Survey.

I've been keeping my eye on a few interesting projects of late that bear relation to my investigation.

Palette

A successful Kickstarter project, the makers describe Palette as 'a freeform hardware interface'. Over the summer I began thinking about building a set of dials and sliders to augment the keyboard and mouse, so finding this was a pleasant – validating – surprise. They understand (and want to optimze for) the way physical controls offer precision and utilize muscle memory. Their efforts to make the inputs as versatile as possible – letting the user mix and match components and set their uses – seems smart, though I wonder if it leaves too much onus on the user to figure out how to optimize their workflow. Difficult to say without using the setup – I pre-ordered months ago so looking forward to trying it out.

Modulares Interface B.A.

An ambitious project from German student Florian Born that takes the limitations of touchscreens to an extreme, building a re-organizable series of dials, sliders and buttons that sit above an iPad and interact with the screen itself using capacitive touch. It's boldy engineered, if a little... cyberpunk.

The customization capabilities makes good use of the iPad's dynamic display – control values are visible through little windows. The example demonstrates the device being used to control Ableton Live music software, but it's a little unclear how the controls are mapped from the setup to the laptop software. This mapping is important.

A really intriguing and timely inspiration.

Flow

Flow is an Indiegogo project from a small team in Germany. Here's how they describe it:

We work on graphic design, video editing or CAD on a daily basis. Keyboard and mouse are great but they are far from giving you the same sensitivity and abilities as your hand.

We need a tool that gives us flexible shortcuts and perfect control, a tool that makes the things we love fast, precise, intuitive and fun.

I could almost have written this myself. The team are definitely examining as very similar problem space, and the result is pretty fascinating.

Currently the device is intended to support the following interactions:

  • Ring (2): Left and Right. It can also detect how fast you turn.
  • Buttons (5), Left, Right, Middle, Up, Down
  • Capactive Touch (4): Swipe Left, Right, Up, Down. You can also use certain areas of the touch surface as digital inputs
  • Gesture Recognition (6): Left, Right, Up, Down, High, Low. It can also detect how fast you wave your hand.

Not mentioned here is the precision of the ring. There are apparently 3600 values in a 360 degree rotation, which gets at the kind of nuanced control I've been advocating (and I feel is distinctly lacking with touchscreens).

Some thoughts on why this should matter to creatives here and a nice piece on how the team went about building it here. Their campaign is now superbly overfunded so I looked forward to seeing the product develop (and of course, that overfunding seems a good indication there is an unmet demand in this space).