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Sound waves that mimic the touch of a button? That's the future

November 10, 2016 | Telepresence Options

Smartphone_car.png

Story and images by WIRED

By focusing all our attention on screens, we're losing the physical interaction of touch. These are the initiatives looking to change that

From smartphones to satellite navigation, televisions to tax-return websites, the visual interface dominates our society. "A smartphone screen can represent anything because it's pixels," suggests Hiroshi Ishii, director of the Tangible Media Group at MIT's Media Lab. "You can even make a pixel dance."

But, according to Ishii, our obsession with graphical user interfaces (GUIs) is damaging, removing us from millennia of human-object interaction. Worse, it stops us thinking: "Because GUIs are so well done and are so pervasive, people can't think of a better way to present interfaces," Ishii explains.

Through the Tangible Media Group, Ishii is working to fill out our interactions with digital information by giving these pixels physical form. Platforms such as Skype and FaceTime connect us over long distances, but we have lost the physical presence in those communications. One of the group's projects is inFORM, which aims to restore physicality to a Skype call, via dynamic pins that rise and fall in response to the participant on the other end. This "physical telepresence" attempts to bring tangibility back to technology-mediated interactions.

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