Death of the laptop

Playing around with the Kinect, I realize that it’s only a matter of time (and not that much time) before a 3D camera will be built into something like the iPad — although it might not be an iPad, but rather some roughly equivalent tablet by Samsung, Toshiba, HP, or whomever.

Such a 3D camera will be able to do far more than detect multiple finger touches. It will be able to see the entire position of your hands and your fingers — not just touches upon a surface but gestures in the air above your tablet, or perhaps over the tabletop in front of your tablet.

And when that happens, the laptop computer as we know it may no longer serve any purpose. After all, an input system that detects not just touches but the actual movement of your fingers in the air can be far more responsive than any mere mechanical keyboard. Such an input device could even correct errors by figuring out from your finger movement which key you had intended to type.

Tablets sporting 3D cameras might be just around the corner. And the days of the laptop computer may be numbered.

2 Responses to “Death of the laptop”

  1. Sharon says:

    That sounds cool! What about large amounts of text entry? Are there any prototypes yet that come close to making text entry as efficient with some other device (like a 3d camera, or anything else) as it can be with a physical keyboard?

  2. admin says:

    I don’t know of any other approaches that do the trick. Any alternate method is going to need to compensate for the loss of tactile feedback when the physical keyboard is replaced by a featureless surface. The 3D camera is the only approach I know of that contains such a compensating mechanism — in particular, the ability to track the actual position of the fingers before they hit the surface.

    I think there is some threshold of frames per second and some threshold of spatial resolution that will allow the 3D camera to perform this function adequately. Just what those thresholds are would be a good subject for research.

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