microsoft future 2019 – not so original
The Microsoft Office Labs Vision 2019 video recently shown at the Wharton Business Technology Conference, by Microsoft’s Business Division president Stephen Elop (text of speech), does a good job of showing potential modes of interacting with embedded and ubiquitous multi-touch displays. But how original is it? My students in Art Center College of Design’s graduate Media Design Program have been working on ideas like this for many years, and have made speculative videos like this, as well as working prototypes and real projects. See below for several examples, as well as some thoughts on where future interfaces should go – is Microsoft just proposing another version of windows?
[flashvideo file=videos/msofficelabs2019.flv image=videos/microsoftnews.jpg width=600 height=400 /]
Microsoft Office Lab’s Vision 2019 video
Here are links to several of my students’ past projects:
- 2004 – wall – scott nazarian, nikolai cornell
- 2005,2006 – mirror – in search of identity, infiniti interactive – nikolai cornell, phil van allen, others
- 2006 – interactive table – acura oracle – nikolai cornell, jonathan jarvis, phil van allen, others
- 2006 – handheld augmented reality – telepath – matt mcbride
- 2007 – e-paper newspaper – beyond the fold – sebastian bettencourt
In my current New Ecology of Things class, and in my upcoming research, we are working on an in-depth exploration of how people can work, play, and be entertained using digital affordances, yet moving away from the “mouse crouch” of sitting at a computer. One difference I have from the Microsoft vision is this: I believe each different activity can have its own set of affordances rather than the seeming standard ones envisioned in the Microsoft video. For example, writing an essay should be quite different from say, designing a website. I call this approach “anti-homogenous.” What we don’t need is a new ubiquitous interface and set of gestures. What we do need is gaining back some of the benefits of work and play spaces that are suited to the activity at hand.
This line of thinking was inspired by an article in Metropolis Magazine by John Hokenberry on an excellent new photography book by Michael Wolf called The Transparent City. The photos are studies of high-rises in Chicago, and show the uniformity of our current workplaces. An excerpt from the article:
The steel mill can’t be confused with the meatpacking plant or the typewriter-assembly factory. But here one has no idea of what goods or (more likely) services emerge from these cubicles and boardrooms.
Microsoft is proposing a new way of working, but in many ways, it is reproducing the idea of one-size-fits-all that’s embodied by operating systems like Windows. I’m not saying that Microsoft got it all wrong, they did a very good job up to a point. But perhaps we need to think beyond the homogenous approach. Instead, people need to be able to create their own work/play spaces that afford the kind of activities they are doing at the moment. What would that heterogenous approach look like?