UI Magic: This Tiny Mic Turns Any Surface Into A Touch Interface

Yes, I said “microphone.” Say what now?!

Here’s the trouble with touch screens: the screens. Not everything that could usefully benefit from a touch interface can accommodate a fragile, expensive glass-plus-capacitive-electronics display. Which is why Mogees, an experimental interface design by Bruno Zamborlin, will blow your mind: it uses a microphone to create a gestural interface out of any hard surface. Watch and be amazed:


The system works via something Zamborlin calls “concatenative synthesis,” which even Zamborlin himself can’t explain very well. And it’s telling that the demo video never shows what, exactly, that tiny microphone is hooked up to. Obviously it’s a portable computer system of some kind, but whether it’s a heavy, modded-out custom rig in a backpack or an iPad with a simple app running on it isn’t clear. But who cares: the implications for interface and interaction design–not to mention live music or multimedia performance art–are mind-warpingly awesome. Here’s another, earlier demo:

Zamborlin set up Mogees in these videos to act like a musical instrument, so imagine a live DJ equipped with this system: he or she could act like a digital-audio graffiti artist, walking into any situation, sticking the Mogees mic onto any hard surface (or even another person), and start wiggling and twitching their hands and fingers as if they were scratching a record to create a live performance on the fly. Beats the hell out of most subway musicians.

But Zamborlin’s video hints that the system can let a user design and define whatever interactions (and the computer functions they activate/control) that they like. So a system like Mogees could be deployed in rugged field situations by scientists, soldiers, doctors–anyone who wants or needs to get a tactile gestural interface up and running quickly in unpredictable terrain. Mogees feels as breathtakingly innovative as the vaunted Minority Report gestural interface, except more grounded, more DIY in its design, more flexible in its potential applications. The Minority Report UI was supposed to be the future, and it still hasn’t arrived. Maybe something like Mogees has a better shot.

[Via Technology Review]

About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.