music too.

The Wii to me is also a pretty stunning device. Probably more of you have experienced this this thing … it has something very important in common with the Touch … the accelerometer.  Everything is controlled by the ability of the controls to be able to perceive their orientation in space.  Since you’re waving the controls around instead of just pushing buttons, there’s something very real about this interface.  The little person on your screen does what you do … this not only makes control ultra-intuitive, but gives you a real connection to the on-screen character.  What I have found is that it is most effective to not consider yourself to be controlling the character, but rather to consider yourself to actually be the character. This is a rather significant difference in the world of video games … I find myself getting sucked right into these silly little games.  

I’m not quite what to do with the Wii interface, in terms of applying it to “real-life”, but it is quite amazing … the Touch, however, I am ready to translate to the big screen …


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