Gestural interfaces and generational transition

Francisco Inchauste did a great interview with MIT Technology Review about the user experience challenges of gestural interfaces. From Does Gestural Computing Break Fitts’ Law?:

I think there are a lot of usability/UX rules and laws that will come into question as we move forward into more of these experimental kinds of interfaces. I know many of them already have been retested/validated by other researchers.

A lot of newer interaction paradigms aren’t naturally intuitive as we like to think. Tapping and swiping at “pictures under glass” (or in this case, content) is always going to be a learned thing, like when we were introduced to the desktop metaphor or icons.

I think we’re in a period of generational transition when it comes to fully gestural interfaces1. Despite living on the Internet, I still struggle to remember some of the newer gestures that are popping up in iOS apps. On the other hand, my 3½-year old daughter has zero problems figuring out (and remembering) gestures, because this is the world she’s growing up in. There is no major shift in mental model needed — to her, this is just how technology works. It reminds me of something Chuck Skoda said a while ago in The touchscreens are coming:

While I fully expect the future to have keyboards and mice (or some precision pointing device), touch is already precluding the ubiquity of both in the minds of children. When the upcoming generation is running the show, we will find another absurd idea, that a computer built for human interaction will have a screen that doesn’t respond to touch.

And when that generational transition is complete, what we once thought of as “newer interaction paradigms” will simply be “the way things are”.2


  1. By the way, check out Rise, a fantastic, fully gestural alarm clock app by Francisco and the team at Simplebots. 

  2. I think I deserve a special Internet high five for not making a “the future is already here…” reference here.