Computing at the Speed of Thought

By on October 31, 2012
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From punch cards to facial recognition. Whats next?


Recently I was listening to Walter Isaacson’s audiobook book on Steve Jobs and the third chapter briefly mentioned Steve Wozniak’s attempt to use the keyboard to display characters on the screen. It seemed like sheer coincidence when, a few days later, I read about Valve (the company behind STEAM) echoing a similar sentiment by saying that keyboards and mice had not seen any major innovation over the last several years. This got me further intrigued of how little things have changed for the PC Interaction aspect over the last 30 odd years, i.e. the keyboard continues to be the primary interaction interface for PCs.

But before the keyboard, there were punch cards that had physical holes to indicate 1s and 0s – binary, the official input and output language. Then in the 1970’s, the typewriter layout was adapted for the new input method for PCs and since then QWERTY has ruled our lives – or AZERTY if you are French. There were attempts at voice software . I tried one several years ago but couldn’t quite consider it as a replacement to type out emails. And recently Apple offered Siri in the iOS 4.0 which put voice recognition back on the map.

Gestures and joysticks have been the domain of game consoles but these haven’t come up as potential keyboard replacements. Or rather should I say the “keyboard killer”. I shouldn’t miss the mouse which found a place in our computing lives when Xerox came up with the Graphical User Interface (GUI) – yes, apparently, according to Walter Isaacson’s book, Steve saw the GUI idea first while visiting Xerox’s Palo Alto location but then perfected it for the Apple OS. Apple’s iPad, though not the first attempt at a tablet computer, brought the concept of touch to the masses.

Display units on the other hand are probably facing the same dilemma or even worse off – What resolution is enough? As a budding engineer in the ranks, I studied the cathode ray tube (CRT) technology which offered a maximum of 640×480 resolutions. But the CRT has since been replaced with Plasma, LCD, LED, and 3D technologies which offer as much as a 7680×4320 resolution. Will this increase to 16K resolution?

Source: Jayse Hansen

However, coming to the essence of my 500 word limit – How will interaction between humans and computing devices change? What is beyond the keyboard and display screen? Mark Papermaster, AMD’s CTO, recently delivered a vision of ‘Surround Computing Era’ at the Hot Chips convention, saying “Surround Computing imagines a world without keyboards or mice, where natural user interfaces based on voice and facial recognition redefine the PC experience”

This is definitely in line with what is hopefully coming in the immediate future and I am excited to imagine interacting with my PC using facial recognition. Haier, the Chinese home appliance maker, launched the Eye Control TV at IFA 2012 where the TV that can be controlled using facial features such as movement of the eye and blinking. That is a step in the direction of Surround Computing but I am thinking of beyond Surround Computing – Will we ever come to a stage where we communicate with computers using thoughts or our brain waves?

Imagine wearing a hat with 2 interface points – one for the left hemisphere or the logical side of your brain and the other for the right hemisphere or the creative side of your brain. Put on the hat and boot the PC, draw a picture that the right hemisphere of your brain imagines while simultaneously doing spreadsheets and writing emails using the left hemisphere. The response is communicated by the same hat directly to your brain – Computing at the Speed of Thought, Literally.

Manish Punjabi, Marketing Manager (META) at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

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