Interaction 09: Designing Natural Interfaces

by Luke Wroblewski February 7, 2009

Nathan Moody’s session on Designing Natural Interfaces outlined the key attributes and challenges of multi-touch, multi-user design.

  • NUI: Natural User Interface paradigm
  • Reduce the distance as much as possible between user & content. Enable direct manipulation of objects & content. Guessable, predictable, physical, realistic
  • NUIs are better for social and collaborative tasks. The interface is physical and invisible
  • Pre-viz prevents needing to spec time and motion. Can show through animation how it should work.
  • Work at scale so can enable real interactions for physical use.
  • Test like hell on prototypes to make sure people can interact with them.
  • The challenges: managing user expectations, facilitating natural inputs, designing for large formats, designing for 360 degree interactions (table computing).
  • Managing expectations: attract interest, need people to recognize what is interactive, grant permission to touch something. People are not used to these kinds of interactions. Can encourage exploration (more elegant) or explicitly instruct. Tap into an innate human interest in beauty. This makes people interested.
  • Facilitating natural inputs: attraction and permission; fundamental ergonomics like touch ability, control occlusion, input/identification, and authentication without a mouse; unlearning GUI habits; forgiveness (need to allow all inputs)
  • Never control by proxy when you can control directly. Scroll bar on lists not needed.
  • Accessibility is the Achilles’ heel of NUIS
  • Visual output: often rear projected and does not look sharp up close. Only have 220 pixels of readable screen real estate. 11 inch spread on projection way.
  • Three zones of engagement: attract (10 ft.), inform (5 ft.), interact (2 ft.)
  • Multi-user challenges –appropriateness & context. Using same instance on same computer. Collaborative not competitive. Who has control over what?
  • Tabletop is computing in the round. Orientation in 360-degree world is hard.
  • Be natural –investigate real world gestures that can inform NUIS. Leverage metaphors & gestures.
  • Make application aware, responsive, and forgiving
  • Trust curiosity –leverage three zones of engagement.
  • Know your hardware –do not need to be a coder but know your medium.