Tag Archives: futurism

The Allure Of Glass Interfaces

Real Steel (2011) screen interfaces

Alan Kay once famously said, the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

“Invent” also happens to be Hewlett-Packard’s long-standing tagline (exactly how long, I’m not sure). Did you happen to spot the HP logo on Hugh Jackman’s screen above? How about Hugh’s glass phone on the right prominently sporting the Nokia logo.

Glass interfaces seem to be showing up more and more in popular sci-fi lately. And why not? They’re really cool looking, but not quite practical from an ergonomics, manufacturing or design perspective —but perfect as movie props to convey a sense of technological advancement and sophistication several years off into the future.

Let’s assume for a moment HP and Nokia are working on glass interface screens and mobile devices right now, just like the ones depicted above in the film Real Steel. Incidentally, consider the rumour Apple is developing an all-glass version of the iPod and iPhone. Awesome! I want one. Oh but wait, exactly what are the benefits of a glass screen again? —sustainable use of materials? —reduced power consumption (over a standard LCD)? —or does glass merely fulfill some tactile aesthetic desire?

Perhaps our love affair with plastic products is finally coming to an end. Plastic is of course petroleum based and could one day become cost-prohibitive as global oil production slows and environmental concerns curb its use in consumer product offerings.
Karim Rashid made a good point in Objectified when he said high-tech objects, which generally have a shelf life of eleven months, should be 100% disposable. How about laptops and mobile phones made of cardboard, sugarcane or bioplastic instead of polycarbonate.

So maybe glass does make sense.

Even Google seems to be jumping on the glass device bandwagon. Unlike their April Fools spoof last month, Gmail Tap, the Project Glass initiative we’ve been hearing about lately is a very real invention, one that could be destined for our eyeballs very soon.
If you can get past the parody videos poking fun at the concept you might feel slightly titillated—perhaps even a little creeped out—by the thought of friends and family bumping into one another when wearing these accident inducing glasses out in public. While Apple’s Siri and other voice-op UIs suggest conventional screen based interfaces may someday be on the way out (perhaps first in the mobile space), the question worth asking is, would you really wear a pair these Web connected (eye) glass devices?

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a future concept from one of the tech giants touting shiny glass augmented reality displays and wearable computer devices. Back in October 2011 Microsoft produced a highly polished video entitled Productivity Future Vision that left some people wondering if the future of interaction should be relegated to a single finger sliding ‘pictures under glass’, as Bret Victor eloquently put it in his post on the the future of interaction design.