Friday, November 23, 2012

Visual language for design

Chief Mazda car designer, Akira Tamatani, talks about the visual language used in the new Mazda 6 car design. Enlightening stuff, regardless of the fact it seems tightly scripted by the marketing department. Tamatani says he was inspired by the power and beauty of the horse in the design of this car. Judge for yourself.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

First 3D measurement chip developed to make mobile gestural interaction possible

Following on from my sci-fi inspired gestural interface post, I'm following up with a bit of good news concerning the development of technology that may well soon make this into a reality.

As well as the camera-based technology developed by others such as Leap based on camera technology there are advances in electrical field controlling for mobile devices too.

Overview of Leap's technology

Microchip Technology are now launching chips which help mobile devices sense movements in 3D using this electrical field technology. With an active area of only 6 inches though, this is somewhat limited. One can envisage applications in controlling mobile devices which may not need more than that distance for effective interface. Check out Mashable's article about the new chip release.

A general, corporate video from the technology developer, Ident Technology AG.

Here is the technology developer's website, Ident-Technology.

Gesture control

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Minority report User Interface (sign language for your computer)

I thought Minority Report was a great film. It's my kind of science fiction: thoughtful and set not too far in the future nor based solely on whacky gadgets that we think may one day come into existence. The technological developments which we see in Minority Report are close enough to feel achievable, such as the following interface between John and the digital files he's inspecting.

Imagine my surprise when visiting the Maritime museum in Cherbourg (Cité de la mer) when I get to have a play with such an interface! It was a little cranky as it took a bit of work to stay still enough within the active zone but it was perfectly usable.

Plink, plink...
Not like that Daddy, like this!

Furthermore when checking out more of these types of interfaces online I see that there are some amazing new advancements with gestural recognition and I have included a video of 'kinect' below controlling Windows 7.

The real impact of this technology will come when the interface can be controlled with very subtle gestures rather than the big pointy and hovering movements we see in the video. The above video demonstrates a useful application of current gestural recognition but I see this developing more into a discreet sign language. It will become less of a series of large gestures you need to learn (much like apple track pad and mouse interfaces) and more akin to a sign language you'll need to take up in order to communicate with your computer. This will enable you to have much more freedom and depth of communication.

Once these gestures become so small and well defined and set into a language 'structure' then we will see the mouse becoming redundant.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Tablet interface difficult for creating artwork but good for sketching

Tablets are great aren't they? Portable, shiny and lovely. But are they any good at content creation? This BBCnews article (Creating art on tablets remains a work in progress) outlines the pitfalls of creating art on an ipad or tablet and reflects my frustration at illustrating directly onto the tablet screen.

I found that sketching wasn't a problem and indeed some apps enhance the dynamic feel by but trying to get anything close to what you intend takes some working out. Then again most media aren't that immediate; it takes time to learn how to manipulate images, textures and colours be it a new type of painting process or an illustration software. I suppose this is the crux of the painting on a tablet is difficult problem: we expect it to be easy because of the interface. But the friction on the tablet and the absence of any pressure sensitivity means you have to work at it to get results. Having said that plenty of people have! Including, of course, the most famous exponent of tablet art, Mr. Hockney.

Belgian Design at Atomium: Something for the weekend?

Intersections 2 Exhibition at the Atomium, Brussels.

AtomiumDespite being hugely into design I'm not usually a great fan of design exhibitions. Such shows can be a parade of the pretty where they present design as being that which is only involved in the aesthetic or to use a phrase clients have used to me in the past: "tarts things up a bit". (If you're an industrial designer you may have heard the term, "to paint it yellow"…!)

The Intersections 2 Exhibition at the Atomium in Brussels, however, shows a real kind of design. Thoughtful and useful design. Design that affects people's lives in a positive way and leaves them better off after the interaction. That's what design is for me. Sometimes I think of design as more of a thought process than an illustration process (which I probably did when I was younger).

The show highlights three Belgian companies with an emphasis on 3D work from across the spectrum. Achilles Design is a product, brand and service agency in Mechelen, Lucile Soufflet showed some interesting public furniture work and Diane Steverlynck's work focuses on "materials and structures and their influence on the use and identity of everyday objects".

Achilles Design, Lucile Soufflet, Diane Steverlynck

And what better way to finish off an evening celebrating great Belgian institutions than with a great Belgian institution of fritjes, bier en balletjes (Frituur Charles)..