Watch This Ingenious UI Idea, For Dragging Files From Your Phone To Computer

This concept by Ishac Bertran is so simple and clever that you wonder why it doesn’t exist already.

A few weeks ago, Ishac Bertran wanted to pluck some articles from his web browser and slip them into his Kindle to read later (and more comfortably), but he was so daunted by the labyrinthine process of transferring data, he decided to skip it altogether. We’ve all been there in our own way.

“Our devices are well connected virtually, through services like DropBox or iCloud,” Bertran, an interaction designer, tells Co.Design in an email. “Those offer wireless synchronization for data, but the devices that contain this data still miss a tangible connection. I thought that a representation of a physical connection would facilitate a more intuitive interaction based on traditional mental models from the physical world.”

In other words: Transferring data really isn’t all that complicated. It’s just a few swipes or clicks of the mouse. But because it takes place behind the scenes--that is, we don’t see our files physically move from one device to the next--it feels difficult.

So Bertran tried to imagine a more natural interface, one that would help demystify the whole process by giving it a visual and tactile component.

As he conceptualizes it, users would hold their devices next to each other, and a half moon would materialize on each screen, together forming a full moon. That full moon visualizes the link between your hardware; it says, quite simply, “Your devices are now connected. Transfer away.”

Then to share a file, you’d drag it from one half moon to the other, using the swipes and pinches with which we’ve all grown familiar on iPads and iPhones. Here’s a nice animation of the idea:

Easy-peasy, right?

Bertran was inspired by spatially aware devices such as Sifteo Cubes, which turn user commands into jolts, tilts, and clicks, thus giving tactile form to invisible computational processes.

Of course, for Bertran’s moon concept to become a reality, the Apples and Amazons of the world would have to seriously revise their devices. As it stands, you can’t just hold your Kindle up to your MacBook and start swiping willy-nilly.

But Betran insists that new hardware wouldn’t be terribly hard to integrate: “Sifteo cubes use IrDA transceivers to detect other cubes,” he says. “Something similar could be placed in forthcoming devices to create this tangible connection. For the proposed interaction there is no need to detect other devices all around a device frame. It’s enough to have a particular position in which the devices physically recognize each other to enable more fluent and intuitive interactions.”

[Images courtesy of Ishac Bertran]

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58 Comments

  • Hm

    It's a good idea in concept, but a bit hokey in practice. Really, you shouldn't have to hold your device up near the screen at all – you should just be able to drag something off the left of your screen and have all nearby compatible devices show up visually so you can drag and drop as required. Apple are now doing something like this with iOS 7 sharing - perhaps it will go cross OS next.

  • Danielle Thomas1

    This is a nice conceptual design, but closely resembles so many others out there. Not to mention, how likely is it that someone would want to have to hold their phone up to their computer, while simultaneously using ONE hand to transfer files. It would become annoying.

  • Ruth_dt

    I use Instapaper's "Read Later" button to send files to my Kindle, which was the use case described. It's one click, and I don't even need to take the Kindle out of my handbag. It's a much more elegant solution than this, and he can use it now. It's available for devices like the iPhone, too.

  • Hugh Isaacs II

    You can already do this via NFC with a new HP Envy and a Galaxy Nexus.

  • Clydicus

    Isn't there an iPhone app called "Bump" that essentially does the same thing?

  • Alan Brown

    Palm did this many years ago - just point two devices at each other and send info from one to the other.

  • Doug Thomsen

    Pretty cool for files (pictures, songs, etc.) but silly for web pages. Your browser account can just store your recent sites and favorites.

  • QRth.is!

    QR codes can be used to create a similar seamless transfer of browser-based files between devices. We've built a tool called QRthis for this purpose. It's in public beta. Try it out at www.QRth.is. We agree you shouldn't have to type or email yourself URLs to web pages, maps, apps, or videos.

  • Linda

    Watch Blackberry 10 advert - it shows swiping photo to your TV Screen - so others are looking at this concept - brilliant Idea

  • Tom Garner

    Isn't this the concept of Apple's Bump App for sharing between iOS devices. Seems like it wouldn't be too hard to implement something like this as it is widely noted that OSX is taking many ques from iOS already.

  • GUEST

    WAIT why is he touching the screen on his macbook it does not work like that no macbook has a touchscreen 

  • Alexandro Raymundo

    You don't get a nifty drag and drop interface from your macbook to your iphone, either. 

    It's just a visualization of the concept.

  • David Metcalfe

    Great to see someone finally animating an idea that has floated around for some time. This reminds me slightly of Apple's patent (200800002350) for docking devices.

  • Tubsy

    It's called NFC, been on Android for quite a while now... hopefully Apple will install it on their next iPhone, and then you can all say they invented it first!

  • Karl Randall

    Replace "invented" with "found a practical use for" ;)

    Apple frequently mislead people when they talk about their innovations by implying that they're the very first company to create a thing (copy/paste, time machine), what they mean is that they've found a practical use for said innovation.

    Other companies usually get there first, however they don't really think about how the innovation, in this case NFC, can make our interaction with devices better/easier.