by Anna Gonzalez.

Currently, we live in two worlds. The first is the physical world; the world that mankind has known from the beginning. It consists of people using their senses to interact with other people and objects and is characterized by:

  • Direct contact: share the same environment, human connection
  • Full disclosure of environmental information
  • Real-time experience
  • Equal access: no socioeconomic boundaries for technology platforms

The second world that we live in is the digital world; recently created but with the potential to grow exponentially. The digital world has opened all new doors for connecting and informing people. It consists of limitless information access and interaction between man and machine or man and man through machine and is characterized by:

  • Connection to distant places/people/ ideas- networking
  • Enhancement of human knowledge
  • Quick access to information
  • Ability to rapidly spread ideas.

However, with the growth of the digital world, the physical world–the one humans know the best–is being under-appreciated and utilized. Some of our best human capabilities and tools have been put to the wayside in order to make room for screen-based, two-dimensional replicas. The current popular theory for the future of interaction design lies within screen-based technology that Bret Victor, former Apple interaction designer, calls Pictures Under Glass. This screen dominated medium lacks essential connections with the physical world. Our sense of touch has been reduced to almost nothing; hands are only used for gestures instead of aiding human interaction as another sense for information gathering. (1)

The future of interaction design should lie in integrating the digital world with the physical world. The tools through which interaction occurs should address human needs by amplifying human capabilities. When interacting with the physical world humans generally use all five senses to gather and process information. What is lacking in the interaction of the digital world is the use of all five senses. It utilizes only sight and sound with minimal touch. The advantages of the digital world are undeniable (immediate information, communication, accessibility, etc.). However, it’s greatest potential is not replacing human experience but it’s ability to aid and enhance real world interactions. (2)

This potential is already in development. Interaction researcher, Pranav Mistry of MIT, calls his merging of two worlds sixth-sense technology. He has created a personal augmented reality that is projected out onto the physical world without living on a screen. The technology senses and reads the physical world to adapt itself to it. This technology aids and enhances everyday objects and scenarios, integrating the ease of the digital world into the environment of the physical world. Mistry’s goal is get rid of the gap between the worlds so people can remain human in a computer dominated world. (3)

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