Today we’re talking about the keyboard and mouse. Or rather, the extinction of the keyboard and mouse.
Even when SRI International first invented the first computer mouse in the early 1960’s, they knew there would be a very long way to go with computer interfaces before we were satisfied with our ability to connect with them.
Since then, many attempts have been made to revolutionise the way we interface with computers. Examples include Virtual Reality, game pad controllers, Wii wands, or combinations thereof. Each has had varying levels of success.
Tablets and Touchscreens
As the goal has always been the most seamless interaction between human and machine, it stands to reason that either the simplest or the most intuitive devices have fared the best.
One particularly compelling interface was touch screen technology. First seen by most on library database machines, it’s move to laptops has been not only welcomed, but the proved the start of a entirely new wave in computer design.
As you might have noticed, Tablet PCs are currently in the middle of their biggest renaissance since the Apple Newton PDA first appeared. They continue to grow lighter and more powerful with every quarter. Their appeal to low levels of computer literacy has been so strong as to force Microsoft to change its flagship operating system just so it can work with them.
The thing most interesting about these new generations of tablet PC has been the conspicuous absence of a keyboard and mouse in the majority of models (that isn’t to say they don’t make connectable add-ons or hybrid laptop/PC for these machines, but they almost seem a concession for users not yet ready to let go of their touch typing skills.) In effect, the general public is proving ready to accept their work computers becoming a flat portable tablet with no other plugs or wires.
How Will Jewellery CAD Be Affected By New Interfaces?
This brings me to my main question—how would this kind of technology affect the CAD and jewellery markets? It already has, but not to its full potential. The simplicity of the interface works well with applications where motion control but not precision actions are required (such as iRhino and Stubbs ConfigureRing). We’ve also already featured one early example of CAD software using a touch screen. Touch screens have been experimenting with various forms of “finger painting”. There has even been some exploration into bringing back touch pens to the iPad interface. Jewellery CAD software has even been designed specifically for a handheld device. However, while 2D application is showing promise already, most of these examples have mainly only really served to prove how neither the tools nor the market are quite ready for 3D precision work to be carried out on a tablet. However, the sensitivity of the technology is improving every year.
As with other similar interfaces, the market tends to accept it not only when it is practical and easy, but when it is affordable as well (this was the undoing of the haptic sculpting tools as seen in Claytools). Once the touch screen replacement for the mouse is cheap, easy and just as effective as the mouse, then we will finally see the end of the mouse and keyboard.
From many indications right now, we already have the first two. Now it’s just a matter of accuracy for touch screens. And for that, it’s only a matter of time.