The iPhone has opened everyone’s eyes to the potential of touch-based development, and although it still seems to be generally used by News Anchors or in expensive store kiosks, Microsoft’s Surface is pushing things forward too. There’s a ton of smaller-scaled development going on, too, and one example that recently popped up on the invaluable Make Magazine’s blog really caught my notice.
It all started after the designer, Alpay Kasal of Interference Incorporated, saw some glass mirrors with LCD panels built into them. According to him: “They’re meant to be the bathroom of the future, complete with news and weather to accompany your toothpaste in the morning. Sounds nifty, but it looked completely un-fun. It lacked a human touch.” So he got to work.
The amazing thing about the speed of all this development is that now, leaps like this take mere weeks and months. We’ve got LCDs embedded into mirrors? Ah, what the hell, let’s make them full touch-screens! That’s exactly what happened, and this is just a few guys messing around. I know it’s probably time to stop being so amazed by things that existed entirely in the world of films for years (touch-screens and immersive computing), but I’m still not used to it yet, and these examples just keep on coming.
Kasal captures an interesting idea here: “interacting with buttons and animation layered on your reflection and the world behind you is unlike any other touchscreen experience. This unexpectedness, to me, is precisely the allure of HCI and all things touch-capable.” I think the reason it makes it unlike any other experience is because a mirror is so permanent and universal, so old, while something like the surface of the iPhone is a wild reimagination of the telephone keypad. That’s old too, but nothing like a reflection.
We all know what a mirror is, babies get confused by them, we give them to our pet birds to play with, they’ve sort of been around as long as there’s been water on the planet. So when we walk up to a mirror and can suddenly make a bunch of starbursts and text appear on it without disturbing the kind of reflection we’re used to, it feels like a massive jump forward.
To me it’s one magic step towards those Heads-Up-Displays we’re all waiting for (well, I’m sort of waiting for one), that pair of sunglasses that displays news headlines as though they’re floating up out of that tree we’re glancing at, and does it with an effortlessness that feels like, well, a movie. On a side point, I’ve got to find a new point of comparison besides sci-fi and movies, but I doubt there is one. I keep wanting to make a reference to Back to the Future 2 here.
Check out the videos (Hi-Def on Vimeo, HQ on Youtube), plus some of their other projects.