Co.Design

The Future of Information: Touchscreens EVERYWHERE! [Video]

And an even blurrier divide between real and virtual worlds

Digital interfaces are going big — so big pretty soon we might not be able to distinguish between what's real and what's fake, whether we're talking about ads on the street or the reflection in the mirror.

That's 'cause designers are starting to experiment with screens that penetrate all aspects of the physical world, from the pavement to the bathroom to the air we breathe. Below, we've got a roundup of the coolest — and, yeah, occasionally disturbing — design concepts.

Ivan Tihienko's Ringo interface is designed to replace cell phones and PDAs. It's a holographic projection that follows you around like a shadow puppet and does pretty much anything you want: navigate the streets, send email, organize your schedule — even throw down an air hockey game on the street. A demo:

The ideas below include a stretchable screen and a mirror that'll tick off the morning news while you brush your teeth. They came out of TAT's' Open Innovation competition for experimental interface design. Check out the video — the details of the interactions are great, such as the phone to phone sharing that seems to look onto a single, larger screen:

Keiichi Matsuda's Augmented City is the wackiest of the lot. It's a holographic landscape layered on top of your real environment, so it's like being in a 3-D movie, but you can't take the glasses off. That's great for ordering meals in restaurants from floating menus and designing your surroundings however you like by adding, say, virtual streetlights or graffiti. That's not so great when advertisements follow you around in mid-air. Check it:

Obviously, these are just concepts, and they won't replace your iPhone any time soon, if at all. We can't imagine people getting particularly comfortable displaying email on the sidewalk or being followed around by a billboard for hemorrhoid cream. Still, some of the features could be useful — and the technology isn't quite as far off as it seems.

Microsoft, for example, has pegged tech similar to this as a reality by 2019; phones already have proximity and force sensors like you see in the second video; another company makes stick-on films for creating 108-inch touchscreens; and flexible touchscreens might be the killer app of e-ink.

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