MIX10: Doing What Comes Naturally

by March 17, 2010

In his keynote at Microsoft's MIX10 conference, Bill Buxton presented his thoughts on the big picture behind natural user interfaces and Doing What Comes Naturally.

  • We’ve been talking a lot about technology but it’s not really what we do. How do we make sure we make use of these great tools/technologies to make the right design and the design right?
  • Violinists pay $10,000 for the bow to their instrument. This is a huge portion of their income. The violin bow is the equivalent of the mouse for computer engineers. So why do we think people won’t pay for better inputs?
  • The better you play, the better the interface is. The design needs to reflect the skill of the user. The hours they have invested in learning.
  • What’s a natural user interface (NUI)? The ability to acquire skill is natural. The desire to acquire skill. Interfaces that respect the skills acquired by the user are natural interfaces.
  • Litmus test of a good application design: if the application is a mirror –how well does it reflect me, the intended user?
  • How well does it reflect my four basic skills? Motor sensory skills, Cognitive skills, Emotional skills, and Social skills.
  • The most important technology is not the software or the hardware –it is the wetware. The primary technology (human) is changing the least. So grow your awareness of people –they will not change as much as technology. And you will be able to build across many new technologies as they come and go.
  • Appropriateness of gestures is not due to the technology but to the space.
  • Project Gustav –models physical brushes, paints, and papers. The paint behaves correctly. Can smear with fingers and draw with smooth stylus. The colors behave like oils. Complex physics in the background. Made with respect for the skills people spent years learning.
  • Every customer has learned really deep specialized skills. We need to show respect for these skills in our applications.
  • What is really changing is not the technology –what is changing is who is doing what, when, where, and with whom. What’s changing is what people are doing.
  • Mobile is important because it is always with you. It goes to different contexts. It has to respect your sense of place.
  • The tools are there now –you can build the design right.
  • Partner with experts on the people side. Partner with designers. Apply your phenomenal technical skills to an understanding of skills people have.