For years engineers and computer technicians have looked for a better way for people to communicate with their computers. Keyboards while feeling natural to many of us has advanced very little beyond the typewriters which have been around for well over a hundred years and though the mouse is a step above that it still takes practice for someone who has never used one to become used to the idea of moving the mouse with it and after years of using a computer many older people still have trouble with the concepts of double clicking, right clicking, dragging, dropping and other techniques that can seem simple to more advanced computer users.
The most recent solution, and one that seems likely to stick is that of surface computing. Surface computing at its most basic is an attempt to make the use of a computer better match the way we interact with other things in our environments as well as better interacting with those things and allowing for far less time thinking about how we interact with our computers so more energy can be put into how we use them.
The most common and popular type of surface computing is that of touch screen monitors of the type that can be found on many modern phones. These are also common in many businesses where untrained workers are expected to use a computer. Until recently though these touch screen monitors were really little more than a replacement of the mouse. You could still only point at one thing at a time, and it wasn't even as good as a mouse because you can't right click or highlight things without using a keyboard.
More recently though both Microsoft and Apple have come up with new ways to use surface computing.
Microsoft's plan is a device called Microsoft Surface which takes the form of a large table and would be used in places such as hotels and casinos or board rooms. The key difference between this and other similar devices is the multi touch system. This allows users to use both hands to manipulate things such as photos, as well as the use of hand gestures and even physical gestures. Other features on the Microsoft surface allows for wireless communicates between devices so things like phones, cameras and laptops can sync with the table and move data between them effortlessly.
Focused more on the personal side of surface computing is Apple computers who has integrated not only a touch screen into their Iphone but tilt control allowing for a great many functions. Many of these have not yet moved past the stage of games and while being able to swing your Iphone around as a light saber may be fun it isn't likely to become a must have application for all future phones, but the touch screen keyboard which allows people a keyboard experience without the need for a keyboard is certainly something that has the potential to catch on.
No matter how you use computers the search for better ways to communicate with the device and improve your experience almost certainly comes into your mind on occasion and with surface computing it is possible that we have finally found a better way to communicate with our computers.
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