Minority Report Interface is Here: g-Speak

I’m a huge fan of Phillip K. Dick and really thought that the adaptation of Minority Report to the big screen was an excellent movie. Tom Cruise starred in it, but many people remember the technology depicted in the movie more than the story itself, or so it seems when talking to friends.

The retina scanning, computer vision, highly targeted ads and sounds, jetpacks, sick-sticks, mag-lev track vehicles and of course the beautiful larger than life gestural interface that they used for piecing together the clues and crimescenes were great science fiction technology. Useful, seemingly unattainable and of course super sexy! Remember this:

Minority Report's Gestural Computer Interface

Well, that style of computing is a little bit closer to reality now, thanks to Oblong’s g-Speak. Take a look and prepare to be jealous of these guys:

g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

When will something like this be in your home? Well, it might be a while. But tradeshows/exhibits could get this very soon, it seems, judging by the overall completeness of the design. Beyond that, large scale systems, like logistics, medical imaging or perhaps spatial/environmental design would probably benefit most from easy visualization/manipulation as seen in g-Speak. There is a little more information at engadget on this, and I found a pretty useful bit of information at Manual Override.

It’s a brave new world! Let’s just hope we don’t get pre-crime departments along with this. ;-)

The Aurora Interface: How It Will Be?

Though many of you may have seen this already, I would be remiss in not showing the rest of the readers here this amazing new interface concept from Adaptive Path and The Mozilla Labs.

Aurora (Part 1) from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

This video was released a couple of weeks ago and represents some key concepts that are sure to come to fruition sooner rather than later. The fact that the browser serves as the primary user interface that is interacted with in the system is pretty similar to how many users are just now working with their PCs today. This trend is sure to continue with the move towards RIA and other semi connected technology. Many people simply don’t need any app that can’t be done as well or even better online than as a desktop binary app.

In addition to this basic use case, there is a significant interface advancement depicted in the video worth noting. The 3D spacial view shown is like Apple’s Time Machine but for all content, contacts and communications that have taken place in the user’s recent history. I want this now! I frequently use the “recent items” menu for apps, files, iChat conversations and server connections. The spacial view’s clustering functionality is a “stack”-like way of grouping content and other interactions by their subject matter and is so very very needed. I currently have a desktop with about 30-40 files and folders containing more content, some of them 3-4 levels deep with associated. All of these are related in some way to a project or series of otherdocuments I have in my user Documents directory… you can imagine how overgrown this gets from time to time. With a loose, time-based virtual association like this, the arbitrary location of the files is removed from your view, supplanting the need for spatial orientation with something more compatible with how your memory works.

Again, if you haven’t dug into the blog posts by the Adaptive Path team and you fancy yourself interested in UI design, you owe it to yourself to take a couple hours to read this series of posts. Is this how it will be? How far is this type of UI off in the future? Well, if you look back to Sun’s excellent StarFire concept, which I blogged about here, some things in it may never happen. It certainly doesn’t hurt to entertain the thoughts of how it could be, though.

The Effects of ECMAScript 4′s Abandonment on Pedagogy of Rich Media Development Languages

The Oslo meeting that determined that ECMAScript 4 will not be the next generation of JavaScript, has been blogged extensively lately. Grant Skinner, Mike Chambers, John Resig, Hank Williams, and Ryan Stewart have all weighed in on this along with Dave McAllister on the Open at Adobe team. A good lengthy description on the groups decision is here in a letter to the Es4 list. It appears the namespaces and packages features of ECMAScript 4, among others were not palatable to a few members on the board, so the more advanced spec of ECMAScript 4 is being shelved to make way for the more incremental update of ECMAScript 3.1 instead. You can get the nitty gritty details on that in this Google Spreadsheet.

While this is not a big deal for the future of Flash as a viable and valuable development platform in professional circles (Adobe has already stating they will not backpedal and cutback on AS3 or AS4′s current or future features because of this decision), this does affect academia and even ongoing professional development from a pedagogical standpoint, effectively cutting off Actionscript 3 as a natural progression/extension of client side scripting to teach students and to serve as a bridge to higher level languages and vice versa. ECMA Script 4 simply served as a better path to bring students into OOP and high-level languages. The change is subtle, no doubt. It does, however, water down the linkage between the languages in a school curriculum. This does open the door for Processing.org’s Applet Development tool, Processing, to serve as a better fit for this purpose in a development learning progression. What do other instructors out think on this? I’d like to hear it.

