Smart Home Interfaces

This is an on-going feature about interfaces to the Smart Home and innovative new interface technologies.

It's hard not to talk about the Smartphone as being one of the key interfaces to the Smart Home. They are already the electronic equivalent of the Swiss Army Knife, with apps serving as blades and tools. So it makes sense that they also play a prominent role in the home and rather than having bespoke remote controls or even programmable remote controls, your Smartphone becomes 'one remote to rule them all'. It makes even more sense when you carry it with you at all times, outside and inside the home. It's a familiar interface and one that is always to hand.

To many, the tablet represents the next logical step but, in many cases it has lost the portability and is not a device that sits comfortably in one hand, whilst you operate it with the other. The proliferation of smaller (typically 7") tablets goes some way to appease but, they just aren't quite as portable or convenient. Inherent restrictions in some tablets, such as the lack of proper multi-tasking on an iPad, are going to also be an issue in the future home, when people need to be able to juggle control with other tasks simultaneously. Losing control of your entertainment system because a video call came in is not a desirable place to be.

Manufacturers of consumer electronics have been fairly quick to see the value of Smartphone integration to user experience and we have many networked (connected) device in our home with remote control capability. These include a Denon Home Cinema Amp, a WD TV Live media player, an Apple TV, etc. This trend will only continue but starting an app per device is a cumbersome and inefficient user experience to start with.

Keyboards

We have lost count of the number of attempts to update the QWERTY keyboard. The basic layout was designed to prevent mechanical keys on typewriters becoming jammed, when operators typed 'too quickly'. The problem is that people are continually taught to touch type on this keyboard layout, so it is no rush to die out any time soon.

Innovative Technologies

Avatars

Avatars are not new things but, they are still advancing in quality and realism.

Zoe
Developed by the Cambridge Research Lab and the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering, Zoe is an avatar that can be used to speak text messages with emotion, ushering in what may come to be known as 'face messaging'.

The Eye Tribe

The Eye Tribe have developed eye tracking software for Android devices.

Predictive Listening Assistants

Expect Labs are building a technology platform to enable applications to pay attention continuously and better anticipate our needs.

Google Glasses

These are worthy of their own page.

Kinect / Capri

Kinect
PrimeSense (the company that built the Kinect's 3D sensor) has unveiled its latest sensor, which is a tenth of the size. Called Capri, the sensor is small enough to be useable in smartphones and tablets.

Leap Motion

The Leap Motion is best described by watching the promotional video on YouTube There is also an interesting 'hands on' article about the controller.

Magic Cube

Magic Cube
Magic Cube is a compact projection keyboard and multi-touch mouse that connects to any Bluetooth HID devices, including the iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

Tactus Technology

Tactus Technology
The Tactus Technology has developed a new tactile user interface for touch screen devices that provides buttons that rise up from the screen surface on demand, and then recede back into the screen, leaving a perfectly flat, transparent surface when gone.

There is a nice BBC video which shows it in operation.

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