In this age of smart phones, social networks, online ever-presence, and digital everything, marketing companies bombard us with technology products that we need to incorporate into our lives. Rich feature sets, practical use, gimmicks and the need to have the latest and greatest will sell many of these products. But by and large, to have staying power, a product needs the right kind of user interface. It needs to be convenient, feel natural and be of a design that works well for the product. The design of user interfaces is an art and science of its own and here are some amazing ones that are stretching the boundaries of thought and possibility.
Aqua is the graphical user interface of Apple’s Mac OS X and was first introduced to the public in 2000. It has evolved and undergone many changes in the years since, but it is still the primary visual theme on the platform. The GUI is built around a water theme, as its name would suggest, incorporating effects of reflection and translucency along with visually appealing elements reminiscent of water droplets. It has clean, simple screens with softly rounded corners for a more relaxed appearance than some other interfaces. Two of its more noteworthy features include the animation of many of the elements and a dock for launching and navigating between applications.
Funky Forest debuted in 2007 as a truly interactive user interface. Designed primarily for children, visual sensors allow the user’s body to create trees within an interactive ecosystem. To further engage the user, water can then be diverted from a waterfall to keep the tree alive. The healthier the tree, the healthier the forest and the creatures within it, making for an entertaining and interactive educational tool as well as an innovative use of UI design. Although the Funky Forest application offers limited practical use, it is still an imaginative example of what can be achieved through creative design.
inFORM is a futuristic user interface that takes tactile to a whole new level – allowing you to interact not only by touching the screen, but also allowing the display to touch you back. Instead of being comprised of pixels, this interface uses programmable matter much like a high-tech version of a pinscreen toy. The interface can essentially morph into whatever shape the user desires. When Skyping, for example, one could “hold hands” or “high five” by transforming the inFORM interface into a hand. It has been described as a self-aware computer monitor that displays shape as well as light.
SpaceTop is an exciting and immersive graphical user interface developed at MIT Media Lab. The basic hardware is essentially comprised of a transparent screen, which tracks your hand movements via a series of sensors. This allows a user to reach behind the screen with their physical hands and manipulate virtual objects while seeing both hands and objects on the screen at the same time. The clean and simple interface belies a rich and growing feature set that allows a user to switch between 2D and 3D object manipulation with ease.
Star Trac produces first-class health and fitness equipment in the global market. Their eSpinner® and E-TRxe Treadmill product lines utilize an intuitive and innovative graphical human-machine interface (HMI) running alongside a software-based entertainment suite capable of streaming in high definition. What puts it ahead of others is the HMI and HD both being able to run simultaneously alongside one another in a unified interface without interfering with or slowing either one down.