Posted by Scott

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These days there seems to be a never-ending stream of “next-generation” graphical user interfaces being by trotted out by experts. Unfortunately for us, most seem to be fundamentally flawed in some way or another. They’re usually too expensive, ergonomically unsound, or otherwise impractical for whatever reason. I’ve worked with multi-touch systems before and while novel, they never seem to live up to the promise of “mouse-killer”. Sure, Microsoft’s multi-touch tables might make ordering drinks all super futuristic at some point, but no one wants to use Photoshop for 8 hours on a Ms. Pacman table. It seems the humble mouse — that tired paradigm of human-machine interaction we’ve been shackled to for decades — isn’t going down so easily.

There is hope though. Today I saw a video outlining 10/GUI, a new kind of graphical user interface that “aims to bridge this gap by rethinking the desktop to leverage technology in an intuitive and powerful way.” Whether or not it can attain that lofty goal is anyone’s guess. What really struck me about this particular system was the pragmatism exhibited by it’s developers. They’ve mixed in a healthy dose of innovation with tried-and-true familiarity to come up with a very compelling compromise that has me wanting to see more. As a musician and graphic designer I wonder if a system like this could ever address all of my needs, but I suppose I’d have to get my hands on it to really know. The main problem with envisioning the potential success of a new interface like this is that the current software we all use was created for the mouse. It’s easy to dismiss 10/GUI when comparing it to how I am accustomed to interacting with my computer, but if the applications I use were rewritten with an interface like this in mind, who knows how powerful it might be.

At any rate, the video is worth a watch, it’s an exciting proposition and perhaps a glimpse of what’s in store down the road. The actual demo beings around the half-way point. Video

What do you think? When, if ever, will we see any of these next-gen interfaces in our workflow? Finally, if something like this was available now, would you use it? Sound off in the comments

Via Ignore The Code | Official 10/GUI site

27 Comments Leave A Comment


Steve says:

October 14, 2009 at 5:41 am

I love the concept, and have also tried several touch/ pen interfaces. My hesitancy still lies in the fact that after about 2 cups of coffee, my fingers get shaky. For me, the beauty of the mouse is still that you don’t have to rely on your fingers to pinpoint. Maybe if there was some element of hand harness? Sounds tacky, but if there was something that provided a little resistance, it may not be as bad.


mc hammond says:

October 14, 2009 at 6:31 am

it’d be nice to see the keyboard built into the touch. in ghost in the shell there was a robot typing on a flat sheet with illuminated key areas, and there were 5 little fingers coming out of its finger tips to speed up typing. perhaps a hot spot to light up those keyboard regions?

also since we’re talking about crystals and light and speed — why not make the computer/monitor a thin sheet of overlay that can be rolled up/out? it’s also kinda my dream to have a concave screen to maximize desktop real estate — not to mention it would create an area that light could triangulate at, making 3d possible.

ah, but that’s the future…what’s happening now again?


Tom says:

October 14, 2009 at 6:38 am

Multitouch births a whole new set of fatigue issues as well as a major learning curve, but as we all know, this conversion won’t happen over night. If people are developing carpel tunnel from the hand/mouse interaction, imagine what one could incur while moving all ten fingers for eight (+) hours.

This is still one of the better concepts I’ve seen though, well thought out.


Joshua Vaughan says:

October 14, 2009 at 6:42 am

I switched over from a mouse to an intuous 4. Not exactly a paradigm shift, but subtly different, and certainly nice for Photoshop/Design work in general (Customizable buttons FTW).

I think a lot of the ideas presented here are actually pretty interesting (the approach to gesturing, reconfiguring the overall interface), but I think this is all concept no execution. Good concept, but I think anyone trying bat this around and push it forward would need to creating a good functional prototype of the hardware first.

The most interesting thing with multitouch is the capacity for context. But I don’t think we have even begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible there.


