Hardware

The keyboard and mouse combo maintain superiority for now

On June 17, 2011, we asked: Are you looking forward to a day when the standard way to interact with a computer does not involve a keyboard or a mouse? The answer, in a word, was no.

In a June 17, 2011, Microsoft Windows Blog post, I asked this poll question:

Are you looking forward to a day when the standard way to interact with a computer does not involve a keyboard or a mouse?

I was led to this poll question by the news that Microsoft had released a software developer's kit (SDF) for the Kinect. The idea was that developers would use the SDK to create new ways for human beings to interact with the PC. The "new ways" would involve movement and gestures rather than the standard keyboard and mouse.

As someone who uses the keyboard and mouse combination all day, every day, I was more than a little bit skeptical that gyrating commands to my PC would make me more productive. Less dignified, perhaps, but not more productive.

According to the poll results, I am part of the majority, and the keyboard and mouse combination is not exactly obsolete quite yet.

But even if you believe that the keyboard and mouse will be the primary interface with your personal computer for the foreseeable future, you have to admit that the potential for interface changes are on the horizon. Is there an interface innovation that you think has real potential? Touch mouse? Touch screens? Voice recognition? Direct neural implants?

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

22 comments
RU7
RU7

I think the biggest stumbling block for touchscreen type interfaces like virtual keyboards or even the Kinect, is that the probability of making an input error skyrockets if you are not looking at what your are touching or the input that the system receives. Though my example depends on dead-tree technology, try entering a list of numbers from a printout using a virtual keypad, then a physical keypad. I'll bet the physical is faster with fewer errors.

TuneUp Utilities
TuneUp Utilities

Isn???t it funny that in this digital age of sleek products and new inventions, people still want their basic mouse and keyboard? It may be hard for people to imagine doing basic things like working, browsing the web, or playing games without their standard mouse and keyboard. A touch mouse may have some potential, maybe even gradually transitioning people to get used to the idea of dropping the keyboard/mouse. Do you think the touch mouse will gain popularity?

forrell
forrell

Most consumer grade touch screens are not a very durable input device when used by "gorilla" users and children. You can replace a basic mouse and keyboard for $20 USD, but the typical desktop touchscreen monitor costs many times that. Until large touchscreen desktop monitors get a whole lot cheaper, don't expect the mouse and keyboard to go the way of the dinosaur. Video gesturing, like Kinect, is still relatively primitive. It has a long way to go before you can input character by character text or pick single items from a complex GUI. Gesturing will continue to improve in the gaming arena. What might succeed in the future is some combination of voice command recognition, simple video gesturing, and mechanical input devices. Consumers will be the ones who ultimately decide.

Tink!
Tink!

Where the monitor is actually a hologram and you can interact with it by touching and moving things on the "screen" with your hands.

glnz
glnz

My colleagues - lawyers - are surprised and give me the "he's a geek" eyebrow when I suggest they stop using the mouse. But it's the only way to learn how to go faster and better by using the keyboard, especially by using keystroke shortcuts in Word and other apps. (And, boy, do I hate it when an app lacks keystroke shortcuts.) Yes, this is super-basic, but the non-techies don't get it.

dhays
dhays

At Present, it is still the best way to do things. If we all had the table top computer that could work as mouse, keyboard, and monitor, and then "throw" a portion of your displayed document ala "Hawaii-5-O" to another monitor for closer scrutiny, then it would be worth it. A voice command such as mentioned, "Star Trek" style, would be like multiple teleconferences without headphone usage in an office environment, woe to those with loud conversation on their particular telcon (that is why we have conference rooms!). The computers would have to be customized to just accept your voice or whomever is logged in to avoid me making your computer do something I asked mine to do. Talk about privacy issues as well. Can you imagine someone sending a flaming email with voice? I agree with andmark, that the graphics seem to say, yes, a majority are ready to dump them both. The pie chart shows 61-39 in favor of something else. So, Mark, your whole premise for the article is wrong, you aren't reading the question and the results correctly. I am part of the MINORITY that is not ready to dump the keyboard and mouse (trackball--mice hurt my hand).

