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comment by OberynKenobi
OberynKenobi  ·  3613 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Stupid is Winning: We are in the final years of our internet

Is there really no alternative? Even something on a conceptual level? Maybe one of those helmet things that read the electrical impulses in your brain and translate that into a command? Man, this is depressing.

kleinbl00  ·  3613 days ago  ·  link  ·  

A Crash Course in Ergonomics

(I have one quarter's worth of post-graduate bioengineering. An ergonomicist I'm not. However, here's what I can share without making an ass of myself)

The closer to rest pose you can make a body, the longer that body can remain at rest pose. There are definite angles to have your display at, definite angles and heights to have your input console at, definite angles to have your seat back at in order to keep your blood from pooling, your nerves from being pinched, etc.

Another basic is that the less you move, the longer you will be comfortable.

CAD, gaming and fighter aircraft all have one thing in common - maximum visual input and minimal dextrous output. You'll note that when you design the cockpit of a fighter aircraft, everything is within reach. Control sticks on jets no longer even deflect - they use strain gages to get the full sweep of input from less than 1/16" of deflection.

I can't really speak to gaming (I have a Wii - granted, I've also got a 92" screen) but I can speak to hell about CAD. Maximum display has always been something CAD operators have been willing to pay for and a phat CAD rig will play the hell out of Crysis, if you catch my drift. Back when I was in the thick of it I ran three 22" displays when 22" displays were $1500 each. I used to have a Mitsubishi whatever-it-was that was a 27" CRT, costing a mere $8k. The point being, you have a giant visual sweep for your eyes to take in. Eyes, you see, move pretty easily (so long as they don't go more than 10 degrees above the horizon or more than 65 degrees below and stick to 30? degrees deflection on either side).

Fingers don't.

A tablet works because you aren't using it much and it's only 10" across. Once you get into touch screens over a foot, repetitive strain sets in pretty quickly - POP displays in restaurants usually use 15" displays because you can mash them and they're easy but even POP displays are going towards touch screens now (as evidenced by Apple's ubiquitous iTouch consoles). A 20" touch screen is murder - now, to execute a single command you're reaching your damn shoulder across space, using every muscle in your arm when you could simply be clicking your finger on the mouse.

'cuz that's the thing - the resolution of a mouse and the dexterity of an operator means you can cover 3 22" displays with one nice 12" mouse pad. In order to sweep across my entire field of view I only need to move my wrist about six inches, twice. And that's infinitely adjustable depending on how I want it. Give me a button or control under every finger and I'll rule the world - I've been using an MX Revolution since 2004 and a Mouseman Wheel from 1998 before that. And you can use it all day, every day, using no muscles below your elbow.

Lots of CAD operators use trackballs. They work pretty well, too. You have to move even less. In my opinion, however, they lack the precision. That's personal preference and others may disagree. Thing is though, even when you're getting into serious 3d command you're still talking about a mouse with function keys.

Look at it this way - a mouse is basically a pantograph. It converts small movements into big ones. So long as we're dealing with X/Y data on a flat surface, the best way to control it is through X/Y data on a flat surface.

lelandbatey  ·  3613 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I think what you've covered is actually a bit different than what touch screen proponents have in mind.

For serious work, you need a solution like the one you've outlined: an interface focused on long term use, even if it requires training to use.

Many proponents of touch screens highlight the approach-ability of a touch screen. It requires minimal amounts of training, but it's rubbish for long term use or large sizes.

Personally, I very much prefer the "efficiency and comfort over intuitiveness" approach. I am a die, hard keyboard/mouse user, and I edit text in Vim.

I do think that the final win will be neural-computer interfaces, because then both catagories are satisfied: high easy of use and approach-ability, while requiring very little movement.

kleinbl00  ·  3612 days ago  ·  link  ·  

"neural-computer interfaces" are further off than you think. Even if you do decide to stick electrodes where electrodes don't belong (and you really shouldn't do that), finding the signals for fine motor control and then controlling for all the spurious stuff that isn't fine motor control is a hell of a lot more effort than, say, a mouse.

I talked to the main brain imaging guy at the UW Dept of bioengineering back in 2005 to research a screenplay. One of those guys that was imaging thought using fMRI and the like back before it was cool. There's a whole bunch of "yeah, in theory we can do this, as soon as we solve this, that and the other thing, which we have no idea how to do, but we can see the pathway." I heard similar verbiage from Geoff Landiswhen I was consulting with him on crossing space-time using Visser wormholes. "Yeah, in theory we could open a gateway between two points as soon as we figure out how to harness 100% of the energy of a red dwarf star and if the reference points of the two ends are completely at rest because otherwise we have to absorb energy produced in accordance with Einstein's equation of general relativity."

We use our fingers to do things. They've evolved for it.

You might enjoy reading this. It illuminated a lot of the misgivings I had about UI and ergonomics that I hadn't been able to put into words.

lelandbatey  ·  3612 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Wow, what you've linked to is really a great read. As you said:

    It illuminated a lot of the misgivings I had about UI and ergonomics that I hadn't been able to put into words.

I think my random add-in about neural-computer interfaces was pretty much a non-sequitur, since I also realize that they are so far in the future as to be pretty irrelevant to the present.

kleinbl00  ·  3612 days ago  ·  link  ·  

We can always dream. Thing is, there has been a lot of progress lately that would lead one to believe we're getting closer. The issue is that when you learn more about it you have to recognize that even if you walk a few steps towards the South Pole every day you're still not going to get there any time soon.

OberynKenobi  ·  3613 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That is easily the most detailed and thought-out responses I've ever got to anything. Thanks, in summation it sounds like the mouse and keyboard is here to stay...

kleinbl00  ·  3612 days ago  ·  link  ·  

If you hate mice you need to find a better mouse. I despised the stupid things until I found something that allows me to hold my wrist at a more natural angle. Tools you use a lot are worth the money.

The keyboard, on the other hand, is kinda lame. Unfortunately there does not appear to be any easy answer.