Direct Brain-Computer Interface Will Require a New Language of Interaction

[Cross-posted from Signtific.]

When Apple Computer recently released the 3.0 version of its iPhone OS one of the most anticipated new features was Cut & Paste. This simple task has been a staple of computing since GUIs were part of the OS, so why did it take Apple until it’s 3rd OS version to implement the feature for the iPhone?

As Apple tells it, there was incredible deliberation over how best to design the user experience. This is, after all, the first and only fully multi-touch mobile computing device. Apple has been meticulously developing and patenting the gestural language through which users interact with the device. Every scroll and pinch, zoom and drag is a consciously designed gesture adding to Apple’s growing lexicon of multi-touch interface. Implementing Cut & Paste was a substantial challenge to create the most accessible gestural commands within the narrow real-estate of the mobile screen.

Now, consider interacting with the same content types available on an iPhone or anywhere in the cloud, but remove the device interface and replace it with a HUD or direct brain interface. If the content is readily visible, either as an eyeglass orverlay or directly registered in the visual cortex, how do we give a UI element focus? How do you make a selection? How do you scroll and zoom? How do you invoke, execute, and dismiss programs? Can you speak internally to type text? How might a back-channel voice be distinguished from someone standing behind you? How do you manage focus changes between the digital content and the visual content of the real-world when both are superimposed in some state?

The fields of Human Computer Interaction and User Interface & Experience Design address these challenges for interacting with digital content and processes, but what new interaction modalities may be developed to better interface humans and computers? As we internalize computation and interaction, the disciplines of HCI & BCI will begin to interpenetrate in ways that may radically alter the conventions of the Information Age.

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