The first computers cost millions of dollars and were locked inside rooms equipped with special electrical circuits and air conditioning. The only people who could use them had been trained to write programs in that specific computer’s language. Today, gesture-based interactions, using multitouch pads and touchscreens, and exploration of virtual 3D spaces allow us to interact with digital devices in ways very similar to how we interact with physical objects.
This newly immersive world not only is open to more people to experience; it also allows almost anyone to exercise their own creativity and innovative tendencies. No longer are these capabilities dependent on being a math whiz or a coding expert: Mozilla’s “A-Frame” is making the task of building complex virtual reality models much easier for programmers. And Google’s “Tilt Brush” software allows people to build and edit 3D worlds without any programming skills at all.
My own research hopes to develop the next phase of human-computer interaction. We are monitoring people’s brain activity in real time and recognizing specific thoughts (of “tree” versus “dog” or of a particular pizza topping). It will be yet another step in the historical progression that has brought technology to the masses – and will widen its use even more in the coming years.