Category Archives: dual screens

Interesting New Tablets from Sony

Sony announced some new tablet designs today to stir the visions of our collective tablet dreams: a sleek airfoil slate design, and a dual-screen tablet that intrigues as well.

The Sony Tablet S airfoil slate design

First off I have to say that I love the industrial design of the Tablet S slate, an asymmetric foldback airfoil-like design straight out of a smarter future. I can’t speak to the build quality, since I haven’t held one in my hands (and the comments and video posted on Engadget seem to call this into question), but I love that Sony’s designers have stepped away from the me-too design mentality of pancake slate designs: flat, thin, and boring.

I’ve held other asymmetric design concept devices for slates in my hands, though, and they offer a number of distinct advantages (even if all of them aren’t fully realized in Sony’s current offering due to its thickness). The off-kilter weight distribution seems like a bad idea at first, but when you grasp one you quickly realize that this makes a slate much more comfortable and less fatiguing to hold with a single hand. All the weight rests in your strong hand, and by virtue of accelerometer-based automatic screen rotation, you can flip it over to your other hand any time you feel like you need a break (and of course this accommodates left-handers as well).

The wedge-shaped profile of the slate also means that it’s canted just a few degrees towards you when you set it down on a tabletop. This makes the screen easier to read, and easier to interact with as well. Whenever I use my iPad (a passe generation-one model that seems oh-so-2010 by now) on a table I resent that I have to lean way forward to look straight down on it, or go grab a book or, more likely at my kitchen table, a folded-up dish towel (hopefully one without too much little-kiddo goop all over it)  to prop up the thing. And yeah, I know the case lets you prop it up, but it’s pretty flimsy and floppy.

Image credit: Engadget

The other thing that I like about the Tablet S design is they way it’s recessed on the ends (see photo above). Not only does this highlight the sleek curve of the design, and create an immediate emotional connection with the familiar shape of a glossy folded-over magazine, but it also tucks all the extra buttons and controls out of sight. But perhaps even more significant than the resulting aesthetics, this design also places the buttons out of the way of fumbling fingers so that you don’t hit them by accident when you hold or reposition the tablet.

Now if only we could design touch screens smart enough to recognize when I’ve brushed them by mistake.

The dual-screen Sony Tablet P

Any of you who’ve been following me for a while know that I have been a big advocate of dual-screen designs in the past, and have even conducted original research to explore the possibilities of such form-factors.

To be honest the industrial design on the Tablet P seems a little clumsy– it’s a little too thick, and the curved contour on the top screen doesn’t match the bottom and seems to make it a little harder to handle (in the video below, you can see that the device keeps sliding around on the table as the person interacts with it).

But Sony’s software demos for the device show a glimmering of understanding of how to leverage two interconnected screens to their best advantage. They have several demos that partition UI controls from content (video playback on top, play/pause/fast-forward controls on the bottom; video game on top, game controls on the bottom; text on top, touchscreen keyboard on bottom; and so forth). Perhaps the most interesting of the lot is the brief glimpse of an email client that we see with the text of the current message on one screen and the scrolling list of messages on the other screen.

There’s only one demo that uses the screens in portrait orientation, that of an e-book reader, which leverages the two-screened aesthetic perfectly, although the page flip animation in the current demo software leaves much to be desired (it’s an animation that takes time to play, and to my eye at least only serves to confuse, rather than guiding the eye gently through the transition to the new pages.)

The industrial design does have one nice property: the hinge design pivots the screens so that they are very close to one anther when the device is opened, and there is no raised screen bezel, so you can slide your fingers across the two screens without hitting a speed bump in the middle.

Check out the Engadget coverage of the Tablet P for more details.

Conclusion and a Reflection on the Future

The Sony Tablet S and Tablet P, whether or not they are a success in the marketplace, are good examples of the proliferation of the design space of slates, handhelds, and booklet devices. There are some really exciting possibilities opening up here with continued advances in electronics and materials science– as well as the application of good old-fashioned design chops– and it makes me wonder what the devices held by my grandkids will look like.

And in my mind, at least, when I am visited by these visions of the near future, they aren’t just ho-hum pancaked layers of plastic, silicon, and glass any longer, but rather they take flight on the fancies of mad geometers and crazed topologists, digital displays contorted and multiplied into a gleaming sculpture of the human potential.

Book Chapter: Input Technologies and Techniques, 2012 Edition

Input Technologies and Techniques, 3rd EditionHinckley, K., Wigdor, D., Input Technologies and Techniques. Chapter 9 in The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook – Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications, Third Edition, ed. by Jacko, J., Published by Taylor & Francis. To appear. [PDF of author’s manuscript – not final]

This is an extensive revision of the 2007 and 2002 editions of my book chapter, and with some heavy weight-lifting from my new co-author Daniel Wigdor, it treats direct-touch input devices and techniques in much more depth. Lots of great new stuff. The book will be out in early 2012 or so from Taylor & Francis – keep an eye out for it!