Brian Ward says:

October 14, 2009 at 6:45 am

I was intrigued by the idea of app windows being more visually organized. Wacom has already started selling multi-touch tablets, so that technology is available. I recently switched from mouse to tablet (Intuos 3) and I instantly felt a desire for multi-touch interactivity a la iPhone.


jonathan says:

October 14, 2009 at 6:47 am

Interesting concept, but IMO this doesn’t change much. You have the ability to use all your fingers and you have a more organized interface.

Plus, how would something like this translate to the masses? I can see frustration of people trying to master these 2-finger pinch and 4-finger slide techniques.


Fred Epner says:

October 14, 2009 at 7:30 am

i know a lot of people who dont even use key shortcuts to copy and paste.
having more subtle nuances to be able to more quickly move through your apps is col, but only certain people use it to its potential


edi says:

October 14, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Well I see the same old mess but with a linear approach, instead of cmmd+tab or expose there is a zoom out thing, the video make me feel a little anxious, it feels all messy, i don’t know if its just me, just my personal opinion, the finger tablet is a good idea, but again, maybe it is just like in real life, if we are organized, you would be organized also in your virtual space, let us have a little personality, hehe.


Brad says:

October 14, 2009 at 2:00 pm

I think it ignores the fact that that we have opposable thumbs, meant to work with three dimensional objects. I think one reason the mouse has lasted is because it’s a physical object and provides natural tactile feedback. We need to think about how are hands are designed to work, rather than forcing them into new situations. Sort of like how dials, switches and focus rings will always be better than menu systems on cameras.


Bas says:

October 14, 2009 at 2:30 pm

The problem I’m seeing is that most consumers won’t adapt, so it will be very hard to push this through. The mouse too takes time to get accustomed to, but it has become so commonplace that it seems normal. If I see how much effort it takes for many to switch from IE to a different browser, I don’t think this will ever radically change. Take for instance the Dvorak keyboard layout: it’s better, but once Qwerty was commonplace, no one ever switched back. Of course there’s the iPhone, with it’s pretty radical interface shift, but this is a product on it’s own. A personal computer still needs a far more complex operating system and a diverse choice of hardware.


d says:

October 14, 2009 at 3:08 pm

HA, i saw this video earlier today and thought “i could see this being on an iso50 post. lo and behold, it already is when i come check later.

this is just a prototype, i know, but i’m not too sold on the entire “linear app sorting” interface. personally i think it should be more of a grid, and each app has it’s own line, with each instance (ie. multiple word documents open) filling out the lines.

the user should have the option then, of going in locally and existing only in one app, or zooming out to all apps. in addition, they should be able to sort the app lines horizontally (with instances filling out vertically) or vertically (with instances filling out horizontally).

i would also like to see coherent options among all apps for tabbed/ split screen display modes.

one thing that i’m on the fence about, and can be argued either way, is the fact that we have to adapt to each program’s own unique user interface. i think things could be simplified a lot by adding sort of universal controls or menus (to a certain depth only… otherwise programs would lose their unique functionality)


Mike says:

October 14, 2009 at 3:14 pm

My problem with this is that the multi-touch aspect of the interface is used up entirely by the operating system (to switch windows, pinch and zoom). The explanation of multi-touch at the beginning of the video highlights its advantages by moving multiple sliders at once. However, under the proposed system using multiple fingers is reserved, leaving no room for software developers to incorporate multi-touch themselves. If you’re going to build a big interface just for controlling the desktop, it seems like a jog wheel and buttons might be better.


michael j. says:

October 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Looks like it has a lot of potential, I’d say as a designer you’d still need a Wacom-like pen in addition…I can’t imagine zooming up on a raster image 1600% and all I have to tighten an edge up are my fingers. But I think it could be great for a lot of the normal tasks…switching between applications, surfing the web, etc.


