Touch Interfaces: Between Hyperrealism and Invisibility


Session Title:

  • Media Control Interfaces

Presentation Title:

  • Touch Interfaces: Between Hyperrealism and Invisibility



  • Multitouch technology has existed for several years today. While big multitouch tables have mostly been found in public places like exhibitions, small screen devices like multitouch smartphones have become an everyday phenomenon. In both cases the context of use has been different from the use of a desktop computer. Multitouch table systems often are designed for specific content, an individual location and fixed context of use. In contrast, smartphone applications are to be used in any context – due to mobility. With the emergence of medium sized multitouch devices like the iPad, more and more digital products which are known from a work-related desktop context, are being redesigned for multitouch use. But in addition to that we will see the emergence of novel media formats and applications which will be specific and typical for medium-sized multitouch devices.

    Just like the invention of the computer mouse was a prerequisite and an activator for the design of graphical user interfaces, multitouch interaction will be a prerequisite and activator for novel interfaces. Today two trends in multitouch interface design become already apparent. One is the re-introduction of the real-world-metaphor approach of the 1990s, in which symbolic interface elements disappear in favour for hyperrealistic everyday objects in everyday environments. This is said to reduce cognitive complexity and learning time. It can be argued if reducing learnability should always be top priority and if the destiny of interface design will simply be hyperrealistic copies of the real world. The other trend is towards invisibility. In traditional interfaces interactive elements are visible, and users learned in which way they have to interact with them. With multitouch and especially with sensor based interaction (controlling parameters by spacial orientation or acceleration of the gadget) visual cues that indicate interaction possibilities disappear. Therefore the famous “pinch” gesture to zoom images is not intuitive at all: Neither the interface shows any affordance that would indicate “pinchability”, nor does the idea of a real photograph suggest “zoomability”.

    These trends will be demonstrated and discussed in a talk, which will be illustrated by examples from research projects and student’s work.