How Can You Design for the Screens of the Future?
Last October, when LG announced its first curved-screen phone, the LG G Flex, it seemed like no one really cared… Yes, the blogosphere was abuzz but major industry publications such as Computerworld and Gigaom remained very cynical about the concept of curved screens. “I’m just not sold on the concept when some of the new user interactions appear to be added simply because the device is curved.” wrote Gigaom’s Kevin C. Tofel.
Both the LG G Flex and the Galaxy Round – another curved-screen handset, released earlier by Samsung – are currently only available in Korea. According to research firm IDC analyst TZ Wong, this shows that the devices are still in concept stage.
Nonetheless, Raymond Soneira, a display technology expert, was impressed by Samsung’s latest curved displays, for their improved contrast, color accuracy, readability, and overall image quality, especially under ambient light. But the future may hold much more for flexible screens, it seems. A UCLA research team has recently created OLED display technology that can be bent, repeatedly folded, twisted and stretched to more than double its normal size while remaining lit and going back to normal when released. When not lit, the material becomes almost completely transparent. So the film Minority Report could become a reality, after all…
When it comes to man vs machine interactivity, however, it seems like the real hope is with haptic technology. The word “haptic” originates from the Greek word “haptikos”, meaning “pertaining to the sense of touch”. According to Anjali Shah, “haptic technology interfaces the user with a virtual environment via the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations and/or motions to the user.”
Successful haptic devices provide kinesthetic (e.g getting a sense of a baseball’s gross size, shape and position by holding it) and tactile (e.g sensing the smoother texture of the ball’s leather) feedback to their users. This kind of feedback is often described as “force feedback.” Unfortunately, haptic devices are still very expensive, preventing them from being used in mainstream products. While video game makers have been early adopters of passive haptics like vibrating joysticks and controllers, haptic technology is now widely used in industrial, military and medical applications.
But it doesn’t take much to imagine future applications of haptic technology. Nokia is already experimenting with tactile mobile touchscreen that provides force feedback when depressing buttons. The same technology could be used when designing graphical user interfaces of various software and operating systems. In other words, by implying haptic technology, interactive design can be taken to the next level and responsive design can be really responsive to users, not only to screen size and device requirements.
In his “Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design” Bret Victor, formerly Human-Interface Inventor at Apple, encourages research into tangible interfaces, dynamic materials, and haptics. Victor is dismayed by Microsoft’s Vision of the Future movie because the fundamental gesture in this technology is sliding a finger along a flat surface. Our hands, says Victor, are amazing in their ability to feel and manipulate things, and this ability should inspire future innovation in interaction design. Designers who seek inspiration can draw it from artists like Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, who have been developing and researching interface culture and participatory art for over two decades.