If you think that Microsoft's journey into the development of natural user interfaces has stopped with the availability of Surface, then think again. The Redmond company is hard at work in a collaboration with Mitsubishi Research
to produce LucidTouch. Speaking at the Financial Analyst Meeting 2007
in July, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, underscored the fact the
upcoming 10 years in computing evolution will be focused – among other
things – on developing natural user interfaces. A natural UI is of
course designed to scrape the products that have
become traditionally associated with the interaction model between humans and computers such as the keyboard or the mouse. The upcoming steps in computing technology will bring a range of innovations.
"The one that's perhaps not as fully appreciated as some of the others: natural user interface,"
Gates stated. "This is the idea that just typing and using the mouse is
only one of the ways that we'll interact with these machines. The
arrival of cheap cameras with great software, the ability with the pen
to write on a surface, have that be recognized; the ability to
recognize speech—those are going to come into the experience, and those
are central to allowing computing to be pervasive. (...) Natural user
interface—you're actually seeing a bit of this in Microsoft products and other products," Gates added referring to Microsoft Surface, but also to the iPhone from Apple and the Nintendo Wii.
But in addition to Surface, Microsoft is working on other projects designed to deliver natural interfaces
in the hands of the users. Just take a look at the video embedded at
the bottom in order to make an idea of what LucidTouch is all about. Of
course, currently, LucidTouch is nothing more than a prototype, and it
is still a long way away from being integrated into a marketable and
commercial product. Essentially, LucidTouch is a natural user interface
meant for transparent mobile
devices allowing the users to use multiple points of contact in order
to interact with the product. Because of the pseudo-transparency
mechanisms, users are able to use all 10 fingers simultaneously, as the
back touch pad comes with multi-touch input capabilities.
"Touch is a compelling input modality for interactive
devices; however, touch input on the small screen of a mobile device is
problematic because a user’s fingers occlude the graphical elements he
wishes to work with. LucidTouch is a mobile device that addresses this
limitation by allowing the user to control the application
by touching the back of the device. The key to making this usable is
what we call pseudo-transparency: by overlaying an image of the user’s
hands onto the screen, we create the illusion of the mobile device
itself being semitransparent," revealed Microsoft researcher Patrick Baudisch.