kingkong88
kingkong88

I have not had a mouse since November 1996 when I got my first notebook PC. It was a Compaq with a touchpad. The mouse is inefficient. The time to travel from keyboard to mouse is infinitesimally longer than from the H key to the touch pad. The position of the IBM stick is better but it requires just too much Joules to use. My mobile is Samsung Galaxy S Android and there's no way I can unlock the phone (pattern lock with only the minimum four dots) without looking at it full time. Forget about touch typing.

info
info

...the mouse was first introduced to the mainstream? Many people 'poo-poohed' the idea, saying that the keyboard was all they ever needed, and all they ever WOULD need. Indeed, the mouse slowed down many users, but with the adoption of the GUI, it opened up avenues to use more commands that could easily be memorized with keystrokes. I taught many 'older' people (at the time!) to use the mouse, and quite a few had great difficulty with it. Most still do. In using the current generation of touchscreen PCs and devices, it appears the main drawback is the touchscreen itself. My one question to many that think of buying one is, "What would happen if you wanted to use it after eating a fully-dressed hotdog?" They get pretty dirty, and you still have to 'touch' it. The 'Star Trek' interface of talking to the computer won't work in a crowded setting (wouldn't THAT be loud?), so what we're probably going to end up with would be the interfaces shown to us in 'Minority Report' and 'Avatar'. A simple, intuitive gesture-based GUI (probably a hybrid with a keyboard, mouse and speech recognition. Such might be possible with Kinect, but I think it would have to have much finer sensors and better algorithms to really 'work'. Otherwise, it WOULD make you look silly. A more sensitive system? The big thing for me was on 'Minority Report' when, with minimal gestures, Tom Cruise reaches out and 'grabs' the icon for a document, crumples his hand into a ball and 'tosses' it into the Trash. How hard would THAT be for anyone to figure out, with a complimentary GUI design?

andmark
andmark

If the first paragraph suggests that the majority of people said NO to the question then the pie chart is incorrect. Otherwise your analysis and reporting is incorrect. Read the research question carefully there is a negative in there. Obviously another example of why it is important to avoid using negative pitch questions in research. It seems to me that you live your life like a candle in the wind. .

david.humpherson
david.humpherson

Being able to interact with a surface using all ten digits would make many tasks easier and quicker to perform particularly if a practical form of haptic feedback can be incorporated. This would enable touch typing on virtual keyboards that can be adapted to the current task. The use of a pen styled stylus is better for precision work than a mouse, particularly for graphics work, and a finger on a good quality touch interface can do all that a mouse can an more. I Think that keyboards will remain (in physical or virtual form) longer than the mouse. The one thing that is holding back these changes is the UI of the applications that we use.

nustada
nustada

I could see it being used for KIOSKS, and if it is sensitive enouph to detect fingers (don't know) then it may be usefull for remote control of machinery (ie bomb-disposal, hazard environment "robots")

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Is there an interface innovation that you think has real potential? Touch Mouse? Touch screens? Voice recognition? Direct neural implants?

dogknees
dogknees

I recently saw a preview from MS of some of there more out there research ideas. There was a lot of really great stuff in the collaboration area. But when I asked if they had anything in the content creation side of things, everyone looked blank. All they think about is how to re-package someone else's content to make it look new and exciting. The idea of writing something from scratch just isn't in their world view. While there are a lot of cool new ideas coming out at the moment, some of us still spend a significant proportion of our time typing text into documents. This is not going to change any time soon. so keyboards are here to stay for a long while yet. Voice is a great idea, but picture an open plan office with 20 people all talking to their PCs at the same time. Same for a classroom, factory floor and so on.

dogknees
dogknees

.. they exist. Most of what you see is computer generated in the editing stage.

grayknight
grayknight

I'm a web developer and the mouse (or touch) is pretty much required for websites. Some sites even require hovering (difficult to do in touch) to display menus. Keyboard shortcuts are great, but there are things that are faster with a mouse or touch.

