Microsoft’s new research seeks to find the way to use dual touch screens for devices in the future. Yes, two screens. Two _touch_ screens, no less.
Randy Pausch would have been proud. The Carnegie-Mellon computer scientist and researcher into human-computer interaction and author of the best-seller ‘The Last Lecture’ had always warned against buying just one of anything. It can only be assumed that a computer with two screens, not just one, would have thrilled him.
Recently an Internet rumor began stating that Apple is once again on the cutting edge of what people want in technology, and is going to release its Brick dual screen tablet computer. (It’s a “Brick” because, um, it smashes Windows.) It would be like a hybrid between an iPhone and a Macbook Air and would be like a tablet computer hybridized with an e-book (got that?). Holding the Brick horizontally with the two screens at an angle, the bottom screen turns into a virtual touchpad and keyboard. When the two halves are fully unfolded, they snap together in their center to create a tablet with one continuous touch-sensitive screen. Then there’s the tabletop mode, which is for two people–the touch of a button orients the two screens for two users who are sitting facing each other. And in e-book mode, the Brick is held just like a laptop but vertically.
But there are other dreams of a final dual screen out there, too. Italian industrial design agency V12 Design has been working on a dual touchscreen notebook for about four years now. They call it the Canova (which sounds like it would be good as an Italian soda, doesn’t it?), and now there’s a Canova 2 that the company is developing in conjunction with a U.S. company. Valerio Cometti, the founder and managing director of V12 Design, says, “it was developed for creative types, such as artists…We developed a brand-new style for the second generation. We did stretch the potential of the Canova noticeably, making it able to do things no notebook has been able to do so far…voice recognition will become a more popular and widespread feature in these dual-screen notebooks.” Canova also says there will need to be haptic interfaces on all notebooks and laptops of the future.
Well, we are familiar by now with how Microsoft does business. Find out what’s hot, then do some reverse-engineering and figure out how to make it themselves, then use their crushing marketing power. Microsoft doesn’t allow people, especially not Steve Jobs, to throw Bricks through its Windows!
And viola! Microsoft is going to release the Codex. The Codex began as an e-book reader; but, the original designers were seeking a device that was entirely about writing–in other words, a “thought tool”. Writing, sketching, and annotating all had to be at the core of the user’s experience. True to this writer’s tool idea, the Codex even comes with a mesh pocket tied up with a mole-skin style tie. The pocket can hold pens, notebooks, travel receipts, and so on.
Now, the thing of it is, Microsoft’s Codex is not designed to be an electronic book. It doesn’t read like a book when you open it up to face its two screens. It doesn’t make any pretenses at turning into a single screen device if you want it to. The Codex is a dual-hemispheric, multitasking, haptophillic (is that a word?) person’s dream come true. The intelligent partitioning of tasks and interface elements across the screens is what the Microsoft designers were all about with the Codex’s creation. For instance, you can take photographs off of Flickr on the left-hand screen and they will *poof* into your notes on the right-hand screen, where you can begin mixing and matching and editing them. (Is that like left hemisphere analytic, right hemisphere creative?) Instead of needing to use tabs, minimizing, and just plain flipping back and forth as one does on a single screen, the Codex now lets one be bicameral and see one’s developing project and one’s research, reference, or construction materials all at the same time, even in the midst of manipulating them.
This goes so far as to allow the opening of a folder on the left hand screen that actually opens up on the right hand screen. The navigational materials and the closer focus materials are all there together. Bye-bye backspace. Consecutive pages no longer “need” to be viewed; the Codex allows any two pages to be viewed simultaneously. And, you want sidebars? dual mode bluetooth module You got sidebars with the Codex. The big idea and the minute details of a work, a project, a whatever can be viewed and accessed simultaneously.
The Codex even goes so far as to allow you to take out the screens–and they’ll still be functional! So, yes, you can still set it up like a laptop computer, where one screen becomes the touch-screen keyboard. And, yes, you can switch into “face off” mode and work with, or play a game against, someone else.