Designing with Both Hands
New input devices allow designers to interact more
intuitively with a computer screen.
By Mark Lindhult, FASLA, and Avinash Srivastava
The human body has 256 joints, and 54 of them are in the
hands. Designers use this hand dexterity to draw and sketch, yet most landscape
architects interact with the computer using a mouse, which essentially freezes
these joints in one position. For as long as computers have been a part of
landscape architectural practice, designers have longed for a more intuitive
way of interacting with the computer.
The mouse was invented back in 1965 and took 30 years to
become a ubiquitous input device for all personal desktop computers. Despite
its widespread use in CAD, GIS, and a host of illustration/rendering programs,
it has hand-eye coordination, scaling, and other issues. Perhaps it’s time to
look to the next generation of input devices. Bill Buxton, an innovator in user
interfaces, has written that “the vast majority of touch surfaces deployed are
single touch. If you can only manipulate one point, regardless of with a mouse,
touch screen, joystick, trackball, etc., you are restricted to the gestural
vocabulary of a fruit fly. We were given multiple limbs for a reason. It is
nice to be able to take advantage of them.”
A new approach called “multitouch” computing may very well
allow designers to expand their gestural vocabularies considerably. Like Tom
Cruise in the movie Minority Report,
users may use both hands to manipulate graphics, images, or text in a truly
intuitive way. The future trends in computing point to the need for this type
of interactive device that allows designers to directly interact with their
ideas. Multitouch may be the answer that we are looking for, and in the meantime
some technologies such as interactive whiteboards and tablet PCs (see
“Technology You Can Use Now,” page 86) can be useful to landscape architects.
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