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How touch, gesture and motion technology could change the world

Posted by Sam Golden on 5th October 2012

Last month I attended the EMEA Touch, Gesture, Motion conference organised by IHS. The conference (as you can probably guess by the name) focused on touch, gesture and motion based technology and included an incredible keynote from Shahram Izadi, Research Scientist at Microsoft, involving special sensors to create a projected touch screen.

As well as getting to play with some geeky tech and hear presentations from a range of insanely smart industry experts, it was a great opportunity to get to grips with such an emerging field and learn more about how we’ll interact with TVs, laptops and even our air conditioners in the near future.

Say what now?

Touch, gesture and motion technology is appearing in everything from smartphones with built-in gesture recognition to transparent double-sided touch screens. What intrigued me the most was the potential uses that the speakers suggested for these technologies. This included using gesture controlled doors in sterile environments to prodding gigantic touch screen tables to make orders in a bar.

The interactive battlefield

One of the most interesting concepts coming out of the event wasn’t a focus on ‘the next big thing in consumer tech’ but how each of these different input methods provided flexibility for the user. Many of the companies at the event weren’t competing or trying to claim that the only way forward was touch screen input or gesture control. A focus was given to how important it was that computer manufacturers (OEMs) included a range of input methods in devices, giving users the choice to decide.

For me this is all linked back to the consumerisation of technology. No longer does technology always seep from business into the home. It can now happen the other way round. For this reason the demands of the consumer are having a much bigger impact on how technology develops. People want freedom and people want choice.

These demands are affecting how companies are designing devices and even software for businesses and consumers. Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8, offers two different different user interfaces, the ‘classic’ interface and its new tile interface formerly known as the Metro UI.

The tile interface designed for touch-screen use provides users with an appealing and easy-to-navigate overview of their most used apps, the latest news and social media interactions but it doesn’t seem to be designed for business use. Yet that’s the direction Microsoft has been driven by demand and Matt Hohnan from Gizmodo believes there’s no going back.

My key takeaway from the conference was the astounding possibilities emerging technologies are going to bring to businesses and consumers. Also no longer is it possible for companies to pump out software and devices that are substandard. In this connected world of social media and increased consumer choice companies have to try harder than ever to capture audience attention and cater to their needs.

Earlier this year EML Wildfire’s consumer tech team commissioned a survey on people’s buying habits. You can download the Consumer Tech Influence Report here.

Sam Golden