Playing and working differently

Anyone who complains about how difficult computers are to use should have tried it, say, 25 years ago to see just how far the industry has come. (And of course it's not yet really 'easy' - but it is tons better than the old C: prompt days.) But the best in user-interface design is clearly still on the horizon, at least judging by the experimental tech on display at this week's Human Computer Interaction conference in Paris.

Nick Barber of the IDG News Service -- a sister organization to Computerworld -- was at the show with his camera. This video shows some of the cool stuff he found there,

The highlights:

  • IllumiRoom from Microsoft Research, which essentially turns your entire living room (or wherever you're gaming) into a giant immersion tank for a 3D experience. Sorry, Xbox fans, it won't be part of the upcoming release on May 21, but there is talk of someday commercializing it. Read much more about the project in this story.
  • This one doesn't sound like quite as much fun to me: Connecting the human body to an electrode with the goal of getting zapped with electricity. The idea is to be able to 'feel' the tension in, say, a steering wheel or in an aircraft simulator. Barber, who tried out the gizmo, called it 'slightly uncomfortable.' I kept thinking about the electric fence sold to keep dogs in (or out) of a given area. Just saying.
  • Networked e-ink, to mimic the papers you have on your desk. Each display is one paper, or a series of images in a PDF, for example.
  • A way of using a commercial-grade laser cutter to design and then construct something from wood or plastic -- in this case, a small, bendable plastic book cover.
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