Touch, Voice, and Gesture Tech

screensFor years, educators told students to keep their hands off computer screens, while at the same time knowing that was the most natural thing to do. Today, with the preferred device for most being a smartphone or a tablet, not touching a screen seems strange. Touching the screen to make things happen is the most natural thing for everybody, and not just kids. Older consumers, who never would engage in tech use or find themselves anywhere near the Internet, are touching screens to do everything from reading to streaming movies to online banking.

Recently, though, gesture-computing possibilities have added a new slant. At the outset, gesturing may seem like another very natural technology-use segue, but because it is so natural—it may be more of a problem than help. Most of us can’t talk, or stand, without waving our hands, moving our bodies, or pointing. Talking for most of us is more than speech, and the more animated you are, the more difficult it may be for you to use gesture computing, where specific gestures are necessary to compute correctly.

Many of us have tried voice to automate computing, as well. While it’s much more perfected than it was just a few years ago, it’s not as perfect for fast talkers or the um, uh, ah, and like-you-know user… yet. Anyone who uses voice recognition and doesn’t check his/her text or e-mails for accuracy should. Very innocent spoken words can sometimes become lethal passages. It’s not perfect, although a fun experiment. In most cases you’ll know text was spoken or touched, rather than done with keystrokes, when you add up the errors in a message. Chubby fingers and voice messaging has given rise to a resurgence of digital pen use.

It seems there are fewer and fewer using a mouse for computing, though. Once tethered to the computer, and then wireless, a mouse was the only real control. Mouse movement and clicking, together, made an abstract connection to what you wanted to do—and what you could actually do—with a computer. That abstractness made it difficult, especially for students who already had their hands full tapping at keys. Most of us have graduated to the touch pad for that, but we all are keeping an eye open for easier-to-use possibilities. Whether it’s touch, voice, gesture, pen… or possibly a combination of all… and whatever else is next, we want technology to be as easy as possible, and as natural, too—whatever that means anymore. We’re not done yet, which is a good thing, and most of us are happily shouting and waving about that.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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