Over the past few years, there has been a quiet revolution in display manufacturing technology. One that is only comparable in scope to that of the invention of the first LCD, one that directly resulted in Kay's DynaBook and the modern laptop. The e-ink electro-chemical pixel, combined with advances in organic thin-film circuit boards have resulted in displays that are so thin and flexible, they are beginning to resemble paper. Soon displays will completely mimick the high contrast, low power consumption and flexibility of real ink. This will cause another revolution in computer user interface design. This revolution marks a final frontier for Human-Computer Interaction: one in which computers can have any organic form or shape, rather than the rigid technological surfaces of DynaBook. One where the shape of the computer is the input device. One where any object, no matter how complex, dynamic or flexible its structure, can display information. This new paradigm of Organic User Interface (Oui!) requires a new set of design guidelines. For example, Oui! devices are designed such that Input Equals Output. Forms dynamically follow the flow of activities surrounding the user's body, with form equalling function. Check out www.organicui.org for a special issue on the topic.
In the Interactive Blobjects project, we are exploring opportunities afforded by marrying everyday objects with oddly shaped displays. Any piece of cardboard, curved or a cube, can simulate a computer interface. Like dynacan, an interactive display on a cokecan capable of showing videos and rss feeds, or a Google Earth browser on a real spherical globe. And by selecting dials, menus and interactive skins from a palette of interaction styles, shown in the background, a simple cardboard box is turned into a fully functional iPod.
Paperwindows was the world's first true paper computer, and one of the first Organic User Interfaces produced by our lab. First designed in 2004, it allowed for a 2 cent piece of paper to become a fully interactive computer display.
Attentive User Interfaces are user interfaces that sense, display and reason about the user's attention for communication with them (Google TechTalk). One of the predominant ways of sensing attention is through knowing what the user looks at. For this purpose, we have developed a new kind of hi-res eye tracker, called an eye contact sensor, developed in collaboration with Xuuk, Inc. It senses looking behavior at over 10 meters distance. Current eyetrackers are very obtrusive. They require users to sit still or wear head-mounted optics, restricting their normal behaviour.