Tag Archives: Augmented Reality

The End of the Desktop?

Part 1 – The Enchantment

I was actually in the room at CHI 2001 when Bill Gates introduced the Tablet PC.  Taking notes on my Pocket PC, mobile and tablets, I was all over it.  I became an early adopter soon afterward, using my convertible notebook/tablet doing UX design consulting.  And let me tell you that in those days, jaws would drop in amazement when folks saw you draw on the screen.  Nothing impressed the natives more.  “Look, him draw on screen!  Him must be a god!” Alias sketch, Microsoft OneNote, and all those new app user interfaces that were going to change the way we interacted with computers,

Part 2 – The disappointment

except that it didn’t happen.  None of the MS Office apps ever budged to utilize pen input, nor did Adobe, or anyone else. Instead Microsoft abandoned us early tablet adopters like freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs.

Then a few years later, Apple invented both the pocket PC and the tablet. And everyone swooned. And for good cause, this time it worked. Plus it had the Apple and third party support to make it really productive and price point lower, not higher, than a regular laptop.  Google joins in the fun steeling Microsoft’s role as the “other leading brand” to be compared with Apple, mimicking their every move, yet with an open hardware platform.

Part 2b – More Disappointment

Fast-forward again to 2012. Microsoft introduces Windows 8 and the Surface.  There has probably never been someone so late to their own party and awkwardly dressed for the occasion.  Microsoft launches an Apple-esque store in the mall with Kool-Aid drunken sales people mimicking the weirdoes at the Apple store.  So I stopped in to check out the Surface.  The name itself speaks of another great concept that couldn’t find a market and so left its name to be adopted by this iPad wannabe.

Somewhere in the windows 8 mix, I was hoping to find my old tablet PC reborn with a contemporary vigor.  No such luck. What I discover is a lesser knock off of tablets that are already too dumb for my professional taste. That may sound lofty, but this was my daily work tool for four years, constantly with me in airports, airplanes, hotels, coffee shops, and offices everywhere.

Part 2c – Even More Disappointment

Windows 8 — Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users  http://www.useit.com/alertbox/windows-8.html

Disappointment.  The word that Jakob Nielson uses to describe the Windows 8 experience.  I am compelled to agree. Not that I am or have ever been a firm Jakob follower. I just hoped that we would see the high end supported with trickle down impact to the lesser demanding users.  Instead what I see at every turn is the computing environment reduced to a contest between Dumb and Dumber.

Looking at Nielsen’s article, it is confirmed.  Power users have been thrown under the Windows 8 bus. Nielsen’s description of the modern style induced usability problems in Windows 8 sound all too familiar. It seems that Microsoft has confused minimalist with primitive. Can you say pre-Win 95?  No, wait, more like pre-Win 3.1!   It’s like Microsoft has unlearned all the lessons of the past twenty years. I wouldn’t mind except that I depend on their products to do actual work, not just goofing off.

Makes me think of the “Apple Wheel” as reported by the Onion


It feels like Microsoft is sacrificing the power user desktop which is still dominates to become a tag along in the tablet space. It seems, there may be a clear opening for a high performance user experience Operating system environment.  Silicon Graphics Irix, where are you?

Part 3 – The Enlightenment

On the other hand, if Microsoft believes that the desktop is vanishing from the earth no matter what, then it might seem prudent to use their window of time to convert that desktop lead while it exists into a tablet contender. It still leaves many of power windows users in a hard way and opens the door for a new aggregator to jump in and direct the larger virtual platform.

Pondering this a bit more, this may indicate a milestone in the abandonment of the desktop by Microsoft as something that they see that cannot be held onto. The computing environment that was once the virtual desktop metaphor invented at Xerox PARC is now being replaced by a ubiquitous heterogeneous environment that exists both in real space and in the cloud.  An aggregation of real and virtual devices is needed to perform the same role that the proprietary desktop once played.  I see that mobile devices may have their own avatars in this virtual space.

Who will define this space? Who will own it? How about me and you?

I am pretty sure this is the theme of my next techy art piece. “MyFavoritemachine, In the Cloud” or maybe “Escape from Desktop’.

– roger

copyright 2012 r.e.belveal

Analog Man – Joe Walsh

I’m sitting here trying to explain this theme of my art as I expand on it even more vividly for the BIG(D)ESIGN 2012 Conference.  As much as I love technology, there is an emotional rebellion taking place against the slick pristine digital world we are immersed in.  That’s what I am expressing through my Art.  Joe just explained it in this song!

Title song, Analog Man – prereleased on YouTube

Of course, we know that Joe is not really alergic to digital technology and neither am I. To suggest that is to overlook the obvious.  However, I think we are both responding to the same undercurrent.

