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Former Apple interface expert rants on Microsoft's "Vision of the Future" video

A few weeks ago Microsoft came out with a future of productivity video proposing a very touchscreen-based future for us humans. A former human-computer interface inventor for Apple, Brett Victor, has picked apart this video in a beautifully designed "rant" on his site, essentially taking Microsoft to task for proposing a limited, iterative future in 2019 -- calling it hardly a "vision" at all.

While I enjoyed the Microsoft video, and picked it apart myself for other reasons (yeah, you're gonna get to do all this stuff is everyone is a Microsoft customer, basically), Victor makes some important points. Chief among them is summarized by this sentiment:

With an entire body at your command, do you seriously think the Future Of Interaction should be a single finger?

Microsoft seems to disavow any knowledge of our bodies and its incredible array of of sensory abilities. As Victor explains, current touchscreen tablets and smartphones are limited to an interaction he calls Pictures Under Glass. What can you do with these? Basically every interaction you have on your iPad or iPhone is simply sliding your finger around. Siri is the next step in a sense, because you're now using your voice and ears to interact with the device. But still, most interactions are now being relegated to a finger. And Microsoft's video shouldn't be called a vision for that, Victor proposes, and I agree.

Just go back and read about the death of the Courier at Microsoft. Meant to feel more like a book, that is something that will engage more than just the tip of your finger. Think about real world objects that could change, think about embedded computers that never need show you some Metro-tiled interface, but rather give feedback through simple colors, or movement or even smells or sounds. Those are truly different, truly beyond what we see today, and none of it is reflected in this rather boring Microsoft video. In the end if feels more like a selling point for their Metro UI than a real vision. I would have expected better from the company who made the Kinect -- one of the most fun, amazing gaming accessories I've ever used.

Read Brett Victor's rant, however. He does an incredible job of explaining (through images as much as words) how we should be rethinking human-computer interaction, and how Microsoft's video shouldn't be a "vision" for anyone but the most staid, conservative of thinkers. Compare the intuitive leaps captured in this video with what Alan Kay managed to whip up upon seeing a tiny prototype of a flat screen display in 1968. I won't spoil it, but it could blow your mind (let's just say he was decades ahead of his time). With our vast imaginations, we can do better as a species to envision a more amazing future, I think.

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