Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 27, 2012 8:13 PM

A World With No Keyboard And No Mouse

How's that user experience working out for you?

I often ridicule the masses (I know, that's very snide of me). When computers were first introduced the mantra was that, "screens are not easy to read or work on." Forget the fact that many dismissed the power of a mobile phone ("is your life that important that you need to make calls when you're not at home or at the office?"), and let's not forget the many people who would often say, "I could never type with my thumbs." To this day, there are still people who don't see the value in platforms like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter (and let's not even get started with things like Google+, tumblr or Pinterest). You probably know somebody who has not switched over to an iPhone or Android device because they think that they can't type on glass.

It's all about to change again... it's all about to get even more complicated.

There has been a tonnage of content produced to analyze the value of Siri (the voice-initiated personal assistant that was introduced with Apple's iPhone 4S). Along with Siri comes a nascent and emerging new way for people to navigate and engage with content: the voice. That's not all. While our kids were futzing around with their Nintendo wii or Xbox Kinect, we may have missed another way to navigate and engage with content: kinetics (or natural gestures).

RIP: Keyboard and mouse?

Can you imagine a day and age when you will not use a mouse or a keyboard? A day when true voice recognition lives and when you want something, you don't even have to touch it (which is all the rave now), but simply use natural gestures to move, navigate and manipulate the things you want to see and use? It's one of those strange things that doesn't quite feel like science fiction anymore but lies on the fringe of our understanding. Voice and kinetic will quickly become the natural way to get things done.

For shame.

Several years ago, I made the attempt to use voice recognition software. It brought me to a strange conclusion: speaking my thoughts is not the same as writing my thoughts down with a pen and paper, and writing my thoughts down with a pen and paper is not the same as typing. Strange but true. As a music journalist, I used to write four CD reviews weekly (remember CDS?). One week, I decided to test this theory, so I wrote one review via voice dictation, one by hand and one on the computer. The result? The flow and context was all off. Because my primary tool for writing for the computer, it was the only review that truly "sounded" like me in a natural way.

What this means for navigation.

As we adjust to a touch world (and, let's not kid ourselves, touching a screen is still a little strange and intimidating for many), we are morphing our human behavior. I'm the first to admit that switching from a BlackBerry to an iPhone has made my emails more succinct and to the point (I think expressing myself on Twitter has added to this as well). Has this made me less communicative or clear? Doubtful, but it has fundamentally changed my communication patterns. As voice and kinetic navigation and usability become a much more predominant force (and let's not kid ourselves, it will), it feels to me like it will change the way brands can interact with consumers (and vice-versa). Pushing that notion further, it seems plausible that the keyboard as we know it today could well become a specialty tool relegated to those who feel like it's the best way for them to communicate in a text-based form (imagine that: a keyboard as a specialty item or a piece of nostalgia). When our daily interactions change so dramatically, it becomes abundantly clear that marketing as we know it will go through a seismic shift in terms of usability, functionality, strategy and creativity. Right down to its core.

Just what we needed: another revolution... and more disruption. What's your take?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Patrick Gant
    Mitch Joel

    It is a little strange, now that you mention it. Case in point: when I glanced at your title I thought to myself "hey great idea." Only it was a moment later when I realized "hey, waaaaaiiiit a minute...I do that every day on my iPad."

    Things feel a little strange when they're new, but if the design is intuitive enough, it's not long before we forget altogether that we're doing something that used to be foreign.

    I suspect the same was true for writers who made the transition from typewriter to word-processor back in the 80s and 90s. Your thinking changes and so does your product. That said, I happen to like the act of writing and of parsing the words as I hammer them out.

    As much as I think Siri is a neat idea in many ways, I don't think it will fully replace the keyboard. But it will make it a more specialized tool.

    Reply
  • Posted by Robin Pepper
    Mitch Joel

    Yup...I agree - for navigation the keyboard and mouse are a thing of the past. NFC (near field communication) will move us even even further away from these means of navigating to what we want. But to communicate...I mean the transfer of ideas, thoughts, passions through words composed on a keyboard...that for me, at least, won't change. And yes I confess I can't type on glass. Sure I can touch letters on glass but the thought process doesn't flow the same as that tactile feel of the keyboard. Doesn't matter if I'm thumbing it or "qwertying" it, nothing works better than that big bold keyboard. That's right...thumbed this on my Blackberry Bold. Long live the keyboard!

    Reply
  • Posted by Kyle McGuffin
    Mitch Joel

    Next stop Neuro! Not only do we not touch all we do is THINK it and the technology follows along. The technology continuum evolves. Exciting times ahead! Thanks Mitch!

    Reply
  • Posted by Diane
    Mitch Joel

    Great post! Incidently, earlier this evening, I had to access my desktop to retrieve an older email and realized that I had not been there in close to à month. Yet, my emails have never been so well attended...

    For me too, the iPhone changed my use of email where my blackBerry failed. I traded the feature rich mail editor of my desktop for convenience. Aside from the occasional archive retrieval, I can't even think of a feature that I miss.

    Thanks to the touch screen and the polyvence pf my iPhone, desktop based email access has become for me a specialty item. The keyboard may be not too far down the line...

    Reply
  • Posted by Larry Swanson
    Mitch Joel

    I'm very excited about the arrival of new haptic and kinetic interfaces. I have many times wished for computer interfaces that were more attuned to natural human behaviors. In my work as a massage therapist, I see people every day suffering from "mouse shoulder," "computer neck," and other maladies brought on my these silly gadgets we are forced to use to put info into our computers. Really looking forward to the day when we can just wave our hands or whisper commands into thin air.

    Reply
    • Hopefully, these technologies and advancements can also level the playing field in terms of people with disabilities or special needs as well. This equalization would be not only welcomed but truly an advancement for humanity.

      Reply
  • Posted by Robin Pepper
    Mitch Joel

    K....putting it in my calendar right now...get back to Mitch Joel two years hence, that's Jan 29th ish 2014... to see if I still prefer a keyboard to other means of input on my BB or whatever device I have. Let's make it interesting...bet you a bottle of Grand Marnier the keyboard makes a come back AND the Blackberry does too. That's one thing I'm sure of. Grand Marnier will still be around. BET?

    Reply
    • Let's go for it, but I don't drink, so I can give you a bottle if you win. If I win, you xan make a donation to the Montreal Children's Hospital. Let's also clarify the bet: in two years time, you're going to be typing on glass and you will be used to it. Cool?

      Reply
      • Posted by Robin Pepper
        Mitch Joel

        Very cool. Taking example from you, if I win you can make a donation to Kingston Food Bank.

        Reply
  • McLuhan once said media were nothing but extensions of Man. Understanding keyboards, mice and screens as media themselves, it seems the next logical step to improve those interfaces and make them ever more integrated with our organic selves (even if it means the end of some media to give place to others).

    Reply
  • Posted by Francis
    Mitch Joel

    Voice recognition era I think will come to stay in the information age. There are JavaScript, C++ software that can easily detect your voice.

    But I think the touch pad, screen, mouse etcetera will still have to stay to balance issues.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kerry Rego
    Mitch Joel

    I've been talking about the world with no mouse since the iPhone came out. I think one application not mentioned here will be retina tracking. For those that have no voice or ability to type, eye movements may be a valid way to navigate.

    Reply
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