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Why I loved Bret Victor’s rant on interaction design

December 7, 2011 at 4:50pm by Ryan O'Hagan

Recently I came across a blog post titled “A Brief Rant on The Future of Interaction Design” and the argument contained within completely floored me, changing every notion I’ve had about the devices that will surround us in the future. The post was written by Bret Victor, who once held the job title of Human-Interface Inventor for none other than Apple.

You can find the original post in its entirety here:

While certainly worth the read, here are a few of the key points I found most interesting:

Victor’s main beef is with the fact that every vision of “the future” we’ve seen so far hasn’t been very visionary at all. And there have been quite a few of them. Whether it’s IDEOs vision, Corning’s vision of 2020, or most recently (and famously) Microsoft’s Productivity Future Vision; they are all focused on technology that isn’t all that far off from what we’ve got today.

The single most disappointing thing about these visions for Victor is that they are all focused on what he describes as “pictures behind glass”. Why does the future of interaction design consistently involve just when finger swiping away, when human hands are capable of so much more? Consider what incredible tools your hands are; they can grip and manipulate things, detect texture and temperature, and hundreds of other things beyond all the touching and swiping we’ve envisioned as part of our future.

And so, Victor believes that the future of interaction design lies not with pictures behind glass and the devices that house them, but in human capabilities. Or as he so neatly puts it: “the future of interaction design is in our hands”.

As a final point, I should mention that Victor seems largely focused on how we can take advantage of all the things our hands are capable of where voice and/or gestures may not be practical.  As with technologies such as Kinect and Siri we have already seen encouraging examples for the successful adoption of less-tactile UI.

 

Ryan O'Hagan

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