Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Interview with Jeremy Wagstaff from Wall Street Journal Online

jeremy.wagstaff: Do you mind offering a general comment about the future of interfaces with regard to something like Google Earth? Your project sounds interesting, and I imagine it's the starting point for a whole new way of operating these kinds of environments

Edward: Sure, it may seem like this is a whole new way of interacting with maps but this is in fact not the case. Many of the interactions that I have tried to design over geospatial applications (e.g., Google Earth, Warcraft III) are designed to mirror the actions that people do in the physical environment. For example, studies of military command and control situations show that Brigadier Generals work together on a paper map on a table. They use multiple fingers to mark points of interest and use two hand sides to mark areas of interest.

jeremy.wagstaff: interesting...

Edward: We now have technology that can detect these unique hand postures/configurations on a digital table where people can get the benefit of panning/zooming along with real time updates. I'd envision that this kind of interaction will in fact be more similar to the way that people interact in the physical world rather than some totally new type of interaction.

One thing that is particularly interesting is support for multiple people. Current operating systems limit interaction to a single keyboard and mouse at any given time.
There are new touch technologies that can detect the touches from multiple people simultaneously. While we are currently working over existing applications (e.g., GE), researchers are working at building true multi user applications that will be able to understand multiple people are respond appropriately. For example, an annotation mode where multiple people can draw on the surface simultaneously with their own separate markers/colours

jeremy.wagstaff: that does sound cool. when might we see any of these on sale?

Edward: well, actually these surfaces are already being sold. For example, the MERL Diamond Touch is being sold through Mitsubishi Electrc Research Laboratories in Cambridge, MA. Also, Smart Technologies sells a large digital whiteboard that can support up to two touch simultaneous touches. Currently they are a bit expensive $7'000-$12'000 USD but as with all things their prices will be dropping in the near future. In fact, the price of a Smart Board has dropped significantly over the past few years and the market for large digital whiteboards has really exploded in the education sector. I'd envision that these kinds of surfaces should be affordable to the regular home consumer within 7 years. The technology is already in place, it's just a matter of having the right applications and interactions

jeremy.wagstaff: that should be cool...

jeremy.wagstaff: thanks a lot for this. can i ask a bit about your background? are you a canada native?

Edward: Yes, I was born and raised in Canada. Currently I am finishing up a doctorate at the University of Calgary. I have done internships with both Smart Technologies in Calgary, AB and Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, MA.


Sylvia said...

Thanks for writing this.

dayna said...

I think the laptops should just stay in school because they will loose connection and they can have them all the time in school so they dont get damaged or lost. :)

But anyway it realy kind to do this sort of thing :)