This article by Bret Victor, a Human Interface Inventor at Apple from 2007-2010, is a thought-provoking rant on why Microsoft’s vision of the future (where all of our technology comes in the form of small, thing rectangular touch screens) is unoriginal and completely takes from us humans an entire sensory experience: tactility.
This is the video from Microsoft that started his rant:
And his rant basically boils down to the following point:
Our hands offer us a large number of ways in which to interact with the world — gripping, picking, brushing, clenching, balancing, and a million more powerful interactions. By reducing our interactions with technology to swipes of the finger, we limit the kinds of experiences we can have.
One of my favorite quotes from his article goes:
Now, take out your favorite Magical And Revolutionary Technology Device. Use it for a bit.
What did you feel? Did it feel glassy? Did it have no connection whatsoever with the task you were performing?
I call this technology Pictures Under Glass. Pictures Under Glass sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade.
Pictures Under Glass is an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness. It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist. It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future.
Hilarious and so true.
His article was published in 2011, but is very much still relevant today.
The only thing I would point out that IS good about reducing our interactions with technology to simple swipes of the finger is this: It allows almost everyone, not just people with fingers, to participate and interact with technology. It also allows us to interact with technology without using our hands.
A design professor once mentioned to me that he saw someone whose hands were occupied: One was holding on to the rail in the subway car, and the other was holding on to an iPad. In a fast-moving train with people pressed up against her, there was no way she was going to be able to let go of the rail AND interact with her iPad with her hand, so what did she do?
She swiped with her nose.
If she had had to interact with her iPad in a more complex way? Forget it.
Anyway, go read Bret’s article here.