Kill Screen: How Wearable Interfaces Could Free Games From The Tyranny Of Screens
A new wave of technologies harness our own bodies and movements for entertainment.
From the first motion picture houses of the 1900s, to the ubiquity of mobile phones these days, the past century could be described as an invasion of screens. But what if we don’t need that many of them? It’s a common assumption that screens are a necessary component of modern life: we have computers and need visual feedback to communicate with them. However, a tidal wave of wearable technology could wash all these flickering, flashing squares out to sea. “People think that the interface has to be attached to the display, but you already have a lot of interface on you,” says Julia Schwarz, who’s currently working on a PhD in computer human interaction at Carnegie Mellon. “Why not just use that?” With this sentiment as her m.o., she founded Qeexo, a company striving to liberate us from the tyranny of screens. “Basically the way your phone or tablet sees you is that you’re a point on the screen,” she continues, which is ridiculous considering the extent of articulation of a living human body. We can knock, strum, poke, rub, wiggle our nose, breath lightly, scream. The problem is that our computers can’t decipher these things. Her research is in making our interfaces smarter so we can compute au naturale. For example: she created some of the gestures used for Kinect 2.0. Another of her inventions allows you to rap on your mobile with a knuckle to snap a screenshot, instead of performing the awkward motion of hitting the home and power buttons simultaneously. You could make a case that the more organic computing becomes, the less it will rely on screens. This may sound rash to our monitor-adled brains, but it’s an inevitability if wearable devices hope to get the rest of our bodies quantitating. “Wearables like smart watches have these tiny screens. There is almost no real estate on the screen itself,” Schwarz elaborates. “They’re kind of assuming that all the interaction needs to happen on this tiny display.” But rather than making the screen bigger, she insists, we should just use the rest of our bodies. “Gestures can be very powerful that way,” she says.