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2008-04-19

Couch graphical user interfaces

Let's review: What kinds of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) do we currently have? On the one hand, there are Desktop GUIs whose development has been a bit stagnant for a while (I have written about some new ideas, older, but not yet widely used, include lifestreams, zoomable user interfaces, and 3D GUIs). On the other hand, there are smartphone interfaces that have recently enjoyed a resurgence via multi-touch.
But then, there is a third kind of GUI: couch interfaces. With their media center software, both Microsoft and Apple have been quite innovative in this space. The more I use couch interfaces, the more I want a couch interface for almost every desktop application: For example, if I am on the couch, I don't want to leave it to quickly check my email. Any kind of widget such as weather, dictionary or stocks also makes couch-sense.
Note that couch interfaces are a lot like smartphone interfaces: The screen space is greatly reduced and input facilities are limited. Smartphones partially solved the input problem via multi-touch, couch interfaces could do something similar by building small trackpads into remote controls. Wireless keyboards or wireless air mice might also help. But then the Desktop GUI cursor has to be adjusted to couch constraints (by making it larger?).

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