Cooper Review of DGI

Dave Cronin of Cooper writes a nice review of Designing Gestural Interfaces:

Dan Saffer’s new book Designing Gestural Interfaces is a great step towards defining a clear language of physical interactions. The book provides a solid overview of the important things to consider when designing for touchscreens and motion-sensitive controllers, as well as good design practices like prototyping and documentation. For me, the real meat of the book is the discussion of patterns like “spin to scroll,” and “wave to activitate,” as well as the catalog of gestures that could be used as the basis of a physical control idiom (like “shake head no”).

Both of these sections should provide good food for thought as you contemplate how to get beyond simple point-and-click interactions.

Read the full review

Review of DGI on Designers Review of Books

Review of Designing Gestural Interfaces on Designers Review of Books:

In some ways Designing Gestural Interfaces is a book that is long overdue, given the long history of gestural interaction. In others it is a first and valiant stab and pinning down a currently emerging and rapidly changing area. My guess is that within three or four years, he will already need to update it, but for designers working both in interaction and product or industrial design right now, this is a must-read. If you have anything to do with designing any kind of consumer electronics device, you should get a copy of Designing Gestural Interfaces and get a second copy to give to the marketing department who will, no doubt, be trying to stuff multitouch interfaces on everything.

Errata: The Early History of Touchscreens and Simon

Bill Buxton, who’s been working with interactive gestures for decades now, offered some corrections to the text of the book, around the history section in chapter one:

On the history of touch screens, Samuel Hurst developed some nice touch technology. His initial work–like mine–was on touch tablets, not touch screen. Even so, he was not the first. Not by a long shot. The use of touch tablets precede their use with digital computers, and were used as controllers for electronic musical instruments in the 50’s and 60’s. I learned about them from one of the greatest electronic instrument designers ever, Hugh Le Caine.

Young, G. (1989). The Sackbutt Blues: Hugh Le Caine – Pioneer in Electronic Music. Ottawa: National Museum of Science and Technology.

Touch screens were developed in a few places in the second half of the 1960’s, most notably at IBM and Ottawa. Contrary to what you state, their first broader deployment was to support interaction on the PLATO computer based education system, based on technology developed at the University of Illinois, and deployed in 1972–that is, developed before Hurst built his first touch tablet, and deployed broadly before he ever built a touch screen.

Simon is one of the most important devices of the decade. It not only was the world’s first smartphone, it was the first phone to have a soft interface, and is a direct precursor to the iPhone. I have a working unit, as well as all of the documentation, and have interviewed the designers and engineers who built it. Contrary to the figure caption on page 10, the Simon did not fail because it “…was not able to show more than a few keyboard keys simultaneously.” That sounds a lot more like modern phones. The Simon displays a full QWERTY keyboard, with numbers, on the screen–all at once. And, by far exceeding the iPhone’s capability in one sense, it supported both touch and stylus, so enabled one to make better on-screen sketches, and manage them with a visual browser.

Yes, it failed in the market place, but not for the reasons that you give. The reason that I stress this is that it is our all-too-frequent lack of careful and critical analysis of product failures–especially really innovative ones–that results in the huge delay in the successful deployment of the great ideas that were manifest in those failed products. We need to take our discussion of the history of our discipline as–if not more–seriously than the design of the future. After all, 50% of design is based on building on the past. See:

http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/next/archives/2008/12/what_apple_lear.html
http://www.billbuxton.com/InteractionsMaze.pdf

If we consider that the iPhone can very much be considered a modern reimplementation of the design concepts first introduced in the mobile space by the Simon, I suspect that we would all agree that it deserves better treatment and consideration than it has gotten. A good question to ask is this: which product was the more visionary and innovative for its time? The Simon or the iPhone? Of course, the question is impossible to answer in any definitive way. Nevertheless, knowing our history enables us to pose such questions, types of questions that are asked far too infrequently. I believe we are considerably the worse off as a result.

Review and Evaluation Copies

Designing Gestural Interfaces will be in bookstores December 3, 2008. If you are a reviewer or an academic who needs an evaluation copy, please contact me at dan at odannyboy dot com with your name, affiliation, and a mailing address. I’ll collect and forward your request along to O’Reilly.

DGI Goes to Printer Today

The book is finished and is headed to the printer today. In honor of that, I’m posting the new chapter 1 and the prologue (776k pdf) for download. Those of you who’ve downloaded an earlier version of this chapter will find it’s not that much different, it just looks nicer, has some new nuggets of information, and is easier to read. For those of you who haven’t downloaded it…what are you waiting for?

The printed book itself comes out in three weeks, so pre-order from Amazon.