NAVIS says:

October 15, 2009 at 3:08 am

Looks pretty rad and will be cool to see the progress of this technology but honestly… it just looks more complicated. Like others have said, there seems to be a bit of a learning curve. I love Expose on my Mac. Not sure how you can simplify that. I’m sure there is a way but this just seems to be a bit much. At the beginning of the video it sounded great but as the video played out… I felt very turned off by it.

Ultimately, I’d like to be able to crawl into my monitor and warp to do my searches on Planet Google.


Don G. says:

October 15, 2009 at 4:44 am

I think the overall concept of multitouch is absolutely going to shake things up in the (near) future. Apple has partly proven this with their 2-finger approach on the iPhone and trackpads.

But. I like my windows scattered around the desktop(s), so why try to change that? Why can’t I use the same type multitouch commandos to greatly enhance my control over my current OS? I don’t want your engineer-approach to computing.

So, I think the winning formula won’t try to enforce a new GUI on you, but rather empower your existing OS. Multitouch FTW!


ottluuk says:

October 15, 2009 at 5:47 am

As much as I love the multitouch features on my shiny little MacBook, I don’t think juggling a million windows around however elegantly could help anyone’s workflow.

Working with a ton of open apps just divides your attention to the point where you lose productivity compared to doing everything one by one. When I really need to get something done, I log out of chat, kill the twitter app, minimize Mail and when possible, use the fullscreen option of the App that I need. Switching windows and issuing menu commands is already fast enough. it’s the brain that lags behind. Without concentration, all I produce is crap anyway.

These hyper-multitouch ideas won’t get flight before they become implemented inside a range of apps (where you do the actual work) and work consistently across them.

Until then, I will be happy to remain rather keyboard-centric (I don’t do much drawing)


Allen says:

October 15, 2009 at 11:26 am

The beginning of this presentation addresses all of the issues that are normally ignored by mouse replacement bids. Great job there.

However, I don’t see how this application/window juggling is any more efficient than tabbing through. It actually seems MORE tedious. The finger number designations go down a road of increasing limitation that just doesn’t align with intuition. I am not looking for a way to manage windows faster – I think most of us heavy users have that down.

However, the fingers on the desktop on a pad scenario answers so many problems that always come to mind when touch screen comes up in the conversation.

I’d also like to see electric pulse shape switching (what’s the proper term for this – it’s where a current passes through a medium, changing the shape?) to toggle the surface texture between small depressions or bumps for keyboard and perfectly flat for full-screen manipulation.

I must add that I think MODO would be a mind-blowing design experience with this interface.


Bryan says:

October 15, 2009 at 11:52 am

I can see this being of great workflow benefit in applications that attempt to replicate interfaces that already exist in the real world (like a mixing console). But for visual arts and graphic design, I’m not so sure. As has been mentioned, the mouse gives stability. Unless I can convince my clients that a finger-painting style is what best represents their company’s image, I’m not sure it works for me in graphic applications. I do, however, think that as a system for interfacing the OS, the multi-touch pad will be better. Though by the time it begins to gain acceptance I’m wondering how far along holographic light will have come, not only as a means of displaying information but as a means of containing information.


Flavio says:

October 31, 2009 at 9:06 am

i’m not a touch fanatic too, but i often desire to have a trackpad near the spacebar so i like the idea of the great touch area, btw it doesn’t look functional, i’m now accustomed to OSX but… sometime having apps at fullscreen is nice, here they don’t demonstrate that. The feeling it gives me is of oppression. I feel a better direction would be the multi-desktop approach, making it a dynamic instance of the workspace, tying every app to a new desktop.

About the graphic editor you obviously are worried about, i think it wouldn’t be difficult to implement also a wacom-like tech so we would use a pen for precision tasks.
In the coming years we’ll also have better writing recognition sw, so it would be possible to use that as an input. we’re faster with a keyb but that could be intersting in given environments (taking notes at a school lesson with a current laptop is a nightmare), and finally signing a pdf invoice could be done without printing anything and scanning it back ;)