Since the advent of the personal computer, two things have consistently remained as part of the framework: the keyboard and the mouse as the main input devices.
While the keyboard is going to have to be around for a while longer, at least until voice recognition technology goes up a few more notches, people have consistently been coming up with ways to get rid of the old fashioned mouse. It has gone wireless and comes in many shapes and sizes but the single cursor, driven by a little two three or five button piece of plastic has been the core way of interfacing with the pc since the beginning. While modern touchscreen devices are nice, they are bit of a pain to use in real life for complex interfacing with a modern desktop because your hands just get in the way of what you need to see.
On one of my usual “Stumbles” across the net, I came across a link to a very interesting concept called 10GUI.
Put simply, it is an idea to create a new computer interface by mixing and matching an “Ipod” style multitouch interface with current mousepad technology. What the creator is proposing is to remove the multi-touch interface from the screen (Mousepad like) and place it below the keyboard but keeping it on a similar scale to the size of the screen. This will allow many more types of gestures using all ten fingers to zoom, open and close windows, switch between applications etc. Instead of the current single cursor point on the screen, you would have up to ten cursors, pinching to zoom in on a drawing for instance, spreading fingers to zoom out etc. The creator has also come up with proposals for a new “Desktop” and “File Manager” and also a proposal for dealing with mulitple open windows (I’m not too impressed with this though, a 3d interface similar to “Cooliris” would be better in my opinion, have a look a the video below to see)
It looks like being a very interesting application, but one of the problems already being foreseen by the creator himself is the nasty habit of some of the current designers of multi touch technology (Apple et al) to attempt to register patents on “Gestures”, (a daft notion in my opinion, how can you patent a gesture?) but there ya go, sense never came into the equation when patents are being fought for.
Minority Report type screen interfaces are not too far away.