I know what you’re thinking. Who really cares about what kind of ruler they use?
Well, apparently, I do.
I originally purchased a Helix drafting set when I started studying mathematics back in 2008. I mostly used the ruler to draw lines, diagrams, and all the good things you do when you’re studying maths. After I completed my second year, I put my ruler away in one of my pencil cases and forgot about it.
When I started studying again last year, I dug it out and used it in my Moleskine notebook. When procrastinating from my studies, I ended up using it in my weekly journal for drawing extra boxes for health data and other things I found interesting.
I was hooked. Whenever I added an extra table of data to my journal, I wanted it to be nicely lined up with the other sections. I continued to use this ruler for a while, but then I found something pretty amazing, a better ruler. Maybe even the best ruler? (For me, anyway)
What’s so special about this ruler I hear you ask?
- Every edge is used
- No inches, just metric
- Horizontal and vertical labels
- Highlights every 5 cm
- Starts at both 0 mm and -5 mm
- 5mm grid lines everywhere
The most important feature is the 5 mm grid, which means that you can align the ruler both vertically and horizontally when drawing lines.
This is much better than most rulers, where you have to use use the small indicators on the side to align the ruler. Generally these don’t even line up with each other anyway, due to each side having a different measurement system. (Also why did Helix put a blue background on the indicators? Madness!)
This isn’t a problem with the Grid Ruler, as everything is metric. The edge-to-edge measurements are great for lining up to the inside of a notebook page too, especially when it also uses a 5 mm grid.
I’ve always been inspired by the Microsoft ‘Future Vision’ videos which depict a not-too-distant vision of productivity. This year’s entry has not been a disappointment, with a number of interesting UI concepts explored.
The best thing to do is watch the video above to see them all, but I’ve picked four of my favourites below.
Augmented Reality + Tactile Controls
I’m not really what to call this, so I’m just going to call it a ‘holographic puck’. In this instance, a round hardware device can be rotated to make selections on a holographic UI which has been augmented over the top of Kat’s vision.
By mixing the feel of tactile controls with the holographic interfaces you can avoid the strange experience of ‘tapping thin air’ while still providing the users with the infinite possibilities of augmented reality.
I really like this concept, and it’s not too unrealistic considering the holographic technology coming in Windows 10. Later in the video you see the same hardware device used to transfer the data collected in the first scene.
Flexible Digital Notebooks
My favourite concept from the whole video is shown when our hero attends a café. The tea selection is shown on this flexible display, and when Kat opens it all of her personal stuff is automatically available to her.
While I think the folding doesn’t look as amazing as it could be (give me a proper notebook style folding, please) – it is a great example of the kind of computers we will be using in the future, and something I really want.
Being a massive notebook and stationery nerd, I really love the idea of having a flexible notebook computer like this. I hope it happens in the not-too-distant future. The Surface line of computers already has rich inking capability, so it’s only going to get better over time.
Wearable Computing Devices
Throughout the video only one computer looks like it belongs exclusively Kat. The screen on her wrist is probably the equivalent of the smartphone today, being a general purpose communication and computing device.
This is quite a way off the current Microsoft Band, but the technology sector is certainly going this direction. My Band has already helped give me the motivation to be fitter and healthier, and while we don’t really see much in the way of health statistics in this video, it can certainly be inferred from the way things are going.
Large Table-like Displays
I also love this large table computer concept. When Kat needs to get some real work done, she just uses her wearable computer to hand off to a bigger computer in a shared workspace.
I’m sure this kind of keyboard-free interaction will be best suited to a world where voice interaction has been perfected. Though I’m sure a software keyboard could be provided. You can even see Kat use a Bluetooth headset (Bragi Dash?) to work with Cortana-like assistant in the top left of the UI.
When reading an article about how design is shaping the new Microsoft, I stumbled upon a video by Kat Holmes from last year.
In this video, Kat talks about how conversations power innovation and new experiences. She goes on to discuss how the movie Her both validated and shaped Microsoft’s thinking around their Cortana digital assistant.
Like Kat I have found the movie Her to have a fascinating look at the future of human and computer interaction, primarily through verbal communication and relationship building. While the movie certainly takes the relationship part of the equation to the extreme, I firmly believe that this kind of trust between digital agents and ourselves will eventually enable a new kind of human excellence.
Microsoft also collaborated with Vice’s Motherboard to produce a couple of short documentary videos titled Captivated by Her. They’re well worth watching if you’re interested in how human emotion inspires and shapes technology.
A bit like something out of their Future Vision videos, Microsoft’s Windows Holographic software and HoloLens hardware look to enable many of the augmented reality dreams technologists like myself have been imagining for years.
Truly I’m excited about this platform, and I’m keen to try out the product as soon as I possibly can, but I still have a large amount of questions.
What happens if you put your hand ‘in front’ of a hologram?
If you have a virtual 80 inch TV screen – what resolution does it have?
Can you stream Xbox games to it?
How long does the battery last?
Can other people hear the audio from the speakers located on the side?
How hot is the air that comes out of the vents?
How well does it work with glasses?
Will there be a holographic version of PowerShell?
It may be a while until all our questions are answered, but until then I’m going to simply imagine the possibilities this new form of computing will bring. Check out the videos below and have a look at Microsoft’s website to get an idea of what’s coming.
As someone who is always trying to simplify and keep things minimalistic, I always question new technologies to decide if they’re really worth investing in. One part of my believes I already have enough computing devices, but another part yearns to try new technology and find new ways to interact with the digital world. The HoloLens definitely seems like something I’m going to want to experience.
Will it be a success? Only time will tell. But future versions of the hardware will no doubt be smaller, and have better field of view. One day this kind of thing will simply be built into a normal pair of glasses – but that’s a little way off.
More to come soon.