Rethinking The Mobile Interface

Recently I was lamenting on Twitter regarding my desire to drop voice calling and use a text-centric device only. This isn’t anything new, as I’ve always been fascinated with text over voice (even with text messaging being a total consumer rip off). With VoIP clients such as Skype readily available and my laptop being in my backpack 24-7, I find myself using mobile for voice less and less.

With that said, the traditional QWERTY keyboards, especially on my G1 are frustrating to use. QWERTY’s are better than the alternative however but I keep hoping we continue to see innovation not just with the applications we use, or the XMPP protocol that makes Google Talk so great, but also in the interface.

The iPhone and G1 were great starting points, but what about the other 800 lb. Gorilla? Well, a year ago I was closely following a partnership between Microsoft and Mitsubishi. Researchers at Microsoft and Mitsubishi are working on a new pseudo-transparent touch screen system that allows users to type text, click hyperlinks, and navigate maps from both the front and back of a portable device. A semitransparent image of the fingers touching the back of the device is placed on the front so that users will be able to observe what they’re touching.

Only one problem.

At the time, the prototypes were the size of a tablet PC (see above).

No longer however. As the above video demonstrates, a lot of progress has been make in a year to reduce the size of the transparent interface yet without compromising the concept of using both the front and back of the device for typing.

I always thought Microsoft had something really special with Surface. To take the Surface idea and mash it up in the context of a mobile environment is exciting and innovative all at the same time.

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