Yesterday I discovered Cooliris, which might just be the coolest thing I have ever seen. It’s an extension for browsers (Chrome, IE, Firefox and Safari) that lets you see all the images in a virtual wall. It is absolutely incredible.
I love Cooliris because it is so neat. But there is more to it. We have talked quite a bit about accelerating technology, and that is a powerful force in our lives. Yet there is another piece of the puzzle that most people are totally unaware of: how we interact with technology.
What does Cooliris teach us about how to interact with technology?
It shows us that we can take a simple idea, like a bunch of images and arrange them in a way that makes sense to human beings. On first glance, it may seem the same as a google image search with all the images dieplayed in a web page. But I think there is a massive difference.
When we see the images presented on a virtual wall in 3D, it allows our mind to process the images differently. Since they are in 3 dimensions, they seem more real. We can feel the vastness of the room. It connects with a different part of our mind. It’s like a car switching gears: it may seem like a detail, but it is actually very important.
What is so wonderful about Cooliris is that it brings up new questions that 99.99% of people have never thought of. Like,
How can we represent information in a way that makes it more useful, easier to understand, or more enjoyable to look at?
There is one group of people who have spent a large amount of time and had great success with questions about human interaction: the designers at Apple. The Macintosh operating system was far easier to use than Windows (at least until Windows 95). The iPod is the definitive personal music player, and commands a high premium over other music players. Apple is so great at identifying what makes a machine easy to use that I think it is one of the company’s most valuable assets.
Imagine how wonderful and exciting everything in our lives would be if it were presented to us in a progressive, fascinating method like Cooliris? Imagine how much more interesting PowerPoint presentations could be if they integrate visual effects in 3D. No more showing off your font collection and clip art!
Computers interaction methods are a good example of things that have stopped evolving, even as computers evolve faster than ever. Keyboards and mice have not changed very much in decades. Personally, I am looking forward to replacing my mouse with a system that can tell where I am looking. Then you just need to look where you want to click, and blink.
Sound silly? The technology is already here. As I reported last year, products that read our mind are just around the corner. Soon keyboards and mice will disappear altogether, and we will control computers and gadgets with our mind.