Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Google Glove

I read an interesting entry on GeekWire about Google's latest patent for a concept called "Seeing With Your Hand."

The fact that it has a horrible name aside (really, Google, you couldn't come up with something better that "Seeing With Your Hand"?), it's a cool idea. Certainly not totally revolutionary, this "invention" has obvious connections to some of the fundamentals of tablet technology, and makes me think of Nintendo's Wii controller too.

The patent itself goes over the multiple functions that are proposed for this invention. Not only would the glove allow users to "see" and gather information in typically "inaccessible environments," but it could also be used to convey information and interact with the computer in a manner similar to the gestures we use, even unconsciously, in everyday life. Google is just at the beginning stages of developing this concept, and it could be years before it ever makes it to the masses in some form or another (or not, you never know), but the question of how to incorporate physicality into computer use has been under discussion for some time. In 2006, Scott Klemmer (et al.) made a case for the importance of this kind of technology in his article "How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design." Digital information seeking, Klemmer feels, could benefit enormously from the sort of bodily engagement that is a natural and essential part of information gathering and comprehending in the physical world.

Whether it is the early motor skills of a toddler that spark a child's spatial awareness and cognitive abilities or the use of gestures that aid in communication and express thoughts difficult to verbalize, there is great value in physical interaction with the world. Klemmer points out that systems that "constrain gestural abilities (e.g., having your hands stuck on a keyboard) are likely to hinder the user’s thinking and communication." If Google's invention could introduce a way to bring "thinking with our hands" into the digital environment, I think it would really start to take information seeking, compiling, organizing, and ultimately presenting to a completely new experience.

And if you're curious, and have some extra time on your hands, try browsing through Google's complete list of 797 registered patents.

Klemmer, Scott R., Hartman, Bjorn, and Takayama, Leila (2006). How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design. Proceedings of the 6th Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, pages 140-149.

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