Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

Tablets, Smart Phones and the User Interface

In Mobile on January 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm

PhabletThe incredible rate of adoption of tablets and smartphones has brought some interesting speculation about what might be next. Thus the invention of the latest term “phablet” i.e. a hybrid of a tablet yet diminutive enough to be considered a phone. This leads me to wonder if this fast evolving segment of the industry may have reached it’s nadir. The latest news from Acer indicated that Windows 8 was a bust for them yet the Chromebook was a gain.   Which seems to indicate – albeit from a small sample of manufacturing –  that the pendulum is swinging back toward the keyboard.

There’s an ergonomic issue with having to continuously and deftly maneuver one’s digits across a small screen that can make web browsing and typing on a tablet or smart phone a tiresome effort. The efficiency of the mouse and keyboard does have distinct advantages for negotiating the travails of a spreadsheet or Powerpoint presentation that a touchscreen will unlikely ever be able to replace.

However there are some rather viable alternatives becoming available. There are of course the very helpful hands-free solutions available for the disabled that rely on eye or head movement to register, though these have been around a number of years. More recently the development of a solution that picks up hand motion and position called Leap Motion is providing some rather exciting usage applications. Making a little wild-speculation it may be possible one day that we can dictate to our devices by simply mouthing the words. For example NTT DoCoMo had created a prototype in 2002 that could lip-read a users speech. Known as silent-speech interface it’s been a while since this first was noted though if it ever is commercialized it could have a myriad of uses.

Having attended some car shows of late I have also noted the leap ahead in automotive communication, entertainment and navigation technology. Of most interest are those automated by voice-command. It’s supremely easier to speak directions into an accurate voice-recognition GPS device than it is to type. The concept of voice command makes sense for the phone (though apparently less so for Siri!) I also expect this to be integrated more heavily in tablets. Already there is Google search with a voice-command feature in the most recent Android OS.

On the subject of phones and keyboards, RIM’s Blackberry 10 is due for release days from now. It will be interesting to see whether the tried and true integration of keyboard and phone remains or RIM abandons it’s typing-friendly fiends and moves to touch screen.  Stay tuned.