The Mouseless Interface

Some of you would probably kill for the user interface that Tom Cruise employs in “Minority Report,” with big images displayed on transparent screens and a gestural language that interprets your body movements. My sense is that an editor could get pretty tired working that way all day, but the giant canvas and the shear flexibility and organic quality of it are very compelling, to say the least.

Until now, interfaces like that required the user to wear motion capture gloves that are seen by cameras installed in the ceiling. But Microsoft is working on an add-on for XBox 360 that uses a single camera under the monitor. I was pretty skeptical about what this could do, but an article in this month’s Scientific American made me think again. The system, called Project Natal, is remarkably sophisticated, watching your body in three dimensions at 30 fps, and matching the movements of your skeletal joints to a database of biometric data they’ve developed.

Of course, we’re not playing video games in our editing rooms. And the demos Microsoft has come up with aren’t exactly my idea of an editing interface. But games mean sales volume and volume drives down costs. I could easily imagine a more focused incarnation of this technology based on the motion of your hands working in a more confined space — say the area above your keyboard. That might get pretty interesting as a way to interact with a machine.

Sony says that its similar “Motion Control” technology will be the primary interface for the upcoming Playstation 3. And other companies are working on the idea, too, including Canesta, Hitachi, GestureTek and Oblong Industries (they were technology advisors on “Minority Report”).

Video games have been a big driver in pushing down the price of graphics processors, which in turn has helped empower our editing applications. With competition between Sony and Microsoft heating up development, this technology might work the same way. The mouse has served us well for a long time now, much longer than its developers at the Stanford Research Institute probably imagined, but it can’t be the best we can do.

Explore posts in the same categories: Avid, Media and Society, User Interface

One Comment on “The Mouseless Interface”

  1. Luke Pebler Says:

    Great post, Steve.

    I’d settle for a plug-in that shifts my sound mixer/effects editors to an iSlate sitting next to my Avid. Touch-enabled faders and other tools, without taking up any screen real estate, would be amazing.

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