Remember before digital when phones had real round dials and watches had analog faces. Oh. Wait.

This affection for Analog Machines won’t slow down digital technology, but I imagine it is sure to affect the direction the digital goes.

– roger

Do you have a coaster under that Art?

In browsing some online galleries of “Art” work of randomly-generated images, I find it interesting that some Tech Art purists are willing to leave the random patterns up to technology but not up to materials.  Allowing the system to generate a part of the art is not so very unlike allowing the natural properties of a physical material to express itself in the process of rendering.  Both have actual and virtual objects and processes have properties that can be adjusted to produce somewhat different results.  One is altered by a menu and the other by physical forces.  The key difference I can see is one occurs in a sterile virtual space behind the glass where you can’t get dirty and the other occurs in actual space, involves, noise, sparks, smoke, and heaven forbid can get messy.  Both may be Theloneous Monk.  Only one is Adrian Monk.

As our culture speeds headlong into the digital age, the slick aesthetic has reached toxic levels.  This overdose of slick untouchable virtual ectoplasm has created a deficit of sensory perception.  As a seasoned IT professional, I have seen this deficiency that was once unique to the IT crowd being lately spread to the general population.  The craving for hard, rough, dirty, tangible substance is accelerating proportionally to the proliferation of the virtual experiences.  And in terms of remedy, there is no app for that. What we see instead is the gravitation to rougher less pristine aesthetics in other sectors, from kitchen design to clothing to architectural spaces, and art.

As much as people / users of technology love their machines and adapt to them, there is also a quiet rebellion taking place.  The technology is a wild mustang that everyone admires, then each person begins to systematically tame within their own sphere.  Bringing the technology down off its pristine pedestal to within reach of the user satisfies a human need.  Bringing familiar virtual images from beyond the glass into actual touchable space where humans live and breathe enables users to experience those familiar things using all of the senses, not just two dimensional sight and sound.  And don’t get me started with “immersive environments”.  I’m referring to art immersing itself in the user’s environment.  Put the funny glasses on the art, not the audience.  The proof of all of this is in the audience response.  I’ve seen it first-hand.

I actually am a fan of technology in all its forms as well as the raw earthy get down and dirty making of art – and combinations thereof! The irony is that my recent genre of art is the deliberately globby rough raw motif celebrating endearing design, that is typically these days, hi tech and pristine. It’s a Sweet & sour approach that, to me, is interesting and fun. Check out my article in http://bigdesignevents.com/2011/11/my-favorite-machine-a-work-of-art-celebrating-endearing-design/

Digital media and tools are in fact capable of many wonderful things, even miraculous things, not the least of which is textures and organic forms of all sorts. Still, at some point it may begin to feel a bit like brick patterned wallpaper. If a brick look and feel is what you’re after, Real bricks are generally better. :-]

Personally, I enjoy an extreme spectrum of materials, methods, and motifs and their contrasts. My latest piece, still in work, combines even more of these seemingly contradictory elements together, each unabashedly expressing its own nature in a soup of dichotomies. Hmmm, Maybe I’m crossing over from artist to mad scientist? Mhhhaaahaha!

– roger

3D interactive space – reaching around transparent screens

Here’s another case of augmented reality showing some promise.  In this demo video, users interact with virtual objects within a virtual 3D space superimposed upon the actual 3D space behind tha transparent screen.  And  this isn’t soccer; You are aloowed to use your hands.

Link to YouTube Demo Video

Set aside the obvious cool factor, I am intrigued by the value in enabling truly 3D interaction.  Having been a user of a number of 3D systems and having also done usability testing of some high end CAD and “FlyThru” visualization systems I can tell you that a chronic problem is the 2D bottleneck of input / output between (1) A 3D space containing 3D objects, albeit virtual, and (2) users who think in 3D, are themselves 3D beings, and are dying to interact directly with their 3D data in a 3D manner.

There have been many innovative attempts to solve this problem, most not very successful. One of the best is the 3D mouse (3DConnexion Spaceball, or space Traveler) that you might see on my desk occasionally.  It is good enough to be addictive, even for just panning and zooming in Photoshop.  In 3D such as CAD and GoogleEarth, it is awesome, combining multiple otherwise fragmented orthogonal motions into  one fluid natural motion.  But while it solves for motion in space it doesn’t really solve for manipulating objects.

Being able to use your hands directly in 3D can turn CAD into sculpting.  Obviously, I’m going to like hat.  There are still a lot of issues to solve (fatigue, perceptual problems, etc), but I think it is a significant step.  And I might want one to try out. 🙂