SirWizard
SirWizard

I use far more than my share of keyboard shortcuts in Word and other programs, and use my programmable keyboard and X-keys button box. But NO mouse?! Here in the real world, we actually have work to do. Have you ever tried using AutoCAD (which does have keystroke shortcuts) without a mouse/equivalent pointing device (for example, tablet and puck)? Mouse-less mode is suitable only in an emergency when the mouse is broken and the tiniest trivial tasks are involved, otherwise it's as efficient as playing a piano concerto with your nose instead of your fingers. But lawyers usually are not competent to use AutoCAD, so back to Word. Is it really faster and better to work without a mouse, for example, to capture a portion of a legal citation from a webpage, and paste it unformatted into the middle of a sentence in a Word document? How about cutting a column of non-columnar text (say, words before a uniform set of tabs) and pasting them after some other tabs in the same column arrangement? With a mouse, its just press ALT and select the column, and then drag and drop. You can't do it from the keyboard. So, stop recommending nonfeasance for your mouse-work colleagues, and recognize the difference between a "he's a geek" eyebrow and a "he's a nitwit" eyebrow.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I flipped the positions in the graphic by mistake - it is correct now. I apologize for the confusion.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"What would happen if you wanted to use it after eating a fully-dressed hotdog?" The same question could be asked regarding a mouse and keyboard. I've scraped a lot of interesting gunk from between keys. "...I think it would have to have much finer sensors and better algorithms to really 'work'. Otherwise, it WOULD make you look silly." Yeah, but not much sillier than those folks with the Bluetooth headsets, talking with their hands while apparently having conversations with no one; or the ones carrying on their side of calls from inside the bathroom stall. When I hear those, I make a point of flushing several times ]:)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I flipped the graphic - sorry about that. It is correct now.

dogknees
dogknees

Only really uses 2 fingers at any one time. We need interfaces where both hands and all finger can be used at the same time. ie, some fingers to control options, some to trigger actions, some to ... All at the same time.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

The motion detectors have the right idea as controllers. You only have ten digits that you really have control of. Try counting your toes without your fingers. Headsets with not only displays but motion sensors and eye response sensors. Only by affecting the center of gravity and the senses that give us the orientation within our envirionment. Special backgronds, projected scenes could literally put you in the game. The more actions on the screen, the larger the options and actions needed to control them. The mouse gives us an incredible control over so much. It is the evolution of the keyboard and will always remain thus. Our typing is just an ordered approach to using any combination of keys but not ten at a time. Only one at a time and in the order we need or it's just gibberish. Joysticks can be made to do anything a mouse can and two handed approaches can add even more button control. Or a mouse in each hand. Track balls and some shock controllers have broken down doors in adding feedback to players. Real flight simulators are successful but that can't be duplicated outside that environment. It's just like driving a Nascar. You drive by the seat of your pants. You push 'til it slips and let off a touch. Hand controls , common to many game consoles have double joysticks, so many buttons but most common functions are in familiar positions for fingertip control. This gives it larger appeal for smaller users, something not found on PC based games. Sound chairs offer some opportunities to pick up on body motions and positions for more complex game play and options within positions used. The sky's the limit and until the can duplicate that??? HHMMM Maybe the artificial skydiving slash indoor wind tunnel and 360 projection unto HUD panels around the chamber. Now that's a game.

dogknees
dogknees

An organist uses all 10 fingers, both feet and both knees at the same time. Makes our interface pretty lame really. We only really use at most 2 fingers at a time, and possibly one hand to push a mouse around as well. Ultimately, it's the "bandwidth" that matters. How many commands and options can you trigger or change each second.