Designing an evocative item… (part 2)

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Just to recap, the TUI assignment requires the design of an evocative items. Thus far, all I can come up with is kitschy items. So I went back to the drawing board. In my short travel back to the drawing board, I discussed this issue with my friend.

When I discussed the assignment, she thought of it as one to design something functional or redesign something we use on a day-to-day basis. As an example, she expressed her severe dislike of mice and track-pads. My friend went on to suggest that I should design the “perfect mouse.”

This got me thinking about the interaction of moving a pointer and what it is to work at a desktop machine. As I’m sure many others feel, the current means of controlling the “mouse” or simply navigating a GUI are not at all effective. Be you someone who has a difficult time maneuvering a traditional mouse due to poor eyesight or a motor impairment, or simply from long days of maneuvering a mouse, resulting in potential physical ailments or you simply hate having to move your hands from the keys just to select an item on an application’s menu (otherwise, difficult to access via a keyboard shortcut). All these reasons and more suggest that the mouse paradigm might need a looking into.

At this time, technology has a current favorite and that is touch. After the iPhone, everything started to become touch. From other phones that took on the touch-based interaction, the first to really take it on was Palm, to printers with tiny, barely useful, touch screens. I for one, am in love with touch as well. I love the direct manipulation aspect of it. I love the tangibles that can be involved in touch-based interactions. I love the collaborations that can spark where there would be none at a typical computer.

I would like to argue, however, that the desktop paradigm is not dead. Although touch screens have gotten more popular, useful, and slightly affordable; anyone who wants to create something through technology will likely do it via a laptop or desktop, not their touch-screen phone or a table-top interface. This brings me to a potentially new mouse/track-pad design.

An image of a keyboard annotated to explain that each key in the QWERTY keyboard should be a track-pad instead of using a mouse or individual and separate track-pad.

Select to view annotated image

Apple recently cam out with a track-pad that could be for those who did not like the magic mouse. The track-pad is a novel idea but it does not consider the “home” of a users hands at a computer, at the keyboard. The eraser mouse, which goes right in the middle of the keyboard, was meant to address this issue but it also has a slight mapping issue wherein there is a large rectangle to navigate with a small dot to move. What is more difficult, is that the buttons for said navigational tool, if they exist as not all laptops provide these buttons, are under the space bar, beyond the keyboard and work differently than the typical track-pad does.

Therefore, I argue that a possible solution to our constant movement from home to mouse/track-pad/eraser-mouse could be resolved by making each keyboard surface a track-pad. By doing so, a user could mouse their mouse whenever they wanted without moving from the home keys and would not suffer nearly as much from wrist fatigue. If the user moved along one key or several keys, the trajectory could be calculated as the directional vector by averaging all the directional vectors for each finger.

I discussed this design with my friend and she suggested distinguishing keys for movement. I think this might be useful, but some might prefer a greater range of movement. This is why the keyboard track-pads should be customizable. If the user only wanted the keys Q,W,O, and P to be their track-pad keys, they could.

For selection, the buttons designed for the eraser-mouse would work. Although, in the design sketch above, I chose to make the eraser-mouse a button that would lay right in the middle of the keyboard. This might be a good alternative, but for actual use, there would need to be two, one in the center of each half of the keyboard for left and right-click.

This was one of the things I designed for the evocative design assignment, it just was not something easily or nicely modeled in 3-D.

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