The Future is Here: The Thumbles Robot Touch Screen

thumblesSmartphones and tablets, with their high-resolution touchscreens and ever-increasing number of apps, are all very impressive and good. And though some apps are even able to jump from the screen in 3D, the vast majority are still limited to two-dimensions and are limited in terms of interaction. More and more, interface designers are attempting to break this fourth wall and make information something that you can really feel and move with your own two hands.

Take the Thumbles, an interactive screen created by James Patten from Patten Studio. Rather than your convention 2D touchscreen that responds to the heat in your fingers, this desktop interface combines touch screens with tiny robots that act as interactive controls. Whenever a new button would normally pop on the screen, a robot drives up instead, precisely parking for the user to grab it, turn it, or rearrange it. And the idea is surprisingly versatile.

thumbles1As the video below demonstrates, the robots serve all sorts of functions. In various applications, they appear as grabbable hooks at the ends of molecules, twistable knobs in a sound and video editor, trackable police cars on traffic maps, and swappable space ships in a video game. If you move or twist one robot, another robot can mirror the movement perfectly. And thanks to their omnidirectional wheels, the robots always move with singular intent, driving in any direction without turning first.

Naturally, there are concerns about the practicality of this technology where size is concerned. While it makes sense for instances where space isn’t a primary concern, it doesn’t exactly work for a smartphone or tablet touchscreen. In that case, the means simply don’t exist to create robots small enough to wander around the tiny screen space and act as interfaces. But in police stations, architecture firms, industrial design settings, or military command centers, the Thumbles and systems like it are sure to be all the rage.

thumbles2Consider another example shown in the video, where we see a dispatcher who is able to pick up and move a police car to a new location to dispatch it. Whereas a dispatcher is currently required to listen for news of a disturbance, check an available list of vehicles, see who is close to the scene, and then call that police officer to go to that scene, this tactile interface streamlines such tasks into quick movements and manipulations.

The same holds true for architects who want to move design features around on a CAD model; corporate officers who need to visualize their business model; landscapers who want to see what a stretch of Earth will look like once they’ve raised a section of land, changed the drainage, planted trees or bushes, etc.; and military planners can actively tell different units on a battlefield (or a natural disaster) what to do in real-time, responding to changing circumstances quicker and more effectively, and with far less confusion.

Be sure to check out the demo video below, showing the Thumbles in action. And be sure to check out Patten Studio on their website.


Sources: fastcodesign.com, pattenstudio.com

The Future is Here: The Magic Forest LED Wall

magic_forest1In an attempt to address the sterile feel of lobbies and waiting rooms in hospitals and clinics, a London design studio recently unveiled a very cool concept. Essentially, it’s an interactive wallpaper that turns clinical corridor walls into a magical forest which engages and distracts kids as they journey toward their procedure. Known as Nature Trail, the installation is a 50 meter (165 feet) long corridor that walls part of the Mittal Children’s Medical Centre at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Jason Bruges, head of the Jason Bruges Studio and creator of the installation, claims that “the idea came from remembering walks in my childhood. I loved spotting and following things, those stolen glances and glimpses… I was trying to re-create this with the idea of digital lookout points along the corridor.” Relying on a series of 70 LED panels that house a total of 72,000 LEDs, the walls are triggered by motion sensors and reveal animated patterns in the shape of horses, deer, hedgehogs, birds, and frogs peeking through the foliage and trees.

magic_forestThe studio modeled the critters in 3D before translating them to low resolution to give the creatures an aesthetic similar to an old-fashioned video game character. The creators then placed the LED panels at various heights so kids of all ages, and to take into account being bedridden or in a wheelchair, can access the animals at eye level. The hospital says its young patients have been so entranced by the nature canvas that it will grow to fill more walls by 2017.

magic_forest2As it stands, doctor’s offices, dental clinics and medical centers rely on aesthetics to combat what can only be described as the “clinical feel”. But this concept just may offer them a high-tech option that will put patients at ease through the illusion of a natural setting that is dazzling the eyes. Some might accuse men like Bruges of using technology to anesthetize, but for anyone who has had sick children, its likely to be seen as a godsend!

Source: news.cnet.com