Classic AlpineInker Post #1: The Microsoft Research Codex

My old blog, the AlpineInker, is currently read-only (I can’t even access the blog stats any more) and it will go away completely by the end of the year, but there’s still a number of posts there that are near and dear to my heart, and which I occasionally like to direct people to, so I figured why not get this blog on its feet by moving some of the real classics over here.

This particular post was probably one of the most fun blogs to write that I ever put together, and the project was a blast. Since I did this project, OQO went bankrupt and the Model 02 fell into the dustbin of history with it, the Courier came and went like a glint in the eye of the girl who got away, and e-readers and slates have exploded and are on the verge of toppling traditional publishing like a loose boulder teetering on the brink of a nine thousand foot cliff.

But I’m still here and plugging away on my sane and not-so-sane visions of the near future, looking for that next idea that’s oh-so-obvious in retrospect. Sometimes they come easy, sometimes they’re like pulling a loose molar from your jaw with no anesthetic. And I ain’t never been to no dental school, folks, although I did have the fine honor of working with some incredibly gifted and hard-working neurosurgeons back when I was in grad school.

So I’ve worked side-by side with brain surgeons and with Turing award winners and I figure all I need to do is come up with some zany project involving rocket scientists and then I should be about set to call it a wild ride of a career.

I hear NASA might be looking for the next great thing too now that the Space Shuttle is history, so maybe there is hope for me yet on that front.

As for the Codex. Since we’re on WordPress here, I can even enter the 21st century and embed a YouTube video right in my post without pulling yet another molar by hand.  Below I’ve linked to a copy of my Codex Video that someone pirated and put up on YouTube on my behalf violating every law of copyright known to man, but heck, once something’s on the ‘net and everyone’s hyperlinks point to it, having them take it down is just counterproductive, so I just went with it. The video has almost 100,000 views so I guess someone must have checked it out. (This video, by the way, was one of the most difficult to shoot that I ever did because at the time we shot it the software kept crashing and the screens were dim and had a lot of glare and, and, and… so a belated apology that it looks a bit clunky in the video, but the thing was pretty damn cool to use and I wish I had the time and energy to resuscitate the software and do more with it).

Anyway, enough of my blathering. Here’s the Classic AlpineInker Post #1, The Microsoft Research Codex:

The Microsoft Research Codex: Are Dual Screens the Future of Mobile Devices?

Never buy one of anything. That’s advice you should stand by when you’re buying unusual gadgets. The advice was good when Randy Pausch offered it to me some 15 years ago, and it’s still good now.

Of course, with 18 month old twin girls at home, this has become second nature to me. Two boxes of diapers. Two gallons of milk. Two Elmo plush dolls.

Oh, and yes, of course. Two screens for my tablet computer.

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Paper: Pen + Touch = New Tools

Pen + Touch = New ToolsHinckley, K., Yatani, K., Pahud, M., Coddington, N., Rodenhouse, J., Wilson, A., Benko, H., Buxton, B., Pen + Touch = New Tools. In Proc. UIST 2010  Symposium on User interface Software and Technology, New York, NY, pp. 27-36. [PDF] [video .WMV]

Watch Pen + Touch = New Tools on YouTube

Journal Article: Synchronous Gestures in Multi-Display Environments

Synchronous Gestures in Multi-Display EnvironmentsRamos, G., Hinckley, K., Wilson, A., and Sarin, R., Synchronous Gestures in Multi-Display Environments, In Human–Computer Interaction, Special Issue: Ubiquitous Multi-Display Environments, Volume 24, Issue 1-2, 2009, pp. 117-169. [Author’s Manuscript PDF – not final proof]

Paper: Codex: a Dual-Screen Tablet Computer

The Codex dual-screen tablet computerHinckley, K., Dixon, M., Sarin, R., Guimbretiere, F., and Balakrishnan, R. 2009. Codex: a Dual-Screen Tablet Computer. In Proce. CHI 2009 Conf. on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Boston, MA, pp. 1933-1942. [PDF] [video .MOV] [OfficeLabs Thought Leadership Award]

Watch the Codex video on YouTube

Award: OfficeLabs Thought Leadership Award for Codex

OfficeLabs Thought Leadership Award for CodexMicrosoft OfficeLabs Thought Leadership Award awarded to Codex at the OfficeLabs Science Fair, Aug. 13, 2008. Paper about this project: [Codex CHI’09- PDF] [Videos, etc.]

OfficeLabs Thought Leadership Award for Codex (full scan)