Input Devices

So how are we going to interact with all of those screens?

Let’s first list what won’t work:

  • keyboards: we’re not about to have a keyboard underneath each picture frame in our houses.
  • mice: same as for keyboards. There also won’t be a table surface in front of each screen.
  • tiny little buttons on the sides of the screen, like TVs have. It works, but can you imagine going from screen to screen in your house, a couple of dozen times, doing something on tiensy little buttons? I don’t think so. Some screens will be up the wall and out of reach anyway.
  • a remote control for each of them, like so many of the digital picture frames today. Having to deal with (and find!) today’s remote controls is bad enough. It’s impossible to keep track of dozens of them. (“Oops, wrong screen” … let’s not go there)

What might work:

  • touch. I know, that’s fashionable these days, but it won’t work for screens on the wall: they are too far away, and who would want fingerprints all over their images that require us to dust and polish the screens once a week.
  • gestures, as interpreted by the screen’s camera (which will become a standard feature of screens). We’ll see whether that will find acceptance, but it does sound like a possibility.

This post was actually inspired by recent post by Fred Wilson. Like him, I had tried the wireless keyboard and all of that, and it doesn’t work unless you like to fiddle and are really, really patient, which I’m not. On his advice, I downloaded the Mobile Air Mouse application for the iPhone, and while it still lets lots to be desired, it works much better than any alternative.

So I’m betting on our “mobile phones” to become our universal remote controls that enable us to interact with the screens (and lots of other things) around us. Basic model: point and click. Turns out that Apple of course already has a Remote application on the iPhone/iPod Touch to control iTunes and AppleTV, and that model is very useful. It takes too long to boot and find the network, and of course it makes no sense that each device (screen, AppleTV, Wii Remote …) needs its own app with its own idiosyncracies, but those problems will be solved. (More about software in subsequent posts.)

I kind of like the idea of being able to control my surroundings from the device I have in pocket already anyway.