Embedded Tech Brings a New Language of Interaction

The new language will be ultrasubtle and totally intuitive, building not on crude body movements but on subtle expressions and microgestures. This is akin to the computer mouse and the screen. Apple’s Macintosh interface would never have worked if you needed to move the mouse the same distance as it moved on the screen. It would have been annoying and deeply un-ergonomic. This is the same for the gestural interface. Why swipe your arm when you can just rub your fingers together. What could be more natural than staring at something to select it or nodding to approve something? This is the world that will be possible when we have hundreds of tiny sensors mapping every movement, outside and within our bodies. For privacy, you’ll be able to use imperceptible movements, or even hidden ones such as flicking your tongue across your teeth.

Figure 8-6 presents an interesting scenario for you to ponder: you see someone at a party you like; his social profile is immediately projected onto your retina — great, a 92 percent match. By staring at him for two seconds, you trigger a pairing protocol. He knows you want to pair, because you are now glowing slightly red in his retina screen. Then, you slide your tongue over your left incisor and press gently. This makes his left incisor tingle slightly. He responds by touching it. The pairing protocol is completed.

A new language of interaction

Figure 8-6. A new language of interaction

What is nice about these microgestures and expressions is that they are totally intuitive. Who doesn’t stare at someone a second too long when they fancy them, and licking your lips is a spontaneously flirtatious gesture. The possible interactions are almost limitless and move us closer and closer to a natural human-computer interface. At this point, the really intriguing thing is that the interface has virtually disappeared; the screens are gone, and the input devices are dispersed around the body.

Is this scenario really that outlandish? Let’s look at the technologies being developed currently that might make it possible.

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