• Steve Clayton

    The promise of Natural User Interface - NUI

    Get Microsoft Silverlight


    You’re familiar with GUI even if you don’t know it – it’s the type of user interface you use every day on your current class of PC (or Mac) – a Graphical User Interface. Over the last year or so, Microsoft and others have begun referring to NUI or Natural User Interface. This is where computers start to become, well, more natural with speech and visual gestures being the modes of interaction rather than mouse and keyboard. Todd Bishop has a post about this topic today and noted that Bill Gates recently talked of NUI as “the thing that people underestimate right now."

    Wikipedia defines NUI as “common parlance used by designers and developers of computer interfaces to refer to a user interface that is effectively invisible, or becomes invisible with successive learned interactions, to its users”. In that Wikipedia entry, Bill Buxton of Microsoft is mentioned and you’ll see him in the video above as he’s been at work on this stuff as far back as 1984. Project Natal and Surface from Microsoft are also mentioned in that entry alongside the amazing work of Jeff Han on multi-touch which he showed at TED in 2006. On a side note, it wasn’t a surprise to me to see that poleydee was an early contributor to this Wikipedia entry as I know he’s a big fan of Bill’s work.

    There is a lot of work going on at Microsoft around NUI and this video brings much of it together – from Windows 7 touch, Surface, Natal and the Office Envisioning videos. Until now, much of this seemed a bit far off – in the realm of Minority Report it seemed very “Hollywood”. However, inexpensive display technology is enabling any surface to become an interactive screen. Cameras and microphones can now be embedded in almost anything and the Wii and iPhone have shown that computers can understand simple gestures – with Natal that goes further with more advanced gestures and speech recognition. There is much talk of augmented reality at the moment and that adds another layer of exciting potential.

    Component prices are falling fast so we’ll start to see hardware catch up with the software work that has gone on to date. Microsoft Research, it we get things right has a big part to play here as for years we’ve invested in computer vision, machine learning, user interfaces and language processing – across the many labs we have but much of that here in the UK in our Cambridge lab which I’m personally pleased about. It’s been a long journey as this work goes back as early as 1991….finally we’re starting to see it bear fruit.

    We’re taking a platform approach to this and looking to others to innovate on top. The PDC began some of our quest to unleash  that innovation to some extent - the laptop giveaway encouraged these new types of NUI apps with a machine designed specifically to highlight the sensors in the unit and build completely new applications based on touch and more. The second video below shows you some of the apps that were in the laptop from the PDC – but these are just the tip of the iceberg – I can’t wait to see what developers do with all of this.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

  • Steve Clayton

    Google Talks Software plus Services


    Great stuff, GMail goes offline and endorses the Software plus Services approach.

    I couldn't have said it better myself really. Well, maybe I can as this approach it viable for more than just email…see below for what is Software plus Services.

    Seriously, this is how people want to work and it’s good to see Google putting Gears behind GMail and enabling this even if it is in beta and from GMail Labs.

    This advance does acknowledge that offline is important, and it begs the question as to whether offline is better done within a browser or client software. Don’t mistake this for me pushing a Windows agenda – that client software that could be clients written in AIR or even Java that are cross platform. I love the web and it’s kept me in a job since I left university but client software has it’s benefits.

    For me it means Outlook of course for email but extend this to Salesforce.com and CRM and you have the same question – if you’re taking that business information  offline, is a browser the best client for features and performance? Ever wonder how many people use Salesforce.com in Outlook? Of course that doesn’t quite jive with the “No Software” line but trust me, it’s plenty.

    Anyhow, I’ve heard the accusation that Software plus Services is Microsoft’s way of avoiding the whole SaaS debate and Web 2.0 and protecting the Windows and Office client base but at it’s core, it’s exactly what Google has just announced here. The combination of client software and cloud services to give customers choice and flexibility.

    Funny how things come around.  

  • Steve Clayton

    Vista: poor man's NetStumbler



    Nice tip from Josh on doing a bit of war driving with Vista. Go to a command prompt, type netsh and then

    wlan show networks mode=bssid

    The geek in me likes that :)

    Link to The In-Between : Windows Vista (security) tip: poor man's NetStumbler

  • Steve Clayton

    Learn Something New Every Day


    Nov21  NOV20 Nov9 oct23

    Learn Something New Every Day -  I love this website – fun and educational at the same time and appeals to all ages. Above are a e a few of my favourites.

  • Steve Clayton

    Andaz hotel checks in with a Tablet



    A new hotel in my hood (well, sorta) that's using Tablet PC's to check guests in

    Andaz (which apparently means personal style in Urdu) Describes itself as a ‘personalised casual luxury hotel experience’, and has replaced the traditional check-in desks with what they call dedicated personal hosts; title-less staff who use Tablet PCs to check you in, respond and cater to your personal tastes and preferences, and aim to build a one-on-one host and guest relationship- rather like a personal butler

    Groovy. Must wander on down there to check out the vibe and see what Tablets's they're really running. I can't tell you which other hotel chain took me to lunch recently to see if I could get them on the Surface program for the UK. Now that'll be a cool checkin process.

    Hat Tip to PSFK

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