A few weeks ago, Ishac Bertran wanted to pluck some articles from his web browser and slip them into his Kindle to read later (and more comfortably), but he was so daunted by the labyrinthine process of transferring data, he decided to skip it altogether. We’ve all been there in our own way.
“Our devices are well connected virtually, through services like DropBox or iCloud,” Bertran, an interaction designer, tells Co.Design in an email. “Those offer wireless synchronization for data, but the devices that contain this data still miss a tangible connection. I thought that a representation of a physical connection would facilitate a more intuitive interaction based on traditional mental models from the physical world.”
In other words: Transferring data really isn’t all that complicated. It’s just a few swipes or clicks of the mouse. But because it takes place behind the scenes–that is, we don’t see our files physically move from one device to the next–it feels difficult.
So Bertran tried to imagine a more natural interface, one that would help demystify the whole process by giving it a visual and tactile component.
As he conceptualizes it, users would hold their devices next to each other, and a half moon would materialize on each screen, together forming a full moon. That moon visualizes the link between your hardware; it says, quite simply, “Your devices are now connected. Transfer away.”
Then to share a file, you’d drag it from one half moon to the other, using the swipes and pinches with which we’ve all grown familiar on iPads and iPhones. Here’s a nice animation of the idea:
Bertran was inspired by spatially aware devices such as Sifteo Cubes, which turn user commands into jolts, tilts, and clicks, thus giving tactile form to invisible computational processes.
Of course, for Bertran’s moon concept to become a reality, the Apples and Amazons of the world would have to seriously revise their devices. As it stands, you can’t just hold your Kindle up to your MacBook and start swiping willy-nilly.
But Betran insists that new hardware wouldn’t be terribly hard to integrate: “Sifteo cubes use IrDA transceivers to detect other cubes,” he says. “Something similar could be placed in forthcoming devices to create this tangible connection. For the proposed interaction there is no need to detect other devices all around a device frame. It’s enough to have a particular position in which the devices physically recognize each other to enable more fluent and intuitive interactions.”
Images courtesy of Ishac Bertran