People as Peripherals: The Future of Gesture Interface

Lee Shupp, Exec VP Cheskin Added Value

Futurists aren’t about predicting the future with a crystal ball… it’s about watching/predicting change. Technology changes much faster than people (society) does. Technology changes faster than people are ready for. It’s easy to lose them if you get too far ahead. There is a sweet spot of change that it’s too far out there.

Computer interfaces and sizes have evolved over time. Today there are many more touch interfaces compared to punchcards and keyboard/mouse interfaces from the past. We’re getting closer to gesture and vocal interfaces. The evolution of gesture interfaces started with the clapper. The Kinect has taken a large jump (very popular) in gesture interfaces.


  • Mouse  – mouse is 50 years old (1963). Will we be using a mouse in 50 more years? Positives: very accurate, fast, can use subtle movements, flexible, ubiquitous. Negatives: forces us to sit down, takes space, extra peripheral, takes hand from keyboard, carpal tunnel.
    The mouse has somewhat evolved to the Wii remote – almost a mobile mouse.
  • Touch – the iPad/iPhone has brought touch to a new popularity. Positive: you don’t need to sit down, more natural experience, good for mobile (where no room for keyboard), small devices with no keys, more relaxed computing experience. Negatives: smudging, fingerprints, fingernails, hand covers screen, inaccurate (hands vary in size).
    Right now, touch is very simple. More complicated gestures are still to come. There is no common touch language yet.
  • Gesture – not quite ready for prime time yet. There have been large strides with the MS Kinect. There are a good number of hacks coming out using the Kinect. Negatives: inaccurate/clumsy, delayed computer reaction, small window of space, physical exertion.
    How can we fin-tune gestures? add voice, eye movements, facial expression, subtle movements, body language, multimodal interaction.
  • Bio Signals – thought computing. The star wars force trainer toy already exists. Another product allows you to control an iPhone app with your brain. Doing this type of thing is like learning a new language. The army is working on a "thought helmet" to streamline communications. Intel is working on brain implants to operate computers TV’s and cell phones. BrainGate is a chip implanted in the skull to help paralyzed person communicate. He can control a computer or a robot with only brain activity.
    How far are with from powering computers with thoughts? The brain is very complex, takes very focused concentration, multitasking is hard, the brain does not have an innate connection to machines, if people can’t read people, how will computers?

What happens when computers can process more and faster than humans?

  • Humans stay smarter, computers just become "booksmart"
  • Computers become smarter than humans, become dominant "species"
  • Humans and computing merge to become a "super species"

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