Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The MOADtouch Project

Open your mind. Relax your brain muscles. This will take a little creativity.

Rewind to the 1968. Douglas Engelbart is about to put on The Mother of All Demos (MOAD). This time, though, instead of inventing and demoing the first computer mouse, he invents a touch (or even multi-touch) screen and shows off an interface that has more in common with Surface or iPhone than Windows or OS X.

Pretend that mice were never invented. What would today's computer interfaces look like with 41 years of research and evolution and industry focus on multi-touch interfaces?

Recently, there have been several articles that show touch in a negative light, with conclusions like these: "Touch is Dead On Arrival" and "[multi-touch] adds little of value."

Those types of comments come about because when some people think of touch on a PC, they visualize a GUI (mouse + keyboard) application and then add some touch to it, and see that touch is redundant or unnecessary. Well of course it is! I agree! Who would want to use an application or OS designed for a mouse pointer with +- 5 pixel precision with their fat fingers with +- 30 pixel precision? In our imagined alternate MOAD touch demo world, though, every application would be designed to work well with gestures, multi-touch, and fluid, high-frequency touch interaction.

I'm proposing the MOADtouch project: Let's help people imagine what a NUI world would look like. Take your favorite GUI application, throw out the GUI, and totally reinvent it as a NUI. Pretend touch was only acceptable input device to the mass market. Forget the Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointers. Forget the rectangles. Start with your finger tips and design out from there.

I want everyone to participate, regardless of individual skills. Write blogs, create wireframes, mock up screenshots, mock up videos or even code up prototype interactions. Describe or show the experience. Do not throw out any possible application just because someone else doesn't think it would work with touch. Recreate the interface so that it does work.

I want this to be viral. Send this to all your friends and colleagues. Get them all to create and post something simple, even a snippet of an idea. "It'd be cool if XYZ was like this: ..." Twitter it. Blog it. Flickr it.

Tag everything: MOADtouch.

Remember: Open your mind. Relax your brain muscles. This will take a little creativity.


  1. Interesting idea, really got my fantasy going. But the hard part is to think outside the box, especially when WIMP has been around for so long.

  2. Hi Joakim,

    Yes it is hard!

    Are you going to post some ideas or mockups? I'm working on a few that I'll post soon.

  3. First thought is going back to basics, the idea of the "desktop".

    Being able to handle virtual documents as if they where real, by flipping them to the front on a slate, then touching the slate to the desk to transfer a copy onto it so that one can handle it like a sheet of paper lying flat on the desk...

  4. I think the application that would have the largest impact on the most people would be the web browser. It may be the best place to start. But the first thing that comes to mind is the limitations of HTML and javascript, and the fact that these themselves don't lend themselves to multitouch at all, so in fact you would have to throw these out as well and come up with a means by which to display and interact with information from the web.

    I'd also like to throw a curve into this, what if we had no hands, or arms, or even no body at all but could still see things and control and create things with our minds. Would we use our minds to make virtual hands in order to interact with information or is there a better way? The hands are themselves a part of our interface, there may be concepts that transcend them, that can be used to come up with better ways of using them.

  5. leen,

    There are proposed multi-touch extensions for html directly, as well as multi-touch built into Silverlight 3. I think HTML is way too embedded into the industry to throw away. You can build alternate programs to display information, as long as it is available in a structured format.

    That's an interesting curve. You could argue that evolution gave us hands and the rest of our body to be well adapted for survival. That doesn't mean they're optimal for information access and manipulation. Just like we extend our hands and arms using tools, perhaps virtual tools on the screen would be a good way to interface our our survival hands.


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