Furthermore, this exchange serves as yet another opening salvo in browser wars 2.0. With no clear path to HTML5, the next XHTML spec still in limbo, and no real uptake by browser developers on CSS3, it’s only fitting that the behavioral layer’s future get neutered in order to serve MS and stagnate the web again. Adobe and Mozilla already had functional VMs that would run ECMA script 4, so it seems apparent to many out there that this is a stonewalling on MS’s part to buy time to build a new engine, or block ECMAScript’s advancement in general. It looks like that the W3C may very well need to create another new task force (ala The Dreamweaver TaskForce) to get things moving before they get locked up again like in 1999.

This “Harmony”, as the compromise seems to have been called, looks to be more of a placation to me.

Announcing My Upcoming Presentation: Developers Are From Mars, Designers Are From Venus

cd2 is a new user group in the Chicago area that is focused on nurturing the collaboration between designers & developers and the importance of the user experience. I’m proud to be speaking at their next gathering on September 3rd. From the site:

Designers Are From Venus, Developers Are From Mars
Wheres the love? Well, often when two coworkers from very different backgrounds are expected to work together, it can be tough to find. Designers and developers can indeed get along with a little foresight on process and understanding of the obstacles along the projects path. Join Chad Udell in discovering some of those key differences and learn how to overcome them in order to create a blissful state of collaboration.

You can check out the site for the rest of the details here. Many thanks to the people at CD2UG for inviting me to speak to the rest of the members. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I encourage you to visit their site and RSVP.

Learn Flex in a Week: Training Videos Posted by The Adobe Flex Team

If you are familiar with Actionscript 3 and XML/XHTML/CSS learning Flex should come pretty naturally to you, that said, the Adobe Flex Development team has put together a series of videos that look to aid that considerably. Not only would training like this typically cost at least a couple hundred dollars if purchased from a company like Total Training, you would also need to play them on DVDs or pop them in your computer. These videos play nicely in a BrightCove player and can be gone through at your own pace. For my students reading this… Go through these tutorials! You’ll need it for building mashups!

Design By Committee Strikes Again.

This unfortunately happens all too often. Watch and laugh, or maybe weep openly. I did a bit of both.

The Missing Wrench: Adobe’s Easy Flash Editor

This seems like a recurring topic for me. The lament of the modern Flash Designer/Developer. The quandary is a deep one with no easy answer. Has Adobe’s near completion of Macromedia’s vision for Flash as a modern, powerful virtual machine robust enough for application development left the designer in the dust? Where is the missing wrench in the Flash designer’s toolbox?


Adobe MAX North America 2008 Schedule Posted Wow!

Lots of great sessions listed there. Looking forward to this one. I attended last year’s MAX in Chicago, since it was basically in the neighborhood. I’m going to do what I can to make it out to San Francisco for this one. I haven’t been to the West Coast at all for a couple years, so this will be a lot of fun. Some great sessions from the Adobe XD team, Mario Klingemann, Michael Labriola, Scott Fegette, Robert Reinhardt, Mark Niemann-Ross and Kevin Goldsmith all caught my eye on initial glance, but I’m sure once it comes time to set my schedule, I will have a hard time choosing which sessions to attend. I like the fact that they seem to turning a little more focus back to the designer, and I’m sure that tools like Thermo are really contributing to that shift. It’s great to have the stuff that makes the guts work well (Actionscript 3, MXML, etc.), but if the applications and sites we produce don’t look or feel great, they will just end up as unusable software. What’s worse than that?

Are you attending MAX? What sessions are you looking forward to?

What’s All the HubBub? Roughly Drafted Article on SproutCore… Some Key Points to Consider

Many tech pundits and non developers are all a-Twitter over the article over at RoughlyDrafted. It’s understandable. At a 10,000 foot view, it’s another player in the RIA marketplace. Cool! However, let’s not all start high five-ing ourselves just yet. A pundit’s view is not shard by clients and developers. Of course, when a company like Apple, Adobe or Microsoft puts its’ weight behind a technology or development platform, it’s worthwhile investigating. (more…)

Event Recap: RIAPalooza – Chicago, May 30th-31st, 2008

My coworker Mark Tovey and I got back from a 1.5 day event in Chicago, RIAPalooza. (For the record I pronounce it “arr eye ay”, not “reeyah”) He’s already written his recap. I’ll give it my shot here.

The event’s site described the event as such:

RIApalooza promises a platform agnostic and “PowerPoint-Free” zone, which means we are going to forgo the boring marketing pitches in favor of talking technology. RIApalooza is about creating Rich Internet Applications; how to go about building them and what is being built.

Overall, it delivered as promised, the informal, community feeling was definitely there. The Friday night session and the QA that followed it were lively and really quite good. I’ll give a brief overview of each session. (more…)

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