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Humanizing Tech

Future of Computing: 2 Hands Instead of 1

We’re now seeing both hands being used for the pros, but only one for consumers

I. Overview

It’s been an interesting week in the technology world. I usually stay away from fleeting commentary of the moment because that stuff doesn’t seem to be very evergreen. But in this case, I think we have just witnessed an interesting shift in the divergence of what it means to use a computer as a consumer and one as a professional.

II. History

We used to make that split as the smart phone was the thing that people used as their personal device and the desktops (now laptops) were what was used at work. Of course, we all know how that played out when the iPhone walked into the enterprise on the two legs of its employees all the while marching the Blackberry-toting IT guys out the back door.

Now, in 2016 most of the world uses their iPhone as their only device. And new types of millennial professionals have emerged, creating social video content, becoming celebrities, and signing sponsorship deals all using a one-handed device. Vine rise and fell in this time.

But desktops are still used for professionals. Excel jockeys, traveling DJs, movie editors, startup builders. You need a bigger screen, pro-level apps, keyboards, drawing surfaces, and big track pads to help manipulate your modern-day machines.

We all use tools. The only difference now isn’t between smart phone and desktop, but rather how many hands you use when you’re doing your thing.

Put simply, the pros use two hands, but the everyday folks only use one.

III. Two-Handed Hardware

To illustrate this point, I want to show you two new videos and some screen shots from the big tech behemoths announcing their new hardware this week: Microsoft and Apple.

First up, Microsoft’s new purely desktop hardware, the Surface Studio:

Of course everyone is talking about the drafting capabilities of how it moves, but it seems to bury the story here. The second half of the video is all about two-handed mode. Here are a few screenshots to show what I mean:

Microsoft Surface Studio screenshots

Now lets compare that to Apple’s latest hardware announcement, the new MacBook Pro with TouchBar. Here’s a screenshot of Apple.com’s homepage:

Apple.com homepage showing the MacBook Pro and new TouchBar

As you can see, it shows a pair of hands operating this updated tool. Of course you could argue that is how we humans have been using keyboards for decades. Point taken.

So lets dive deeper into the presentation that Apple gave to the world, showing how pros use Photoshop for design and DJ software for on-the-fly music creation.

First up is Photoshop, one hands on the trackpad and one hand on the TouchBar:

The presenter is remixing the image right before your eyes using two hands. Pretty cool, right?

Well, the next presenter, a DJ, takes this up a notch and begins using the TouchBar with both hands to remix, not a photo, but a song.

So, again we’re back to two-handed use for professionals.

IV. What It Means

Obviously both of these new systems and the two-handed paradigm need to touch the market before we can really understand how widespread this usage is and whether it is truly a game-changing approach to user interface conventions.

But I can tell you that being able to efficiently use both hands with our computing tools, much like we do with other tools (chefs, anyone) means that we can unlock new use cases that we can’t imagine before.

As an aside, if you think these are new ideas that just came out, it’s important to note how long it takes for something seemingly as basic as a TouchBar takes to get to market.

If you follow the genius, Bret Victor, then you know he was one of the original futurists at Apple, not just concepting new conventions, but actually prototyping them in code as well.

He tweeted yesterday something very surprising. That it took almost exactly 8 years for the concept of the TouchBar to find its way into a production-grade product.

That means all these stories about Apple losing its innovation now that Steve is gone is just plain wrong. Things that were in progress before he died still aren’t in the market yet. It’s another reason why Tim Cook is hell bent on telling the entire world they’re working on AR Apple Glasses for the iPhone 8.

Which brings us to the point of all of this.

When Magic Leap, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, heck even Facebook launch the full vision of their augmented reality products, they will have already trained us to use both hands to interact with our tools in new and novel ways.

The only difference in the future, is that you won’t be forced to use a small piece of metal in front of you as the input device. Soon, the input device will be our entire environment and world.

We won’t just use two hands as professionals. We’ll use our entire bodies. Hands, feet, eyes, ears, movement through space, and on and on. We’re going to need some more power, Scotty.


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Future of Computing: 2 Hands Instead of 1 was originally published in Humanizing Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

from Stories by Sean Everett on Medium http://ift.tt/2dUpTMD