NUI and Multi-Touch.

A Natural User Interface (NUI) enables people to interact with computers through (touch) gestures or speech.  The technology offers a lot of potential i/e for customer service, events, field work, training and medicine.

Multi-touch technology has provided the foundation necessary to completely redefine user interfaces, creating what is being chained as natural user interfaces (NUI).

While the interface requires some learning, it is eased through design which gives the user the feeling that they are successful. Thus, “natural” refers to a goal in the user experience – that the interaction comes naturally, while interacting with the technology, and that the interface itself is natural. 

Multi-touch is a technology that has ushered natural user interface using gestures as the pinch (enlarging windows with two fingers) and double tap which have already been part of our interactions these past few years on larger sized touch screens, smart phones and tablets. These are the most commonly known interactions. But there are also the two fingered tap, the scroll, the pan and long press. Interactions like these stay with us for some time to come.

This multi-touch technology has created the third human computer interface revolution, just like the keyboard that characterised the command line interfaces (CLI) of the 80’s and the mouse that ignited the graphical user interface (GUI) of the 90s.

Simplicity of operation is appreciated by all consumers and although multi-touch requires some learning; in many cases, the gesture still seems natural for many consumers, and they tend to pick up the gestures relatively quickly. Bear in mind that the frequency of use here is a critical element of the behaviour that becomes natural for the consumer.

The impact becomes much clearer when observing consumers interacting with the multi-touch hardware which has seen a steady increase in deployment at railway stations and airports but even more with smart phones and tablets. Even the people who do not own a multi-touch device are still exposed to it, either via TV or by watching others interacting with them.

An example of this impact was the NBAHouse Social Media Wall which invited visitors to tweet with the #NBAHouse hashtag and, when possible, attach photographs of the event to that particular tweet. Upon noticing the tweet on the multi-touch video wall visitors would take another photograph of that particular tweet displayed on the screen and tweet that one as well. An interaction that no one could have predicted and that was repeated by many visitors.

Besides multi-touch here are a few samples of NUI integration with some other devices into our current lifestyles:

  • Microsoft‘s Kinect has a motion sensor and has a SDK to create a whole new segment of apps which can be controlled by gesture and voice.
  • Those that have an iPhone are aware of the voice assistant Siri which can be used in conjunction with various apps and hardware devices.
  • The Leap Motion controller that allows users to interact with computers not with touch but by gestures of moving your hand and fingers.

HERE is a cool page that explains more to this.

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