Give your computer the finger: Touch-screen tech arrives

Time to kiss your mouse goodbye?

Beyond touch

Pradeep Khosla, professor of electrical and computer engineering and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, says touch technology will proliferate, but not by itself. "When we talk face to face, I make eye gestures, face gestures, hand gestures, and somehow you interpret them all to understand what I am saying. I think that's where we are headed," he says. "There is room for all these things, and multimodal gestures will be the future."

Microsoft's Buxton also anticipates a fusion of different interaction technologies. "There's been this notion that less is more -- you try to get less and less stuff to reduce complexity," he says. "But there's this other view that more is actually less -- more of the right stuff in the right place, and complexity disappears."

In the office of the future, Buxton predicts, desktop computers might be much the same as they are today. "But you can just throw stuff, with the mouse or a gesture, up onto a wall or whiteboard and then work with it with your hands by touch and gesture standing up. Then you'll just pull things into your mobile and have this surface in your hand. The mobile, the wall, the desktop -- they are all suitable for different purposes."

Will that be the end of the WIMP interface? Tufts' Jacob advises users not to discard their keyboards and mice anytime soon. "They really are extremely good," he says. "WIMP almost completely dislodged the command-line interface. The WIMP interface was such a good invention that people just kind of stopped there, but I can't believe it's the end of the road forever."

Buxton agrees. "WIMP is the standard interface going back 20-plus years, and all the applications have been built around that," he says. "The challenge is, without throwing the baby out with the bath, how do we reap the benefits of these new approaches while preserving the best parts of the things that exist?"

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